A basketball purist's mind!

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14 Jul

Landscape of the NBA

I haven't written a post for about a week. A lot has happened. Lebron James is a Cavalier again. Heat rebounded very well. Melo decided to re-sign with the Knicks. Bulls did not break a sweat and made moves to get genuinely better. The Rockets could not land Melo , Bosh or Parsons ; while losing some good backup players (Asik , Lin). The Wizards quietly got better even after losing Ariza. Grizzlies had the biggest steal of the Offseason (Vince Carter). The Spurs got their core to stay intact. The Mavericks got a serious championship team (re-signed Dirk at discount , Tyson Chandler's back , Parsons).

Lets discuss how the overall landscape of the NBA figures to be the next season.

I mentioned before how I would love for Lebron and Melo to stay with their teams and help keep overall competitive balance in the league. Lebron did it one-up. He went to the Cavaliers , which ensured that there was an extra very good team in the East now. All the deals that have gone down have helped balance the competition more or less. A couple of new super teams could have been made but were not. The East got much better , though it is a couple of seasons away from West but it does have a couple of serious contenders now.

The Eastern Conference :

Great teams : Chicago Bulls , Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.

Very Good teams : Cleveland Cavaliers , Toronto Raptors , Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.

Good teams : Detroit Pistons , New York Knicks , Atlanta Hawks and Brooklyn Nets.

The Eastern Conference will be fun , given that Derrick Rose plays and Wade holds up. The gap between Very good and great is bigger than the gap between good and very good teams right now. Future deals and trades could change things. But for now , this is how I see the teams. I expect the top 3 seeds to go to Bulls , Heat and Pacers. Cavaliers will take the 4th seed because Lebron. After that things will get trickier. With the Knicks building around Melo and the Raptors , Wizards and Hornets getting better ; one cannot predict the seeding. The Hawks will also get back some key players which makes things even better. Nets seem to be a little puzzling right now because they are the Nets. The Pistons have a great roster and made some good additions in the offseason , expect them to be serious competitors under SVG.

Overall I'm happy with the East. Bulls got elite with Gasol , Mirotic and Mcdermott coming in. Heat and Pacers lost some steps but will still be very good in the East and could realistically make it to the ECFs. Do not forget the Cavaliers also.

The Western Conference :

Elite teams : San Antonio Spurs , Oklahoma City Thunder , Los Angeles Clippers and Dallas Mavericks.

Very Good teams : Portland Trail Blazers , Golden State Warriors , Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets.

Good teams : Phoenix Suns , New Orleans Pelicans , Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets.

The West remains the West. Got four elite teams. Got four very good teams that could become Elite and four good teams that could really surprise the league. Spurs , Thunder and Clippers already have great rosters. The Mavericks had a great roster and it got better. With Chandler at center , expect their team defense to become top 15 easily and if Marion re-signs , top 10 is realistic. Parsons provides the skill-set and mentality to plug holes as needed. A team first guy who is a jack of all trades.

Grizzlies addressed their perimeter problems by signing Vince Carter to a great deal both for him and the team. This one deal was the biggest steal of the Offseason , be it in terms of production vs monetary value or finding the best fit for a specific need. I really wanted to put Grizzlies in the Elite section but they're just a hair short. The Warriors , did not add value roster-wise , they did however refurbish their coaching. Hiring Steve Kerr as Head Coach who convinced Alvin Gentry and Ron Adams , both great at their specialities , to join his coaching staff is a great step forward. The Rockets just witnessed their first nightmare of Daryl Morey era. They lost on the superstar sweepstakes , not once but twice , lost depth and productive role players trying to acquire those superstars and lost their glue-guy and jack of all trades in Chandler Parsons. The only thing worse would be losing James Harden or Dwight Howard to an injury. But as long as Morey can surround Howard and Harden with shooters and above average defenders , this team will be very good. Terrence Jones is still there , who complements Dwight Howard beautifully. They signed Ariza who is an exceptional shooter and a very good defender. Still have Beverly , whose defense was crucial to Houston. Expect them to trade for a superstar and be major players for another in the coming offseason. After losing so many players , atleast they've got cap space which Morey will masterfully use now.

The Suns and Pelicans are the teams to watch next season. We are already familiar with the high octane , running and shooting Suns. With Isaiah Thomas signed on a bargain deal , expect them to run even more. With ample cap space , they will surely re-sign or match any offer that comes Bledsoe's way. The Pelicans , on the other hand , are very inriguing. They have a great first 5 after trading for Omer Asik. Jrue Holiday , Eric gordon , Tyreke Evans , Ryan Anderson , Anthony Davis and Omer Asik. Though , Gordon won't provide his contract-value but he will provide quality at SG and if he's moved , Pelicans should look for a capable SG who can catch and shoot. This roster could really stretch defenses and also bang down low. With Omer Asik , inside defense is scary good. This team could be the next Warriors of 2012-2013.

Intriguing Free Agents left :

Lance Stephenson : Enormous talent and skill-set. Under veteran mentorship , could blossom into a star.

Eric Bledsoe : Though everything points to the Suns , anything is possible. Mini-lebron lived upto his nickname last season.

Dwayne Wade : Pat Riley's trying his best to keep him in Miami. But given his health , he'll look for the best contract right now.


6 Jul

Clippers cannot lose Jamal Crawford

Recent reports and rumors coming out indicate that the Clippers are looking to upgrade their 3 spot and Jamal Crawford may find himself on the trade block if the Clippers need some serious cap space. Luol Deng was the latest SF to be named in rumored sign and trade deals. As good as Deng is , he's not valuable enough for the Clippers to lose Crawford.

I love Luol Deng , especially from his Chicago days playing alongside Derrick Rose. Running in transition beautifully. Popping out to the corner three and waiting for Rose to dish it to him for an easy open look. I love his game and the skillset he provides but I don't believe that he'll be the best fit for Clippers if it means losing Crawford. Let me be clear , as long as Crawford's not being traded to sign Deng ; it would be great.

Lets look at what both players can provide to the Clippers :

Luol Deng : Veteran experience , all-around skillset with excellent individual and team defense. It is very easy to see why the Clippers are targeting him and might part ways with Jamal Crawford. He's a great off-ball offensive player , can easily settle into a 3rd option scorer. His defense is the main reason Rivers wants him on the Clippers. One of the best individual defenders in the league. He just seems like the perfect fit for the Clippers.

Jamal Crawford : Great offensive game with the ability to create his shots. This is the sole reason why he's valuable enough to be not traded for Luol Deng. While Deng can settle into any offense , provide spacing and great defense , what he cannot do is create for himself. Crawford is great at that. The Clippers need that from someone other than Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Someone they can rely on to get buckets when they need a rest. Other than Crawford , I don't see any player with the ability to create and get buckets. With Spencer Hawes on the roster now , they need Crawford more than ever. Their second unit got great , with Crawford attracting attention , it frees up Hawes ; with Hawes getting attention , it creates more space for Crawford to do his thing.

Conclusion : Luol Deng is the perfect fit for the Clippers , but the Clippers cannot afford to lose Crawford's shot making ability off the bench.


5 Jul

Thanking Melo and Lebron!

NBA Free agency is well underway and the top 2 free agents seem to be going back to the teams they played for last season. Even though they haven't said this explicitly , all signs lately say this. Personally , I would like to thank both of them if this indeed happens.

The reason I'm thankful if they both indeed go back to New York and Miami is that they would help preserve the overall competitiveness in the league. Yes , both of them can join very good teams to make them great ones , playing alongside All-stars and no one would be angry about that because in the end we will get to see some good basketball. If they go back , their teams will have their superstars back , other valuable second-tier free agents will want to join them and balanced teams will be set up around the superstars to complement them. Instead of one or two great teams , we might get to see 4 or 5 very very good teams alongwith a couple of great teams. This just makes basketball overall great and fun to watch. Look at the competitiveness in the west. Their playoffs were brilliant last season and very fun to watch.

If they bolt their teams , their best suitors are in West and they are likely to join them. That will result in more disparity between the East and West. Competitive balance will shift not only from the East but even from the lower half of the West. Now if they go back to New York and Miami , we'll already have 4 very very good teams in East ; Knicks , Heat , Pacers and the Bulls. Then we have the up-and-coming teams in Hornets (which figure to be very good next season) , Raptors (All-star backcourt) and Hawks (more complete than last season). Then we have the Pistons too , with SVG as the Coach and All-star calibre young players as the team's core. Expect them to make huge strides this season.

With All-stars and fringe All-stars distributed nicely , the league will be better balanced. With the superstars remaining with their teams and getting their type of rosters built around them , competition will get better. Imagine the Knicks and Bulls in the Conference Finals or the Pacers vs Heat. Then you have Hornets , Raptors and Hawks making the initial playoff rounds that much better.


1 Jul

2014-15 Spurs

Your national champions might just get even better. Yes , better than the team that demolished the Heat. Lets look at how their roster will shape up for the next season. 

The usual suspects : Tim Duncan will be back , Parker and Ginobili have nowhere to go. Leonard will start shouldering more burden now. 
Re-signing important role players : This is on top of the Spurs list right now. Patty Mills and Boris Diaw headline role players they need to re-sign. Both were invaluable , Patty Mills's spacing and shooting and Diaw's distributing and defending. 
FAs available : The Spurs will find , like they always do , good free agents to put into their system and keep winning. From veterans to swingmen , there is no shortage of players for the Spurs to look at. A couple of FAs i expect the Spurs to look at : 
 1) Devin Harris : A great backup Pg to look at , can make the needed pass. Doesn't hurt that he was on the squad that pushed the Spurs to 7 games. 
2) Paul Pierce : If the Spurs aren't able to re-sign Diaw , they should seriously try to sign Pierce. Can create , pass and move well without the ball. 
3) Bernard James : who? Exactly. A little old but would be a great development project. 
4) Shaun Livingston : A smart player. Would fit greatly into Spurs's system. 
Draft selections
1) Kyle Anderson : Very high IQ player. Versatile. Will end up being a steal. Expect him to raise some eye-brows. 
2) Nemanja Dangubic : 6'8 , 8'7" wingspan shooting guard! MVP adidas eurocamp.

29 Jun

Kevin love and Chandler Parsons to the Golden State Warriors!

An opportunity to be great does not present itself everyday. But the Warriors are lucky to have that luxury today. They have the requisite financial flexibility to pull this off. And if they are able to , they would become instant contenders in the western conference.

I propose two trades :

1) Kevin Love and Barea/Martin for David lee and Klay thompson and future pick.
2) A sign-and-trade deal for Chandler Parsons . The Warriors , for this , need to convince Chandler Parsons to come to Golden State which will be very hard because

a) Rockets are super-good and can keep Parsons even after signing another big player.
b) Daryl Morey knows what Parsons is worth. He won't let him go that easily. The Warriors can offer Green/speights and Jordan Crawford in exchange for Parsons.

Depending on who the Wolves give with Love , the Warriors will be thin at either PG or SG. For SG position , they can look at Jimmer Fredette and Jodie Meeks in the free agent pool. For a backup PG , lots of great options in the market from Devin Harris to livingston to resigning blake.

The warriors will look something like this after everything.
Starting 5 : Curry , Parsons , Iguodala , Love , Bogut
Bench : Barea/FA PG , Martin/FA SG , Barnes , Ezeli , green/speights

This team would be spectacular!

6 Jun

Warriors : A look ahead!

I want to talk about one of my favourite teams , the Golden State Warriors. They had a great season , with its up and downs , had a good 1st round in the playoffs. And in the end , saw their beloved coach Jackson leave. What he brought to the organization and the team cannot be undervalued in any way. He was paramount in reshaping the identity of the Warriors. He gave them a winning personality.

Even after all this , there were holes that needed to be filled and weaknesses that needed to be worked upon. In my opinion , both the front office and the coach were at fault. They did not communicate properly and if they had , I believe things would have been a lot different.

Onward and upward now. Whatever had to happen has happened. We can only look forward now. They have a new coach. A respected and accomplished player , Steve Kerr. The Warriors have a great roster. Very versatile. But it is inconsistent. When the warriors are clicking , they are the hottest team. They need pieces to make them consistent in times of injury or personnel change. They need a proper system , which utilizes their versatility when they are at 100% and takes advantage of it when they are not.

A better system :

Having a system in place that guarantees wins when your roster is not at full health is paramount in today's league. The Spurs are the epitome of that mentality and are seeing their hardwork and patience rewarded. Steve Kerr has his work cut out for him. It is not as much a matter of getting more players to come to Bay Area as it is about constructing a proper system around the given players.

Under the right system , I believe this team can win 55+ games. A system which revolves around moving the ball and slashing. This team can shoot, rebound and defend. An offense consisting of ball movement and off-ball slashing would work wonders. Ball movement would open up the defense and slashing would create high percentage shots and free throws.

Free Agency :

The Warriors are sure to be major players in this year's free agency. With Carmelo Anthony on the block , who could resist. But Carmelo Anthony is not the only free agent of value this summer. He may be the superstar to land but Warriors can find quality pieces in other places too.

1. Carmelo Anthony :

Of course , we'll talk about Carmelo Anthony first. Imagine seeing him and Stephen curry shoot the lights out at MSG (oops!). With his underrated passing and post game , he would be a great fit. His defense would go up given the fact that he would not have to shoulder so much offense in Golden State. And with Steve Kerr talking about using a system which takes pointers from the Triangle offense , Golden State will be a fun place for the next season. For him to come , the Warriors would have to make cap space and may see some beloved players go (David lee).

2. Eric Bledsoe :

Highly athletic , put up great numbers. His style would be a perfect fit in Golden State. But he would have to come off the bench and that might create problems since he's a starter material and he knows that.

3. Trevor Ariza :

Athletic , improved perimeter game and good defensive skills. Would be a great fit for Golden State's bench.

4. Spencer Hawes/Channing Frye :

The Warriors need good backup centers to take up rotation. Spencer Hawes and Channing Frye are more than capable of doing that job. May not be as great at defense as Andrew Bogut but bring alot to the offensive end.

We should talk about Kevin Love too since he seems to be changing homes and there are indications that Golden State has a good chance at landing him. Would be a great fit for all the same reasons as Carmelo Anthony. Of course , the Warriors would have lose some players here too.


6 Jun

Manu Ginobili : Game 1 MVP!

If you watched the Game 1 of the nba finals , then you probably remember Danny Green's fourth quarter treys , Lebron's cramped up leg and the fact that there was no AC in the building. If you missed Ginobili , I don't blame you. He did all the things at the right times. His stat sheet is beautiful , 16 pts 11 ast 5 rebs. But it goes beyond that.

1st quarter belonged to him. His three treys and pinpoint assists kept the spurs close. He was pretty silent in the 2nd and 3rd quarters but came up big again in the 4th quarter. The ball was moving and if you looked closely , Ginobili had his hands on those. Even though he didnt score a single point in the last quarter.

He started off by feeding Tiago Splitter for a couple of layups. Later , he passed it down low to Duncan to clinch the lead they wouldn't give up. He set up Danny Green for a wide open 3 around the 3:50 mark. Set up Boris Diaw for a layup , and assisted Kwahi on his knock-out trey. But the most beautiful sequence , and possibly the microcosm for the whole game , came at around 1:20 mark when Ginobili got the ball at top of the key from Duncan then fed it back to him mid-post , Duncan then passed it to Tony Parker in the corner for a dagger 3. That sequence was the Spurs sequence.

Off to game 2 now , who will be the MVP for Spurs next game? Will Miami bounce back?

Below is a highlight video of the game. Enjoy!



5 Jun

Matchups to look out for!

With the Game 1 of the NBA Finals few hours away , i wanted to write about matchups to look forward to.

1. Lebron James vs Kwahi Leonard/Boris Diaw :

The Spurs are sure to employ a defensive scheme centered around Kwahi leonard and Boris Diaw taking turns to stop The King.

What I'm interested in is on the other end , when the Spurs are on the offensive. Kwahi plays really well off the ball and can finish around the rim. Boris Diaw is the ultimate X factor in the game. With his size , he can try and muscle himself into post. I would love to see the King go against both of them.

2. Tony Parker vs Miami Heat's guards :

Tony Parker can get to the rim , stop on the dime and shoot or carve up defenses with his pick and roll. The Heat's guards have their work cut out for them. Their emphasis should be to stop his Pick and rolls , thats where he does most of the damage , whether he scores out of it or passes.

3. Chris Bosh :

I love Chris Bosh , he seems to have the right play at the right time. His interior defense is crucial to the Heat's chances. If the Heat want to stop Tim Duncan , they need to either keep the ball outside paint as much as possible or make his shots challenging inside. They need Bosh for both schemes.


4. Bench vs Bench :

The title says it all. The game might go down as the benches dictate. When the stars rest , the better bench might have the last say of the game. With the spurs ball-moving-find-open-man bench vs Heat's battle tested veteran bench , its sure to be a great matchup.


4 Jun

NBA Finals 2014 : What both teams need to do to stop each other!

Lets talk about what the Spurs and the Heat need to do to stop each other.

The Spurs :

Spurs have been dominating the league for the past 15 years using their team-first approach and an adapting system. Their ball movement is like a symphony being written. They have enough versatility to employ mismatches and adapt as the situation requires but that does not mean they should not keep a few things in mind.

1. Dictate Heat's offense using defense :

The Heat employ one of the best offenses in the league. They can create mismatches , move the ball , break down the defense using pick and rolls or just go into iso-mode with Wade or Lebron and squeeze out points.

The Spurs need to keep changing their defense to disrupt Miami's offense. I mean a pro-active defense. Their defense should dictate what kind of offense Miami should run. That way Miami's offense would become a little predictable and Spurs would have a better chance at stopping them. For example , prioritize stopping ball movement , Miami would resort to iso-mode. Or they could prioritize locking up the paint and Miami would be forced to shoot midrange and perimeter shots. There are countless ways to do this and Spurs certainly have the versatility on the defensive end to do so. By forcing the Heat into doing something more , the Spurs will know when to react.

2. Designated Lebron Defender :

The Spurs need to have a designated lebron defender. If he moves to the wing-Kwahi Leonard. If he moves to playing Guard , then a mixture of Danny Green-Boris Diaw. With a designated defender and a team-defense , Spurs have a realistic opportunity to stop Lebron.

3. Get somebody Hot :

The Spurs are a group that prides itself in its team first approach and doing what you are supposed to. But that does not mean they cannot go to one guy again and again. Like they did against the Thunder in Game 1 and Tim Duncan responded.

Spurs need to exploit mismatches in the first 2 quarters and get somebody hot. Maybe employ a strategy to get Tim Duncan a lot of looks then get Tony Parker to take mid range shots. This will set a tone for the entire match and when the Spurs machine gets rolling and the ball is moving faster than the cameras , the hot guys will have a field day.

The Heat :

1. Supporting cast :

The Big 3 will be big. What The Heat needs is its supporting cast to get into a rhythm. The bench needs to respond early in the game. They all know what they are supposed to do , they just need to do it early. Mario Chalmers and Norris cole are the key. Both can operate in the pick and rolls and the Heat will need them. The offense looks especially good when Chalmers is in a groove.

2. Get Dwayne to the basket :

Simply put , the Heat need to get Dwayne Wade drives to the basket. Whether it is moving without the ball or letting him operate iso. When Wade's driving , the offense opens up and Heat look more comfortable.

3. Don't play the Rebound game :

The Heat can't afford to play the rebounds game. They can win without it but that does not mean they cannot lose without it too.They need two bigs at a time to secure rebounds. If they decide to play small ball , they should move Lebron to PF to secure rebounds. The Spurs will try to take advantage on the boards.

These were just a few things to look for in the match-up which is sure to be great!


4 Jun

Hello!

Hello , fellow basketball lovers!

Welcome to my basketball world. Any and everything related to basketball will be uploaded. Starting by covering the NBA Finals 2014!

I hope you like reading my thoughts and do share!