Bulls 2013-2014 season is about the start and I am extremely excited. I am excited because this is finally, “The Return” (#TheReturn). Finally. I was disappointed like most Bulls fans last year that Derrick Rose did not play. I also understood that that team last year did not have the horses to beat Miami. But, I have to ask Bulls fans: What has changed? The answer: Derrick Rose. That is it. I would like to think that this year will be better but, that remains to be seen. I am going to break this season down with a couple of categories, thoughts, and predictions. Enjoy. (I wrote this before last night’s loss to the Heat)
Mike Dunleavy Jr. – The Bulls love picking up fairly un-athletic white guys that can shoot. (ie: Korver, Radmanovic, White Mamba) Dunleavy will be able to stretch the floor for the second group and I think will be able to actually defend a little better than Korver. The reason the Bulls signed him is because is serviceable and was cheap. He will be a nice play, but if you think he is the missing piece, he is not. (Prediction: 7 ppg 4 Rebs in about 18-25 min)
Tony Snell – Rookie / New Mexico. I am excited about this guy. Being a teacher, you have a little free time and you get the unintended privilege of watching a lot of summer league basketball in the middle of the day. I wrote a column this summer (look below) about this but since, I’ve seen some highlights from college and watched him this preseason games. This is what I noticed. He is long so defensively deflects a lot of passes and can stay in front his position which is the first thing you have to do to play for Thibs. (I know I know, not Boozer) Offensively he is a good shooter, but streaky. If you look at his games in college, he would go 7-12 from three one game and 1-10 the next. Thibs has not played rookies early in their careers (J Butler, M Teague) but they might have to play this one because of his ability to spread the floor. (Prediction: (6 ppg 2 Rebs 1 Steal in about 12-20 min)
Erik Murphy – Rookie / Florida. I think will see limited time this season. One Thibs is not in a rush to play rookies and also does not use a deep bench. (I didn’t even put up a picture of him, instead this gem of who he will be replacing) Unless there is injury, I see Eric Murphy filling Vladimir Radmanovic role this year. Except less chest hair and more deodorant. (Prediction: No impact)
Bench scoring – I think that the Bulls and coach Thibodeau will be fine on defense with this bench, they always are. But, they will really miss some guys that can come off the bench to score. They are sort of missing a gunner. I would have loved for them to get Jarrett Jack (Rod Tidwell) but the money didn’t work. Last year they had Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson who came off the bench to provide that spark. (With two crumbling players, Rip Hamilton and Kirk Hinrich, they eventually became the starters) This year the plan is going to rely heavily on Jimmy Butler, Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, Snell and Dunleavy. I am struggling to get excited for that.
Joakim Noah’s health – I think that it is fair to worry about this. I know he has played when he has needed to and has played well. But, I really think that trading him might be in the best interest of the Bulls. This foot issue is alarming, ongoing, and stinks (heheh, giggle giggle). I am sorry for suggesting that but if it means a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, they should strongly consider it. That draft is loaded.
Tom Thibodeau’s coaching– I think that Thibs is a great coach. I think that he has been the best regular season coach in the NBA over the past 3 seasons. But, the Bulls have run out of steam and have limped their way through every playoff run. (Yes, I am using a lot of puns) He is going to have to take a page out of Greg Popovich handbook with some of these guys who have had injury issues and sit them from time to time. (Noah, Deng, Rose, Hinrich)
Carlos Boozer – I could write an entire book on all of the ways he frustrates me. I am going to go into this season knowing that he has limitations and maybe that will frustrate me less. (I doubt that) I know that with him on the court they struggle to defend. I know he also has limited them from getting any substantial free agents these last 2 seasons. Here are the things that drive me crazy about him, and when they happen just think, “He has never done well at these things and he never will” and breathe. I’m going to try it but I apologize in advance to my couch cushions who will take a beating each time he does them.
-He can’t finish at the rim in traffic
-He can’t guard athletic bigs
-He can’t guard strong bigs
-He never helps when a teammate gets beat and when he does, he fouls
-He refuses to move his feet when it is his job to hard-hedge on a ball-screen causing him to constantly be on the hip of a faster player making him foul them or allowing that said player to score.
-He has been terrible in the playoffs.
-He mouths off whenever he dunks the ball or gets a 3-pt play.
-He is the only power forward in the NBA that gets that excited about a dunk.
-He should be dunking. He‘s a damn power forward.
-His facial hair.
-His screaming at Joakim Noah.
The Miami Heat – Today’s game means nothing. If the Bulls win or lose by 40, it means nothing. The Bulls have beaten them in the regular season before but the post-season is what matters. I just don’t think they have enough firepower to beat Miami in the playoffs. Miami struggles when the other team has two or three scorers that can break their guards down off the bounce or a scoring big guy. I don’t think that the Bulls have either of those things.
What has to happen for the Bulls to compete for a championship?
Derrick Rose stays healthy.
The rest of the team is healthy for the playoffs.
Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson improve greatly.
Derrick Rose has a MVP playoff run.
Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah can play together down the stretch of games and not lose too much offensively.
Thibodeau learns how to manage his players’ minutes effectively.
Miami needs to slow down in some way or have 4 really bad shooting games in the playoffs. If their shooters are making shots, they are unbeatable.
Derrick Rose will be an All-Star. (26 ppg 5 rebs 9 assists)
Jimmy Butler will be in the running for 6th man of the year. (15 ppg)
They will try very hard to trade Luol Deng, possibly Noah too.
There record will be 56-26 – This will get them the 1, 2, or 3 seed in the East.
They are going to lose in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat. 😦
I am extremely excited to see how this NBA season plays out. Can the Heat keep it going? Can the Thunder be good again? What is going to happen in Brooklyn? How many games with the 76ers lose? Will Tyler Hansbrough finally learn how to read?
But, the most exciting thing about the NBA being back is that I get to watch Derrick Rose again. I am excited for stupid Bill Wennington’s Mickey Mouse voice on the radio. I am really excited to hear Stacey King lose his mind on a huge dunk. I am just excited to see him play and wow me on a nearly every-game basis. I’m happy he’s back.
However, I do think that the Bulls will still run up against a Heat team that they cannot beat in the Eastern Playoffs at some point and that will be the end. I hate to say that now but until proven differently, they are king.
I hope to find time to write more as the season unfolds. Follow my thoughts on Twitter during games to get my instant reactions. Most of the time it has to do with Carlos Boozer not rotating properly on defense. ( @bojansayspotato )
After watching the Bulls Summer League game against the Portland Trailblazers: Enjoy
Tony Snell can really play. He is long, smart, and can shoot. He’s is 6’8 and 200 lbs. Needs to bulk up. He gets his hands on a lot of passes and rebounds. When he gets stronger he will be able to get those boards and hold his ground when he gets bumped. I think he should fit a bench role because he won’t hurt the team and hopefully can hit some shot. He didn’t shoot well in this game but did a lot of other things well. Everyone wants to compare him to Kawhi Leonard but I don’t really see it. Leonard is a better rebounder, more athletic, and can’t shoot as well. Is it just that they were teammates in high school or is it the 2001 cornrows?
Erik Murphy played well until his nose was broken. He can’t really move his feet on defense so I doubt he will get a whole bunch of time for Thibs. He would have to guard a 4 and I don’t think he can.
Marquis Teague still causes problems for people who try to get up in his shorts. He did hit some 3’s but struggles to get the team into anything. The best thing is his ability to come off of ball screens and drive. Still makes way too many turnovers. The Blazers definitely did not read the scouting report. Or, they were trying to see if CJ McCollum can guard quick. He failed quite a bit and Teague scored.
CJ McCollum of Portland can play as well. He is a good scorer and has a nice feel for the game. Sort of slow footed on defense but plays at a nice pace. Could be the 2 guard for the Blazers.
Overall, summer league is not good basketball. Most of the time, role players on a regular NBA team dominate. But, it is interesting to see the new guys and young guys to see how they look.
If you find enjoyment in an extended discussion about this year’s NBA Draft, read this. It is Bill Simmons and Chad Ford doing a mock draft. They do not just pick the players. They are good at entertaining. They are actually good at writing. They are good at sports talking. Unlike some people. It is awesome. Enjoy.
Here or the picture below. Refrain from clicking Noah’s crotch. Grow up!
The Charlotte Bobcats just completed the worst season of all time. They had a .106 winning percentage and went 7-59. Bad. Really bad. The most concerning thing is that they don’t really have much young talent. They have not drafted well. They have not made good moves in free agency. Gerald Henderson was their leading scorer with 15.9 points. I would argue that he is not a star player. He is really not a guy you build around. The NBA lottery is coming up tonight and I think this will decide whether or not the Bobcats and M Jeff can ever turn this franchise around.
This year’s NBA draft is actually pretty deep. There are some pieces that a team can get deep into the 2nd round. The best piece overall is the Kentucky Wildcat uni-browed wonder, Anthony Davis (When mentioning Davis you must mention that thing above his eyes, just under his forehead…you must). He has been touted as the best player and the sure-fire #1 overall pick. Davis is the most physically talented player in the draft. Davis has the most potential to become a NBA superstar. I think his athleticism and physical build can translate really well into the NBA, eventually. However, and I hate to say this, he will not fix the Bobcats.
Let me explain.
The Bobcats scored 87.0 points per game, which was good enough for dead last in the NBA. They were ranked 27th in points allowed at 100.9 per game. This means they were outscored by 13.9 points per game. Yikes! Here are the worst point differentials of the last five years in yellow. This shows how bad they actually were this season. No other team is even close.
This tells me that they are bad. It also tells me that they can’t score or get stops. Davis is going to be a great athletic defender. But, he is not a scorer. He is 3 to 4 years away from being able to create his own shot at the NBA level. He really doesn’t even have the same abilities as Blake Griffin. His offensive game at Kentucky was tips, offensive rebounds, and dunks in transition.
With that being said, I would be happy for the Bobcats if they were to get the #1 pick. I think Davis is a piece. But, if they don’t, it is not the end of the world for them. Because of the deepness of this draft and the option of taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Lots of potential. Does a little of everything. I love this kid), hope is not lost on a lower pick. I think they should stay away from Andre Drummond who I think has major bust potential. I am also not crazy about Thomas Robinson. I think he is a classic tweener and they already have Tyrus Thomas. Similar game, same last name, just not a great fit. Their thoughts going into the lottery should be on 2015-2016. Not Anthony Davis. He will help, but is not a 20-10 guy as a rookie. He is not LeBron or Durant. Don’t lose stop Bobcat fans…whoever you might be (3 people are going to read this post).
I think the Bobcats are at least 4 to never years away from competing. Or when Michael Jordan relinquishes control. Sorry Michael. I still love you…just go golf. Forget all of this noise.
The devastating nature of the demise of the 2011-2012 Bulls was hard to watch. Derrick Rose collapsing on that jump-stop might have been my saddest moment as a Bulls fan outside of Jordan, Pippen, Jackson being broken up when they had at least 2 or 3 good years left at the end of the 1998 championship season. It was a terrible end to a promising playoff run. I picked them to win the whole thing. Biased? Yes. Does my opinion matter? No. Am I answering my own questions like an annoying pompous ass? Yes. But, I really thought they had enough. It didn’t happen. It was really sad, but it didn’t happen. It’s time to look ahead. What can the Bulls management do to improve a team that has had the best regular season record two seasons in a row but is yet to get over the hump? First of all, most of these moves are contingent on team using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer. If they don’t amnesty Boozer, they will have no money to make any substantial free-agent signings. Also, the success of the 2012-2013 Bulls is reliant on the health of Derrick Rose. These are my thoughts as a fan and aspiring NBA executive. The options that in bold are the ones that I think will be possible and are decent moves. Enjoy.
NEED #1- Scoring at the Shooting Guard position:
The Rip Hamilton experiment was not ideal (Played 28 regular season games). He was hurt all season and played his best basketball in two 3rd quarters in two games while losing to the 76ers in that playoff series. 24 minutes of good basketball. Bad timing to finally get healthy and play well. The fans have been clamoring for a second legitimate scorer on the perimeter. I think Rip is still a decent option but as we saw down the stretch of games he seemed to be gassed and really struggled. I think he cost them game 4. He still is a hard player to guard when healthy and in NBA professional basketball condition. It is a headache for defenders to chase him as he runs off multiple screens on every possession a la Reggie Miller (Or young Rip Hamilton). One problem is that he does not create for others. And in one-on-one situations he can’t create for himself. Neither do Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, or Jimmy Butler off the bench at the 2-guard position. This is a big need for them. The good thing here is that there are several options that they could pursue.
Shooting Guard Options:
(Fake smile, he hated being traded)
Eric Gordon– Gordon will be too expensive and will be one of the top free-agents for this off-season. I love his game and think he got a raw deal in the trade to the Hornets. He went from a contender to one of the worst teams in the league. He repaid them by not signing an extension (which everyone saw coming) and only playing 9 games due to injury. He is a nice player and would love him on the Bulls but I think someone will really overpay for him. Probably the Brooklyn Nets. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $10-12 mil)
O.J. Mayo– This is another popular choice for the Bulls. The fans have been asking Gar/Pax to add him for a while. However, there are some problems. I don’t like him because I think his price will be very high. I do like him because I think Memphis did not play him where he could be at his best. Memphis has Rudy Gay who loves to get into isolation possessions. Mayo is a very similar player. He is more of a jump shooter on the wing that can attack from time to time. I think he can be very good. Elite even, maybe. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $9-11 mil)
(“I’m going to dribble right, turn left, jump stop, and then take your starting job. Got it?”)
George Hill- Hill will probably stay in Indiana because I don’t they are very happy with the progression of the down-graded Darren Collison. I think Hill is a great fit for the Bulls. He would be a nice SG/PG that could run the offense and hit a shot here and there. He is going to want a bit of raise but I think the Bulls should make a play for him. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-4 mil)
Courtney Lee- Lee is a guy the Bulls were targeting a few years ago that is only getting better. I love his game and athleticism. Think of him as a more aggressive and athletic C.J Watson. I think the Rockets will try and keep Lee. He has emerged as one of their go to young guys and I think they will try and move the oft-injured Kevin Martin to make room for Lee to be the starter. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)
(He can make big shots. Averaged 17 points. in the finals and was guarded by LeBron a lot of the time)
Jason Terry– Another aging scorer? I know, the Rip Hamilton thing all over again. They could get him for cheap and he can still hit big shots and sometimes even get his own shot. I think Dallas will try and keep him and not resign Jason Kidd. If the Bulls could get him at a bargain (2 mil) he might be worth the risk. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $2-5 mil)
Draft Pick Possibility
(That disgusting leper looking thing next to him will no longer distract him from producing)
William Buford (Ohio St.) – Buford is another player that could fall to the Bulls at the 29th pick. He is streaky but dangerous. He would go through stretches where he was unstoppable. The knock on him is that is big games or when he has an athletic defender was put on him, he struggled. He is slightly undersized as a wing in the NBA but he is a decent defender. I have seen him play enough to think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to give him a chance to be an energy scorer off the bench. (See pre Swine Flu Chris Douglas-Roberts)
NEED #2- Starter/Back-up Point Guard:
Derrick Rose will be out for 40-82 games next season as he rehabs his ACL. They will need someone to cover that role. I like C.J. Watson but he is really not a true point guard. Also, I hate John Lucas III getting big minutes as the backup pg. He drives me crazy against good teams. Dribble, dribble, dribble, shot at the buzzer. He is too slow to dribble around guys and too small to overpower them. I think Thibs was comfortable with him and had to use him because of all the injuries to Rose this season. But, I don’t think he will be back. There are plenty of options for the point guard position. Here are the best.
Point Guard Options:
Goran Dragic– For those of you Bulls fans that only remember him from getting posterized by D-Rose and Stacey King marking out, he is actually pretty good. When he started for the injured Kyle Lowry he averaged about 18 points and 8 assists per game. I think he could be a perfect player for the Bulls to fill-in for Rose. But, there will be plenty of teams (Knicks, Suns, Lakers, Jazz and Rockets) that will want him and that might drive the price so that the Bulls can’t get him. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)
(“Didn’t you get the memo!”…I don’t think he did. English is his second language Stacey. Even if he got the memo, he wouldn’t understand.)
Steve Nash– He is old (38) but can still play. I know he will get a lot of teams interested. I am also sick of people giving me a sob story about how the Suns should have traded him. That was the Suns mistake if he leaves because he is still pretty good and they could have gotten something for him as they rebuild. He can’t guard anyone, but that is nothing new for Nash. He is still the best pure passer in the league. If he doesn’t stay in Phoenix, I wouldn’t mind seeing him in red and black. I don’t know if he fits into coach Thibodeau’s “defense-first” coaching style. I think this has a chance to happen but he might be a little too expensive for an aging pg. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $5-8 mil)
Jeremy Lin– Possible flash in the pan? Sure. Possibly a top-10 point guard? Also sure. Lin could fit in with the Bulls. He has only played well for about a month in his entire career. There is a reason people pass on guys over and over. They have deficiencies that good coaches and teams will exploit. The Lin hype will drive up the price, but the Bulls need a quality player to hold down the fort for a while Rose is out. I think Tim Lin, I mean Jeremy Tebow could work. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-6 mil)
(The good ol’ days- Ty Thomas must have just done something amazing. Like him a 15 footer or run a set play properly. They were excited.)
Kirk Hinrich- I know, I know, that guy. But, that guy will not cost 8 million dollars per year anymore. I have to think he would like to come back and be a starting point guard in an organization he knows. He could be a solid backup when Rose returns. I think this is the most likely scenario to happen. He can still defend, which Thibs would love. He can also run the offense and hit the occasional 3-pointer. He will also dribble under the basket about 4 times a game and make you want to pull your hair out. I’d like this move. It’s a cheap and effective addition. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $2-3 mil)
Andre Miller- This is also a foreseeable option. Miller is getting older and always looks like he just woke up, but can still play. He has been a solid pro very quietly for every team he’s played for. I would like this move because he wouldn’t mind being a backup when Rose returns. He creates, is a great passer and serviceable defender. The knock on him has always been his poor shooting. He is due for a little pay cut at his age (36). I think this is a great option for the Bulls. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $4-5 mil)
Draft Pick Possibility
(“What’s worse, my eyebrow or your mustache?”)
Marquis Teague (University of Kentucky) – According to NBAdraft.net Teague is projected to possibly fall to the late-first round. I think he has some things to learn but could eventually be very good. Two years ago he was a projected Top-5 pick. He is turnover prone and can gun a little too much for a player that can’t really shoot. Because of these reasons and a poor start to the season, he has fallen way down. He just has to fall about 5 spots to be available for the Bulls. Undisciplined Teague at 20 years old > Undisciplined LJIII 30 years old. I like his potential.
NEED #3- Athletic Offensive Power Forward/Center:
(This is how it is done)
As a Bulls fan I get frustrated by their offense often. They love ball screens. I think that is the NBA style. But as a Bulls fan, when you watch a team like the Clippers and how dangerous they are in the pick-and-roll and then watch a Boozer/Rose pick-and-roll you have to shake your head. Boozer has so many chances to just attack the rim violently. He doesn’t. It’s not his game. With Rose at the point and coach Tom Thibodeau’s tendency to run the pick-and-roll in every big spot and all late shot clock situations, they need someone that can finish. Something unlucky for the Bulls is that the available crop of “Big Men” is not something to write home about. This is one reason the Bulls will not amnesty Boozer (Gar Forman said that they will probably not amnesty him, but things change). The options out there leave a little to be desired. The free agent market might not be their only option for this position. They have to look to trade to fill this major need.
Power Forward/Center Options:
Brook Lopez- He is two seasons removed from being an elite big guy. I think he will garner some huge contracts and several teams’ interests. Not a great fit for the Bulls unless they move Noah and open up a spot for him. Neither of them can really play the 4 position. Though, a lot of the time Noah is trailing the play and ends up being the passer from the top of the high-low offense (Traditionally of 4-man’s role). Think about having a healthy Lopez alongside /Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson in the Bulls front court. They would be tough to score on and tough to stop offensively. Not likely, but possible. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $8-12 mil)
Ryan Anderson- Likely to stay in Orlando but after his breakout season. Because he had a great year he will get lots of interest across the league. I think he is a nice fit for what Orlando does. They have a big guy in Dwight Howard that demands a double team (when interested) which opens up the floor for 3-point shooting. Anderson could open up the floor for the Bulls and could be dangerous in a pick and pop type set used by a lot of other NBA teams. He could repeat what he did for the Magic this year, but I think he also has bust potential on a different team. It would be a risky move and I don’t like it. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-5 mil)
Ersan Ilyasova- Who? Ilyasova has emerged as a pretty good big man for a decent Milwaukee team. The Bucks relied on him to provide big minutes at the PF postion. He averaged 13 points and 8 rebounds per game which would be a nice thing to have from a backup. He is a pretty good shooter and extremely active on the glass. He had a 29 point 25 rebound game earlier this year. He could be affordable and is versatile enough to be a good fit for the Bulls. He could fill a back-up role to Taj Gibson if they can get him for a reasonable price ($7 mil/3 yrs). (Good call by my friend @KMBoxa ) (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-6 mil)
J.J. Hickson- J.J. is still young and athletic. I think he has a chance to be a contributor on a quality team. He seemed to be unmotivated and absolutely sucked for the Kings. Played ok for the Blazers as the season was lost for them as well. I think being on a contender makes everyone want to play hard (except Andrew Bynum). I think a bunch of GMs have soured on him as a prospect but I think some team is going to get him as a major contributor for a small price. Why not the Bulls? Hickson would be a cheap addition that Thibs could use for big man depth. (Estimated salary for 2012-2013: $3-4 mil)
Draft Pick Possibility
Draymond Green (Michigan State) – Green’s game might not translate perfectly into the NBA but with a late pick the Bulls could get a smart big guy that will play his ass off for coach Thibs. I think he could contribute as a back-up immediately and at the 29th pick in the draft that is all you could really be hoping for. Draymond is a good jump shooter and passer. I think he could be a guy that has a 10 year career as serviceable big man in the NBA.
Conclusion of a story and possibilities that might mean nothing
Derrick Rose is the key. If he is able to come back healthy and be himself, the Bulls will have a chance to contend for a championship. However, tearing an ACL is not the easiest thing to come back from. I know athletes have come back from ACL tears but how many of them play like Derrick Rose? He is fast, agile, and relies on his ability to cut and change directions. I don’t know if he will ever have that back. That notion makes me said. But, it is true. According to his doctor this should not be a concern physically. But, often the problem when coming back from injuries, is the mental aspect of attacking. Players get worried about hurting themselves again. This worries me. It truly is up to Rose if the Bulls can win a championship. I guess we will see.
That Grantland story just opened up a can of bitter emotions. If you have ever watched an NBA game and thought, “This game is rigged”. You may be correct. David Stern is capable just ask Tim Donaghy. I don’t have to write much about this game. The video will do most of the explaining. I was Kings fan at the time (I could only root for the Jalen Rose/Marcus Fizer led Bulls to a certain extent). This game almost made me disown my parents when they kept telling me, “There’s always next year” or “It’s just a game” or “Bojan, put that knife down”. I will just let you watch this travesty and imagine being a fan. Imagine being devastated. Imagine being a poor youth with a broken heart. Imagine being Lawrence Funderburke flying through after being clobbered by Shaq, with no whistle blown. Even Ralph Nader was outraged. The footage is coupled with a Coldplay song…sorry. I hope this doesn’t ruin this beautiful Thursday afternoon. Enjoy, I guess.
Grantland is awesome and Bill Simmons, who runs it, is my favorite writer. I aspire to be 10% of what he is as a writer and sports fan. Ok, enough ass kissing. Here is his take on what the effect of Derrick Rose’s injury has on the eventual champ and also other NBA championships helped along by some luck. It’s great. Click here or picture. Enjoy.
I am currently writing my feelings about the Rose injury. I have allowed for it to set in. Cried a little, yelled a lot and now I am ready to put it into words. It is a sad sad tale. 😦 Coming soon.
Here is my NBA breakdown for the 2012 playoffs. This is my favorite time of the year. Lots of late nights watching basketball. Being sleepy at work. I am excited because of the interesting match-ups in the first round in the Eastern and Western Conference brackets. I am also excited for this year more than last because I think my team has enough to win it all. My pick to win the championship are the Chicago Bulls. Read on to find out why. Enjoy.
As I have said in the past, DO NOT use my opinion to gamble and then come back and be all winey about it. “Waaah! Waaah! I lost my mortgage payment because of you!” “My kid is going to have crooked teeth because we can’t afford the braces!” Joking about gambling is not funny, I know. Sorry.
Ok, with that now out of the way I can get to what I really love, writing aimlessly about sports.
Western Conference Playoffs
Favorite: Oklahoma City Thunder
Dark Horse: San Antonio Spurs
It’s Possible: Los Angeles Lakers
#1 – San Antonio Spurs: Tony Parker is quietly having an MVP type season. It may surprise some that Parker is only 29 years old. (It feels like he might be 39) This team was written off at the beginning of the year by “experts” because of their age (Ranked 12th by The Bleacher Report Preseason). What people didn’t realize is that they have been drafting really well. (Leonard, Blair, Splitter) These aren’t stars because it is difficult to draft stars late in drafts but they are solid contributors. They are also getting major contributions from guys like Gary Neal and Danny Green. They are always scary in the playoffs because of their experience. However, this is not your father’s Spurs team. They are 2nd in scoring at 103.2 points per game. The last few years they have been tarnishing their reputation for being a great defensive team. They are out scoring people now. Those old legs can’t move and stay in front of people. My concern about this team is that I don’t know if they have someone down the stretch who can take over like Ginobili used to be able to do. I think every team needs that in the NBA to win a championship. Utah is a decent team but I think they will get swept. I still think they will go deep into the playoffs.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
#2 Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant is the best scorer in the league. He is one of the best scorers I have ever seen (Just won his 3rd scoring title in a row). Russell Westbrook gets a lot of criticism for the amount of shooting he does as a point guard but that is what makes this team dangerous. They can really fill it up from different positions. The difference maker on this team is James Harden. He has emerged as the 6th man of the year and can go off for 20-30 points in any game. This team is scary on offense and has Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins holding down the inside on the defensive end. They will get their revenge on the Mavericks from last year. They will get zoned by the Mavs but I don’t think Dallas can score enough this season to beat the Thunder again. OKC is my pick out of the West.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Chicago Bulls in the NBA Championship.
( This felt very similar to this…)
#3 Los Angeles Lakers: How good is Kobe Bryant going to be after missing a significant amount of time? That is really the difference between them competing for a championship or not. Ramon Sessions was a great pick-up at the trade deadline. He gives them a true point guard that can create and also score when needed. Believe it or not, I think this Metta World Peace (I will refer to him as Artest) suspension is going to hurt them. Artest has been playing really well in March and April. Something that might help the Lakers in the first round is their opponent. The Denver Nuggets are a “team” with no standout stars that Artest would need to lock down. Andrew Bynum, though an immature human being (see my Blake Griffin article to see his reaction to a teammate getting yoked on), has evolved into the best (healthy) center in the league. He goes through stretches where he dominates the game. I think they will beat the Nuggets and challenge the Thunder but that is all, challenge them. I think this is still a dangerous team if Kobe is healthy. He can still play.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 2nd round.
#4 Memphis Grizzlies: It makes no sense that this is the 4th best team in the West. Rudy Gay has been great averaging about 19 points per game and Marc Gasol has turned himself into a real player (not just Pau’s chubby little brother). Zach Randolph has only played 27 games for the entire season. He is just trying to get back into playing shape which is not that easy for a guy who is already not great with his conditioning. I think they are playing the team that poses the most match-up problems in the Clippers. I don’t know if they can guard them at any position. I think it can be a long series but I like the Clippers to win in 6 games.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Clippers in the 1st round. (My first upset, yeah!)
#5 Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers are actually a legit basketball franchise. I never thought I would ever type that. Not only are they legitimate, they are extremely popular. The L.A. Del Negros have been shown on national TV 35 times this season and have been the talk of many sports and NBA columnists/analysts. The Clippers have had an up and down season and at one point Vinny almost lost his job. I think they are a dangerous team in the West capable of beating anyone. If I take an unbiased look at Chris Paul, he is the best point guard in the league. He has unbelievable vision and feel for the game. Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan get so many easy buckets because of Chris Paul. When they get 12-15 points from Mo Williams or Caron Butler they are really hard to beat. However, their problem has been consistency. Can they win 4 games against 4 different teams? I don’t think so.
Season Outcome: Lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2nd round.
#6 Denver Nuggets: How are the Nuggets good? I don’t know. They have no stars, no explosive scoring, and they traded away their best player at the trade deadline (Nene). After everything George Karl has been through in the last year concerning his health, I can’t help but pull for the Nuggets to do well. I think he should be in consideration for Coach of the Year. If you look at their starting line-up and compare that to the Lakers, it looks like this should be a sweep. It won’t be. Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari have led this team for most of the season and they possess a great defender/sing player in Aaron Afflalo who gives Kobe trouble. I love their grit and ability to just win games and beat teams they should beat. Their match-up against the Lakers could be a 7 game series.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1st round.
#7 Dallas Mavericks: The Mavs won the championship last year and I think they just laid around all summer and ate hot dogs by their respective pools. They lost their edge and it all starts with Dirk. He is not scoring like he did last year (from 28 ppg to 21ppg) and on top of that he doesn’t have much help. They lost their toughness when Tyson Chandler and DeShawn Stephenson both left the team. They were expecting some help from Lamar Odom which obviously didn’t work (Kardashians are bad for athletes)(Possibly story to come). This is not the same team as last year. I think they will still steal a game or two from the Thunder but then lose. They are lucky they won it last year because that roster is old. Really old (8 guys over 30 yrs old). I don’t think they will be back for a while. Poor Mark Cuban.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the 1st round.
#8 Utah Jazz: Their two big guys Al “Devil Eyes” Jefferson and Paul Millsap are a little undersized at the 4 and 5 spots but boy are they talented. Gordon Hayward has come on strong in the last month of the season. Devin Harris is finally out of a year and half funk. I love the way that they share the basketball and think they could have a bright future if they can keep this group intact and try to add a guard that can score. They suffer when they have to go to their bench and don’t really have a go-to scorer down the stretch. I think they can steal a game from the Spurs in the first round, but that’s about it.
Season Outcome: Lose to the San Antonio Spurs in the 1st round.
Eastern Conference Playoffs
Favorite: Chicago Bulls
Dark Horse: Miami Heat
It’s Possible: Boston Celtics
#1 Chicago Bulls: This was supposed to be the year. They needed a second scorer that can create his own shot and they got Richard Hamilton. He has only played for 28 games. They needed a healthy and productive Carlos Boozer. He is the only starter to play in every game this season, but still is not as productive as Bulls fans want him to be. I just want to see him finish at the rim against a good defender. I won’t hold my breath. Most of all, they needed Derrick Rose to take that next step in his game. He has not. He has missed 27 games this season with a variety of injuries. Many of these injuries are limiting his ability to attack the rim, which is the thing he does best. He must finish games more efficiently. He needs to be their closer, which is still a part of his game he can improve in.
They haven’t played together for an extended amount of games at all this season. This worries me about my Bulls. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Kyle Korver. I did not make a mistake there. I mean it. He is playing with a lot of confidence and shooting the ball extremely well. He spreads out defenses and allows for the rest of the offense to have some space to operate (He did not do this in the Eastern Conference Finals last year and it killed the Bulls).
The Bulls bench might be the best I have ever seen. Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik, C.J. Watson, along with Korver have been awesome. They are the #1 seed for the second year in a row and will have to play the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. The 76ers have given the Bulls problems in the past but have been playing horribly as of late. I like the Bulls to sweep or win in 5. I would hate for them to go into the playoffs without much chemistry and play poorly because of it. That would be a shame and a waste of a very talented team. I do not think this will happen. They are deepest team in the playoffs and they play the hardest. They are well coached and I think have enough this time around to defeat the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. (I will write more about that when the time comes) Then go on to beat the Thunder in a very entertaining series. (Also, more to come)
Season Outcome: Win the NBA championship by beating the Oklahoma City Thunder.
( I want this to be Derrick, not LeBron )
#2 Miami Heat: This team is still a mystery to me. I have seen them at times this year look unbeatable. LeBron James is the best player in the league and should be the MVP. Charles Barkley said recently that if the Heat win it all, it will be on the back of LeBron James. I agree. Wade still has the ability to take over, but is starting to wear down. Bosh is a nice player that can get hot but he is not a star. Their bench is terrible and they still don’t have a great front line. Defensively they cause people fits because of their activity and athleticism. They led the league in forced turnovers and points in transition. To beat them, you have to take care of the basketball and limit their transition game. I think that the Knicks will give Miami some trouble. Carmelo has been on a tear and I love Iman Shumpert on Dwayne Wade. This could be a long series. I still like the Heat to win it but don’t be surprised if there are several close games that make those people in South Beach squirm (I would never be able to squirm in South Beach, I would get far too sweaty). All of the pressure is all on them again. They folded last year. To end their season they will run into a deeper, better Bulls team. The Bulls/Heat rivalry is becoming must watch basketball. Here’s to hoping for a long, competitive series that the Bulls win.
Season Outcome: Lose in Eastern Conference Championship to the Chicago Bulls
( Awesome hands and a great athlete )
#3 Indiana Pacers: I am slightly uneasy about admitting that I like what the Pacers have done with their roster these last couple of years after ripping them for being terrible for so many years. That being said, they don’t really have a standout player. Danny Granger has taken a step back in his development but is still their most talented player. Roy Hibbert was an All-Star which still surprises me because every time I watch him he looks like he has two 35 sized left feet and tennis rackets for hands. David West was a great pickup after no one really wanted him. He is a huge upgrade from Tyler Hansbrough. Paul George and George Hill are nice players as well. I can see Paul George turning into a Luol Deng type of two-way player in the future. I like his game a lot. I know people in Indy are really excited about getting home court advantage and playing the Orlando Magic in the first round but, this is not the year. They don’t have enough fire power to beat the Bulls or Heat.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Miami Heat in the 2nd round
(Yes…I know and I don’t care)
#4 Boston Celtics: Really? Again? Yes! This Boston team came out of nowhere to have a great second half of the season. They are aging but it seems like Paul Piece and Kevin Garnett were just playing dead in January. Rajon Rando is such an amazing passer at the point. He struggles to score but just makes things happen on the offensive end. He has also improved on defense as his career has gone on and gets his hands on so many passes. Avery Bradley has been a nice surprise as a wing, slasher that defends. I feel like they can plug anyone into a supporting role at any position and they will flourish in Boston. I am as surprised as anyone that this team is playing this well and did not blow itself up at the trade deadline. I guess they have one more run in them and then the buzzards will come peck away at their bones this summer. I am not sure what to expect from this series against a pesky Atlanta Hawks team. If Josh Smith starts shooting jump shots, Celtics will win. That is my best analysis.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Chicago Bulls in the 2nd round.
#5 Atlanta Heat: They have played really well this entire year led by Joe Johnson (criminally over-paid, so glad the Bulls did not go after him) and Josh Smith (Stop shooting that 15 footer dude!). They have had overcome the injury to Al Horford. Their first round series is actually a pretty good match-up. Neither team really relies on their inside game and are both primarily guard oriented. I feel bad for the Hawks but I think they are stuck under a giant contract (Johnson) which hand-cuffs their ability to add any more talent in free-agency. They will be a 3-7 seed in the Eastern Conference for years to come, but will not be a top team or a championship contender.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Boston Celtics in the 1st round.
( This is how J-Smoove needs to play )
#6 Orlando Magic: This has become a mess. Reality show style train wreck. I would watch a Stan Van show. I can imagine him eating a lot of pastrami sandwiches and yelling at J.J. Reddick. Well, let’s talk about the basketball. This team lives and dies by the 3 point shot. I saw them play the Bulls this year and look unbelievable. They hit eleven 3’s and shot 50% from the field. I heard people rumbling that they will have a chance to win it all. Then a week and a half later they played the Bulls again and scored 59 total points. They are dangerous but only if they are making shots. A lot of shots. I hate what Dwight Howard has done to this team. He has made this whole franchise about him. I dislike the way that went down. But, they have to move on without him. Glen Davis has filled in nicely and they have Most-Improved Player of the Year candidate Ryan Anderson. I still think they will lose in the first round to the Pacers, possibly badly.
Season Outcome: Lose to the Indiana Pacers in the 1st round.
( Hahahahahaha )
#7 New York Knicks: The Knicks are so much better when it is the Carmelo show. Carmelo is so much better when he doesn’t have to worry about passing… ever. Ever. Also, I don’t know how Mike D’Antoni can get a job after his most recent mis-adventure. He doesn’t worry about defense and defense is needed to win consistently. I am really happy the Bulls didn’t end up with him. Melo has been playing some defense under Mike Woodson and they are getting results because of it. I think Tyson Chandler has been the unsung hero of this team and an anchor of that defense along with Iman Shumpert (mentioned above) that has helped them turn the season around. I just think they have a few too many gunners to possibly upset the Heat. This will be a tough series. Probably 6 or 7 games.
Season Outcome: Lose in a tough 1st round series to the Miami Heat.
#8 Philadelphia 76ers: This team started the season with a lot of promise and then slowly withered away. They are young and I think hit a wall. If the season was 5 games longer the Bulls would be playing the Milwaukee Bucks. They have some young talent like Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young that will be very good. Just not yet. I think they over-achieved to start the season and then got exhausted. Hopefully Evan Turner keeps his mouth shut this time around against Rose. One of these two players got waaaaaay better since the last time he talked bad about Derrick. I think they are a nice young team but I don’t think they can scare the Bulls.
Season Outcome: Lose in the 1st round to the Chicago Bulls
In conclusion, I have to tell you that I am a Bulls fan. But, I actually think they will win the championship. I hope I’m correct. If you are interested in reading my NBA thoughts throughout the playoffs follow me @bojansayspotato .
Blake Griffin is incredible. He is a great athlete. He is a great dunker. He is exciting to watch. I even think his KIA commercials are enjoyable. He has done something I never thought possible, he has legitimized the Clippers. The Clippers! I will never deny what he is capable of is amazing. But, he needs to corral something that will help him in the long run.
Let me explain…
Griffin dunks on people all the time. He stares them down and makes them look silly. He is embarrassing very proud professionals. He is beginning to get a reputation around the league as an ass for doing this. A few weeks ago he dunked on Pau Gasol and really abused him in the process. Gasol was really angry and pleaded with the refs to do something about this. They did nothing. This is not the first time or last time Griffin has or will do this.
The NBA loves this. People watch these videos over and over on Youtube and NBAtv.com. They love when your friend in the office says, “Did you see that Blake Griffin dunk over (insert name) last night”. It gets ratings. Turner Sports announced some early TV ratings info, including this tidbit: three L.A. Clippers games from this season now rank in the top five rated games in NBA TV history. (SBnation.com) The Clippers haven’t been on national TV 35 times this season because of Mo Williams chucking up 3’s. People want to see Blake jump out of the gym, come flying down from the rafters, and embed his jock on and around some poor player’s chin.
I am not naïve. I know what the game has become. I remember watching when a hand-check was not a hand-check foul. David Stern and the NBA refs know that stars need to be allowed to be stars. Stern knows that scoring and dunks gets ratings (I will leave my Stars Players Get Special Treatment article for a different time. Probably when the Bulls are down 2-1 against the Heat and LeBron and D-Wade are getting every call and I am about to blow a gasket). Though David Stern loves Blake Griffin dunks and Griffin loves dunking on people, one or the other must change their tactics or someone will get hurt. I will explain this argument with a few video examples.
Here is Blake Griffin dunking on people without getting called for charges or over – the -back, while completely embarrassing his opponents.
(Watch at 1:11, Andrew Bynum’s reaction…Way to support your teammate)
The players have started to police themselves. This is where he is going to get himself hurt. Here are some examples of some vicious hits put on Griffin. Players do not like to be the butts of twitter jokes. They do not like it when their face is in someone’s crotch on ESPN 30 times a day.
If David Stern does nothing and the refs don’t start calling these fouls on Blake Griffin and/or he stops starring people down, there will be a brawl. There will be a major injury. There will be a 24 hour, 2 week, non-stop discussion on ESPN that I know we can’t take much more of. (See NHL playoff penalty/suspension/fine discussion 2012)
(This is what should be called. Watch his reaction)
As I said, Blake Griffin needs to change his actions after dunks. He is also being enabled by David Stern and the league by not being reprimanded for his transgressions. Unfortunately, I think he is currently on a collision course with some scrubs shoulder while he gets under-cut on a future dunk attempt. In the Robin Lopez clip above, Chris Webber talks about this being a possibility. I hope this doesn’t happen because I like what Griffin brought to the Clippers and I think he is good for the game. He is exciting. I would hate for that to be cut short.
This is one of the greatest things I have ever seen in my watching and following sport career. Watch Stan Van talk about Dwight wanting him gone, their awkward exchange, and then Dwight looking really uncomfortable with the questions. Simply awesome.
Click the Dwight’s goofy ass glasses below to chuckle or possibly feel queezy. Enjoy.