The Cleveland Cavaliers and J.R. Smith

The Golden State Warriors have left teams looking to chase them. The Cleveland Cavaliers seem to be one of the teams hot on their trail.

The Warriors look to beat teams with a deep rotation and many players who can play multiple positions. The Cavaliers have accomplished one of those things extremely well this offseason.

The Cavaliers depth is now at the same level of the Warriors, and there’s no denying that. Dwyane Wade joins a Cavaliers team as a steal. He adds depth at a shooting guard position and provides it at a low price (one year, $2.3 million).

The key loss this summer was Kyrie Irving and the key additions consist of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose and Wade.

Depth

Let’s start off with the surplus of depth the Cavaliers have added this offseason. The Cavaliers arguably won the Kyrie Irving trade due to the depth that they added.

They added an All-Star in Isaiah Thomas and also added Jae Crowder, who is an upgrade at backup small forward and can shoot the three. On a team centered around LeBron James, shooting the three is a vital part of the Cavaliers’ offense.

Their starters will most likely be Thomas, Wade, James, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson.

The second team features Derrick Rose, J.R. Smith, Kyle Korver, Crowder and Edy Tavares. Mix in Channing Frye and Jeff Green whenever the matchups seem favorable and this team is extremely deep.

The added depth helps with their matchup with the Warriors. Last season, including the postseason, the Cavaliers went 2-5 and allowed 120.3 points per game on average. In the five finals games, Kevin Durant averaged over 35 per game.

With Crowder on board, James gets relief on the defensive end from Kevin Durant and has a better chance of being rested in the fourth quarter to open up his offensive game.

Competing with the Warriors

Cleveland Cavaliers

New Cavalier Jae Crowder guards Lebron James. (Photo Courtesy of SI.com)

The Warriors have taken the new NBA and become unguardable. With the Warriors depth and their ability to add players who can be interchangable on both offense and defense, they are sometimes impossible to guard.

The Cavaliers have now covered the depth that they seemingly lacked in the 2017 NBA Finals.

The one problem that seems to be looming is what is going to happen at the point guard position. Thomas does add offensive firepower against the Warriors, but there’s a good chance that the Warriors will capitalize on his lack of height and have someone shoot right over him.

Rose could potentially see a rise in minutes come playoff time due to his size and not necessarily his scoring.

Bold Prediction

J.R. Smith Photo Courtesy of LarryBrown.com.

Listen, lots of sixth man award winners are pretty much primarily offensive weapons. J.R. Smith is on a very good team with the ability to come in and just flat out score. He won’t be as tired because he will be playing less and more efficient minutes.

I think J.R. finds a way to be in the top three voting for the sixth man of the year award. He might not be thrilled with losing his starting job to Wade, but I think he thrives in his new role off the bench. He is a former sixth man of the year winner in, so the statement isn’t too far fetched.

Smith averaged 8.6 points in 29 minutes per game last year, which was the second lowest total of his career. The Cavaliers are loaded, and with less pressure on him, output should improve.

Future Outlook

The Cavaliers still look like the top team in the East. They have gotten closer to Golden State and can officially hit them with two full lines of very good players.

The Cavaliers will have a new look to them this year and will have way more ammo to throw at the Warriors.

 

Featured Image Courtesy of SBnation.com.

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Dwyane Wade Cavaliers

Three reasons why the Cleveland Cavaliers need Dwyane Wade

On Sunday, the Chicago Bulls and three-time champion Dwyane Wade reached a buyout agreement.

The 35-year-old guard dreamed of playing for his hometown, but after one year in Chicago, the dream has come to an end. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat had interest in Wade. On Tuesday, “Woj” reported that Wade decided on the Cavs.

A lot of people wanted to see “No. 3” finish his career with the Miami Heat. However, the 2006 finals MVP, wants to win another ring before he retires. Wade played 60 games last season and averaged 18 points, 4.8 rebounds and five assists per game.

The Chicago native still has plenty of gas left and can play at a high level. The 12-time All-Star will have his minutes taken into consideration. Although the 6-foot-4 guard played 60 games last season, he fractured his elbow and almost missed the playoffs which brings future injury concerns.

One thing is for sure though: joining the Cavaliers provides Wade with the best chance of returning to the NBA Finals.

Flash From the Past

It’s no secret that LeBron James and Wade are best friends and have been in the trenches before. Both future Hall of Famers feed off of one another, and occasionally, D-Wade has to call out LBJ. Adding the three-time champion into the fold provides the Cavs with another closer.

King James can defer to newly acquired Isaiah Thomas, Kevin Love or Wade. Last season, James led the Cavaliers in points, assists, steals and blocks (Love led the team in rebounds, but I digress). Adding “The Flash” allows head coach Tyronn Lue to do the inevitable: put J.R. Smith back on the bench.

The Easy East

If the former Marquette star will have a direct path to the finals. LeBron has made it to the finals the last seven years. With the departure of Kyrie Irving, players will have different roles. Love will be the second option and Thomas will be the third.

More Bench Depth

Lue probably isn’t losing any sleep, but the addition of the former Bulls guard adds more ammunition to a solid roster. It’s safe to assume that Wade will start this season. Once Wade finalizes his deal with Cleveland, the projected starting lineup will be Thomas, Wade, James, Love, and Tristan Thompson.

Lue normally plays a 9-10 man rotation. The bench rotation will consist of Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder, and Richard Jefferson.

This has been a crazy offseason. Will the Cavs make it to their fourth straight NBA finals appearance?

According to Woj, the deal will be finalized by Wednesday!

 

Featured image taken by David Berkowitz

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The most disrespected NBA superstar: Michael Beasley

Michael Beasley was selected with the second pick in the 2008 NBA draft, yet he hasn’t averaged more than 20 minutes per game since he was with the Miami Heat during the 2014-15 season. Now a member of the New York Knicks, Beasley is poised to show the world what he is truly capable of doing.

According to Ian Begley of ESPN, Beasley was asked about how other players feel about him. He claimed “I’m your favorite player’s favorite player.”

Beasley also stated that he believes that the Knicks can finish fifth or sixth in the Eastern Conference this season. When asked about the roster, Beasley told reporters that not only himself, but Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all capable of putting up 25 points per game. Speaking of Melo, Beasley told reporters that “If you watch my game, really watch my game, my jab series, all that. I’m literally just Carmelo on the left side of the floor.”

During the summer, Beasley told the New York Post that he is tired of getting disrespected. He claimed “Not being disrespectful. But I want my respect. For the last nine years, I’ve been a walking bucket, man. Anytime you want a point, I’ll give you a point, no matter what circumstances, who the player is defending me.”

In Beasley’s 509 career NBA games, he averages 12.6 points and 4.7 rebounds. So is he crazy to believe he is a “walking bucket” and can average 25 a game? After looking at the numbers, absolutely not. In fact, Michael Beasley is the most disrespected NBA superstar.

College Days

In 2007, Michael Beasley attended Kansas State for only one year, yet it was one of the best seasons we have seen at the collegiate level. Beasley averaged 26.2 points per game and led the nation with 12.4 rebounds per game. He did all this while shooting an incredible 53.7 percent from the field. His ridiculous numbers earned him first team All-America honors from the Association Press, as well as Big 12 Player of the Year.

One of the best NCAAB players of this generation (NBA.com)

Some other notable college achievements include:

  • 866 total points ranks third among all freshmen in NCAA history
  • Led the nation in double-doubles with 28
  • Had 13 games in which he scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 10 rebounds. (Led the NCAA)
  • Currently holds 30 Kansas State career, single season and freshman records.
  • Holds 17 Big 12 single-game and single-season records
  • Nominated National Freshman of the Year and First team All-American by multiple sources.

 

 

 

 

 

NCAA PLAYERS WITH AT LEAST 25 PPG and 12 REBOUNDS WITH A 50 FG PERCENTAGE OR BETTER IN A SEASON (SINCE 1992)

NAMEYEARCOLLEGESTATS
MICHAEL BEASLEY2007-08KANSAS STATE26.2/12.4/.532
KURT THOMAS1994-95TCU28.9/14.6/.548
JERVAUGHN SCALES1993-94SOUTHERN27.1/14.2/.594

Since 1992, the only other freshmen to average at least 25 points and 10 boards was Kevin Durant in 2006-2007. This made declaring for the NBA an easy decision for Beasley.

NBA

After being selected second in the draft by the Miami Heat, Beasley was quick to find trouble. During that same summer, at the NBA’s Rookie Transition Program, Beasley, along with some other rookies, were involved in a situation in which their hotel room fire alarm went off and police responded. Apparently, the room smelled like marijuana, which is a bad look if you are a player trying to make it in the association. Beasley was later fined by the Heat.

Beasley as a member of the Heat (TheSportsBank.net)

Still, Beasley found success on the court, averaging 13.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game during his rookie campaign. In the summer before his second season, Beasley spent time in rehab for stress-related issues. During his sophomore season, Beasley started 78 games and scored close to 15 points per game. In July of 2010, he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two draft picks. This allowed the Heat to clear cap space and create their big three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade.

Beasley’s first season with Minnesota was tremendous. In 73 starts, Beasley averaged 19.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. Beasley was a top 20 scorer and played over 30 minutes a game. So at age 22, how did his numbers match up with the rest of the NBA?

Players, age 22 or younger, who have scored at least 3650 points, 120 3-point field goals, and 1300 rebounds (IN ORDER FROM TOTAL POINTS)

NAMETEAM(S)
LEBRON JAMESCLEVELAND CAVALIERS
KEVIN DURANTSEATTLE SUPERSONICS/OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
CARMELO ANTHONYDENVER NUGGETS
KOBE BRYANTLOS ANGELES LAKERS
TRACY MCGRADYTORONTO/ORLANDO
GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNPOMILWAUKEE BUCKS
ANTOINE WALKERBOSTON CELTICS
MICHAEL BEASLEYMIAMI HEAT/ MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

Michael Beasley was on pace to be up there with the greats. Following his breakout year, Beasley was pulled over for speeding, and the cop found some marijuana, which led to a small fine. Two months later, he was involved in an altercation in which he shoved a heckler. Because of these off-court issues and an injury to his foot, Beasley only started seven games in his second year with the Timberwolves.

FROM TEAM TO TEAM

The next five years were an absolute roller coaster ride for Beasley. In 2012, Beasley signed an $18 million dollar deal with the Phoenix Suns, but only started 20 games. In a game off the bench against the Lakers, Beasley erupted for 27 points, 6 rebounds and 5 steals. An arrest for marijuana ultimately led to Beasley being waived, one year into his three-year deal.

Beasley in a 59 point outing for the Sharks in China (The Hoop Doctors)

From 2013-16, Beasley went from the Suns, to the Heat, to the Shanghai Sharks, back to the Heat, back to China (except this time for the Shandong Golden Stars) and finally, to the Houston Rockets. In 18 minutes a game off the bench, Beasley averaged 12.8 points. He was one of seven players, minimum 20 games, to average 25 points per 36 minutes. This list included Stephen Curry, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins, James Harden and Damian Lillard.

Last September, Beasley was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. He appeared in 56 games and averaged 9.4 points and 3.4 rebounds. Again, if he was given more playing time, he would have excelled. The following table illustrates players who averaged at least 20 points, and 7 rebounds, on 50 percent shooting or better.

2016-17 Per 36 mins, players with at least 20 points and seven rebounds on 50 FG percentage or better (Minimum 50 games)

NAMETEAM
Anthony DavisNew Orleans Pelicans
Kevin DurantGolden State Warriors
Lebron JamesCleveland Cavaliers
Karl-Anthony TownsMinnesota Timberwolves
Enes KanterOklahoma City Thunder
Giannis AntetokounpoMilwaukee Bucks
Javale McGeeGolden State Warriors
Nikola JokicDenver Nuggets
Michael BeasleyMilwaukee Bucks

 

Do you still think he is a bust?

Can someone give this guy some minutes? People who think Beasley is a bust need to really look into his numbers. He is up there with the best players in the league when allotted the appropriate minutes. In case you are wondering what players in his draft look like compared to him:

CAREER PER 36: (In order of FG percentage)

BROOK LOPEZ 20.8/8 TRB/.506FG

MICHAEL BEASLEY 19.3/7.2 TRB/.458FG

RUSSELL WESTBROOK 23.9/8.4 A/.433FG

KEVIN LOVE 20.3/12.7 TRB/.442FG

As you can tell, it’s not a talent problem. In fact, he is actually proven to be more efficient than both Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love, while still scoring around the same amount of points per 36 minutes.

IS THIS THE YEAR?

Now with New York, Beasley just wants a chance. Can you blame him? At 22, he was on pace to be up there with the best players in our game. Off-court issues and mismanagement have led to him only starting nine games since the 2013-14 season.

By the way, if he is not getting minutes because of his defense, then James Harden shouldn’t play either. Offense outweighs defense and Beasley is an electric scorer. If Michael Beasley is on the court, he is going to get buckets. Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t. Michael Beasley would be an All-Star in this league if he was given a legit shot.

At age 28, which most consider the prime of your athletic career, Beasley has lost 20 pounds by cutting out sugar and red meat. He concluded his recent ESPN interview by saying “I just want a fair opportunity, a fair chance, a fair shot to play basketball.”

When diving into the numbers, it is obvious Michael Beasley has been extremely disrespected. This is a man who is capable of scoring on anyone, so let’s pray New York gives him that shot he not only has asked for, but deserves.

Featured image by Sporting News

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Why Kyrie Irving’s message to the Cavs makes sense

Just when you thought the NBA offseason was done, Kyrie Irving shocked the basketball world. As you might have heard, this past Friday, Irving requested a trade from the Cavs, in hopes to find a bigger role. Apparently, Irving would like to play in a situation where he is more of the guy, and not just LeBron James’ sidekick.

Kyrie is tired of playing Robin to LeBron James’ Batman, and has voiced that Minnesota, New York, Miami or San Antonio would be his preferred destinations.

So why does leaving a team coming off three straight Finals appearances make sense? Well, when you play with LeBron, and are on pace to be one of the best scoring point guards this game has ever seen, leaving is actually the most intelligent option.

HOW LEBRON PLAYED A ROLE IN KYRIE’S DECISION

Of course, everyone is so quick to say that LeBron is a problem everywhere he goes, and that he is the reason for Kyrie wanting out. If going to seven straight Finals is an issue, then please sign me up.

The relationship between James and Irving is not the problem (cavaliersnation.com)

LeBron’s past is what influenced Kyrie to take his talents elsewhere, not his relationship with James. James set a precedent back in 2010 when he originally left the Cavs to play for the Miami Heat. After four straight Finals appearances, he then showed again just how powerful the best players in the world can be by going back home to Cleveland.

These past few years, Kyrie has realized a few things. Number one, the Cavs didn’t get any better and showed no signs of doing anything to defeat the Warriors. Number two, the Cavs ownership has built the team under “win now” circumstances, which has destroyed the Cavaliers future. Instead of holding onto Andrew Wiggins, they demanded they get Kevin Love. After winning the championship, the Cavs gave horrible contracts to Tristan Thompson and JR Smith.

Quite frankly, LeBron has already delivered on his promise, which was to bring a championship to Cleveland. James continues to pride himself on never losing leverage, which is why he is yet to commit long term to the Cavaliers. This is not about the relationship between LeBron and Kyrie, but instead, about players looking ahead and realizing what the future will reveal.

How Cleveland’s antics forced Kyrie into this situation

Barring injury, the Warriors will again be NBA champions. You really think a 33-year-old James will want stick around in Cleveland after back-to-back Finals losses? Especially in a city that no free agent wants to even take a look at? Say what you want, but there is absolutely no chance LeBron stays with a team of veterans, and an ownership who refused to make moves to help defeat Golden State. In my mind, James will end up with the Lakers or Sixers, two young talented teams who James can lead into the playoffs.

Knowing LeBron’s past decisions and the fact that Cleveland is not a draw for top free agents, why in the world would Kyrie want to continue to play for the Cavs? If LeBron leaves, he would be stuck with a team of veterans with bad contracts.

Some people might wonder why Irving wouldn’t just play this season out and get one more swing at the Warriors. Irving, who has two seasons left until he can opt out of his deal, realizes how hard it is to get traded when you only have one season left on your contract. Just ask Paul George.

Teams either need a long term commitment, or pray that they can sell the player on their future plans. With two years left, Irving is already drawing interest from over a dozen teams. Speaking of George, the Cavaliers’ talks with him and Jimmy Butler are what most likely sparked Irving’s decision to want to play elsewhere.

The final straw

The final straw for Kyrie was when he found out that he was mentioned in trade talks for Jimmy Butler and Paul George. Why would he want to stay with a franchise that tried to trade him this summer? Do the Cavs actually think either of those players gives them a better chance than Kyrie, who has outplayed Steph over the past two Finals?

All this madness explains exactly why Kyrie Irving would want out of Cleveland. The team didn’t get any better, LeBron will most likely leave after this year and they even tried to trade him. Yes, the same 25-year-old who made one of the biggest shots in NBA Finals history.

Now that the Kyrie era in Cleveland appears over, let’s take a look at just how good this kid is.

THE BEST SCORING POINT GUARD OF ALL TIME?

Possibly the greatest NBA Finals shot (NBA.com)

Only three guards, before their age 25 season have scored more than Irving: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Stephon Marbury, who Irving has already passed in win shares. Yes, Kyrie ranks fourth all time in scoring, for guards, before their age 25 season. He is on pace to be the best scoring point guard ever, and is extremely efficient.

For three out of his first five seasons, Irving averaged at least 21 points/5 assists/3 rebounds on 45 percent shooting or better. The only point guards with more seasons of those numbers are Jerry West, Steph Curry and Magic Johnson.

It’s scary because we probably haven’t even seen the best version of this guy.

His postseason numbers are what really sets him apart. At only 25, Kyrie already has two postseasons of averaging at least 25 points /4 assists on 46 percent shooting from the field, and 87 percent from the line. No other point guard has done this more than once, and the only other player to accomplish this more than Irving was Larry Bird, who did it four times during his Hall of Fame career.

Is his playoff success just during the early rounds? Of course not. While only playing in two Finals, Irving already has three games with at least 30 points/3 assists /3 rebounds on 55 percent shooting or better, which is most ever by a point guard.

PLAYERS WITH NBA FINALS GAMES WITH AT LEAST 30/3/3 ON 55% SHOOTING OR BETTER

PLAYER # OF GAMES
MICHAEL JORDAN7
SHAQUILLE O’NEIL7
LEBRON JAMES5
KEVIN DURANT4
DWAYNE WADE4
KYRIE IRVING3

 

Kyrie is also the only player in NBA Finals history to score at least 40 points on 70 percent shooting or better.

Like his decision or not, Kyrie Irving is going to go down as the best scoring point guard of all time. With already one ring on his hand, Irving has put himself in the conversation for best point guard ever. While eclipsing Magic will be hard, Irving could easily solidify himself as number two.

Where will Irving end up? (weartesters.com)

When all is set and done, Irving, barring injury, could easily put up more points than any other true point guard. With one championship already, he will go down ahead of Steve Nash and John Stockton, two players who were unable to win a title.

All he is chasing is Isiah Thomas, not the one who is the worst defender in the league, but the Pistons’ star who won two titles, and Steph Curry, who Irving can dominate.

If Irving can win at least one MVP, and get back to being a champion, watch out.

Maybe the Cavaliers should have thought about how good he is, rather than shopping him around for players who wouldn’t help get them by Golden State. Maybe they should have focused more on the future, but then again, there is a reason why the 2016-17 NBA championship was their first in franchise history.

 

Featured image by gospelherald.com

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Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

What it will take for the Cavs to beat the Warriors

If the Cleveland Cavs keep the same team they have going into the future, nothing is going to change for them. They will continue to make the NBA Finals because of how great LeBron James is, but will keep losing to the Golden State Warriors.

The team they have in place simply is not good enough to take on all of Golden State’s star power. The addition of Kevin Durant made it that much more difficult to beat the team who previously won 73 games in the regular season.

Durant was the obvious x-factor and MVP of the Finals and there was nothing Cleveland could do to stop him. It took a record night for the Cavs to steal one game against the Warriors when they won 137-116.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

Kevin Durant has made it nearly impossible for the Cavs to compete in the NBA Finals. (Photo by USA Today Sports/Kyle Terada)

Golden State put up scores of 113, 132, 118, 116 and 129. Durant averaged 35.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 5.4 assists in the series while shooting 55.6 percent from the field and 47.4 percent from behind the arc. The Cavs’ defense had no answer for Golden State’s offense.

This makes it absolutely necessary for Cleveland to make a splash in this offseason. They need to get younger and more talented, which is crazy to think considering all the talent they already have between James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

The Cavs have to face reality. James is 32. J.R. Smith is 31. Richard Jefferson is 36. Channing Frye is 33. They aren’t getting any younger.

This class of free agents is loaded with talent. It features names like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Gordon Hayward, Kyle Lowry and Paul Millsap. The only problem is that all of those guys are going to be seeking max contracts, and Cleveland has almost no money to spend. Their free agents are Dahntay Jones, James Jones, Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Derrick Williams. That does not free up a ton of cap space to make the splash they need.

Not all of those guys will fit in with Cleveland either. Griffin is injury prone. Curry will stay with Golden State. They don’t need any of the other point guards either because Irving is already ball-dominant as it is. Moving him to the other guard and not getting the ball in his hands would hurt him and the team.

James is going to have to convince some guys to come to Cleveland for cheap. Either that or the Cavs will have to make a big trade. They were in talks to get Jimmy Butler, but he got moved to Minnesota.

Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Free Agency

Paul George can help the Cavs get past Golden State. (Photo by Robert Scheer/IndyStar)

They have also been in talks about getting Paul George. With George becoming a free agent soon, there is some risk involved in getting him. Indiana isn’t going to just give their face of the franchise away either. The Cavs are going to have to make it a sweet deal that will most likely have Kevin Love involved. The Cavs really don’t want to lose stars like Love either though.

It has been reported that Indiana does not want Love anyway. They are looking for young players and draft picks, which is something Cleveland can’t offer.

Not having David Griffin in the front office is going to hurt the team as well. He was so good at making trades. The Cavs won almost every deal he made. Not having Griffin to work his magic is going to make a trade for a star a little tougher.

It was reported that Cleveland was in a blockbuster trade that would send George and Carmelo Anthony their way. However, none of the teams involved wanted Kevin Love.

George may be Cleveland’s best bet. If they are going to bring him to Cleveland, they need to find a third team who would be willing to take Love and give Indiana draft picks and young players. After they trade Love, they will need to sign another free agent so they have four stars to compare to Golden State’s four stars.

Trading for George and signing another star is going to be what it takes to beat Golden State. Otherwise, Cleveland will continue to lose in the finals.

I know what you’re thinking. Why does LeBron James need another superstar? Super teams are hurting the NBA. Why doesn’t the NBA do something about this new era?

Well, this is reality. James is facing far better competition than Michael Jordan ever faced in the Finals. To win titles, you have to do what it takes to win. This is simply what it takes to win in this era of the NBA. If you aren’t a super team, you have no chance. Cleveland and Golden State is also a rivalry that could be comparable to the Celtics and Lakers when it is all said and done.

How the NBA can fix its super team problem is another story for another day though. But the bottom line is the Cavs need to get better and younger if they want to compete with Golden State in the upcoming years.

 

Featured Image by Getty Images

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2017 NBA Finals

2017 NBA Finals Preview

The 2017 NBA Finals are set and the wait is finally over. The world gets to see the Golden State Warriors matchup with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third-straight year in the Finals.

It is the grudge match of all grudge matches. Everyone has been waiting for this series since the season tipped off on Oct. 25, 2016. Some have been waiting for this since Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors in July.

This third fight between the Warriors and Cavs will be bigger than the “Thrilla in Manila”.

How They Got Here

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: REX Shutterstock)

The Golden State Warriors went 67-15 this season following a record-breaking 73-win season in 2016. Golden State also broke the record for most wins over a three-year span.

This Warriors team is actually better than last year’s team thanks to the signing of Kevin Durant. The Warriors took it easy in the regular season because their goal all year was to meet the Cavs in the Finals.

Golden State made quick work of their playoff opponents. They swept all three opponents in a tough Western Conference. What the Warriors have done this postseason has been impressive and they sent a message. Winning the Finals is an obsession to them and nothing else is considered acceptable.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have not had it as easy as the Warriors. Cleveland went 51-31 and finished as the second seed in the East. The Cavs really struggled in the second half of the season. After Jan. 1st the Cavs went 26-24. They looked bad defensively and some started to question whether or not they were capable of another Finals run.

All those questions were put to bed quickly once the playoffs started. The Cavs easily swept the Pacers and Raptors before meeting the top-seeded Celtics in the conference finals. Cleveland then wiped Boston off their home-court in embarrassing fashion. Boston stole game three but all that did was delay the inevitable. Cleveland went on to finish the next two games easily to reach the finals for the third straight year.

Round One: Cleveland Hurt

2017 NBA Finals

(Photo Credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

The first year these two teams met in the Finals was in 2015. Kevin Love had been hurt in the first round and would miss the remainder of the playoffs.

Game 1 of the Finals dealt another injury to a Cleveland star. Kyrie Irving went down with a fractured kneecap in the first game of the series during overtime. Golden State would win that game and win the series 4-2 to capture its first title in 40 years.

Many called the Warriors title tainted claiming that they would not have won the championship had the Cavaliers been healthy. They were champions without respect and it was their mission to prove they were worthy of the crown.

LeBron had failed to bring a title to Cleveland and many were wondering if it was the right move to leave Miami. The criticism was high despite him averaging 35.8 points per game, 8.8 assists per game and 13.3 rebounds per game while shooting just 38.9 percent from the field. Just as the Warriors were determined to prove they were worthy of the crown, LeBron was determined to bring a title home.

Round Two: Suspension Sparks A Comeback

2017 NBA Finals

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

Cleveland and Golden State would meet again in the 2016 Finals for a rematch. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving were both healthy for this matchup and many thought the Cavaliers would prove they were truly the better team. Coming into the Finals the Cavaliers had only lost two games in the East.

The Warriors had a much tougher road in the West. They had to comeback from being down 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. Throughout the playoffs, Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala were dealing with nagging injuries. They played through those injuries but were not at full strength and expanded tons of energy just to get to the Finals.

In the beginning of the series, none of that seemed to matter. Golden State took a 2-0 series lead and had the largest combined margin of victory in NBA Finals history. Cleveland would win Game 3 and Golden State won Game 4 to take a 3-1 series lead. In that game, Draymond Green was assessed a flagrant foul, setting his playoff total to four, resulting in a suspension for Game 5. No team had ever come back from down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.

Cleveland was able to win Games 5 and Game 6 to force an epic Game 7.

After six games the teams were tied in games won and total score. It was as close as a series as it could ever be and the final game of the year would truly decide a champion.

In Game 7, LeBron James blocked a late layup attempt by Andre Iguodala that set up a game-winning 3-pointer by Kyrie Irving. The Cavs won Game 7 93-89 and ended a 52-year championship drought in the city of Cleveland.

The Warriors had lost in the Finals and believed that had Iggy been healthier he would have dunked the ball. Golden State fans also believed that Curry wasn’t healthy and that if Draymond had not been suspended they would have won Game 6 and the series.

Round Three: Bragging Rights

2017 NBA Finals

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

Fast forward to now and here we are set for round three. The Warriors added superstar Kevin Durant to help them get back to the Finals for a third-straight season. The Cavaliers added minor pieces but have made it back to defend their title.

Golden State ended a 40 year drought and Cleveland ended a 52-year drought.

As mentioned earlier the Warriors enter the Finals 12-0 and the Cavaliers enter the Finals 12-1. Both teams sprinted to the Finals as fast as possible, and as rested as possible.

In round three, there are no excuses. Both teams are healthy and both teams will be rested. It is time to put up or shut up. It is time to make a mark on history.

Who’s era is it really? Without trying to predict too far ahead, it is unlikely these teams meet for a fourth straight Finals appearance.

Cleveland comes into the Finals averaging 116.8 points per game while Golden State comes in averaging 118.3 points per game. Both teams are great offensively but the team who plays the best defense will win this series.

There are so many fun matchups the world gets to see in this series as well. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson versus Kyrie Irving. Draymond Green versus Tristan Thompson, LeBron James or Kevin Love.

The most intriguing though is when Kevin Durant and LeBron James match up against one another. Two of the best players in the world will fight it out to be called the champion.

This series will go down in history. At the end of the day, the Warriors are going to win because they have just too much firepower. They lost last season by four points in Game 7. Adding Kevin Durant to the mix will just be too much. All eyes are on the Finals to see who really is the best between these two franchises.

The new greatest rivalry in sports will write the newest chapter this summer, changing legacies forever.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors 4-2

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2017 Eastern Conference Finals

2017 Eastern Conference Finals Preview

After 82 regular season games and two playoff series, it is time for the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals preview. The East is down to two teams fighting for a birth in the NBA Finals. The top-seeded Boston Celtics edged out the Washington Wizards 115-105 in game 7 to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have cruised to the Eastern Conference Finals going a perfect 8-0 in the playoffs thus far. Cleveland swept both the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors. Similar to their Western Conference rival, the Golden State Warriors, the Cavs seem to be on a mission to get to the Finals for a third straight matchup. The Celtics will have different plans as they try to knock off LeBron James and the Cavs.

Celtics vs. Cavaliers

Photo by SB Nation

The Celtics are making their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since 2012 in which they lost to LeBron and the Heat 4-3 in an epic seven-game series. The Cavs won the regular season series 3-1. Most recently, they demolished the Celtics on their home court 114-91, hurting the confidence of Boston.

If the Celtics want to win this series, it is going to take a lot of great performances by Boston’s key role players. In game 7 against the Wizards, Kelly Olynyk had a career game, shooting 10-14 for 26 points. If he can duplicate that type of game consistently, then the Celtics will win the series.

The Celtics have gone as Isaiah Thomas has gone all season. He alone cannot carry the C’s past James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. If Boston wants to win this series, they will need big games from Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder and Jaylen Brown.

In the regular season, the Cavaliers dominated the glass. That has been the achilles heel of the Celtics all season. Of the 16 playoff teams, Boston is 13th, averaging only 38.3 rebounds per game while the Cavs are averaging 41.4. Any time the Celtics win the battle of the boards will go a long way in securing a win.

The Celtics are a good team, but will not have enough to truly threaten the Cavs in this series. Boston’s home-court advantage will extend the series longer than the Cavs may like, but it won’t be enough. Cleveland is averaging 114.5 points per game this postseason, and Boston can not outscore them over a seven-game series.

Until a team in the East actually proves they can beat a LeBron-led team in a seven-game series, there is just no logical reason to expect it.

Prediction: Cavs in 6

 

Featured Image by All U Can Heat

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Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

The second season is finally upon us. It is the time of year that all NBA fans have been salivating for all season.

There are so many questions left to be answered in the second season of the Eastern Conference. Will the Cavs fall, thus ending LeBron’s finals streak? Will the Celtics prove to be the best of the East? Could another team like the Raptors, Wizards or Bucks come out?

It will be fun to watch it all play out. Here is the preview of the Eastern Conference first round.

1 Boston Celtics vs. 8 Chicago Bulls

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

The Celtics and Bulls have had some amazing playoff series in the past. There was the time Michael Jordan dropped 63 points in a loss or the time they put on an epic seven-game series in 2009 that featured a total of seven overtimes.

These two teams split the season series, each winning two games. Chicago plays really well against winning teams and especially well on national television.

However, in a seven-game series, the better team is going to win. Boston averages 108 points per game, which is seventh-best in the NBA. Chicago on the other hand averages almost 103, which ranks 23rd in the NBA. Chicago will make it tough, but the Celtics’ defense will stifle the Bulls in the end.

Prediction: Celtics in 6

2 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. 7 Indiana Pacers

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

Stop with the talk about how bad the Cavs have played. Like many past teams, they were just pacing themselves. The regular season means nothing to a team who has been to two straight finals, or to a player like LeBron James who has been to six straight finals.

Watch the switch get flipped in the playoffs. Indiana has a chance to steal a game or two with a superstar like Paul George, but that is it.

The Cavaliers will pick up the defense. With a healthy LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, their offense will keep them on course. Averaging 110 points per game leaves a little room for error on the defensive end.

LeBron-led teams have proven time and time again that they buckle down in the playoffs. Until proven otherwise, that will happen again this year.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 5

3 Toronto Raptors vs. 6 Milwaukee Bucks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Toronto versus Milwaukee is one of the most intriguing matchups of the first round. Giannis “The Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo will get a chance to shine on a national stage. The Greek Freak is the first player in NBA history to end the season in the top 20 of all major statistical categories.

Giannis is a great player, but lacks experience and a team that can do damage in the playoffs. The Bucks haven’t made the playoffs consistently in recent years, while the Raptors are heading into the playoffs for their fourth consecutive year. Toronto also reached the conference finals for the first time ever in franchise history last season, and they have improved their depth this year.

Toronto won over 50 games this season and finished the season winning eight of their final 10. The Raptors are hot and the better team, which is why they win this series without much of a worry.

Prediction: Raptors in 5

4 Washington Wizards vs. 5 Atlanta Hawks

Eastern Conference Playoff Preview

(Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Washington has had one of their best seasons in franchise history. They finished 49-33, which was the third most wins they have ever had. Scott Brooks has not gotten the respect he deserves for how well he has done with the Wizards.

Washington has the best chance of upsetting the Cavs in the playoffs, but they must get past Atlanta first. The Wizards went 3-1 versus the Hawks this season. If the Wizards want to repeat that success they had in the regular season, they will need their stellar backcourt to lead them there.

The Wizards will win this series because John Wall and Bradley Beal combine to average 46.2 points per game, 7.3 rebounds per game, and 14.2 assists per game. Atlanta’s backcourt of Dennis Schroder and Tim Hardaway Jr. will be outmatched in this series and that will be the difference.

Prediction: Wizards in 6

You can check out the Western Conference Playoff Preview here.

 

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Injuries are Shaking up the NBA

Injuries always end up taking its toll on the NBA season. The 2016-2017 season is no exception. As the season comes to a close, injuries are taking an even bigger toll on teams. They are giving a better idea of what the race for the championship might look like.

Key NBA Injuries This Season

Rudy Gay

NBA injuries

Rudy Gay (Photo courtesy: slamonline.com)

Rudy Gay was the first to fall to the injury bug. Gay was beginning to look like a prime trade target for a lot of teams who needed perimeter scoring. The Raptors and Thunder both looked like teams that could use his scoring presence on the outside. Gay fell victim to a season-ending torn Achilles in the midst of another solid season.

The Kings were never going to be a serious title threat, but Gay looked like a piece that could completely transform a fringe team. His presence could have vaulted the Thunder into another level, or made the Raptors contenders in the East. Nevertheless, his season is over.

The Gay injury was seemingly the first domino in the NBA injury season. Zach Lavine tore his ACL and ended his season shortly after.

Zach Lavine

Lavine took a serious leap this season and was another potential trade asset at the deadline. He became a deadly scorer for the Timberwolves this season and remained one of the most explosive and athletic players in the league. The Timberwolves title hopes were almost nonexistent even before the injury to Lavine, but the injury was still a serious blow to the young team.

Jabari Parker

Jabari Parker was the next to fall. Parker’s injury is perhaps the most disheartening of any of the injuries we have seen this year.

After missing much of his first season due to a torn ACL, Jabari started to show some of the potential that he had promised in college. He looked as if he was a blossoming star next to Giannis Antetokounmpo. Another ACL injury means Parker will likely miss the next 12 months and possibly set back the progress he’s made since his first injury.

The injury to Parker is especially disheartening to the Bucks. Shooting guard Khris Middleton missed most of the year due to an achilles tear and just recently returned to the lineup. The combination of Antetokounmpo, Middleton and Parker would have been something to behold. Perhaps it would have been enough to vault the Bucks into the playoffs. Now their playoff hopes are much more up in the air.

Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

The Sixers have a pair of young stars that have been plagued with injuries this year. Just a month ago the Sixers were turning their season around and looked like they might have a chance at the playoffs. Since then, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid have both been ruled out for the rest of the year.

Like the Timberwolves and Bucks, the injuries to young stars have taken a huge toll on the Sixers. They have struggled to pick up momentum without Embiid, and they will lose time that they could have developed chemistry.

The final three, and possibly most significant, injuries are to stars at their conferences. Namely, Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry. These injuries are bound to have massive implications on the playoffs hunt.

Kevin Love

The Kevin Love injury leaves the Cavaliers in a unique position. They still have the best player in the world in Lebron James and a star point guard in Kyrie Irving, but they have to decide whether it is still worth chasing the number one seed. Resting Lebron and Kyrie down the stretch might be a good move for the playoffs, but they could slip in the standings because of it.

If Love misses time in the playoffs, a strengthened Eastern Conference could give them trouble. The Celtics, Raptors and Wizards have all significantly improved this season. Even though the Cavs are still huge favorites, any one of those teams could give them a run for their money if injuries plague them down the stretch.

Kyle Lowry

NBA injuries

Kyle Lowry (Photo courtesy: grantland.com)

The Lowry injury is also a huge blow to the Raptors. The Raptors went all in on solidifying their starting lineup at the deadline. Losing their starting point guard for the rest of the season hurts. Even making the Eastern Conference Finals will be incredibly difficult if they don’t have Lowry in the playoffs.

Kevin Durant

As for Kevin Durant, there is little information about the severity of his injury. If he misses significant time, it could be devastating to the Warriors who don’t have much bench depth.

Editor’s note: Kevin Durant will miss at least four weeks due to a bone bruise and sprained MCL in his knee according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. Durant could return before the end of the regular season, but his return is in question.

The injury bug will continually be something to watch down the stretch as we find out how some of these injuries shake up the league.

 

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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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