Will Wade team up with Kobe in L.A? Is Paul Pierce going back to the Celtic green? Who is most likely to acquire the talent of DeAndre Jordan? Find out the answers on this episode of NBA Free Agency: Fact or Fiction
Watch as DLils discusses the NBA finals heading into Game 6, and poor decision making from DE Michael Sam
For the 5th year in a row we find ourselves glued to the television in anticipation to see Lebron James take the floor in chase for a title. Somehow, the Association always manages to give the world audience exactly what they want to see. Sports rely on superstars for ratings. Whether it is the Spanish League in soccer, Serena in Tennis, Tiger in Golf, Brady and Manning in football, the people watch so they can witness greatness. When it comes to the NBA we are going to clamber to see James, and Adam Silver’s presentation does not disappoint this year. So many headlines and ironic situations will play out in the series that may cause this to go down as one of the most watched ever. The 2014-2015 NBA Most Valuable Player Stephen Curry has been the spark plug, the flame, and the fire for the Golden State Warriors and the Association. The lightning quick release, and the crazy handle will be on display for millions in June. However, Lebron James will win his 3rd NBA championship and Finals MVP against the Warriors.
Let’s look at the not so obvious statistical reasons why the Cavaliers will beat the Warriors in the NBA Finals. Lebron is—the different type of Jordan of our era. He is the flawed version, the non-cold blooded, the team oriented version of Mike. If Lebron had went to college and played under a coach that drove him to dominate, he may have turned out more like Michael but he didn't. Young Lebron was beat up by his older brothers as he matured in the association. The older veteran Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics kept him from multiple Final visits early on in his career, but once he reached what I categorize as NBA puberty Lebron superseded his "older brothers" and began to beat up on them and the rest of the league. Throughout James career he has struggled against older ball clubs. The remnants of the 90's basketball teams and players who really know the game and know how to capitalize on weaknesses and exploit mismatches. The same bully ball that drove Lebron to become great will drive Lebron to "bully" this Golden State school yard team.
There is no doubt that the Golden State Warriors are a talented crew. With the prolific back court gunners of Klay and Steph, offensively there is no shortage of talent or skill level on the Western conference finalist. However, collectively they are a young ball club. Both young in age and young in playoff experience. Even the so-called veterans on this team have very little post season experience. Their most prominent and most contributor bench players consist of Andre Iguodala who has been out of the 1st round once his entire career before this season. Shaun Livingston and David Lee both provide depth off the bench for Steve Kerr but with 4 post season appearances between the two of them, the Warriors do not seem to have the "know-how" to pull off a NBA finals win. Lebron on the other hand has been here before, and he will have the opportunity to flex on the junior high team from Golden State.
When you look at the teams that have taken Lebron down in the past (Mavericks and Spurs) they had legit Lebron "stoppers" or at least cogs that could be thrown in to give the mach truck a spare tire. In 2007, other than the fact that Lebron's supporting cast looked like a bad sitcom he had to face a Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker all who were in their prime. The next Spurs team to erase Lebron's championship hopes were the Kawhi Leonard led Spurs and Kawhi himself ended up being a sizable-even match up for Lebron. A younger specimen who could match Lebron's athleticism, and basketball IQ. The Maverick's team that beat the Heatles when Lebron first anchored on the shores of south beach, featured the likes of former Defensive POY Tyson Chandler, and clutch city Dirk Nowitzki. In this series Draymond, Iggy, and Harrison Barnes will be called upon to defend Lebron, all of whom are not capable of shutting him down.
Not only is Lebron James' opposing defender a favorable match up but the other starters are as well. JR and Shump will provide length, and veteran tangibles that the Warriors have not faced in the back court. Neither Memphis, the Clippers, or the Pelicans offered the defensively tenacious back court that the Cavaliers are bringing to the finals. Tristan Thompson is just as much of a dog as Draymond is. Mozgov is familiar with Andrew Bogut having gone against him during his tenure with the Nuggets.
The Warriors bench may have the talent advantage but Cleveland can pull out their 3 in 1 tool in Shawn Marion, and their security guard in Kendrick Perkins who between the two of them and James Jones should be able to match the production of Barbosa, David Lee, and Speights. By all means, this will be a daunting, arduous task for Mr. James, but it is a challenge in which he can succeed and capture his 3rd NBA championship and most likely Finals MVP.
Watch as DLils discusses the appropriate punishment for Tom Brady in the "deflategate" scandal
1. The Bucks are going to be really good in the next few years
The Milwaukee Bucks led by 2nd year coach Jason Kidd, gave Chicago all they could handle in the first round of the eastern conference playoffs. Despite the large difference in poise, talent, and experience the Bucks matched up favorably with the Bulls minus the back court. Michael Carter Williams got his first taste of playoff intensity and he did not answer the bell with trepidation. Derrick Rose just was too much for the former Rookie of the Year MCW. Although his length did bother Derrick at times, DRose was highly motivated and on a different mission and there was no one on the Bucks team who would be able to stop him. Giannis Antetokounmpo gave us glimpses of the ceiling he could have. He has an average handle and jump shot, but superb athleticism and length. If he continues to work he will rise in the wing position power rankings. Henson is a fundamentally defensive sound player coming off the bench and Kris Middleton ended up being a serviceable shooting guard for Jason Kidd's young team. Keep in mind that all of their progress was made this season without their future "star" player in Jabari Parker who was having a decent season before a torn ACL took him away from action. If Jason can add a solid front court player in Free Agency (a la DeAndre Jordan), and a scoring or explosive talent to come off the bench after the Greek Freak and Jabari Parker, the Bucks will be a serious contender in the East for years to come.
2. The Clippers go according to Austin Rivers' bench production
The Clippers have one of the thinner benches out of all the remaining playoff teams. There is no depth at the front court positions, Jamal Crawford provides a scoring spark off the bench, but after him there is no one for Doc to turn to in order to carry the 2nd unit through turbulence until the starters return. Enter son--Austin Rivers, Austin has the talent to keep the Clippers on par in Chris Paul’s absence. During his brief career he has not seen consistent playing time. He was an afterthought in New Orleans with the Pelicans until being traded to the Boston Celtics who eventually let him out of his contract. And although many coaches and General Managers may be able to ignore him on the bench, his talent cannot be ignored and his father Doc needs him now to play an essential role in the Clippers rotation. Austin does not have to be CP3 and be the heroic figure alongside Blake Griffin. Austin just needs to play a steady leader role, someone who will create easier shots for Blake, someone who can knock down the occasional tre ball to keep the defense honest, and someone who can provide length on defense against the remaining smaller point guards left in the west (Steph Curry, Jason Terry, Mike Conley). If Austin can provide consistent production off the bench or starting in place of an injured Chris Paul, the Clippers will roll all the way to the NBA Finals.
3. The Mavericks window is closed
Dirk Nowitzki is no longer the 23 point 9 rebound guy he once was. In fact he is no longer a 20 point per game guy period. In a playoff series, assuming he is at full health, he may give you two 20 point games out of a seven game series but that is it. Monta Ellis is a good shooting guard, but not the game’s elite, and cannot carry a team. Tyson Chandler is aging, and the bench for Dallas is atrocious. The problem with the Mavericks is that they are always respectable but rarely elite. So they typically end up in the 7th or 8th seed of the Western conference brackets, which usually means an early exit and a late 1st round draft pick—either which are not okay for owner Mark Cuban. To make matters worse, the Mavericks have managed to lure away Chandler Parsons to Dallas with a max contract but not max talent. So Cuban and Mav fans everywhere are banking the next era of Dallas Basketball on Chandler Parsons?!?! Parsons is not much more than a Gordon Hayward, and I can make the argument that Hayward is more valuable and consistent. Rondo was kicked out of the Franchise before even getting settled in, and became a detriment to the team. Now with no real star point guard available in Free Agency, Chandler returning off of injury, Monta's status up in the air, and Dirk in his wheel chair, the Maverick's window of contention has now closed and their best bet is to allow Dirk to retire, trade Tyson for Draft picks, allow Ellis to hit Free agency and TANK.
4. Kevin Love will not be in a Cleveland Cavalier uniform next year
The most talked about player who is not playing in the playoffs right now is Kevin Love. Due to the "bush-league" play of the Boston Celtics in round 1 Kevin is forced to watch the remainder of the playoffs from the sidelines. Regardless of Love's status it is clear that Lebron is driven to compete and potentially win another championship. The success of the Cavaliers will have no impact on Kevin Love's looming free agency decision. Instead, the lack of Love in the lineup provides a glimpse of Lebron James' flexing power. Kevin Love is proving to be an above average, but serviceable stretch forward that can be replaced by next season. I have spent time dissecting Kevin Love's makeup throughout the season and Kevin is all about "fitting in". He is less concerned about winning a championship and more concerned about being recognized statistically as one of the game’s elite players. Most players who are meaningful to their team would use the time away from their team as fuel to come back and make an impact, but Kevin will evaluate this experience as a sign that he needs to re-assert himself in the NBA as an old star in a new city new season.
5. The Warriors will be in the same situation as the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder
The Warrior have been a dominant ball club over the past season, and have very similar traits, and team make-up of the 2012 Oklahoma City Thunder team that lost to Lebron and the Heat. The most notable event following that season was the James Harden trade, knowing that the owner did not want to creep into the luxury tax, the Thunder found themselves having to make a decision between Serge Ibaka and James Harden, who at the time was looked at as the lesser of two evils. James ended up being sent to Houston for some picks, and a few athletic guard-forward combinations. Now the best team in the league has similar cap and roster issues on the horizon. Steph Curry is a max player in the 2nd year of a 44 million dollar extension. Klay is a max player, and now Draymond Green will hit free agency this summer. All analysts, and GM's believe that Green will remain a Warrior and receive the max. You have Andre Iguodala coming off the bench and another potential "late bloomer" in Harrison Barnes. Barnes is the odd man out in this equation. First off, the Warriors do not have a legitimate big man that will be able to carry the load of this team for the next 4 years. Although Andrew Bogut has remained relatively healthy this year, this was the first in a string of injury plagued seasons. As of now the bench is strong and deep with Livingston, Lee, Holiday, and Iggy but this will be hard to maintain for another season. David Lee will most likely remain on board because of the fear he will not be able to find work elsewhere. Holiday (the older brother to Jrue Holiday) is a good fit, and will be a cheap signing. Iggy received the max, but has now assimilated into a role player off the bench. There is no way they will be able to keep Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green. Even worse is the fact that Draymond Green is a really a small forward who is playing big and that will not be sustainable in a Western Conference year after year. The Warriors have some decisions to make this summer and next season, and their window much like the Thunder's window in 2012 is right now.
Round 1 solid's, steals, reaches, and drunk general managers
The debate has heated up in recent years about the deterioration of the collegiate basketball game and transition into the the Association. The NCAA has been trying to figure out what the key is in retaining “student athletes” and at the same time permitting eligible young men to enter into the next phase of their careers. The consensus has been that the young crop of talent that has entered the NBA continues to be subpar and dilutes the talent level. The young collegiate elite “one and dones’” are being drafted by the bottom feeders in the league, a large disparity is created between the elite and the lottery teams.
The question remains--how to fix this issue? How can we restore the competition expectation level to resemble that of the eighties and nineties? In order to come to grips with a solution we must analyze the success of past underage stars and what other sports have instituted in their leagues to produce the highest level of performance in their perspective leagues.
In the image shown below, I break down every player who has been drafted straight from high school and I arrange them into 5 categories; scrubs, marginal success, role players, bonafide starters, and stars. Scrubs are players who may have made one or two appearances in their rookie season, only to be denounced to the D-league, and out of the league within two years. Scrubs are easy to point out primarily because their names are unrecognizable. Marginal successful players are athletes who are a little more well known, who have had brief stretches of success in the NBA, and have managed to hang around on the end of benches and continue to pick up NBA contracts. Role players are self-explanatory, players who have carved out a niche in the league and managed to find success and continuous roles for multiple ball clubs. The majority of the high schoolers who I have deemed “Role players” have had the luxury for playing on several different teams. The last category are stars, and stars are unanimous, clear cut, nationally televised, high rating, marquee players.
In my expert opinion, nearly half of the players drafted directly from 12th grade have gone on to be role players in the league. What this proves is that in the past, kids making the jump straight to the pro’s have primarily found success,. Yes, they may not have been prepared physically for the 82 game schedule, or the rigors of competing against grown men but they have managed to remain in the league and become key contributors, trade assets, and 6th men off the bench. Out of the 39 high schoolers on this list, only 6 ended up being pure scrubs. This list gives weight to the notion that Adam Silver should give serious thought to enabling the high school floodgates once again.
On the contrary we can only imagine the chaos in terms of recruiting that would result if the majority of these freshmen elected to stay in school for multiple years. Not only would the recruiting classes be spread out amongst all power conferences and schools, but you would see more transfers as well.
Below is a chart of 3 of the most highly touted and infamous programs in college basketball right now. The chart shows what their perspective rosters would have looked like had my proposed rule been instituted (see below). As you can see, the teams are not only stacked but many of the elite freshman would either be playing reserve minutes or requesting to transfer to other schools out of lack of playing time and star potential. This would allow greater disparity in college basketball and more programs having the opportunity to strengthen their recruiting classes.
There are a few solutions that could impact the Association in a positive way. One solution would be to institute and mimic MLB’s “farm league” system. The NBA has done a marvelous job in developing the “development league”. A handful of teams give considerable acknowledgment to their D-league affiliate and truly use it to develop younger players who aren’t quite ready. But let’s say hypothetically that the NBA allowed teams to draft high school players and immediately assign them to their perspective D-league affiliate. Allowing 17 and 18 year old adolescents to play their first few seasons in the NBA’s version of AAA ball, will allow physical, mental, and social maturity. They will play on teams’ that already have veterans and will become accustomed to the NBA game rather quickly. The high profile stars will still receive large signing bonuses similar to baseball, and the players development will determine the length of time spent in the D-league.
In addition to instituting a more formal farm system in basketball, I believe it would be useful for all parties to mandate a 3 year minimum, or “college till 21” rule. In other words, if a player elects to skip college and go to the league straight out of high school they are permitted to do so--however if a player decides to attend a college, university, or prep school they must stay in school for a minimum of 3 years or until they turn 21 whichever comes first. This allows collegiate coaches to not be disabled in the recruiting process by one and done’s. This forces players to truly develop in all aspects as a man, entering the league at age 21 as not only a more complete player but a complete man. Whether it is realistic to believe Adam Silver would institute a rule similar to my proposition remains to be seen. When it comes to million, and even billion dollar decisions, the league commissioner has often sided with the owners who may not like the idea of sending their first overall pick to the development league. Although both sides would need to meet in the middle, this could potentially resolve the product deficiency issue and restore college basketball's allure.
Lils discusses the MVP race and who is most worthy, plus we look at the top remaining NFL free agents
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
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