Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Playoffs Start Now For Miami And Indiana

                                                 (Image from: nba.si.com) 

With the NBA playoffs starting in only a couple of weeks, we are entering the time of year in which regular season games suddenly appear to matter.   I say "appear" only because all games in the regular season matter equally as far as the standings are concerned. It isn't as if winning in April magically is worth two wins whereas a win in November is only worth one win. But it is fair to say that the effect of winning and losing is noticed much more strongly at this time of year. With that in mind, I will address the current state of the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, two teams which are the clear powerhouses of the Eastern Conference. People try and talk up the Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, and even the Toronto Raptors and try to convince us that those three teams might make the NBA Finals or at least knock off either the Pacers or the Heat en route to the Eastern Conference Finals. I will try and set the record straight for all of you who are getting confused by this idle chatter.

The Eastern Conference isn't a three horse race, a four horse race, and not a five horse race. It is a two horse race between the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat, and all the other six teams that will make the Eastern Conference Playoffs are just there for show. None of them have any remote chance of reaching the NBA Finals or even getting past either the Heat or Pacers.  I think that what will likely decide the projected Heat-Pacers series in the Eastern Conference Finals is home court advantage. Since the only way for the Heat and Pacers to affect who gets home court advantage is to win games between now and the end of the regular season, I argue that as far as the Heat and Pacers are concerned, the playoffs start now.

Both of these teams have been struggling as of late. The Heat went 10-8 during the month of March and the Pacers went 8-10, which included a 4 game losing skid, and concluded on a 3 game losing skid which continues as they roll into April. While the Heat are instead on a 3 game winning streak instead of a 3 game losing skid, lets not kid ourselves and ignore the fact that they too have been playing poorly during this past month. The bottom line is that both teams played in the month of March like they didn't care anymore about the regular season, but the irony of it is that this is the time of year that they should be playing their hardest to win games.

As it stands now, both teams are tied in the standings, with the Pacers having played 2 more games than the Heat. That means that the Heat have more games to get things sorted out and the Pacers have fewer games to do so. Which ever team has a better month of April will get the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, which means that the route to the NBA Finals will go through their building. If the Miami Heat get the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, we might as well send them straight to the NBA Finals. I don't see any way that the Indiana Pacers get to the NBA Finals without home court advantage. Especially since they have been playing like absolute garbage during the past month. What's worse is that the Pacers had the home court advantage and booted it away due to what Roy Hibbert calls their own selfishness. That selfishness was manifested the other night when George Hill and Lance Stephenson had to be separated from each other on the bench because they were squabbling over something petty. The only thing at this point that can prevent the Pacers' problems from trickling into their post-season play is if they still hang on and get the #1 seed. If the Pacers get the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, then the Pacers can mentally hit the reset button. They can all give each other a big group hug, sing "Kumbaya" around a campfire, and get over the problems if they get the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They can still feel like they accomplished their goal and have had a successful regular season if they hang on to the top spot. More importantly, they can still feel confident in their ability to reach the NBA Finals and fend off the Heat. Especially since the last time the Heat came into their building, they came out victorious.

In order for the Heat to steal the #1 seed from the Pacers, they are going to need LeBron James to play like the MVP during the month of April. He's so dominant that if he plays like his MVP self, I don't see any way the Pacers hang on to the #1 seed. As for the Pacers, since they don't have that definitive superstar like LeBron James, it's going to have to be a group effort on their part. I know Paul George is their "superstar" and he can play like one in stretches, but his play isn't consistent enough that one can bank on him to play like a superstar every night. Hence, it needs to be a group effort on the Pacers' part. In addition to Paul George playing well, they need Roy Hibbert, David West, George Hill, and Lance Stephenson to all play better. If all those guys play well for the Pacers (which means they get over their problems in the locker room), then the Pacers will have a chance to re-right the ship and reclaim the #1 seed in the East.

                                              (image from: bballbreakdown.com)

As I said in the beginning, the playoffs begin now for both of these teams. Unlike the stat freaks at ESPN who only give the team with home court advantage a 53% chance at winning this projected series, I think the percentages are much higher. What those stats might be tapping into is that getting home court gives one team only a slight advantage over the other, but lets not kid ourselves and act like a slight advantage is nothing. A slight advantage for one team over the other is huge in this series, which is why I think if the Heat get home court advantage the odds of them winning the Eastern Conference Finals is around 85%. As for the Pacers, if they get home court advantage, I put the odds that they win around 60%. Bottom line is if the Heat get home court advantage, they're going back to the NBA Finals. If the Pacers get home court advantage, they have a shot and should be favored. With these numbers in mind, I think it should be obvious that the Pacers and Heat should treat each remaining game in the regular season like it is a playoff game. They'll have no trouble winning their opening round series and only have maybe a little bit of trouble in their second round series. They can use those series' to rest a little bit and catch their breath, but the games that they shouldn't  be taking off and not worrying about are these final few games of the regular season.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Will Phil Jackson Turn The Knicks Into A Serious Contender?

                                                    (image from npr.org) 

     Phil Jackson is known for being one of the most brilliant basketball minds of all-time. He has 11 NBA Championship rings as a head coach, and has coached the greatest players in the game, coaching Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen on the Bulls in the 1990s and Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant on the Lakers in the 2000s. Championship success seems to ooze out of him like a fine white wine oozes out of grapes. He has this almost mystical aura about him that seems to be a magnet for success. Nobody else seems to have that aura, and yet everybody wants it. That is why the New York Knicks have decided to hire Phil Jackson as their President of Basketball Operations. They hope that with Phil Jackson running the ship, they too will have some of that championship magic rub off on their own organization. It should be noted that Phil Jackson played for the Knicks during his time as an NBA player and also was a member of their only two NBA Championship teams, which won the NBA Finals in 1970 and 1973. The Knicks hope that in his return to the Big Apple more championships will follow. While one can't guarantee that Phil Jackson will bring championships to the Knicks, one can be confident that he'll put the team in a great position to contend for a title.
     The reason why I'm confident he will have a such an impact on the Knicks is because he has had a powerful impact everywhere he has gone. If he had a powerful impact on both the Bulls and Lakers, why doubt his ability to have a similar impact on the Knicks? Plus, both the Bulls and Lakers were in similar boats as the Knicks are right now before he started coaching them. Both teams had a talented super star who needed proper coaching, and the Knicks have that same kind of player in Carmelo Anthony. I'm not saying that Carmelo Anthony is Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant, but I am saying that he is a talented player who certainly could be molded into a championship player with the right pieces around him. I am confident in Phil Jackson's abilities to know what Carmelo Anthony needs around him to succeed.
    Phil Jackson is sure to know what Carmel Anthony needs around him because he has both coached superstars like Carmelo Anthony and also been around great front offices who put together quality teams around their superstars.  Phil Jackson knows that the key to Michael Jordan winning 6 championships was more than just having Scottie Pippen as his right hand man. They key was having guys like John Paxson, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman around him to fulfill niche roles. Phil Jackson should be able to find guys to fulfill similar roles on the Knicks with Carmelo Anthony as the centerpiece.
     It's no guarantee that Phil Jackson delivers a championship to the New York Knicks, but it can almost certainly be a guarantee that he'll do a great job and put them in a great position to win a title in 3-5 years. Remember, unlike other guys who have taken a stab at being general managers, Phil Jackson has already been in management as a coach and on top of that he has been around great front offices for many many years. Those who say this is a risky hire don't understand that the resume he has to succeed at this job is actually very strong.

----Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

With A New Team In Chicago, It Is Time For Jimmer Fredette To Produce

                                               image from: nba.si.com 

It is no secret that Jimmer Fredette had a rocky time during his days with the Sacramento Kings. Ever since his rookie season, it had been more than obvious that the Kings didn't want him around. The blossoming of young point guard Isaiah Thomas was one of the earliest signs that this team didn't want him around, but even aside from that, they never really gave him a chance to shine and do his thing which is score the basketball. But now that he is out of California's state capital and on a new team with the Chicago Bulls, he can put those ugly days in Sacramento to rest and start afresh in the Windy City. While it may take a little bit of time for Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau to break Jimmer Fredette into the rotation, Jimmer's stop in Chicago is an opportunity for him to show that the Kings made a mistake in giving up on him, and prove that he belongs in the NBA has one of the better scorers in the game. If he can't establish that in Chicago, he may be forced to face the music that he is destined to be a bench warmer for the rest of his career.

The main reason I say this is because Chicago should be a great fit for him. The Bulls need scoring, 3-point shooting, and also depth at the point guard position without Derrick Rose. Plus, the Bulls defend so well that they should be able to mask Jimmer's one weakness which is on-the-ball defending. If the Bulls can't find Jimmer a comfortable role on their team with their needs and also their primary strength, it's gonna look really bad for Jimmer Fredette going forward.

Now as to what I think will happen, I think that Jimmer Fredette will eventually find a nice little role on this team. I don't say "little" to make it come off like he won't do much, but "little" as in he will fulfill his small role nicely which is to come off the bench and score in addition to running the point. D.J. Augustin and Kirk Hinrich are the only capable point guards on the Bulls right now, which should mean that Jimmer Fredette will eventually see some solid minutes at the point guard position. Hinrich and Augustin are good enough that if Jimmer struggles, they will take over the point position without him if needed, but Tom Thibodeau would love to give those guys more rest if Jimmer Fredette could produce. That is why I think Jimmer will get a fair shot with the Bulls, which thus means I think he will succeed. Getting a fair shot is all that Jimmer has needed and now that he will get one on the Bulls, I expect him to succeed and prove himself capable of helping out other teams in the future should he not end up on the Bulls for the long term.

In conclusion, Jimmer Fredette has a golden opportunity to prove himself in Chicago and put his rocky past in Sacramento behind him. He is on a good team with a good coach who has the resources he needs to succeed and also the need for a player like him to come along. Chicago on paper should be a nice fit for Jimmer, which is why now is the time for Jimmer Fredette to produce and prove to the NBA who he actually is.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Monday, February 17, 2014

All-Star Break Power Rankings


I haven't done Power Rankings in a while, but don't fear, they're back in time for the All-Star Break! Here is how all the teams stack up at the All-Star Break!

1. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-12): The Thunder are playing the best basketball of any team in the NBA right now, and what's scary is that they're doing this without the help of Russell Westbrook, who may be back this Thursday. Kevin Durant is averaging 31.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game and is hands down the MVP of the NBA this season. If he is able to play like this with a healthy Russell Westbrook, the Thunder are going to be the team to beat in the Western Conference.

2. Indiana Pacers (40-12): The Pacers are in the bottom third in points per game (98.5) and yet they are #1 in the NBA in average point differential (+8.2). That speaks to their defensive ability and in my opinion makes them the #1 defense in the NBA hands down. If they can secure home court in the Eastern Conference, I expect Paul George to take the Pacers all the way to the NBA Finals in June.

3. Miami Heat (37-14): LeBron James' game winner in Oakland to beat the Warriors sort of was his way of saying "Don't forget what I can do!" when it comes to being a guy who can close games. He may not be winning MVP this season, but he still is the best player in the NBA and will once again be the only guy that stands in the way of the Pacers and a championship. The road to a title still goes through Miami until somebody knocks them off.

4. Houston Rockets (36-17): Before the season started, the Rockets were viewed by many as a sleeper pick to win the West. Now that they've won 7 straight games, with wins over the Spurs, Mavericks, and Suns, the Rockets may be starting to find their stride at the right time.

5. San Antonio Spurs (38-15):  The Spurs are quietly still a top 5 team in the NBA, and are currently the #2 team in the West behind the Thunder. By quietly I mean very quietly. Like a ninja sneaking through a dark forest kinda quiet. Don't be shocked if they pounce on everybody in the West and once  again reach the Finals.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (37-18): Chris Paul is back and they hardly missed a beat with him gone. That has to greatly concern their other Western Conference foes.

7. Portland Trail Blazers (36-17): In the past month they've fallen to the Rockets, Thunder, Warriors, Grizzlies, Wizards, Pacers, and Clippers. I'm not saying they aren't contenders, but they gotta start getting some wins over those teams before the playoffs start to regain some confidence.

8. Phoenix Suns (30-21): At some point you just gotta say that this team isn't a fluke and that there is something to their success. They still may miss the playoffs, but it won't be because they were a fluke. This team is good, and I expect Goran Dragic to play with a chip on his shoulder as a result of getting snubbed from the All-Star Game. Ironically, getting snubbed may end up doing the Suns more good than had he made the team.

9. Golden State Warriors (31-22): The Warriors have a better record at this point of the season than they did last season, so I'm not sure why Mark Jackson's seat is "hot". I'm confused.

10. Memphis Grizzlies (29-23): This team is just waiting to get everybody back healthy. Specifically Mike Conley, Jr. and Tony Allen. It'll be interesting to see if this team makes any more trades before the deadline or if the are confident that they can make some noise with what they have.

11. Dallas Mavericks (32-22): Old man Dirk Nowitzki is still playing really well, earning another All-Star Game appearance thanks to his 21.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. He and Monta Ellis certainly seem to be forming a solid one-two punch.

12. Chicago Bulls (27-25): For the second year in a row this team faces an uphill battle without Derrick Rose and they'll once again make the playoffs and probably win a series because they simply play harder than their opponents. Make no mistake, trading Luol Deng wasn't waiving the white flag, it was actually just allowing room for the arrival of Nikola Mirotic, who has been playing really well in Spain for Real Madrid. This team won't go down without a fight.

13. Toronto Raptors (28-24): Due to the horrible nature of the Eastern Conference and the Atlantic Division specifically, the Raptors suddenly realize they are actually sorta kinda a contender since they are leading their division. As a result, Kyle Lowry probably stays past the trade deadline unless somebody really gives them an offer that they can't refuse.

14. Atlanta Hawks (26-27): The acquisition of Paul Millsap truly has been mutually beneficial both for Millsap and the Hawks. Millsap gets an All-Star appearance and the Hawks get a guy who can keep the team motoring along without Al Horford. This team won't make any noise in the playoffs, but they should feel good having Paul Millsap locked up for the foreseeable future.

15. Washington Wizards (25-27): This really isn't that bad of a team. John Wall and Bradley Beal are forming a fantastic young back court and Nene is a solid guy in the front court. What nobody is talking about though is how disappointing Otto Porter, Jr. has been (1.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, and .4 assists). The dude was supposed to be the most "NBA ready" rookie in the draft class of 2013.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves (25-28): In my previous blog post, I suggested the Timberwolves strike a deal with the Suns that would get Kevin Love off their hands in exchange for some nice assets. I don't think it will happen, but if the Wolves had any brains, they'd pull the trigger on such a deal.

17. Charlotte Bobcats (23-30): I still think this is a team capable of being above .500 if they can stay healthy. The Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Al Jefferson, and Gerald Henderson quartette is actually pretty solid especially in the East. They currently sit as the #8 seed in the Eastern Conference, but don't be shocked if they gain a little ground and catch the Hawks to get into that #5 spot.

18. Brooklyn Nets (24-27): Their ceiling remains rather limited with Brook Lopez done for the year, but I'm happy to see them wake up and start playing decent basketball. They'll make the playoffs without a doubt, and possibly win a series if they can avoid the #7 or #8 spot.

19. New Orleans Pelicans (23-29): The team itself may not be very good, but Anthony Davis sure is. They have to like their future purely because they have him. Now they just need to figure out if the want to hang on to both Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans. Of course, the absence of Jrue Holiday hasn't helped so perhaps they'll just wanna see what they got for the rest of the year and not make any trades at the deadline.

20. Denver Nuggets (24-27): The Nuggets banishing Andre Miller has to be one of the weirdest stories in all of sports right now and certainly the strangest story in the NBA this season. Nate Robinson has torn his ACL, Danilo Gallinari is done for the year due to his ACL, JaVale McGee is likely done for the year due to the stress fracture in his leg, and the team still won't bring back Andre Miller. They also are thinking about trading Kenneth Faried. I don't know where in heaven's name this team is going, but it certainly doesn't look promising.

21. Detroit Pistons (22-30): I don't think Mo Cheeks deserved to be fired. The reality is that management overpaid for Josh Smith and have put together a team that doesn't properly suit the talents of Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond who are forming a very formidable front court.

22. Utah Jazz (19-33): Since Trey Burke's return from his hand injury, the Jazz are playing close to .500 ball on the year. They certainly seem to have found their franchise point guard and in the process have quality pieces around him. This team should take comfort in knowing that failing to get a top 3 or even top 5 pick in this upcoming draft wouldn't be the end of the world.

23. New York Knicks (20-32): The Knicks should feel embarrassed about their poor performance this season. Andrea Bargnani was obviously a waste of money and the acquisition of Metta World Peace was truly a dud.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers (20-33): This whole franchise is a train-wreck and it starts with their moronic owner Dan Gilbert. I don't see Kyrie Irving sticking with this team. Not because of the city or the fans, but because of Gilbert and his idiotic behavior.

25. Boston Celtics (19-35): They clearly need Rajon Rondo to be healthy. This team is running on fumes.

26. Los Angeles Lakers (18-35): Being lottery bound might be the best thing for this team for the future. Goodbye Kobe Bryant, hello Jabari Parker?

27. Sacramento Kings (18-35): DeMarcus Cousins is the only reason for this team to have any faith in a prosperous future.

28. Orlando Magic (16-38): They're heading for a top 5 pick it looks like, which for them wouldn't be all that bad.

29. Philadelphia 76ers (15-39): They are likely going to trade either Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, or Thaddeus Young for draft picks. Possibly all three or at least a couple of them. This team is looking to build around Michael Carter-Williams and hopefully Nerlens Noel.

30. Milwaukee Bucks (9-43): This team is so bad that they truly deserve the #1 pick. This city needs a basketball B12 shot in their arms, and getting the #1 pick would do the trick.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Kevin Love To The Suns Could Happen Before The Trade Deadline

                                             (image from: espn.go.com) 

The Minnesota Timberwolves are having another frustrating season and are currently sitting at the #11 spot in the Western Conference with a sub .500 record. While the team around him is struggling, Kevin Love has been playing like a Super Star, averaging 25.6 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. It's no secret that Kevin Love is the only reason the Timberwolves have gone from being a cellar-dweller of the NBA to being a team that is "kind of in the mix for a playoff spot, but not really". If their sub-par play wasn't enough of an indicator, the broken thumb of Kevin Martin should be enough to indicate for all intents and purposes that the Timberwolves are not making the playoffs this season.



With that in mind, and Kevin Love being able to opt-out of his contract in the Summer of 2015, the Timberwolves are faced with the exact same dilemma that the Utah Jazz faced with Deron Williams back in the 2010-11 NBA season. The dilemma is do you try to keep Love all the way until free agency and cross your fingers that you can convince him to re-sign with the risk of losing him for nothing or do you face the music and realize that you must trade him so as not get the "LeBron James treatment" which is what happened when the Cavaliers lost LeBron James to free agency without getting anything substantial in return. I personally think that the Timberwolves' front office captained by Flip Saunders is smart enough to realize that Love isn't going to re-sign with the team unless a miracle happens such as winning a first round playoff series. Since that miracle isn't going to happen, I will argue that there are very good odds that the Timberwolves trade Kevin Love before the deadline with the Phoenix Suns being his destination.



Now it should be noted that the idea of Kevin Love going to the Suns isn't stemming from any rumor that I've heard but rather has come from my own intuition and personal trade radar or "trade-dar" or whatever you want to call it. The reason why I think the Valley of the Sun is a possible destination for Kevin Love is because the Phoenix Suns have already been rumored to be interested in acquiring a quality big man such as the Lakers' Pau Gasol or the Grizzlies' Zach Randolph at the trade deadline. More importantly, they also have the assets to pull off such a deal due to the fact that they have four first round picks and the expiring contract of Emeka Okafor to dangle out in front of teams. It should be noted that two of those first round picks are heavily protected, but even so, that doesn't take away from the fact that they have some attractive assets to offer teams in order to land a star such as Zach Randolph, Pau Gasol, or as I would like to put forth, Kevin Love.

Now while the Suns do have the assets to acquire Kevin Love in a trade with the Timberwolves, why would they roll the dice on a guy who could just opt out in 2015 and leave them high and dry for the Lakers, which is his rumored destination preference? The answer lies in the fact that the Suns are showing much more signs of promise than the Timberwolves are largely due to having an upgrade at the point guard position in Goran Dragic who can actually score the basketball unlike Ricky Rubio. The Phoenix Suns should feel confident in their ability to retain Kevin Love in free agency if they make the playoffs with him and make some noise in the first round. They could convince him that he is the missing ingredient to competitive playoff basketball in Phoenix and could be what gets them back into the mix of being a championship contending team.  What Kevin Love seems to be most frustrated with in Minnesota is the front office, and I think if he landed in Phoenix, he would quickly warm to both their front office and excellent rookie head coach Jeff Hornacek.

The bottom line of all this is that if Kevin Love does get traded to the Suns, just tell people you first heard it from me! It doesn't have a high probability of happening since there aren't any real rumors to back this up, but this is the kind of deal that smells of being one of those trades where you wake up in the morning and are like "Did that seriously just happen?" as was the case for me when the Jazz traded away Deron Williams. However, what we do know is that the Suns are eager to trade away their assets to acquire a big name player on the front court and the Timberwolves are starting to face the music that Kevin Love isn't going to stick around past free agency. The Timberwolves could look at the Suns and tell themselves that the Suns can offer as good of a deal as they can expect for Love with their four draft picks, expiring contract of Emeka Okafor, and maybe even some promising young players like Miles Plumlee and/or Alex Len. The respective goals of each front office could create the perfect storm for a stunning trade at the trade deadline.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Why The Utah Jazz Shouldn't Be Worried About Winning Games

                                                  (Image from USAToday.com) 

As the 2013-14 NBA season began, the Utah Jazz were viewed as one of the teams bound for the draft lottery and likely a top three pick in the NBA Draft. That was viewed as a good thing since this upcoming draft is beyond stacked with talent. But while they are still lottery bound, they don't appear to be heading for the very bottom of the standings either, which means that they likely will not get a top three pick in the draft. After starting the season 1-14, the Jazz have played just about .500 ball since, with a 15-16 record over their last 31 games. But while this may seem terrible for the Jazz since they are likely missing out on Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, I will argue why it is actually good that they are winning games, and not losing games to rack up ping-pong balls for the lottery.

The first reason why it is good that they are winning games is the fact that they are winning games with their young and promising players leading the way. This isn't like last season where Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap were leading the way to victories, rather it is the young group of Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter. According 82games.com, that lineup is the most successful unit for the Jazz, which means that the Jazz already have a quality young core of guys to build around. It appears as though the addition of Trey Burke at point guard was all that this young Jazz team needed in order to become competitive for the long haul.

Secondly, the Jazz have already built this team through the draft. At some point, you no longer need more draft picks, but you just need your young players to grow and develop. That seems to be the case here. I mean, what do the Jazz need now? They don't need a point guard, a shooting guard, a small forward, a power forward, or a center. What they actually need is a more quality bench to back those guys up, not another super talented rookie to develop. Don't get me wrong, the Jazz would welcome Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, or Dante Exum with open arms, but they aren't in the same level of crisis mode as the Milwaukee Bucks, who are doing everything in their power to tank. The Bucks need somebody to have hope for the future in, whereas the Jazz already have five guys in Burke, Burks, Hayward, Favors, and Kanter!

Finally, the Jazz are still going to miss the playoffs, which last I checked still gives them a shot for a top 3 pick. Teams with the worst record in the NBA have only a 25% chance of winning the #1 pick, and it isn't any higher than that. The lottery is designed to help the bad teams out, but also discourage tanking in the process. Teams with the worst records frequently get burned and don't end up with the #1 or even #2 pick. Heck, the Chicago Bulls won the 2008 NBA Draft lottery to get Derrick Rose with a 1.7 percent chance of winning!! So if the Jazz go into the lottery with even a 15 percent chance of winning the lottery, they still could win it or at the very least get a top three pick.

The bottom line is that the Jazz should be happy with how the season is going. They're winning games with their young players, building for the future, and still giving themselves a chance to get a high lottery pick. What would better than for the Jazz than to actually win some games, build confidence in these young guys, and in the process get the top pick? That would be the best outcome, and that outcome could very well happen. So while many people around the league and people in the state of Utah are grumbling about the Jazz winning, just remember that this winning is good for the development of these young players who are the future of the franchise. The future of the Jazz is on the court right now and it looks pretty pretty good as it is. Jazz fans really shouldn't be fretting about not getting a high pick in this year's draft unless they know that the next LeBron James is in this draft, which doesn't appear to be the case.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Kevin Durant Is A Lock To Win MVP

                                                  (Image from: socialnewsdaily.com)
Kevin Durant is a lock to win the 2014 NBA MVP award. That's right, he's a LOCK. The odds that anybody besides Kevin Durant wins the 2014 NBA MVP Award is at 0% and it isn't going to change. You might be thinking to yourselves that LeBron James or Paul George has a chance to win the award over the course of the second half of the season, but you would be wrong to think that. Dead wrong. The fact of the matter is that a combination of Durant's sensational play, the lack of support from Russell Westbrook, and NBA history is what makes Durant a lock to win the MVP award. I will explain how these three elements combine to make him a lock to win the award.

First, let's address his sensational play. Over the last 5 games, Durant has had games of 54 points, 30 points, 46 points, 36 points, and 32 points. Not only is he scoring at ridiculous rates, but he's doing it while sharing the ball. He has combined for 34 assists over these past 5 games, which amounts to an average of 39.6 points and 6.8 assists. Over the course of the season, he's averaging a league high 31.1 points per game to go along with 7.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.5 steals. He's the ultimate fantasy basketball player, and more importantly the most valuable player in the NBA right now. Nobody else is playing nearly as well he is. Not even LeBron James.

Not only are his stats the best in the NBA, but he's also leading his team to the best record in the Western Conference with a 35-10 record. More impressively, he's done this without the help of Russell Westbrook, who has only played in 25 of those 45 games. Durant has had to carry the team on his back for the past month and a half, and he's done far better than anybody could have anticipated. One of the key ingredients for having an MVP season is carrying a team on your back and winning in the process. Especially if you do it with a key member of the team getting hurt. If you can win games with your #2 player sidelined and carry the team, MVP voters take strong notice of that when they cast their votes.

Not only is Durant playing out of his mind and in the process carrying the team on his back to the best record in the NBA, but he's also DUE for an MVP award. That's right folks, the NBA MVP Award isn't always about who the best player in the NBA is. Over the course of the NBA's history, the MVP award has been traditionally passed around and given to different players each season. While the NBA MVP Award  has gone to Michael Jordan 5 times and LeBron James 4 times, the award is frequently given to the best of players only once or twice in their careers even if they are deserving of it more than once. Players like Charles Barkley, Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant all won MVP Awards once when they probably could have won it more than once, but didn't due to other guys being "due".

More importantly in Durant's case, the NBA MVP Award is rarely given to players multiple times in a row, and as it happens, LeBron James has won the award two seasons in a row and four out of the last five seasons. Rarely has anybody won it for a third straight time such as Larry Bird, Bill Russell, and Wilt Chamberlain, who are the only three guys to ever accomplish that feat. Winning it back to back years isn't terribly uncommon since Steve Nash, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan have all accomplished that feat, but winning it 3 times is very very rare. One cannot expect LeBron James to win the award for a third straight season based on history alone, and then when somebody like Durant comes along and out performs him, one might as well say that LeBron James won't win the MVP Award.

In conclusion, the reason why Kevin Durant is a lock to win MVP is because he's putting up the best numbers, leading his team to the top of the standings with Westbrook sidelined, and LeBron James has had the spotlight four out of the last five seasons. Those three factors combine to form an airtight case for not only why Kevin Durant should win MVP, but more importantly why he will win MVP. It's that simple.

---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord