Knicks Begin Cap Space Clearing – Send Chandler to Mavericks for Calderon, Ellington, Larkin, Dalembert and 34th and 52nd Picks

NY POST

In the first blockbuster trade of the summer, the Knicks send Tyson Chandler back to Dallas for 4 players and 2 picks.

According to ESPN, Tyson Chandler will be back in Dallas next season. In a trade to cut Knicks salary and give the Mavericks a rim protector, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton are going to Dallas in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and the 34th and 52nd pick in this years draft.The Mavericks would finally get a real rim protector in Tyson Chandler who has a few years left of his prime left. Raymond Felton would step into a backup role for the Mavericks, with Devin Harris likely starting. The Knicks would acquire a new starting point guard in Jose Calderon, who isn’t exceptionally talented or athletic, but he can shoot and is a pass first point guard on a modest contract that expires in the summer of 2016. Shane Larkin is a young prospect the Knicks can develop over time and Wayne Ellington and Dalembert’s contracts both expire next summer, the same time as Bargnani and Stoudemire. Overall, the Knicks are shedding 3,056,33 million in salary, which is small but shedding Chandler’s salary and moving Felton who is coming off of his worst season in recent years is a promising start for the inevitable roster overhaul the Knicks will undergo.

Good trade?

Mavericks:

The Mavericks are looking to win now. With Dirk’s time limited and a roster full of experienced veterans in place, any addition that can bring them closer to a championship is the right move to make. The Mavericks needed a defensive presence still in his prime. Dalembert is a solid defender but lacks the athleticism and inside presence of someone like Tyson Chandler. While there were a lot of names shipped to New York, the Mavericks didn’t lose a lot. Shane Larkin who showed promise last season is a long-term project the Mavericks don’t have time to wait for. Wayne Ellington was basically irrelevant for the Mavericks last year as he only contributed 8 minutes a game. Chandler is an upgrade over Dalembert, which leaves Calderon, who is the only player the Mavericks could understandably be sour about letting go. As a great passer and spot up shooter, Calderon was an integral part of their playoff run, which was unfortunately ended in Game 7 of the first round against the eventual NBA Champions; the Spurs. Chandler fills a hole in their defense and maybe a return to Dallas where Chandler won a championship in 2011 can spark another run next season.

Knicks:

And people doubted Phil Jackson… This coming season for the Knicks will most likely be a sham – simply a season before another. With Carmelo Anthony unlikely to re-sign with New York, Phil will have to wait for the summer of 2015 where Stoudemire and Bargnani’s contracts expire for him to make any major changes to the roster. Shedding Chandler’s contract now for value in return is smart as he was unlikely to re-sign next summer with New York anyway. Chandler struggled with injury early on but had one of his worst seasons since 2010, averaging 8.7 points and 9.6 rebounds. His defensive presence, while still very much alive, looked worse because of the awful defense he was in charge of anchoring. He was due 14.6 million next season. The Knicks not only got rid of him now, but in his place found the perfect point guard for the triangle offense. Calderon, an exceptional passer and spot up shooter is custom-made for a triangle offense and a huge upgrade over Raymond Felton who is coming off the worst season of his career, averaging 9.7 points and 5.6 assists on 39% shooting and 31% shooting from deep. Dalembert, while older and not the same player he used to be, can still man the paint effectively. Larkin can be a project the Knicks develop over time and Ellington is someone who despite limited minutes last season has range – he’s shot 38.6% from deep throughout his career. While Calderon is surely a long-term piece the Knicks will likely rebuild with, Dalembert and Ellington both expire after this season, and the Knicks will have a team option with Shane Larkin. The Knicks also acquired the 34th and 52nd picks. The 34th pick while a 2nd rounder, is probably the equivalent of a mid-round 1st pick in any other years draft due to the plethora of talent in this years draft class. According to sources, Phil Jackson has also looked to flip Larkin and Dalembert along with a 2nd round pick they acquired in this deal with the Mavericks for a late 1st rounder. This is the first of presumably many deals Phil will make to try and rebuild the Knicks team who disappointingly went 37-45 last season while missing out on the playoffs.

Asik to Pelicans for 2015 1st Round Pick

Davis and Asik, two of the best defensive big men in the league, will be teaming up come next season

Davis and Asik, two of the best defensive big men in the league, will be teaming up come next season

…And the mission to clear cap space begins for the Houston Rockets. It’s no secret that the Rockets are looking to acquire Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James or both should they have the cap space to do so. Before they could really be taken seriously at all by both free agents, they had to clear the cap space to be able to sign them and the only things standing in their way was Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin who are both owed 8.3 million in 2014-15. However, due to the poison pill provision in his contract, despite only being 8.3 on the salary cap, he is owed 15 million next year. This trade can’t be announced officially until July 1st, and it won’t be able to be completed as it stands. The Pelicans would be over the luxury tax threshold with this trade and Asik’s incoming salary is more than what’s allowed via the 125% plus $100,000 rule. To make the deal work, the Pelicans would have to cut 8,274,646 to make the deal work out.

While the details aren’t ironed out, what is for sure is Asik is going to be the starting center for the Pelicans next year and the Rockets will have cleared cap space to make a run at Carmelo or LeBron.

Good trade?

Rockets:

Great trade. The Rockets have one goal in mind and that is win an NBA championship, to do that they need the third star to add to the roster. While Carmelo isn’t a great fit with Houston, if they can clear the space for LeBron, they’d immediately be the best team in the NBA. Signing Asik two summers ago was more of a move to prevent the Knicks from getting him then anything else. When Dwight came to town, it was clear that Asik could not stay. Besides not fitting on the court together, Asik was unhappy that he’d been downgraded to a role player rather than a starter. Asik, one of the best defensive centers in the NBA deserves a starting spot and now he has it with New Orleans. The Rockets acquire a 2015 1st round pick, which can’t hurt, but it’s more the clearing of salary that prepares them for a real chance at either LeBron or Carmelo. Next up comes trading Jeremy Lin to clear his 8.3 million from the books and then the Rockets will be the best suitor in terms of contention chances and the best team in terms of their financial flexibility. Once Lin is gone it’ll be hard to turn down coming to Houston. With Harden and Howard already in place and great role players like Beverley, Parsons and Terrence Jones still in Houston, the Rockets would be the #1 candidate to win a title next season.

Pelicans:

The Pelicans’ carelessness with dealing out 1st round picks definitely makes me uneasy, especially because they are nowhere close to winning now. However, they desperately needed a center so that Anthony Davis could play his natural position at the 4 and defend opposing power forwards, rather than banging down low with the centers of the league. Asik brings size at 7’0″, 255 lbs, a presence on the boards and a presence in the paint. The Pelicans, despite losing a 1st round pick in the process, have just built the scariest front-court duo in the NBA. Anthony Davis is already averaging just under 3 blocks a game and now with Asik sitting in the paint as well, it’ll be very hard for the Pelicans to be scored on inside and out-rebounded. For Asik, he should be happy considering he’ll now have the starting role he’s desired for a couple of years. Asik and Davis can also work offensively. Unlike Dwight Howard who operates solely in the paint and on the block, Anthony Davis is more of a versatile offensive player in that he can step out and hit mid-range jump shots to clear room for Asik inside. Looking toward next season, the Pelicans will likely start a healthy Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Al-Farouq Aminu, Anthony Davis and Omer Asik with Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson off the bench. While it’s hard to predict where they’ll fall in the West, they’re definitely primed for a competitive season and possibly a playoff appearance if everybody stays healthy.

The Rockets are now looking to trade Jeremy Lin, who has been linked to the Warriors as a potential suitor. The Rockets will be reluctant to part with Lin unless they’re sure they can sign one of the two superstars as a result. If the Warriors were to take on Jeremy Lin, apparently Chandler Parsons would be the kicker and they’d be looking to get him as well.

Rumors, Speculations, Trades, Draft News and More…

According to ESPN, Tyson Chandler will be back in Dallas next season. In a trade to cut Knicks salary and give the Mavericks a rim protector, Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton are going to Dallas in exchange for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington and the 34th and 52nd pick in this years draft.The Mavericks would finally get a real rim protector in Tyson Chandler who has a few years left of his prime left. Raymond Felton would step into a backup role for the Mavericks, with Devin Harris likely starting. The Knicks would acquire a new starting point guard in Jose Calderon, who isn’t exceptionally talented or athletic, but he can shoot and is a pass first point guard on a modest contract that expires in the summer of 2016. Shane Larkin is a young prospect the Knicks can develop over time and Wayne Ellington and Dalembert’s contracts both expire next summer, the same time as Bargnani and Stoudemire. Overall, the Knicks are shedding 3,056,33 million in salary, which is small but shedding Chandler’s salary and moving Felton who is coming off of his worst season in recent years is a promising start for the inevitable roster overhaul the Knicks will undergo. Next summer, Dalembert and Ellington’s salaries, which when combined accumulate to 6,638,622 million, will come off the books.

Another trade rumor we have to discuss is the Kings trading for Josh Smith. The Kings desperately need some sort of defensively motivated player in their front-court. They also need a power-forward to end the revolving door of options the Kings have used in the past few years. Josh Smith can satisfy both of those needs. Smith, despite coming off a terrible season in which he averaged 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds on 41% shooting, still has elite athleticism and the ability to stretch the floor and guard multiple positions. The Kings who don’t seem to mind acquiring inefficient scorers as made clear in their trade for Rudy Gay, would benefit greatly from adding Smith to their already young and talented core. The Pistons would shed Smith’s contract and clear some space on the floor for Monroe and Drummond. The experiment of teaming Smith with Drummond and Monroe clearly did not work last season, and Van Gundy is now faced with a major roster makeover to try and fix the mishaps committed by Joe Dumars. In return for Smith, the Pistons would most likely receive a combination of Jason Thompson, Jason Terry and maybe one other player. Van Gundy would most likely be looking for players whose contracts are expiring like Williams and Terry.

On the Carmelo Anthony front, we have word, from Chris Broussard that a possible sign and trade deal involving James Harden and Carmelo Anthony could form in an attempt on the Rockets part to bring over Carmelo and then LeBron. While Broussard’s report implies that after the trade for Anthony and Harden, Asik and Lin would be sent somewhere else in a separate deal, they could also be packaged with Harden and sent to New York in exchange for Carmelo and a smaller contract like J.R Smith who Phil Jackson reportedly isn’t fond of. Either way, it seems like Houston is being very aggressive in figuring out ways to bring both Carmelo and LeBron to Houston to team up with Dwight Howard. As well as Houston, Carmelo is going to visit Dallas and Chicago. Dallas is less likely to be able to sign Carmelo, considering Dirk is going to take up a lot of space with his extension as is Tyson Chandler if he comes to town in the trade that seems like a definite at this point. Chicago would have to amnesty Boozer and then trade Taj Gibson in order to sign Carmelo, or they could initiate a sign and trade with New York, where Carmelo would go to Chicago for Gibson, Boozer and the 19th or 16th pick in this years draft. At this point, Carmelo is best fit for Chicago. The Bulls have a healthy Derrick Rose coming back next season and now all they need is extra offense to help them get over the hump. Their suffocating defense has been their identity and their strong point but time and time again it’s been lack of offensive production that has failed them. Being arguably the best scorer in the league, Carmelo would solve their problem with ease and a trio of Rose, Anthony and Noah would immediately be the best in the East. The Bulls could help Carmelo improve defensively – an area he’s been criticized for slacking in throughout his career. Carmelo to Dallas seems unlikely not only because of financial restrictions but because teaming Anthony up with two other high usage isolation type offensive players, Dirk Nowitzki and Monta Ellis would only make it hard for them to gel. Defensively, the Mavericks could expect to be one of the worst in the league if they had all three of those guys on the same team. At this point its Chicago or Houston.

While the Cavaliers were blessed with their 3rd #1 pick in 4 years, the franchise remains split on who to select with the first pick. Dan Gilbert prefers Wiggins while the front-office believes Parker is better qualified to come in and impact the team immediately. There are also signs Parker would prefer to go #2 to Milwaukee as its close to his hometown of Chicago. While it seems far-fetched, there were reports that Parker tanked his workout with the Cavaliers because he’d prefer not to play there. He’s denied this, but he did say he thinks he’ll go #2 to the Bucks and looked awfully embarrassed after saying it, almost wishing he hadn’t opened his mouth. All of this drama over who to pick could be over for the Cavaliers if they decide to deal the pick. They certainly do not lack suitors if they do decide to part ways. The Magic have offered a package of the #4 and #12 picks and Arron Afflalo for the #1 pick. This would surely take the Cavaliers out of the running for Wiggins or Parker but they would have more variety as they’d have two lottery selections instead of one. They’d also get Afflalo, an above average perimeter defender and a player coming off of his best offensive season of his career where he averaged 18.2 points on 42.7% from deep and 45.9% from the field.

In addition to the Magic, the Celtics are also reportedly involved in the quest for the #1 pick. However the Celtics wouldn’t be offering real pieces but rather opportunity for the Cavaliers to free up enough space to sign both Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, although it seems unlikely.

The Jazz are also in the mix, having offered Derrick Favors, #5 and #23 and possibly Alec Burks for the #1 pick. This seems the most unlikely to go through considering Favors isn’t that much of an upgrade over Tristan Thompson and the #5 pick can bring the Cavaliers some high-level talent but the Cavaliers are unlikely to be interested in the 23rd pick at all.

There was a short-winded report of Kevin Love being offered for the #1 pick, but those talks fell through due to Love’s disinterest in signing long-term with Cleveland.

On the Kevin Love front, all talks seem to have died down. There have been several offers and deals proposed for Love’s services but Flip Saunders is playing the whole situation very carefully and rightfully so. Superstars have always had leverage over their teams when they want out and Saunders doesn’t want to end up like the Cavaliers, he’d rather be the 2011 Nuggets. While a trade is inevitable, if it doesn’t happen tomorrow night, it’ll happen before the February trade deadline as Saunders is determined to squeeze the most out of his unhappy superstar before he leaves. The Timberwolves’ most elaborate talks had been with Golden State in an offer that was originally supposed to be Klay Thompson, David Lee and a future 1st rounder for Kevin Martin and Kevin Love. There was also word that the Timberwolves wanted Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green as well. All talks are considered dead at this point because of Golden State’s firm stance on keeping Thompson in Golden State. Unless they do give up Thompson or the Timberwolves modify their request, Love won’t be in a Warriors uniform anytime soon.

As well as Golden State, the Celtics offered the Timberwolves a package of the #6 and #17 picks and Kelly Olynk or Jared Sullinger for Kevin Love. While this trade is rich in draft value, the player value the Wolves would be receiving is below par.

The Nuggets have probably offered the most intriguing package to the Timberwolves at this point – a deal which would send Kenneth Faried, Arron Afflalo (via trade with Orlando for #11 pick) and Wilson Chandler to Minnesota. This would give Flip all the player value he could possibly desire in return, but without a draft pick, the Wolves are unlikely to budge.

The Bulls who seem more focused on acquiring Carmelo Anthony, did offer Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and the 16th and 19th picks for Kevin Love. While the 16th and 19th picks provide the opportunity to steal some great talent late in the first round, they are worse than what they’d be offered from Boston and Utah. While Gibson could quickly become one of the better power forwards in the NBA, Snell provides little more than perimeter defense.

The Lakers are also looking to trade their #7 pick. With Kobe Bryant back and healthy and 2 years left (presumably) in the NBA, the Lakers are in full win-now mode, meaning they’ll do anything to surround Bryant with a championship caliber team. The #7 pick, while valuable, is unlikely to give the Lakers the type of NBA-readiness they desire and could receive from trading it for a veteran. One rumor that has arisen is a trade that would send the #7 pick and Steve Nash’s expiring contract to Philadelphia for Michael Carter-Williams and Thaddeus Young. While this sounds great for the Lakers who would secure the point guard position with the reigning rookie of the year, who’d still be on a rookie contract before Bryant would retire, meaning they’d get a high-caliber point guard with a veteran’s minimum type of contract giving them a lot of financial flexibility to still make moves for other positions. They’d also solidify the power forward position should Pau Gasol decide to leave this summer as he’s expected to do. The 76ers would find themselves in the possession of Steve Nash, who if sent to Philadelphia would be likely to retire and their third lottery pick for this year. The Sixers would then be looking at a ton of cap space, something to the tune of 19 million on the books and the #3, #7 and #10 picks coming in. It could happen, but it depends on Philly’s willingness to part with MCW for the allure and suspense of possibly grabbing something better with three lottery picks.

Keeping with the 76ers, they have a serious desire to acquire Andrew Wiggins. Unfortunately with the injury to Joel Embiid, it’s probably impossible for them to get their guy. That’s why they might have to add to the initial deal they had offered Cleveland which was the #3 pick and Thaddeus Young. If they really want Wiggins, they’d include the #10 pick but that might be too much just for Wiggins.

LeBron James has opted out of his contract, yet we’re still unsure if his fellow Big 3 teammates will follow his lead. Chris Bosh seems willing to, but if Dwyane Wade were to opt-out he’d likely be sacrificing a whole lot of money considering he’s nowhere near worth his current contract, which guarantees him 41.8 million over the next two years. With limited years left, it’s unlikely he’d be able to sign a contract for more years and more money overall to make up for it, for example if he signed a 5 year 55 million dollar deal, which assures him more money overall, just less per year. But like I said, it’s unlikely he’ll play for 5 more years as his knees seem two to three years away from giving out on him. If both opt-out we can expect cheaper multi-year contracts back with the Heat for all of them in an attempt to clear space and welcome some much needed help to surround them. If they don’t opt-out then the world is LeBron’s and he’ll look elsewhere for the team in the best position for a championship to sign him. With Carmelo also a free agent, it’s clear that both would like to play with each other, however, few teams, have the flexibility or the balls to clear their whole roster just for the chance to sign both superstars. If Chris Broussard’s report is any indication, it seems Houston is very adamant on trying to bring in LeBron and Carmelo, even willing to trade Harden to help move the process along. The Clippers are another team interested in LeBron but they’d have to trade Jamal Crawford and DeAndre Jordan to say the least, effectively stripping them of a rim protector and their depth, which makes a move to Los Angeles less likely. The Hawks are looking for ways to clear enough space for him and Carmelo but would have to amnesty Horford, trade Korver and Louis Williams and not resign any of their free agents or guarantee any unguaranteed contracts. The Cavaliers would have to not bring back any free agents, leave Anderson Varejao’s contract unguaranteed and trade a combination of Thompson, Bennett and Jack.

The Heat in an attempt to lure LeBron back are trying to trade some package including the 26th pick and Norris Cole for Shabazz Napier. While Napier will quickly be better offensively, they’d be losing a lot defensively by parting ways with Cole who has become one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA.

With draft news, Dario Saric signed a two year deal with his club in Croatia, effectively decreasing his draft stock for teams who can’t afford to draft someone who can’t make an immediate impact. That leaves Saric going to either the Suns or the Nuggets as both teams, are playoff contenders when fully healthy (Nuggets).

The Joel Embiid drama continues and with his foot surgery taking him out for 4-6 months and his back problems lingering near by it’s unlikely he goes in the top 5. Not only is it his own risk but teams in the lottery don’t have the luxury of taking a risk on him. The Cavaliers need someone to impact now. The Bucks have Sanders and with new owners are eager to be good quickly. The 76ers might take Embiid as its rumored but something tells me they don’t want another Nerlens Noel type of season where he has to sit the whole year. Additionally, they wouldn’t be a good fit together on the frontline. The 76ers paint would be the most dangerous to enter in the whole league but offensively they’d clog the paint and get in each others way. They also wouldn’t be able to guard stretch 4’s. The Jazz have their front-court solidified for the future with Favors and Kanter. Which leaves the Celtics, who desperately need a rim protector, have just started their rebuilding process AND have an owner who has taken risks on prospects with health issues in the past, most notably Jared Sullinger (back) and Avery Bradley (ankle) both who have turned out great for the Celtics so far.

What The Hell is Going to Happen on Draft Night?

Up until last week, the draft was going to be somewhat simple. We all knew who was (probably) going 1st. We knew who the possible stars were, all mock drafts looked somewhat similar, and barring a few draft-day trades like a Kevin Love deal, or some packages involving orders of picks, the NBA draft was going to be exciting yet somewhat predictable. All of that changes now.

According to Arn Tellem, Embiid’s agent:

“Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture to the navicular bone in his right foot,” Arn Tellem said. “He is scheduled to have surgery tomorrow. Joel will be unable to participate in any additional workouts, and will not attend the draft in New York. We will have no further comment until after the surgery.”

Then we find out he’s out for 4-6 months next season…

Wow.

What does this mean?

Well, Embiid was considered the almost unanimous #1 pick for the draft. His potential to be an Olajuwon, Ibaka hybrid made him the most exciting talent in the draft. His length, his hands, his athleticism, his offensive game, his defensive dominance, his footwork and more had the Cavaliers drooling, asking the league if they could move the draft a week earlier just so they could have him on their team now. Some teams had qualms about his back injury, but with his talent and potential, they were willing to shrug it off and look past it. For Cleveland, Embiid was going to be the perfect big man to combo with Kyrie Irving, he was going to be that other piece to possibly lure LeBron back to the homeland. It all sounded so perfect, the Cavaliers were sure they had their man. After busting on Anthony Bennet this season, this was redemption and the piece they thought was going to catapult them into legitimacy. Maybe it was… too perfect, because all of those fantasies have now been flushed down the drain with the report that Embiid will have to undergo foot surgery for a fractured foot. A back injury? They can look past. But a back injury and foot surgery? That’s too much. Will he be the same after the surgery? His footspeed still in tact? His athleticism untouched? Who knows, but for the Cavs who have been somehow blessed with back-to-back 1st round picks cannot risk a bust on this pick. It’s too important, for their franchise, for the future of Kyrie Irving, for LeBron, and for the fans. In a draft just oozing with talent, they have to make the right pick, god knows they won’t be getting a #1 again soon… But then again that’s what we thought after last year.

So… What happens now?

1. 76ers include #10 pick in draft proposal to Cavaliers

The 76ers desire one prospect and one prospect only… Andrew Wiggins. Whether it’s his supreme athleticism, limitless defensive potential, or sheer firepower, Philadelphia wants him, and they want him bad. Earlier reports had the 76ers offering the #3 pick and Thaddeus Young for the #1 pick. The Cavaliers while not uninterested, wanted the #10 pick as well. Philadelphia, predictably, was reluctant to part with the pick. Now however, inclusion of the #10 pick might be essential for them to draft Wiggins. While Embiid out of the picture for Cleveland, it comes down to Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. Reports claim that the Cavs are leaning toward Parker, but if you’re Philadelphia, you can’t risk missing out on Wiggins, especially when they put on the best tanking performance of all-time, just to get him. If you’re the Cavaliers, bluffing would be the way to go. Ask the bogus-story hungry Broussard to leak that the Cavs are leaning toward Wiggins. This puts extreme pressure on Philly and will probably force them into including the #10 pick, which then makes the trade a reasonable thing to do. If you’re Philly, it’s either playing the odds, which are smack in the middle at 50% and praying that the Cavs pick Parker, or part with the #10 pick to get the guy you want OR move on from their obsession with Wiggins and start looking at the bright side of other prospects, so if they do fall in their lap, they won’t be disappointed.

2. Embiid falls in the order… A lot. 

Embiid, once thought to be the unanimous #1 pick, has shaken up the entire draft with a fractured foot.

Embiid, once thought to be the unanimous #1 pick, has shaken up the entire draft with a fractured foot.

Because he’s such a rare combination of talent, athleticism and potential, it’s hard to believe that Embiid will fall more than 5 or 6 slots in the draft. Alex Len had surgery for a stress fracture in his ankle before the draft and still went #5 to Phoenix. Nerlens Noel had surgery to repair an ACL late in the 2013 college season and still went #6 to New Orleans and then via trade to Philadelphia. So the idea that Joel Embiid is going to lose all his draft value is ridiculous… Usually. Except I think he is an exception. Not only is he having foot surgery, the same surgery Brook Lopez had and missed all season as a result of, but he has back issues, and to top it off, few teams in the lottery can afford to take a risk on Embiid now. If we go down the list, you’ll see its really hard to justify taking Embiid.

1. Cleveland: See above

2. Milwaukee: Been too bad for too long. New owners and constant shitttiness of their franchise calls for a pick that can make a difference almost immediately. They want a guy who can put the team on his back and make Milwaukee a legitimate place to play again. Also have Larry Sanders signed to a long extension as their center going forward.

3. Philadelphia: If you’re not named Wiggins, they don’t care.

4. Orlando: Have their center for the future in Vucevic, one of the best rebounders in the league. They desperately need a new point guard and with the talent of Exum and Smart, passing on them for Embiid seems impossible.

5. Utah: Utah has Kanter in place already and after more minutes and a career year last year it’s unlikely they’d want to focus on taking a center, especially when because now Embiid would no longer be the best talent on the board given he falls this low to begin with.

6. Boston: Seems possible to me that Embiid falls here. The Celtics aren’t trying to impress Rondo, in fact he’ll probably traded moving forward. What they lack pretty severely is a rim protector and with a rebuilding process that is likely to take a few years, they can afford the risk on Embiid.

7. Los Angeles: The Lakers had their worst season since 1960 last year and with Kobe Bryant reportedly 100% healthy you know this team cannot enter rebuilding mode. Kobe has 2 years left of his career and the Lakers are not going to spend draft picks on projects or risks. They need production and they need it fast.

8. Sacramento: With Demarcus Cousins as their star for the future, taking a center here seems meaningless.

9. Charlotte: The Bobcats just became a solid team this year. After the signing of Jefferson and the improvement of Walker, they finally made the playoffs despite being one of the worst teams ever the year before. They were swept in the playoffs, but last season was the first step toward success. A lot of that success was because of Jefferson, their all-star center, meaning getting another center wouldn’t make sense considering all the other talent on the board and their desperate need for shooting. They also don’t want to backtrack in terms of progress, if all things go well, they won’t have a pick this high again, so they need to use it to help them now.

10. Philadelphia: One center missing an entire season due to injury wasn’t enough? The 76ers are finally going to have Nerlens Noel back next season and after the tanking performance of the century, it’s unlikely they waste this pick on another injured center/player who won’t be able to produce immediately.

11. Denver: The Nuggets are actually a team I see maybe taking a chance on Embiid if he were to fall this low. Mozgov had a good year in his first season with substantial playing time. In 21 minutes per game, he averaged 9 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block. But at 27 years old, you have to wonder how much higher his ceiling actually is. The Nuggets also have the insanely athletic, Shaqtin a Fool legend, Javale McGee who fractured his leg last season. Neither of them have star potential, and are both better suited as role players to come off the bench. If the Nuggets were to get everybody healthy next year, taking a risk on Embiid wouldn’t be a bad choice. They can probably afford the risk, and the upside of taking Embiid is that they’d finally have a real starting center with star potential.

12. Orlando: See above.

13. Minnesota: I highly doubt Embiid falls this low, but if he does I don’t think the Timberwolves would take him. They have a gaping hole on the wings, and can address that with someone like Zach Levine, Glenn Robinson III, Rodney Hood or James Young. At the end of last season, they saw how impactful Gorgui Dieng could be on both ends of the floor. In fact, during the last month of the NBA season, Dieng averaged 10.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 0.8 steals in 30 minutes per game. If he were given a whole season of that playing time, statistics clearly show he’d be the center of the future for Minnesota. His development makes taking Embiid relatively pointless.

14. Phoenix: Once again, I highly doubt he falls this far, but he would be a great fit with Phoenix if he were to. Phoenix are in an interesting position in that they were only one game behind the 8th seeded Mavericks from making the playoffs. Dragic and Bledsoe turned out to be a spectacular success and Jeff Hornacek’s Suns were the pleasant surprise of the season. All signs point to more success and improvement for them so they can afford to take a risk on someone like Embiid. He’s athletic enough to run the floor and actually provides the Suns with a real rim protector on the inside. Alex Len was a flop in his first season and taking a risk on Embiid would give them trade options with their assets as well as a possible superstar center for the future. If it does turn out that Embiid’s injuries do stunt his growth as a player than they shouldn’t be fazed considering they’ll most likely be in the playoffs come next April.

So… the point is Embiid can fall, and can fall hard. It’s not so much that he is a humongous risk, (he’s just a big one) but the teams in the lottery aren’t in positions where they have the luxury of taking a risk – especially in a draft with so much talent, missing out this year may come back to haunt them in years to come.

Mock Draft Now That Embiid Is Having Foot Surgery?

1. Cavaliers: Jabari Parker (76ers may include #10 pick, #3pick and Thaddeus Young for #1 Pick)

The Cavaliers need someone who can produce now, the Cavaliers have been trying and trying to become something in the East. From their trade for Deng to their risk on Bynum, everything they do is geared toward making some sort of playoff run. Call it the curse of LeBron or bad luck but whatever they do doesn’t seem to be working. They need someone in the draft who can produce immediately and Jabari Parker is the most NBA-ready guy in this draft.

At 6’8, 260, Parker has the size and strength needed to score and bang with the athletes in the NBA. He was a great rebounder in college and will continue to be at the next level because of his power and his girth. HIs offensive game is extremely well polished and versatile and can score in a plethora of different ways. Despite criticism about his lack of athleticism, he is actually quicker and more agile than people give him credit for – take a look at the video above for proof. The bottom line is that the Cavaliers need some sort of production right now to keep Kyrie around, to attract future free agents, and to finally reach legitimacy and Parker is the man for that job.

2. Bucks: Andrew Wiggins

Barring no trade from the 76ers to move to 1st place, the Bucks will likely take Andrew Wiggins with this pick. With insane athleticism, and upside both offensively and defensively Wiggins is hard to pass on. While his offensive skill set is quite raw, his physical tools make give him unlimited potential to become both a defensive and offensive star. He doesn’t have that X-factor yet in terms of taking over a game, but with the responsibility of the Bucks on his shoulders, that should change very quickly. The Bucks are looking for someone to carry their franchise and Wiggins might just be the one. A lineup of Knight, Wiggins, Antetokounmpo, Henson and Sanders would be a nice young core moving forward.

3. 76ers : Noah Vonleh

They’re unlikely to take Embiid considering they already did the whole, “take an injured center and wait a year for him to play thing.” They have their center of the future and for the 76ers they’d be looking for someone to partner with Noel in the frontcourt. Vonleh while similar to Noel has tons of defensive potential due to his length and athleticism, but Vonleh also has the ability to stretch the floor (he shot 48% from deep last year), that trait is something that can be developed and honed as he grows in the NBA and could prove to be the perfect compliment to Noel. This also makes Thaddeus Young even more expendable.

4. Magic: Dante Exum

The Magic need a point guard. They’re entering a new era of Orlando basketball and while it was a great run, Jameer Nelson’s time as starting point guard is over. At 32 years old, he can still be a veteran leader from the bench but in his place Dante Exum, the mysterious, Australian prospect would make a promising young, athletic backcourt with Oladipo. Exum has good size for a point guard and while it’s not definitive whether he’ll play the 1 or the 2 in the NBA, Oladipo is facing the same problem which in my eyes makes it less important to fit a role specifically. If both players are combo guards, with the ability to make plays and play off the ball, then having a concrete point guard becomes less important.

5. Utah: Aaron Gordon

While they just signed Favors to a long term extension, the best talent on the board are all power forwards and out of the duo of Randle and Gordon, Gordon has what the Jazz don’t: Athleticism in the front-court. Favors and Kanter are big bodies but lack foot-speed, quickness and a high vertical. Gordon, while undersized, makes up for it with extreme leaping abilities and quickness around the court. He could become a rim protector for the Jazz who as of now lack one. He can run the floor and with his aforementioned athleticism, should be able to make an impact on the boards as well. As for his offensive game, it needs some work, but his work ethic tells me he’ll be able to develop a jump shot and some post-moves quickly during his career.

6. Boston: Joel Embiid

With no real rim protectors and a whole villageful of undersized big men, taking Joel Embiid, given he falls this far is the right choice to make for Danny Ainge and a Celtics team looking completely to the future. Ainge has also not been shy in the past about taking risks when it comes to prospects with health issues:

“We try to think long term that if a guy has to miss a couple months, it shouldn’t deter us from taking him if he is going to be the best player long-term. We’ve had some success with that with [Avery] Bradley and [Jared] Sullinger. Even Leon Powe slid all the way [to the second round, because of knee concerns]. And, unfortunately, Leon’s knees gave out eventually, but we got good years out of him. There can be some value there, but there’s always risk.”

Embiid could work out and he couldn’t but Ainge has no problem rolling the dice and taking the risk, especially when they’ve just began their rebuilding process and are looking for any diamond in the rough to help them get back to elite level in the East.

7. Los Angeles: Marcus Smart

The Lakers are in win now mode. Despite a horrific 2014 campaign, with Kobe back and healthy, and 2 years left in his legendary career, the Lakers will waste no time rebuilding.

Smart has an intriguing combination of NBA-readiness and unlimited upside. At 6’4, 227, Smart already has an NBA body. He’s not a great shooter but an aggressive driver to the basket and with his size and strength he’s a great finisher around the basket and through contact. He’s very athletic and quick and with a 6’10 wingspan he’ll be able to defend both guard positions if he needs to. The Lakers are looking toward the future and the now, and Smart is someone who can produce for them now while also giving them the point guard they need once the Kobe era is over.

8. Sacramento: Elfrid Payton

With all signs pointing to Isaiah Thomas leaving Sacramento this off-season, the Kings will look to replace him with a point guard with size. Their problem with Thomas is not with his ability to score the ball, or provide a spark offensively. It’s that at 5’9 he gives up a lot of size at the point guard position. For a team that already treats defense like a foreign language not worth learning, they can’t have their point guard letting other players have their way into the paint. While Isaiah is clearly an extremely talented player for his size, and will probably find a starting role on some team who needs him, the Kings don’t need offense, they need defense and they need it bad.

Elfrid Payton who has catapulted up the draft rankings these last few weeks has been praised in workouts for his tenacity and quickness. At 6’4, and lighting fast he has the size and athleticism to defend opposing point guards. His jump-shot needs a lot of work, but luckily for him, the Kings aren’t a team that lacks scorers. He’s an unselfish player with a knack for getting to the basket and for a team who often chucks around shots, his tenacity and penetration could really jump help the Kings offense take some sort of shape.

 

9. Charlotte: Doug McDermott

While the Bobcats were one of the feel-good stories of the NBA last year, they had a problem with shooting the ball. Besides Gary Neal, who was not always reliable with his shot, the Bobcats lacked players who could stretch the floor. As a result, defenses were content to sit back and wait in the paint for the Bobcats to attack on the inside.

Doug McDermott comes out of college as the 5th highest scorer in NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball History. Averaging 27 points a game in his senior year, while shooting 45% from deep, McDermott would be the perfect player to compliment Al Jefferson and the entire Bobcats offense. He’s not the most athletic guy in the world and will have some problems defensively due to a severe lack of foot-speed, McDermott has all the skill in the world and he knows how to score in every imaginable way. He’s a sharp shooter, has a polished post game, and because of his strength and wide lower body he’ll be able to bang down low with the bigger bodies in the NBA.

10. Philadelphia: Nick Stauskas

After picking Vonleh with the #3 pick, they’ll now look for someone with range to compliment Michael Carter-Wiliams’ lack of shooting. While Stauskas 44% shooting from deep would be a great compliment to Carter-Williams’ lack of outside touch, Stauskas is more than just a shooter. He’s just about 6’7 meaning he’d be larger than most of the 2 guards he’d be matched up against. Additionally, people don’t give him enough credit for his athleticism. He posted a 36 inch vertical at the combine and actually posted the 5th fastest time for the lane agility drill with 10.79, beating other supposedly more athletic guards like DeAndre Kane and Marcus Smart. All in all, Stauskas and Philly make a great fit, and the 76ers can look to the future happy knowing that their backcourt is solidified.

11. Denver: Dario Saric

For Denver, one of the league’s youngest and fastest paced teams, Saric would fit in perfectly. He has the ability to stretch the floor with his outside jump-shot (35% from downtown), his ability to run the floor and his playmaking abilities. He fits the mold of versatile, agile big men that the Nuggets like to have. After what Boris Diaw did in the finals as a point-forward, what Saric brings to the table has become even more valuable. He’s quick but still has true power forward size at 6’10, 223.

12.Orlando: Julius Randle

If the Magic take Dante Exum with the 4th pick they’d have their backcourt of the future. What they might start looking at now is some front court depth. Harris played the 4 a lot for the Magic last year but other prospects like Andrew Nicholson haven’t panned out. Randle, who could go much higher, has limited upside due to lack of athleticism. Rumors about a foot injury have also diminished his draft stock.

Julius Randle – while not the most athletic prospect or the one with unlimited upside – besides Jabari Parker, is the most NBA-ready player in the draft. He is undersized and doesn’t have a lot of length but is much more athletic and quick than people give him credit for. He’s comfortable handling the ball as well, and is a bull dog going to the basket. With his strength, size and touch around the rim, he should be effective immediately. He is undersized at his position but because of his girth and his power he’ll be a force down low.

13. Minnesota: James Young

While nobody really knows what’s going to happen with the future of Kevin Love and the Timberwolves, Flip Saunders has to try and do his best to get the most out of this pick. The Timberwolves lack size and athleticism on the wings. James Young can solve both of these problems. At 6’7, with a 7 foot wingspan, James Young will be able to guard multiple positions at the next level. Offensively, he’s athletically gifted and with his combination of strength and quickness, has a knack for getting to the basket.

14. Phoenix: Zach LaVine

Despite having one of the best backcourt duos in the league, they don’t have a reliable option to back them up. That’s where LaVine comes in. LaVine as seen in his 46 inch vertical, is almost literally capable of jumping out of the gym. For an already athletic and fast Phoenix team, LaVine would fit in perfectly.

The Suns love to get up and down, playing at a blistering pace of 98 possessions a game and scoring 105 points per game as well. LaVine who is freakishly athletic and fast – posting the fastest lane agility time at the combine with 10.42 seconds and the 2nd fastest shuttle run time with 2.8 seconds – has all the tools to excel in a Phoenix offense. Some are unsure about what position he’ll actually play in the NBA. While he is firm in his claim that he is a point guard and didn’t get to show that off at UCLA, even if he’s more of a 2 guard it won’t matter because he has the skills, the athleticism and the outside shot to play either. For an already young team blossoming with talent, the 19 year old LaVine seems like a perfect fit.

 

15. Atlanta: Jusuf Nurkic

While Atlanta really missed their all-star center Al Horford this season, what was even clearer was that in his absence there is a gaping hole in the middle of the paint. Elton Brand is there more for veteran experience than anything else and while Pero Antic does stand at 6’11, he can often be found floating on the perimeter spotting up for threes. The Hawks need a classic big man to have on the bench so they still have a presence inside when Horford is out of the game.

Nurkic is a big guy. At 7 feet, 280 pounds, there are not a lot of players in the NBA that can match what he brings to the table in terms of size and strength. While he lacks athleticism, his soft touch around the basket makes up for it offensively. Defensively, he boasts a 7’2 wingspan and 280 pounds of power to protect the rim.

16. Chicago: Rodney Hood

The Bulls lack a couple of things on their team. The most obvious is shooting. Besides Mike Dunleavy and occasionally Kirk Hinrich and D.J Augustin, the Bulls have no outside threats, which makes it very hard for them to score when the opposing defense can be content to sit back and pack the paint. The other thing they’re missing is an athletic small forward to fill the hole left by the Luol Deng trade.

Rodney Hood can solve both of those problems. At 6’9, 208 pounds, Hood has great size for his position. On top of his physical gifts, he is also a good shooter from deep, shooting 42% from downtown last season. For the Bulls they can kill two birds with one stone here and I hope they do.

 

17. Boston: Gary Harris

I have some doubts about Gary Harris. He’s a decent outside shooter. He’s relatively undersized for his position and he doesn’t possess the athleticism or quickness of other guard prospects in this draft. However, what I do like in him is his commitment to defense – something instilled in him during his two years at Michigan State, and his basketball IQ. He plays like a veteran, and despite his size he is a very strong guard with good defensive fundamentals. He has a good midrange game, and because of his strength, is able to finish around the rim through contact. With an always active motor, he should fare well at the next level.

 

18. Phoenix: T.J Warren

T.J Warren, while not overly athletic, has a knack for scoring the ball. He averaged 24.9 points last season at N.C State due to his versatile offensive repertoire. He isn’t an exceptional shooter but has a clear feel for the game, and with his strength and size he should be able to score against opposing small forwards in the NBA. For a bench that already scores 39 points per game, Warren’s offensive skills will only make them better.

 

19. Chicago: Adreian Payne

With rumors of Taj Gibson being traded and Carlos Boozer possibly being amnestied or moved via a sign and trade, it’s time to bring in the next big man to do the dirty work for Chicago (I’m not saying Carlos Boozer does dirty work… he doesn’t.)

Payne is a big, highly athletic forward who can run the floor and bang down low. His athleticism along with his years at Michigan State make him a highly capable defender, which makes him a perfect candidate to play for a defensive minded team like Chicago. What’s more, Payne is a very good outside shooter, draining 42% of the threes he took last year. For a team desperate to add some shooters, Payne is the perfect combination of a dirty work big man who can stretch the floor for them.

20. Toronto: Tyler Ennis

With the possibility that Kyle Lowry is on the way out of Toronto this summer, Ennis could come in and be the man to replace him. If Lowry stays, Ennis will be mentored by an all-star caliber player. Sounds like a win-win to me.

Ennis isn’t very athletic but that’s not why he’s such an intriguing prospect. His strengths are similar to those of a classic past first point guard. Ennis sees the floor exceptionally well, and is a natural born playmaker, always looking for open teammates ahead of his shot. While he doesn’t have extended range on his jump-shot, he can hit open mid-rangers when he’s open. He won’t blow by players on the perimeter but he’s a crafty scorer with a feel for the game and someone who can step in and make an immediate impact.

 

21. Oklahoma City: Jarnell Stokes

Oklahoma City needs to add some offensive support for Westbrook and Durant, but that kind of immediate offensive production is better off found through free agency than through the draft. Kendrick Perkins actually makes the team worse and Nick Collison’s minutes continue to deteriorate as he gets older – his knee surgery doesn’t help either. The Thunder could beef up their front-court with Stokes.

Stokes is a very physical, strong big man who averaged 15 and 10 at Tennessee last year. Unlike the Thunder big men, he has a polished low-post game. Like the rest of the Thunder big men, he loves to bang and work on the inside. While he may be a little undersized at the power forward position, his strength and his length (7’1 wingspan) make up for it.

 

22. Memphis: Glenn Robinson III

While this may be a bit high for Robinson, to me he is the perfect fit for Memphis. He’s big, strong, extremely athletic and has a beautiful shooting touch from all areas of the court. While Tayshaun Prince is still signed through 2015, it’s clear he is no longer the championship caliber player that won a ring with the Pistons in 2004. He has no jump-shot, is not athletic enough to get to the basket, and isn’t quick enough to guard the more athletic wings of the league like Durant, LeBron and Paul George.

Robinson, at 6’7, 211 pounds has an NBA body and the athleticism to go along with it. He can defend multiple positions and offensively he can provide the Grizzlies with another weapon from outside. With his combination of shooting and athleticism on the wings he could really provide a spark for a Grizzlies team with few athletes.

 

23. Utah: Jordan Clarkson

While Trey Burke is clearly the starting point guard of the Utah Jazz, Utah doesn’t have anybody to back him up. Burke also gives up a lot of size and Clarkson at 6’5″ would make up for that. The duo can learn and grow together as players and even one day play together in the starting lineup as Clarkson is as much of a combo guard as he is a point. While his jump-shot needs a lot of work, Clarkson is skilled with the ball and very quick and athletic.

24. Charlotte: Shabazz Napier

Not only does Charlotte not really have a reliable back up point guard but they desperately need some shooting. Napier, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player this past season, has range from just about everywhere on the court. Despite his size, he’s a pest on defense and is incredibly quick with the ball in his hands, often making opposing guards look silly with his explosive first step. Napier was not only the best player on the championship UCONN team but he was the leader. It was visible in every game he played and it’s that leadership and toughness on top of all the skill that will make him successful in the NBA.

 

25. Houston: K.J McDaniels

The Rockets don’t need anymore shooting or offensive minded players. What they lack on the wings off the bench is athleticism and size. McDaniels at 6’6, 195 pounds is the perfect guy to give the Rockets what they’re missing. He posted a 37 inch vertical, he has a 6’11 wingspan and luckily for Houston, he’ll be the third player on the team who actually locks down on defense. For a very fast paced team like Houston, McDaniels works due to his ability to run the floor and his explosive  finishing ability at the basket.

 

26. Miami: P.J Hairston

The Heat need shooting. They need it to function. Without shooters surrounding Wade and LeBron – two below average outside shooters – their offense doesn’t run smoothly. Hairston is the perfect fit for an offense like that. Hairston is a strong, physical guard with deep deep range and could help the Heat as a role player on the perimeter. In the process he’d be learning from two of the best shooting guards ever in Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen, so that can only be good for his development.

 

27. Phoenix: Kyle Anderson

While it’s unlikely Phoenix even keeps this pick, if they do, Anderson is the type of talent the young, versatile Suns team would love to have. Anderson is the prototypical point forward. He’s 6’9 with a 7’3 wingspan and although he has the body of an undersized power-forward, he has the skill and court-vision of a point guard. Different from the crop of versatile forwards already on the team in the form of Channing Frye, and the Morris brothers, Anderson isn’t a shooter, he’s a passer and a playmaker. He isn’t a great athlete, but can guard multiple positions and can be a Boris Diaw type of guy in the NBA.

 

28. Los Angeles: Mitch McGary

Despite Clint Capela being on the board, the Clippers don’t have time for a project with this pick. They’re in win-now mode and need some depth behind Griffin and Jordan. McGary was suspended for marijuana, but it’s ok but medical is legal in Los Angeles anyway, and I’m pretty sure Blake Griffin and DeAndre toke up now and then during the off-season. McGary was an integral part of Michigan’s run in 2012. As an athletic, strong big man, McGary is a strong rebounder and shot blocker and like in college, he should be a force down low. If it weren’t for back issues this past season he would’ve been much higher – the Clippers are lucky to steal him at 28.

 

29. Oklahoma City: Jerami Grant

There’s not much the Thunder can improve with this pick, but if I had to address one need it’d be for an athletic wing off the bench. Jeremy Lamb isn’t strong enough or big enough to play the 3 and who knows if Caron Butler will be back next season. Grant gives the Thunder one of the best athletes in the draft and NBA-ready size to go with it. He’s dangerous in the open court and can guard multiple positions for the Thunder as well.

 

30. San Antonio: Clint Capela

Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the Spurs have a thing for international talent. So with the 30th pick, why not continue the trend? Tim Duncan will soon be gone and maybe Capela the 6’11 forward from Switzerland will be able to take his place. With a 7’5 wingspan and elite athletic ability, Capela is a nasty shot blocker and although his offensive game is raw, something tells me that’s never a factor when the Spurs are picking prospects.

 

 

 

An Exploration of LeBron’s Options This Offseason

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Four years ago, when the Big 3 were stunting on stages in Miami and proclaiming they’d be the winners of the next 7 to 8 NBA championships, the thought that their reign of dominance over the NBA could be stripped away after only 4 years together seemed impossible. When the Big 3 came together they were on top of the world. As the most exciting and hated thing to happen to the world of sports ever, the Miami Heat’s time together has been an honor to witness. However, as we all know, good things must come to an end, and this summer might just be it for Miami’s Big 3. Or not… Let’s explore what could happen this offseason with the world’s most talked about sports team ever.

Option 1: LeBron leaves Miami

Not that LeBron would really give two shits, but if he were to sit down with me and discuss what I think he should do this summer, I’d say leave. The NBA is slowly but surely being conquered by young stars, and young teams. I’m talking the Damian Lillards of the world, the John Walls and Bradley Beals, the Kevin Durants and Russell Westbrooks, the James Hardens and Dwight Howards… While this year was surely a year for the veterans, highlighted by the Spurs 5th title since 1999 last night, the future of the league is in the hands of the young. LeBron picked a team in 2010 that was just that. Chris Bosh was younger, Dwyane Wade still had about a foot in the door of his prime and the future stars of the league now either weren’t around or weren’t established yet. Besides the Spurs who are the ultimate exception if you’re talking about teams who can succeed with aging stars, but then again they are the Spurs, the greatest dynasty in sports history and the team who runs the smoothest and beautiful offense ever known to man. Anyway, what’s clear is that in this league where the young stars are on the come up, you don’t want to be on a team like the Heat.

The Finals for LeBron were very reminiscent of a lot of his time with the Cavaliers. He played like he usually does: a bull made out of bricks, but the rest of his team failed to show up.

LeBron's supporting cast didn't show up when it meant most, leading to an embarrassing defeat in this years finals.

LeBron’s supporting cast didn’t show up when it meant most, leading to an embarrassing defeat in this years finals.

Dwyane Wade looked old and tired. Chris Bosh wasn’t making threes, which takes him out of the game completely considering he’s taken a vow not to take shots in the paint anymore. The rest of the role players just didn’t step up when it counted most. Ray Allen shot 17-41 in the Heat’s final 5 embarrassing games. Rashard Lewis, the unsung and unlikely hero in the series against the Pacers was a plus minus king in the Eastern Conference Finals but posted a -31 overall through the Finals. Mario Chalmers forgot how to put a basketball in a hoop. Shane Battier’s minutes evaporated. Norris Cole shot 31% from the field and was a -27 throughout the finals. And all of a sudden the supporting cast that looked so capable and reliable throughout the season and the rest of the playoffs looked amateur and unprepared.

The Heat don’t have the space for real role players because their roster is so clogged up by the salaries of the Big 3. The Heat can beat a team like the Thunder who rely on stars to win games, but when it comes to beating real, dynamic, well-rounded basketball teams like the Spurs of this year or the Mavericks of 2011, the Heat can’t survive because they don’t have the pieces to do it. Having stars is great, but if the players surrounding those stars aren’t showing up, or partly in Miami’s case, very old, then Miami won’t win anymore rings. They cruised through the regular season, largely because the Eastern Conference is so bad, they send teams below .500 to the playoffs. They had an easy trip to the finals but once they got there it was clear as the skies in Miami that LeBron needs help and he won’t get it, and isn’t in a position to get it in the future.

Why would LeBron stay with a team who’s other star is slowly becoming a shell of what he once was. Dwyane Wade is no longer a viable 2nd option for LeBron if he wants to win more championships. He’s getting old, he’s less athletic, his lift is disappearing and without a jump shot, he won’t be able to extend his career the way guys like Vince Carter or Jason Kidd did. Shane Battier has retired, Ray Allen is mulling it over, and while Udonis Haslem might be back, players like Chris Andersen will likely be offered more money than the veteran’s minimum this summer during free agency.

Point guard play was a huge problem for the Heat this series, as was defense. This year the Heat dropped out of the top 10 in defensive efficiency for the first time since the Big 3 came together in 2010 and a large part of that is lack of athleticism and energy on the defensive end. Dwyane Wade used to be an all-nba defender but looking at him now, he doesn’t have the physical abilities to contain quicker players on the perimeter. The Heat lack any interior defensive presence so rotations and help defense is pivotal to their defensive performance. Unfortunately, when you have a team full of aging veterans, rotations will be slow and help defense may not be there. The slower, older players won’t be able to keep up with ball movement or penetration of a team like the… I don’t know… Spurs. LeBron can’t do it all. He played 400 more minutes than any one of his teammates this year and about 1300 more than Dwyane Wade, the guy who was supposed to be the Robin to his Batman. Playing the minutes LeBron did the entire season, and carrying that sort of load means only bad things for him come the playoffs when that load and that grind is inevitably increased. He needs some young talent. He needs to join the current of a team on the rise, instead of fight the current and try to carry a team on the decline. His trip to the finals was easy as it could be this year, but next year will not be as easy. His teammates are only getting older, and the other teams in the East are only getting better. Who’s to say Washington can’t give the Heat a run for their money next postseason? What about a Bulls team with a healthy Derrick Rose? The Pacers never seem to give up either. Staying in Miami with the team he has doesn’t help him while every other team in his way is only getting better.

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LeBron’s Decision Could Decide the Rest of His Career

What are his options? Well, we always hear things about Chicago, Houston and Dallas and their willingness to do just about everything they can to get Carmelo on their team. Well, if LeBron was a free agent, those teams would forget about Carmelo entirely and focus their attention on LeBron. While a Rose, James, Noah superteam in Chicago seems unlikely considering the rivalry between the two teams, a sign and trade with Houston isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, especially when people think Carmelo joining the Heat is a plausible off-season event. Then there are other teams who are less popular options for LeBron but are certainly there. There’s Cleveland who with Kyrie Irving and a No.1 pick coming up in 7 days would welcome LeBron not only with open arms but with a team full of young talent and role players to help out. There’s always Philadelphia and even the Hornets; the Michael Jordan owned franchise who have enough room this off-season for another max contract to join LeBron with Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson down in Charlotte. There’s also been rumors of a move to the Clippers. LeBron and his wife, Savannah love Los Angeles and although it would involve trading DeAndre Jordan and Jamal Crawford, the Clippers would love to get LeBron to team up with Griffin and Paul. All of this is speculation, and hypothetical but what is concrete is that LeBron cannot do it on his own. Through a combination of lack of youth and lack of talent off the bench, the Heat aren’t a viable option to win more championships in the future and LeBron has to see that now while he’s still in his prime.

Option 2: BIG 3 Take Pay cuts and Welcome Some Help 

Right now the Big 3 is due about 20 million each this year and even more the next year. They want some help, but ironically their contracts are the things preventing them from receiving that help. While they already took pay cuts to come to Miami in the first place, taking even less might be the thing they need to surround themselves with a supporting cast that can compete with the likes of the Spurs. Dwyane Wade certainly doesn’t deserve to be earning 20 million a year anymore, and for these stars, and especially for LeBron who is still trying to build his legacy by way of rings, cutting salary to create a better team could be pivotal for his future success. LeBron could also look down south in Charlotte and see that there is still money after the career. Jordan just became a billionaire through a combination of larger stakes in the Hornets (previously bobcats) and endorsement deals, of which LeBron has an ocean full, meaning while he may get paid less now, post-career life for LeBron will be anything but lucrative. While its easy to sit here and tell people to take less money, if the real goal is to win championships, which is really the only thing differentiating LeBron and Michael at this point, then why not take 13 million a year instead of 20? Is the lifestyle they’re living really going to change that much? Sure LeBron and the Big 3 won’t be making what they’re worth, but it’s the kind of selfless thing that the Spurs Big 3 did and look where its got them.

Once on top of the world, taking another salary cut may be the thing to get them back there.

Once on top of the world, taking another salary cut may be the thing to get them back there.

 

This 4th player doesn’t have to be of a Carmelo Anthony caliber. Frankly, adding another superstar isn’t what they need. Carmelo wouldn’t help them defensively or athletically, two problems they faced against the Spurs. There are rumors of a Kyle Lowry addition going around, which would surely help the Heat’s lack of point guard play they so severely suffered with during the final stretch of the playoffs. He would likely have to take about 10 million a year and the Heat can afford him if the Big 3 were to cut their salaries immensely. Another addition could be power forward Pau Gasol who has been openly unhappy in Los Angeles for the past few seasons. His price range is probably in the same realm as Lowry’s. Pau could help the Heat with rebounding and a presence inside both offensively and defensively. Pau can still attract a lot of attention in the post and has the ability like Bosh to play a stretch 4 or 5 if he needs to. Bosh has developed into a stretch 4 so there won’t be any issues about a clogging in the paint. Gasol is also a very talented passer and could not only help the Heat move the ball but an inside passing tandem of Bosh and Pau could be very effective.

If they choose not to go with players of that caliber, there is always the smart, yet rarely talked about option of using the large cap space to add several effective role players rather than one expensive star. While the star will bring firepower and more responsibility for opposing defenses, it still doesn’t help the bench problem. Using the space to sign a number of guys like an Andray Blatche, Rodney Stuckey and Evan Turner could be a direction in which the Heat acquire more value and address the problem of depth rather than making headlines with an addition of another star. The Spurs proved it this season that its not about the stars but about the role players and how everyone co-exists and plays together on the floor. Once again, these are all of the most hypothetical order but very possible if the Big 3 would do the usually improbable with famous star athletes: take less money.

Option 3: LeBron Stays in Miami and Waits for Free Agency Next Year

James and Love, both teammates on USA, could both be free agents in 2015

James and Love, both teammates on USA, could both be free agents in 2015

If LeBron were to opt into his contract and play out next season he actually may have the best of both worlds. Here’s why: Although the Heat were embarrassed by the Spurs, you really can’t discredit what the Heat have accomplished in their time together. Like LeBron said, “he’ll take 50%.” If the Heat stayed together they’d likely be the 1 or 2 seed once again and a definite lock at #3. It won’t be as easy as this year as players are only getting older and younger teams are only getting better but a LeBron Heat team is still one of the best in the league. The Heat also have the opportunity to sign some smaller free agent additions that could help reinvigorate them. Rashard Lewis is a free agent, as is Mario Chalmers, both of whom they could let go without feeling uneasy about it. In their place, there are some interesting options for role players on the market. Given the wide selection as well as Pat Riley’s uncanny ability to convince players to take less than what they’re worth puts the Heat in a good position to pull in some surrounding pieces.

There is a plethora of role players on the market this off-season who have the potential to give the Heat a boost in a number of ways, especially in their guard play. These are affordable guys like a Rodney Stuckey, Jordan Farmar, Evan Turner, Mo Williams, Dejuan Blair, and Jodie Meeks… The list goes on and on. Not only are these players cheap as it stands, but also role players do have a history of taking less money to join the Heat. With a few of those type of players joining the already proven, championship caliber Miami Heat team, the Heat can trampoline themselves back to finals success next season. So LeBron could stay, and see what magic Pat Riley is able to pull off and if its not to his liking, and the Heat don’t win a championship next season, he still has the 2015 offseason where he’ll be 30 years old and in a free agent class with superstars like Rajon Rondo, Kevin Love, possibly Carmelo Anthony, or LaMarcus Aldridge. Then in 2015 he has the ability to form another superteam with that class of stars, or wait for teams like the Knicks or Bulls who will have much more cap space when contracts like Bargnani, Chandler and Boozer all expire, respectively. So opt-in, play it out, see what Riley can muster up and if he doesn’t win, look at 2015 as a completely fresh beginning with a new crop of stars to team with and a new batch of teams begging at his knees – sounds nice doesn’t it?

Option 4: LeBron Opts Out and Signs An Extension

This to me is the most unlikely of the bunch, but it is possible. Say LeBron opts out and resigns with the Heat. In 2015, Dwyane Wade may face the idea of retirement as he’ll be in the second half of 33 years of age. Chris Bosh will be an unrestricted free agent. And LeBron will have the Heat to himself and leverage to say to Pat Riley, “I don’t want Wade and Bosh back. Bring me new stars.” Or, at that point in Wade’s career, he’ll sign a much smaller contract and play a Manu Ginobili type of role, enabling the Heat to treat his contract as that of a 6th man, and sign other big free agents on top of Wade and James. LeBron will be able to dictate who the Heat sign, and with the expected cap space in 2015 – barring any extended contracts with new players – he’ll be on a team in a position to recruit other free agents to join him. If teams like the Knicks think they’re an appealing place to play, what do you think a free agent is going to be thinking when he has a meeting with LeBron James and Pat Riley and they ask said free agent to join LeBron. Which player in his right mind, looking for championships, is going to say no to not only playing in a place like Miami, but on a championship caliber team with the greatest player in the world and 4 finals appearances in the last 5 years?

It’s appealing, one of the more appealing pitches that teams will be able to offer free agents in 2015. This extension also doesn’t have to be that long. LeBron can sign a shorter extension, something along the lines of 3 years, it doesn’t have to be a 4 or 5 year deal. He’ll also probably opt for an early termination option to give him the freedom to get out of Miami if the new look team isn’t panning out how he planned.

With so many options, hypotheticals and different outcomes at every turn, this offseason will be a complicated one for LeBron. He might be on vacation with family, and might insist to the media that he hasn’t thought about free agency, the only thing on his mind is where he’ll be playing in 2014-15 and where he can win a championship. All we can do now is wait and see.

Defending and Criticizing Mark Cuban

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So Mark Cuban has always been one of the most honest men in the public eye, so his comments regarding race weren’t really that surprising. Everyone is making a big deal about what he said, but realistically he said absolutely nothing wrong. He isn’t Donald Sterling 2.0. The NBA is not made up of a bunch of white racist millionaires who like to watch basketball court side. The timing of Cuban’s statements could’ve been better, with the Sterling controversy still ongoing, Cuban picked a time of heightened sensitivity toward racism to speak his mind. However, what he said was not wrong.

The statements he made in the interview all stem from discussion about Sterling and how the soon-to-be ex-Clippers owner is still living in the stone ages with comments he’s made on the leaked audio tape where he asks his ex-girlfriend V. Stiviano if she’d stop bringing black men to her games, and stop publicizing that she’s associated with black men. Sterling continued his rant on CNN with Anderson Cooper, saying things like all Magic Johnson has done is gotten aids, and that Jews always give back once they’ve become successful but blacks do not, and other embarrassing, cringe-worthy remarks that only tarnished his reputation even more and crossed the line of potential forgiveness by miles.

Cuban continues in his video saying that if he saw a black kid in a hoody walking on his side of the street at night, he’d cross the road and if on that side he saw a white, bald man with tattoos all over his face he’d cross back to the other side. Now I ask you a question? If you were walking at night and saw one of those two things would you not cross the road as well? If yes that certainly doesn’t make you a racist. Everybody is subject to impure thoughts, they travel through our minds every day and we know we shouldn’t be thinking them but we do. You get yelled at by your boss and in your head all you can imagine is slamming his head in with the office computer. Your father in law can’t give you a break and tries time and time again to embarrass you in front of the family. You probably think about throwing him off a cliff before you go to bed that night. Impure, violent, or unethical thoughts pass through our brains every single day but that doesn’t make us murderers or psychos. The simple fact is we can’t control our thoughts. It doesn’t even have to be malicious thoughts. I’m sure everybody has experienced sitting in class and thinking of some funny thing you saw on TV the night before and laughing uncontrollably through class while the teacher and the rest of the kids stare at you. It happens! Thoughts come and go and you can’t control some of them. However, those thoughts don’t define anybody unless of course you actually happen to kill your boss…

Anyhow, what Cuban is saying is purely theoretical and he’s being honest that its something that goes through his mind. I would challenge you to find someone who hasn’t had that thought at one time or another. It’s sad that that is the stereotype of something we should be scared of when walking on the street but it’s true. It’s the sad and unfortunate truth that people do stereotype, people do have prejudice and even if they’re not aware of it, or truly are not racist or hold any sort of offensive beliefs toward a minority or group of people, the thoughts are subconscious. If I was walking down the street at night and I saw a black guy wearing a hood walking close by me, I’d cross the street. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe because I’ve seen things like that happen on TV. Maybe because that’s the stereotype of someone we see on the news. But I am absolutely, in no way, shape or form racist. I don’t think whites are better than blacks. I don’t think blacks are a less superior race or that there is anything at all wrong with blacks. However, I would cross the street. The same goes for the bald, white guy with tattoos everywhere. He’s white, I’m white, but I’d still cross the street. I’d be scared, it’d probably be mis-targeted fear but I wouldn’t feel safe walking with that guy on the street at night. He could be the most friendly person in the world – a puppy shelter volunteer, a worker for a non-profit organization, a single guy, lives with his mom, who the hell knows, but it doesn’t matter because we as people see something we are programmed to not like and we react. It doesn’t mean we’re racist but in the back of our minds, in the deepest depths of our thoughts we hold judgements about certain people based on the way they look.

The reason this is getting so much negative attention is because we live in a society that is extremely sensitive to any sort of racist or sexist or homophobic remarks, which is wonderful. I’m happy that society is really changing and we are all becoming equal, and that nobody is being discriminated against based on gender, sexual interest or race. That’s not to say there isn’t racism in the world, because there is but those who express racism are now becoming a minority. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, offensive and irrational ideologies like racism and homophobia will not be abolished in a day and they are a process, and right now we are in the midst of the process of ridding society of these ideas.

However, this sensitivity can also be a negative. People jump on anybody who says anything true anymore about these sorts of things like Mark Cuban did recently. In his case they are misinterpreting honesty for racism. If we look at things Cuban said about Sterling we’ll find a man who is flat out honest. In regards to Sterling’s comments he said: What Donald said was wrong. It was abhorrent. There’s no place for racism in the NBA, any business I’m associated with, and I don’t want to be associated with people who have that position.” It’s clear that he’s not a racist, and that he’s against everything Sterling said, so what is the fuss about?

Well, people have become so ultra sensitive that a trigger goes off when anything is said and even if its intentions are not racist or the remarks are not coming from a violent place they are still criticized. Mark Cuban said nothing wrong. He addressed subconscious thoughts that he has and I’m sure everybody else has as well, but we are quick to put a shield up to defend ourselves from our subconscious thoughts because we know they’re wrong so we fight them and we say that comments like Mark’s aren’t ok, when really, if we just take a step back and understand where he’s coming from, they are. We have become more tolerant in society of different people, but less tolerant of different views on racism and other discriminative beliefs. Mark wasn’t targeting any specific people. In his statement he approaches things from both ends of the spectrum. In his completely theoretical situation, he would cross the street regardless of ethnicity. It’s more the image and the stereotype of a certain person that he’s afraid of. If he’s crossing from a black person in a hoody and crossing from a bald, white man with tattoos everywhere then how can we possibly say he’s racist. He’s not saying he holds any judgement toward a race of people. He’s simply talking about the prejudice people have toward a certain appearance.

This isn’t the first time his honesty regarding the Sterling controversy has garnered him criticism. He said, “If it’s about racism and we’re ready to kick people out of the league, OK? Then what about homophobia? What about somebody who doesn’t like a particular religion? What about somebody who’s anti-Semitic? What about a xenophobe?” This is absolutely true. If we’re going to kick people out of the NBA for being racist, how about kicking everybody out who is sexist, homophobic, anti a certain religion? Why don’t we create a place where everybody has the same thoughts as everyone else and there is no discrimination for anybody? Well, another unfortunate truth is that that is impossible. Everybody has certain thoughts and prejudice and to expel anybody for thinking or having views that are offensive would be taking away their right to freedom of speech. He was criticized for this because it was seen as justifying Sterling’s actions, when really he’s just taking a step back and impartially observing and commenting what he thinks. In both situations, people get annoyed by someone who is on neither side but is simply being honest and analyzing both. He gets criticized for thinking about what’s going on and talking about it rather than running to the bandwagon and screaming to get Sterling kicked out. He’s not saying he doesn’t think Sterling should be kicked out but he is weighing the options shall we say.

*** I am in no way justifying Sterling’s remarks. He is an exception – an extenuating circumstance where his comments went overboard, were directed at a specific group of people and carried over into aids and even went after Magic Johnson a well respected member of the NBA.

Cuban and Sterling’s remarks have to be differentiated because they are in two different realms. Sterling is clearly saying to his girlfriend, do not bring blacks to my games. I do not want blacks there. He is targeting blacks in general, he is saying, in a real-life situation that he has a prejudice toward blacks. That is racism. That is clear racism, he continued when he said Jews give back but blacks don’t, in that situation he’s elevating Jews above blacks – discriminating even more. Cuban is not being racist in his remarks. He’s not saying I don’t like walking next to blacks on the street. He’s saying if I was walking at night and I saw a black man in a hoody, I would be scared. Is that reasonable? Yes. Is it really a pure thought? No. But like I addressed earlier, it’s the reality that everybody has thoughts like these and to condemn someone for being honest and speaking his mind when his comments come from a safe place and don’t hold any malicious intentions is wrong. Where would we be as a country if we didn’t have the liberty to speak freely? It’s our right as people, and telling the truth, which we as a society have sometimes been quick to criticize even though we know deep down it’s probably true should be valued.

The only reason I could see to criticize Cuban for his remarks would be the uncanny similarity to the Travyon Martin case back in 2012 where Martin was shot by George Zimmerman. Obviously that was and is a sensitive topic especially considering how recent the case really was and how controversial it is. Otherwise, Cuban was in the right with everything he said. It’s great that we as a society have developed a big heart and a small tolerance for racism but sometimes the truth is the truth, whether we like what we’re thinking or not.

Ibaka’s Injury Not Only Problem For Thunder

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The Oklahoma City Thunder are the epitome of a growing and promising sports franchise. Moving to Oklahoma City in 2008, the Thunder have drafted extremely well, been coached even better and have quickly become one of the best teams in the NBA.

In 2007 came Kevin Durant and a rookie of the year campaign.

In 2008, the Thunder welcomed Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka.

In 2009, James Harden joined the team.

Since coming to Oklahoma City 6 years ago, the Thunder have been to the playoffs 5 times, including a 2012 finals run against the Heat. They have the MVP, one of the best point guards in the NBA and arguably the best rim protector in the league as well. Because of the firepower of mainly Westbrook and Durant, the Thunder’s flaws have often been masked, thrown to the side and forgotten. Why shouldn’t they? They have an MVP and when your top two players are combining for 56 points, 17 rebounds and 12 assists per game, its easy to neglect the bad. Especially when you’re winning, and winning consistently. However, it’s clear, especially clear in this year’s playoffs that the Thunder will never win a championship with their current roster.

In the 1st round against the Grizzlies, the Thunder won in 7 games. In all those 7 games, everybody not named Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook scored an average of 46.7 points per game. The Thunder consistently play 8 other guys besides their superstars so if you break it down even further the Thunder were getting an average of 5.8 points per game.

In round 2 against the Clippers, everybody not named KD or Russell Westbrook scored an average of 44.5 points per game, giving their role players an average of 5.5 points each.

In both of those series, the Thunder won out. The first reason was because Serge Ibaka was in the middle protecting the rim and stopping easy baskets. On the other hand, the explosive superstar duo averaged 51 points per game combined against the Clippers and 55 against the Grizzlies.

But now, against the Spurs, the most fundamentally sound and smooth offense in the league, the Thunder cannot match the offensive production. Sure, losing Serge’s 15 points per game hurts, but this meltdown has been one in the making. The Thunder lack two-way players. It’d be ok if their roster had a moderate blend of both shooters and defensive minded players like the Heat (see Ray Allen, Shane Battier, Rashard Lewis, Chris Andersen, Norris Cole) but the Thunder don’t. The Thunder’s role players are defensive minded big men like Kendrick Perkins who has become a liability in the area he’s supposed to excel in, Steven Adams and Nick Collison. The latter two are solid defensively and rebound well but offensively have little to offer besides moving the ball, and getting putbacks around the rim. Their role players are also guys like Caron Butler who has become more inconsistent and unpredictable then Dwyane Wade’s clothing choices and then there’s Derrick Fisher and Reggie Jackson, the only guys who really can produce offensively consistently, and if Fisher isn’t hitting open threes than all the Thunder have to rely on is Reggie Jackson. This is an issue. It’s a big issue. The Thunder cannot rely so heavily on Durant and Westbrook. It works, it sure as hell works, but there is a limit to how far they can go with this current team. There is a ceiling, while teams like the Heat and Spurs both rely on a system that has no limit to their success and that’s all attributed to their well roundedness. Durant and Westbrook are two of the most explosive offensive players in the league and probably the best scoring duo in the NBA but like LeBron and Wade need shooters and other guys who can help carry the load, so do they.

Right now against the Spurs, the Thunder are being embarrassed for two reasons. The first is the gaping hole in the middle of the paint usually occupied by Serge Ibaka. Without his length and athleticism guarding the rim, the Spurs are getting easy buckets whenever they want. The Spurs scored 54 points in the paint in Game 2 and 66 in Game 1. Meaning in Game 1 54% of the Spurs points were scored in the paint, followed by 48% in Game 2. So yes, a lot of the Thunder’s struggles DEFENSIVELY are clearly a result of not having Ibaka.

Offensively, however is a whole different issue. Ibaka does make things easier, yes, but only marginally with 12-15 points per game. The Thunder are getting nothing from anybody offensively and as a result the Spurs are able to focus solely on Durant and Westbrook. They each scored 15 points in Game 2. The Spurs don’t have to worry about anybody killing them from beyond the arc because the Thunder simply don’t have the type of players that are legitimate threats from long range. But on the other side of the court, the Thunder are having to guard everyone because everybody is a threat and unlike the often stagnant offense of the Thunder the Spurs are constantly moving, setting screens, cutting to the basket and moving the ball. Everybody on the court is a threat offensively. The Thunder don’t have that. In Game 1, the Thunder had 5 points from the other three starters combined! Why do the Spurs have to pay attention on defense to a Nick Collison or a Thabo Sefolosha if they’re not doing anything offensively? The answer is they don’t. The Spurs can stand around and stare at Westbrook and Durant, crowd them, pack the paint on them and if Durant or Westbrook want to kick the ball out, it’s to a player who is either not an offensive minded player (Sefolosha, Perkins, Collison) or someone who isn’t a consistent shooter (Butler, Lamb, Fisher) That in itself is causing Westbrook and Durant to keep the ball in their hands more. They don’t trust their teammates offensively, thus their offense gets more stagnant and defense becomes a lot easier for the Spurs. It’s a vicious cycle all stemming from the fact that the Thunder’s roster is constructed in a way that puts too much pressure on Durant and Westbrook. What happens on the off chance that one of those guys doesn’t play well like in Game 2? Well then they’re absolutely screwed.

I won’t say the door is closing on the Thunder because Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka are so young but very soon the Thunder could find themselves 5 years down the road, still without a championship even though each year they are among the best teams in the league. The roster needs to be tweaked. They need more shooting threats – more guys to help them spread the floor, more options for Durant and Westbrook to kick to. They need players who actually attract consistent attention from defenses. The Heat are the model that they should try to emulate. LeBron and Wade are surrounded by shooters and defenders not just defenders.

The Thunder won’t win this series, meaning Kevin Durant will once again fall short of a championship. Next year could be different or it could be the same, but the formula the Thunder have right now isn’t working and waiting longer and longer, and resting on the fact that they are consistently a top 2 seed in the West isn’t going to work. Oklahoma City has become, because of Durant and Westbrook an appealing place to play, Sam Presti needs to figure out a way to move this roster around, and add some pieces that aren’t one dimensional, but players who can play both ends and help out offensively. If not, who knows, but maybe in a few years when Durant’s contract is up he might look at his age and not like the situation he’s in and I’d hate for the Thunder to lose him because they couldn’t surround him with the right sort of team.