Top 5 NBA Coaches

Top Five NBA Coaches

The NBA Finals are in full force. Golden State seems to have fielded the best NBA team of all time. During their current 14-0 playoff run Steve Kerr has missed some time. Mike Brown has filled in during his absence more than adequately. Due to the Warriors success without Kerr, some have stated that he is not a top coach in the NBA. If Steve Kerr isn’t a top coach in the NBA then who is? Look no further, Hagan’s Haus brings you the top five NBA coaches in the NBA today.

5: Brad Stevens: Boston Celtics

Brad Stevens has done a phenomenal job with the Celtics. Since entering the NBA from Butler, Stevens has improved his win total every season. In his first year, he won just 25 games. He followed that up with 40 wins, 48 wins and most recently, 53 wins.

Boston is in prime position to contend for an NBA title for the next five to 10 years. Their roster has been loaded with talent and will continue to add more talent. Stevens has a lot to work with but his constant improvement proves that he is one of the top five coaches in the NBA.

4: Scott Brooks: Washington Wizards

Top 5 NBA Coaches

(Photo Credit: Sue Ogrocki/AP)

Scott Brooks is vastly underrated but is a top five coach in the NBA. Brooks got his first head coaching job in the NBA in 2008 with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In that first season, the Thunder only had 22 wins. Since that 22 win season in his first season as a head coach, his teams have never won less than 45 games.

Brooks ranks eighth all-time in win percentage of coaches who have coached over 500 games. He has gone 387-240 (61.7 percent)  in eight seasons.

Scott Brooks biggest accomplishment thus far was when he led the Thunder to the NBA Finals in the 2011-2012 season.

Brooks was hired by the Wizards on April 26, 2016. In his first season with Washington, he improved the Wizards win total from 41 wins to 49 wins. Washington went from 10th in the East to fourth in the East and reached the conference semi-finals.

Brooks is one of the best coaches and has proven so by leading more than one team to the playoffs.

3: Erik Spoelstra: Miami Heat

46 coaches have coached over 700 games in the NBA. Only five of those coaches have a better winning percentage than Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra has gone 440-282 in his career as a head coach.

He coached the Heat to four straight NBA Finals and won two of them. There is a large group of people who believe that Erik Spoelstra was only successful because of LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. That notion was put to rest this season.

Nobody would consider the Heat’s roster as a very talented one, especially as the Heat started the season off 10-31. Spoelstra then led the Heat to a 31-10 finish this season, missing the playoffs only due to tie-breaker. The finish to the season opened many eyes around the league to how good of a coach Erik Spoelstra is.

With four Finals appearances in nine seasons and a career win percentage of 60.9 percent it is clear that Erik Spoelstra is one of the top coaches in the NBA today.

2: Steve Kerr: Golden State Warriors

Top 5 NBA Coaches

(Photo Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images Sport)

Anyone saying that Steve Kerr is not one of the top five coaches in the NBA needs their basketball card revoked immediately. Yes, he has had a loaded roster since he arrived but Phil Jackson coached M.J., Kobe and Shaq but we don’t hold it against the Zen Master.

Kerr still must make the team one cohesive unit. Managing players egos and personalities is just as hard sometimes as coaching x’s and o’s.

Regardless of the talent Kerr has had to work with it; he still had to get the job done. Steve Kerr is the winningest coach in NBA history. He is 207-39 which is an 84.1 percent win percentage.

Kerr has also gone 45-14 in the playoffs and currently has the Warriors on a 14-0 postseason run, best in NBA history. He has led the Warriors to three straight Finals appearances and is on the brink of winning his second title in three years.

If Steve Kerr continues on this pace he will not only be one of the best current head coaches but will become one of the best all-time.

1: Gregg Popovich: San Antonio Spurs

Nothing in this world beats consistency and Gregg Popovich is one of the most consistent coaches in all of sports history. Pop has been the coach for San Antonio for 21 seasons and the only time he missed the playoffs was in his first season.

Popovich has amassed 1150 wins, ranking seventh most all-time. With another 50 win season, he will move to fifth all-time.

It is okay to assume he does that next season because in his 21 seasons he has had 50 or more wins 19 times. One of those seasons was his first year and the other was during a lockout year in which he still finished 37-13.

Pop also ranks third all-time in postseason wins with 166 and only trails the legendary Pat Riley and the Zen Master, Phil Jackson.

Gregg Popovich has also made it to the NBA Finals six times, winning five of them. Pop is one of the best coaches of all-time, clearly making him the the best coach in the NBA today.

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The Top 10 NBA Finals

The basketball world has been sitting around dying for the NBA Finals to start. We are only one day away from one of the most anticipated Finals in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are set to go head-to-head for the third year in a row. Many believe this is going to finish as one of the best NBA Finals of all time. With just one day remaining before the start of this year’s NBA Finals now is the perfect time to countdown the 10 best NBA Finals.

10: 1978 FINALS: WASHINGTON BULLETS VS. SEATTLE SUPERSONICS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo by NBA Photo Library/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 1978 NBA Finals displayed a great matchup of teams not expected to make it to the Finals. Seattle was the four seed from the Western Conference that went 47-35 while Washington was a three seed that went just 44-38.

It was a back-and-forth series as each team traded wins every game until Game 7. Game 7 took place in Seattle and when Washington won the game it marked the first time in the series that either team won back-to-back games. Wes Unseld scored 15 points and also added six assists and nine rebounds and was later named Finals MVP.

The 1978 NBA Finals are the only Finals in NBA history in which both teams had under 50 wins in an 82-game season. It was also the first and only championship for the Washington franchise that is now named the Wizards.

9: 2005 FINALS: SAN ANTONIO SPURS VS. DETROIT PISTONS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.nba.com/finals2005/video.html0

In 2005, the Pistons were trying to do what the Lakers accomplished in 1988 and that was to win back-to-back titles. The Spurs were going for their second title in three years. It was a battle of the previous two champions. The Spurs went up 2-0 behind two big scoring games from Manu Ginobili. The next two games were won by the Pistons to tie the series up at 2-2.

Once the series was tied up, the Spurs and Pistons traded wins to force a Game 7 in San Antonio. The Spurs held Detroit to just 41 percent from the field and 14 percent from behind the arc. San Antonio won the battle of champions in Game 7, 81-74. Tim Duncan won Finals MVP averaging 20.6 points, 14.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.

8: 1970 FINALS: NEW YORK KNICKS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit:http://outsidethehype.com/)

In 1970, the Knicks were very different from today’s Knicks team, as they were actually good enough to make it to the Finals. Not only did they make it to the Finals, but they beat the Los Angeles Lakers in a tough seven-game series. This series was as back-and-forth of a Finals as possible as neither team strung together two wins in a row and Games 3 and 4 both went into overtime.

This series is widely remembered for the return of an injured Willis Reed. Reed reportedly tore a thigh muscle in Game 5 and did not play in Game 6. Reed did not have a major impact in the game but his teammate, Walt Frazier, had one of the greatest games in NBA Finals history.

The Lakers lost the series despite Jerry West averaging 31.3 points and 7.7 assists per game. West’s numbers were impressive but what Wilt Chamberlain did was even more impressive. Wilt averaged 23.3 points per game and an astonishing 24.1 rebounds per game. Neither performances were enough to win though.

Frazier shot 12-17, (70.6 pecent) scoring 36 points and he also added 19 assists to go along with seven rebounds. He put the Knicks on his back to win Game 7, and the series.

Even with Frazier’s epic performance in Game 7, Willis Reed was actually named the Finals MVP. Reed averaged 23 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and had 37 points in Game 1 and 38 points in Game 3. It was the first of two championships for the New York Knicks franchise.

7: 1988 FINALS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. DETROIT PISTONS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://outsidethehype.com)

The Lakers won the 1987 NBA Finals and at the victory parade head coach, Pat Riley promised a repeat. Los Angeles won 62 games and got back to the Finals to meet the Bad Boy Pistons.

Heading into Game 6 in Los Angeles, the Pistons had a 3-2 series lead. Pistons star point guard, Isiah Thomas, twisted his ankle in the third quarter but that didn’t stop him from dropping 43 points in the game. The Lakers held on to a 103-102 victory behind 28 points from James Worthy. Magic Johnson also had a double-double with 22 points and 19 assists.

Game 7 was in the famous Laker Forum. Entering the fourth quarter, the Lakers led 83-73. Detroit pushed hard in the fourth quarter outscoring the Lakers 32-25 but it wasn’t enough as the Lakers won 108-105. After a big Game 6, Thomas had just 10 points. James Worthy had a triple-double putting up 36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists and was named the Finals MVP. It was the Lakers fifth title in nine years and last of the Magic and Showtime era.

6: 1962 FINALS: BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.totalprosports.com/2013/06/03/the-13-greatest-game-7s-in-the-history-of-the-nba-playoffs/)

Hop into your time machine for this one. The 1962 NBA Finals was one of the best in NBA history. Boston was going for its fourth championship in a row. Los Angeles had dreams of ruining the Boston dynasty that was forming. Fast forward to Game 7, one of the best games that most NBA fans have never seen.

The game went into overtime tied at 100. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West and Bill Russell each played more than 50 minutes. The only reason the game went into overtime was because Lakers guard Frank Selvy missed a baseline jumper as time expired.

The Celtics were able to outscore the Lakers 10-7 in overtime to win their fourth NBA title in a row. They would continue to win the next four as well finishing with eight NBA championships in a row.

In the 1962 Finals, many records were set. Elgin Baylor set and still holds, the record for most points in a Finals game with 61 in Game 5. Bill Russell had a record 40 rebounds in Game 7 and finished with an NBA-record 189 for the entire series. The 1962 NBA Finals will always be one of the best in the Lakers versus Celtics rivalry.

5: 2006 FINALS: MIAMI HEAT VS. DALLAS MAVERICKS

The 2006 Finals is the first one on the countdown that didn’t go seven games. This series has to be on the countdown because Dwayne Wade had arguably the greatest finals performance of all time. The Heat team was loaded with Hall of Fame talent around Dwayne Wade. Players such as Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Shaquille O’Neal and Hall of Fame head coach Pat Riley surrounded Wade. Despite all the talent around him it was Dwayne Wade who stole the spotlight.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.definearevolution.com)

Dallas went up 2-0 in the series and it looked like they were on their way to winning the championship. Dwayne Wade preceded to score 42 points, 36 points, 43 points and 36 points in games three through six. An average of 39.3 points per game in those four games. He finished the series as the Finals MVP averaging 34.7 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.7 steals per game.

His domination is still remembered to this day as legendary and because of his performance, the 2006 Finals was one of the top five NBA Finals of all time.

4: 2010 FINALS: LOS ANGELES LAKERS VS. BOSTON CELTICS

It was a rivalry renewed. In 2008 these two long-time rivals met and Boston came away victorious. The following year Los Angeles got redemption by beating the Magic. It was now time for a chance at revenge.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: http://www.definearevolution.com)

Kobe Bryant had a wonderful resume but to truly be a Laker legend you had to beat the Celtics in the Finals. He was on a mission to not lose to the Celtics for the second time.

Kobe was the leading scorer in all games except Game 2. Game 7 was a low-scoring nail-biter. Entering the fourth quarter the Celtics led by the low score of 57-53. Kobe and the Lakers were in danger of losing to the Celtics in the Finals for the second time.

The Lakers outscored to the Celtics 30-22 in the fourth quarter to win 83-79. Kobe finished with 23 points and 15 rebounds and was awarded his second consecutive Finals MVP.

The Lakers avenged a 2008 loss to the Celtics in a historic seven-game series. Kobe won his fifth and final ring to cement his legacy as a Laker legend and an overall all-time great.

3: 2016 FINALS: CLEVELAND CAVALIERS VS. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

The repeat to the 2015 NBA Finals was one of the most historic and entertaining the NBA had ever seen. The Warriors had defeated the Cavaliers 4-2 the previous season to capture their first title in 40 years. Cleveland was still looking for its first major championship for the city in 52 years.

The chances of ending that drought looked very grim. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead with the largest margin of victory ever through the first two games to Cleveland. After four games the Warriors had a 3-1 lead and no team had ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in Finals history.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: NBA.com)

LeBron James and Kyrie Irving went bonkers in Game 5 dropping 41 points each to force a Game 6. In Game 6, LeBron had another 41 points and 11 assists to force a decisive Game 7 at Golden State.

Game 7 was close from start to finish. LeBron had an epic block on Andre Iguodala and Kyrie Irving hit a three to seal the game and the city of Cleveland’s first championship in over 50 years. Cleveland will remember this one forever as LeBron brought the trophy home. He was named Finals MVP averaging 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds and 8.9 assists per game.

2: 1998 FINALS: CHICAGO BULLS VS. UTAH JAZZ

This series is only one of two that wasn’t a seven-game series. It was also a rematch of the previous year’s Finals in which the Bulls won 4-2. The Jazz were looking for their first-ever title and revenge on Michael Jordan and the rest of the Chicago Bulls.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Credit: http://www.complex.com/sports/2014/06/the-greatest-nba-finals-of-all-time/)

Jordan was going for a 6-0 record in the Finals and his second three-peat. M.J. came into Game 6 averaging 31.2 points per game and his team had a 3-2 series lead. Game 6 was in Utah, which is a tough place to play. He was going to need a legendary performance to close out the Jazz on their home court.

Jordan did not disappoint. He scored 45 of the team’s 87 points, which was 51 percent of the team’s scoring. The Bulls needed all 45 of those points too because, with just 27 seconds left in the game, the Jazz were up 86-85.

Michael Jordan stole the ball and dribbled down towards the basket. M.J. hit his famous mid-range jumper giving the Bulls the 87-86 lead. It was the game-winning shot for his sixth championship and cemented him as the greatest basketball player of all time.

 

1: 1984 FINALS: BOSTON CELTICS VS. LOS ANGELES LAKERS

The 1984 NBA Finals could be considered the Finals that saved basketball. Ratings had been dropping until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson took center stage. The rivalry that started to form was captivating the entire country.

Top 10 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: Youtube)

Bird vs. Magic was deeper than just a head-to-head matchup. It was white vs. black, east vs. west, and some say it was rich vs. poor, even though Bird wasn’t the richest kid growing up.

Magic had beaten Bird in the 1979 NCAA Championship game and Larry Bird could never shake that loss out of his head. He used it as motivation and it made him obsess about being better than Magic.

He got his chance to face Magic in the 1984 NBA Finals. The Lakers franchise was still struggling to beat the Celtics in the Finals and they would have to wait another year to accomplish that feat.

The 1984 Finals went seven games. In Game 7, Larry Bird had 20 points and 13 rebounds to lead to an 111-102 victory. Bird was named Finals MVP averaging 27 points and 14 rebounds in the series.

Because of the social impacts of the series and the falling ratings of the NBA, this ranks as the greatest Finals matchup in NBA history. It created a true rivalry between Bird and Magic that saved the game of basketball.

 

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NBA Playoff Races

NBA Playoff Races

There is only a month remaining in the NBA season, and the NBA playoff races are heating up. There are so many questions left to answer. Who will get the one seed in the West? Who will be the eighth seeds in both the East and West? There are so many seeds undecided and positioning is going to very important in who will make deep postseason runs. Here is what to watch for in the final four weeks of the season.

Western Conference: First Seed

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Noah Graham/NBAE/Getty Images)

There is still much to be decided in the West. The race for the first seed has really picked up since Kevin Durant got injured. The Warriors lead has vastly shrunk.

Their lead for the first seed is down to just a game and a half over the Spurs with 14 games remaining. This is an important race for the path to the conference finals and then having home-court in the conference finals.

Neither team has to worry about their first round matchup as both should win in short, easy series. The team who gets the second seed would likely see a tough series versus Houston in the second round. That is what both San Antonio and Golden State want to avoid. Both teams want to go into the conference finals as rested as possible.

Golden State and San Antonio will meet on March 29. It will be a huge game in deciding who wins the number one seed.

The Spurs and Warriors both have nine home games remaining. San Antonio has six away games while the Warriors have five. Both teams’ remaining opponents have a win percentage of 53 percent.

It will be a close finish and will come down to the final days of the season. Golden State will hold on to that number one seed as the season ends.

Western Conference Race for 8th

The Denver Nuggets currently hold the spot for the eighth seed in the West with a record of 33-35. Portland (30-37), Dallas (29-38) and Minnesota (28-39) all still have a shot to get the eighth seed.

This four team race is really close to becoming a two-team race between Denver and Portland. Denver has been playing much better lately and looks like a playoff team. They only have five home games remaining and that could be the factor that costs them that playoff spot.

Portland, on the other hand, has 10 games remaining at home and their remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of 49 percent. The Trailblazers will end up getting the eighth seed in the Western Conference with all those home games remaining against subpar teams.

The Rest of the West

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: http://deadspin.com)

Golden State and San Antonio are fighting for first and second. Denver or Portland will get the eighth seed. That leaves seeds three through seven.

The third seed is pretty much locked into Houston. Utah, Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City and Memphis mathematically can catch them, but it would take a total collapse by Houston to do so. Utah is the current four seed, but only four games separate Utah, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City and Memphis.

Russell Westbrook is close to breaking the single-season triple-double record and the Thunder are 29-6 when Westbrook gets a triple-double. Predicting he breaks the record means the Thunder will win at least eight more games. If that happens the Thunder will end up in the four or five spot.

Utah will get the spot the Thunder do not get, meaning they will also be the fourth or fifth seed. The Clippers will finish with the sixth seed and Memphis will remain as the seventh seed.

The East’s Top Half

The Eastern Conference is divided in half in terms of playoff seeding. Teams seeded one through four can end up in any one of those spots while teams five through eight will end up in the bottom half of the seeding.

The Cavaliers are in the top spot with a record of 45-22. The Celtics are two and a half back, the Wizards are three and a half back and Toronto is six and a half games back of the top spot. There should be a few changes in the top four seeds in the final weeks.

The Celtics remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 44 percent. They also have nine home games remaining while the Cavaliers have nine road games remaining. it is safe to predict the Celtics being only two and a half back will finish as the first seed and the Cavs will finish as the second seed.

The Wizards have 10 road games remaining and all that travel will catch up with them. The Raptors remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 47 percent. The top of the east will finish as follows: First Boston, second Cleveland, third Toronto, and fourth Washington.

The Rest of the East

NBA Playoff Races

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Teams seeded fifth through 10th are separated by just five games. There are four spots for six teams.

Currently, it stands as Atlanta as the fifth seed with a record of 37-31. They will make the playoffs without question.  The Pacers are 35-33 and being above a .500 win percentage will be enough to get in as well.

That leaves Milwaukee, Detroit, Miami and Chicago fighting for the seventh and eighth seeds. Chicago has lost Dwayne Wade for the remainder of the year with an elbow injury. They were struggling with Wade and won’t be able to win enough games without him in the final month to make the playoffs.

Milwaukee is an exciting team with a star in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who will lead them to a playoff appearance this season. Their remaining opponents have a win percentage of just 49 percent.

That leaves Miami who is 33-35 and Detroit who is 33-36. Both are fighting for the final remaining playoff spot. Miami started the season 10-31 and has since been on fire. No pun intended, but they have been heating up.

These teams have one more meeting against each other and that could be the deciding factor. The Pistons do have the easier remaining schedule of the two teams. This race is hard to predict, but in the second half of the season, the Heat have been the much better team.

The Heat will end up making the playoffs and Detroit will be the odd team out in the Eastern Conference Playoff race.

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Death of Competition Part II

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

(Photo: Robert Reiners, Stringer)

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.

Wait…Does this sound familar? It should, because that introduction is word for word how I opened up my first “Death of Competiton” article at the end of March. I was angered at the time because rumors were swirling around about the possibility of LeBron James teaming up with Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony. The thought of all these players teaming up was unfathomable to me. It was sickening. I knew that if they teamed up the NBA would be a cakewalk. At the time those were just rumors that had me boiling. Today the NBA changed and the result is competition left gasping for air.

Kevin Durant decided to take a knife and continue to stab the idea of competition- now leaving competition in the NBA in shambles. Kevin Durant decided to become the NBA’s biggest villain. Durant decided to join the Golden State Warriors. This is the most detrimental move a superstar has ever made to their reputation.

Naturally, people are going to try and compare Durant’s decision to LeBron’s decision in 2010 when he left the Cavaliers for the Heat. It is not the same. This is much worse. Although LeBron left his hometown team and by doing it on national television, he didn’t go to the Celtics. I only mention the Celtics because that was the team LeBron struggled to beat. It was the team that had eliminated him in the playoffs. LeBron received so much backlash because he left home when he had promised his city so much. He formed a super team in Miami that was deemed impossible to win against.

It was a move that many people believed was the easy way out. If you need proof about how easy it was here it is. He joined up to form a team that had three players taken in the top five of the 2003 draft. With LeBron, the starting five of the Miami Heat had three all-star players.

This was bad and destroyed LeBron in the eyes of NBA fans. Again, what Kevin Durant did is worse. Kevin Durant was 48 minutes away from reaching his second NBA finals, not once, not twice, but three times. He, along with the rest of the Thunder, blew a 3-1 lead against the Warriors. He had three games in a row to get the job done and failed. Failure is okay. Failure is necessary for growth. We all fail at some point at some capacity.

You don’t join a team who beat you when you were up 3-1 on them. You don’t join them when they went to back to back finals after they eliminated you. You don’t join the team who just won a record 73 games in one season. That is the definition of being weak. But if you can’t beat them you join them right? WRONG.

Michael Jordan struggled mightily against the Pistons over and over. He didn’t join them. He got in the gym and trained harder. He studied harder. He made it his mission to beat the team that kept giving him the pain of losing.

Reggie Miller is a legend who never won a ring. But we can respect him more for playing hard and fighting rather than running and joining the Bulls.

Carmelo gets heat for not having won a ring. The thing is, Carmelo can be respected because he doesn’t go running to loaded teams coming off of a finals loss.

It truly feels that Durant is trying to buy his way into the club. He is trying to buy a championship. He could have gone back to Oklahoma City and fought through the adversity. It is so much sweeter when you work for something rather than have it handed to you. If he wins a championship it will be tainted. Everybody will remember what he did to get it. Nobody will forget his fear of adversity, or competition. Now teams will have to assemble All-Star rosters to try and compete with the Warriors. There may be only two or three teams capable of winning a championship. The league created free agency to give more teams a chance at a championship. It was to create more parity throughout.

That is gone. Teams will play hard and try to compete but won’t have the talent to compete with the Warriors. Teams will beat them on nights they aren’t completely focused because nobody can go 82-0. Competition is dying. It pains me to know that the days of players like Magic, Bird, Jordan and Kobe are gone. Players would rather run and “buy” a championship in this day and age than work through the adversity.

Congratulations Kevin Durant, you made a business decision that will ruin your reputation. It will make fans all over the country curse your name. Never did I think someone could do something worse than LeBron did. Never did I think a player would become as big as a villain as LeBron was. I was wrong. You will become a bigger villain than LeBron. If you don’t win the championship NBA fans all over the world will celebrate like it’s their Independence Day.

Dwyane Wade Leaving the Heat?

Courtesy of CBS Sports.com

Courtesy of CBS Sports.com

Is it actually possible that Mr. Miami, Dwyane Wade, could leave the Miami Heat? Even after one of his best seasons in the last five years? Wade played 74 games, the most in five years, averaged 19 points, four assists, and four rebounds. But in NBA Free Agency anything can happen.

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that Wade and the Heat are not seeing eye-to-eye in negotiations on a new contract. I could see why Miami may want to part ways with Wade. Of course, Pat Riley has to try and get Kevin Durant. At this point in the NBA, Kevin Durant is a better option. The Heat have nine free agents this year, that includes Wade, Luol Deng, and Hasaan Whiteside, among others.

All three could possibly leave especially, Whiteside. The Lakers are courting Miami center Hasaan Whiteside. Whiteside may want to leave the Miami Heat for a team that will give him the max. This would allow him to be the foundation piece for a great organization like the Lakers. Other teams have been told that Wade is up to listen to offers from other teams. We don’t know exactly which teams are in consideration but I can think of a two teams.

One team of course is the Cleveland Cavaliers. After this postseason his good friend, LeBron James, won his third title, tying Wade. If Wade really wanted to team up with James, the time is now. The Cavs could trade some players to clear some more money for Wade and he could fit right into the shooting guard spot for the Cavs. Think about that potential lineup in Cleveland: Kyrie Irving at the 1, Wade at the 2, LeBron James at the 3, Kevin Love at the 4, and Tristan Thompson at the 5. They could still have J.R. Smith and Richard Jefferson coming off of the bench.

The Cavs would run through the East with even more ease than last year. But, this is all wishful thinking because I really don’t think the Cavs could ever get enough money. Trying to pay Irving, James, Love, Thompson, and Wade, unless Wade takes a significant pay cut would be hard. Wade will most likely not want to do that. But, if Dan Gilbert and the Cavs can clear that cap space, Wade will definitely be pursued.

Another team is the Chicago Bulls. It’s Wade’s hometown and he could give the Bulls something to cheer about after Derrick Rose was traded to the Big Apple to play for the Knicks. We all know how much NBA players love winning for their hometown. Even though the Bulls received a good starting point guard in Jose Calderon in the Rose trade, they need more offense. Wade could be there go to at the 2 and move Jimmie Butler to the 3. If they wanted to they could move Wade to the 1, move Calderon to the bench, and keep Butler at the 2.

More importantly, Wade could be the leader in Chicago after their heart and soul, Joakim Noah is ready to leave the Bulls organization. In Chicago, Wade could mentor Butler and incoming Michigan State guard/forward Denzel Valentine.  The Bulls are a work in progress in terms of competing for the NBA Championship, but with Wade they can speed up the process.

Second Round Predictions Part II

Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel

Joe Cavaretta / Sun Sentinel

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Atlanta Hawks- This is a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Championship in which Cleveland swept Atlanta. The Cavaliers have had tons of rest and are the better team. The loss of DeMarre Carroll does not make the Hawks better or give the Hawks a better chance than last year. Last year it was so much of a cake walk for the Cavs that I don’t think the Hawks have a real shot at winning unless the Cavs run into injuries. With that being said it would take four perfect games from Paul Millsap, Al Horford and Jeff Teague to win this series. The Cavaliers will win this series and the only question is in how many games.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavaliers in 5

Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat- Let me be the first to say it is fun to watch Dwayne Wade again. I see the old Wade, the Wade pre-LeBron. He is a much more exciting player without LeBron. He is the unquestioned leader for the Heat. He provides so much experience, heart and leadership for a team that is mostly young and talented. Luol Deng has lots of playoff experience as well that has been very beneficial to the Heat. It has given them a reliable all around player. Hassan Whiteside has been a beast defensively as well. The Heat look poised to win the series but the Raptors will not go down without a fight. It took them longer than expected to eliminate the Pacers but after a superstar performance from Demar DeRozan and a surprise performance from Norman Powell in game seven the Raptors advanced and will look to knock off the Heat. This could be a long series as well but an exciting and intriguing one. This series has a chance to be the best series of the second round. It is definitely a difficult series to pick. Sorry Toronto, I really want to see LeBron go to battle against Wade and the Heat.

Prediction: Miami Heat in 6

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 Upcoming NBA Games (Week of 3/21-3/27)

Photo: Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)

Photo: Mark D. Smith, USA TODAY Sports)

There are three and half weeks remaining in the NBA season and playoff races continue to heat up. Here are the top five games of the upcoming week involving teams in the playoff hunt.

#5- Miami Heat @ San Antonio Spurs (Wednesday, March 23):  The Heat have been quiet contenders all year and they sit as the fourth seed currently in the east. With just 13 games remaining it is unlikely they get anything higher than the three seed, which would be a great accomplishment. Dwayne Wade will have random nights where he displays his greatness, but due to injuries and aging he lacks doing it consistently. This team doesn’t do anything that stands out but they play as a team and its working for them.

We all know how good the Spurs are as they displayed it yet again Saturday night with the best defensive performance on the Warriors so far this season. This will be a fun out of conference match-up, but is really a measuring stick for the Heat. If they can win, which will be unlikely with the Spurs home win streak, it would give the Heat a lot of confidence in their ability to knock of the Cavaliers in the East. The Spurs are just too good and won’t fall to the Heat in this game.

Prediction: Spurs 102-94

#4- Houston Rockets @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Tuesday, March 22): The Rockets have to play well in the final stretch of the season or they may miss the playoffs. With only 12 games remaining they are sitting at .500 and tied for seventh in the west with the Mavericks. The Rockets versus Thunder games are always exciting because James Harden gets to play against his former team and close teammates. He loves to prove that they should have never traded them.

The Thunder are slowly becoming an after thought in the West because it’s a two horse race. No team in the West will beat the Spurs or Warriors to get to the Conference Finals. Many believed the Thunder could but they haven’t proven it so until the playoffs roll around they have to sit as the third best team in the West and hear about how its all Spurs and Warriors. With that said they are still a very good team and their struggles come in the fourth quarter. Because of those struggles I believe James Harden gets the best of his former team and wins a big game for the Rockets on the road.

Prediction: Rockets 109-107

#3- Toronto Raptors @ Boston Celtics (Wednesday, March 23):  The Raptors still at second in the East and look poised to hold down that spot. The Celtics have fallen a bit and are currently the fifth seed in the east but can still work their way up to the third seed. Boston is 0-3 against the Raptors this season and if they want to become a threat in the east they need to prove they can beat the top teams in the conference. This is their last chance at the Raptors in the regular season, and get to play at home as well. It is extremely hard to sweep a team unless the match-up is just that bad so I think the Celtics get a much needed win.

Prediction: Celtics 94-91

#2- San Antonio Spurs @ Oklahoma City Thunder (Saturday, March 26): This is the chance the Thunder are looking for to show they belong in the same class as the Spurs. They play them again in April but this is the last time they get the Spurs at home. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook need to dominate this game and win it to prove they belong in the discussion when it comes to teams coming out of the western conference.

The Spurs are more vulnerable on the road and it is hard to envision when Popavich might rest his starters but they can still get the first seed so there is a chance Popavich doesn’t. I think the Thunder are going to need this game more and because of that they will get a much needed upset win.

Prediction: Thunder 103-100

#1- Los Angeles Clippers @ Golden State Warriors ( Wednesday, March 23): These two teams hate each other. It may stem from jealousy on the part of the Clippers but these games tend to get much more physical than most. The Clippers have not beaten the Warriors this season. The Clippers are much like the Thunder, in the fact they are really good but when it comes to competing for a title they are an after thought, thanks to the Spurs and Warriors.

The Warriors are chasing history and the greatness of Curry can be forever cemented if they break the Bulls record for wins in a season. They won’t lose to the Clippers at home.

Prediction: Warriors 120-107