Friday, 10 March 2017

Is the Greak Freak the Future?

If I were to ask you to name the three best players in the NBA right now, who would you name? My bet is that your list would probably include names like Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, or even Stephen Curry. But what about the league’s next superstar?

Five years from now, all of the players mentioned above will be over 30 years old, with Lebron leading the pack at 37. The landscape of the NBA will be much different, and the best basketball player on the planet may very well have a name that you can’t even pronounce: Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Dubbed the ‘Greak Freak’, Giannis is one of the league’s young stars, and at the age of 22 is looking to cement himself as one of the NBA’s elite forwards. Over the past four years, Giannis has gradually ascended from an unknown prospect to a household name. With a wingspan of 7’4 and a height of 6’11, combined with his surprising agility and fluid playstyle, Antetekounmpo is able to legitimately play all five positions on the court. Whether tasked with bringing the ball up the court or holding down center for a few minutes, one thing is for certain: there is no one like him in the NBA.

His current statline reads 23.3ppg, 5.5apg, and 8.7rpg, and is a testiment to his ability to contribute on all areas of the floor. While typically not known for his shooting, Giannis’ field goal percentage has increased from 41% in 2014 to 53% this season. As well, Antetokounmpo’s size helps him to get roughly 2 blocks a game and 1.7 steals. With those kinds of stats, players and fans are both starting to recognize how good of a player Giannis can be.

In Kobe Bryant’s last game against the Bucks in 2016, he had some high praise for the forward, saying,

"He has the potential to do it. He has the physical tools, the intelligence. Now it's just a matter of believing in himself and going after it. He has the talent to be a great player.” That was before this season, where it seems like Antetekounmpo has taken Bryant’s advice to heart.

The Bucks would be wise to build around Giannis have him as their corner piece guy, similar to how Lebron carried the Cavs from ‘03-’10. At the moment, the Bucks lack talent, especially after losing Jabari Parker again to a season-ending ACL injury. With no real playmakers (Dellevadova has been awfully disappointing this year), it is surprising to see the Bucks in playoff contention. They are currently a ½ game behind Chicago for the East’s 8th seed, and it’ll be interesting to see how the end of the season plays out.

If the Bucks are able to add a few pieces in the summer, they may end up being a contender in the next few years. While that is not guaranteed, what’s certain is that Giannis Antetekounmpo will be one of the league’s best players, if not the best.

Will the Greak Freak be an MVP in the next 5 years? Let me know in the comments section below!

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Harden vs Westbrook: Closest MVP race ever?

It’s about three quarters way into the season and the MVP race is looking as close as ever. Not only are the league’s best performing on a high level, they’re doing it in record-breaking fashion. In fact, at the time of this writing, the players this season have set a league record for most triple doubles in a season with 79. Most of these triple doubles can be attributed to Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the front runners of this year’s race.

Other candidates like Lebron James (25.9ppg, 8.0rpg, 8.9apg), Kawhi Leonard (26.1ppg, 6.0rpg, 3.4asg) and even Isaiah Thomas (29.4ppg, 2.7rpg, 6.2apg) are having great years and posting career numbers. At the age of 32, Lebron is showing no signs of slowing down, as his Cavaliers find themselves at the top of the Eastern Conference for yet another year. Meanwhile, Thomas is currently second in the league in scoring, and leading the Celtics to a stronghold on the conference’s second seed.  Now, if this were any other year, fans would likely not have any problem with the Maurice Podoloff trophy going to one of these guys at the end of the year. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Westbrook and Harden are simply playing on another level.

With the departure of KD in the offseason, many people expected Westbrook to post outrageous numbers with more offensive freedom and usage rates. In the first month of the season, fans were delirious when Russ came storming out of the gates with nine triple doubles. But who would’ve thought that he would still be averaging a triple-double 62 games into the season?? His current stat line reads 31.7ppg, 10.7rpg and 10.1 apg…

...leaving Westbrook on pace for one of the greatest single seasons in league history. At point guard, Russell is able to grab rebounds and immediately start the break, leading to a fast pace for OKC (7th in the league). His can’t stop/won’t stop attitude also leads to more second chance points and hustle stats.

Aside from the statistics, the Thunder are currently in playoff position at 7th in the West. With twenty games left in the season, there’s still time for the Thunder to climb into the 6th, 5th or even 4th seed. That’s the thing with the MVP race. The coaches and GM’s typically lean towards the candidate that is also having a winning season, and the fact that Westbrook has been able to single-handedly carry his team to victory lends very well to his case. Along with all of that, Russell leads the league  in PER (player efficiency rating) at 29.9, showing how he has evolved and matured as a player and leader.  

So what stands in the way of Westbrook and his first MVP?  The Beard.

The south-paw scorer from Houston has been doing a lot more than scoring this season, leading the Rockets to 3rd seed in the West. To say the least, a season with this much success was not expected at all, after going 41-41 last season for 8th in the conference. Mike D’Antoni’s high-octane offense is arguably the best situation for James Harden, who’s assist numbers are indicative of the shooters around him. With three-point threats such as Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon (who is having a career year) spreading the floor, it is easier for Harden to operate and find his teammates. The Rockets have the second-best offensive ratings in the league because Golden State, thanks to the countless opportunities created by Harden’s attack of the dribble.

His stats reflect this as well, with a line of 28.8ppg, 8.0rpg, and 11.3 asg. While Harden’s stats are a little lower than Westbrook’s, the extra assists he provides and his shooting efficiency (43.9%) leads to more points for Houston. As well, with more offensive threats on the floor, there’s less of a need for Harden to look to score his own points. Harden has had his fair share of triple doubles, with 15 so far this season, setting new career averages in rebounds and assists. His ability to probe the defense from any part of the court leaves him a force to be reckoned with on a nightly basis.

In the end, both players are incredibly deserving of the award. Who do you think should get the award? Share your pick in the comments below!

Thursday, 23 July 2015

The All-Bench Squad

Basketball is a team sport, and as we've seen in the pass, it takes a whole team of individuals working together to create success, rather than an individual creating his own. Not only do the starters have to play well, but a team's bench must also be able to contribute and even carry the team at times. In light of this, here are the 5 players that I believe have the biggest impacts on a their teams coming off the bench.

1. Lou Williams (Lakers)

Last season (as a Raptor), the reigning 6th man of the year provided a much needed scoring burst off the bench for the team. With the Raptors' offense becoming stagnant at times, Lou was able to create his own shots to bail the team out. As he quickly became a fan favorite, Williams' play continued to help the Raptors reach new levels of success, as the team won a franchise record 49 games. The 6' 1" guard averaged 15.5 ppg while shooting 40% from the field.

2. Tristan Thompson (Cavaliers)

While he was inserted into the starting line-up for parts of the season due to injuries all over the Cavs roster, Tristan Thompson emerged as one of the league's top rebounders, especially on the offensive glass. Thompson averaged 8.5ppg, 8rpg during the regular season, but upped his play during the playoffs, averaging 9.6ppg and 10.8 rpg to help power the Cavaliers to post-season success. With Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao out to injury, the Cavs needed the presence of a big man in the paint, and Tristan Thompson provided that.

3. Andre Iguodala (Warriors)

The 2015 Finals MVP and captain of the Golden State Warriors, Andre Iguodala, took big leaps this past season in showing the league what he is capable off, averaging 10.4ppg, 4.5rpg and 3.6ast throughout the postseason. Tasked with guarding Lebron James for much of the Finals, Iguodala held his own, wearing James down on the defensive end. As well, Iguodala provided a much needed spark for the Warriors off the bench, helping them secure the game 5 and 6 Finals victories.

4. Isaiah Thomas (Celtics)

Isaiah Thomas, the 60th pick in the 2011 draft has surprised fans league-wide, showing everyone why he should've been picked earlier. With career averages of 15.6 ppg and 4.7ast, Isaiah has proven himself to belong among the league's better point guards. After fluorishing in Sacramento and Phoenix, Isaiah was traded in February to the Boston Celtics. His immediate impact was felt, as his play kept the Celtics competitive in their first round matchup against the Cavaliers, even though they were swept.

5. Jamal Crawford (Clippers)

Jamal Crawford has come to epitomize the "perfect" 6th man, coming up year after year in 6th man of the year considerations. Known for his flashy crossovers and unrelenting scoring touch, Crawford continues to adapt his game to succeed coming off the bench, even after 15 long years in the league. With career averages of 15.6ppg and 3.7ast, we could see Crawford continue this level of performance for years to come.

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Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Off-Season Recap

This past off-season came with a flurry of activity, as free agents chose new teams while numerous trades have altered the landscape of the league for the 2015-2016 season. To recap, below are some of the teams that (on paper) improved, stayed the same, and unfortunately, worsened.


San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs managed to keep their core intact, re-signing Tim Duncan, Manu, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard. Meanwhile (and perhaps for the first time in franchise history), the Spurs signed a lucrative free agent in Lamarcus Aldridge to a 4 year/$80 million dollar deal. The Spurs also signed David West to bolster their bench and low post game. With all this in mind, the Spurs are looking to be title contenders yet again, impacting the outlook of the Western Conference.

Los Angeles Clippers: In somewhat of an interesting summer for the Clippers, the team was able to re-sign DeAndre Jordan to a 4 year/$87 million dollar contract (sorry, Maverick fans). As well, the Clips strengthened their second unit by signing Paul Pierce, Josh Smith,  and Wesley Johnson. Furthermore, the Clippers traded for Lance Stephenson, providing additional scoring for a team that is already tops in the league in that category.

Sacremento Kings: During the offseason, the Kings acquired Willie Cauley-Stein through the draft and Rajon Rondo through free agency. Both of these players seem to fit into the Kings' system quite well. The Kings ranked 14th in the league last year in PPG, running a medium-tempo offense. Rajon Rondo flourishes with the ball in his hands, and the Kings' slow-it-down half court offense should serve to his advantage. As well, the combination of Cauley-Stein and Cousins in the front court opens up much potential for this young Kings squad.

Stayed the same:

Coming off of their 4th championship and first title run since 1975, the Golden State Warriors decided to stay the course and keep their core intact. With the likes of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson running the show, we should see the level of play we've come to expect from the Warriors carry on to next season. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (who were on the losing side of the Warriors' title run), resigned their core of James, Love, Shumpert and Mozgov, keeping their expectations high for the coming season. Other teams such as the Pelicans, Bulls and Jazz succeeded in keeping their key players on board, while failing to add any noteworthy players to their teams.

Got worse

Portland Trailblazers: In a rather unfortunate summer for the Blazers, the team lost 4/5 of its starting line-up. Obviously, the Blazers lost LaMarcus to San Antonio, but they also traded Nicholas Batum to the Charlotte Hornets for Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson. As well, Portland lost Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez to New York, while giving up Wesley Matthews to Dallas in free agency. All in all, the Blazers certainly don't look like a playoff team anymore, especially in a stacked Western Conference.

Dallas Mavericks: In a similar manner to the Trailblazers, the Mavericks also lost a large portion of their starting unit, with Tyson Chandler (to Suns) , Monta Ellis (to Pacers) and Rajon Rondo (to Kings)  all leaving in free agency. As well, the departures of Al-Farouq Aminu and Amar'e Stoudemire are bound to impact the team next season. However, unlike Portland, the Mavericks were able to make somewhat of a recovery by signing Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews.

There you have it, the 2015 NBA off-season in a nutshell. Let us know what you think about this summer's activity in the comment section below.

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

End of the Big Three?

Back in 2010, when Lebron James made his heralded "Decision" to join the Miami Heat, joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the NBA went crazy. A new dynasty had been formed, right in front of our eyes. Expectations were extremely high for this team, and the Heat didn't disappoint. Winning 2 championships with 4 consecutive Finals appearances, it would be hard to call that anything but a success. However, flash-forward to 2014, with Free Agency on its way, and with the Big 3 opting out of their contracts, the future remains uncertain for the Heat.

After losing to the Spurs in the 2014 Finals, Pat Riley went on the record to say:

"We need to retool, not rebuild."

Now, in order for the Heat to retool, it was expected that the Big 3 would opt out of their current contracts with the Heat to take less money and free up some cap space. However, reports have circulated of Lebron's intentions of getting a max deal, which is certainly not what the Heat had hoped for. To add to that, Chris Bosh is looking for a deal that is in the range of 5 years for $90 million, a contract that would be similar to Kyrie Irving's. Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, has not been heard from yet. Is there cause for concern in South Beach?

To answer the question, no. The prospects of LeBron James leaving the Heat are very slim at this point.  A max deal for Lebron would mean a salary of $20.7 million next season. Although this would leave less cap space for Pat Riley to operate with, the Heat would much rather give James what he wants rather than letting him go. As well, letting Bosh go would make the Heat's frontcourt even weaker. Pau Gasol would be a viable option for his replacement, but the Heat would only have the full mid-level exception of $5.3 million to offer him. In the case of Dwyane Wade, it seems as if staying with the Heat would be the best option for him. Finishing his career in Miami, his only team, would put the finishing touches on an already remarkable legacy.

James has given no indication of an interest to leave Miami, and has not spoken to the media since the start of Free Agency. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have also joined this silence. This silence from the Big 3 could be a positive thing. Perhaps, taking a step back from the perpetual onslaught of the media is exactly what the Big 3 need. Time away to reflect on the past for years, and time away to make a decision about their future.

What do you think will happen to the Big 3? Share your opinions in the comments below.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes

After being traded from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks in 2011, it was thought that a new era of basketball would dawn in New York, the mecca of basketball. Well, that didn't happen. In the past three seasons, the Knicks, led by Anthony, have struggled to find their identity, failing to make it past the second round of the Playoffs. Although, Anthony has continued to shine during his time in the spotlight in New York, as he averaged 27.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 3.1 apg last season. Anthony has opted out of his contract with the Knicks and is therefore an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ladies and gentlemen, let the show begin..

As of right now, the frontrunners in the Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes are the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets. The LA Lakers have also shown some interest. Of course, there is still a possibility that Anthony could stay with the Knicks (but who really believes that). This week, Carmelo will (or already has) meet with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers. Of course, each of these teams has something very different to offer.

With the Bulls:

Carmelo would join a strong and battle-tested team, with the likes of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson. Anthony would fill the need of a scoring (what he really does best), as the Bulls were ranked 30th overall in scoring. With Anthony in tow, the Bulls would instantly become an Eastern Conference contender. Paired with a deep bench and a great coach in Tom Thibodeau, there is reason to believe that Chicago would be the best fit for Carmelo Anthony.

With the Rockets:

With two superstars in James Harden and Dwight Howard already on the Rockets, the acquisition of Anthony would create a formidable Big 3 in a highly competitive Western Conference. In a team that is more offense-oriented, Anthony would flourish, given the ability operate freely. However, Anthony, who is notoriously known as a lackluster defender, would not help the situation in Houston on the defensive end.

With the Mavericks:

The Dallas Mavericks have always been active in the hopes of acquiring a marquee star player. In recent years, the Mavs have not had much luck. Instead, they have boosted their roster with quality role players such as Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, and Monta Ellis. Not to mention Dirk Nowitzki, who will be instrumental in recruiting Carmelo. Even with Carmelo Anthony, it would still be difficult to succeed in a dominant Western Conference. Given Carmelo's intentions to play for a contending team, Dallas may not be the best option for him.

With the Lakers:

This is where it gets interesting. The Lakers have always managed to maintain a winning roster, no matter the circumstances. From Wilt to Kareem to Magic to Shaq to Kobe, the Lakers have had their share of star players. However, it appears that the well has run dry. Long gone are the days where the prospects of playing in LA would draw all the superstars. Instead, the Lakers are left with an aging Kobe Bryant paired with an incredibly underwhelming supporting cast, with the likes of Kendall Marshall and Ryan Kelly as headliners. With the score-first attidude of Kobe Bryant and the score-first attitude of Carmelo Anthony, Carmelo could cause more problems than he fixes by joining the Lakers.

You've seen all the options. Where do you think Carmelo should go? Voice your opinions in the comments below.