Nowitzki or Durant?

It’s an interesting comparison, they’re both playing some of the best  basketball of their careers. Dirk at 32, Durant at 22. Both have strengths and flaws. Who would I take to have on my team? Let’s see.

Strengths are still developing for this young superstar. He has aspects of his game that are unbelievable. Such as his shooting. His unorthodox release is as effective as any shot in the NBA. His quick flick of the wrist, the perfect rotation through the air and the beautiful swish through the net. From any where on the court. Off the dribble and from a pass. His three point shot has evolved every year in the NBA. This year it was as good as it has been his whole career. He drains shots from there like it’s a daily routine. He can come off curls and pop the shot. Come of V-cuts and pop it. He can take one dribble and pop it right over the defenders head. He can pretty much pop the J whenever he wants to. Then there is his shot off the dribble. He takes one powerful gather dribble and a mix between a floater and a smooth jumper. It goes in every time though so who really cares. Then his maturity and leadership. He’s a modest age of 22 and is more modest than any superstar i’ve ever watched. He’s always crediting teammates for their success and always calling himself out whenever he deserves it. He’s living the dream in the NBA and nothing can stop him from enjoying it. Every time he steps on that floor it looks like he’s a boy in a candy shop. His passing skills are underrated as well. He is one of the best passers on the fast break in the league. Whether it’s a baseball pass down the length of the court or if it’s a sneaky dish inside for a teammate to dunk it in.

His flaws are noticeable. At a young age like his it’s normal for an NBA player to have weak aspects of his game. One is being soft. He is not aggressive enough for his team to win a championship. That’s my bold statement. It may be how he was raised or how modest he is but he has to get mad and charge at the basket. Something good happens every time he goes to the hoop. He goes to the line or finishes with a dunk. He’s a 7 foot small forward with hops like a pogo stick. He has to be aggressive. Then he has to be able to pass off to teammates when he’s penetrating the inside. Kevin Durant being the superstar that he is, attracts a lot of attention from the defense. When he drives from the left or right side the big men will come out to get him which leaves players wide open in the corners for three pointers. He has to learn to look for them even while he’s driving in. Look up KD! It’s frustrating to watch these wide open players not get the ball because their superstar can’t find them. Another flaw is his inability to be effective in other ways when he’s struggling. Just like Derrick Rose he has trouble flushing his mistakes because their so modest. They take some time to swirl around in his mind before being flushed. In that period of time, Kevin has to do other things besides scoring to help his team win. Don’t be idle on the court. He should be setting screens or making distracting cuts, not running into a wall again and again.

Then there is the 7 foot German they call Dirk Nowitzki. Ya, I know you’ve heard of him.

Strengths are very strong with Dirk. If you haven’t noticed his jumpshot is the most unstoppable shot since Kareem Abdul Jabar’s sky hook. It’s actually unstoppable though. Sure he may miss it once every 10 attempts but that’s not stopping it that’s missing it. He holds the ball so far above his 7 foot head that’s it’s physically unreachable for any human defender to get a hand in front of. Then there is his extreme talent of balance that he maintains while leaning back. He doesn’t wobble but keeps complete stillness while leaning back. Then there is his flexibility to take off of one foot to lift him upwards. It’s my favorite shot in the whole game, it never gets old. After watching him take that shot for 10 years now I still am dumbfounded at how he manages to do it. Another strength is his leadership. If you watch Maverick games he is always shouting things out. Usually directing the defense, calling out screens or cutters. He is the voice of the Mavs defense and he is always there to remind the Mavericks of their goal and what they have to do to reach it. Then their is his amazing IQ for the game. He is so smart at reading the defense when he is in the post. He can tell where the perimeter players are. He can tell how the post player is going to defend him. He can anticipate where his teammates are going to cut to. He is also a master at getting fouled on the shot. When defenders guard Nowitzki, they’re always on their heels. How can they tell what’s going to happen, is he going to drive in, will he take the unstoppable jump shot? If he fakes the shot, the defenders jump right up because they’re scared he’s going to take it. Then he adjusts takes the contact and flips up a shot to get fouled. After Jamal Crawford he is the best at 4 point plays.

Then there are his flaws. He doesn’t use his size enough for a 7 footer. I understand completely that his game is primarily on the three point line and from mid range but he is a 7 footer. He should try post up more and bully his way inside. He hasn’t done this his whole career. He may want to start now if he wants a championship. He’d be unstoppable if he used his size and strength to get closer to the basket. It would also spread the defense out more because they wouldn’t know if he was going to step back for a jump-shot or post up for an easy layup. His other flaw is that he’s ringless. He’s played 11 years and he still has no ring. He’s one time MVP and 1st ballot future hall of famer but he’s ringless. He needs the elite status of a ring to really ink his name in peoples minds as one of the best power forwards ever. I hope he can succeed in the finals if he gets there.

I would take Nowitzki. His size, leadership, jump shot, and IQ for the game make him invaluable to have on a team.

Changes Needed: Magic

They were considered title contenders. Dwight Howard was in the running for the MVP. They were prepared, they thought the Hawks would be a piece of cake. Then they lost in 6. Dwight Howard may be a top 5 player in the league but he can’t win the NBA finals by himself. He can win the defensive player of the year 3 times in a row but he can’t defend a whole team. He needs help, if the Magic want to keep him in 2012 then they have to provide a roster around him that can win a championship.

They need perimeter defenders. Honestly their perimeter defense is horrible, the only reason their a good defensive team is because when the players blow by the perimeter defenders, they have Dwight Howard to block the shots. They need to change their identity. They can become the best defensive team in the league if they get some gritty perimeter defenders. Think about this defensive lineup for a second. Tony Allen, Shane Battier, Thabo Sefolosha, Brandon Bass and Dwight Howard. Good luck scoring on them. They just need some players who pride themselves in defense, they have none of those players playing the perimeter. They need to change their mindset. Just tweak it from a gunning offensive game to a lockdown defensive game. Their already a good defensive team but if they think about it more they can be much more successful. Then they need a clutch scorer. Jason Richardson isn’t a clutch scorer, he may have had one or two game winning shots but that’s inconsistency. Hedo Turkoglu isn’t good under pressure. Dwight Howard is too easy to stop in a clutch situation because they can double him in the post. They need a scorer, someone they can depend on, someone they know can bail them out in sticky situations.

The biggest necessity for the Magic is a backup point guard. Gilbert Arenas is a washed up player with a limited offensive game and not enough speed on defense. Jameer Nelson isn’t even that good of a starter and they don’t even have a solid backup. The point guard is the most important position in the game. They’re the closest version of the coach on the court. They call the plays, and generate the offense. They need fresh legs to operate the offense when Jameer is tired. What about a back up power forward. I guess they have Ryan Anderson but his game is from midrange and behind the three point line. They need a backup power forward who will play in the post and help Dwight protect the rim. Dwight Howard received 18 technical fouls this season. They need him, he is their best player, he can’t get into that trouble next season. Itgets him angry and isn’t good leadership for his teammates who look up to him to lead the way. His maturity has to improve. We all know he gets hit 8-10 times a game, but he’s 6’11, he is the most ripped guy in the NBA and he is playing a physical sport for a career. He can’t get so mad about guys hitting you, he should think of it as being unstoppable. His maturity must improve as well as his way of handling his anger.

They were the biggest disappointment of the whole season. The 4th seed losing in 6 games in the first round was hard to watch. They need to change, and fast. This team might need changes the most because they’re already elite so if they don’t adjust they could be kicked right out of the elite status. If they want Superman to stay in Orlando then they have to get it together. This is a must win season for the Magic.

Heat-Bulls Series Preview.

Exciting match-ups have filled the playoffs this year, but this series could be like nothing we’ve ever seen before. We have the MVP from this season in Derrick Rose playing against the MVP of last season in Lebron James. We have two all-star caliber power forwards matching up, in Carlos Boozer and Chris Bosh. We have the two best finishers in the game in Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose. We have the coach of the year, in Tom Thibodeau against the co-executive of the year in Pat Riley. We have the best defensive team in the NBA in the Bulls against the 3rd best defensive team in the NBA in the Heat. We have the number 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, in the Bulls against the number 2 seed in the Eastern Conference, in the Heat. Most of all, we have two very hungry, talented teams hoping to reach the finals, and hopefully win an NBA championship.

It’s not going to be an easy series to win for either team. The Heat have played like the team to beat in this postseason, they’ve beat the 76ers in 5 games as well as the defending Eastern Conference Champs in 5 games. The Bulls have played lockdown defense this postseason, but haven’t played like the number 1 seed in the NBA at all.They struggled in the 1st round against Indiana, they beat them 4-1 but in their first 3 wins they won by a total of 15 points. In the second round they struggled at times against the Hawks, but seemed to re-gather their swag, in game 6. This matchup is very interesting because these teams have two completely different specialties. The Bulls pride themselves in their defense, they have the best defensive mastermind in the NBA as their head coach, which is why they are the number 1 defensive team in the NBA. Their offense has been weak at some times in this postseason but it’s their rock solid defense that keeps them winning.The Heat on the other hand, although are a very strong defensive team, they’re speciality lies on the offensive end. The athleticism of Lebron, Wade and Bosh are perfect for fast breaking, and fast tempo offense, of which the Heat are the best at.

For the Heat to win this series they’re going to need Wade to take over his mismatch at shooting guard. He’ll either be guarded by, Keith Bogans or Ronnie Brewer. Neither of which are quick or athletic enough to keep on Wade. If D-Wade can take advantage of the mismatches then the Heat will be in very good shape going forward. Also, Bosh is going to need to be very aggressive inside if the Heat want to win. The Bulls have a top 5 interior defense, with Omer Asik, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson. Bosh has been criticized for being too soft during the season, if he plays soft against the Bulls tough interior D then the Heat can kiss goodbye to the finals. Another thing that the Heat will need to do is get some bench production. They’re going up against the most productive bench in the league, the Bulls bench plays tough defense, and smart, efficient offense. This series could easily go to the Bulls if the Heat’s bench can’t provide numbers when the Big 3 are on the bench. The last thing the Heat have to do to win this series is to keep D-Rose under control. The MVP has been averaging about 29 points and 8 assists this post-season. He needs to be stopped, if the Heat can keep him out of the paint then that’s the best way to limit Roses production. He has improved his midrange jumper and 3 point jumper but most of his points come from the line and from lay-ups.

It’s a different story for the Bulls.They’re going up against the best offensive duo in the league. They’re going to need Luol Deng to step up on defense. He is a top class defender but to take on Lebron James for a 7 game playoff series, it’s going to take a lot of energy out of him. He has to come out every night and think less about his offense and much more about his defensive game to hold of LBJ. Which will put a lot more pressure on D-Rose to play offense. I think they’ll be up for the challenge though. Derrick Rose has to take advantage of the mismatch at point-guard. He didn’t really take advantage against Jeff Teague enough, but here he has another chance. He will be guarded by a veteran in Mike Bibby or a turnover prone Mario Chalmers. Neither of them can keep up with his electrifying penetration or fancy dribbling. I am looking for D-Rose to average 30 points a game in this series, he will be guarded by lesser players and he’s going to show everyone that he deserved the MVP against the former MVP. For the Bulls to win then they also need their young core of big men to take advantage of the slow, and veteran Miami big men. The Bulls have 4 core big men in Omer Asik, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson all of which are under 30. The Heat big men are Zydranus Ilgauskas, Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Erick Dampier and Joel Anthony. The Bulls big men are quicker and more athletic and should try to beat the Heat in the low post. They’re bench is going to have to play like they’ve never played before. They’re younger, more athletic, and just better players all around. They have to play as a unit. That’s the Bulls biggest advantage in this series, it’s their depth. They’re depth is their bench and their bench will win them this game along with their defense and hustle plays. The most important things for the Bulls is to continue to do the things they’re known for, like tapping back offensive rebounds, playing lockdown defense, and passing with lots of ball movement. They can shut down any team, they need to do the same with the heat.

I’m very excited for this matchup, there is so much talent between these two teams. I just think that the Bulls’ defense and bench production will be too much for the Heat squad and their big 3.  If I had to make a prediction right now, I’d have to say the Heat’s star power will be just too much for the Bulls. Heat in 7.

– Max