Washington Wizards’ 2017-2018 Regular Season Schedule Released

The Washington Wizards are coming off a 49-33 season, and a second-round playoff exit against the Boston Celtics that went to seven games. During the offseason, the front office did what it promised to do when they retained restricted free agent Otto Porter, as well as resign John Wall to the designated player veteran exception.

With a core of Wall, Bradley Beal, and Porter in place the Wizards present and future looks as bright as its ever been. Not to mention the sudden dissension going on in Cleaveland, the Wizards are primed to advance further than they have in recent memory. After a strong first year with Scott Brooks at the helm, expectations of the first 50 win season since 1978-1979 campaign and an Eastern Conference Finals appearance are widespread.

National Exposure:

In a show of good faith, the  NBA schedule makers have finally rewarded the Washington Wizard with the gift of seventeen nationally televised games. Out of those seventeen games, all four matchups with the Boston Celtics will be on TV for everyone to see. The two franchises had one of the most physical playoff series last season, and its easy to see why the NBA would want to capatalize on the purest rivalry in the sport right now. Fans will be pleased to see that three out of the four games against the Cleaveland Cavaliers will be on that national schedule as well. After the overtime thriller they had last season, any regular season contest between the conference foes is potential must-see tv.

Predictions:

For 2017-2018 the Wizards are essentially running it back with the same core group of guys in Wall, Beal, Porter, Markieff Morris, and Marcin Gortat. The starting lineup played a league leading 1,347 minutes together. With that type of continiuty and chemistry coming back, the starters must have even more confidence in each other on both sides of the court.

The bench mob was also upgraded with some solid talent in Tim Frazier and Jodie Meeks. The two guards have the offensive chops to really be able to give Wall and Beal a chance to rest. Kelly Oubre Jr is now in that pivotal third year, Ian Mahinmi is coming back injury free, and the ever solid Josh Smith to hit feathery jumpers. The hope is that after averaging only 27 PPG as a unit last season, the Wizards bench mob can only improve from here. Scott Brooks needs this unit to really step up and play consistently solid minutes in order to get over that hump. Being the weak link once again is a non-option.

Record Prediction: 52-30

Along with the Wizards schedule, the Association released the regular season schedules of the 29 other franchises this past Monday, including its nationally televised games. In one of the more intriguing developments of the offseason, the Association has no teams playing four games in five nights. This was all because a plethora of star players sat out marquee games, as well as critical comments by Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr. 

Wizards Win In Overtime vs Kings Behind Bradley Beal’s 31 points.

It took a little longer than expected but the Washington Wizards won their sixth game of the season in overtime. DeMarcus Cousins nearly won the game with his spectacular 36 points and 20(!) rebounds. He was able to take the game over late in the 4th quarter hitting a variety of turnaround jump shots, layups, and dominating the boards. The Wizards dynamic backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal combined for 10 points in the overtime session and helped deliver a much needed W after a disappointing loss against the San Antonio.

Tensions were high once again as Scott Brooks, John Wall, and Marcin Gortat all picked up technical could in the first half. This is Wall’s fourth tech of season, which puts him behind former college teammate DeMarcus Cousin. For the night the rest of the starters played well, in particular ever-improving glue guy Otto Porter  had 15 points, 8 rebounds, and played the passing lanes well gathering 3 steals. Porter also continued to do the dirty work on the unsung glue guy, holding Rudy Gay to just 18 points, including forcing him into six turnovers and 1-4 performance from the 3-point line. Kelly Oubre notched his first career double picking up 10 rebounds to go along with 10 points. .

The Wizards Commit 24 turnovers, Including a career-high 11 from John Wall

24 times the Wizards turned the ball over. 24 times! Nine of those turnovers were unforced. What’s worse is John Wall, the All-Star and leader of this team, had 11 of his own. Now more so than ever Wall has been throwing ill timed passes and dancing around the ball like it’s no ones business. Not sure what needs to be done but Wall, who previously has been a strong decision maker, has to find his groove back in that department

Wizards Finally Defend the 3-point Line

The Wizards have routinely allowed teams to make double digit 3-pointers but tonight only allowed three to fall. That maybe due to the fact that along with the Wizards, the Kings are one of the worse 3-point shooting teams.

 

 

Bradley Beal explosive 42 Points Leads the Way Against Phoenix Suns

The Hop – Bradley Beal and the Washington Wizards agreed to an enormous $128 million contract last offseason. Now in the most important season to date for not only Beal, but for the Wizards as well, the highest paid player in franchise had the best scoring game of his career just as his team needed it. Since he’s gotten into the NBA, Beal has been working on expanding his game beyond his lauded shooters label and so far his hard work has paid off. In his last three games he’s scored 94 points, good for 31.3 points per game. So far his career has been marred by inconsistency and injuries but it seems like he’s currently on a tear, if he continues to play like he has he will be on the way to his first All-Star berth. With the victory against the youth-filled Phoenix Suns the Wizards improved to 4-10.

In a game that featured a primetime matchup between the stud backcourts of the Suns and Wizards, it was John Wall and Bradley Beal whom came out victorious. Along with Beal’s career-high 42 points, Wall added 18 of his own points along with 15 dimes. On a night where he struggled with his own shot (6-24) Wall did what great players do and found other ways to contribute. The bench also had a solid night. Tomas Satoransky and Marcus Thornton are developing into a strong duo and they have a done a good job of facilitating and scoring when on the court together.

3-Point Defense Still Needs Work

The Wizards again allowed another team to make double digit 3-pointers. Over the last three games they have allowed 12 3-pointers a game.

Bradley Beal Building Confidence and Tougher Mentality

Courtesy of NBA.com After the game Beal was quoted as saying he was allowing himself to not worry so much about his shots falling, just realizing that no matter what happened there was always a next play, ”Not thinking, not worrying about if I miss or if I make it. I just have the same mentality that it’s on to the next shot. That shot’s over,” Beal said.

 

 

 

Wizards Snap 3-Game Losing Streak Against Knicks 119-112

The Hop – After inexcusably losing to the lowly Philadelphia 76ers the Wizards were able to exercise their frustration on the New York Knicks. John Wall dropped 23 points to go along with his 11 assists, and Bradley Beal added 18 points in his return after a 3-game absence due to injury. On a night where everything clicked for the struggling Wizards, they dominated in a second half and led by as many as 27. Of course the Wizards had to make it look respectable and give their fans a scare when they let the Knicks get to within 9 points of a seemingly insurmountable lead. John Wall came to the rescue and closed the game with a pull-up jumper and free throws.

The Wizards started off slowly going 1-6 out the gate until John Wall took control of the offense and was dolling out dimes like usual. All it took was consecutive 3-pointers from Beal and Otto Porter for the flood gates to open. Holding Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis in check was one of the biggest factors in the win. Otto Porter and Markieff Morris both did splendid jobs being physical and not allowing either Porzingis or Anthony to get comfortable. Otto Porter in particular actually had probably the best game out of the all Wizards player. He was constantly battling and playing with intensity all over the field. He fits the role of a glue guy perfectly. The bench also bucked their trend of uneven play with strong nights from players like Marcus Thornton, Kelly Oubre, and Tomas Satoransky. When the bench is clicking and playing well in conjunction with the starters the Wizards are even scarier. Although they did allow the Knicks to get back in the game they more than held their own and weren’t a liability.

3-Pointers Galore:

The Wizards entered this game only averaging six made 3’s game. With the return of Bradley Beal the Wiz enjoyed an amazing performance from beyond the arc. Going 15/25 will be a huge confidence boot and will hopefully hold over to the Saturday night game against the Miami Heat.

Bradley Beal’s Hamstring

Hamstring injuries are never the easiest injuries to recover from. It’s even harder the older you get. During the game he did beat Courtney Lee and Carmelo Anthony for a fast break layup, but also got beat for a fast break layup after missing a corner 3. He went on to acknowledge that playing with a gimpy hamstring was a challenge but left room for optimism.” “It’s tough with a hamstring because it’s not going to all the way clear up on you. You’re not going to go back to 100 percent; you’re going to have to work through some things. I was able to tolerate some soreness and stiffness, and it actually feels a little bit better, too.”

 

 

Wizards Blow Out Celtics Behind Otto Porter’s 34 points

The Hop-Even with Bradley Beal getting hurt(again) , the Wizards gained their second win of the season behind Otto Porters big time 34 points and the team hitting 10 3-pointers. John Wall chipped in 19 with 7 assists and pulled his weight, and Marcus Thornton filled in admirably after Bradley Beal got hurt late in the 1st quarter.

The Wizards seemingly channeled all their frustrations over the loss to the Rockets and the results of the election and unleashed the might of God onto the Boston Celtics. Playing quite possibly their best first quarter on both sides of the ball as they thrashed the Celtics 34-8. In the second quarter they were outscored 35-24 but the game was never in doubt.

The second half was more of the same as the Wiz just continued to play with never before seen emotion and togetherness on a night where a win would seemingly soothe the angst of the DMV. For the game the Wizards outpaced the Celtics in every stat. They out rebounded 54-31, including 19 on the offensive side. They also assisted on 29 of 46 made baskets. On the defensive side they stole the ball 10 times and blocked seven shots.

This will hopefully be the confidence booster the struggling Wizards need against the defending champion Cavaliers. Stay tuned here to The Hop to get a recap of that game.

 

Otto Porter Headed For a Breakout Season?

Otto Porter has emerged as the key glue guy and a good 3rd option for the Wizards offense. He’s been able to score in double digits in all but one game. He’s been cutting to the basket and hitting more spot-up jumpers has opened up the floor for his teammates. Doing the things that don’t necessarily show up in the box score and making winning plays. Porter in his three prior seasons had difficulty finding his role and confidence but now in his fourth year seems to have things clicking for him.

Will Bradley Beal Be Available to Play Against the Cavaliers?

The injury-prone Bradley Beal has once again gone down. This time suffering from hamstring tightness. The Wizards announced that he would be a game time decision but hamstring injuries don’t go away in two days. My personal optimism as far as his availability goes isn’t very high.

What’s Going on With John Wall?

For the second time in as many games John Wall was ejected. This time it was for a flagrant 2 foul late in the 4th quarter with the game basically sealed up? Wall has to be incredibly frustrated with not only the teams slow start, but things off the court. Even though he said he wasn’t ” worried about other players pockets” and claimed he wasn’t upset about the massive shoe deal James Harden it’s clear the perceived slights of his career are getting to him. He has to figure out how to channel that anger and use it on the court.

Wizards Drop Tough Loss To Rockets 114-108

The Hop – Despite John Wall breaking the franchise record for assists and leading the Rockets by 11, the Wizards dropped a game to the Rockets. The Rockets won behind another outstanding performance from James Harden, who scored 32 points and passed out 15 assists. The Rockets also made 17 3-pointers, with Ryan Anderson  and Trevor Ariza leading the way with five and four 3-pointers respectively.

In the first half the Wizards raced out to a quick 6-0 lead again gave up a big run after grabbing a 11 point lead early in the 2nd quarter. Once James Harden came back in the Rockets offense started clicking immediately going on a 16-0 run before Otto Porter scored to end the Wizards drought.

In a highly competitive and entertaining second half the Wizards and Rockets went back and forth for some hard earned buckets. Unfortualty for the Wiz, James Harden forced his will in the second half, looking to score more than he did than in the previous half. In fact he scored 22 smooth points while also continuing to make his teammates better with his incredible playmaking.

It seems as tho head coach Mike D’antoni has found the perfect role for the bearded left-hander as the Rockets permanent point guard.

 

Defending the 3-point Line:

The Wizards again gave up way to many 3-pointers. In all the painful losses of the young season the Wizards have given up an average of 11.4 3-pointers. Most of these plays result based off the Wizards pick and roll coverage. In the instance of the Rockets, sharpshooter Ryan Anderson popped to the 3-point line knowing  that the Wizards big men were uncomfortable playing defense that far from the basket. The Wizards must find a new resolve to run guys off the 3-point line otherwise they will continue to get punished from beyond the arc.

The Bench Rises to the Occassion:

Way to often in the Wizards prior losses the bench was the weakest links. This time around Kelly Oubre led the way off the bench with 10 points, while Marcus Thornton chipped in 8 of his own. Combined that with stronger defense and the emergence of Tomas Satoransky as the best option for 6th man and playing at least one starter and it seems that the Wizards are figuring out their bench woes.

 

The Wizards Squander Opportunity Against Raptors

The Hop- Despite holding a 12-point lead and John Wall dropping 33 points and dishing 11 cool dimes, and the team shooting 58.3% from the field, it just wasn’t enough to counter  40 points from DeMar DeRozan.

In a game full of runs the Wizards struck first with a 13-2 run, fueled with four of the Wizards stars scoring. From the opening tip the Wizards played with a heightened energy on both ends of the court, playing with a urgency that had many thinking tonight would be the night the Wizards would get their first victory of the season. Then it was the Raptors responded with their own run and closing the gap with a 13-2 run and closing the 1st qtr down 29-27. The second quarter was more of a back and forth, as the offenses were both clicking. The Raptors had another monumental run and surged for a 13-5 run, taking a 50-42. Otto Porter and John Wall teamed up to close the gap, leading the way for a 14-4 run and a  56-54 lead into halftime.

In the second half, the third quarter was competitive intially but the Raptors went on another lengthy run, this time 15-0 run and taking 75-64 lead before Head Coach Scott Brooks called timeout. After the timeout the Raptors and Wizards scored nine and eleven points respectively, with the Raptors going into the fourth leading 84-75. In the entertaining fourth quarter, the Wizards ended up tying the game after John Wall scored on back to back steals-layups, igniting the restless Verizon Center crowd with a 10-2 run. Unfortunalty that would be as close as the Wizards would get for the rest of the game. DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors on a decisive 13-5 run and sealed the game with a 3 pointer to secure the 113-102 lead.

In a game of runs the Wizards bench woes, combined with their 21 turnovers and DeMar DeRozan dominating once again were all to much for the Wizards to handle and they were handed their third loss in a row to start the young season. Stay tuned here to see if the Wiz can get it together at home against the Atlanta Hawks.

 

Bench Struggles:

The Wizards bench continued its disturbing trend of lackluster play and almost immediately gave up a 12 point lead. Free-agent acquisitions like Trey Burke and Andrew Nicholson along with Kelly Oubre and Marcus Thornton must find their missing chemistry otherwise they will force Scott Brooks to play the starters more minutes and run them ragged before the playoffs start.

Turnovers Issue:

The Wizards turned the ball over 21 times, with All-Star John Wall having coughing the ball up nine times. Those 21 turnovers lead to 29 easy points for the visiting Raptors. If it weren’t for these 21 turnovers the Wizards would’ve played at a much higher level offensively.

Can Beal Get it Turned Around:

Bradley Beal came out the gates scorching 10 points in the first half, but scored only five points the rest of the way. For a player who just signed the 6th-richest contract in NBA history Beal must remain consistent and aggressive in order to truly the money he signed for. The Wizards are going nowhere if Beal can’t begin to score efficiently and remain aggressive. For better or worse he’s essentially the number 1 option in the Wizards attack.

Beal’s 28 points lead to Wizards Earn First Win Against Hawks

The Hop- Led by Bradley Beal’s 28 points and John Wall’s 21/10/6 line the Wizards earned their first victory of the season against the Hawks. The Wiz finally put a full 48 minutes together that showcased their potential. They played tough physical defense, attacked the boards, and shot well from the free throw line. This is exactly the type of identity building game that the Wizards needed.

The first time the Wizards played the Hawks, the frontline of Dwight Howard of Paul Millsap dominated, combining for 39 points, 26 rebounds, and 4 blocks. This time around the Wizards did a collective job of boxing out both Millsap and Howard, they even won the rebound battle and playing physical defense against Paul Millsap and Dwight Howard. On the perimeter instead of allowing 12 3-pointers, the Wizards only allowed two 3-pointer in the first half, and four for the game. Even when the Hawks responded from being 9-0 to momentarily taking the lead 18-17 off a Dwight Howard lob, the Wizards didn’t falter under the pressure. The bench even played well, although they didn’t score much, they meshed well when playing with at least one starter and didn’t cost the team as much as they did in prior games.

In the second half it was Bradley Beal turn to wake the monster inside of him. In the final 24 minutes Beal scored 20 points. On a variety of 3-pointers, free throws, and drives Beal dominated and broke out of his slump. The Wizards continued to lockdown the Hawks perimeter attack and controlled the glass and neutralized the threat of Dwight Howard.

The formula of physical defense, collective rebounding/boxing out, and getting Bradley Beal allowed will be the formula that will Wizards win games and allow them to advance in the playoffs. They must be able to put together more games like this one in order to climb the Eastern Conference heirarchy to even have a chance against teams like the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers.

Can Beal Finally String Along Some Strong Games:

If you asked anyone pregame how they were expecting Bradley Beal to preform, most would tell you that he was due for a breakout game. Beal met those expectations with his 28 points, staying aggressive hitting 13-15 free throws to make up for inefficiency with his jumper. Combined with the Wizards playing with a sense of urgency and playing harder than they have all season.

Turnover Woes:

The Wizards committed  19 inexcusable turnovers. Most of those came from players attempting to do much with the ball or going for big plays instead of just simple passes. Turnovers have recently have become such a bad issue that Scott Brooks has to be more than concerned. Turning the ball over that frequently against the teams like the Cavs will be a death sentence. Scott Brooks has to do a better job of preaching patience and ball security to his team.

Washington Wizards vs Atlanta Hawks Recap

The Washington Wizards’ season finally starts Thursday evening against the Atlanta Hawks. We have two key match-ups in Marcin Gortat going up against former teammate Dwight Howard, and John Wall vs first yea starter Denis Schroder. Tip off starts at 7:30 and  I hope you enjoy the upcoming season Wizards season.

First Half Recap:

In the back and fort the Atlanta Hawks were able to capitalize on the Wizards defense inability to finish defensive possessions. Dwight Howard in particular was able to collect 15(!)boards by himself, 7 of them offensive. The Hawks in general have dominated the boards 33-21, and were able to parlay 12 offensive rebounds into 15 second half points.  So far the Atlanta front court has played excellently, combining for 25 points. Meanwhile we saw the Wizards pushing the pace frequently, relying on spacing to open the floor for Beal and John Wall to drive and dish.  Their active hands have forced 11 turnovers, and have created numerous transition opportunities. Despite committing 3 fouls Bradley Beal was staying in attack mode in the half court looking for his shot or initiating some offense, showing off his improved playmaking. Markieff Morris also played a solid 1st dominating in the mid range with this feathery jump shot and playing strong positional defense. John Wall struggled to the tone 0f 1-9 but played hard on the other end, and making sure to remain the great playmaker he is.

Second Half Recap:

The Wizards did  an outstanding job getting more physical and tough in the paint, not allowing the Dwight Howard to control the paint like in the first half. The Wizards continued to play active defense in spurts, that helped the offense as they continued their first half trend of attacking in transition. The bench was not able to keep it up this as they struggled heavily in the game, with few bright moments coming from Trey Burke and Andrew Nicholson. The Hawks took advantage of an inconsistent 4th quarter performance utilizing their superior length and shooting and making the Wizards backup guards uncomfortable and forcing turnovers .The back and forth game was busted open in the last 10 minutes as the Wizards starting to play sloppy turning the ball over and not getting back on defense. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Thabo Sefolosha both benefitted, as they got out in transition for 3 point buckets and thunderous dunks. Hawks ended up hitting 12 threes and they forced the Wizards into 19 turnovers. By the time Bradly Beal and John Wall checked back in the Hawks already had an insurmountable lead. At this point the team had body language and essentially gave up, in a game that was tight for so long turnovers and bad 3-point defense buried this promising franchise. The Wizards have to stay committed on the defensive end, remaining active and making sure they take advantage of their speed and athleticism. You have to finish defensive possession otherwise guys like Dwight Howard will manhandle the interior. Finally it is imperative that the bench not lay an egg and force head coach Scott Brooks to put players back in before he wants. In order to run an uptempo offense you have to have a bench that can replace that production of the starters and hold leads and maintain the defensive intensity and focus.

With the first game out of the way Scott Brooks and the Wizards have some things to work on and hammer home for the next game against the Grizzlies.

 

NBA 2016-2017 Western Conference Preview and Predictions

The NBA season is right around the corner, starting off with the Knicks v.s Cavaliers on Tuesday night. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals the Golden State Warriors are the favorites to come out the conference for the 3rd year in a row. The Warriors lost key players in Andrew Bogut, Harrison Barnes, and Festus Ezeli but offset that by adding former MVP and All-Star Kevin Durant, David West, and ZaZa Pachulia. As for the rest of the Conference there wasn’t much change. We lost three future Hall of Famers to retirement when Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett all hung their sneakers up this offseason. They left an indelible legacies and their greatness will be felt throughout the league for years to come. With the sudden influx of money players like CJ McCollum, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook benefitted the most and signed big money extensions to stay with their franchises. After an eventful offseason the new Western Conference will certainly be more competitive and fun to watch once again. After preseason study and research it’s time to roll the red carpet for my predictions for this new NBA season.

The Playoffs:

  1. Golden State Warriors:

This should be obvious. These Warriors are the overwhelming favorite to make it out of  the  Western Conference. The Splash Bros have adopted a new member with the addition of Kevin Durant. The main question is how will their signature depth defense be tested this offseason. We all see how the knee injury Andrew Bogut sufferred unraveled the Warriors interior offense and Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and feasted on it. Can they count on Durant, ZaZa Pachulia, and JaVale McGee to protect the rim when James and Irving enter the paint? How will coach Steve Kerr utilize Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston as well as the rest of the Warriors Bench Mob during the regular season? As much of a lock the Warriors seem to have they do have chinks in that formidable amour.

2. San Antonio Spurs:

Tim Duncan is gone, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are seemingly entering the final phases of their Hall of Fame careers. Enter LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard. This is now their team and it’s on this duo to guide this team to success just as was expected by Tim Duncan.   The Spurs are fortunate to have the best coach in the game in Greg Popovich, a man who will get the most out of everyone on his roster. Expect more of the same from this consistently great franchise.

3. Los Angelous Clippers:

This is a make or break season for the Clippers. Both Blake Griffin and Chris Paul have opt-out options in their contracts after this season. If they cannot make at least the conference finals this team may get blown up. There is no reason to not expect Blake Griffin to wrest more control from Chris Paul and have the offense run through him as a secondary playmaker. Defense and depth have always been major issues for this team and it seems like those same issues will rear their ugly heads once again.

4. Portland Trail Blazers:

The Trail Blazers will go as far as Damien Lillard and CJ McCollum will lead them. They have stock as the second best backcourt in the league behind the Warriors backcourt. The Blazers essentially are running it back just with the addition of Evan Turner to help upgrade the bench with Allen Crabbe. This will be one of the more entertaining and fiery  teams to watch, as they proved they aren’t afraid to take it to anybody after fighting valiantly against the Warriors in the second round the playoffs last season.

5. Houston Rockets :

Mike D’Antoni and James Harden are a match made in heaven. The newly minted point guard will have even more control of the offense. The Bearded playmaker/scorer will have the ball in his hands and the Rockets offense will be as explosive as before. Offseason acquisition in Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon will help spread the court for Hardens signature eurostep layups and tough step back jumpers.

6. Dallas Mavericks:

Will this season be the swan song Dirk Nowitzki? Can Harrison Barnes prove that he is capable of being a featured scorer? Which version of Wesley Matthew will we see this season? How much does Deron Williams have left in the tank? This is a stagnant team and the hope is that it won’t be one that wastes the remaining years of Nowitzki’s illustrious career.

7. Oklahoma City Thunder:

2016-2017 will be the year that we as fans can say that Russell Westbrook unleashed unprecedented fire to any and everyone who dare stand in his way to the rim and a win. After a long and difficult offseason Westbrook can finally go back to doing what he loves, playing fast and assaulting rims with passion not seen since was Michael Jordan and a young Kobe Bryant were kings of the court. The favorite for the MVP will be must-watch tv all season long. If he can guide this Thunder to at least 50 wins he could have a real chance at the award.

8. Utah Jazz

This is the year that Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors bring everything together and lead this Jazz team to the playoffs. Despite early Injuries to both veterans, all signs are pointing to this season being the season they live up to lofty expectations. They have a tough underrated defense to lean on and a bonafide scored in Hayward who can hit shots in clutch situations.

Just Missed it:

Minnesota Timberwolves

Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins, and Zach Lavine are ready to make that next step towards making their franchise relevant again, but it just isn’t meant to be this season. The addition of Tom Thibodeau will make them a better team but the West is just to stacked and deep at the 5-8 seeds for them to make noise. They will be one of the most if not the most exciting teams to watch due to the rim attacks from Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine but they may have to wait one more year to enter into the mainstream NBA conscious.

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are officially back t0 100% health. After a tumultuous season they should return to the grit and grind they’re famous for that has made them one of the toughest opponents for years now. Armed with a huge contract, Mike Conley will have to prove that he worth the most lucrative contract in history despite having not many accolades. Will they have enough offense to withstand barrages from teams like the Warriors and Trail Blazers though? According to history of this franchise the answer is leaning towards no.

 

The Rest:

New Orleans Pelicans:

Just not a good enough supporting cast around Anthony Davis. This franchise is going to end up waisting away Anthony Davis’ youth because they can’t sign the guys needed to match their star players unique skill set.

Sacramento Kings:

The kings of mismanagement and discourse.

Denver Nuggets:

The development of guys like Emmanuel Mudiay, Jamal Murray, and trading away someone like Kenneth Faried will help this team come back to relevancy. A team that is just on the cusp but need a little more help.

Phoenix Suns:

Another team that needs to develop and nurture its key young guys and just a trade or two away from reaching relevancy once again. The potential of Devin Booker will have the Suns front office salivating at how lucky they’re to have such a great player.

Los Angelous Lakers:

This roster will grow and learn with new coach Luke Walton. All signs are indicating that this once great franchise is eager to learn and make the most of the teachings that a former champion like Luke Walton has. Waltons development of DeAngelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, and Brandon Ingram will be pertinent to the future success of this franchise.Expect a lot of growing pains along with the flashes of greatness.

 

 

NBA 2016-2017 Season Eastern Conference Preview & Predictions

The NBA season is right around the corner, starting off with the Knicks v.s Cavaliers on Tuesday night. Per usual the Cleveland Cavaliers are of course the favorites to come out the conference for the 3rd year in a row. The Cavaliers lost key players when Timofey Mozgov and  Matthew Dellavedova, but were order to retain indispensable players  LeBron James as well as J.R. Smith As for the rest of the Conference there was major losses and additions across the board. We saw longtime franchise stars like Dwyane Wade and Al Horford leaving for the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics respectively. With the sudden influx of money players like Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan, and Andre Drummond benefitted the most and signed big money contracts to stay with their franchises. After preseason study and research it’s time to roll the red carpet for my predictions for this new NBA season.

The Playoff Teams:

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers:

After a long and needed offseason the reigning NBA champions haven’t changed much. They offset the losses of Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov by adding Kay Felder in the draft and signing  Chris “Birdman” Anderson as well as Mike Dunleavey to add perimeter shooting. Resigning LeBron James, J.R. Smith, and Richard Jefferson was of course the main and completed priority. With their same starting 5 and an improved supporting cast the Cavs will look to run the table once again and return to the NBA Finals. w

2. Toronto Raptors

The Toronto Raptors are coming off a franchise best season and didn’t lose a lot of production when playoff darling Bismack Biyombo left for the Orlando Magic in free agency. Dwane Casey will continue to lean on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as well as giving an eager Jonas Valanciunas plenty of touches in the paint as an underrated third scoring option. Along with a improved bench and shooting the Raptors are being slept on as one of the better and balanced in the NBA. Look for the franchise north of the border to repeat or improve on last seasons success.

3.  Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics had an interesting offseason. Despite losing Evan Turner and Jared Sullinger in the offseason, and not being able to capitalize on their plethora of draft picks, they were still able to sign All-Star big man Al Horford and get thrust into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. Add Brad Stevens with the developing youth and veteran leadership this proud franchise has signed over the past couple offseasons and this is a team with the potential to be  Top 10 defense and offense this season.  

4. Indiana Pacers

This is officially Paul George’s team. Larry Bird has signed and traded for players that will help this offense into the modern era. Instead of George Hill and Lance Stephenson, the backcourt is occupied by Jeff Teague and Monta Ellis. Myles Turner has replaced Roy Hibbert at the center. And while Paul George has kept his spot at small forward, the power forward spot is now owned by Thaddeus Young. Gone are the gritty and defensive teams from the Conference Finals teams. Team President Larry Bird has gifted Paul George the talent that best suits his unique skill set, what happens next is up to Paul George.

5. Miami Heat

Gone are Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Luol Deng. Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic usher in a new era for this Heat franchise. The biggest x-factor for this team will be who fills in at the small forward and shooting guard spot. Dion Waiters was signed in Wayne Ellington, along with Josh Richardson  and Tyler Johnson should make for an interesting rotation at the 2-gaurd spot. At the small forward Heat fans will be waiting to see how much Justise Winslow has improved over the summer. If he can find his 3 point stroke and continue to play strong defense then he has potential to be one of the stronger 3-D wings in the league. Hassan Whiteside finally his contract and from what Heat fans have seen from him so far in preseason action he has improved his post offense and has quit hunting blocked shots so often, instead choosing to alter shots or force contested layups.

6. Detroit Pistons

Like Hassan Whiteside, Andre Drummond got his big contract this past offseason, and the Detroit Pistons along with their infusion of young talent have the potential to do some damage during the regular season and playoffs. The Pistons will have Tobias Harris who has always been a strong scorer at the small forward spot. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is expected to take another step forward in his progression as a 3-D wing. Stanley Johnson will also be expected to take another step and expand his skill set after a good rookie season. The main thing to watch will be how Reggie Jackson performs when he comes back from his knee injury. Last season he found his niche as a pick and roll maestro and picked his spots well as a scorer. At this point we know what we will get out of the face of the franchise in Drummond. Defense, and plenty of buckets out of the pick and roll. This seasons success hangs on how he lives up to his massive contract and if has solved his free throw woes. 

7. Washington Wizards

Last season was filled with mediocrity and frequent for the Wizards. A season filled with hope after coming just a millisecond away from forcing a Game 7 was wasted due to bad luck and even worse coaching. During the offseason, NeNe walked away, but the Wizards added Andrew Nicholson, Ian Mahinmi, Jason Smith, and traded for Trey Burke. They also brought Tomas Satoransky stateside, and someone who jumps out the gym and should be a terror in transition with John Wall. After an offseason where dissent was rumoured between Bradley Beal and John Wall, these backcourt partners must lead this team to the playoffs success in order to alleviate any imagined beef between the two. If the two most important players for this franchise are unable to harmonize the Wizards must consider blowing the team up.

8. Chicago Bulls

 This has got to be the one the oddly put-together teams in the League today. The original plan was to allow the team to rebuild around Jimmy Butler and surround him with the right talent. Instead they signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The Bulls won’t have to much shooting on the court. Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic are expected to be rotation guys and Mike Dunleavy is no longer around to help spread the court. Taj Gibson may even be on his way out the door. If this team makes the playoffs it will be a miracle with their strange team but anything

Just Missed the Cut

New York Knicks

The Knicks added some pieces in Derrick Rose, Courtney Lee, Joakim Noah, and Brandon Jennings. It’s going to be interesting to see how they mesh with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. The big if is the health of Rose and Noah. Last season Rose did play 66 games and (knock on wood) his health seems to be trending in the right direction. On the other spectrum Noah seems like a shell of his fiery self, perhaps a product of the heavy minutes he played under former coach Tom Thibodeau.  Phil Jackson is stuck in his ways with the Triangle offense and it’s unlikely that he won’t butt his head and try to force Jeff Hornacek to run his antique offense. It’s easier to see this team underachieving and just winning 40 games.

Charlotte Hornets  

Kemba Walker had a career year last season. He finally discovered his shooting stroke, and he had a supporting cast that fit his game. Nicolas Batum was the perfect fit next to him as another playmaker and ball handler. Al Jefferson was the big man down low that could take the scoring load is Walker was off. And a collection of wing players like Courtney Lee, Marvin Williams, and PJ Hairston filled in to replace Michael Kidd-Gilchrist after he went down with an injury just 7 games into the season. Jeremy Lin played a great role as 6th man off the bench and did a great job running the offense with the rest of the Hornets bench players. Unfortunately they lost Lee, Lin, and Jefferson and it will be hard to replace their production. The playoffs may be a taller task than they anticipate.

Atlanta Hawks

Dennis Schroder and Dwight Howard will make for one of the most dangerous pick and roll duos in the NBA, but how long will it take till Howard starts demanding for his touches in the post instead of running the play that is guaranteed success when he runs it successfully. This team has enough talent, athleticism, and shooting but the ability of Schroder to scale back turnovers and his erratic shooting and the drama that comes with Dwight Howard playing for you may set this team back an unexpected step.

The Rest

Philadelphia 76ers:

Do you even have to ask?

Milwaukee Bucks:

Plenty of length and defense but what about shooting? What do we expect out of the Giannis Antetokounmpo in his first full season as the starting point guard. Can Jabari Parker live up to his potential as a scorer extraordinaire? Can Khris Middleton come back from his injury and torch the nets as the Bucks sharpshooter? As of right now there’s just too many questions and not enough answers.

Brooklyn Nets:

They shot themselves in the foot trading away all their draft picks in earlier offseason. At least they’ll be watchable. Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should make an interesting trio.

Orlando Magic

Should make for a fun team to watch for transition buckets, Aaron Gordon will be lighting up rims with his thunderous dunks and that should be about the only bright spot for this franchise.

 

KD2DC Isn’t Happening, But We Should’ve Seen It Happening

Kevin Durant’s journey to super-stardom began in the great state of Maryland. Growing up in Prince Georges County, raised by his single mother, he grew to love the game of basketball while playing AAU with future NBA players such as Ty Lawson, Greivis Vasquez and Michael Beasley. He expanded his game at the famous Barry Farms court, home of the Goodman League.  After playing high school basketball originally at National Christian Academy and renowned Oak Hill, Durant finally made his home at Montrose Christian. He concluded his high school career as an Washington Post All-Met Player of the year and the MVP of the McDonald’s All American.  As we all know he committed to play basketball at the University of Texas, unfortunately never fielding offers from either Georgetown or the University of Maryland. Part of that might be the fact that Durant was never recruited by either program or his lack of interest in playing for them. Nonetheless, Durant had a phenomenal freshman year, acquiring college accolades like they were candies. After becoming the first freshman to win the Naismith College Player of the Year award, Durant declared for the 2007 history and was selected second overall by the Seattle Supersonics. From his rookie year to this season, Durant has continued to improved. Growing from his role as a “professional scorer” and perennial All Star/NBA selection to the MVP, famously declaring that his mom was “the real MVP.” Throughout his amateur and professional career, Durant has become the pride and joy of the DMV area, a man whom players from the area have grown to admire and love.

KD2DC suddenly started to gain more traction in 2014. Fans started wearing Kevin Durant Wizards jerseys, shirts and having the KD2DC hashtag trending on Twitter. Rumors started churning more and more of Durant wanting to come home and play for his hometown a la LeBron James for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Unfortunately all these rumors and fans salivating at the possibility of one of the best players in the League coming home seems to have turned off the future free agent. When the Oklahoma City Thunder came to Verizon Center to play the Wizards this past season, he had some choice words for fans. He was quoted as saying that Wizards fans should be grateful and cheer for the team they have now. It also seemed to annoy him that fans were paying more attention to him than their own team, in his mind disrespecting John Wall and Bradley Beal. That single game may have been the demise of KD2DC dream. The KD2DC campaign never had a chance when compared to better teams and situations from the likes of the Celtics, Spurs, Heat, Warriors and of course the Thunder. Durant never promised anything, never saying whether it was or wasn’t a dream of his. Wizards fans just have swallow that tough pill and be thankful for the good team they currently have.

Warriors Pursuit of Regular Season Greatness Led to Finals Collapse

The Golden State Warriors were transcendent all season long. They started the regular season off with a bang, winning 24 consecutive games, and rumbled on to a 73-9 regular season record. It seemed that this team didn’t flex their collective greatness unless they had. There were numerous times when teams like the Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Oklahoma City Thunder each had the Warriors on the ropes. The only thing that these teams were missing was someone like Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson. It only took one defensive stop or a turnover and they would go off on one of their explosive runs and miraculously win games they had no right to win. That’s what happens when you have two great players on a great team, you win games on your worse days. Having the first unanimous MVP, the runner-up for the Defensive Player of the Year, and several two-way players that can also score and take games over are also key ingredients to amassing the greatest regular season in NBA History.

The Warriors entered the playoffs as the clear favorite. In the first round they faced the Houston Rockets. It was a conference finals rematch from the season prior. Everything was going great in Game 1, until Curry twisted his ankle. Which just so happens to be the same ankle he had surgery on back in 2011. When he made his return 3 games later the unimaginable happened and he sprained his right knee. Now, not only is the Warriors organization panicking, but the Warriors fan base and the NBA as a whole. Not to worry though, as we all know by now, Curry made his triumphant return in late in the second round against the Portland Trail Blazers. In the Conference Finals was where Curry and the Warriors truly struggled, where they faced the Thunder, who were coming a great playoff series win against the San Antonio Spurs. The Warriors initially struggled against the Thunders massive length and elite athleticism and dug themselves into a 3-1 hole, creating more questions and rumors. Questions and rumors surrounding the health of MVP Stephen Curry due to his struggles. Draymond Green was even getting into trouble accumulating flagrant fouls points after kicking Steven Adams in the groin and playing a very physical series against the Thunder big men. The Warriors luckily completed a seemingly impossible task and came back against the Thunder thanks to their elite shooting. Although the Thunder was clearly the better team in the series, the Warriors were able to shoot themselves out of their hole and make it to their second straight NBA Finals.

In the NBA Finals we got another rematch, the Cleveland Cavaliers vs the Golden State Warriors. The first three games were complete blowouts, the Warriors taking a 2-1 series advantage. The Warriors looked stronger than ever, until catastrophe struck. First Draymond Green inadvertently hit LeBron James in the groin and they got into a heated conversation due to James attempting to step over him during play. This resulted in Green drawing a flagrant foul point, which was the last flagrant foul he could get without getting punished with a 1 game suspension. Secondly Andrew Bogut, the Warriors best rim-protector, went down with a season ending sprained knee. Despite winning the game the Warriors entered Game 5 with a lot of questions. Without their fiery leader game 5 and their rim protector for the rest of the series, the Warriors suffered an epic collapse that resulted in the Cavs becoming the first team in NBA Finals history to successfully come back from a 3-1 series deficit.

What was it that led to possibly the greatest collapse in NBA Finals history? The accumulation of fatigue, emotional and physical is what most likely did. At least that’s what most pundits and fans believe. It makes the most sense, too, as the Warriors most serious mistake ended up with them failing to defend their title. All season long the team claimed they didn’t care about beating the 95-96 Chicago Bulls’ regular season title, but clearly they did. That pursuit of the title of being the greatest regular season resulted in them clearly being on their last legs in the playoffs, running on fumes and feeling the fatigue and frustration of an incredibly taxing season and playoffs. It’s why Stephen Curry hurt his knee and ankle, noticeably showing the signs of those injuries in the Conference Finals and Finals. It was the reason Andre Bogut’s legged buckled on him and the big men went down with a knee injury, and why Andre Iguodala battled a back injury the last two games of the series. A word to the wise, and any team seeking regular season infamy, IT’S NOT WORTH IT. Look at these Golden State Warriors as proof that the regular season truly means nothing in the long term.

With Game 7 Win, Lebron Cements Legacy

The Cleveland Cavaliers weren’t supposed to do this. Down 3-1 to the same Golden State Warriors that won 73 games in the regular season. The same Warriors that had the unanimous MVP in Stephen Curry, and his fellow Splash Bro, Klay Thompson. The same transcendent squad that demolished the Cavs in the regular season and the first two games of the Finals. This was supposed to be the crowning achievement of the greatest regular season of all time. James wasn’t going to fulfill his promise of bringing a championship this season. However, the thing with sports and life is, it doesn’t always go the way it’s expected.

The comeback started in Game 5, with Draymond Green suspended because he accumulated too many flagrant fouls after his reactionary swing at James’ groin area. The narrative that Lebron James couldn’t take trash talk and possibly telling on Draymond Green when he mentioned that Green allegedly called him the “B” word. Even Klay Thompson had a hot take, stating that James must’ve had his feelings hurt. With the heart and soul of the Warriors sidelined, James and Kyrie Irving responded to all the criticism while combining for 82 points, the 112-97 win, and a newfound hope that maybe this series wasn’t over. In Game 6, James again dropped 41 points, collected 8 rebounds, and dished out 11 assists. Kyrie had 23 and the series was now tied up 3-3.  With Game 7 approaching there was more and more talk coming from journalists and fans alike saying that if the Cavs don’t win, James’ legacy would be tarnished, eviscerated, that he was no longer the best in the world at what he does. Game 7 would be the crucible of James’ illustrious career, the defining moment of a Hall of Fame career.  If the Warriors clinched the series, Steph Curry would’ve taken the crown and on the opposite end of the spectrum, unparalleled media scrutiny unseen in sports. All the contempt for James would’ve been warranted if it all went for not. James did have all the momentum, history seemed to be on his side, and no one else plays better with his back against the wall than Lebron James.

Game 7 went as everyone thought it would. For 48 minutes we saw both teams playing at the highest level they could, and it resulted in the most entertaining game of the year. It was a game of runs, who could take the most punches and stay on their feet. Who ever got that last run would win the game. Although they couldn’t hit water if it was right in front of them, both Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were throwing jabs throughout the contests. Both were one shot and a defensive stop from having one of their patented explosions and putting the game away. Draymond Green did most of the heavy lifting, throwing several haymakers with his 6 three pointers and terrific defense.Green did all he could for the Warriors, trying in vain to lift a tired and ragged team clearly on its last legs after a grueling playoff and regular season. The near triple double with 32 points(a career high), 15 rebounds, and 9 assists just wasn’t enough.

Kyrie Irving, Lebron James, and Kevin Love all had great games for the Cavs. Even Kevin Love finally came out and had a good game collecting 14 rebounds and chipped in for stretches of the game with 9 points. It was Lebron James who had a monster game, leaving everything on the court with a triple double. Irving had a beautiful game hitting shot after shot, even hitting the biggest shot of the game with just under a minute left with a big time 3. Game 7 went down to the final possession, and even though Curry missed his potential game tying three, him and the Warriors had the greatest regular season of all time. That accomplishment just so happens to come with a big asterisk. the 22016 Warriors share the same infamy as the 2007 New England Patriots for being one of the greatest history as the greatest team in sports history to not win the championship.  On the other end Lebron James gets to say that his Cavaliers were the first team in NBA Finals to come back from a 3-1 deficit. James was also able to keep his promise and fulfill his destiny as the man whom brought a championship back to Cleaveland after 52 long dry years. With his 3rd title, Lebron James cemented his legacy and reestablished his title of best player in the world.

Can Steph Curry Solve His Shooting Woes?

Ever since Stephen Curry sprained his right knee in the first round of playoffs against the Houston Rockets, he hasn’t been his usual dynamic self. He’s struggled with turnovers, efficiency, and a noticeably slower first step. As recently as Monday, there were multiple reports stating that Curry now has shoulder and knee issues that may even require surgery. If all this is true then it would make sense of why the back-to-back MVP has failed to make a significant impact in the playoffs. In the 14 games that Curry has played since his knee injury, he’s averaged  26.7 points on an inefficient(for Curry) 43% shooting and 37% 3 point clip.

For a player that became the newest member of the vaunted 50-40-90 club, that’s just unacceptable. Of course as an athlete and competitor, Curry won’t go out to the media and make an excuse that his injuries are the reason why he’s played so poorly, it just isn’t in his DNA. It certainly doesn’t help ward off all the hate that has been thrown his way either. All throughout the season, NBA legends such as Oscar Robertson, Scottie Pippen, and Charles Barkley have all gone on record saying that their teams could beat the Warriors, that Steph Curry wouldn’t be as great in their era, that Curry and Warriors are even “soft.”  If Curry fails to win the NBA Finals MVP again, pundits may even have the gall to question his importance to their playoff success. That award might even go to Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala so far as they have had a far better impact on the Finals. Of course only  way to solve this unadulterated contempt for greatness is to just win. All the pressure is on the Baby-Faced Assassin to win one more game, and to cement this team legacy as not only having the best regular season of all time, but also back to back champions. Something, that no matter what anyone else believes, puts them on the short list of all-time greatest teams in NBA history.