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Tag:Heat
Posted on: January 18, 2011 10:14 pm
 

Blake Griffin - The Art of Passing

Blake Griffin missed his entire first year out with injury and many were already calling him a bust. He then began his rookie year a season late in this current 2010/2011 NBA season. He began to turn some heads with his play. Now of course ESPN was all over him the minute he started throwing down highlight dunks, but alot of knowledeable NBA fans still weren't impressed. Then Griffin started owning the boards and has got himself on a 27 game streak of straight double-doubles. It began to peak the interest, but still wasn't enough. After Blake Griffin's monster game where he dropped 47 points against the Pacers , there has been quite a bit of buzz about how good this guy actual is. With a couple impressive wins and big games against the like of the Heat and Lakers , that helps draw more attention to this guy.

Now you see people mentioning him as possibly already one of the best NBA players already, or at least for the future. Everyone is mesmerized by his high flying style, his big time numbers for a rookie (only 7th rookie to average 21 ppg and 12 rpg if he keeps up his numbers), being able to show up in big games against some of the NBA's top teams, and putting up the highest scoring game of any NBA player so far this season. However, while even this doesn't impress some die-hard NBA fans, I think I have something that would even impress them. The thing that is the most impressive about Griffin and the thing that will be the most important ability throughout his NBA career and could definie his future as an NBA superstar is his passing ability.

I know, he's a big man and you wouldn't expect alot of passing out of a big man, especially in today's game. What's even more unlikely that it's coming from such a young player when most of them seem more interested in the flash of the game and not the true fundamentals. Nonetheless, Griffin is already amoung the best passing big men in the NBA right now and could be on his way to being one of the best passing big men in NBA history. That can only mean very good things for his future in the NBA. Right now Griffin is averaging 3.4 assists per game and is currently 3rd in the league in assists for big men (1st is Pau Gasol at 3.9 apg and 2nd is Al Horford at 3.5 apg) .

To put things in perspective, let's take a look at some of the best passing big men of all time. First let's look at Pau Gasol himself:

Pau Gasol - In his rookie year he averaged 2.7 apg, his career high is 4.6 apg, and his career average is 3.2 apg. Gasol has now been a big part of the Lakers recent back to back NBA titles.

Tim Duncan - In his rookie year he averaged 2.7 apg, had a career high of 3.9 apg, and has a career average of 3.2 apg. Duncan has won 2 NBA MVPs, 4 NBA Titles, and 3 NBA Finals MVPs

Karl Malone - In his rookie year he averaged 2.9 apg, had a career high of 4.7 apg, and has a career average of 3.6 apg. Karl Malone won 2 NBA MVPs and went on to be one of the greatest scoring big men in NBA history.

Wilt Chamberlain - In his rookie season he averaged 2.3 apg, had a career high of 8.6 apg, and a career average of 4.4 apg. Of course we all know how Wilt became one of the most dominant NBA players of all time, won 2 NBA titles, 4 NBA MVPs, and a Finals MVP.

Wes unseld - In his rookie season he averaged 2.6 apg, had a career high of 5.2 apg, and a career average of 3.9 apg. Unseld was one of the strongest NBA players of all time and definitely one of it's best rebounders. He has won an NBA title, NBA MVP, and an NBA Finals MVP.

Bill Russell - In his rookie season he averaged 1.8 apg, had a career high of 5.8 apg, and had a career average of 4.3 apg. Russell is seen as one of the greatest players ever and most definitely the greatest leader of a team ever by leading the Celtics to 11 NBA championships in his 13 seasons in the NBA. He also added 5 NBA MVPs just for fun.

Kevin Garnett - In his 1st starting season he averaged 3.1 apg, had a career high of 6.0 apg, and a career average of 4.1 apg. KG proved to be one of the game's most passionate players in it's history and was an all time great defender (finally winning a DPOY a couple years ago), was an NBA MVP, and recently won an NBA title.

Chris Webber - In his rookie season he averaged 3.6 apg, had a career high of 5.4 apg, and a career average of 4.2 apg. Webber is easily seen as one of the best passing big men of all time and was one of the NBA's best players in his days. He was a David Stern Game 7 in 2002 away from getting a chance to win an NBA title.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - In his rookie season he averaged 4.1 apg, had a career high of 5.4 apg, and a career average of 3.6 apg. Kareem went on to win 6 NBA titles, 6 NBA MVPs, and 2 NBA Finals MVPs. He is seen as one of the greatest big men and NBA players in it's history and its the only one to ever star in a Bruce Lee movie (suck it DJ Mbenga!)

Bill Walton - In his rookie season he averaged 4.8 apg, had a career high of 5.0 apg, and a career average of 3.4 apg. His NBA career was shortened due to his awesome red beard weighing down his legs enough to give him injury problems for the rest of his career, but in his limited time as a star he did manage to win an NBA title, MVP, and Finals MVP.


So in short, only 3 players have ever had a rookie season with higher assists per game averages (Webber, Kareem, and Walton) . Those 3 along with everyone else on the list of the NBA's best big men all went on to have a lot of success in the NBA, most of them being amoung some of the best NBA big men of all time. The passing game from a big man has proven to be a big part of their success and key to leading their teams to victory and success. If Blake Griffin can continue his strong passing game and improve upon as many of these great big men have done in NBA history, Griffin could be on track to becoming a great NBa player one day.


Posted on: December 12, 2010 11:41 am
 

The Miami Heat Go as Dwyane Wade Goes

Like everyone, I've been paying close attention to the Heat to see how their much anticipated season goes. Of course it's not been living up the hype obvious, but most knowledgeable NBA fans would have seen this coming and would not have expected a team of 3 stars to just mesh right off the bat and dominate, at least against good teams. But they have been looking very good as of late and I think it's also fairly obvious how they've been so successful...........Dwyane Wade is in charge.

Before the season started, one of the many debates about the Heat was who was going to be in charge and who's team this was going to be. Would it remain Dwyane Wade's team as he's been here his entire career and won an NBA title with them? Or would LeBron James come in, take over, and lead this team into a dynasty of many titles? Well to start, it was definitely LeBron's team. He was leading the charge, the team, and the offense. He was the primary playmaker as well as being the primary scorer, just like he was with the Cavaliers. But as we all know, the Heat had a very slow start going 9-7 through the first 16 games.

Now since their last loss against the Mavericks, the Heat have gone on a 8-game winning steak including wins against the Hawks, Warriors, and Jazz. What I've seen be different in this stretch is Wade being more assertive in the offense and being the focal point, while LeBron still is very involved, but Wade isn't being left out as much or playing as bad as he was earlier in the season. Wade has turned it up, and the Heat have thus started to see alot more success.

Now I know, you're saying "Well duh, of course if Wade does better the Heat win. If LeBron did the same thing, the Heat would win." Ah, but that's just the thing. I did some research on Wade and LeBron's numbers in their wins and losses to prove my point. Here are Wade and LeBron's statline's in the Heat's wins:

Wade (17 games): 24.9 ppg 6.9 rpg 4.6 apg 2.9 TOs 55.8% FG (16.2 attempts pg) 33.2 mpg
LeBron (17 games): 23.4 ppg 5.6 rpg 7.1 apg 3.4 TO 50.5% FG (16.6 attempts pg) 34.1 mpg


Now Wade's numbers were lowered by a couple games where he played limited time and didn't put up high numbers, and LeBron's numbers were inflated by a couple games (mainly the game against the Cavaliers) where he went off. But if you look through each of their wins, you'd see it was generally Wade having the better game.

Now let's take a look at Wade and LeBron's numbers in the Heat's losses as well, because this is where you can really see the big difference:

Wade (7 games): 18.7 ppg 5.9 rpg 3.9 apg 4.9 TO 34.2% FG (16.7 attempts pg) 39.1 mpg
LeBron (8 games): 26 ppg 6.8 rpg 7.6 apg 4.4 TO 40.7% FG (18.9 attempts pg) 41.5 mpg


As you can see, LeBron actually improves all his stats other than FG% and TO/game in the Heat's losses compared to the Heat's wins. However, Wade's numbers are significantly lower (especially the horrible FG%) in the Heat's losses compared to their wins.

So after looking through all this, watching Heat games, I think it's obvious what the Heat need to do to start being more successful. Let LeBron play the facilitator role and play off Wade, and put the ball in Wade's hands more and let him be the primary scorer and focal point of the offense. Now this will at least allow them to be more successful on offense, but their defense is another story. Unless Wade or LBJ somehow get 7'0" tall and weight 300 lbs or Chris Bosh actually learns how to play defense, their interior defense is going to suffer and the good teams will still be able to beat them.

Category: General
Posted on: November 10, 2010 8:37 pm
 

Big B's Early 2010 Defensive Highlights

I figured with everyone raving over the amazing offensive skills being displayed early on in the season with guys like Kevin Durant, Monta Ellis, Dwyane Wade, Rudy Gay, and Derrick Rose lighting up scoreboards; or Celtics fans going insane about Rajon Rondo dropping almost 15 assists a game so far; or guys like LeBron James and Pau Gasol putting up triple doubles; I thought how about we talk about the other side of the ball and give some love to defense being displayed so far this year. Now I know it's early so this is not a "top defensive player of the year candidates" list. This is just a place to shine the light on some great defense being played so far this season. I'm going to touch a few players a teams, but feel free to give a shout out to a guy on your favorite team for his defense.


Dwight Howard

He is the two time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and he's definitely proving why he's just a huge impact on defense this year with Magic. Now Howard isn't putting up huge statistical numbers this year like he has in the past; he's ONLY putting up 11.3 rebounds per game, 2.7 blocks per game, and 1.2 steals per game (I say only just because he's put better statistical numbers than that before, but these numbers are still impressive nonetheless). However, it's how much of an impact on his team that truly makes his defensive worth so valuable. The Magic so far this year are allowing only 88.7 points per game (1st in the NBA), 41.4% FG (1st in the league), have an 11.2 ppg differential, have 46.5 rebounds per game (2nd in the league), allowing only 38.8 rebounds in the league (2nd in the league), and have a +7.7 rpg differential (1st in the NBA). The Magic are no lower than 2nd in all the major defensive categories and that speaks volumes of Howard's defensive impact. It's not like he's getting lots of help from Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, or anyone else on the team. Without Howard, this team is bad defensive team, but with him, they become one of the best defenses in the NBA.

Dwyane Wade

While I think Heat fans have been playing better defense for their team than post defense of the actual Heat players, the team has been solid overall on defense. The Heat allow only 90.1 points per game (2nd in the NBA) and allow only 41.6% FG (3rd in the NBA). Since we know it's not their post defense that is making this team respectable, we have to look to their perimeter players. LeBron James has been good, but their truly most valuable defender has been Wade. He's been all over the court for the Heat and ever single game I've watched for the Heat I've seen this guy hustle his butt off to not only stay in front of his man, but go play help defense (especially in the paint where they struggle). He's averaging 6.6 rpg  1.6 spg and 1.0 bpg and has had two games where he's got double-digit rebounds. Wade has definitely been working hard to just keep the Heat defense from being absolutely abyssmal and has actually made it at the very least respectable.

Josh Smith

Boy this guy has come a long way since a few years ago. Remember when he use to be in love with his deep jumper (which he couldn't hit consistently) and didn't know how to use his athleticism to actual impact his defense instead of just getting block and steal numbers? He has become a much smarter player and it shows not only on offense but on defense. He realizes that while he has the athleticism and ability to play on the perimter, he's far more dangerous in the post. He's such an excellent leaper and uses that do very well on the glass above much bigger players. So far this season he's averaging 9.6 rpg 3.4 bpg and 1.4 spg and has been all over paint on defense as well out of it as well. It's tough to find easy passing lanes and cutting lanes to the basket when J-Smoove is roaming the court. He's been swatting the ball left and right this season and proving to be a dangerous threat on defense in the paint for the Hawks.


Joakim Noah

He has become a very good defensive presence for the Bulls in the paint. He's leading the league averaging 15.0 rpg and also chipping in 2.2 bpg and 1.0 spg so far this season. While Rose has gotten the highlights with his flashing offense and big time dunks, it's been Noah who has been leading their defense and has put the Bulls 6th in the league in rebounds with 45.0 rpg, allowing only 39.3 rpg (5th in the league) and has them 2nd in the league in rpg differential with +5.7 rpg. He look freakish and has a gap tooth grin that would make Michael Strahan proud, but he's a very tough defender in the paint and he's establishing that early on this year.


The New Orleans Hornets

I can't choose just one player from this team because it's been such a great team effort on defense that has allowed the Hornets be very impressive so far on defense and has been a big reason why they are undefeated so far through the early goings this season. They are 3rd in the NBA in ppg allowed with 90.1 ppg and 4th in the NBA in FG% allowed with 42.3% FG allowed. Chris Paul has been impressive not only with his thievery of 2.4 steals per game but also being impressive on the boards with 5.4 rpg on the season. Trevor Ariza has looked good defending defending the perimeter while adding 5.0 rpg and 1.9 spg. Emeka Okafor has proved he is still a very good defensive presence in the paint averaging 2.3 bpg and 8.1 rpg on this season. But while no single player has stood out and looked like a top defensive player, they have been a very good defensive unit together and the whole team is looking sharp on both ends of the court this year which has led to their great start.


Andrew Bogut

The Aussie big man has picked up where he left off last season and has been getting it done on defense for the Bucks. So far he's averaging 10.3 rpg and 1.9 bpg on the season while making the Bucks a good defensive team. The Bucks are allowing 91.4 ppg (good for 4th in the NBA) and 42.3% FG (5th in the NBA). He missed one game so far with an injury and I'm sure got some Buck fans and others (including myself) worried his injury problems would return again and keep him from being a top big man in the NBA. If he can stay healthy like he did last year and consistantly prove to be a defensive presence and overall good post presence for the Bucks, he will finally be living up to that #1 status.


Ben Wallace

You know I had to give my Pistons boy some love when I'm talking about defense. Now this isn't the Ben Wallace of old for the Pistons, he isn't getting 13-15 rpg and 3-4 bpg and making people "Fear the Fro" anymore, but he's shown when he's motivated now again back with the Pistons, he can still get it done for the Bad Boys on defense, even if you can see the gray in his hair now (which is the reason why he's not growing that fro out anymore). He's an old man now so he's only playing 24.3 minutes a game so far this season, but he's been impressive on the defensive end during the time he's in. He's averaging 8.3 rpg 1.3 spg and 1.0 bpg in the limited time and giving the Pistons their only post defensive presence (which is sad, I know).



Well that's all the guys I'm showing loving right now, but I'm sure there are plenty more guys that could use some spotlight for the defense so far this season. Feel free to throw out some guys you've been impressed with on defense so far this season.


Posted on: September 28, 2009 8:24 am
Edited on: September 28, 2009 5:59 pm
 

NBA Southwest Division Preview - 2009/2010

The Southwest division has become the best division in the NBA. There seems to be a lot of rivalry games and tough competition mainly to due the fact that 3 of the teams are located in Texas (San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston). They've had four of their teams making the playoffs for the last couple years now, all four of those teams constantly flirting or reaching 50 wins in a season. The division is filled with some of the best players in the game with Duncan, Nowitzki, and Paul. For the last three years, at two of the top three seeds in the West have come from this division. The division is filled with legends like Timmy D, J-Kidd, and AI, but it also has young stars that will be among the best players in the NBA for years to come in CP3, Tony Longoria, and possible Mayo. There are also three MVP candidates (two of which have won the award before) in Paul, Dirk, and Duncan.

The division is always very competitive and only Memphis has been a team that doesn't contend in the playoffs.   There won't be a team that dominates this division because of much talent each team has and how competitive each team is. Following will be my analysis of this division and how I see each team turning out this season.

1. San Antonio Spurs

Since Duncan has been here, this team has always been among the best teams in the league, and has always been a contender for the title. Duncan is the kind of player that has the greatness to lead his team to victory no matter what the talent around him. However, he does have a good amount of talent around him and that just gives this team an even better chance at success.

Starting at the point we have Tony Parker , a.k.a. "Eva's husband." A Top 5 PG who is lightning quick and has improved his scoring each year. He is one of the best players at penetrating to the basket, and that proves very valuable to his team. Then you have the other guard in Manu Ginobili , a.k.a. "The Argentinean Flopper." He is one of the best shooters in the game and makes it harder on defenses with his ability to take it up with his left hand or right hand (being naturally left handed). He is a good team player that has won championships at both the NBA and Olympic level.

We move to the forwards with the newly acquired Richard Jefferson . He is a very gifted scorer that can shoot or penetrate the lane. However, he has been known as one of the weaker defenders in the league. Then we have the also newly acquired (damn Joe D, why didn't you resign him?) Antonio McDyess . An aging big man that can do whatever you need him to. He can hit that mid-range jumper, he can rebound, and he can play good post defense.

Then at center we go to "Mr. Fundamental" himself, Tim Duncan . Getting older now, but still one of the best big men in the game and guy who just knows how to win. To quote Ricky Bobby, "he wakes up in the morning and pisses excellence." He has the best post moves in the league on offense, and is still one of the best post defenders and shot blockers in the NBA.

They have very good, young bench players in George Hill , Roger Mason Jr. , and their rookie DeJuan Blair . I might be higher on most about Blair, but I think he was a huge steal in the 2nd round for the Spurs, and they've had a couple other 2nd round draft picks turn out very well (Parker and Ginobili). Not to mention that he'll have one of the greatest big men in NBA history teaching in Timmy D. The only concern about him seems to be his injuries in the past (but they were both in high school, not in college and didn't slow him down in college). They also have veteran big men defender Theo Ratliff , and veteran scorer Michael Finely to add some more depth off the bench.

My prediction: 57-25 (1st or 2nd seed in the West)

Timmy D doesn't have much time left to get another title before he retires, but this is probably the best chance he'll get. Parker is improving to the point where he can take over any game with his scoring and playmaking skills, Ginobili should be at full health this year, and the additions of Jefferson and McDyess should prove very valuable to this team. The only weakness I can see for this team is the loss of Bruce Bowen. He never contributed a lot in terms of offense or stats, but he was their best perimeter defenders and one of the best perimeter defenders in the league. Now that he has retired, they don't have any great perimeter defender to rely on. Ginobili can look good at times with his flopping, but that won't be enough when playing against some of the best perimeter players in the league.

I don't think that will keep them from being one of the best teams this year and making to the Western Conference Finals, but if they have to play the Lakers to go to the NBA Finals, there is no one to stop Kobe Bryant and that could prove costly. But Timmy D and the interior defense will really have to step it up if they want to make up for Kobe beating them on the perimeter. However, that interior defense has proved to be very valuable in the past and can get them to the Finals if it's at it's best with Duncan and McDyess. If they play the Lakers, I think it goes to 7 games without question and it's going to come down to Duncan and Kobe, who can will their team to victory. It's a toss up for me, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Spurs won or the Lakers won.

2. Dallas Mavericks

This is the team I will enjoying watching the most out of the West this year (of course I won't favor them over my Pistons though). They have two of my favorite players of this past decade, Kidd and Marion, who were teammates earlier in their careers for the Phoenix Suns and will now be teammates on the Mavs.

This is a team of aging veterans who have a small window of time for winning a title before their careers are over. However, they are still very good players that can contribute a lot to a successful team. Also, the amount of talent doesn't always equal the amount of success you have. A factor that comes into play in their advantage with these older veterans are, ironically, their age. With their age comes years of valuable NBA experience. They know how to play the game just as well as anyone, but it depends if their bodies can keep up with their brains.

We start with the floor general Jason Kidd . He's not the same player he use to be, but he's still among the best playmakers and passers in the game. Also, he's still one of the best defending PGs in the game as well. He knows how to run the team and is unselfish as they come, looking to find his teammates for open shots. Then we move to Josh Howard , the perimeter scoring threat. He has plenty of talent, but it's his attitude that hurts him at times. If he can keep his attitude in check and play team basketball, this guy can score very well and prove very valuable to this team.

At forward, the Mavs have newly acquired Shawn Marion . He has struggles the last two years, but that is due to him not being with a true PG. Other than the one year between Kidd leaving Phoenix and Steve Nash joining the Suns (with Stephon Marbury at PG), he's always had a true PG to play along side with him until he joined the Heat . However, he stepped up his game quite a bit after being traded to the Raptors last season (coincidence that he was playing with another true PG again in Jose Calderon ?). Marion is not a guy that can make plays for himself and be one of your main scoring threats. However, now with the Mavs he won't have to do that since they have Howard and Dirk. He can spread the defense with Kidd being able to find him for open shots, and he can use his athleticism to cut to the basket for easy buckets and alley oops being set up to him from Kidd. But this biggest value is his defense, which has not gotten worse regardless of his struggles. He is still a very good perimeter defender that can cover anyone from the 1 to the 4.

Of course we can't forget the team's best player, Dirk Nowitzki . Dirk is still one of the best scorers and most difficult players to defend because of his size and shooting abilities. With Marion being able to defend the team's best perimeter scorer and Dampier or the newly acquired Gooden being able to cover the post threat, Dirk will be able to focus more on offense this year than ever; which should provide some very good results (possibly MVP again?). Then their other post player will be either Erick Dampier or Drew Gooden . Dampier has become old, slow, and pretty much just a guy to clog the lane now. However, Gooden is still relatively young and could be valuable to them as a starter. He is not a great defender, but he's is not a bad one either. He's a very capable post defender and very good rebounder as well.

They also have possibly the best 6th man in the game in Jason Terry . "The Jet" should get lots of playing time again this season being able to fill in at either guard spot and provide lots of scoring. He will prove to be very valuable to this team coming off the bench, especially to give the old J-Kidd a breather and keep his legs fresh.

My prediction: 54-28 (3rd or 4th seed in the West)

I think the Mavs are going to have a very good season this year and will be a Top 4 seed. Marion should be able to find lots of success and chemistry with his former teammate in Kidd, and also contribute a lot of defense thus taking the pressure off Dirk and Howard that will allow them to score better and more efficiently. The only issue with this team of course is their post defense, and that should prove to be costly when going against the Lakers and Spurs who both have post-scoring threats.

I'll root for them to make a huge upset and somehow win the West, but I just don't seem the being able to overcome Duncan with the Spurs and Pau Gasol and Kobe with the Lakers. Who knows though, miracles can happen.

3. New Orleans Hornets

After CP3 had his breakout season in 07/08 leading his team the 2nd seed in the West and being the runner-up to the MVP Kobe Bryant, the Hornets were not able to repeat their success in 08/09 (although they still came within 1 game from having another 50 win season). However, Tyson Chandler missing 37 games seems to be at the root of their problems. After getting rid of Chandler this off-season, they replace him with athletic center in Okafor. The question is will he be able to provide a better center for them than Chandler> Well let's take a look

At the point they have the best PG in the game and one of the best players in the NBA in Chris Paul . He's become an amazing playmaker that can score, pass, and defend all at a high level. He is a very good leader at such a young age, and that can only improve with more experience. After losing last year's starting SG Rasual Butler , they will now have to turn to Morris Peterson to start. But we've seen his minutes drastically decrease each year since '06 so I expect him to share time with Devin Brown and even Posey at times here. Really doesn't matter who's there because Paul has the playmaking capabilities to get his players open shots.

At forward you have the 3pt specialist in Peja Stojakovic . He's as good as he was in his Kings days, but he's still a very good outside shooter that Paul can find on plenty of open shots. James Posey should see some time here as well as (seeing time at both wing positions) because of his valuable defense, outside shooting, and clutch play. Posey has contributed quite a bit to two previous NBA champions ('06 Heat and '08 Celtics ). At the other forward is David West . He has developed a very good chemistry with Paul, best two-man PNR game in the league, which provides the main source of offense for this Hornets team.

Then at center you have the newly acquired Emeka Okafor . He's not as tall as Chandler but he's younger, just as athletic, just good of a rebounder, and even better defender. We might not see the alley-oops like Paul did with Chandler so often, but he is solid post scorer and can do more in one-on-one situations instead of having to be set up by Paul every time (like Chandler did). He won't need to be a main post scoring threat for them with West, but mainly their post presence on defense. He's been among the league's best shot blockers and rebounders, and his post defense is very good as well. It may take him a little while to get some chemistry with Paul and his other teammates, but he can be just as valuable or even more valuable than Chandler was. Plus he's not an injury risk like Chandler has become since getting older.

My prediction: 50-32 (5th seed in the West)

A team led by Paul will always make the playoffs and no matter whom the other four players are he's going to be at the top of his game and win this team games. The system and style they run fits perfectly into his game, and he has players that compliment him very well. That's key for your best player to have all those things working for him. They only issue for this team is a lack of a perimeter scorer. They have Paul at point, they have West down low, but Peja is no longer that legitimate perimeter scoring threat that they can rely on. That's the only thing standing in the way of them making it to the WCFs and having a good shot at beating the Lakers or Spurs. However, they should still have plenty of success and get around the 5th seed in the West this year. I just don't see them as being a contender with the two favorites, but Paul has already shocked the world once in 07/08, so he could always shock the world again (and prove me wrong) and take his team to the WCFs and give either the Lakers or Spurs a run for their money.

4. Houston Rockets

After finding out Yao Ming will miss the entire year for 09/10 and T-Mac will likely be out until after the All Star Break, the Rockets are really going to have rely on their young players to step up and keep this team competitive and successful. The Rockets have had success before when Yao was out with an injury for extended time, and they've had success when T-Mac was out with an injury for extended time. However, they've never had to deal with them both being injured at the same time for this long. How will they fair this season because of it? Well.....

At the point they will have the young Aaron Brooks . He became a big scoring threat for the Rockets towards the end of the season and the playoffs last year, and he should only improve on that this year. To start out, Shane Battier should look to get the start at the other guard position until Tracy McGrady returns from his injury. He is still arguably the best perimeter defender in the game, and that is valuable to this team's success.

At forward is the newly acquired Trevor Ariza . Ariza is a good defender and good shooter with lots of athleticism who contributed to a title with the Lakers last season. However, with T-Mac out for the first half and Yao out for the year, he will look at to be their main scoring option. Can he take his game to another level and step up to fill that role? At the other forward is young big man Luis Scola . Scola is not athletically gifted nor does have any unique and special abilities. What makes him a good player is his hard work, hustle, and toughness that makes him successful. He works hard on the boards to get rebounds and he uses smart, precise moves in the post on offense to score. Like Ariza, he's going to have to step it up even more this year with the loss of Yao.

Now that Yao is out for the season and Mutombo has realized, what we all have known a couple years now, that he is to old to play anymore the Rockets had to scramble to find someone to play center for them. All they could find was David Anderson. Anderson was drafted by the Hawks in 2002 but has spent his career playing for Australian and Europe leagues. He's big and has size, but so was Shawn Bradley and that guy was horrible. I don't know much about this guy so I can't really say how good he will be for them, but I can tell you that he will not come close to filling Yao's shoes.

My prediction: 46-36 (8th seed in the West, or barely missing playoffs)

I think Brooks, Battier, Ariza, and Scola can keep this team from completely falling apart until T-Mac returns. When he returns, he will be rusty and still getting over that micro fracture surgery so he won't be at the top of his game. However, despite having injury problems every year the Rockets some how always find a way to make the playoffs. This year is a little different though with both their stars out until at least the All Star break. It all depends on how T-Mac heals from his surgery. If he is able to come back at 100% shortly after the All Star break, this team should be able to make the playoffs, but if he struggles to get healthy at all this season they could be barely missing out on the playoffs this year.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

When you have a team with lots of young talent in players like Mayo, Gay, Conley, Arthur, and the #2 overall pick in Thabeet what do you think the best acquisitions would be to make in the off-season? Would you get two notorious "me first" players in Randolph and Iverson? I know I wouldn't if I was the GM. However, a bigger concern for this team is their financial issues and the need to sell more tickets and merchandise. So from a business standpoint, it was something that had to be done regardless of what it does to your actual team.

However, I think AI has gotten a bad rap for being too much of a ball hog when frankly until he joined the Nuggets , he had no one else to do the scoring when he was on the 76ers . However, that has made it more difficult on him to fit into a different role than the one he has been use to his entire career. We seen last year with the Pistons that he couldn't fit into that team player/role player and not the star role. With the Grizzlies it should be different because they don't need him to be a set up guy and a role player; they need him to be one of their stars.

Allen Iverson will have to play the point position for the Grizzlies this year because of his size and the fact that they won't bench their star in the making in Mayo. Despite getting the reputation as a ball hog and selfish player, he is a very capable passer and playmaker. He has shown that with his assist numbers, and for anyone that has actually watched a lot of him you'd see he is able to penetrate the lane so well that defenses collapse on him and give other players open shots. I'm not saying he will be Jason Kidd or anything, but he's not going to be jacking up 30-40 shots and never passing the ball. He will draw the defense to himself and pass it to the open man if he can't find a shot for himself.

At the other guard is O.J. Mayo . Then 2nd year guard out of USC has shown he was worth the hype. He is a very good scorer who is a capable passer himself. He has a very bright future in the NBA, but he may see his numbers dip this year with AI and Randolph on the team now. At the other wing position is Rudy Gay . Gay is a very athletic forward who can score very well and loves to play above the rim. Like Mayo and the other young players on the team, his numbers might see a dip because of the scoring veteran additions, but that doesn't mean he is declining at all.

The newly acquired Zach Randolph should see most of his time at power forward for Memphis. I can see the Grizzlies rotating Gasol here at times to give their first round draft pick Thabeet more time at center. Randolph is a very good scorer and rebounder. He's a weak defender, but he doesn’t have many weaknesses outside of that as far as his talents are concerned. The problem with his is that he can become what is known as a "black hole" on offense. He will rarely give the ball back to his teammates after he gets the ball. He's going to put up good numbers, but that's going to affect the overall team negatively.

At center they have the young Marc Gasol , a.k.a. "The Other Gasol." He showed that he is a very good big man in the NBA and has benefited from his time overseas. He is not an athletic or physical gifted player, but he is a very fundamental player that knows how to play the game well. He has good post moves on offense, is capable rebounder and defender, and knows how to play team basketball. The problem is, not many other players on this team know how to play team basketball as well. Expect Hasheem Thabeet to steal some minutes from Gasol this year to provide rebounder and post defense off the bench. Thabeet has tons of talent and potential, and they won't let their No. 2 overall pick go to waste on the bench.

They also have two young talented players in Mike Conley and Darell Arthur who will most likely see limited playing time this year. Those players are young and need time to improve, but they might not get many chances this year to do that.

My prediction: 36-46

From a business standpoint, this team will have achieved it's goal of making more money than they have in the past with Iverson and Randolph putting up numbers, selling jersey and other merchandise, and winning this team a few more games. However, this will hurt their young players and not give them as much chances to improve and develop like they should be. So while the Grizzlies will be happy with this decision now, they will regret a few years down the road. They don't have a shot at making the playoffs, and I'd be surprised to see this team win 40 games.



So that's it for my preview of the Southwest division. Look out for the other 5 division previews on the blogs of other posters (Feanor, ignorepeter, HurricaneDij39, GoHornets21, and kmvenne)

Posted on: September 22, 2009 7:18 pm
 

The Mavericks: Old Stars bring new success?

What do Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, and Dirk Nowitzki all have in common? Other than being teammates on the Dallas Mavericks of course Tongue out

They are all over 30 years old (Nowitzki & Marion are 31 and Kidd is 36), all have had great careers and are seen as one of the top players at their position in their best days, and (most importantly) none of them have a championship ring. I bring this up of course because they are now going to be all teammates with the Mavs in the upcoming 09-10 NBA season. We all remember the Kidd/Devin Harris trade between the Mavs and Nets a couple years back, and now this summer Marion was involved in a 4 way trade between the Mavs, Raptors, Magic, and Grizzlies  that sent Marion to Dallas. Kidd and Marion spent two years together with the Suns (99/00 - 00/01), but that was Marion's first two years in the league and when Kidd was in the prime of his career. Both are now "over the hill" (with Kidd WAY over the hill) and are not quite the players they were once. Kidd is still one of the best defensive PGs and a good passer, but he is much slower, can't jump to get tons of rebounds like he use to, and doesn't look as sharp on his passes or drives as he use to. Marion is still a good defender (not great anymore) and rebounder, but he hasn't been able to his scoring (shooting percentages) have went down and his athleticism isn't as "freakish" as it use to be.

Now neither one is a bad player at all, and both can still contribute a lot to a team. Kidd is still one of the best floor generals and leaders at the point, and Marion is still the "Matrix" who can defend anyone from the 1 to the 4 (even some 5's). They just are not at the top of their game anymore. This is more true for Kidd than Marion who may just have been missing an offense that allowed him to contribute a lot of offense. When he had Kidd in his prime, Kidd would set him up with lots of alley oop chances, and when he left the Suns 3 years (in which he still put up really good numbers) until they started the "D'Antoni Run n Gun" with the Anti-Christ. The all offense no defense style provided some very entertaining seasons and boosted Marion's stats. But once he left the Suns in 07 for the Heat, he didn't have an offense or a PG who could set him up and give him the scoring chances. He showed some flashes of returning to his glory days with the Raptors, but it was short lived.

However, this team isn't just about Kidd and Marion, but there is still a player I've yet to talk about who is the best of all of them: Dirk Nowitzki. Even though he is 31 years old, he is still playing as well as he ever has. He averaged 25.9 ppg last  year (3rd highest of his career, 4th in the league) and got the Mavs to another 50 win season. His rebounds have went down, but that is not because he is declining but due to the fact he doesn't need to rebound as much with the improved rebounding of the team (Kidd adding some to that). Dirk is a former MVP that is one of the most difficult players to guard in the league because of his size and ability to shoot the long ball. His biggest weakness, and the reason he hasn't been able to win a title yet (losing to the Miami Heat in 06 season NBA Finals), is his defense. But with Marion being able to cover 3's and 4's, that may not be as big of a problem as it once was.

All 3 of these players have had plenty of recognition and success for their individual success (Kidd making 9 All Star teams, 6 All NBA teams, 9 All NBA Defensive teams, being regarded as one of the best PGs ever, and having 2 NBA Finals appearances; Marion has made 4 All Star teams and was regarded as one of best defenders in his day; Nowitzki has made 9 All Star teams, 8 All NBA teams, made an NBA Finals appearance, and won an MVP), but they have yet to win NBA's greatest achievement: the Larry O'Brien NBA Championship Trophy. Their time is running out on a chance to win one (especially Kidd), and I'm sure they are hoping this is the year they can do it. They have other good teammates in Josh Howard, Jason Terry, and Drew Gooden.

The West is tough, but there are only 9 teams that have a shot at the playoffs (Lakers, Spurs, Nuggets, Mavs, Hornets, Trail Blazers, Jazz, Rockets, and maybe the Suns but really probably just the other 8). There are a lot of the games top PGs on these teams (Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, and Andre Miller) so it's a good thing the Mavs have Kidd. However, the teams that look to be favored (Lakers, Spurs) and the some of the other top teams (Hornets, Jazz) have a big post prescense. Will Marion being able to help mask Dirk's bad defense? Is Erik Dampier just a waste of space that can't rebound and defend well enough anymore? Can Drew Gooden be the new defensive presence for the Mavs down low? Can this team of old stars band together and pull out a surprising title run? These are some important questions when judging the Mavs and they should be one of the interesting teams to watch this year.

Posted on: April 12, 2009 10:18 pm
 

Big B's Top 5 DPOY Candidates

Here are my Top 5 Defensive Player of the Year candidates. I don't really think anyone else could be in consideration for the award other than these five guys, but feel free to correct me if I'm wrong:

1. Dwight Howard : 13.9 rpg (1st) 2.9 bpg (1st) Team Defense: 2nd

Howard has been a complete monster on defense this year for the Magic . He has owned the paint on defense and made it very difficult for any team to score there. He has made this team rise to the top of the NBA defensive rankings currently sitting at 2nd in total defense for the year. Considering they don't have much other good defense and Van Gundy isn't some defensive genius strategizer like Popovich, you know Howard has really been a huge impact on their defense. Anytime you have a big man that can own the paint and make the other team shoot jumpers, you have yourself a great defensive player. Howard is leading the league in rebounds with 13.9 rpg and also leading the league in blocks with 2.9 bpg. Hard to argue with his stats or the way he impacts his team; can't find any weakness to his case as the 2008-2009 DPOY.

2. Dwyane Wade : 2.2 spg (2nd)  1.35 bpg (1st for all guards) 5.0 rpg (8th amoung guards) Team Defense: 13th

Dwyane Wade has been unbelievably great this year on defense and it shouldn't go unnoticed. He has not only been effect on guarding ball handlers, but has also contributed in shot blocking and rebouding. Considering the Heat don't have any dominating big men defenders in the paint, Wade knew he had to step for this Heat on defense this year. However, no one would have expect him to be this great on defense. He knows how to stay in front his man and keep his hands up making the ball handling have a difficult time getting a shot off or passing it away. However the key for Wade's defense has been his help defense and his timing abilities. He has great awareness and is always watching the ball like a hawk ready to swoop down on it's prey. He read's the passes and can pick off the passes getting plenty of steals. He also has shown the ablility to get a good timing on when opponents will put up the shot being able to time his jump and block the ball. There's no question he has stepped up big time for the Heat on defense, but the problem is that hasn't made them a dominating defense or even one of the Top 10 defense. Wade is 2nd in the league steals with 2.2 spg, he is 1st amound all guards in blocked shots with 1.35 bpg, and is 8th amoung all guards in rebounds per game with 5.0 rpg. The Heat can't rely on Wade to anchor the defense like a big men could (like Howard) because a guard can only do so much for your defense.

3. LeBron James : 1.71 spg (7th) Team Defense: 3rd

LeBron doens't have a lot of impressive defensive statistics other than his team's overall defense. The Cavaliers have been one of the best defenses in the NBA, and it's no doubt LeBron is a big part of that. However, like Wade, he can't do it alone and can't be the anchor do a defense because he is a wingman. The only difference between Wade and LeBron is that LeBron's teammates and system make their overall team defense better. You switch Wade and LeBron and I don't the Cavaliers get worse or the Heat get better. But the biggest thing I've noticed about LeBron's defense this year is his man defense on the perimeter. He has done a very good job of staying in front of his man and keeping them out of the paint, but even if they do get in the paint the Cavs have good post defenders who make it very hard to score. LeBron has stepped up his D and done a good job on defending some of the league's best wingmen scorers (Carmelo Anthony , Paul Pierce , etc.). LeBron is one of the best defenders this year and has really stepped up, but like Wade, he isn't an anchor for his defense so you can't really make an argument for him being #1.

4. Tim Duncan : 10.5 rpg (4th) 1.71 bpg (13th) Team Defense: 4th

Timmy is still one of the best defenders in the game, and that is without question. However, his age is working against him and he is no longer the domianting post defender he once was. He is still great, but not great enough to make the Spurs defense at the top of the league anymore. But he is still anchoring his defense which is still one of the best in league, which still makes the Spurs one of the best teams in the league. He doesn't have the huge numbers of Howard, but has respectable numbers as well as making his defense and all the players on defense around him great. He is 4th in the league in rebounds with 10.5 and 13th in the league on blocked shots with 1.7 bpg. No doubt Timmy is still one of the best (one of the all time great defenders), but I don't think even he has outmatched Howard this year.

5. Chris Paul : 2.83 spg (1st)  5.5 rpg (4th amoung all guards) Team Defense: 11th

Paul, like Howard and Duncan, is the Hornets anchor on defense. The only difference is, it's much more difficult for a PG to do it than a big man. You'd have to be one of the best PG defenders in history to anchor your defense enough to make them one of the best (Gary Payton, Walt Frazier). Paul is great, and the best PG defender in the league, but he isn't at the level where he can make his defense one of the best. He still needs guys like Tyson Chandler in the paint and James Posey on the perimeter. Paul is 1st in the league in steals with 2.83 spg, and 4th amoung all guards in rebounds with 5.5 rpg. He has been great, no doubt, but you can't really argue him at #1 or even in the Top 3 for that matter.

 

Well there you guys have it. That's how I see this year's best defenders of the year. I believe Howard should get this award easily because he has had a combination of the best numbers and easily the most impact on his team's overall defense. Wade and LeBron are interchangeable at runner-up, and Timmy and Paul arenot just not quite good enough be this year's winner. Feel free to comment, critize, or make your own judgments if you wish.

 

Posted on: January 6, 2009 7:20 am
 

Best Perimeter Defenders in the NBA

When talking about the great defenders in the league, people tend to think of the great post defenders like Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, or they might even think about the great help defenders that put up good stats like Marcus Camby or Josh Smith. But the one group of defenders that seem to get the least love is the perimeter defenders. They are the ones that have to cover the best and most dangerous perimeter scorers in the league. They don't put up him great stats like some other defenders, but they always make their defense better by reducing scoring from the opposing team. I think it's about time they get some credit and respect, so I've decided to make my list of Top 10 best perimeter defenders in the league.

Top 10 Perimeter Defenders:


1. Shane Battier

One of the most underrated defenders in all of the NBA. Everyone recognizes him as a good defender, but not as a great one. However, his perimeter is definitely tops in the league and makes him of the Top 5 overall defenders in the entire NBA. He doesn't put up good numbers at all, but that doesn't mean he doesn't play good defense. Bruce Bowen does the same thing, but with dirty tactics, however he has gotten far more credit than Battier; there's something wrong with that. If Battier can do the same (or better) as Bowen without the dirty tactics, then how doesn't he get the same respect? Regardless of how underrated he is, that doesn't change the fact he slow down some of the NBA's best players out on the perimeter better than anyone.

2. Tayshaun Prince

The long armed Prince is a monster defender on the perimeter. Like a lot of other perimeter defenders, he doesn't put up a whole lot of good numbers (until this year), so people don't give him as much credit. He is a big part of the tough Pistons defense that has been so successful over the past few years. He usually has to cover the best perimeter scorer on the opposing team, and has done very well. He's played against Kobe, LeBron, Pierce, etc., and has had games where he slowed them down significantly. He uses his long arms and huge wingspan to block his opponents off from getting easy drives to the basket, and using those long arms to always have a hand in the shooter's face so they get no easy shots.

3. Kobe Bryant

Yes, Kobe can play some good defense and this is key for the Lakers. Not only does Kobe have to be the Laker's primary scorer, but he also has to be their best defender. To go along with scoring points for his team, he also has to prevent the opponent's best perimeter scorer from scoring as well. They don't put Kobe on the worst player either, he has to cover guys like Wade, Joe Johnson, etc. who are all good scorers. Kobe's incredible offense tends to overshadow his defense, but whether you notice it or not, Kobe is actually a very good defender (particularly out on the perimeter).

4. Paul Pierce

He is another guy that is more known for his offense than defense, but still has some very good perimeter defense. He has gotten more recognition for this lately because of how well he played on defense against Kobe in last year's NBA Finals. It may have some to do with Kevin Garnett's influence on defense, but Pierce has always been a good perimeter defender. He knows how to keep his man in front of him, and not get beat to the basket very often.

5. Ron Artest

Now Artest is an all around good defender, and if this were based on overall defense, he might be higher. However, this is only perimeter defense and that isn't his specialty (on ball defense is). He can still play very defense well on the perimeter though. He has tons of strength and uses his big body to stay in front his man, making it very difficult to get by from points in the paint. Artest might not been seen that highly because of his bad attitude in the past, but that doesn't change the fact that he is a very good defender. You can hate him all you want, but you can't deny he has great defense.

6. Caron Butler

Butler has always been a good perimeter defender, but no one knew about it until he started to become a better offensive player on the Wizards. He has the size, speed, and quickness which allow him to stay right with his man and make sure they don't get by him too easily. He is probably a better on ball defender than perimeter defender, but he still has some very good perimeter defense as well.

7. Ronnie Brewer

Probably the second most underrated defender (behind Battier). Like Battier and Prince, he doesn't put up high stat numbers that get him recognition. However, he is able to keep his man from doing a lot of scoring damage. He has tons of speed and athleticism which allow him to stay in front of his man. He has become a very important role player for the Jazz, and that role is slow down the opponent's most dangerous perimeter threat. He is still young and improving, so he could very easily rise higher on this list in a few years.

8. Shawn Marion

Marion, like Artest, is an all around good defender and perimeter defense is just part of his game. He is more of an on ball and help defender, but he can still play some very good perimeter defense. He is one of the most athletic players in the league and uses that to his advantage when playing defense. He may not be putting up the huge numbers he use to on the Suns, but he is still playing very good defense along side Wade which has been a big part of the Heat's success.

9. Andre Iguodala

Iggy is another one of those all around good defenders. He not particularly specialized at anything yet, but he can play any kind of defense very well. He uses his speed and athleticism to stay toe-to-toe with his man and never lets them get an easy shots off. He has kind of regressed this year for the 76ers, but he is still young and will improve (probably being higher on this list in a couple years as well).

10. James Posey

One of the best role players in the game knows how to play good defense. It's not luck that Posey has 2 rings now (from the Heat and Celtics) because he played a big part in both his team's success. Not only does he come off the bench for his 3 point shooting, but he comes in for his great perimeter defense. When they need him to, he will come in and cover the best perimeter scoring threat on the opposing team. He does very well at this, and has been huge for his team's defense and their success.

Honorable Mention (or 11th whatever suits you): Dwyane Wade



He has greatly improved his defense this year and he has the numbers (team stats not just individual stats) to prove it. The reason why I didn't put him on this list is because he's more of an on ball defender. He can cover the perimeter well, but he is more of an on ball defender. He is also a good help defender too, getting lots of steals and blocks to prove that.

Posted on: December 4, 2008 7:24 am
 

Paul Millsap: How good is he?

With last night's performance from Paul Millsap against the Heat, I just can help but being impressed with how great this guy is playing. I don't hear anyone ever talk about him, yet he is continually playing at a such a high level this year. The big man is just unbelievable right now coming off the bench. He has started a few games this year (7 to be exact), but for the most part he is coming off the bench. Whenever he starts and/or gets big minutes, he plays like top power forward.

In his last 6 games, he's got 6 straight double-doubles is averaging:

16.0 ppg 11.8 rpg (4.3 offensive) 1.5 spg
.

On the year he is averaging:

13.0 ppg 7.9 rpg (3.0 offensive) 1.1 bpg 54.2% field goal shooting  73.6% free throw shooting  28.9 minutes per game
.

He has always been a good defensive player and rebounder, but this year he has been stepping up with his scoring as well. He has scored 20+ points five times this year for the Jazz. He is so good at getting offensive rebounds, and he gets a lot of second chance points. He is developing into a very good player, and if it wasn't for Carlos Boozer he would be starting full time for the Jazz. He could definitely start for quite a few other teams in the league.

Right now he has been amazing, and I think he is the front runner for 6th man of the year. I just wanted to shed some spot light onto Millsap because he's a guy that doesn't get much credit or mention, and I think he deserves it. He has been a big part of the Jazz success this year (especially when they didn't have Deron Williams), and I think the Jazz should think about trading Boozer soon to let this guy start full time. He is a much better defensive player, can rebound just as well, and is starting to learn how to score much better as well. Soon I think could be even a better player than Boozer.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com