The new look C’s: Boston Celtics 2018 Preview

As the NBA offseason cycles through, many basketball fans find it hard not to talk about the upcoming Boston Celtics. From trading rising star Avery Bradley and trading the first overall pick, we have just begun on the changes that Danny Ainge and his organization have made.

Gordon Hayward signs with the c’s

Gordon Hayward was one of the biggest free agents available this offseason, and had offers from Miami, Utah and of course, Boston.

Hayward poses in All Star Game gear (purpleandblues.com)

However, Boston had something that stood out more than their past legends, Larry Bird, Bill Russell and a franchise with 17 total NBA championships: Head coach Brad Stevens. For those who don’t know the reasoning behind Stevens, Gordon Hayward played for Brad Stevens at Butler University, where Stevens coached in the past.

Right away, that boosted the Celtics’ chances of capturing yet another NBA All-Star.

Days later, Gordon Hayward officially signed with Boston on a four-year, $127,829,970 contract, doubling his recent contract of four years, $62,965,420 with the Utah Jazz.

The only downside of signing the recent All-Star is dealing with the nonexistent cap space. Boston needed to free cap space to sign Hayward to his full contract, which led to Boston trading away Avery Bradley, a beloved player in the eyes of Boston fans.

Boston traded Bradley to the Detroit Pistons, receiving Marcus Morris. Many are against this trade, but don’t forget the fact that Bradley is a free agent next season, who inevitably will ask for more money. This is something the Celtics cannot afford after the signing of Gordon Hayward.

third overall pick: jayson tatum. sf (duke)

The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum with the third overall pick in the draft.

Tatum poses with the Celtics Front Office (boston.cbslocal.com)

Arguably the best man in this year’s draft, Jayson Tatum will bring his talents to Boston this upcoming season, bringing nothing but excitement to the organization and fans.

At Duke, Jayson Tatum recorded a total of 488 points, averaging 16.8 points per game as well as 7.3 rebounds per game, and shot nearly 50 percent on field goals in his single season with the Blue Devils. Tatum was ranked No. 3 in the 2016 ESPN Top 100 going into Duke University.

By the looks of the media, it seems like Tatum has already built chemistry with this Celtics roster, especially with Jaylen Brown who was a third overall pick in the NBA Draft two drafts ago. The two stars have referred to themselves as “7/11, always open” indicating their jersey numbers and the fact that they both hold great abilities to create openness on the court and sinking any shot.

Jayson Tatum will be a great attribute to this particular Celtics team. Whatever role Stevens gives him, Tatum will exceed.

depth

In addition to Gordon Hayward and rookie Jayson Tatum, the Celtics welcome Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes to the team, as well as key new players like Shane Larkin, Semi Ojeleye and Ante Zizic.

The Celtics made big moves to create a roster that embarks on winning a NBA championship.

Celtics coach, Brad Stevens (bostonglobe.com)

According to ABC News, Celtics president Danny Ainge said “I feel like our team is in better position than last year.”

Not to mention that the Celtics were NBA Eastern Conference finalists last season. The C’s look to change that to NBA East Champions, and even NBA Champions. With these added players, this goal is fully achievable.

How will this be done? Last season, the Celtics finshed 27th out of 30 teams in total rebounds, yet still managed to win the Eastern Conference regular season title. Simply, the Celtics needed more big men.

After one offseason, they have introduced a 6-8 forward in Jayson Tatum, a 7-foot center in Ante Zizic, a 6-10 center inn Aron Baynes and a 6-9 forward in Marcus Morris. These are all solid players with great height.

Mix this height with stars like Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford, and you have a team with full potential to raise Boston’s 18th NBA Championship.

Brad Stevens will have a full roster with complete talent this upcoming season. With the new arrivals and established stars, the Celtics are trending up for next season.

 

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The Best Remaining NBA Playoff Teams

The Trailblazers, Pacers and Thunder have become the first three teams to be sent home from the NBA playoffs. The Cavaliers and Warriors both swept their first-round opponents. The Rockets also sent Oklahoma City home, leaving 13 remaining teams.

As the playoffs have started, teams have started to reveal their true abilities. Playoff LeBron James has elevated the Cavs to another level, while the Celtics have struggled to capture their magic from the regular season. As teams begin to take playoff form, their championship potential has started to become unearthed.

Tier 1: The Elite

The top tier of NBA playoff teams consists of teams that have proven that they can win the title. They aren’t contenders, but rather the teams nobody would be surprised to see hoist the trophy come June.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The defending champions obviously have to be on this list. James has entered playoff mode. It’s evident by his massacre of the Pacers this week, and seems to once again be an unstoppable force. He has more depth than he had last season, and they have played well even without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love so far.

The path through the East shouldn’t be incredibly difficult this year, and the Cavs will most likely once again find themselves in the NBA championship. Seeing them repeat would hardly be a surprise.

Golden State Warriors

Even though Steve Kerr may miss the entirety of the playoffs, the Warriors still remain the favorites this year. They have two of the five best players in the league on their team, along with Klay Thompson and Draymond Green behind them. JaVale McGee is also having an incredible postseason so far.

The Warriors are one of the most dangerous teams in the league on both sides of the floor, so it is no surprise that they are one of the two elite teams in the league right now. They are undoubtedly the championship favorites right now, assuming they can stay healthy.

Tier 2: The Contenders

The second tier of NBA playoff teams consists of teams who have a chance to dethrone the Cavs or Warriors. They are the teams that have a chance to win the championship despite being the underdogs.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets have proven themselves as a legit team so far. James Harden leads the most dangerous offense in the league right now and can put up points in a hurry. The Rockets are a serious threat to pull off an upset, especially with the way Patrick Beverly has played so far.

The biggest flaw of the Rockets this postseason is that they might have a tough time guarding long wing scorers. Guys like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant and LeBron James would pose matchup problems for the Rockets, and they would likely have to get through each of those players to win the championship. Their offense still makes them a threat and they remain a contender in the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs

Although they have struggled with the Grizzlies so far, the Spurs will be a contender as long as they have Kawhi Leonard healthy and Gregg Popovich calling the shots. Leonard looks like the best player in the playoffs not on the Warriors or Cavs and has had a ridiculous series.

The elite coaching of Pop combined with the elite defense of Leonard and the Spurs could pose a huge problem for the Warriors. If they can take the Warriors off of their rhythm, they could make a run at the championship.

Tier 3: The Outside Shot Teams

These teams are the last teams that have a shot at the title. They aren’t contenders, but with a little bit of luck they could end up having a shot at the NBA Finals.

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors came out slow against the Bucks, but have since started to regain their form. They are one win away from taking the series from the young Bucks.

The Raptors’ backcourt remains the strongest part of the team, and also their biggest weakness in the playoffs. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have continued their trend of weak play during the playoffs as they have struggled immensely.

If Lowry and DeRozan can consistently play like superstars, the Raptors may have a chance at taking down the Cavs. Otherwise, all they have is an outside shot.

Los Angeles Clippers

This team could have ranked in the second tier if Blake Griffin was healthy. However, it is unlikely that Chris Paul will be able to carry this heavy of a load through the entire playoffs.

Paul has played phenomenally so far, but it will be tough to keep up this level of play up if they face the Warriors. The Warriors will also have an extended period of rest, while the Clippers will be playing two to three more games this round. If Paul can reach yet another level, they may have a chance. For now, they remain an outside shot team.

Utah Jazz

With the emergence of clutch time Joe Johnson, the Jazz have been putting up quite a fight against the Clippers. A healthy Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward will also make this team a tough out.

Like the Clippers, the Jazz simply don’t have the firepower to keep up with the Warriors in the second round. Both teams have a big defensive stopper in the frontcourt and scoring ability in the backcourt and wing. However, they will likely fall victim to the Warriors’ powerhouse.

Washington Wizards

The Wizards came out hot at the beginning of the series, but have since struggled against the Hawks. The Wizards have given the Cavs some trouble in the past, so it’s not crazy to think they might have an outside shot in a series against them.

The Cavs would likely have a tough time guarding the pick-and-roll between John Wall and Marcin Gortat. If the Wizards can exploit that, they may be able to put up points against the Cavs. Ultimately though, they simply don’t have a solution for LeBron James. Like most other teams in the East, James creates too many matchup problems for a small team like the Wizards to defend. They have a chance, but it’s a small one.

 

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The Rise of The Miami Heat

The Miami Heat have somehow played their way into the NBA playoff picture. It seemed like the Heat were lottery bound after a dismal 11-30 start. They now sit at 34-36 and are in the thick of the playoff race.

The turnaround started in the backcourt. Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters have been dominant in the second half of the season, which has been a huge factor in the epic turnaround.

Dragic is now averaging 20.3 points and six assists per game, and Waiters is putting up 15.8 points and 4.3 assists. The Heat should continue to contend down the stretch even with Waiters’ injury. Tyler Johnson should be able to fill Waiters’ role nicely until he is able to return from his injury (which he anticipates will be before the end of the season).

Another key to their success has rested in the continual rise of Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside is averaging his career high in points and rebounds (16.7/14.2) and he leads the league in the latter category. Whiteside received a huge deal over the summer that many people were critical of. It seems as if the deal is paying off for the Heat.

Many were harshly critical of how disengaged Whiteside was last season. He was often accused of taking plays or even entire games off and not giving his full effort. That problem seems like it has been fixed, and his teammates claim that he is able to bounce back quickly and stay engaged in the game. He may be averaging less per game than he did during the Heat’s 11-30 start, but he has shot more efficiently from the field and improved from the free throw line. He also has a distinctly improved plus/minus.

Now sitting in ninth place in the Eastern Conference, it is time for the Heat to make their final push for the playoffs. The final push, however, will be one of their toughest of the season. The March 28 matchup against the Detroit Pistons, who are the current eight seed, may prove to be crucial.

On top of that, they finish the season with games against the Celtics, Cavaliers, Raptors (twice), and Wizards (twice). It’s going to be tough for the Heat to make it to the playoffs considering the brutal final push. However, they can’t be counted out. Either way, it’s been an impressive feat that they’re still in the conversation this late.

 

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Expect An Exciting End to the NBA Trade Deadline

With the recent blockbuster trade that sent Demarcus Cousins to the Pelicans, the Trade Deadline has started to heat up in the NBA. What deals can still happen in the next few days?

There has been some speculation that the Cousins deal actually depreciated the market. Teams may be less inclined to give up a bundle of assets since the Pelicans gave so little for a superstar. The current state of the NBA lends well for some trades to still happen however. There are a few names in particular that seem to be hitting the market.

NBA Trade Deadline

Brook Lopez (Photo courtesy: twitter.com)

The Nets seem to be the biggest seller at this point. Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic have both been floating around trade talks for a good while now. Finding an appropriate destination for them is a different story.

Lopez was often linked to the Pelicans who have obviously satiated their need for a big man with Cousins. The Pelicans’ deal seriously hampers the chances of a Lopez deal happening. Although he was linked in trade talks with the Pacers, it seems unlikely that the Pacers’ first round pick will be enticing enough to get Lopez.

Bogdanovic is another story. He would be a perfect fit in Oklahoma City as they need a wing threat. He also could fit in Washington as a bench scorer, which is something the Wizards desperately need. It’s yet to be seen whether either of those deals could materialize, but Bogdanovic is much more likely to move at the deadline.

The most recent development of the day is the linking of Blake Griffin to the Boston Celtics. The Celtics are one of the few teams that have the assets to grab a superstar (assuming Vlade Divac is done giving them away), and if anyone was going to make a huge splash it would be Boston. With Kevin Love injured, the Cavaliers may try and leverage their assets for a chance at a title push this year.

The bottom line is that even though the Cousins trade undoubtedly will make General Managers more wary about being on the wrong side of a deal, the atmosphere for big trades may have been increased. The parity in the league right now is as high as it has been in a long time, and teams may try to take advantage of a perceived window of opportunity.

The four best teams in the East (The Cavs, Celtics, Wizards and Raptors) all have a shot at winning the East after the Kevin Love injury. Although the Cavaliers remain the favorites, an upset is more likely than it has been since Lebron Left Cleveland in the first place. In the West, the Pelicans trade allows for significantly more parity, and the chances of a playoff upset increase astronomically.

The next few days could reflect those sentiments. Look out for at least a few deals to be made, and maybe even a blockbuster.

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The NBA Five Years From Now

The NBA is a constantly changing league. Besides the San Antonio Spurs, the NBA hierarchy has been nothing if not fluid.

Just four years ago, the Heat and Pacers dominated the Eastern Conference. Four years before that, the Cavaliers, Magic, Pistons and Celtics were the class of the conference. The Western conference has been similarly volatile despite the Spurs’ constant success. The Lakers dominated the West during Kobe’s prime before the Warriors took over as the most dominate force on the Pacific Coast.

It’s likely that we will see a similar shift in power over the next few years. Five years from now, the league will likely have changed considerably.

Eastern Conference

In five years, Lebron James will be 37 years old. There’s no ruling out that he’ll still be dominating the league into his late thirties. Most likely, however, his days as a world-beater will be done. The power vacuum in the East could be filled by a number of teams, but these teams have the best chance at rising to the top.

Cleveland Cavaliers: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Grantland)

The Cavaliers have set themselves up well for the next few years. LeBron won’t stay at this level forever, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love can keep them a contender into the future. Kyrie will be in his prime in five years and will most likely still be one of the best point guards in the game. He can be the best guy on a championship team.

Lebron’s game will most likely adapt well as he loses athleticism. His vision and playmaking will withstand father time and compliment Kyrie perfectly. The powers of David Griffin will most likely keep the team contending well into the future.

Best Case: Kyrie turns into a superstar and Kevin Love turns into the Kevin Love of old. LeBron turns into a distributor and the Cavs continue to dominate the East year after year until his retirement.

Worst Case: Kyrie stays at the level he’s at now. Kevin Love regresses and loses some of his rebounding prowess. LeBron loses his midrange touch and struggles with injuries. The Cavs are a fringe playoff team.

Boston Celtics: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Boston Herald)

The Celtics are already a top three team in the East. Besides that, GM Danny Ainge has set them up for future success as well.

Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Al Horford will be 31,32 and 35 respectively. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown will each entering their primes rounding out a solid five man rotation.

The picks they have stashed from Brooklyn will help round out their lineup as well. They look to have a couple of lottery picks over the next two years that should work as assets or turn into solid young talent.

Best Case: If they can land a superstar in the draft they could become a powerhouse and the top seed in the East. Similarly, If they trade some picks to land another superstar, they could elevate themselves into the top spot. Only time will tell, but they look to be a lock as a contender for the next couple of years.

Worst Case: They strike out on their lottery picks over the next two years. Their aging talent becomes injury prone and fails to produce at the same level. They stay a playoff threat, but drop to a five or six seed in the East.

Milwaukee Bucks:

Future of NBA

(courtesy of USA Today)

 To be a top team in the NBA, you need a superstar. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Bucks have that role filled. Giannis Antetokounmpo has emerged as one of the brightest stars in the NBA and looks ready to lead this team for the next decade.

The Bucks have a depth of other young stars as well. Jabari Parker and Malcolm Brogdon look like great pieces and Khris Middleton is set to return next year. The Bucks could be set to dominate the league for the next few years.

Best Case: The Greek Freak becomes the best player in the league. He, Parker and Middleton become a Big Three and they become a perennial championship team in the East.

Worst Case: The Greek Freak continues on his trajectory, but the pieces around him don’t develop. He becomes a good player on a bad team and they are exit the playoffs early.

Philadelphia 76ers: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Getty images)

The Sixers could be the biggest unknown in the NBA. They have made huge strides with Joel Embiid this year, but the team’s future is still up in the air.

Like the Bucks, the Sixers have the most important piece of the puzzle. If Joel Embiid can stay healthy he is going to be a star. The question is whether the Sixers can surround him with talent.

Hopefully, Ben Simmons can be another star for the team. And with two potential top ten picks this year, they could add more star power to their lineup. The Sixers have the potential to be a super-team, but also stay at the bottom of the East.

Best Case: They get two more stars in the draft this year. Ben Simmons turns out to be another star, and Joel Embiid turns into the best center in the league. The Sixers contend for the championship every year and dominate a strong Eastern conference.

Teams that will drop:

Toronto Raptors

Atlanta Hawks

Chicago Bulls

Verdict: The Bucks are the most likely team to rule the East in five years. With a few future superstars and proven role players, they are set up best for the future. The Sixers have the second best chance. With their injury risks domination is anything but definite, but they have too much talent to rule out. The Cavaliers and Celtics are dark horse candidates to remain on top of the conference as well.

Western Conference

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Bleacher Report)

Golden State Warriors: 

The rich get richer. The Warriors will most likely take a similar path to the Heat after they signed Lebron James. Although they lacked cap space in the first year, they added depth in James’ second year with the team. Although they lack depth this year, the Golden State Warriors will most likely continue to get better as their four stars hit their prime. They will most likely continue to be the class of the West.

Best Case: The Warriors gain depth to surround their stars. They remain the one seed for the next five years and win championships along the way.

Worst Case: The Warriors can’t retain their superstars. They’re stuck with a middling team that sits in the middle of the conference every year.

San Antonio Spurs: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Bleacher Report)

The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard, Lamarcus Aldridge and a knack for never missing on a free agent signing or draft pick. They will continue to build around Kawhi and remain at the top. As long as they have a star player and the best coach in the league they will continue to contend.

Best Case: They make a splash in free agency. With two superstars and a great supporting cast, Popovich continues to keep this team at the top of the West.

Worst Case: The team struggles to contend, and Kawhi is the only star on the team.

Los Angeles Lakers: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of USA Today)

The Lakers have a depth of budding superstars, led by Deangelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. The team is set for the future and have a great young coach in Luke Walton. Whether or not they can contend depends on the progression of Brandon Ingram, but if their stars pan out they could easily turn into one of the best teams in the West.

Best Case: Deangelo Russell and Brandon Ingram turn into superstars and lead the Lakers to championships over the next few years. Luke Walton becomes one of the best coaches in the league and they become the powerhouse of the West.

Worst Case: Brandon Ingram can’t put on weight. Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle don’t live up to their potential. The Lakers can’t execute their turnaround and remain a borderline playoff team.

Minnesota Timberwolves: 

Future of NBA

(courtesy of Sporting News)

The Timberwolves have a coach, two stars and a depth of pieces that can contribute or be traded. They will also most likely have a top pick in this year’s draft. Although their timetable has already been pushed back, it is matter of when not if they will be the class of the west.

Best Case: Towns and Wiggins become superstars at the level of Durant and Westbrook, but the team succeeds and wins championships. They become a perennial one seed.

Worst Case: The Wolves fall into a trap of becoming a great team, but never an elite team. They never develop the pieces around Towns and Wiggins, and stagnate around the 2 or 3 seed.

Teams that will drop: 

Houston Rockets

Los Angeles Clippers

Memphis Grizzlies

Verdict: The Timberwolves are the most likely team to dominate the West in five years. They have two future superstars in Wiggins and Towns, and they have the young pieces around them to build a great team. The Warriors are the second most likely, as they already have the proven stars, but their stars will be aging in five years. The Lakers and Spurs will be dark horse contenders because of their star power and their respective coaching prowess.

The Philadelphia 76ers Only Have Two Stars, But Maybe That’s OK

As the season progresses, it’s becoming more evident that the Philadelphia 76ers simply don’t have enough of a core to build around. With the trade deadline less than two months away, it’s time for the team to start focusing on tooling for the future.

The Sixers have spent the past five years stockpiling assets at the top of the draft lottery. The result has been a logjam in the front court, and one that needs a solution before the trade deadline.

Monday night’s game against the Sacramento Kings serves as a decent benchmark for where this team is headed for the future. Former #3 draft pick Joel Embiid scored 25 points and grabbed eight rebounds with a plus/minus of +3. Meanwhile, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor (fellow highly drafted big men) were rendered ineffective and the team was outscored when they were on the floor.

Throughout the game, Embiid flashed the talent that has made him one of the best young big men in the league. Defensively he guarded the paint and the perimeter, recording two steals and two blocks. In the post, he showed finesse and bullied Demarcus Cousins in the paint throughout the game. Outside the paint, he flashed his three point prowess and showed some breakaway speed on fast breaks. Better yet? He’s been doing it all season.

 

Joel Embiid Highlights from Dec. 26th 

 

Noel only played 3 minutes during the game, a testament to the pileup of big men in the roster. When Noel has seen the floor, he has struggled to score and rebound. He is a prominent defender who just can’t seem to put it together on this team.

Similarly, Okafor has also struggled throughout the season despite his promising rookie campaign last year. His post game remains impressive, but his inability to rebound and defend against many of the first units in the league would make it difficult to build a team around him.

Interestingly, his game compares well to a fellow third overall pick, Enes Kanter. Both big men are able to score well off the bench despite their inefficiency on the other end of the floor.

Many teams around the league could use a scoring presence like Okafor. Talent dry teams like the Brooklyn Nets could use his presence to help inject talented youth into their lineup. Teams like Portland and Boston could use him to build depth off of the bench.

The problem, however, is that Philadelphia has lost their leverage over the past few years. Nerlens Noel becomes a restricted free agent after this year and Okafor has only one more year left on his deal. The addition of Dario Saric and the impending return of Ben Simmons has created a need to clear space in the Philly frontcourt.

Realistically, Simmons and Embiid are the only future starters on this team and Simmons hasn’t even seen a minute in the NBA yet. Regardless, it’s hardly time to panic about the team’s future.

Saric, along with Robert Covington and Sergio Rodriguez, look like they could be a nice presence of the bench in the future. Hopefully, the team can capitalize off of Okafor and Noel before the deadline this year. Most importantly, the 2017 NBA draft approaches quickly.

This looks like yet another lost season for the Sixers in the “Trust the Process” era. Hope, however, lies in the draft.

This looks to be one of the most promising draft classes in years with a plethora of potential stars in the NCAA right now. Additionally, many of the highly ranked players are guards and wings which are holes the Sixers desperately need to fill. They will likely end up with two top ten picks this year and will no doubt be able to find playmaking and scoring at the top of the draft.

Another struggling season seems to be yet another embodiment of “The Process” for the woeful 76ers, but the future appears to be much brighter. A new year could bring a healthy Ben Simmons and a limitless Joel Embiid. February could open up the roster for more young stars. The Process just may be coming along.

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Kevin Durant Doesn’t Like Competition

Courtesy of Sporting News.com

Courtesy of Sporting News.com

July 4th is known worldwide as America’s Independence Day. But, now there is another reason to remember July 4th. It is now the day rivalries and competitiveness left the NBA.

First off, I understand, from a pure on the court basketball reason, why Durant would want to go to Golden State. It’s the easy way out and they are the closest team to another NBA Championship. He wants to win a championship and he didn’t think he could win in Oklahoma City. But at what cost? This is the same Durant that basically called out LeBron James for leaving the Cavs eight days after The Decision. And some people will try and draw comparison to Durant’s decision to go to Golden State and LeBron going to the Heat, but it is not the same thing.

In the Summer of 2010, LeBron James was the free agent of the summer. James chose to go to the Miami Heat, a team he had no rivalry with and had never played in the postseason as a Cavalier.

When LeBron went to Miami, there were only two players still on the Miami roster from their previous championship in 2005, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. Pat Riley was not head coach anymore. The head coach was Erik Spoelstra, an assistant coach on the 2005 Miami Heat. And coming into the 2010 season, on paper, the Miami Heat were the favorites to win the championship. Going into that season there were only three players players on the Miami Heat roster that had NBA Finals experience, Wade, Haslem and James. And we all know what happened in the 2011 NBA Finals. LeBron James had a poor NBA Finals and the Heat lost the championship. Now let’s try and compare Durant’s decision to LeBron’s decision.

In the Summer of 2016, Kevin Durant was the free agent of the summer. As of July 4th, he chose to go to the Golden State. A team he just lost to in the Western Conference Finals in a Game 7 when he and the Oklahoma City Thunder gave up a 3-1 lead. His team also has a well-documented rivalry with the Golden State Warriors, but it looks like he is going to be a Warrior next year. On the roster, as of July 4th, the Warriors have 13 players on the roster with NBA Finals experience.

Let’s not forget that the in four seasons (2005-2010) between NBA Finals appearance for the Miami Heat they could not get out of the first round. And in the 2007, the Heat were not even in the playoffs, so they were declining team in the East. While these Warriors, without Durant, are one of the best teams in the NBA. Durant also walks into a team with a coach that is the reigning Coach of the Year, Steve Kerr, who also has a NBA Championship ring as a head coach.

There is no comparison in their moves. LeBron went to the Heat with many unknowns, while Durant is going to a team that just won 73 wins, second to none in the regular season. Now if LeBron had gone to the Pistons, Spurs, or Celtics in the Summer of 2010, I could see the comparison but he didn’t. Just think about LeBron in one of those three jerseys. Many people would call that act very cowardly. Many people called his move to Miami cowardly, which is wrong.

Let’s go back in history and try to imagine Michael Jordan in a Detroit Pistons jersey, you can’t. LeBron went to Miami to win a championship and beat the Boston Celtics because they were in his way. He saw Boston’s Big Three (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce) and he wanted to match that. And when Durant goes to the Warriors, he will at least have one NBA Finals win. LeBron didn’t even have that when he went to Miami. This move reminds me more of Shaq and Penny Hardaway in the 90s. Durant playing Shaq’s role and Russell Westbrook playing the role of Penny Hardaway.

Courtesy of @KDTrey5

Courtesy of @KDTrey5

And on July 4th, 2016, Kevin Durant broke up one of the only real basketball rivalries in the NBA today. Now everybody wanna play of the Warriors? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!

One word to describe KD’s decision: Weak.

Death of Competition in the NBA

 Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

I have been a fan of the NBA for all my life. There is a trend that has been happening over the last five to seven years that is starting to make me sick. That trend is the death of true competition.

Bill Russell versus Wilt Chamberlain. Celtics versus Lakers. Magic versus Bird. Bulls versus Pistons. Jordan versus the Bad Boys.

The NBA was built on great competition and rivalries. The game we now know and love grew from feuds and exciting rivalries between both players and teams. Fans became enamored by these clashes of legendary players and great teams. Rivalries are slowly dying in today’s NBA and I think there is a reason for it.

When one of the most popular players in NBA history decides to join his friends rather than beat them, he sets an example for the kids who grow up wanting to be like him. LeBron James and his friends are destroying the idea of rivalries and true competition with the way he first joined the Heat and is talking about it again with Chris Paul, Dwayne Wade and Carmelo Anthony.

I know what he wants. He wants to win. We all want to win. There is a fire that burns in us that causes us to hate losing.

I once heard a quote that said, “You have to hate losing, more than you love to win.”

I do hate losing. I hate not being better than someone at something. I know LeBron hates losing as well. He has to.

I grew up playing sports anytime I could. Football, baseball or basketball, you name it and I was outside in the neighborhood playing these sports. I loved playing with my friends. There was something even better than playing with my friends. Beating my friends was more satisfying. I felt like the games were more fun and more competitive. There was more at stake in my mind and heart: If I win I have the right to say I was better. I have the right to brag until the next time we played. If I lost I had to hear that I wasn’t better and my friend had the bragging rights. It makes you work harder because you don’t want to hear the smack talk. Nobody likes feeling like a loser.

Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were great friends and even better rivals. They loved competing against one another and never tried to play together in the NBA. They knew they could play together in the Olympics or in the offseason, but during the NBA season they went at each other with a hatred. It wasn’t hatred for each other, it was hatred for losing to your friend. Magic has been on the record saying that the competition with Larry Bird made him better and made him work harder. They each won some and lost some but had tremendous respect for one another and the fans were blessed with a great rivalry up until they retired.

Another example is Jordan trying to get past the Bad Boy Pistons.

He didn’t call up Magic or Bird and say, “Hey, we all keep losing to them let’s get together and beat them.”

No Michael Jordan decided to hit the gym and work extra hard because he was sick and tired of losing to the same team every year in the playoffs. He worked hard and finally was able to get over that hump and it led to six NBA championships and a legendary career.

Let’s fast forward to the past 10 years of the NBA where Kobe has begun to age and LeBron has become the face and draw of the NBA. The Celtics had Paul Pierce and signed Ray Allen. Along with those two stars they made a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire Kevin Garnett and form a championship caliber team. There are a lot of people who blame these three players for starting the “super team” trend, but it would have never happened without the trade that required the management to pull it off.

LeBron was then in the same situation as Jordan essentially. He spent years trying to get past the Celtics but couldn’t. Instead of doing what most competitors did he decided to quit on the Cavaliers and join a couple of his friends in Miami. Three free agents purposely decided that in order to win they had to all come together. Dwayne Wade was an All-Star and NBA champion, Chris Bosh was an All-Star and the franchise star of the Toronto Raptors, and we all know LeBron was an All-Star and the superstar of Cleveland and the NBA. You had three really good teams in the East who all battled together along with the Celtics. In just one offseason two of those teams became obsolete because of these friends deciding to play together rather than compete against each other.

Based on championships the move was successful for the stars. They went to four straight Finals and won two of them. The Eastern Conference has been a cake walk for them because they all teamed up. They couldn’t man up and beat one another like the stars of the past. There are no true rivalries in the Eastern Conference. LeBron has no rivals because he joined them.

Fast forward to this year. The Warriors and Spurs are becoming true rivals because their cores are the same and have been built for a few years, with the Spurs core being around much longer. We then get a comment from LeBron in which he says he would love to play with his former teammate and friend Dwayne Wade, and long time friends Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. Chris Paul has been unsuccessful in ever reaching a Conference Finals. Carmelo Anthony has never been to a Finals and finds himself at a crossroads in his career. He is showing signs of concern in becoming one of the best players ever to never win a ring.

Now we have to hear talks of all four of them joining up to play together. Why is that? Is it because LeBron is 2-4 in the Finals? Because Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony have never been to a Finals? All together they may get to a Finals or win one because that amount of talent on the floor on one team has only been seen on an Olympic team.

There is a reason professional leagues implemented free agency. It was for a level playing field. It was for the teams who were bad every year to have a chance at competing the next year. Previous generations weren’t afraid to fail to get better. They didn’t join forces just to make success easier. I want the best players in the league fighting for championships not finding the easiest route to one. Hopefully a player comes into the NBA or is currently in the NBA to change the culture back to fighting and growing through failure rather than just quitting and finding some friends to play with.

If players continue to team up and try to form super teams that look like an Olympic roster, it will be the death of competition.

Top 5 NBA Games to Watch (Week of 2/1 – 2/7)

#5- Detroit Pistons @ Boston Celtics (Wed. 2/3): Detroit is currently the 8th seed and Boston is the 5th seed, as these two young teams who are trying to emerge as contenders in the East get ready to clash. Reggie Jackson versus Isaiah Thomas should be a great matchup to watch. Andre Drummond is a stud and is turning into a star. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out and this could eventually be a preview of a potential playoff series.

My prediction: Detroit 92 @ Boston 98

#4- Miami Heat @ Dallas Mavericks (Wed. 2/3): This should be a great out of conference game. Miami and Dallas are both currently the 6th seed in their respective conferences. Both teams aren’t considered title threats but any team who makes the playoffs is dangerous. These teams have lots of Finals history against each other in the last 10 years so this could cause fireworks.

My prediction: Miami 101 @ Dallas 94

#3- Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Fri. 2/5): These teams met in the playoffs last year and there is bad blood. Cleveland swept Boston but Kelly Olynyk injured Kevin Love for the rest of the playoffs and J.R. Smith punched Jae Crowder. This may be an old fashioned eastern conference match up that could get physical. Entertaining and exciting may not even begin to describe this game. Tune in basketball fans; this will be a good one.

My prediction: Boston 99 @ Cleveland 104

#2- San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (Fri. 2/5): Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki. Another matchup between division rivals and future hall of famers. These teams have had great battles over the years and the games are always exciting. I see no reason this one should be any different. There isn’t much to say except get the popcorn then kick back and relax and enjoy the show.

My prediction: San Antonio 91 @ Dallas 83

#1- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Golden State Warriors (Sat. 2/6): The star power in this one might take us to space: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. This is the marquee game to watch this week and this will be the first time these two teams play this season. This is one of those games that when you look back, it could go down as game of the year. I know NBA fans are licking their chops to catch this one. The NBA is smart to showcase this game Saturday night because games don’t get better than this. I would say get that couch comfy, but this game is going to be so electric you might not even sit down. I hope you can feel my excitement for this game because come this Saturday NBA fans are in for a real treat!

My prediction: Oklahoma City 104 @ Golden State 105