We are just about halfway through this condensed season, and there has been plenty to talk about: The Heat and Thunder's co-dominance of the league, the rising Clippers, the Spurs in good form, etc. But what can what are some key things to eyeball during the second half the season? Here are some of the key things that I think will be worth watching down the stretch towards the playoffs.
(Image from bleacherreport.com)
1. Dwight Howard's Final Destination: What the Orlando Magic will ultimately do with Dwight Howard is a huge story to watch develop over the second half of the season, especially as the trade deadline approaches on March 15. Will the Magic gamble and keep Howard, hoping he stays, knowing that they risk losing him for nothing? Or do they trade him to the Nets or some other franchise that he has been linked to? What the Magic choose to do is no doubt going to play a huge role in what happens in the second half of the season.
2. What other trades will be done? Who's gonna make a big move before the deadline? Sort of as an extension of the Dwight Howard story, something to really watch for is what other teams are going to do before the trade deadline. Teams like the Lakers and Spurs are teams that could really use a move to improve their title chances. Magic Johnson says that the Spurs are "one move away" from being a contender, and also that they "need to add another big man". Will the Spurs make such a move, and what would they have in mind? Interesting to see what the Spurs will do. As for the Lakers, will they trade Pau Gasol or keep him? The consensus is Gasol is going to remain with the purple and gold, but they were comfortable letting Lamar Odom walk for nothing, so maybe they'll trade Gasol, too. Whatever they do over the next few weeks, the Lakers will certainly be a focal point of this year's trade deadline. As for the Phoenix Suns, it will be interesting to see what they do with Nash. It sounds like they intend to keep him, but it only seems to be so that he can retire a Sun. But maybe they'll move him if a team gives them an offer that they can't resist.
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3. Will the Knicks get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs? Now that the Knicks have Jeremy Lin running the point, will they pass the Sixers and win the division? Or at least get home court in the first round? If the Knicks continue to improve they could give Miami and Chicago some problems, but they won't beat either team in a 7 game series. But what will be interesting to watch is where they end up in the regular season standings.
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4. Do the Bulls and/or the Thunder reach the Finals? Both teams are young, and both teams have gone from 8 seeds to 1 seeds in just the span of 1 season. What is next for these two teams? NBA Finals? Both teams have the capability to do it, but will they deliver in the playoffs? That remains to be seen.
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5. How for real are the Clippers? They look great on paper, and Mo Williams is keeping them afloat with Chauncey Billups done for the season. But how serious of contenders are they? Chris Broussard is still picking them to win the west? Are they that good? Will they step it up in the playoffs when they as a team as never been there before? Interesting to see how things shake out for "Lop City".
(Image from blog.chron.com)
6. Do the Heat win it all? This is by far the most interesting and compelling thing to watch the rest of the year. What will the Heat do? Will they win the whole NBA title this season? That is certainly the biggest question on everybody's mind, and for good reason. A lot of GM's are crossing their fingers in hope that they don't win it all, so that the Heat will split up their big 3, making LeBron, Wade, or Bosh available.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
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The Miami Heat currently possess the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 26-7, and they are tied for first overall in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Heat fell just short of their goal of winning an NBA championship last season; but with the Dallas Mavericks adding new faces, the Lakers with a new coach, the Bulls facing injuries, the Thunder still climbing the ladder, and the Celtics too old, this year's NBA title is sitting right there for Miami to easily take. If the Miami Heat do not win the NBA Championship this season, it is going to be a MAJOR disappointment.
Despite moving heaven and earth to land both Chris Bosh and LeBron James to accompany Dwyane Wade, anything short of a championship this season would force the management of the Heat to step back and reevaluate where the team is heading.
Brian Windhorst, who writes for ESPN.com has covered LeBron James since high school, and is a native of the Cleveland area. Being one who is currently covering the Miami Heat for ESPN, he was interviewed on ESPN's Pardon The Interruption to discuss the Heat, the "Big 3", and LeBron's future. Windhorst said the chances of the Heat trading one of the "Big 3" is "extremely high" if they don't win the title this season. He also said that LeBron James could very well end up a Cavalier down the road, if not in 2014, then maybe in 2019 or 2020.
The point is, there is no lock that the Miami Heat keep Wade, Bosh, and James together if they don't win the title this season. I can't tell you for sure who of those 3 that they'd deal, but if LeBron James already is starting to show signs of having one foot out the door, don't be surprised if LeBron gets dealt should they fail to win a title this season.
Another key reason they'd break up the "Big 3" is for financial reasons. Windhorst pointed out that the new labor agreement makes it possible, but extremely taxing to hang on to all 3 guys. If they can't win a title together, then why spend all the money? It comes down to dollars and cents in the NBA, and there is no NBA franchise willing to far exceed the luxury tax if the result is failure. Now I'm not one to say that losing in the Finals is a failure, but to the Heat it is failure, particularly with the way they all boasted about "not 5, not 6, not 7..." in reference to the number of titles that they would win. After all that talk, to come up short twice would look embarrassing. It would be devastating for the entire Heat Nation to come up short and not win it this season, especially with the circumstances that other teams are going through.
Overall, what are the chances the Heat win the NBA title in 2012? I think they are extremely high. I think right now, the Miami Heat are the clear cut favorites to win the NBA Championship. With all the struggles and concerns of all the other contenders, there is no reason the Heat shouldn't win the title should they stay healthy. If one of the "Big 3" goes down, they are in serious trouble, and they probably don't win it. But if they stay healthy, then there is no reason to pick a different team.
The pressure is extremely high on this Miami Heat team to deliver an NBA title this season. Because if they don't, they very well may abort the mission and start again from scratch. With the way everybody is expecting them to win the championship, it will be stunning if they fall short. Absolutely stunning.
There are only 4 teams that have a legitimate shot at beating them in a 7 game series: the Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, the Lakers, and Dallas Mavericks. With Derrick Rose and Luol Deng, the Bulls have shown that they have the star power to defeat them, and maybe do it over the course of a series. In the rare event that Carlos Boozer actually shows up, the Bulls can hang with the Heat and maybe edge them out with their deeper bench. The Thunder because they have the most star power to rival the Heat player for player. They got 2 guys that are arguably in the same level as the Big 3 in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Not to mention a better supporting cast of guys in James Harden, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins.The Lakers due their star power as well as their inside game which can give the Heat nightmares. The Heat have absolutely no answer for Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, and Kobe Bryant's versatile game can bury them as well. The Mavericks have the luxury of knowing that they have beaten this Miami Heat team in a 7 game series, and there is no good reason to not think they can't do it again. Dirk Nowitzki poses great matchup problems for them, and they seem to be deeper than either Chicago, Oklahoma City, or Los Angeles. If they can get Vince Carter and Lamar Odom to fit in, maybe the Mavs can beat the Heat in a 7 game series for a second time.
But at the end of the day, it is still all about the Miami Heat, and whether or not they can live up to the hype and expectations that THEY put on themselves. If they win the title they will do what was expected of them. If they don't then the whole sporting world will once again be bearing down on them. It will be very interesting to see how the second half of the season will go for the Heat after the All-Star break.
Posted by Ben Parker at 3:05 PM
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
(Image from basketwallpapers.com)
The Sacramento Kings are one of the weakest teams in the NBA, but they are also one of the most talented. With young talents like Marcus Thornton, DeMarcus Cousins, and Tyreke Evans, the Kings are looking like a team that could be factor in the west in a couple of more seasons. Last season, they made a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks on draft day that got them the rights to BYU All-Star Point Guard/Shooting Guard Jimmer Fredette. Jimmer has been expected to come in and perhaps be the catalyst to get this team going. Later on in the draft, the Kings also added Forward Tyler Honeycutt of UCLA and Point Guard Isaiah Thomas of Washington University. Fredette was picked #10 and Thomas was picked #60 as the final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft.
(Photo is from bleacherreport.com)
Sometimes going undrafted is better than getting drafted at all, but luckily for Thomas, he went to a team that was able to allow him to play significant minutes. Over the past week, the Kings have seen Isaiah Thomas start to develop into a very nice point guard. Against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Thomas had 23 points, 11 assists, 8 rebounds, and only 2 turnovers. Then the next game against the Miami Heat (last night), he had 24 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds and two turnovers. Against the Pistons back on February 17, Thomas had 13 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, and only 3 turnovers.
(Image is from dailyfantasysports.org)
On the flip side, over Sacramento's last 3 games, Jimmer Fredette hasn't had the same level of success. He had 9 points, 4 assists, and 0 turnovers against the Detroit Pistons, and only 2 points and 1 rebound against the Cavaliers. Against the Miami Heat, Jimmer didn't even play as a coaches decision. In terms of how they've done recently, Isaiah Thomas has kicked Fredette's butt. But to be fair to Jimmer, he has had some good games this season. He's had a similar 4 game stretch of success like Thomas had. Against the Grizzlies, Blazers, Nuggets, and Jazz, Fredette had games where he scored 20 points and 5 assists, 13 points and 1 assist, 19 points and 3 assists, and 14 points and 1 assist. He has shown that he can put the basketball in the hole and be an effective scorer.
But let's all be real here for a second, the Kings brought Fredette in to be the point guard of this team. He is still somewhat expected to be the starting point guard of this team at some point, but if Isaiah Thomas continues to thrive, they're gonna have to pay him more money to keep him on the team. Not to mention the fact that a back court of Thornton, Evans, Fredette, and Thomas could get crowed. The Kings have said that they still have confidence in Jimmer Fredette, and that they expect him to be contributing to the team in big ways down the road. But if Isaiah Thomas continues to shine in the starting role at the point, the Kings may want to move Jimmer Fredette for another player that can more fully round out their roster.
The biggest reason that this is of concern is at this moment, all that Fredette has so far shown is he can score the ball. He has shown some capability to be a good point guard, but I still think at the end of the day he is the next J.J. Redick only with better point guard skills. Thomas on the other hand is showing that he is more of a true point guard, and if he can keep his scoring production up along with all the assists, there is no reason not take him ahead of Fredette.
I personally am a fan of both Thomas and Fredette, but I don't see them playing on the same team in 3 years if both of them start to get good. The Kings could be forced to make a difficult decision in a couple of years. Do you keep Fredette, the guy who you drafted so high, or do you keep Isaiah Thomas, the 60th and final pick of the 2011 draft who has been playing the point position better. Unless they want to have Jimmer come off the bench as a spark plug and not further develop other aspects of his game, I think it is very likely that Fredette's time in Sacramento will be short lived, and possibly for his own good. I still think he's going to be a very good NBA player, but I'm not sure I see it happening in Sacramento.
Posted by Ben Parker at 11:40 AM
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Hello to all of those of you who have been following me on facebook on my profile "NBA Lord". I thank all of you for your love and support of my NBA Page. The creation of this blog doesn't mean that my NBA Lord Profile will be no longer. This blog is to enhance my NBA Lord profile page on facebook. To provide you with my own expanded ideas and thoughts on various topics and elements of the NBA that a status cannot cover. I will be posting all my articles onto facebook and I encourage you guys to come on and share your thoughts on my articles whether on the site, or below the link on my facebook page. Whichever is easier for you. Also, of note, from now on all my NBA Power Rankings will be done on this blog. I will share a link so you all can check them out. This will make my power rankings easier to read. If you prefer I post my rankings as a status, I will gladly provide them both on the blog and as a status update! Enjoy the blog everybody!!! NBA Lord's NBA Blog has been launched!!!
Posted by Ben Parker at 4:48 PM