Archive for the 'Basketball' Category

Thoughts on the 2017 NBA Championship and the Future of the Golden State Warriors

Well, I can honestly say the NBA Playoffs ended the way I thought they would end back at the beginning of the season. I wrote the following in my NBA pre-season blog post of 26 Oct 2016:

“I am tempted to really pick an underdog to take out the Warriors or the Cavaliers, but I simply can’t .

So,  barring major injuries, I think we will see yet another classic battle between Golden State and Cleveland. The addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors will make Golden State too much for the Cavaliers and the rest of the league to handle. KD will finally get his first ring.

I was hardly alone in that prediction. Of course, a lot basketball analysts, writers and fans thought the Warriors with KD would  be unbeatable in the end, but it  was still highly entertaining to see Golden State actually live up to the high expectations, defeating a very formidable opponent in the Cavaliers.

With the Golden State Warriors winning another championship and 2 out of the of the last three Finals versus the Cleveland Cavaliers is it justifiable to state that a new dynasty has been born in the NBA? I think it may be a little premature to describe the Warriors as a dynasty, but I think it is likely that we will look back in a couple of years and describe this era as the Warriors dynasty. When you look back at NBA history and other great teams that have been described as dynasties they have all won at least three championships. So, right now I would say the Warriors are on the cusp of becoming a dynasty team , but I think they have to win at least one more championship to be put in that category.

Has Kevin Durant surpassed Lebron James?

Is LeBron James still the best player in the NBA or has there been a changing of the guard? Has the torch been passed? Has Kevin Durant now surpassed LeBron James with his brilliant performance in Finals? I can’t say that I think Durant has surpassed LBJ, but there is clearly not much separating the two superstars. Durant’s MVP award for the Finals was well deserved, but I think it is fair to say that he had the stronger supporting cast. What would have happened if LBJ and KD had switched teams? I think the Warriors would have won the series just as decisively, if not more so.

Can the Cleveland Cavaliers improve their team to regain the title next season?

Honestly, I don’t see how the Cav’s can make changes for next season that would ultimately result in a team that would be capable of defeating the Warriors, but it will very interesting to see what moves they make in the off-season. There has been some speculation that they might trade PF Kevin Love in order to bring in another elite player, but I think the only way that the Cav’s will have any hope of defeating the Warriors in a seven game series would be to add an elite player without giving up Love. If the Cav’s could add an elite swingman and bolster their bench with greater offensive threats than they have right now that could put them back in contention.

 

 

 

 

The NCCA Men’s Basketball Finals: North Carolina vs Gonzaga

University of North Carolina -1.5 over Gonzaga University

I am truly looking forward to NCAA Finals tomorrow night. The NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament is one my favorite events in all of sports. I always find this event extremely interesting because of the high level of the competition in the tourney and all the interesting subplots that develop as tournament narrows to just two teams.

This year my Final Four were comprised of Kansas, Duke, UCLA  and Gonzaga. I picked UCLA to make it to the Finals and face Gonzaga. Well, as we now know only the Bulldogs of Gonzaga made it to the Final Four. However, am I still feeling pretty good about my selections because I picked Gonzaga to win the whole thing this year and they stand poised to do just that. Overall, my bracket is in pretty good shape.  I have picked 41 out of 62 games correctly so far.

I recognize that fellow #1 seed UNC will pose a great challenge to Gonzaga. Clearly the oddsmakers think that as well, with Vegas installing the Tar Heels as a 1.5 point favorite. I really like Gonzaga ‘s chance in this game. I think Gonzaga is on of the few teams in the tourney that has the size, speed and overall balance to beat the perennial powerhouse Tar Heels.

 

 

 

 

NBA 2016-2017 Predictions

As a huge Pro Basketball fan I certainly welcome the return of the NBA. I think this season will be fascinating because the of the rivalry between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the teams that won the last three championships and combined have at least 4, if not 5 or 6 of the leagues top 10 players.

Current Title Odds for top 9 teams:

1 – Golden State Warriors                      2-3

2-Clevelnd Cavaliers                             11-4

3 – San Antonio Spurs                            6-1

4- Los Angeles Clippers                         20-1

5 – Boston Celtics                                   20-1

6 – Oklahoma City Thunder                30-1

7- Toronto Raptors                                40-1

8- Atlanta Hawks                                   60-1

9- New York Knicks                               60-1

Like most sports writers, basketball analysts and serious fans, I find it very difficult to pick against the Warriors and Cav’s. They seem destined to meet again in the Championship round of the playoffs.

I do think the Spurs and Clippers are good enough to challenge the Warriors in the West. I also think the Boston Celtics have a real outside shot of dethroning the Cav’s in the East.

I am tempted to really pick an underdog to take out the Warriors or the Cavaliers, but I simply can’t .

So,  barring major injuries,  think we will see yet another classic battle between Golden State and Cleveland. The addition of Kevin Durant to the Warriors will make Golden State too much for the Cavaliers and the rest of the league to handle. KD will finally get his first ring.

Looking back on the NBA Finals and the season ahead

Well, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed the NBA Play-offs and Finals this season, even though I was not correct on two major predictions I made. I will explain shortly. I also found the the post Finals free-agency period very exciting. Gosh, it is a real good time to be a NBA player. The league is making a ton of money these days and the players are entitled to 51% of the revenue as a result of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. That means just average players are being rewarded with very lucrative contracts. Makes me really wish I was an NBA agent.

OK, so, going back to the Play-offs and the Finals, I picked the the OKC Thunder to defeat the Golden State Warriors in 6 games and then I picked the Warriors to defeat the Cavs in 6 games. Both teams I picked were up 3-1 and ended up losing in 7….ugh. That is ironic.

I don’t think there was much separating the top 4 teams in the NBA this season, and those teams were the Cavs, Golden State, OKC, and San Antonio. I knew the Thunder were for real when they took out the venerable SA Spurs. Honestly, I still think they should have finished off the GS Warriors on game 6 at home, but they let that game slip away by not playing good D down the stretch. I still believe that Thunder good have gone on to defeat the Cavs if they had advanced to the Finals.

That said, I was very happy to see the Cavs win the championship. It was good to see the City of Cleveland be rewarded with a championship after so many years. Lebron James certainly played his heart out. His block of Andre Ig at the end of game y became an instantly iconic play in the history of NBA play-off basketball. LBJ certainly earned his latest ring, but I was more pleased to see his teammates become Champions after all the hard work they have but in the last couple of years.

Of course, the BIG story of the post Finals was Kevin Durant deciding to leave the OKC Thunder and join Golden State. I’m sure that move will make the Warriors the odds on favorite to win the championship next season, but I still think they are they can be defeated. I’m not ready to concede that they will be a dynasty. Sure, on paper they are fantastic, but they still have to prove it. There is only one basketball and remains to be seen how well Curry, Thompson and Durant can share it.

On a more parochial  note, I was pleased with moves that both NY Knick and Brooklyn Nets made. The Knicks brought former MVP Derrick Rose and his Chicago teammate Noah, as well as SG Courtney Lee. The Nets brought Jeremy Lin back to NY by signing him to a 3 yr deal and he will will reunite with new head coach Kenny Atkinson, who was an assistant coach with the Knicks when Lin first burst on to the NBA scene with Knicks. Lin-sanity returns!! Both teams should show improvement and the intra-city rivalry could grow into something quite intense. Should be a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2015 NCAA Tourney and My Final Four

Well, here we are, with the second round of the NCAA MBB tournament completed things get real interesting as the field as been reduced to the Sweet Sixteen. I’m in a pool again this year and I must say that I’m pretty pleased with my bracket at this stage. Which teams did I pick?……

Like most others who filled out a bracket this month I picked the unbeaten UK Wildcats to win it all. There several other teams that I would prefer to see win, but I could not ignore the overwhelming talent and the outstanding record of UK. About 65 percent of the people in my pool picked Kentucky to win the championship and I anticipated that. So, I considered two different strategies for winning my pool: 1) pick one of the 3 or 4 teams that might have a real chance of upsetting Kentucky, or 2) pick Kentucky to win and differentiate my bracket by picking a combination of other teams for the rest of the Final Four that would not likely be duplicated.

I decided that I definitely did not want to go against Kentucky and I opted for strategy number 2. That meant not picking any other #1 seeds. So, I picked #3 seed Oklahoma, #2 seed Arizona and #2 seed Gonzaga. All teams that have outstanding coaches in my opinion and teams that I thought could get past the #1 seeds in their respective regions. Well, so far, so good. All four of the teams that I picked to advance the Final Four are still alive. Ultimately, I really need Gonzaga to make it to championship game. Can they make it? We’ll see. I expect the Zags to defeat #11 seed UCLA. They would then play the winner of Duke vs Utah, which will probably be the Blue Devils. Gonzaga vs Duke could be an epic battle. Of course, Duke is always stacked with Blue Chippers and that is the case this season, but Gonzaga also has elite talent this year and I think they have the size that is needed to have a realistic chance of beating Duke. We’ll see soon enough.

The NBA Finals: Miami Heat vs. San Antonio Spurs

I must admit that I had my doubts about both the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs reaching the Finals at various points during the playoffs, but here they are and I think these really are the best two teams in the NBA. I actually did pick the Heat to make to the Finals in the preseason, but I thought they would be meeting the L.A. Clippers back then. Well, Heat vs. Clippers may indeed happen within another year or two, but obviously not this year. Instead we have a rematch of the teams that played in the Finals of 2013, which the Heat won in 7, and that is just fine with me.

The Miami Heat (54-28, 22-19 away)
vs
The San Antonio Spurs (62-20, 32-9 away)

San Antonio will have home court advantage by virtue of having the better record in the regular season and the format will be 2-2-1-1-1, instead of 2-3-2. Home court is obviously an advantage for San Antonio and I think the current format gives SA a small added edge.

These teams split their two regular season meetings, with each team winning at home.

After all that we have seen this season I now think that there are only two teams that would be capable of dethroning the Heat and those two teams are the San Antonio Spurs and the OKC Thunder.

I think the starting five for each team are pretty evenly matched. Miami’s LeBron James remains the game’s best all around player, but Kawhi Leonard, SA’s superb 2nd year forward should be able to make things challenging for LBJ.
SA’s old guard, consisting of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili should effectively counter James and the other members of Miami’s Big Three, Wade and Bosh. After many years starting, SG Ginobili now comes off the bench, to lead a very deep and talented bench squad. I think SA’s bench is stronger than Miami’s is and that will be a deciding factor in this series.

I have give a slight edge to SA in the coaching department. Miami Head Coach Eric Spoelstra has proven to be an excellent HC since he was promoted to that position 6 years ago by Pat Riley. He has now guided to Miami to four straight Finals and has two championships to his credit so far. So, Spoelstra is obviously very capable, but he’s once again matching wits with Gregg Popovich, who is even more accomplished, winning 4 championships over 18 years. SA has posted a winning record the last l7 years and that consistency is unmatched in the NBA.

I’m predicting that the Spurs will win this series in 7 games.

Why I think the Los Angeles Clippers will meet the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals and the rest of my predications for the 2014 Playoffs

Way back at the beginning of the NBA season I posted the following tweet:

Picking the Miami Heat, the defending champ’s, to return to the Finals was pretty easy given the fact that Miami’s big three (LeBron James, Dwayne Wade & Chris Bosh) were set to return, as well as most of their important secondary players (Ray Allen, Birdman, Haslem). Picking the Los Angeles Clippers to go to the Finals this season was definitely not a safe choice. It would have been much easier to go with San Antonio or Oklahoma City, but I thought the Clippers had a legit outside shot at winning the whole thing and as the playoffs begin I see no reason to change my mind.

Here are the current odds for teams in the playoffs and what the odds were in the preseason:

Miami Heat — Current: 2/1 | Preseason: 2/1
San Antonio Spurs — Current: 3/1 | Preseason: 12/1
Oklahoma City Thunder — Current: 4/1 | Preseason: 8/1
Indiana Pacers — Current: 6/1 | Preseason: 10/1
Los Angeles Clippers — Current: 9/1 | Preseason: 9/1
Houston Rockets — Current: 20/1 | Preseason: 10/1
Brooklyn Nets — Current: 25/1 | Preseason: 10/1
Golden State Warriors — Current: 28/1 | Preseason: 16/1
Chicago Bulls — Current: 40/1 | Preseason: 8/1
Portland Trail Blazers — Current: 40/1 | Preseason: 150/1
Dallas Mavericks — Current: 66/1 | Preseason: 50/1
Memphis Grizzlies – Current: 66/1 | Preseason: 28/1
Toronto Raptors — Current: 66/1 | Preseason: 150/1
Washington Wizards — Current: 150/1 | Preseason: 100/1
Atlanta Hawks — Current: 250/1 | Preseason: 150/1
Charlotte Bobcats — Current: 250/1 | Preseason: 500/1

I never thought the LA Clippers would win the Western Conference. I thought the Clippers would end up being seeded somewhere between #3 and #6 in the ultra competitive West, but I thought they would be peaking in the playoffs and would be a very dangerous team in deal with. I became very bullish on the Clippers as soon as they hired Doc Rivers to be their Head Coach. I thought the Clippers were pretty good before they hired Rivers, but that his addition significantly enhanced their chances because his proven ability to win a championship, which he did with the Boston Celtics. However, I also thought it would take at least a full season for the Clippers to fully adjust to and embrace Doc Rivers’ coaching principles, as well as adjust to new players that were added to the team in the offseason and during the course of the regular season. I

Eastern Conference
The Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers were clearly the best two teams in the East going into the season and they essentially lived up to expectations. The Pacers actually exceeded the expectations of many when they amassed the best regular season record in the East and edged out the Heat for the number #1 seed in that conference. However, even with home court advantage I don’t think the Pacers will be able to defeat the Heat in a seven game series. Despite finishing with the best record in the East the Pacers looked vulnerable going down the stretch, losing key games, and barely hanging on to win the East. The Heat weren’t quite as dominant has they have looked in the past two seasons. The wear and tear of playing many extra playoff games over the past two seasons appears to be taking a toll on Miami, but they haven’t lost any key players to significant injury and I think when the Heat really turn it on they can handle any team in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn beat Miami four times in the regular season and Chicago has proven to be unexpectedly tough, despite the mid season loss of star PG Derrick Rose. But again, I just don’t think either one of teams, or any others in the East will be able to unseat the Heat if they should meet in the playoffs because Miami’s intensity will be elevated.

Western Conference

I expect the Western Conference playoffs to be a total dogfight. Yes, I’ve already predicted that the Clippers will emerge victorious, but I won’t be shocked at all San Antonio or Oklahoma City or if even Houston wins the Western Conference. Heck, I can’t totally rule out the Portland Trailblazers. This entire conference is loaded with very talented teams and there is not a lot separating the top 4 or 5 teams. If any of these teams lose a key player in the playoffs it could totally upset their chances. I would included Golden State as a possible contender, but recently lost starting center Andrew Bogut to injury, and I think that puts the Warriors at significant disadvantage to the Clippers.

The Finals

When I originally posted my tweet predicting that the Clippers would meet the Heat in the Finals I honestly thought that Heat would win that series and threepeat as NBA champions. Now I’m not so sure. If indeed the Clippers get past the OKC Thunder and the SA Spurs I think they can beat the Miami Heat this year. With Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan the Clippers are one of the few teams that have stars that can match Miami’s vaunted Big Three. The mid season additions of Big Baby Davis, Danny Granger and Hedo Turkoglu help bolster a bench that I think is deeper and stronger than Miami’s. Doc Rivers, as I mentioned earlier, has a championship pedigree and is exactly the kind of coach that can guide the Clippers to a championship in my opinion.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder defeat the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2nd round I think the Thunder will advance to the Finals and defeat the Heat. The Thunder, with MVP favorite Kevin Durant and All Star guard Russell Westbrook, is another team that has elite stars that can match up well with the Heat’s stars. Moreover, the Thunder, like the Clippers, have a deep bench and I think that would give them an advantage over the Heat.

What about the Spurs, the team with the best record in the league? Well, they are obviously very good too. Hard to pick against any team with their talent and coached by someone as good as Gregg Popovich, who is easily one of the best coaches of the last 20 years. Frankly, I’m not sure the the Spurs will able to keep up with the OKC Thunder or the Clippers in the latter stages of playoffs. The Spurs primary stars are all well over 30 yrs old and I think that may put them at a disadvantage. We’ll see. I may be totally wrong about that, but I think the Clippers or Thunder will prevail in the West and ultimately be crowned as the new NBA champions.

I will post my thoughts as the playoffs progress from round to round. We’ll see, I may have to revise my picks by the time the Finals roll around, but until I’m proven wrong I’m sticking with the Clippers.


George M. Fattell.

The gmf journal is a general subject blog that reflects my thoughts and opinions on a variety of topics that are of interest to me. Current home base is Easton, Pennsylvania, USA. Retweets do not equal an endorsement.

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