Free Agent Update: Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol: 2013-14 Salary ($19,300,000)

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Pau is a dilemma. He’s easily the most skilled big man in the NBA right now and one of the most skilled ever in terms of his passing, craftiness, IQ and low-post array of moves. However, the past few years haven’t been kind to Pau and that has greatly affected his stock. First off, the Spaniard has only played 174 games in the past three seasons – he’s injury prone. The other thing, which was by no means his fault, was the whole Mike D’Antoni/Dwight, Nash, Kobe trio in Los Angeles. That season was a meltdown by anybody’s standards and Pau, who was supposed to be an integral part of the Big 4, was forgotten. Then last season, in what could’ve been the most embarrassing Lakers campaign ever, Pau constantly complained with Mike D’Antoni’s tactics. From playing small ball, to not playing at all, Pau has definitely endured some difficult years in a Lakers jersey and this summer might be his opportunity to start fresh. The interesting thing to see will be what Pau chooses… And I don’t mean a team. Out of the 7 teams vying for his signature, only 1 can offer him substantial money. Dallas could probably offer him something in the 15 million range depending on what Dirk is willing to take. However, after that, despite these teams being in contention for championships, they can’t offer him even a third of what he made last season.

Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls

lakers_150The Lakers have the edge because they have the cap space. They can offer Pau whatever he wants to bring him back. Pau also has a deep connection with Los Angeles and the Lakers as he has won two championships there in 2009 and 2010. He and Kobe are also very very close so Kobe’s influence on Pau might play a role in his choice. The thing with going back to the Lakers is that Pau isn’t guaranteed winning or change for that matter. D’Antoni was fired recently – something Pau had been wishing for for a while. However, as of now, the team is very much in shams. Cap space is a beautiful thing, but it guarantees nothing. Just look at Joe Dumars’ Pistons in the summer of 2009 where Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva – who combined for 25 points per game in their first season in Detroit – were paid a combined 90 million dollars. So yes, cap space is a luxury, but it means nothing and if Pau were to sign, he would have absolutely no idea on what would happen next. With Nick Young and Kent Bazemore on the free agent market and Jodie Meeks already on the Pistons, the Lakers are looking at a team full of empty slots waiting to be filled and there is unfortunately no guarantee as to who will fill them. It’s certainly not Carmelo or LeBron or any of the next tier guys like Luol Deng or Kyle Lowry – the latter of whom signed a 4 year 48 million dollar deal with the Raptors last night. Pau turns 34 in three days and while he’s still playing at a very high level, the clock is ticking on his career and at this point, Pau, who has amassed a total of 133.6 million dollars over the course of his career should be looking for championships rather than some more 0’s on his paycheck. He’s endured some toxic years and for Pau getting out of Los Angeles would be the best for his career. In an extremely competitive Western Conference, the Lakers are nowhere near contention and Pau returning doesn’t change any of that.

NYKNICKS_Logo-FinalThe Knicks’ pitch to Pau Gasol would center around all they have to offer: the re-creation of the Lakers, and cap space next summer. In terms of personnel connections, the Knicks have the upper hand in all of this. Phil Jackson led Pau to his two championships in ’09 and ’10, and Derek Fisher was Pau’s teammate from 2008-2012. Phil’s goals for the Knicks are abundantly clear; he wants to re-create the Lakers… but in New York. He’s already hired Derek Fisher to be the head coach he can lead vicariously through and he has also offered Kurt Rambis a 4 year, 4.8 million dollar deal to be Fisher’s top assistant – Rambis was an assistant in Los Angeles last season and was on Jackson’s staff during both of his stints with the Lakers. Other assistants rumored to join the Knicks’ bench is Rick Fox, former Laker player, Bill Cartwright, former Bulls player under Phil Jackson and Jim Cleamons, a former assistant of Jackson’s as well. In terms of player personnel, the Knicks have just acquired Pau’s teammate on the Spanish national team; Jose Calderon. In addition to Calderon, the Knicks signed Lamar Odom and can bring back Shannon Brown another former teammate of Pau’s from Los Angeles. Pau could sign with New York and know that there is a familiar and strong infrastructure being built to ascend the team back to the top. The only difference at this point between Los Angeles and New York is the jersey. Pau has more fellow teammates in New York, one of his best friends as the coach and his former coach as the president of the team. There are two things Pau would have to consider before signing with New York. The first is that, next year, they are going to be bad. Every player considering signing with the Knicks has to accept that fact. The Knicks are the same team as last year except instead of Tyson and Raymond Felton they have Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert. There is also uncertainty on whether Carmelo Anthony will be donning a Knicks jersey next season. The other thing he’d have to consider is the significant pay cut. Because the Knicks are paying the luxury tax, they have the tax-payers mid-level exception worth 3.2 million dollars. Waiving Samuel Dalembert would give them the ability to offer Pau 5 million, but they have said no to that option. Pau would be taking 16 million less than last season to play in New York, however, the nice thing about New York’s financial situation is that next summer they’ll be bursting with cap space, which means Pau can sign a one-year deal and then sign a longer extension for money he’s accustomed to getting next summer. Of course all of this rides on the simple question of whether Pau wants to play in New York or not. He should know that playing in New York would most likely bring Carmelo back as well, which would form a very talented front-court in New York.

heat_150The Heat’s situation with every free agent, not just Pau Gasol, is dependent on what the Big 3 decide to do. A few days ago, word broke out that Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would be taking starting salaries at 11 million and 12 million respectively, which along with LeBron’s demand of a max contract and the smaller salaries of Shabazz Napier, Norris Cole and the obviously returning Udonis Haslem, would give the Heat 12 million to spend on free agents. That rumor has been called “Bs” by the man who would know it best

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ESPN’s Chris Broussard affirmed the claims of Henry Thomas in an article written last night:

Bosh is looking to sign a five-year deal worth between $80 million and $90 million while Wade is thinking along the lines of $55 million-60 million over four years, sources said.Those figures, combined with a max-level contract that would begin at $20.7 million for James, would not clear the cap room it would likely take to sign free-agent targets such as Kyle Lowry,Luol Deng and possibly Pau Gasol.

If the Heat’s Big 3 do as Chris Broussard says, there is no room to sign Pau Gasol, but then again the Big 3 wouldn’t re-sign if they knew there was no opportunity to bolster the supporting cast so if Bosh and Wade do take as much as stated, LeBron will likely go elsewhere, or if not LeBron, the entire Big 3 will likely split up. If the Heat do manage to work out the kinks and clear 12 million in cap space, Pau would be the perfect fit. Pau has the ability to stretch the floor and shoot from the outside, which is pivotal in the Heat offense, which revolves around drive and kicks. Pau also has great vision and getting it to him in the high post and working off that would be very dangerous considering how hard it is to guard LeBron on the move off the ball. Pau also gives the Heat something they haven’t had before and that’s consistent low-post play. Pau could be a shot-clock-winding-down-last-second-resort type of option for the Heat that they’ve never had before. Pau is a traditional big man with the skill of a guard and that’s why he fits into the Heat’s small ball lineup because he’s not someone who will clog the paint or slow them down as a team, he’d actually make them more dangerous as he’d provide them with another facet to their game that opposing defenses would have to guard.

thunder_150 I think if the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are now considered the favorites in the pursuit of Pau Gasol (according to ESPN), were able to bring Pau to the team, they would be immediate favorites to win a championship. Time and time again the Thunder are right on the cusp of reaching the finals, but in an extremely competitive Western Conference they always seem to fall short. The reason? Lack of offensive weapons. You’re probably surprised. A team with Kevin Durant, the scoring champion and Russell Westbrook, the 2nd best scorer among point guards are having troubles offensively? Yes. After Westbrook and Durant there are very few scoring options for the Thunder. Serge Ibaka contributes 15-18 per game, and Reggie Jackson offers 12-15 off the bench but besides those 4 there are nobody. That’s why their offense has the tendency to get stagnant, because there just aren’t options to go to and that causes Durant and Westbrook to hold the ball and play one-on-one. They can, they definitely can because of their supreme talent, but in the playoffs in a slower series, where defenses are focused on them and them only, there aren’t options to go to. If you want evidence just re-watch the Western Conference Finals against the Spurs. Pau Gasol would give them another scoring option, but that’s not all, because he’s such a great passer, Pau would be key in ball movement. Getting Pau the ball in the post attracts extreme attention from the defenses and a team, stupidly decides to double, then they’d be leaving Kevin Durant for the three or Russell Westbrook to dive, dunk and scream like he always does. Pau gives them, like the Heat, a new facet to their game. He is another defense attractor, which relieves pressure off of Westbrook and Durant. Defensively, the idea of a Pau, Ibaka combo would be extremely dangerous, and reminiscent of the Pau, Bynum combo in 2009 and 2010, just with more shot blocking. If Pau really wanted to join the Thunder, he could sign for the full mid-level exception worth 5.3 million. Like the Knicks, if he wanted to sign a 1 year deal and then re-sign for a longer, more lucrative extension he could because of Kendrick Perkins’ contract expiring next summer. If the Thunder were to trade Perkins’ expiring contract or amnesty his 9.4 million, Pau would have the best of both worlds – the money and the success.

spurs_150The Spurs are about 3 million under the cap as it stands right now, including the rookie deal of Kyle Anderson and the recent signing of Patty Mills. What that means is either Boris Diaw is going to have to take 3 million, or Pau isn’t coming to the Spurs. I highly doubt Boris Diaw settles for 3 million after the breakout season he had and the effect he had on the Finals last year. So I’m effectively counting out Pau from this whole ordeal, but the idea of Pau, who is essentially the perfect Spur, joining with Tim Duncan on the frontline to win another one in San Antonio would be an NBA fans wet dream. Diaw will likely have to take the mid-level exception of 5.3 million if he wants to sign with the Spurs but the R.C Buford and the Spurs front-office will have fierce competition from other teams around the league considering how effective Diaw was in all aspects of the game during the Finals.

Dallas-MavericksThe Mavericks, like their Texas rivals, are effectively counted out of signing Pau Gasol. However, this exclusion from the Gasol-mania is not due to financial issues but more because of fit. The Mavericks just traded for rim protector, former Mavericks champion and defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler so bringing in Pau Gasol would almost definitely mean he’d play a bench role because he’s certainly not capable of playing the 3. The rumors connecting Pau with the Mavericks were realistic before the trade with New York but now it’s just impossible. I’m not sure why the Mavericks would even be going after Pau when someone like Luol Deng who actually fits a need and is of the same caliber is on the market, as well as someone like Trevor Ariza. For Pau, going to Dallas to meet with Cuban is a waste of time. He’d be a poor fit and would likely see his minutes and opportunities diminished by the already solidified front-court duo of Tyson Chandler and the soon-to-be-re-signed Dirk Nowitzki.

bulls_150 Chicago is really only approaching Pau as a back-up option if Carmelo decides to return to New York or go somewhere other than the Windy City. Unlike Carmelo, the Bulls could actually offer Pau what he’s worth: something between 15 and 16 million. Pau probably isn’t even worth that much, which only makes things that much better for the Bulls. All of this rides on the amnesty or trade of Carlos Boozer and his 16.8 million dollar contract. If Pau came in, the Bulls would be receiving an average post-defender but a player with extreme length and size to help on the inside with Joakim Noah. The good thing about the Bulls’ roster is that they have the ability to hide poor defensive players like Carlos Boozer and D.J Augustin. Pau could slide into the lineup and provide the Bulls with a scoring pick and roll option and a low-post offense option, which they get little to nothing of from Carlos Boozer. The Bulls need scoring badly and outside shooting and while Pau can stretch the floor, I’m just not sure that Pau really satisfies their needs to the fullest extent. However, if they miss out on Carmelo, Pau is the next best thing and would instantly make them the best in the East, barring no headline additions by the Heat.


 

As of right now I’m really unsure on where he’ll go. Los Angeles can offer him the most money but because of his past few toxic years and the uncertainty of how the team will shape up I’m counting Los Angeles out. Along with the Lakers, the Spurs and Mavericks are off the list. That leaves Oklahoma City, Chicago, New York and Miami. Miami’s acquisition of Pau hinges significantly on the decision of the Big 3 and what they decide to do financially. If Bosh and Wade do take the appropriate cuts to give LeBron his max contract and leave room for extra talent then I think Pau would be silly not to go to the Heat. If they can’t figure it out, they’d be off the list. The Bulls are thinking of Pau as a plan B to Carmelo so their pursuit of Pau depends on where Carmelo Anthony goes. The Knicks could be a sleeper in all of this. They can’t offer him the money next season, but in 2015 they can re-sign Pau to a longer and more lucrative contract because of the cap space they’d have next summer. The Knicks are basically home to Pau who would be going to a place with former coaches, assistant coaches and players alike. He’d also be entering into the offense he thrived in during the Lakers’ championship runs in 2009 and 2010. However, taking 3 million is a humongous sacrifice on the part of Pau and I’m unsure he’d be willing to take that risk. The other option would be the Thunder who could offer Pau the mid-level exception of 5.3 million as well as the best chance to win a championship as his arrival would create a big 4 in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and himself. At this point, I really can’t put my finger on where he’ll go. Fingers crossed for the Knicks, but reports have the Thunder as the front-runner, so we’ll have to wait and see.

Free Agent Update: LeBron James

As of today, LeBron has been eerily quiet regarding his free agency, especially for someone who went on national television to announce it 2010. He won’t be attending any meetings, which gives the edge to Miami but who knows. LeBron is the best player in the world and he wants the best player in the world type money and he will get it. It just depends on where.

1. LeBron James: 2013-14 Salary ($19,067,500) — 2014-15 Value: $20,700,000

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Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets

clippers_150 The Los Angeles Clippers are the best team out of this group if you don’t consider the Miami Heat. Unfortunately for them, LeBron wearing a Clippers jersey next season is nothing more than a pipe dream. The Clippers are looking at $71,382,529 in salary next year if you consider C.J Wilcox’s salary and Jamal Crawford’s contract being guaranteed. For them to clear 20.7 million dollars of space, they’d have to trade a combination of DeAndre Jordan, J.J Reddick and Jamal Crawford or Jared Dudley for nothing in return just to clear space for LeBron. I’m not even sure a package of those three players is worth LeBron. Then they’d have to put off all possibilities of re-signing Darren Collison, Danny Granger and Glen Davis. If they did all of this, which is highly unlikely, the Clippers would sport a team of LeBron, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Matt Barnes and either Jamal Crawford or Dudley depending on which left in a trade. They’d have absolutely no bench though, but then again, with that starting lineup they probably wouldn’t need one. But, unfortunately, as nice an idea it is to see a fast-break of Chris Paul in the middle and Blake Griffin and LeBron James sprinting down the wings, it’s a fantasy that will likely never come to fruition.

lakers_150 The Lakers are in an interesting position because as of right now, they only have Robert Sacre, Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash and the newly drafted Julius Randle (inevitably) under contract. Between those 4, they have (with Randle earning 120% of his rookie scale price) $37,113,603 on the books. Kent Bazemore is an unrestricted free agent, and Ryan Kelly is restricted, while Kendall Marshall is unguaranteed going into next season. Nick Young is also unrestricted but is looking to sign with the Lakers. If LeBron were to sign for the max of 20.7 million dollars, he’d be leaving the Lakers with around 6 million and change to spend on the rest of the roster. We’re not even sure Steve Nash is going to be healthy next season and how Kobe Bryant will fare after playing only 6 games dating back to April 12th, 2013. The team would be pretty bad to say the least. There is too much uncertainty. Health concerns not only to Nash and Bryant but Randle and his foot. We’re not sure how Randle will even play in his rookie season. There is too many “what if’s” if I’m LeBron. With the fact that he’s willing to sign a 1-2 year deal for max money signing with the Lakers becomes a little more likely because then his free agency would align with Kobe Bryant’s retirement, which would be the perfect scenario for LeBron – 2 years of championship contention with Kobe and if it doesn’t work out, he’s a free agent again and can go to the next contender who can win him a championship. However, I still don’t see LeBron going to Los Angeles. A team of Kobe, LeBron, Julius Randle and…. isn’t enough to win a championship. 6 million in cap space doesn’t give them much. He’d be leaving a bad supporting cast in Miami to go to a worse one.

heat_150Dwyane Wade has signed a 4 year deal starting with 12 million next year while Chris Bosh has signed a 5 year deal starting at 11 million. Meaning the Heat have devoted 23 million to 2 members of the Big 3 next year. With LeBron taking nothing less than 20.7 million, the Heat would hypothetically have devoted 44.7 million to the Big 3. Norris Cole is due just under 2.1 million next year so the Heat have 46.8 million devoted to 4 players. Shabazz Napier can make 825,760 to 1,238,640 next year depending on what percent of the rookie scale for the 24th pick he takes. So, at the least the Heat have 48 million devoted to 5 players. Then if Udonis Haslem re-signs, which is the only reason he opted out in the first place, the Heat will have around 12 million to sign free agents, which actually gives them the opportunity to sign someone like Kyle Lowry, Luol Deng or Pau Gasol if those players were willing to. The Heat are actually in a great position if the reports are true. They have a lot of financial flexibility. The only problem is that LeBron wants a short term deal, something like 1-2 years according to John Canzano so signing other free agents becomes a harder task if they know LeBron might not be there in the longterm.

bulls_150 The Bulls have been primarily linked to Carmelo Anthony, but unlike Carmelo, LeBron wants the max deal meaning not only would they have to amnesty Boozer and his 16.8 million dollars next year, but they would have to trade either Gibson or a package of Mike Dunleavy and Jimmy Butler just to clear enough space for LeBron. It’s highly unlikely.

suns_150 Phoenix is a recent addition to the frenzy surrounding LeBron James. According to them, they have what no other team can offer: a playoff-team core and financial flexibility in the future. Phoenix has 33.5 million in cap space at the moment, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski and could easily cut 10 million more to allow LeBron to team up with a superstar of his choice. The Suns could trade a package of Gerald Green, Alex Len, and Markieff Morris for no salary in return and the Suns could have enough space to bring LeBron in this year and have room to potentially sign Carmelo Anthony this summer as well, or if LeBron would prefer to play with Kevin Love next year, the Suns would be able to facilitate that desire. What the Suns would be offering is a starting lineup next year of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, LeBron James, Marcus Morris and Miles Plumlee, if they trade away the necessary pieces. If they were to sign Carmelo to a max contract as well, they’d be looking at a star studded lineup of Dragic, Bledsoe, Carmelo, LeBron and Plumlee – an instant championship favorite in the NBA. If not Carmelo, LeBron could ask for Kevin Love next year. One of the most important parts of all of this is that due to both Bledsoe and Tucker being restricted free agents, the Suns can go over the cap to resign them. The Suns also have 3 first round picks next season including the Lakers top 5 protected pick and the Timberwolves’ top 12 protected pick. LeBron would have the freedom to basically play GM and tell the team who to pick or who to trade for with those picks. Those picks – due to their value, could be very enticing for a team like the Timberwolves if the Suns were to engage in trade talks for Love. It’s an interesting situation and one of the best out there, there are no what if’s, the core wouldn’t have to be broken down and the flexibility for the future means there is always room to add more talent. Oh it’s also nice weather there.

rockets_150 Houston seems more focused on Carmelo Anthony, but in actuality LeBron is clearly the better fit. The Rockets do not need another high volume, high usage scorer like Carmelo. They already have two offensive superstars in Harden and Howard who need the ball to be effective. Adding Melo only increases what the Rockets are good at and makes them worse at what they’re already bad at: defense. He doesn’t bring anything new to the table – he doesn’t provide any new facet to their game plan. Adding LeBron changes everything. The Rockets need more lock down defenders and LeBron is one of the best in the entire league. They need athleticism and size on the wings and you won’t find that more so than in LeBron. LeBron is also a playmaker rather than a high volume scorer and can slash and affect the game in different ways rather than isolations and spot up threes. The Rockets have $50,466,325 on the books heading into next season and that’s including Clint Capela’s contract. Chandler Parsons is a restricted free agent so the Rockets can exceed the cap in order to sign him if they have to. So as of now the Rockets do not have enough space for LeBron, especially if he wants the max. With the cap at 63.2, the Rockets are looking at 12.7 million in cap space. However, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, the Rockets have a deal lined up for Jeremy Lin but will only execute said trade if they get verbal commitment from one of the stars they’re going after. If LeBron liked Houston and committed the Rockets could clear Lin’s $8,374,646, which would leave them with $42,091,679, about 21.1 million below the salary cap – enough to sign LeBron. If I’m LeBron this is the best situation to go to. If he joined, the Rockets would sport a lineup of Patrick Beverley, James Harden, LeBron James, Terrence Jones and Dwight Howard with Chandler Parsons off the bench. The Rockets would still have their mid-level exception and their bi-annual exception to use as well to bring in role players to help bolster the supporting cast.

So where do we think LeBron is going? Well, I think it’s Miami. Despite only wanting to sign a 1-2 year deal according to ESPN, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem have all opted out of their contracts, just like they said they could a few weeks ago in order to clear cap space. They wouldn’t be opting out and re-signing for cheap if they knew LeBron wasn’t going to come back. The Heat could bring back the Big 3, Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier, Udonis Haslem and a free agent worth 12 million or two free agents worth 6 million like Channing Frye and Spencer Hawes. Whatever the additions are, the point is the Heat have space to add more talent. That plus the past success LeBron has experienced in a Miami Heat uniform – 2 MVP’s, 2 championships in 4 years – makes leaving Miami too hard to pass up. Everywhere else is enticing, but there is always the chance something goes wrong and his new team ends up being the 2013 Lakers. LeBron can re-sign with added talent around him and because he is a deceivingly smart business man, signing for 1-2 years means he’ll get the best out of Dwyane Wade and then jump to the next team once he sees Wade can’t play Robin anymore.

As of now, I’m thinking LeBron will be keeping his talents in South Beach next year, with Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and one other star. The question now becomes: Can they win another championship together? Have to wait and see.

Thunder vs Lakers Matchup

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I love this series. Not only because the two best scorers in the game are featured, but because two seasons ago when the Thunder dynasty was new to the elite group of teams it was the Lakers who crushed their dreams. It’s awesome to see that this season the Thunder will get revenge at the Lakers. Also, because I’m hoping Ron… I mean Metta World Peace has another elbow spasm and starts more controversy. I also love when he contradicts his new name. Anyway, back to the series.

I think the main reason why the Lakers won’t win this series is because the Thunder are the only team in the league with enough premier post defenders to stop them from scoring inside. For the Lakers, their interior scoring is their biggest strength. The Thunder have Perkins, Collison, Mohammed, and Ibaka who are all defensive minded players who can limit Pau and Bynum. Pau was held to 10 points and Bynum was held to 20 in game 1. Game 1 was a blow out and a few things contributed to that. Kobe couldn’t get into a rythm. The Thunder had too many ways to stop him defensively, and they did. He shot a poor 38% from the field and was limited to 20 points. Sefolosha, Harden, and even Durant all took turns frustrating Kobe. Additionally, Ramon Sessions couldn’t put the ball in the hoop. He shot 1-7 from the field for 2 points. That attributes to the Thunder defense, and Russell Westbrook’s job on him. When Kobe is limited, Pau is being held to 10 points and Sessions is being held to 2, the Lakers will never win a game. That’s simply because the supporting cast behind them are pretty terrible. The bench scored 26 of the Lakers’ 90 points. Their depth will definitely be exposed in this series, considering the Thunder are such a deep team. They did a good job on the glass, but had no answer for Westbrook and Durant. If both of them continue to score 25+ for the rest of the series then this will be easy.

In game 2, the Lakers were close but couldn’t hold onto the lead for a full 48 minutes. That is credited to poor late game execution, which isn’t characteristic of the Lakers. They got a good last shot, but gave up a 9 point run to the Thunder in the final 2 minutes. To be quite honest, they only held the lead because the Thunder weren’t knocking down shots. It wasn’t because they were playing stellar basketball. Ramon Sessions was once again held to 2 points. He only took 3 shots though, so either he has to be more assertive or they just have to stop watching Kobe shoot the ball, which he isn’t doing efficiently by the way. He shot a poor 36% from 9-25 from the field. That was again credited to the strong perimeter defense of the Thunder. Once again the Laker bench was atrocious, scoring only 11 of the Lakers 75 points. They definitely need to step up, the Thunder have very good match-ups defensively against the Lakers starting unit so they desperately need some spark. Once again though, they did a great job on the glass out-rebounding the Thunder by 5. For the Thunder they have to be more aggressive. In game 1 and 2 they took way too many jump shots and that’s ok when you’re making them like in game 1. However, in game 2 when Harden is 3-8 and Westbrook is 5-17 they need scoring from inside. I’d look for them to be more aggressive down low, because they almost lost this game due to settling for jumpers.

For the future, I think the Thunder have to be more aggressive with the basketball. Maybe try to get more driving opportunities and get the Laker big men in trouble. For the Lakers, they need to take another look at their offensive strategy. Kobe is struggling this series shooting a combined 37% from the field. Sessions is struggling and the bench just can’t play basketball at this point. They should try utilize Bynum more in games 3 and 4, although the Thunder have interior defenders he has a size mismatch on everybody. They should play more of an inside out game through the rest of the series, that way they can get Bynum hot early and free up space for Sessions and Kobe.

I’m going to have to take the Thunder in this series in 5 games.

30 or 20

Bynum vs. Rondo. 30 vs. 20. Big man vs. Point Guard. Who wins? 

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Well, which is it? Which stat is more impressive? And the answer is… 30 rebounds. This shouldn’t exactly be a debate at all. Put the numbers into perspective for a little bit. On the 30th of March Deron Williams also dished out 20 assists. 60 different players have recorded 20 or more assists in a game. It has occurred 208 times in the regular season and 19 times in the playoffs. It’s not an unusual stat., Rondo had 24 assists in 2010, and he also had 23 last year. It’s an amazing feat to dish out 20 assists or more. However, it’s happened 227 times in the history of the NBA. It’s not as if this is one of the first times this has happened. So yes it’s very impressive but let’s compare it to Bynum’s 30 rebounds. 

Unlike the many players who have managed to put up 20 assists, Bynum is the 14th player to grab 30 rebounds in the last 25 seasons. He joined Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Elgin Baylor in the Lakers’ 30-rebound club. Nobody had done it for the Lakers since Abdul-Jabbar took 30 in 1978 against Milwaukee. Bynum’s total was the highest in the NBA this season. Remember the field goal percentage back in the day was very poor and was much easier to grab rebounds. He grabbed 30 rebounds against the 2nd best overall team in the NBA statistically. Also, he managed to get 30 rebounds, however he got 30 while Pau Gasol got 11 rebounds. That just shows that he wasn’t even the only one rebounding the ball. 

So if the question is what stat is more impressive then 30 rebounds is clearly the answer. However, if we rephrase the question and say what is more impressive 30 rebounds or the fact that this is the 5th time Rondo has recorded 20 or more assists in a game? Then the answer is Rondo’s statistic. In a single game Bynum wins but over the course of a career and a season then Rondo is victorious. 

Christmas Day Predictions

As the clock hits 12 tomorrow the NBA season officially begins. Let’s take a look at the Christmas day match-ups. The winners and the losers.

Knicks vs. Celtics:

A repeat of the first round of the playoffs from last year. The Celtics swept the Knicks, however this year the Knicks are back with a vengeance. They drastically improved their roster this off season with additions like Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis among many others. This match-up should be very interesting. Or it should’ve been interesting, however recent changes in the Celtic roster have made this game a no brainer. Losing Jeff Green was a huge blow to their depth, and the injury of Paul Pierce just gives Melo more room to score. That means Marquis Daniels will start and that leaves the bench with…. Brandon Bass? That won’t be enough to hold off the Knicks, especially when the Celtics core are all in the mid 30’s and need breaks often. Tyson Chandler will also have whatever he wants in this game. He will most likely be guarded by Jermaine O’neal, a slower and shorter center. Tyson will have his way in the paint, and since Jermain O’neal isn’t an offensive weapon he will be able to play lots of help. Furthermore, Amar’e Stoudemire will play along the elbow and the perimeter causing Kevin Garnett to come out as well. Leaving Jermaine O’neal all alone. The guard play will be vital for the Celtics in order for them to win. Rajon Rondo has a large advantage over Toney Douglas, however Iman Shumpert has shown defensive capabilities as well as quickness and a 6’5 frame. He will need to step up this game, as well as Ray Allen. He will need to do more then just shoot, due to the absence of Paul Pierce. If I had to predict right now, I’d give it to the Knicks.

Heat vs. Mavericks:

A finals rematch, probably the most anticipated game of the Christmas match-ups. After winning the finals, the Mavericks made substantial changes to their roster. Letting Tyson Chandler, Deshawn Stevenson and J.J Barea go made the team softer. However, they added veterans Lamar Odom and Vince Carter. This game will be a test to see if the Mavericks still have the toughness and defense they had last year. Nobody will be able to guard Dirk in this game, because frankly, it’s impossible. He will get his share of points, no doubt. Lamar Odom will also be a threat on the floor, he and Bosh will be a great match-up considering they’re almost the same type of player. Then you have D-Wade and Lebron. It’s very rare that players can guard them. And this game will be no different. There is no way, an older Vince Carter can guard Lebron James. He’s slow, and he’s not interested in playing defense. At the shooting guard position there really is nobody to guard D-Wade except for Jason Terry. Although, the Dallas bench can still out battle the Miami bench, I will give this game to Miami. The loss of Tyson Chandler is bigger then they think, they lost toughness and a defensive anchor. Who’s really going to stop D-Wade and Lebron in the paint? Nobody.

Lakers vs. Bulls:

This game features the Bulls and the second best team in Los Angeles. The Lakers are out to prove that they can still win games, doubt has surrounded this team for weeks. Kobe’s injured, Bynum’s out, Lamars gone, the triangle offense is gone. Everything seems to have gone wrong, well unfortunately tomorrow won’t be the light at the end of the tunnel. I predict a Laker loss. Let me explain. The former MVP is going to destroy this whole team. It’s as simple as that. Derrick Fisher can’t guard him, neither can Kobe. He will get by the first man and Bynum will block him. Oh, wait Bynum is out. Pau isn’t a shot blocker and isn’t as intimidating as a Bynum. I forsee a Derrick Rose takeover tomorrow. Another strength of the Bulls is their bench. Taj Gibson…. 

Ya, remember him? Omer Asik and Kyle Korver are other names among the young bench who averaged around 27 points a game last season. Another weakness of the Lakers is their bench. They lost the 6th man of the year in Lamar Odom, and they lost Shannon Brown. Now that Bynum is out for 5 games, they have to move Josh McRoberts into the starting lineup, which leaves the Laker bench with…. Matt Barnes? Steve Blake? That won’t get the job done. Among all this doubt, there is a strength that the Lakers have. An angry Kobe Bryant. Kobe is the type of player to go off when he is mad, and oh boy does he have things to be mad about. His wife left him, he tore ligaments in his wrist, the front office traded Lamar Odom, and Mike Brown was appointed without any discussion. Even though he might go crazy tomorrow, that won’t be enough to get past Derrick Rose, the Bulls defense and their bench. I’ll give this one to the Bulls.

Thunder vs Magic:

The Magic fans will be happy to see Dwight Howard on the floor in an official game as a member of the Orlando Magic. They won’t be happy to watch their team get beat by the Thunder. The Thunder pride themselves in their defense and their energy. Their young talent and their scoring champion in Kevin Durant. I bet Kevin Durant is smiling somewhere right now as he thinks about the poor perimeter defense he will match up against tomorrow night. Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, Quentin Richardson. What a joke. Kevin Durant will rip them up from all over the floor. As well as his partner in crime Russell Westbrook. Who has no problem being guarded by Jameer Nelson. I bet James Harden is even looking forward to the loose defense of the Magic. However, getting to the basket will be harder then ever. Whenever you’re up against Dwight Howard you know points in the paint won’t come easy. He should have his way in the middle, nobody on the Thunder can really out muscle him. They do have a good chance of constraining him though, considering the depth at the power forward/center position. Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, Nick Collinson and Cole Aldrich are all very defensive minded players and will try keep Dwight Howard under control, but we all know that’s close to impossible. The depth is also a huge problem with the Magic. Besides Big Baby Davis and Quentin Richardson the bench is pretty empty. Everyone else is inconsistent and won’t be a match for the young and energetic  bench who scored around 30 points a game last season. This game will go to the Thunder. I will also predict that this win against the Magic will be the beginning of their finals run. A win in the finals? Possibly but this could be the beginning of something special.

Clippers vs. Warriors:

The world is buzzing about the Los Angeles Clippers. The most exciting team in sports right now. The “Lob Angeles Clippers,” they’ve been dubbed. The talents of Blake Griffin and CP3 combined seems like something out of a video game. I would say they scored the biggest this off season with the additions of Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and Chris Paul. They’ve proved they’re no fluke, while beating the Lakers in both preseason games. I could see this game being more of a challenge for the Clippers. The Warriors actually have players who can stay with CP3. Stephen Curry has shown defensive aptitude in his career and although Monta Ellis isn’t a defensive minded guy he can still keep with CP3.  The Warriors bench is also very young and talented. Ekpe Udoh, Klay Thompson, and Brandon Rush are among the bench. They will provide a boost of energy for the Warriors if they need it. Unlike the Lakers, the Warriors are a very young team and I wouldn’t be surprised if they really give the Clippers a run for their money. This match-up is especially interesting because  neither team really plays too much defense. This should be a score-a-thon. Both teams somwhere in the 100’s. The X-factor in this game for me is DeAndre Jordan. Blake Griffin will pound David Lee down low, he isn’t quick or strong enough to guard him. DeAndre Jordan is the key to a Clippers loss or win. It is yet to be seen if he can be a defensive anchor in the middle, if he can man the paint and provide an intimidation factor, then Monta Ellis and Steph Curry will have a harder time scoring. If he ignores the defensive end, then this game will come down to who can outscore the other. We’ll see. I’m going to be spontaneous and give this one to the Warriors. I have to have at least one surprise. I think the Clipper mania will come to a halt when the Warriors come out of nowhere and beat the Clippers.

What do you think? Comment who you have to win each game. Only 13  hours until tip-off. Here we go!