During this past FIBA World Cup games, Paul George suffered one of the most horrific injuries to happen—specifically to a superstar in recent history possibly even ever. In lieu of this, many problems arose and many questions were raised in regards to the significance of the best players participating in mere recreational exhibition games to bring home a trophy that is about as valuable to Americans as Michael Phelps YMCA medals. However in light of his injury I have came up with new criteria that would not prevent further injuries but instead keep our most seasoned super stars out of the Olympics and International play. In addition it would continue to build upon the monument which is the NBA’s global brand and allow an increased level of play from the games younger generation.
New Olympic Criteria
According to hiphopandhomeruns.com, in order for players to be eligible for either Olympic or International competition they must adhere to the following regulations and restrictions
The criteria above would help shape American international play for the league and have a number of positive impacts upon the younger crop of players. The first criteria highlighted was the age restriction of 28 years. Players that are over 28 years of age are not only established veterans who are playing within their 2nd or even 3rd contract, but they are also players who are in the prime of their career. At this stage in their careers they are more than likely focused on winning championships or maximizing their NBA net worth. This rule in itself will keep stars from competing during international play; allowing younger, more recent draftees to shine, and preventing the superstars from risking pointless injuries.
Preventing players from participating in more than 2 Olympic games, or 3 consecutive World games will give consistent opportunity for fresh players in the global spotlight. It will allow younger players who are not yet established, well known in college, or who have yet to build a brand a chance to do so. By allowing younger faces to build their global brand earlier in their career it will not impact future contracts, but endorsements opportunities as well. Athletes who do not normally receive the recognition internationally would have the chance to finally make an impact on the game globally. The competition aspect is one side, but lets not forget that the participants selected--gain the opportunity to meet fans overseas as well.
Prohibiting NBA athletes that have over 7 years of experience allows Jerry Colangelo and future USA team management a restrictive talent pool, which forces them to select the younger, up and coming talent. The key with players that have limited experience has a huge upside. The biggest complaint from coaches, former players, analyst and fans alike are that the infusion of younger guys entering the league are diminishing the quality of basketball. Players dubbed “1 and dones'” have a lack of fundamentals and polishing due to the lack of thorough understanding of basketball principles. There is no better remedy for poor fundamentals than to be thrown into a coaching therapy by Coach K, Boeheim, Monty Williams, and Tom Thibodeau. Player egos receive a true wake-up call when the coaching staff criticizing them have had the privilege to mold and influence some of the greatest players of all time. Olympic play will cure many of these proverbial diseases. By allowing players within my proposed guidelines to be eligible for International competition, players will be able to work on their game on the national stage under the tutelage of the Nation’s best coaches.
The impact for players will only be positive, the impact on the league will only result in higher revenue, more stars, more disparity, and hopefully a stronger Eastern conference.
DLils discusses the Miami Heat in his South Beach episode Part Dos
DLils breaks down the 2 main sports franchises in South Beach; the Miami Heat and Miami Dolphins
With a month to go before All-Star break, I have completed a full breakdown of the NBA awards and the players who are worthy of them through the first half of the season
Many will disagree with me, given the fact that the Golden State Warriors are the best team in the league (record wise) that Steph Curry is the current MVP of the league. On the contrary, my definition of a true ‘MVP’ is not that clear, cut and dry. Undoubtedly without Damian Lillard the Trailblazers would not be in the playoff hunt in the tough western conference. Year in, and year out, the Portland ball club struggled even with the likes of Aldridge, Brandon Roy, and everyone else who has came and gone the past several years. It was not until the selection of Damian Lillard, when this franchise was immediately turned around and began to head in the right direction. Damian is the heart, soul, grit, and foundation to a Portland team that is currently number 2 right behind the Warriors. He is the league’s most valuable player, because he makes the largest impact on a top 5 team. I have never been a fan of awarding the MVP to a player who has mind boggling statistics on a non competitive team. The MVP award should always be given to a player who is on a top 5-6 team in the entire league. At 22 ppg, 6.4 assists, and 5 rebounds he still measures up to the elite point guards in the league. Not only does he take on the scoring burden for the Blazers, but he takes on the duty of defending the top point guards of opposing teams in the Western conference. Arguments will be made, but in terms of overall value to team Damian Lillard is the mid season Most Valuable Player.
Rookie of the Year
I predicted in an earlier article (June Archives) that Andrew Wiggins would flourish on a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had about as equal talent to Oak Hill academy in Virginia (High School). He has taken on the label of a “defender” while steadily improving his offensive game. He has shown spurts of the offensive talent, dropping 27 points on Cleveland, and 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds on Sacramento. Every night he takes on the opposing teams best player; whether it be guard or forward. He brings a fierce attitude to the T’Wolves which they have been longing for, something they did not have even with Kevin Love leading the way. In order for Wiggins to maintain atop the rookie rankings he will need to begin to elevate the game of those around him. At 13.9 ppg, 1.5 assists, and 4.2 rebounds per game his rookie statistics stack up against any other rookie this year, and although they may not be as impressive as the rookie campaigns of Kevin Durant, and Lebron James he is a front runner for Rookie of the Year.
6th Man of the Year
The reason the Warriors have found so much success is due to a number of reasons. Coach Kerr’s institution of more ball movement in the offense, Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry’s post national team increased improvement, and the lineup change bringing Andre Igoudola off the bench. But one thing that has set them apart in the West is an absolute animal coming off the bench first and his name is Draymond Green. It took a few years for Draymond to really create his niche. Coming out of Tom Izzo’s Michigan state team where he was a focal point, the transition to the NBA was a difficult one. When he arrived in Golden State, former coach Mark Jackson was not sure what position to play him. He is not big enough to play the power forward/4 position, but he isn’t quick enough, nor has the range to play the small forward, 3 position. The only way Draymond Green does not deserve the trophy is the fact that he is playing borderline starters' minutes. At 12.8 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists he is the favorite for the 6th man award.
Most Improved Player
When the season started, no one would have believed you if you said Derrick Rose would be the sidekick to the Jimmy Butler show. Jimmy has turned it on this year offensively, and kept Coach Tibs’ from seeking out a perennial scorer in free agency or through trade. Last year he averaged around 14 points per game, 5 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. He has made dramatic improvements in each of those categories, leading the team in scoring with 21.6 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, and 3.3 assists. It is not just the statistical output that makes Jimmy Butler a threat, it is the role he is playing in Chicago’s offense. Derrick Rose has settled in as true point guard and as a result Butler has been the beneficiary. Butler has continued to be a complement piece to Derrick Rose, never really stealing the show, just knocking down open jumpers, finishing on fast break opportunities, and keeping the defense offense by driving and dishing off to his big man. Through the first 4 months of the season, Jimmy Butler has proven to be the most improved player in the NBA.
Do I really need an explanation? Derrick Rose playing less than 30 games over the past two seasons has safely made it through the mid way point healthy (knocking on wood). The Chicago Bulls currently sit 2nd in the Eastern conference standings and he has truly evolved into an all around player. He continues to show spurts of the MVP explosiveness but has instead managed to show true poise down the stretch becoming a distributor and raising the level of play to his off guard counterpart Jimmy Butler. With the addition of Gasol and the strong play of Aaron Brooks, D-Rose has returned to form. He currently is averaging 17 ppg, 5 assists, and 3 rebounds and his a clear cut favorite for Comeback POY.
Defensive Player of the Year
The 2.9 blocks per game (league leading) is not the sole reason Anthony Davis should be Defensive Player of the Year. The way A.D. affects the entire game for a young New Orleans Pelicans team is remarkable. Every drive to the basket whether guard, forward, or center is contested at the rim. In my humble opinion, the defensive player of the year award should go to the most dangerously opposing defensive player in the league, and that would be “the unibrow” hands down. Fortunately for the Pelicans, the 21 year old is not only leading the NBA in blocks but he is also averaging a double double with 23.7 points per game, and 10.5 rebounds per game. Move over Dwight Howard because Anthony Davis is the newest, and youngest BEST defensive player in the league, and he’s not going anywhere for quite sometime.
Coach of the Year
Atlanta Hawks Head Coach
It is no secret that Head Coach Mike Budenholzer was a product of the Gregg Popovich tree, and it is blatant in the style of play from his Atlanta Hawks team. Atlanta has made very few moves in the offseason. The relative core of the team is still in tact with Jeff Teague leading the point guard responsibilities and long time veteran Al Horford and Kyle Korver providing fundamental roles on a team that currently sits #1, that’s right, number one in the Eastern conference. They added Thabo Sefolosha in the offseason from the OKC Thunder who is a pure defensive player, and that has been the story for this roster. Defense has set Atlanta apart in the East from other teams, and their style of play; moving without the basketball, using the duration of the shot clock to find the highest percentage shot has proven successful this far through the season. Many have deemed this Atlanta Hawks team the “Atlanta Spurs” drawing close comparisons to Budenholzer’s former team. And although the Hawks play in a watered down Eastern conference, you cannot argue the legitimacy of their record, getting wins at the Clippers, Spurs, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and beating the Cavaliers twice. He was the Eastern conference coach of the month for December, and this may be just the first of many coach of the month awards to come.
5. Russell Westbrook
The most tenacious player in the NBA right now, is by far Russell Westbrook. The new Barney model does not play into his quirky fashion sense on the floor. The 6 foot 4, athletic phenom has carried the Thunder in Durant’s absences and sometimes in his presence. The question has always remained why is it that two of the top five players in the league, in their first six years failed to reach the Finals all but 1 time and have 0 championships to show for it. The primary criticisms that have been highlighted in Westbrook’s game has been his failure to show poise as the leader of the team. Undoubtedly no one can guard him, and no one goes to the basket with more ferociousness. Add to it a stop on dime mid range jump show and you have an all out dilemma in terms of defensive responsibilities. Russell not only attacks the basket but draws the defense quickly and manages to easily find teammates for outside three balls. Westbrook has separated himself in talent and production from other point guards in the league, and no one has played at this level from that position since DRose in his MVP season. If Russell can manage to orchestrate the offense and elevate the game of his teammates he will have multiple championships before the age of 30.
4. Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin has had the unfortunate title of “Mr. Softy” since entering the league. A once lottery pick for the Los Angeles Clippers, he has made hefty, noticeable improvements to his game each season. Let’s start with the basic package; he came in as a 6’10’’ alien who could jump to the moon and do all types of things while remaining suspended in the air. With two giant steps to the basket, he could soar over any and everyone at the age of 19. Since his rookie season, in addition to adding pounds of bulky muscle and increasing his basketball IQ he has carefully added to each parts of his game like an iOS update. After the devastating injury his rookie season he sculpted his body and came back unphased his sophomore year. Then he began to develop the fundamentals of a big man, learning 1 to 2, go to moves with his back to the basket. After he polished his signature finish around the basket, he extended his game to the free throw line, finishing off the glass, being able to consistently knock down 18 foot jump shots so that opponents could not continue to clog the lane. Then came the best point guard in the league (at the time) in Chris Paul, and Chris introduced ball handling to Blake Griffin. Blake refined his handle to the point where he was comfortable enough with bringing the ball up the court on fast breaks and going coast to coast for the finish. Soon after the handles improved, he developed his post passing abilities and the term “Lob City” came to fruition. Blake is an extremely hard working athlete that has uncanny athleticism. If Doc Rivers can brainwash him the same way he was able to do for KG, the Truth, and Ray Ray in Boston then the Clippers will have a banner of their own to hang in the next few years.
3. Anthony Davis
The unibrow left a highly touted University of Kentucky team for the NBA and was unquestionably the #1 player to choose from. The 7 footer made early comparisons to Tim Duncan and has not dispelled those rumors at all. He has the quickness of a rabbit when it comes to blocking shots. Very few centers or power forwards for that matter have been able to quickly get off the ground to contest shots quite like Anthony Davis. When he entered the league he was lengthy but somewhat puny. A towering figure much like one of the “Monstarz” off of Space Jam. But after only 3 brief NBA seasons he is among the top of the crop of young--or old players. He has grown into an NBA body and added bulk to his box frame. He may not fill out quite like a Dwight Howard, but he doesn’t need to because he is able to do things Dwight could not dream of. He can handle the rock from perimeter to the basket, he can pull up from anywhere inside the arc, and has touch around the basket. He’s barely old enough to order a drink from the bar, but has still managed to be ranked 3rd on my power rankings. The sky is the ceiling for this young man and it will be interesting to see how long a small market New Orleans Pelican’s team can hold onto him for.
2. Kevin Durant
KD, the most prolific offensive player since Kobe, and maybe even MJ. Much like the initials there is not much difference in his offensive repertoire than the great one. If he is open at the top of the key, whether it is a step behind the arc, or 4 steps, you can count it. Coming out of Texas, the biggest noc’ against Durant was his size and inability to bench 185 pounds. Well tell that to Kevin now, who has not only managed to capture the distinguished MVP trophy, not only managed to acquire a 300 million dollar shoe contract from Nike, not only managed to average in his career 27 points and 7 rebounds, but has been an all-star the past 6 seasons, and has made Seattle fans regret losing their franchise to Oklahoma City. KD has a smooth arsenal like none other, who has also managed to dissect his own game and add components throughout each off season. Along with a steady handle, he has watched hours of film on all the greatest scores whom ever has touched the hardwood. More impressively in recent seasons he has tightened up defensively and became more of a stretch forward option rather than just a wing scorer. Durant’s rise to the top will always be impeded by a certain superstar, but that does not necessarily mean that he can not surpass him in terms of power ranking. Recently the rumors have began to buzz about his upcoming 2015-2016 free agency window, and talks of him joining John Wall in DC have began to materialize. Regardless of where KD ends up, they will be an instant contender. As James, Melo, and the middle age greats fall from grace, KD will stand alone as the best player in the world soon enough.
1. Lebron James
Lebron James, the most heralded 17 year old ever to come into the league has not disappointed. No one has ever been more scrutinized, no one has ever been under such a proverbial microscope than the King himself. Every part of his game has been written about, criticized, mocked, joked about, praised, and idolized in every magazine, newspaper, blog, and manuscript. But one thing that cannot be undermined are his 10 all star appearances, 8 NBA first teams, 5 NBA All defensive teams, 4 MVP’s, 2 Final MVP’s, and 2 NBA championships. LeBron is the epitome of hard work, dedication, and sacrifice. On the court he is a freight train. In the open, particularly fast break he is unchallenged at the rim. Most players tend to just tackle him like a running back to keep him from putting them on his next poster but even then he typically finishes after the contact. He will not only go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game, but he will go down as most likely the greatest ambassador to the sport since Magic Johnson. Not only has he taken flack for his on-court performances, but his decisions in free agency have also rubbed fans and analyst the wrong way. I have always been an admirer of his character, despite the televised “Decision”, despite his wanting to join another top tier player in Dwayne Wade, despite missing or avoiding the end of game clutch baskets. Lebron James is who is, and will always be a marvel. I expect him to continue to compete for Championships year in and year out, and when he does not make a Finals trip he views it as a failed season. It will be difficult for another player to top Lebron in my power rankings, regardless of what happens this year in Cleveland. As long as LBJ continues to be the self-critic that he is he will continue to not disappoint. Long live the King!
Created Hiphop and Home Runs in 2014 out of his broadcasting studio in Queens, NY. Visit daily to find updates and breaking news in the urban sports community
Tune in Saturday's for the weekly podcast, and hear Lils discuss whats poppin in the Urban sports media world.