What's on the Menu? "mmmmmm . . . Basketball!!!!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

SDH Presents The Starters – November 19th


The Starters discuss the 10-1 +Memphis Grizzlies, why the +Boston Celtics  are a great League Pass team, why the +Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler is the leader for MIP, debate whether or not we’d want to play with +Kobe Bryant, and play another round of Up/Down. Watch +The Starters  weekdays at 6:30 on +NBA TV, get more of them on their website: http://nba.com/thestarters; and  keep tuned in to +Slap Dog Hoops for all the latest news, notes and more from the +NBA and beyond.  Also, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks 

SDH Presents the Top 10 NBA Plays: November 18th


Check out Tuesday's Top 10 plays from around the NBA.  Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents a Battle of Two Giants: Davis vs. Cousins


+DeMarcus Cousins recorded 24 points and 17 rebounds but Anthony Davis' 28 points and nine rebounds led the +New Orleans Pelicans over the +Sacramento KingsVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents Nick Young's Much Needed Spark in Season Debut


After missing the first 10 games, Nick Young provided the spark the +Los Angeles Lakers  so desperately needed finishing with 17 points in win over +Atlanta HawksVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 15. Brooklyn Nets


Overall Win/Loss Record:  44-38,  second place Atlantic Division

2014/2015 Projection: 43-39, second place Atlantic Division, seventh place Eastern Conference

Preseason Rank
15


Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 98.5 (21st)
  • Points Allowed: 99.5 (11th)
  • Team FG%: .459 (12th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .458 (17th)
  • Team FT%: .753 (18th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .369 (11th)
  • Rebounds per game: 38.1(29th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.9 (18th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.0 (12th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.0(6th)
Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Joe Johnson (15.8)
  • Rebounds per game: Kevin Garnett (6.6)
  • Minutes per game: Joe Johnson (32.6)
  • Assists per game:  Deron Williams (6.0)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Mason Plumlee (.659)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Brook Lopez (.870)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Joe Johnson (.401)
  • Steals per game: Deron Williams (1.5)
  • Blocked Shots per game: Mason Plumlee (0.8)
Projected Opening Day Starters based on Past Performances and Potential:

  • Deron Williams (PG)
  • Alan Anderson (SG)
  • Joe Johnson (SF)
  • Kevin Garnett (PF)
  • Brook Lopez (C)
Key Reserves Rank based on Past Performances and Potential:

  1. Jarrett Jack (G)
  2. Andrei Kirilenko (F)
  3. Miles Plumlee (F/C)
  4. Mirza Teletovic (F)
  5. Bojan Bogdanovic (F/G)
Once upon a time, the Brooklyn Nets were once considered as on their way to being a perennial contender for the Eastern Conference crown, but now they look like a complete mess--like a like a crippled building on the verge of collapse.  For a team that plays in the world's largest sports market, not only has their performance on the court been nothing to write home about, but the Nets also suffered major financial losses, losing up to 200$ million last season.  And there is no where else to go but down as this team is shackled with bloated contracts of ridiculously over paid and overpaid players whom the Nets could not even give away. This season alone, close to 70$ million of the Nets' payroll are tied up with a 38 year old Kevin Garnett who has already passed his prime, a 34 year old Joe Johnson whose game continues to diminish as he ages, an underwhelming disappointment in Deron Williams, and an often injured and unreliable Brook Lopez. Even with the departure of a ancient Paul Pierce and the subtraction of his expiring 15$ million, Brooklyn still finds itself considerably over the salary cap; plus, to make matters worse, the Nets find themselves not only financially strapped, but with no way to get out of the hole that the team's front office had put them in.

Because of the trades that were meant to make the Nets an immediate championship contender, not only do they have rather dead weight contracts which seem that they will never get rid off, but no draft picks either as they have given all them to for the next couple of years.  So the Nets have no other choice but to just try to trudge through the next few seasons with their severely dilapidated roster to the playoffs because simply allowing themselves to tank will not net them any benefit. During the off season the Nets had to bid farewell to two players who were instrumental in their struggle to return to the post season letting them go as free agents as they simply could not afford to add even more salaries to their already morbidly obese payroll.  Shaun Livingston was crucial to the Nets' success last season as he was the team's best option at point guard despite it shelling out 20$ million on Deron Williams--a player Brooklyn had designated as the cornerstone of the franchise.  Unfortunately since the Nets had nothing else to give him other than the veteran minimum, Livingston chose to wisely jump off that sinking ship choosing instead to sign with the +Golden State Warriors where he would enjoy a well deserved pay hike along with a chance to play for a potential championship contender.

Sadly the same cannot be for the Nets other free agent, +Andray Blatche, who spent the last couple seasons as a the Nets first player off the bench leading the team's second unit in both scoring and rebounding along with serving as a versatile piece that could fit in any lineup.  At 6 foot 10 and 250 pounds, Blatche was a matchup nightmare for opposing teams as he had such a versatile game capable of not only scoring in the post, but also beating his defender off the dribble and his outside shooting touch.  Thinking that he would garner a bigger payday, Blatche chose to not pick up his player option for the following season and enter the off season as an unrestricted free agent; however, even he would not have believed that every NBA team would pass on him forcing him to play overseas in China.  Not even a stellar run this past summer with the Philippine National team during the +2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup was enough for NBA scouts to turn their heads, let alone convinced their bosses to open up their purse strings.  Regardless, in spite of Blatche's poor fortunes during the off season what remains important is the fact that now the Nets are minus two extremely talented players who could have helped in keeping their broken down gravy train from completely falling apart   

The best that Brooklyn could do during the off season was acquire reserve guard Jarrett Jack in a three way garbage swap with the +Boston Celtics and the +Cleveland Cavaliers; however, it is not certain what will Jack can bring to this team after he had a less than stellar stint last season with the Cavs.  Plus, Jack's contract adds even more salary obligations to the Nets of around 18$ million for the next three years whereas the guy they gave up in order to get Jack, Marcus Thornton, had a contract would have expired at the end of the season giving the team much needed cap relief. Instead, now the Celtics have Thornton's expiring 8$ million dollar deal--something that the Nets certainly could have used considering the team's financial troubles--and Brooklyn could have used him as he posted rather solid numbers with them last season, far better than what Jack did in Cleveland.  Plus, at 27 years old, Thornton would have also provided some desperately needed youth on a squad whose roster ranks as one of the oldest in the league with an average age of 28 years and could have just provided the same production and the same impact as Jack.  Regardless of the costs and benefits that acquiring Jack brings, his arrival was only just small piece of what had been a rather frustrating off season to say the least.

Much of the drama centered around former head coach +Jason Kidd, who looked to make a power play in the organization as he angled for the job of his boss at the time, Billy King, which certainly brought friction between the two.  Many Nets fans as well as observers in the media scoffed at Kidd's nerve to even think that he was worthy of such a promotion considering his less than stellar head coaching debut; however, even they have to give him credit for pulling the Nets together after a struggling start that could have led to an even worse finish.  Sadly, however, the Nets chose to side with King and allowed Kidd to talk to other teams, one of which happened to be the +Milwaukee Bucks, thus leading to Brooklyn to agree to send Kidd to Milwaukee and in exchange received two second round picks.  Brooklyn then chose to replace Kidd with a more seasoned head coach in Lionel Hollins, who not only has a proven track record as a winner, but will know his place within the organization and probably be less inclined to overstep his bounds the way Kidd did.  He will certainly be a welcomed addition to a veteran team that often looked confused and overwhelmed with his predecessor as he provides a simpler and probably more suited offensive set for a team that has grown much older and slower during the past season; however, no one should expect any miracles as Hollins inherits the same team that struggled until late in the season to finish with a respectable enough record and a playoff appearance that ended with a embarrassing second round sweep by the +Miami HEAT.

The sad fact of the matter is that the Nets have proven that they are simply too old and too worn down to even challenge those, let alone stand aside among such Eastern Conference elite team as the Cavs, Heat and +Chicago Bulls.  Instead, this maligned franchise is hanging on for dear life barely clinging to what little respectability it has in a rather weak conference, but their grip has started to slip as up and coming teams such as the +Detroit Pistons and +Milwaukee Bucks  looking to climb over them.  At the same time, there are teams fall in the same boat as the Nets such as the +Indiana Pacers, who suffered a major off season blow with the off season loss of their star Paul George, and the +Atlanta Hawks who are on essentially borrowed time before they too collapse, look to step on Brooklyn's fingers further weakening its grip.  Brooklyn will also be squeezed by Atlantic Division rival, the +Toronto Raptors, who look to maintain their hold of first place and possible vengeance for their first round elimination last season at its hands as well as its cross town nemesis, the +New York Knicks have come into this season with fresh new faces along witha fresh new attitude.  Altogether, the Nets will be in a rather challenging pool of ten teams fighting in a rather wide open Eastern Conference, but due to questionable personnel decisions and current dire financial situation, there is nowhere else for this team to go but down.

Even with the expiration of Kevin Garnett's onerous contract and the projected growth of the salary cap to a whopping 80$ million, the Nets will still find themselves on the losing side as they will still be over the cap while the lack of draft picks over the next couple of years further worsen the teams prospects for years to come.  50$ million of Brookyln's cap space are currently being held hostage by a 34 year old Joe Johnson whose abilities continue to diminish with every season and what can be considered as an absolute bust in Deron Williams, who the organization and fans certainly had high hopes for, but has failed miserably in all regards to live up to them. While another $15 million per year is looked into Brook Lopez--a player who on the floor can be considered as one of the league's top big men, but remains quite unreliable due to his history of injuries and the uncertainly his availability from one season to the next.  And while Jarrett Jack's contract may seem reasonable enough at around 6.3$ million per year for the next three years, his deal actually puts the Nets in worst shape than they were before as his salary puts the team over the luxury tax threshold and will probably stay that way for the next couple of years.  Altogether, the Nets resemble a hodge podge of players that have seen their best basketball years pass them by, but due to the ridiculous value of their contracts make them virtually worthless on the open market thus leaving this team which at one time had so much promise, turn into a absolute train wreck.

Nonetheless, as long the Brookyln Nets win, that is all what matters as there is such an apathetic fan base that can certainly get away with remaining mediocre and residing in the world's largest sports market will also keep the team's somewhat dubious stature as a top draw team.  The team does have the tools to remain somewhat competitive in a rather open Eastern Conference and will most likely finish with an above .500 record and along with appearing in its third straight playoff since arriving to Brooklyn.  Unfortunately, sooner or later this rusty broken down machine will fall apart bringing both the Nets and their luster to both come crashing down as interest will start to fade resulting in Brooklyn suffering the same fate as their former incarnation in New Jersey. Or even worse, the Nets might suffer the same fate as their West Coast counterpart, the +Los Angeles Clippers, and forever take second billing to the Big Apple's more established New York Knicks, who in all honesty are not really that much to talk about either. But for now, the brain trust of the Brooklyn Nets' front office can still maintain the illusion that its team is still a high stakes player in the East and can still contend for a title.       
         
        

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

SDH Presents the Top 10 NBA Plays: November 17th


Check out Monday's Top 10 plays from around the NBA.  Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents Nikola Vucevic with the Double-Double for the Win


+Nikola Vucevic had 25 points and 14 rebounds and the Orlando Magic hit 13 3-pointers in a 107-93 victory over the +Detroit Pistons Monday night. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Bulls vs. Clippers, November 17th


Jimmy Butler scored 22 points and +Joakim Noah  added a double-double as the +Chicago Bulls  defeated the +Los Angeles ClippersVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Rockets vs. Grizzlies, November 17th


Mike Conley scored 19 points and the +Memphis Grizzlies  easily defeat the +Houston Rockets  119-93 on Monday night in a match-up of the teams with the NBA's best records. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Mavericks vs. Hornets, November 17th


+Monta Ellis scored 18 points while +Chandler Parsons added 17 points and nine rebounds as the +Dallas Mavericks defeated the +Charlotte HornetsVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents Markieff Morris' Career High 30-Points in Win


+Markieff Morris recorded a career-high 30 points as well as seven rebounds to lead the +Phoenix Suns over the +Boston CelticsVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Nuggets vs. Cavaliers, November 17th


Ty Lawson scored 24 points and +Arron Afflalo added 23 as the +Denver Nuggets  end +Cleveland Cavaliers' four-game winning streak with a 106-97 victory Monday night. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Suns vs. Celtics, November 17th


+Markieff Morris scored a career-high 30 points to lift the +Phoenix Suns  to a 118-114 victory over the +Boston Celtics on Monday night. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Heat vs. Nets, November 17th


+Mario Chalmers scored 22 points while +Chris Bosh ended his shooting slump adding 15 points and nine rebounds as the +Miami HEAT  snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the +Brooklyn Nets  95-83. Visit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Pelicans vs. Trail Blazers, November 17th


Anthony Davis' 31 points and 11 rebounds was not enough as +Damian Lillard's 24 points led the +Portland Trail Blazers over the +New Orleans PelicansVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: Magic vs. Pistons, November 17th


+Nikola Vucevic recorded 25 points and 14 rebounds while Tobias Harris added 24 points as the +Orlando Magic  defeated the +Detroit PistonsVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH Presents NBA Recap: 76ers vs. Spurs, November 17th


Matt Bonner recorded 18 points and Cory Joseph added 14 as the +San Antonio Spurs  defeated the +Philadelphia 76ersVisit nba.com/video for more highlights and always keep up with all 30+NBA teams right here on +Slap Dog HoopsAlso, please be kind enough to share this post by simply clicking the Facebook, Twitter, G+, and Pinterest buttons below.  It would be greatly appreciated; Thanks!

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 16. New York Knicks

Overall Win/Loss Record:  37-45,  third place Atlantic Division

2014/2015 Projection: 42-40, third place Atlantic Division, eighth place Eastern Conference e

Preseason Rank
16



Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 98.6 (20th)
  • Points Allowed: 99.4(8th)
  • Team FG%:  .449 (16th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .461 (13th)
  • Team FT%: .761 (13th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .372 (7th)
  • Rebounds per game: 40.7 (27th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.0 (10th)
  • Turnovers per game: 12.4 (2nd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.8 (16th)

Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Carmelo Anthony (27.4)
  • Rebounds per game:  Carmelo Anthony (8.1)
  • Minutes per game: Carmelo Anthony (38.7)
  • Assists per game:  Pablo Prigioni (3.5)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Amare Stoudemire (.557)
  • Free Throw Percentage:   Pablo Prigioni (.920)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Pablo Prigioni (.461)
  • Steals per game: Iman Shumpert (1.2)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Andrea Bargnarni (1.2)

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:



Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:


  1. Andrea Bargnarni (F/C)
  2. JR Smith (G)
  3. Tim Hardaway Jr (G)
  4. Samuel Dalembert (C)
  5. Pablo Prigioni (G)

At the end of the 2014 season, the New York Knicks were a complete mess: both the franchise, the city, and its fan were worn down, tapped out, and dejected after having went from being the second best team in the Eastern Conference a year earlier to falling out of the playoff picture last season. Even the announcement of the arrival of former Knick and 11 time NBA Champion coach Phil Jackson as the team's new president did not offer much encouragement to Knicks fans who have witnessed their pride and joy collapse right in front of them.  The situation that Jackson inherited was bleak to say the least: the team had no draft picks, was way over the salary cap, and its roster consisted of the over paid, the over rated, and the over the hill; nonetheless, even with so many odds stacked against him, Jackson still managed to retool the team in a way that completely reshaped the franchise and can be considered one of the best remodeling jobs in the NBA off season.  In one summer, Phil Jackson virtually sis the impossible creating something right out of nothing as he turned a team that was aging and on the brink of collapse into a younger, more athletic one that has a bright future ahead of it.  In fact, one can go as far to say that this Knicks team have improved to a point to where they have arisen from being a team heading for rock bottom to one that may potentially be a dark horse to win the Eastern Conference.

Many will scoff at such a notion that the Knicks, after just one summer managed to turn a team that finished ninth in the Eastern Conference to one that can contend for second or third in the East, but upon closer examination, such a far fetched notion could be more of a reality than anyone could possibly believe.  For starters, right before the NBA Draft, Jackson managed to unload an overpaid, over rated and over the hill player in +Tyson Chandler, and an equally underwhelming Raymond Felton to the +Dallas Mavericks and in return got one of the league's most underrated point guards in the league, and two second round picks which later would result in two of the biggest steals in the NBA Draft.   For much of his career, Jose Calderon has spent it either disregarded or ignored by those following the league despite playing at an elite level and comparably putting up the same numbers as some of the top point guards in the league.  Over the course of his nine year tenure in the NBA, Calderon has ranked among the top leaders in assists as well as assist to turnover ratio, not to mention player efficiency and field goal percentage.  In him, the Knicks get a more than capable floor general who can not only distribute the ball, push the tempo in transition and ensure that there is some sort of ball movement, but can also play off the ball and hit the three ball with rather impressive accuracy.

Adding Calderon might just be the best move the Knicks have made during the off season because he fits in so well into the Triangle Offense that both Jackson and his protege, Head Coach Derek Fisher, want to install because the system perfectly matches Calderon's strengths.  Calderon has the ability to alter his game in any situation either as a facilitator to his teammates or as a scorer not only because of his shooting, but his deceptive quickness as well. While he does not seem to be overtly athletic or quick, Jose Calderon has shown quite the capability to blow past his defender and penetrate the lane with ease often drawing in defenders thus creating more space for his teammates to operate.  Plus, another aspect of Jose's game that has always remained overlooked is his overall on court savvy being able to quickly spotting weaknesses in the opponents defense and thus exploiting them--a key tenet that the Triangle Offense is predicated upon.  Finally, let us not forget that he will be joined by another savvy veteran point guard in Pablo Prigioni who also has quite a strong capability in hitting open shots and the innate ability of turning an opponents' strength into its weakness.

Together, both Prigioni and Calderon--two players who competed both in the NBA and the international stage--give the Knicks two shooters that had both hit close to .450 of their three point shot attempts and even better on court efficiency on a team that were already excellent at keeping turnovers to a minimum.  As if acquiring Calderon was not good enough, the Knicks' two aforementioned second round picks turned out to be rather valuable in its resurrection as they managed to nab possibly two of the biggest steals of the draft--that of +Cleanthony Early out of +Wichita State and brother of the "Greek Freak" himself, Thanasis Antetokounmpo.  Previous to his entry into the draft, Early had led the Shockers to an unbeaten regular season and a number one seed in the last season's +NCAA  Tournament; however, despite his impressive resume and being projected as a potential lottery pick, Early inconceivably fell to number 34 where the Knicks were ready, willing and eager to snatch him up.  Antekounmpo did not have the exposure or acclaim that Early had garnered, but he still managed to turn the heads of some NBA scouts with some really impressive play in the +NBA DLeague where he showed plenty of potential as not only a lock down defender, but as an excellent finisher on the break in transition.  He will possibly never ascend to the ranks or have the limitless upside to his more heralded brother, but upon looking at this scouting report, one can certainly see that Thanasis certainly has the potential to be a solid NBA player for years to come thus making his selection with the 51st pick in the draft a virtual steal for the Knicks.

Unfortunately Knicks fans will not have the luxury of witnessing Antetokounmpo's exploits this season as he has chosen to play overseas, which is probably for the best as he probably would not have been signed or have been able to play because of their team's overcrowded back court.  Upon the opening tip off, there will be six players currently on the roster who play primarily in the back court, all equally capable of providing a strong impact for the team, but not enough minutes to split among them.  Iman Shumpert, whose last two seasons have been far from impressive due to a rash of injuries, will be coming into this season not only healthy, but hungry as he knows that this can be a make or break season for him.  The same goes for JR Smith, who disappointed many fans following a career high 18.2 points per game and earning the Sixth Man of Year Award in 2013 with a less than impressive performance last season.  Finally, let us not forget Tim Hardaway Jr, who managed to ascend from starting his rookie season at the bottom of the roster to becoming one of the team's key players which earned him a mention on the 2014 NBA All Rookie First Team.

Both Calderon and Prigioni will most likely split the duties at point guard, with Jose getting the lion share of the minutes at the starter's spot, while Pablo, at his advanced age of 37,  taking what's left of them as the primary backup. That will most likely leave second year point guard Shane Larkin, another one of the player acquired during that monumental fortune changing Dallas deal, at the end of the bench both cheering his teammates on and acting as an understudy to "Spa-gentinian Connection" of Calderon and Prigioni.  The other notable player in that deal, Samuel Dalembert, will most likely take over Tyson Chandler's role last season providing the Knicks' with the same inside defensive presence and rim protection, but far less than the expensive 13$ million price tag that Chandler had.  Phil Jackson then took one of the lesser known assets acquired in that deal, shooting guard Wayne Ellington, packaging him with little used big man Jeremy Tyler, and sent them to the +Sacramento Kings for forwards +Quincy Acy and +Travis Outlaw.  Outlaw, headed to his fourth team in five years, will most likely be either dealt or waived since he does not fit in any of the Knicks' future plans; on the other hand, Acy looks to be a definite keeper thanks to the effort, energy and physicality he has shown in his two seasons in the league.  

In another low key, but equally high impact move, Phil Jackson used will little spending power he had in the league's mid-level exemption and signed former +New Orleans Pelicans big man Jason Smith in free agency, which can also be seen as another major off season steal for the Knicks.  In his four years with the Pelicans, Smith showed plenty of promise as he came off the bench to average 8.0 points, 4 rebounds, and nearly a block in just 20.5 minutes per game thus making him one of the few hidden treasures in an off season that touted some of the biggest names in the league.   Not only does he have the potential to effectively put up big numbers with per 40 minute averages of 16.0 point, 8 rebounds and 2 blocks per game, but he also adds an especially important element in Jackson's Triangle Offense--the mid range shooting big man.  Similar to Horace Grant (91-93 Chicago Bulls, 2001 Los Angeles Lakers), Bill Cartwright (91-93 Bulls) and Luc Longley (96-98 Bulls), Smith has the size, physical tools and the skill set to not only potentially be a physical presence on the defensive end, but also the mid range shooting touch that can prove deadly off pick and rolls. Add Smith's strengths with the aforementioned qualities that both Dalembert and Calderon bring, mesh them with the returning group of players and you have the ingredients for the perfect execution of Jackson's Triangle Offense which at full strength can really cause damage in the East.

Coach Fisher already has the focal point of his Triangle with the return of Carmelo Anthony as he will be looked upon to take up the lion share of the scoring load the same way that Micheal Jordan did for the Bulls, and how +Shaquille O'Neal  and +Kobe Bryant did during their respective championship runs.  Plus, even though age and injuries have worn down any chance of him returning to All Star form, if healthy, Amare Stoudemire can still provide a solid presence in the paint on the offensive end and on the boards.  Last season, Andrea Bargnarni was the object of disdain and rebuke for most Knicks fans, but under the installment of the Triangle, what were once perceived weakness can be turned to potential strengths and he may just turn into a fan favorite by season's end.  His size, athleticism and skill set are reminiscent of players such as Toni Kukoc (96-98 Chicago Bulls) and +Lamar Odom (2010-2012 Lakers)--versatile big men who came off the bench and not only provided scoring punch but also match up problems for opposing defenders.  Altogether the combination of Carmelo, the returning cast of characters from last season, plus the new additions will give Fisher enough offensive firepower and depth to certainly return the Knicks to playoff contention this season; however, for New York to even be considered as a true viable contender for the Eastern Conference crown, there lacks one special ingredient that made the Triangle Offense one of the most potent systems in the NBA and Phil Jackson an 11 time NBA Champion.

In the case of Jackson's Bulls teams, Michael Jordan had +Scottie Pippen who stepped into a supporting role and not only provided additional offensive support, but also ensured that the rest of their teammates got involved in the offense silently leading the team while Jordan got all the credit and acclaim.  Then in Jackson's first championship run with Lakers, he had a case where both Shaq and Kobe wanted to claim alpha male status, yet Jackson managed at least, to formsome kind of truce where instead of one being in front of the other, they would instead maintain an often fragile balance.  Once Shaq left, it would be Kobe who would take his place on top of the mountain; nonetheless he still needed the someone to take the offensive pressure off him while at the same time allowing him to be the lead wolf in the pack which is where +Pau Gasol and +Lamar Odom come into the picture.  The fact is that in all those cases--whether it was with Jordan, Shaq and Kobe--they all needed a player that was of equal caliber who not only possessed many of the same qualities as them but also had the ability to both complement their strengths while at the same, compensate for their weaknesses as well. As it stands now Carmelo does not have such a luxury as both Amare Stoudemire and JR. Smith have proven unreliable to the task as they lack the stability, consistency or maturity to take on such a responsibility.

Unless Jackson strikes it rich again pulling off a major mid-season deal that will bring that hall of fame caliber talent or snagging a big fish in the free agent pool during the off season, Carmelo might be doomed to continue dragging his team into mediocrity for the next five years. He did a great job surrounding his star with quality supporting cast players and impressively so considering that Jackson had little or nothing to work with in terms of draft picks or cap space; however, more needs to be done and fortunately for him, once the season ends, Jackson will have all the cap space necessary to attract that marquee talent to be the Yin to Carmelo's Yang.  Regardless of happens in the future, what is important is building a solid present and right now it is looking very good for the New York Knicks--so good, in fact that it might silence even the most fervent of doubters.  They certainly will not be contending for the conference crown this season, but the Knicks will undoubtedly be in the playoff picture come season's end and those who scoff at such a notion will find themselves either sadly or pleasantly, knowing the constant pessimism of their fans, surprised.                                          

Sunday, November 16, 2014

SDH's 2014/2015 NBA Worst to First Previews and Predictions: 17. Los Angeles Lakers

Overall Win/Loss Record :  27-55  fifth place Pacific Division

2014/2015 Projection: 44-38, third place Pacific Division, ninth place Western Conference

Preseason Rank
17


Last season’s Team Statistics and League Rank

  • Points Scored: 103.2 (11th)
  • Points Allowed: 109.2 (29th)
  • Team FG%: .450 (14th)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .468 (26th)
  • Team FT%: .757 (17th)
  • Team Three Point FG%: .381 (3rd)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.0 (25th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 49.0 (30th)
  • Turnovers per game: 14.8 (24th)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 13.5 (21st)


Returning Individual Statistical Leaders

  • Scoring (ppg): Nick Young (17.4)
  • Rebounds per game:  Jordan Hill (7.4)
  • Minutes per game: Wesley Johnson (28.4)
  • Assists per game:  Steve Nash (5.7)
  • Field Goal Percentage: Jordan Hill (.549)
  • Free Throw Percentage:  Steve Nash (.920)
  • Three Point FG Percentage: Nick Young (.386)
  • Steals per game:  Wesley Johnson (1.1)
  • Blocked Shots per game:   Wesley Johnson (1.0)

Projected Opening Day Starters Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:

Key Reserves Rank Based on Past Performances and Potential Impact:


Last season can be considered by many as a horrifyingly deep and physically deforming scar on not on the Lakers, but professional basketball as whole as one of the +NBA's most storied franchise suffered its most humiliating experience.  It almost seemed as if the whole sporting world went off balance as it saw the historic purple and gold trudge and stumble through the regular season finishing with its worst record in franchise history; sadly, however, despite the relative shock felt by sports fans worldwide, it was an inevitability that it would happen.  It was only a matter of time that the Lakers would crash and burn after two straight ho-hum seasons which saw them get embarrassingly swept in the playoffs.  Once +Dwight Howard left the Southern Californian sunshine choosing to sign with the +Houston Rockets followed by the sudden deterioration of Steve Nash's body upon arriving in L.A, it was a forgone conclusion that the once proud Lakers who had no rival in the City of Angels will lose it title as the Hoop Kings of Hollywood.  In spite of the dire predictions and lowered expectations, no one even fathomed that this once mighty titan in the world of professional sports would fall so low; nonetheless, even with the rather depressing finish last season, at least there were some positives that gave even the most discouraged Laker fans a glimmer of hope.

For starters, here was a team that had been decimated by injuries to a point where it only had eight players dressed in games and had so much turnover with players popping in and out throughout the season; yet, it still managed to perform rather efficiently rate offensively ranking among the top teams in the league in scoring, field goal percentage, and three point shooting.  Their defense was admittedly atrocious and they simply got abused on the boards as well, but the Lakers still managed to stay within six points of their opponents despite allowing the most points, rebounds, and field goals in the league last season.  Thus upon looking at the past evidence, it is safe to assume that had the Lakers not been so greatly handicapped by its rash of injuries, they would not have had that unsightly blemish on their rather proud and pristine legacy; nonetheless, even if the Lakers managed to squeak into the playoffs last season, it still would not have satisfied its fans always lofty and often unrealistic expectations.  After all, this is a city where the people have grown accustomed to hoisting championship banners at the start of every season on a regular basis and anything short of a NBA Finals appearance is considered a failure.  So even with the significant upgrade in talent and depth of the roster, this season will still be deemed as a complete letdown because with the way the league is now, there is simply no way that the Lakers can contend for a title now or anytime soon for that matter.

The city that it once claimed as its own has now been hijacked by a group of upstarts who had been at one time considered as nothing more than an afterthought and teams that had once cowered at their feet have now risen and surpassed them as well.  Teams such as the +Los Angeles Clippers, the +Golden State Warriors, and at one time or another the +Phoenix Suns  were considered either as compete laughing stocks or at their best, a poor facsimile that could not even hold a candle to the Lakers; but now the tables have turned and now a once proud noble now finds itself among the peasants fighting for scraps.  Not only have the Lakers been shut out of the Western Conference elite with the Warriors, Rockets, Clippers, +San Antonio Spurs+Oklahoma City Thunder, and +Portland Trail Blazers essentially clogging up six of the West eight playoff berths, they have to contend with facing six other teams that essentially match them in every way for the final two spots and all that will entitle them to is a short and forgetful playoff run.  Both the +Dallas Mavericks and the +Memphis Grizzlies remain significant obstacles as they both barely made the playoffs last season with regular season records that would have earned an Eastern Conference team home court advantage in the playoffs.  In addition to the Mavs and Grizz, the Suns earned a record that would have qualified them in third place had they been in the Eastern Conference, but were forced to sit the post season out missing the cut by just one game.

Now the field has become even tighter with the ascension of two teams that have spent the last few years in the shadows while a third, similar to the Lakers, have returned with a healthier and stronger lineup, but are still desperately trying to cling on to whatever little leverage it still has in an increasingly widening gap between the haves in have nots in the Western Conference.  Both the +Sacramento Kings and +New Orleans Pelicans look to be teams on the rise with players who had a rather successful run in last summer's +2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup while the +Denver Nuggets will come back with a healthy and fully loaded roster and all of them will be looking to use the Lakers as a stepping stone to get within a step closer of being relevant.  There is especially optimism in Sacramento as it will see the return of team's leader in almost every statistical category +DeMarcus Cousins as well as +Rudy Gay, who can be considered one of the best players to have never been selected to an All Star team.  After a rough couple seasons that saw not only his efficiency and productivity drop, but also him being shipped to three teams in just one season, Gay bounced back to have one of the best seasons in his career and will look to be even better after a stellar summer performance and the chance to work with his team during the preseason.  New Orleans will also not only be welcoming future Hall of Famer in the making Anthony Davis, but also a bevy of young talented players consisting of a former all star in +Jrue Holiday, and two other young guns in Eric Gordon and +Tyreke Evans who can explode for 18 to 25 points at any given time.

It seems almost pointless for the Lakers to even try to compete because the best the team can look forward to is either a slim chance of making the playoffs just to be ousted as quickly as they arrived, or finish just short to make the cut thus having to settle with a low lottery pick. Nonetheless, give GM Mitch Kupchack credit for turning lemons into lemonade as he filled in the gaps in the roster with low cost, low risk and high reward acquisition during the off season; however, regardless of who is on the roster, it is still not enough for this current Lakers teams to make a dent into the Western Conference.  He strengthened the Lakers' front court by picking up veteran and two time all star Carlos Boozer off waivers from the +Chicago Bulls and signing bruiser Ed Davis who had previously played with the Grizzlies and the +Toronto Raptors.   Boozer will certainly give the team much needed scoring in the paint along with a strong presence on the boards, but the biggest surprise will be Davis who could might just be the biggest steal in free agency.  What he lacks in polish and fundamentals, Davis makes up for in his athleticism, energy and effort and as the season progresses, he might just edge Boozer out of the starting lineup--not bad for a guy that was just signed to a measly two year 2$ million deal.

Kupchack's next big off season move was the acquisition of a player that has reached near folk hero status after his monumental introduction to the league, but has sadly failed to live up to the huge expectations that were placed upon him.  After the 2012 Season, otherwise known as the "Year of Linsanity," Jeremy Lin had fallen off the NBA radar after signing a lucrative contract with the Houston Rockets as he was simply unable to recreate the sensational performance that brought him into the worldwide spotlight.  In a desperate attempt to free up as much cap space as possible to lure marquee free agents, the Rockets shipped off Lin's expiring contract to L.A for virtually nothing and added a first round pick thus giving the Lakers an offer that they simply could not refuse.  Unfortunately, Houston's efforts proved to be for naught as they failed to attract any interest from marquee free agents and in losing a solid point guard in Lin, but also their pick in next year's draft and with Steve Nash announcing his retirement, Lin will have plenty of opportunity to make even bigger fools of the Rockets for letting him go.  Even if he does not bring back Linsanity, Jeremy Lin is still a good bet with his expiring contract and the first round pick that Houston so unwisely gave away thus giving Lakers not just one, but two assets come the off-season.

From a glance of the current roster, it would seem that the Lakers are looking more towards the future than the here and now because most of their contracts are either short term inexpensive ones or on the verge of expiring by the end of the season.  Many criticized the Lakers for signing a 36 year old Kobe Bryant who had just come off a surgeries to a two year 50$ million dollar deal, but come season's end, his will be the only contract on the team's books.  And with the salary cap ballooning to about 80$ million next season, the Lakers will have up to 55$ million in cap room to attract the likes of marquee names such as +Rajon Rondo+Kevin Love, or even Greg Monroe, who all will be unrestricted free agents come the off season. Even if they come up empty handed this upcoming off-season, there will always be the next one where the likes of +Kevin Durant and +Russell Westbrook will be soon available among other and it is not as if the Lakers are in any rush to return to relevancy anytime soon.  With the way the Western Conference has taken shape, it will literally take years for Los Angeles to build into the championship contender it once was and save for a miracle, the Lakers have little or no chance to even make the playoffs, let alone contend in the West.

This is probably one of the few times in Laker history where there are absolutely no expectations put upon them whatsoever because they virtually have no chance to return to championship glory anytime soon.  Even Kobe Bryant, to some extent, has essentially disregarded any chances of returning to the NBA Finals as he is primarily his focus on cementing his legacy as the greatest Laker to ever play the game by spending his twilight years chasing for the all time scoring leader. As a player, he has nothing else to prove with already five NBA Championships and two MVP trophies so he can easily coast for the rest of the season and for the tail end of his career as both he and his team are both on the verge of fading away in the annals of history.  It is not even worth it to even try to make the playoffs because it is a huge gamble that will reap very little rewards and the Lakers would probably be better off simply tanking the next couple of seasons and build through the draft; however that is not going to happen.  The organization, its players and their fans have too much pride to allow such a sacrilege to occur, so expect to see a lot of guts in this Laker club, but not too much glory.