All posts by tmac_1034

NBA Predictions

Yesterday marked the start of this years NBA season aka the start of one of the best time of the year for sports. Football is in full swing, hockey is back and the World Series is on (Indians in 7) but let’s make some basketball predictions.

Let’s start off with some playoff predictions:

East:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Celtics
  3. Pacers
  4. Raptors
  5. Bulls
  6. Bucks
  7. Hawks
  8. Pistons

Falling Out: Heat, Hornets

West:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Spurs
  4. Jazz
  5. Trail Blazers
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Mavericks
  8. Rockets

Falling Out: Thunder

MVP: Paul George G/F Indiana Pacers

UPSET! With most people picking between LeBron, Kawhi Leonard, Warriors Duo, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, how about a guy that can score 23+ PPG, 8+ RPG, 4 APG along with guarding the opposing team’s best player. If PG13 makes the jump to 25+ PPG and 9+ RPG, and the Pacers finish as a top three team in the East, he should be in the conversation. After overcoming that gruesome knee injury, it would be a feel good story for the league.

Defensive Player of the Year: Rudy Gobert C Utah Jazz

Man do I really want to pick Avery Bradley. But I can’t. The protection that Rudy Gobert gives around the rim even without blocking the shot is impeccable to the Jazz’s success. Rim protection is something that not enough teams have and presuming the Jazz takes the leap the Jazz should take will help propel Gobert to this award. Draymond Green and Leonard are the favorites for the award but if the Jazz take that leap and Gobert averages 3+ blocks and continues his defensive dominance, the award will fall to the French big.

Most Improved Player: Harrison Barnes F Dallas Mavericks

Yeah yeah yeah he’s my favorite player get over it. HB40 has struggled BAD in the preseason. A simple Google search will make him sound like the worst NBA player in history. But once the season starts I think he will settle in. He has an insane contract that warrants some very hefty expectations but those might come more next year. But this year Barnes can easily get his stats to almost 20 PPG 8 RPG and he plays good defense. He is the perfect small ball 4 and him and Dirk can make some noise. Also watch out for Marcus Smart, I think this is the year he truly breaks out.

6th Man of the Year: Jamal Crawford G LA Clippers

This is always a go-to pick. Boring pick but at least you know he’ll be in the conversation. Other guys I was considering were Joe Johnson on the Jazz (I’m really high on the Jazz), Smart, and Andre Iguodala with the Warriors.

Rookie of the Year: Buddy Hield G New Orleans Pelicans

This is an interesting Rookie of the Year award race. Ben Simmons, if healthy the entire season, would’ve ran away with it. Jaylen Brown isn’t guaranteed to play 20 minutes every game, neither is Dragan Bender, so that leaves Brandon Ingram and Kris Dunn as the top 5 picks with enough playing time to put up numbers to win the award.That’s where everyone’s favorite college player comes into play in Buddy Hield. Due to every halfway decent New Orleans player being hurt or unavailable (S/O to Jrue Holiday, way to be there for your wife) Hield should have enough shots and opportunity to win the award.Playing off of Anthony Davis should provide plenty of scoring opportunities for Buddy. Lastly don’t sleep on the 76ers center Joel Embiid. The 2014 third overall pick is finally healthy and has superstar potential. He does have a minute limit that could hold back his case for the award.

Coach of the Year: Brad Stevens Boston Celtics

This is easy. If the Celtics get themselves into the “elite” or “serious contender” levels this season, Stevens will have to the front runner. I’m still surprised he didn’t get more love from the voters in last years vote but this should be the year Brad gets his award that he probably doesn’t even want.

ALL NBA First Team:

G: Russell Westbrook

G: James Harden

F: LeBron James

F: Paul George

C: Demarcus Cousins

Second Team:

G: Steph Curry

G: Chris Paul

F: Kawhi Leonard

F: Kevin Durant

C: Andre Drummond

Third Team:

G: Kyrie Irving

G: John Wall

F: Al Horford

F: Blake Griffin

C: DeAndre Jordan

Finals MVP: LeBron James

Champion: Cavaliers in 6

 

2016 Boston Celtics Season Preview

We’re back baby! We’re back!

The long days of summer are long gone and we are entering a new season of Boston Celtics basketball. With just six days away from the start of the new NBA season and a week away from the Celtics opening game, whens a better time to take a look at the team we will be watching for 82+ games?

First let’s take a look at last year and the offseason real quick:

Record: 48-34 (Second in Atlantic Division, fifth in Eastern Conference

Playoff Finish: 4-2 loss to the Atlanta Hawks

Stat Leaders

PPG: Isaiah Thomas (22.2)

RPG: Jared Sullinger (8.3)

APG: Isaiah Thomas (6.2)

SPG: Jae Crowder (1.7)

BPG: Amir Johnson (1.1)

Key Losses: G/F Evan Turner (Portland Trailblazers), F/C Jared Sullinger (Toronto Raptors)

Key Additions: F/C Al Horford, F Jaylen Brown, G/F Gerald Green

After what many may say was a disappointing finish to last season, the Celtics went out and had a very good offseason. Obviously striking out on potentially bringing a guy like Kevin Durant was a massive disappointment, but the fact the Celtics even had a conversation with him is a good sign for this franchise. And that leads me to the guy the Celtics did sign: Al Horford…

I LOVE THIS GUY. He does everything on the basketball court from scoring in the post, scoring outside, moving the ball, setting hard screens, being able to guard guys on the perimeter and post, the list goes on and on. He isn’t the greatest rim protector but the combination of him and Amir Johnson will keep all opposing offenses on their toes while driving to the rim. Horford fits the transition the NBA is currently in with spacing the floor, stretch forwards, and being versatile enough to guard multiple positions. He defines versatile and will be a pleasure to watch light up teams at the TD Garden for the next couple of years.

Jaylen Brown is this years gift that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett left to us after getting traded. With the third pick in this past years NBA draft, the Celtics stole Brown from the Nets. Even though he may not have been the huge splash that many fans wanted, he is a guy that can play right of way and has the upside to be a very good to great player in this league. He has already showed he has unreal athleticism but has also shown that he is a man learning and will make plenty of mistkaes. He’s only 19 and will have lots of growing pains but he will surely give us lots of “Sportscenter Top Plays”. He should fit in nice as a back up 3 and a potential 4. Get excited to watch this guy for the next 10+ years.

Now to the rest of the team and expectations for this team. First let’s take a look at the starting five:

PG: Isaiah Thomas

SG: Avery Bradley

SF: Jae Crowder

PF: Amir Johnson

C: Al Horford

They have looked great so far this preseason and I would expect that to continue. Bradley has come into this season with improved handles and passing and he looks to have an expanded role on offense to complement his First Team All-Defense. IT hopes to come back and prove that he is still an All Star caliber player. So far this preseason IT has shot well and shown a good on-court relationship with Horford. After receiving votes for First Team All-Defense last year, Crowder has come out looking very strong once again. The heart and soul of the Celtics is healthy and brought what looks to be a new refined offensive game that could vault him into the All Star Game conversation. Amir is gonna be Amir. Hustle plays, good rebounding, and the rest of the unnoticed stats will be where Amir will be making his money’s worth once again.

Now the bench:

PG: Terry Rozier, Demetrius Jackson

SG: Marcus Smart, James Young/RJ Hunter (whoever wins the last spot)

SF: Jaylen Brown, Gerald Green

PF: Jonas Jerebko, Jordan Mickey

C: Kelly Olynyk, Tyler Zeller

I would expect big minutes from Smart and Olynyk (when he returns from injury). Smart should take lots of Evan Turner’s touches from last year. His shot looks improved but he hasn’t been making shots yet in the preseason. Even if Smart never becomes a great shooter, he is still a guy who can penetrate the defense and make the right pass. And on defense, phew, no one wants to be guarded by this guy. Hopefully KO can get healthy and build off of last years performance before his injury. Its also a contract year for him so I’d like to see an aggressive Kelly providing us with a nice outside punch and surprising decent interior defense (102 defensive rating last year which is very good). Rozier looks greatly improved after a nice summer league/preseason and should become the backup guard along with Smart. Jerebko and Zeller will have roles based off of matches more than likely with Jerebko getting more run more often. The bench as a whole should be solid, especially plugged in with a few starters, but scoring may be an issue at times if IT, Bradley, and Horford are all out.

Overall, I expect big things from this squad. I think a top four (really 3) seed should be expected along with 52+ wins. In the playoffs, anything less than a second round finish would be a failed season. The Celtics have the players to compete in a relatively weak, but developing Eastern Conference. Let the games begin!

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NBA Finals Recap: LeBron’s Legacy is Saved

Exactly a week ago today LeBron James began the biggest uphill battle of his career. Down 3-1 to the NBA record setting 73-9 Golden State Warriors, LeBron had to lead his team to three victories, and two of them being in Golden State.

And boy did he deliver.

First it started by LeBron getting tangled up with Draymond Green at the end of Game 4. I whole heartily believe that LeBron purposely started it to try and get Green to attack upon in order to get Green suspended for Game 5. And it worked. Green got involved and was later assessed a technical foul giving him his fourth of the playoffs which warrants a suspension.

LeBron and Kyrie took advantage of Greens absence and each dropped 41 points en route to victory.

Game 6 was more of the same but Green was playing. LeBron was a force, Irving punked Steph, and JR Swish swished. The game led Ayeshea Curry to blow up Twitter and what might have started the downward fall of the worlds greatest family: the Curry’s. Steph was nowhere to be found, fouling out on questionable calls but calls he should’ve been trying to avoid all together. Thompson took an early vacation after his blistering first half in Game 5 so he was nowhere to be seen. And of course my main man Harrison Barnes absolutely stunk up the arena, potentially costing him millions of dollars and plenty of Internet memes (My personal favorite being “If Harrison Barnes shot Tupac, Tupac would still be alive right now”). Iguodala played hurt and Bogut was out but for some reason Steve Kerr kept playing Andersen Varejao when he has two better players in Festus Ezeli and MO Speights on the bench.

With all momentum on the Cavs side we headed to Game 7 last night. This was the opportunity that LeBron needed to save and cement his legacy.

  1. Bring a title to Cleveland, a city that hasn’t won anything in a half century
  2. A chance to be the first time to come back from 3-1 in the Finals
  3. Do that against a team that is looking to become the best team in league history after winning 73 games

And he delivered. If you were looking for that iconic championship winning play look no further than LeBrons block on Iguodala with one minute left. That would’ve given the Warriors the lead but instead the Cavs got the ball back and Kyrie nailed his iconic championship play with a 3 right in Curry’s face. The next possession Curry got Kevin Love on him and he shot him down with a good close out. Gotta feel good for our man K-Love last night, he had a great game and really left it all out there.

The Cavs finished the game and LeBron fulfilled his promise and saved his legacy. Now its time to stop rooting for our usual enemy and get back to #Banner18 Draft Countdown officially begins.

P.S. If LeBron made that dunk on Green at the very end when he “hurt” his wrist, it could’ve been the most posterizing dunk-dagger in basketball history.

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in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

What is Going on in the Finals?

Looking back at this years NBA playoffs, we are going to remember one thing: blowouts. And the Finals are proving just that as well, as through the first three games all wins have been decisive blowouts.

How can the two (arguably) best teams just be trading blowouts instead of duking it out until the final buzzer?

There could be many potential factors. Style of play could be one, confidence could be another, maybe even Kevin Love. Home court definitely plays a major factor but not a 63 point turn around that we saw from game two to game three.

Style of play would be the best guess. Both teams live and die on the three ball. They both play quick, small ball lineups. The Cavs aren’t a good defensive team like the Warriors are but last night they were all over the place making the Warriors look uncomfortable, in particular Curry.

The Splash Bros are averaging a staggering 28 PPG in the Finals so far compared to the 52.8 points they averaged in the regular season. The fact they are not only up 2-1 but won both of the first two games by a staggering margin proves how well rounded of a team they do have. But they will have to start playing because if the Cavs win game four, you know LeBron is great enough to overcome the home court advantage that is the Oracle Arena.

LeBron had that look in him last night but he needs to have that consistently. He is at his best when he is in full on attack mode and looking for his shot. Yes he can still be the passer and offensive playmaker but he needs to still be taking 20+ shots. Warriors can’t stop him in the paint even though Draymond Green blocked LeBron on what would have been the biggest posterize in years.

The Splash Bros have got to show up. Curry needs to be effective early and often. When him and Klay Thompson are on at the same time its almost unbeatable.

The Warriors role players have really stood up this series. Green was easily the MVP the first two games but was no where to be seen in game three. My man Harrison Barnes (he’s my favorite player for you all who did not know) played a great game finally showing us his scoring prowess thats going to earn him $20 million this offseason. He was also great on the boards for a perimeter guy, trying to get rebounds with Tristan Thompson out there is no easy task.

Cavaliers role players need to do exactly what they did in game three. JR Smith was hitting his shots, Richard Jefferson found the fountain of youth and neutralized Green, and Thompson showed what many experts predicted that he would do controlling the boards. Also Kyrie was the star that we all expected of him, and will continue to expect in the upcoming games.

But heres the main story of the series: what do the Cavs do with Kevin Love? He played well in the game one loss, but the team looked a lot better when he didn’t play. Love doesn’t really fit the Cavs philosophy but he is still a premier talent in this league. His a guy who needs to be involved more in the offense as a top two option, not three. Love coming off the bench when one of LeBron or Kyrie sits down seems ideal. Get the guy some touches and see what he can do. But have a quick leash, if he stinks the bed get him out otherwise ride the train and see where it goes, you just don’t wanna mess with what can be built upon off last game.

With all that said I’ll take the Cavs tonight. After that I think the Cavs win at the Oracle in game five. But if the Cavs lose game six, the Warriors aren’t losing twice there, so: Cavs in 6.

Trying to Foresee the Rest of the NBA Finals

The NBA playoffs are reaching the top of the mountain as we are closing in on the halfway mark of the Conference Finals. LeBron’s Cavaliers seemed to be in complete control of their series versus the Toronto Raptors but Lowry/Derozan and company came out to play in the 6 last night. Game 3 for the defending champs and OKC just tipped off with a tied series, 1-1.

I predicted the Cavs to win to 2- 3 games, yes technically impossible but I thought the Raptors might just give up. But they showed some true fight and took control of the boards, thanks to Bismack Biyombo’s 26 rebounds. He had 20 rebounds before he even scored his first point. I think that game came down more to the Cavs just missing shots. Love was 1-9 and Kyrie Irving was 3-19 and LeBron got assaulted en route to a pretty solid game for him. Maybe they needed to lose before facing either the Thunder or Warriors to get it out of their system. Not worried about them at all. Cavs in 5.

As for the Western Conference Finals I said Warriors in 7. I really like the Thunder but too even have the slightest chance of wooing Durant to Boston, OKC has to lose. Hopefully in 7 to keep us entertained. But from a basketball standpoint I believe the Warriors can get it done in 7. Durant and Westbrook are good enough alone to grab another two wins but this Golden State team is too good. The fact you can take the MVP of the league off the team and still win playoff games is just ridiculous. No team can match their depth and length across the board. When you see the lineup with Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes as their two big guys, you know a big run is coming. GSW in 7.

That leaves us with a Cavs-Warriors rematch in the finals. This time the Cavs (hopefully, knock on wood) will be at full strength. Both teams are deep and loaded with shooters. I hope every game in 130-129. Cavs should be well rested, which could prove to be a huge difference, but they also haven’t had to deal with being down in a series or facing real adversity. The Thunder and Warriors are significantly better than any in the Eastern Conference. Cavs in 6. Lebron-James-with-NBA-Trophy.jpg

Its finally time for something good to happen to Cleveland and the King will finally deliver.

Why Today is the Most Important Day of the Year

May 17, 2016. Why is this date so important? Its the day of the 2016 NBA draft lottery where our beloved Celtics are looking to start what could be one of the most important and interesting offseason’s in franchise history.

The Celtics, while finishing tied for third in the east, have the third highest chance to receive the leagues first overall pick in next months draft thanks to the wonderful management of the Brooklyn Nets.

nbadraftlottery_digitalIf you don’t remember the trade here are the details:

Celtics Receive: Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and unprotected first round picks in 2014 (James Young), 2016, 2018, as well as the right to swap picks in 2017.

Nets Receive: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry, DJ White.

Trading arguably my two legends in one trade is never easy. Especially with the bond Boston fans had with KG and the Truth, but looking back at this trade and the Nets have done our rebuild for us. The Nets since the trade had one nice playoff run then pretty much dismantled their team. Which has set us up beautifully.

So why is today’s lottery so important? The implications the different draft spots have. The C’s need a top 2 pick to really make some noise. Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram are miles better then the next guy (Bender?, Dunn?, Murray?, not Heild). The Celtics don’t want to draft this pick, they want an established player that can help us become contenders but no team is gonna listen if its not top 2. Not for a higher tier player anyway.

We were spoiled with the fireworks in 2007 with the Ray Allen trade and then the KG trade. While I doubt trades of that magnitude will happen, a top 2 pick could at least start conversations for a Jimmy Butler or my pipe dream of Paul George.

If the Celtics do draft top 2, Ingram would for sure be the better fit with his scoring and shooting ability. Simmons is someone for has fallen in some eyes based on his college performance but he’ll be a household name for years to come especially if that jumper gets going. If the Celtics drop between the 3-6 range, I’d prefer to trade down and get a guy like Heild or Labissiere (very high risk). I don’t think Heild is a top 5 guy but he could help the C’s spread the floor wit his shooting ability.

The Celtics also have first rounders at #16 and #23. If both picks are used at least one for sure will be a draft-and-stash, aka drafting a young European player that won’t play in the NBA for a couple more years. A guy Denzel Valentine would be nice if Turner is not brought back. Another interesting name is 7 footer Thon Maker, a high school senior who technically graduated last year but voluntarily played another year of high school (strange), but he was projected as a lottery pick for next season.

May 17, 2016: a day of that will live infamously or a day to remember? Bring it home IT.

That’s All She Wrote

And just like that the season is over. Another disappointing performance by the Celtics in Game 6 as they lost 104-92.

Game 6 felt just like Game 5, slow start, Celtics lead, Hawks dominate. This time the C’s made a little run when they were down by as many as 27 points and cut it to 10 at one point in the fourth. Gave us hope but it was just too late as Atlanta held on.

The Hawks defense was stifling and they suffocated everything at the rim. Isaiah Thomas (25 points, 10 assists) saw seas of red every dribble he took. IT struggled out the gates but Jonas Jerebko (13 points) kept the Celtics alive with an early 8 points. But nobody was hitting their shots and it seemed everyone that was shot air balled or clanked the back board.

The Hawks are just too good of a team to not shoot well against. Once guys like Kyle Korver (14 points, 9 rebounds[?!]) and Kent Bazemore (15 points) get going it opens everything up for Atlanta. Dennis Schroder (13 points, 8 assists) was getting into the lane pretty easily, collapsing the defense and making everything easier for his teammates. And I haven’t even mentions Atlanta’s two best players, Al Horford (19 points) and Paul Millsap (17 points, 8 rebounds).

Not enough is said about the impact Korver had on the game. I’m not a huge fan of the plus/minus stat but this series he averaged +11.5. And everytime he’s on the court is when the Hawks make their runs. Every time I saw him checking back into the game I grunted a bit. Thats how good of a shooter he is, you CANNOT leave him open. Very underrated player.

As for our beloved Celtics. It was a great season for a young team. Most players made significant strides and gained some experience. I whole heartily believe if Bradley doesn’t get hurt, this series goes at least 7 and we don’t get blown out the way we did. His impact on defense is unbelievable and he’s one of two guys that can actually make a shot from the outside consistently.

As for this individual game it came down mostly to shot making. Gotta make shots. In the regular season it was the Celtics strategy to play quick, take quick shots and turnover the opponent. In the playoffs teams don’t turn it over as often, game slows down, and the C’s just didn’t have enough fire power in the half court.

This offseason will be huge with draft picks already at #16, #21, #31 and four other second rounders. And of course the third best odds at the top overall pick on May 17 draft lottery. Plenty of cap space to sign potentially 2 max contracts (Durant? [a man can pray]). This offseason will be fun.

I’ll be back with end of the season grades for each Celtic player and some offseason coverage. Now its time to pick a bandwagon.

Boston Celtics ’17-’29 NBA champs. game6.png