New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

The Pelicans are for real

Late in a game against the Houston Rockets on Jan. 26, Pelicans star DeMarcus Cousins injured his left Achilles in the closing seconds of the battle. He was later diagnosed with a torn left Achilles, and as a result, underwent season-ending surgery. The four-time All-Star and two-time All-NBA nominee was having the best season of his life. Up to that point, “Boogie” was averaging 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds and 5.4 assists. With all that production gone, the Pelicans playoff aspirations appeared in jeopardy.

With Anthony Davis leading the charge, New Orleans went 21-13 in Cousins’ absence and earned the sixth seed in the tough Western Conference. They were set up to face the Portland Trail Blazers, who appeared to have the edge on paper. Portland has made the postseason in each of the last five years, while New Orleans had not played in the playoffs since 2015, a year in which they were swept by the Golden State Warriors.

New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis combined for 88 points in the series-clinching game against Portland. (Photo from NBA.com)

According to USA Today, “not only did all four of USA TODAY Sports’ experts pick Portland, but all 22 of ESPN’s writers and all six from CBS Sports did as well.”  Maybe these guys should stick to their day jobs.

After defeating Portland 131-123, “New Orleans became the first No. 6 seed (or lower) to sweep its first-round series since the NBA switched from its best-of-five format in 2003” according to USA Today. The Pelicans absolutely dominated Portland, who had no answer for any of New Orleans’ star players, or even their role players.

In Game 3, Nikola Mirotic had 30 points on 12-of-15 shooting with eight rebounds and three steals. The only other player in NBA history with 30 points on at least 80 percent shooting from the field with eight rebounds and multiple steals is Hakeem Olajuwon, who also did it against Portland back in 1987.

In the clinching game, Anthony Davis erupted for 47 points and 11 rebounds, while Jrue Holiday went for 41 and added added eight assists. Rajon Rondo joined the fun with seven points, seven rebounds and a game-high 16 assists.

Now let’s take a further look into the Pelicans “Big 3″ by examining the numbers.

THE BROW

Davis, for the third time in his six-year career, led the NBA in blocks per game with 2.6. He averaged a career-high 28.1 points and tallied up 11.1 rebounds with 2.3 assists. He now has four seasons averaging a minimum 24 points on at least 49 percent shooting from the field, 10 rebounds and a free throw percentage greater than 75 percent. The only player with more seasons matching those statistics is Karl Malone, who has five. Keep in mind, Davis is just 25 years old.

Yes, we know he is great in the regular season, but what about the postseason? The media has been telling us that he is terrible since he has never won a playoff game. Are they aware that basketball is a team sport and Davis actually played extremely well in the four losses to the Warriors?

Dating back to those 2014-15 playoffs, “The Brow” now has seven straight games with at least 22 points and 11 rebounds. Shaquille O’Neal holds the record with 11. In his eight career playoff games, Davis is averaging 32.3 points per game, which is second-best behind Michael Jordan’s 33.4.

Consecutive playoff games with at least 22 points and 11 rebounds

*Still Active

PLAYER CONSECUTIVE NO. OF GAMES
SHAQUILLE O’NEAL 11
KARL MALONE 8
ANTHONY DAVIS 7*
KEVIN GARNETT 7
HAKEEM OLAJUWON 7

His epic Game 4 performance put him in elite company. Davis became one of six players (Jordan, O’Neal, Paul Millsap, Elvin Hayes, Charles Barkley) to finish a playoff game with at least 45 points on 60 percent shooting, 10 rebounds and multiple blocks. Of course, Davis could not have done without some help from his guards.

The Jruth

This season, Jrue Holiday joined LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Stephen Curry as the only four players to average a minimum of 19 points on 49 percent shooting and six assists. Holiday, a former All-Star, played in 81 games this year and set career highs in points, rebounds, blocks and win shares.

After Saturday’s win, Holiday became one of 12 players in NBA history to score 40 points on at least 65 percent shooting with eight assists. The last to do it was his teammate, Rajon Rondo, who exploded as a Celtic in Game 2 of the 2012 Eastern Conference Championship against the Miami Heat.

Rondo

“Playoff Rondo” is not only the best version of the former Kentucky point guard, but it is quite possibly the second-best playoff point guard we have ever seen. Rondo had 17 assists in Game 1 against Portland. This was the fifth time he finished a playoff game with at least 17 assists and eight rebounds. The only other players with multiple 17-assist, eight-rebound games are Magic Johnson and Fat Lever.

No. of playoff games with at least 17 assists, 8 rebounds

PLAYER NO. OF GAMES
MAGIC JOHNSON 14
RAJON RONDO 5
FAT LEVER 2

In the series-clinching match, he added on 16 more assists, giving him 12 career with at least 15 assists in the playoffs, trailing only Magic Johnson (42) and John Stockton (27) for most all time. For his career in the postseason, which currently sits at 100 games, Rondo is averaging 14.2 points, 9.2 assists and six rebounds. The only other player in NBA history with at least 20 playoff games to average that stat line is Magic Johnson.

One more triple-double and Rondo will tie Jason Kidd for the third-most triple-doubles in NBA Playoff history.

No. of triple-doubles in the playoffs

PLAYER NO. OF TRIPLE DOUBLES
MAGIC JOHNSON 30
LEBRON JAMES 20
JASON KIDD 11
RAJON RONDO 10
LARRY BIRD 10
WILT CHAMBERLAIN 8

Whether he is a headache for coaches or not, Rondo has had quite the career. A classic point guard, Rondo has had six seasons averaging 10 points, nine assists and four rebounds, which is the fifth most behind Jason Kidd (11), Magic Johnson (10), Oscar Robertson (nine) and Chris Paul (eight). He also has four seasons averaging 10 points, 11 assists and four rebounds, which is second to Magic Johnson.

New Orleans Pelicans playoffs

“Playoff Rondo” is a scary sight for all opponents. (Photo from SlamOnline)

One of those four seasons occurred in 2015-16. As a member of the Sacramento Kings, Rondo averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, six rebounds and two steals. The only other player to average those numbers was Magic Johnson, who accomplished this back in the 1983-84 season. If you are constantly being mentioned in the same department as Magic Johnson, you are clearly a pretty good player.

In all likelihood, New Orleans will square off against the defending champion, Golden State Warriors. On paper, they may appear like the underdog, but that is what the analysts said about them in the Portland series. After looking at these numbers, there is no way anyone can sleep on the Pelicans Big 3.

 

Featured image by ClutchPoints

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Dwyane Wade playoffs

Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat’s chances of upsetting the Sixers

Vintage Flash 

On Monday night, Dwyane Wade turned back the clock and led the Heat to a 113-103 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers, tying the series at one. At 36 years young, Wade finished with 28 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 26 minutes off the bench. After the first 15 minutes in the game, Wade had outscored the entire Sixers team, 21-20, while shooting 8-for-9 from the floor.

“Flash” joined Jamal Crawford, Eddie Johnson, Vince Carter and Andre Miller as the only players in postseason history, age 36 or older, to finish with at least 28 points while coming off the bench. Nene Hilario is the only other reserve in NBA history with 28 points and seven rebounds in under 30 minutes of play.

During the first half of his legendary performance, Wade passed Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics legend, Larry Bird, in career postseason points. He is now 10th all time and is just 106 points shy of tying Tony Parker for ninth in NBA history. While Parker is currently still playing as well, this is clearly in reach if Miami can get past Philadelphia.

Wade has yet to commit to playing another season in the NBA, so it is only right we look back at how legendary this man’s career has been, if he decides to hang the shoes up after the playoffs.

D-Wade

In all honesty, Dwyane Wade’s resume is good enough to be considered a top-five shooting guard in NBA history. According to FS1 analyst and co-host of First Things First, Nick Wright, Wade is the fourth best shooting guard this league has ever seen, trailing Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant and Jerry West.

Dwyane Wade playoffs

Wade put on a performance for the ages in his first NBA Finals. (Photo from Sneaker History)

The former fifth overall pick in the 2003 draft, “Father Prime” is a three-time NBA champ, three-time All-Defensive, eight-time All-NBA and 12-time All-Star. In 2008-09, Wade led the league in scoring with 30.2 points per game. The following season, he won the All-Star Game MVP.

In his first NBA Finals appearance against the Dallas Mavericks, Wade and the Miami Heat faced adversity early on, trailing 2-0 to start the series. Wade put the team on his back in Games 3, 4 and 5, erupting for 42, 36 and 43 points in those respective games. In Game 6, Wade dropped 36 points, and the Miami Heat won the series 4-2.

Flash became the fifth youngest player to earn NBA Finals MVP honors. His 34.7 points per game ranks third in terms of highest scoring average by a player in his first NBA Finals. According to ESPN’s John Hollinger, Wade’s 33.8 PER in the NBA Finals is noted as the greatest Finals performance since the NBA-ABA merger.

During the 2005-06 championship run, Wade joined Allen Iverson as the only two players in NBA history to finish the postseason with at least 650 points, 50 steals and 130 assists. In Miami’s Big 3 era, Wade won two more rings, as Miami went back-to-back in 2011-12 and 2012-13.

Players with at least 3,900 points, 900 rebounds, 850 assists and 250 steals in the postseason
MICHAEL JORDAN
KOBE BRYANT
LEBRON JAMES
DWYANE WADE

While his playoff totals are among the best, Wade made 12 straight All-Star appearances from 2005-16. During that stretch, Wade was named First Team All-NBA in two seasons and Second Team three times, as well as Second Team All-Defensive three times. Over his storied career, Wade has six seasons averaging at least 24 points, five assists, four rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. He trails just LeBron James (11) and Michael Jordan (eight) in this category.

Players with 22,000 points, 5,000 assists, 4,500 rebounds and 1,500 steals
Clyde Drexler
Michael Jordan
Karl Malone
Kevin Garnett
Kobe Bryant
Dwyane Wade
LeBron James

As you can tell from the tables above, D-Wade is one of the most complete players we have ever seen. Whether he retires or not, Wade will go down as a legend. Does he have enough in the tank to help propel the Heat past the 76ers?

Miami vs. Philadelphia

With the series knotted at one, Miami sits right in the driver’s seat, as they head home for Game 3 and 4. During the Big 3 ERA, Miami went 38-9 at home in the playoffs. Even without LeBron, coach Erik Spoelstra is 8-4 at home during the postseason. During the regular season, Miami went 26-15 at American Airlines Arena. However, the Sixers are a solid road team, finishing the season 22-19 averaging 108 points away from Philly.

Dwyane Wade playoffs

Will Embiid return for Game 3? (Photo from Liberty Ballers)

While Wade most likely won’t put on another historic performance, Philly needs Joel Embiid back if they expect to win this series. After the Game 2 loss, Embiid took to social media and wrote “(expletive) sick and tired of being babied.”

This series will come down to 3-point shooting. In Game 1, Philly went 18-for-28 (64.3 percent) from beyond the arc. The following game, Philly went an abysmal 7-for-36 (19.4 percent). If Philly hits their threes, there is no reason why they should not win. They have the best player on the floor in Ben Simmons, as well as prolific 3-point shooters like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli, Robert Covington and Dario Saric.

If Embiid does in fact return, Miami will need more out of Hassan Whiteside, who seems to rise to the challenge when facing Philly’s star big man. These are two of the top defensive teams in terms of defensive rating, so expect some close games the rest of the way. To keep it simple, if Philly’s shooting is off, Miami will win this series. If the Sixers knock down deep shots, Miami will be in trouble.

Prediction: Miami in six

 

Featured image from The New York Times 

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NBA MVP candidates

2017-18 NBA MVP candidates

Another wonderful NBA regular season is in the books, and with the Golden State Warriors appearing to be a bit more vulnerable heading into the postseason, unlike recent years, the playoffs should be a joy to watch.

Wednesday’s slate of games gave us a good mix of drama and history. The Minnesota Timberwolves edged out the Denver Nuggets in overtime, 112-106, to clinch their first playoff berth since 2004. They will take on the Houston Rockets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

NBA MVP candidates

Why not average a triple-double for the second consecutive season? (Photo from ESPN)

Markelle Fultz, whose shot appeared to be broken during his rehab, became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. At 19 years and 317 days old, Fultz tallied 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in just 25 minutes. The 130-95 win over Milwaukee was the Sixers 16th straight victory. Philadelphia owns the third seed, and will take on the Miami Heat.

Russell Westbrook became the first player in history to average a triple-double in multiple seasons. Heading into Wednesday’s finale needing 16 boards, Westbrook corralled 20 and also added 19 assists. Whether his teammates let him get a few extra boards or not, this is quite the achievement for The Brodie.

Although most would say the Thunder underperformed considering it took them until Game 81 to clinch a spot in the playoffs despite being relatively injury-free the whole season, they finished as the fourth seed and will take on the Utah Jazz. This means that, for the first time since 2012-13, Carmelo Anthony will be back in the playoffs. In 66 career playoff games, Melo is averaging 25.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists. While he may look a tad washed up, “Playoff Melo” could surprise some people.

There are a lot of great storylines heading into the postseason, but today, we will be focusing on the NBA MVP candidates. Let’s take a look back at their seasons and what this past year meant for their overall careers.

James Harden

The overwhelming favorite, James Harden looks to finally win his first MVP trophy. He led the Houston Rockets to a 65-17 record, and scored a league-high 30.4 points per game. His field goal percentage was his best since 2013-14. Harden had the highest win share, which, according to Basketball Reference, is an estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player. This is the second year in a row in which Harden led the NBA in this category, and the third time in four years.

Harden joined Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Jerry West, Kobe Bryant and Rick Berry as the only players to average 30 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 85 percent or better from the free-throw line. The addition of Chris Paul was obviously huge, as the Rockets finished with the 11th highest rated offense in NBA history.

This season marked Harden’s sixth in which he averaged at least 25 points, five assists and four rebounds, while shooting at least 84 percent from the line. This puts him ahead of Jordan for the most all-time. Below is a table which illustrates the top players in this particular category.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25 POINTS, FIVE ASSISTS, FOUR REBOUNDS, WITH A FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE HIGHER THAN 84 PERCENT

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
JAMES HARDEN 6
MICHAEL JORDAN 5
LARRY BIRD 4
OSCAR ROBERTSON 4
STEPHEN CURRY 3
KEVIN DURANT 3

Harden is on a Hall of Fame pace, but needs to show up in the playoffs, as he has tendencies to shrink under the big lights. Only time will tell. Houston has a tough task ahead of them in the first round against the Timberwolves with a healthy Jimmy Butler.

Lebron James

NBA MVP candidates

Bow down to the King. (Photo from NBA.com)

For the first time in his legendary career, LeBron James played all 82 games. The King led the league in total points, field goals made and minutes during his 15th season at age 33.

 

His 9.1 assists per game were the most in his career, eclipsing last year’s average of 8.7. James also averaged 8.6 rebounds, which is tied for the most he has ever averaged in a season.

James became the first player ever to average 27 points, eight rebounds and eight assists on 54 percent shooting or better. He had 10 triple-doubles in which he shot 50 percent or better, which was more than anyone in the league.

2017-18 was The King’s 14th season in which he averaged 25 points, six rebounds and six assists per game. The next closest is Oscar Robertson with nine. Michael Jordan only had three seasons.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25-6-6

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
LEBRON JAMES 14
OSCAR ROBERTSON 9
LARRY BIRD 4
MICHAEL JORDAN 3

While he may not catch Jordan in titles, James, by the numbers, is clearly the best basketball player to ever walk the planet. When you think of a complete player, you want someone who can efficiently score, pass and rebound the basketball.

Below is a table of players who, while shooting 50 percent or better, averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists across an entire season. No one else in the history of the sport has done this more than once, and James just did it for the fifth time.

NO. OF SEASONS AVERAGING 25-7-7 ON 50 PERCENT SHOOTING OR BETTER.

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
LEBRON JAMES 5
LARRY BIRD 1
MICHAEL JORDAN 1
OSCAR ROBERTSON 1

Anthony Davis

When DeMarcus Cousins went down, it appeared the Pelicans’ playoff chances were in jeopardy. Instead of panicking, New Orleans went 48-34, which was their best record since the rebrand. They finished the season strong, winning nine of 13, and earned the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

Davis, for the third time in his six-year career, led the NBA in blocks per game with 2.6. He averaged a career-high 28.1 points, and tallied along 11.1 rebounds with 2.3 assists. Davis also shot 82.8 percent from the charity stripe, joining Bob McAdoo as the only two players in NBA history to average at least 28 points and 11 rebounds while shooting better than 80 percent from the free-throw line, as well as posting a field goal percentage of at least 50 percent.

Below is a list of players who averaged at least 24 points and 10 rebounds, with a field goal percentage of 49 percent or better, and a free-throw percentage of at least 75 percent.

NO. OF SEASONS WITH AT LEAST 24 POINTS AND 10 REBOUNDS PER GAME WHILE SHOOTING AT LEAST 49 PERCENT FROM THE FIELD AND 75 PERCENT FROM FREE-THROW LINE

PLAYER NO. OF SEASONS
KARL MALONE 5
KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR 4
ANTHONY DAVIS 4
CHARLES BARKLEY 3

Although he has yet to win a playoff game, Anthony Davis is on a historic pace to be one of the best bigs of all time. The Pelicans face the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round.

 

Featured image by ClutchPoints

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LeBron James becomes youngest player to reach 30,000 points

On Tuesday night, LeBron James became the youngest player to join the 30,000 career point club. James hit a jump shot with 1.1 seconds left in the first quarter to get to the milestone against the San Antonio Spurs.

James joins some elite players in reaching 30,000 points. The other players who have scored 30,000 points are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Kobe Bryant (33,643), Michael Jordan (32,292), Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) and Dirk Nowitzki (30,837).

At 33 years old, James is the youngest player to reach the mark in NBA history. Kobe Bryant was the youngest before James at 34 years of age.

He only needed seven points in the game against the Spurs to reach 30,000 career points. It was just his 1,107th career game in his 15th season in the NBA.

He had the advantage of going straight from high school to the NBA, but has also never had a severe injury to limit his playing time. The fewest amount of games played he has in a season is 62 during the 2011-2012 campaign with the Miami Heat.

While this is surely a big accomplishment, James said he never got into basketball to reach this specific milestone. If James keeps his current scoring average of 27.2, he can pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar within the next four or five seasons. There doesn’t look like an end to James’ career in sight, so moving up higher on this list won’t be a surprise.

 

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Detroit Pistons

Are the Pistons back?

To this day, Detroit fans have a fond memory of the Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman days. Those were the days in which the Pistons won back-to-back titles, first sweeping the Magic Johnson and James Worthy led Lakers, then defeating Clyde Drexler’s Portland Trail Blazers in five games.

How about the early 2000s Pistons, who won a title in the 2003-04 season (we will touch on this later) while also making it to six straight Eastern Conference finals. From the 2002-03 season, all the way up to 2007-08, Detroit either won the championship, lost in the Finals, or was eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals.

Then, they dropped off. It has been nine years since the Pistons lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Of Detroit’s last nine seasons, eight of them have been years in which the team finished below .500.  In their one winning season, 2015-16, Detroit was swept in the first round by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The switch to Little Caesars Arena was actually what this team needed. It gives them a fresh start and some new life. After 13 games, the new-look Pistons sit at 10-3, tied for their fifth best start in franchise history.

DETROIT’S BEST STARTS THROUGH 13 GAMES

SEASON RECORD FINISH
1970-71 12-1 45-37
1990-91 11-2 Lost E. Conf. Finals
1996-97 11-2 54-28
2005-06 11-2 Lost E. Conf. Finals
1988-89 10-3 Won Finals
2002-03 10-3 Lost E. Conf. Finals
2017-18 10-3 ?

The other six times this franchise won at least 10 of their first 13 games, they ended up in solid spots come playoff time. On four occasions, the Pistons made it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals, and of course won the title in 1988-89.

Obviously, this does not mean that the 2017-18 Detroit team is a lock to go deep into the playoffs, but do not sleep on them.

How is this happening?

A year ago, Detroit ranked 28th in 3-point percentage. On the defensive end, they were not forcing any turnovers, finishing 27th in that department. This season, Detroit is currently eighth in 3-point percentage, and forcing almost four more turnovers per game. They are continuing to dominate the offensive glass, and committing far less fouls than the league average.

Detroit Pistons

Tobias Harris is quietly averaging 20.1 points per game (Photo from ESPN.com)

At this point, Detroit’s MVP appears to be Tobias Harris. Harris, who was traded by the Magic for Ersan Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings in February, 2016, is absolutely balling out in his second full season with the Pistons. After averaging 16.1 points per game during the 2016-17 season, Harris, through 13 games, is averaging 20.1 points, and 5 rebounds. He is shooting 48.1 percent from the field, and an outlandish 50.6 percent from three. Not to mention the 6-foot-9 forward is shooting 90.5 percent from the charity stripe, a place where Harris has succeeded his whole career.

Andre Drummond, who is the only Piston to have played in an All-Star game, is averaging 15.6 rebounds per game, which leads the NBA. Drummond also leads the league in offensive rebounds per game with 5.3 and has nine double-doubles in 13 games.

Their big offseason addition, Avery Bradley, appears to be exactly what Detroit needed. Bradley, a former All-Defensive First Team member, is dominating both sides of the floor. Not only has he continued to be a lockdown defender, but Bradley is averaging 17 points per game. He is a key reason for Detroit’s jump in 3-point efficiency, as he is shooting 41.4 percent from long range. Reggie Jackson is also looking like the Jackson from two years ago, averaging 16.3 a game.

Detroit’s bench has been quite special. Anthony Tolliver ranks first in defensive rating of players who have played at least 10 games. While averaging just under 10 points per game, Ish Smith is shooting 54.6 percent from the field. Of players who have played at least 8 games, Reggie Bullock ranks second in assist-to-turnover ratio.

While Detroit may be an underdog in the East, having to deal with teams like Boston and Cleveland, they look like they can play with anyone. Being considered an underdog is nothing new to Detroit, as their 2003-04 championship team was one of the biggest underdogs in the history of the NBA Finals.

Remembering the 2003-04 Pistons

After a conference finals loss, the Pistons brought in a new coach, Larry Brown. In that year’s draft, with the second overall pick (from the Grizzlies), Detroit selected Darko Milicic. Milicic would go on to play a few minutes off the bench, and is widely considered as a bust.

Detroit Pistons

One of the best starting fives of recent times. (Photo from History Locker)

Under the great Coach Brown, the Pistons, a strong defensive team, rallied off 13 straight wins between December and January. After hitting a bump in the road in February when they lost six straight games, Detroit needed a major acquisition to get them back on track. At the midway point in the season, the Pistons acquired Rasheed Wallace from the Atlanta Hawks.

The starting five of Chauncey Billups, Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace and All-Star Ben Wallace was absolutely electric down the stretch. Detroit would go on to win 16 of their final 19 games. They ended the season at 54-28, good enough for the third seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs.

After defeating the Bucks and Nets in the first two rounds of the playoffs, Detroit faced off against the top-seeded Indiana Pacers. The Pacers, led by Jermaine O’Neal and Defensive Player of the Year, Ron Artest, were defeated in six games by Detroit. Into the Finals they went, squaring off against the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers.

UNDERDOGS PREVAIL

Since the 2004 playoffs, no team has been more of an underdog when the opening odds dropped for the NBA Finals since the Pistons. Even Lebron James’ 2007 Cavaliers, who were made up of a bunch of scrubs while facing the Spurs, were given a better shot to win. The Lakers opened up at -550 and had a total of 37 All-Star selections on their roster. Their coach, Phil Jackson, already had nine championships under his belt. Detroit had four All-Star selections, and Larry Brown was seeking his first title.

Detroit Pistons

Pistons in 5. (Photo from Twitter.com)

Both Karl Malone and Gary Payton, two Hall of Famers, signed with L.A. for the minimum salary in hopes of winning a ring. Not to mention the fact that the Lakers were also were coming off three championships in four years. The combo of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal is considered one of the best duos of all-time.

Despite the Lakers’ greatness, Detroit was not phased. In fact, the series only went five games, as the Pistons defeated the Lakers 4-1. Billups was named Finals MVP, averaging 21 points per game in the series. The Lakers, who averaged 98.2 points per game during the regular season, were held to just 81.8 points against Detroit. Defense wins championships. Coach Larry Brown became the first coach to win both an NCAA national championship and an NBA title.

While many will not give Detroit a shot at winning it all, mainly because of the super teams, just don’t sleep on them. Nonetheless, they are off to one of their hottest starts in franchise history and look to be back to their winning ways, which is dope for the city of Detroit.

 

Featured image from Bleacher Report

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Where Does Melo Go From Here?

Nothing seems to be going right in the life of Carmelo Anthony at the moment. Phil Jackson recently gave a press conference in which he said, “I think the direction with our team is that he is a player that would be better off somewhere else and using his talent somewhere where he can win or chase that championship.”

He is unwanted and, according to Jackson, unneeded in New York.

If that wasn’t bad enough, there are reports coming out that he and his wife of seven years will be getting a divorce after rumors that he got a stripper pregnant.

Carmelo’s life and career are at a crossroads. The question that begs to be answered is, where does Melo go from here?

Career Accomplishments

Carmelo Anthony

(Photo Credit: AP Richard Drew)

Carmelo is a legend at Syracuse University. In the 2002-03 season, Carmelo led the Orange to their first national championship. He averaged 22.2 points and 10 rebounds per game. He was also named the tournament’s most outstanding player that season. His future was bright and he was picked third overall in the 2003 NBA draft.

Carmelo has also been a successful international basketball player. One could argue he is the most successful basketball olympian in United States history. Melo has a record of playing on four Olympic rosters, and a record three gold medals. Melo also holds the record for most points scored in a USA Men’s Olympic game with 37 against Nigeria in 2012.

He is first all-time in each of the following: games played (31), career points (336), rebounds (125), field goals made (113), field goals attempted (262), 3-pointers attempted (139), free throws made (53) and free throws attempted (71). He is also second all-time in 3-pointers made (57).

Carmelo’s NBA career hasn’t led to as much hardware, but he has still had a great career. Melo is a 10-time all star, has been named to an All-NBA team six times and was the scoring champion in the 2012-13 season.

One of his best accomplishments in the NBA was when he led the Denver Nuggets to the Western Conference Championship in 2009, but fell to Kobe and the Lakers 4-2.

Carmelo has scored 24,156 career points in 15 NBA seasons. He has over 3,000 assists and over 6,000 rebounds, but a championship is what eludes him. The Knicks have openly said he will be better off chasing that ring somewhere else, but where?

The Path to A Ring

Carmelo Anthony

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

Melo has few options if all he is looking for is a ring. Those options include the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics.

It would be foolish for the Knicks to release Carmelo Anthony, but it may be their only option. Melo is under contract until July of 2019 and has a no-trade clause. He will veto any trade that is not to a championship contender, or a trade that leaves the new team without the pieces needed to win that elusive title. If the Knicks really want to part ways with Melo, they may have to just cut him.

Boston

The Celtics would be a great fit for both Melo and the team. Boston managed to get the No. 1 seed in the east despite only having one major option on offense in Isaiah Thomas.

Adding Anthony would bring in an easy 20 points per game and veteran leadership to a team that tied for the third youngest team (25.6) in the NBA. Both Melo and the Celtics would help one another in trying to win a ring.

Los Angeles

One team that is often mentioned in Anthony rumors is the Los Angeles Clippers. The team is loaded with talent, but fails to make an impact in the history books.

Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony are close friends who both need to validate their careers with an NBA championship. Neither wants to go down in history like Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, John Stockton or Karl Malone.

If Anthony is cut, this would be his ideal spot. A team with Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan could only get better by adding Anthony. The Western Conference is loaded, but this makes the Clippers a legitimate threat rather than just a bump in the road out west.

Cleveland

The last team that Melo could sign with, if cut, is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Melo is just as close with LeBron as he is with Chris Paul. Cleveland may win a title this year, but if they don’t, it’s because they ran into a Warriors team that loaded up with Kevin Durant. The answer to that would be to get Anthony and his scoring. He would take pressure off Kyrie and LeBron.

The Cavs are in less need of Melo than Melo is of the Cavs. Signing with Cleveland would prove that all Melo wants is that trophy. He wouldn’t be in the spotlight or the face of a franchise, which is something Melo has never experienced. Signing in Cleveland would all but guarantee him that ring he so desperately wants.

Conclusion

Carmelo Anthony

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

As Carmelo enters the twilight of his playing days, he is focused on one thing: winning. Knowing that  the Knicks no longer want or need him will make him seek a team that does want him.

He will also need a distraction from his personal problems, and finding another team can help with that. It is hard to see where Carmelo goes from here, but one thing is for certain: his playing days in New York are over.

 

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Why Choosing a School Does not Affect NBA Aspriations

Ben Simmons took a lot of heat for his decision to attend LSU for his mandatory year of service after high school. He pledged himself early and the promise was solidified with the hiring of his godfather as an assosciate head coach. Due to the NBA regulation, one-and-done situations like that of Simmons, have become common for top recruits. Frequently, players are committing to schools that would not be considered among the best in the nation. The 2016 and 2017 recruiting classes are no exception. Washington has grabbed two 5-stars in those classes and Western Kentucky landed 5-Star Center Mitchell Robinson. Analysts have criticized players like Simmons for making the decision to go to a non-powerhouse basketball program. The truth is that it does not matter what people say, the results matter.

The main goal of almost any athlete in basketball is to reach the pinnacle of the sport: the NBA. Any decision that a player makes could be an impact one. In any other career path where you choose to attend school can certainly make all the difference. Are young men in the sport making a poor decision by choosing a less than spectacular program? While it is a big decision, the fact is that a player’s college choice is not as impactful as we make it out to be in terms of professional progression.

Past NBA Examples

There have been dozens of precedents for players coming from smaller schools and programs being successful in the NBA. Their success is one piece of evidence that college is not the leading factor in professional development in the sport.

One of the better examples would be four time all-star and four time Defensive Player of the Year, Ben Wallace. Wallace went undrafted out of Division II Virginia Union, and previously was at Cuyahoga Community College. Ben Wallace had an NBA aspirations, NBA drive and NBA talent. Players in his situation slip through the cracks for being extremely raw at recruitment time or undersized for their position.  He went from being a 6 foot 9 under recruited center to one of the leaders on the 2004 Detroit Pistons NBA Finals squad.

There are plenty of examples like that of Wallace from the past: Steve Nash (drafted 15th overall, Santa Clara), Karl Malone (dafted 13th overall, Louisiana Tech), John Stockton (drafted 16th overall, Gonzaga), and many others.  These are not role players in the Association. Rather, these are current or future Hall of Famers. However the league has changed over even the past decade. With a dilution of talent, does this assertion hold up currently?

Current NBA Examples

While the league is, in fact, filled with may players from powerhouse schools, some of the league’s best have come from small, mid-major, and power conference schools not exactly well known for their NBA talent production.

Kawhii Leonard was a 4-star recruit before selecting San Diego State.  Granted he did have Steve Fisher as his guide through the years, the results of his career thus far have been astounding. After being selected 15th overall by the Indiana Pacers and traded to the San Antonio Spurs he became Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 and 2016. All-NBA First team and NBA Finals MVP also rank among the best of his accomplishments thus far.

Paul Millsap’s combination of power and finesse led to him being drafted out of Louisiana Tech. (Photo Courtesy of draftexpress.com)

Paul Millsap has put together an overwhelming NBA career. He was not a highly touted recruit. He did shine at Louisiana Tech, but was still only drafted in the middle of the second round. Millsap is a three time NBA All-Star.

Damian Lillard is one of the best examples out there. He was a 3-star recruit and was not even ranked among the top 50 point guards of his class. Portland took him 6th overall in the 2012 NBA Draft. After a stellar first season with the Trailblazers he became the NBA Rookie of the Year in 2013. The two time All-Star shows much promise for the years to come in his career.

The league contains a plethora of other examples. Two play on the same team in Stephen Curry (drafted 7th overall, Davidson) and Klay Thompson (drafted 11th overall, Washington State). Paul George (drafted 10th overall, Fresno State), James Harden (drafted 3rd overall, Arizona State) and C.J. McCollum (drafted 10th overall, Lehigh) also all went to smaller schools or non-traditional basketball powers.

The 2016 NBA All-Star Rosters fully embody the notion presented here.  The East Roster has 14 members, with Chris Bosh and Jimmy Butler unable to play due to injury.  50% of the East’s roster went to non-traditional basketball powers or smaller schools (Fresno State, USC, Louisiana Tech, Washington, Georgia Tech, and two from Marquette). Marquette made the Final Four with Dwayne Wade, but that actually proves the point further.  Wade made that run for the school, along with help of course, and did not end up at a more traditional basketball power.  He is now a perennial All-Star.

The West All-Star roster mimics the trends of the East.  58.3% of the West’s roster attended a smaller school or non-traditional power (Davidson, San Diego State, Arizona State, Wake Forest, and two from Texas). Some would argue that Texas and Wake Forest players do not belong in this category, however, neither school has a championship and Kentucky has more Final Fours this decade than either program has in its history.  They are hardly basketball powerhouses. However, the All-Star rosters indicate that players do choose these schools and still end up amazing professional talents. Therefore, a trip to UK, UCLA, Duke or North Carolina is not the only path to NBA excellence.

Schools that Guarantee a Draft Spot

Granted that all eligible UK players in the past year entered their names in the draft, there is plenty of proof that powerhouse schools do not guarantee being drafted or NBA success. There is a laundry list of players that enrolled at big schools with their sights set on the pros yet did not blossom for one reason or another.

Marquis Teague is a prime example, being the top point guard in his class in 2011. Teague played a roll in Kentucky’s 2012 National Championship run. Since entering the league in 2012, he averages less than ten minutes per game. Accruing a pedestrian stat line of 2.3 points per and 1.4 assists, he is leagues from the promise that his recruitment showed.

Cheik Diallo did not fill the promise that he had coming into Kansas. (Photo Courtesy of kusports.com)

Even though he has not debuted in the NBA yet, Cheik Diallo (Kansas) is another example. Coming in as a top ten recruit, scouts and coaches thought only the best for him. In his one season at Kansas he averaged a whopping 3.0 points per game in 7.5 minutes of floor time per game. The Pelicans selected Diallo in the 2016 NBA Draft, but it was not until the second round of the draft.

Dozens of other names fit the criteria of players enrolling at a big school that did not work out for one reason or another. Cliff Alexander (Kansas) had academic issues, but did not even come close to expectations. Rasheed Sulaimon (Maryland) was a top 15 recruit but Duke dismissed him and after that no team drafted him. The list goes on and on. Top recruits just do not get a guaranteed pass for attending basketball powerhouses.

The Reality behind the Myth

So why does it not always work? Why do guys come in highly touted with all of the promise in the world but exit without fulfilling expectations? The simple answer would be that players are just overrated as recruits. There is more to it thank that, though.

To begin, NBA talent is NBA talent.  This may seem like a simple assertion, but it has broad consequences. Some players do come in raw and due to their college experience, develop into NBA greats. Even then, that usually has little to do with what school they select. Occasionally a coach takes on a protege and turns them into something that they were not before. This is extremely rare and does not come without the player putting in the effort anyway. Most times a player’s work ethic is what ultimately turns them into a star, if they come in with untapped potential.

Additionally, players’ talent can be diluted in programs where there are many a star. At a program with less talent, there is less keeping a player from standing out head and shoulders above the competition as a superstar. At a bigger program, players can take a back seat post injury or to new blood. The next man up mentality is much easier to believe in when there is another five star recruit to fill a void.

So there are several reasons why going to a powerhouse can actually hinder a player from their NBA dreams. In fact, perhaps the best thing for them to do to enter a league full of isolation play is to isolate themselves from other stars.