Sunday, January 26, 2014
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
Friday, January 17, 2014
Why Anthony Bennett Is Not A Bust, But Rather The Victim Of A Horrible Decision Made By The Cavaliers
Cavaliers rookie power forward Anthony Bennett is having the worst statistical season of any overall #1 pick. Basketball-Reference.com released an image of the PERs (Player Efficiency Rating) of all #1 draft picks over the past 24 seasons to give us some perspective on how bad Bennett is playing. What the image showed was that Bennett's PER is 1.1 and Kwame Brown (considered by many to be the worst #1 pick of all-time) had a PER of 11.2 during his rookie season. With these kinds of numbers, many basketball analysts are already saying that Anthony Bennett is the worst #1 overall pick of all time and thus the greatest bust of any #1 overall pick. While I agree that he very well may be the worst #1 overall pick of all time, I don't think it is fair to call him a "bust". What I will do is explain why Anthony Bennett isn't a "bust", but rather the victim of a horrible decision made by the Cavaliers' front office.
Before I explain why Bennett isn't a bust, I should probably first define what "bust" means. "Bust" is a word used to define a player who fails to live up to his or her expectations, with those expectations usually being lofty. Players who are expected to be franchise changing players and fail to live up to those expectations are usually the players who are categorized as "busts" due to their high expectations. Players under this category are Greg Oden, Shawn Bradley, and sadly Len Bias. To use examples from the NFL, Quarterbacks JaMarcus Russell of the Raiders and Ryan Leaf of the Chargers meet this criteria as well. These are guys who were drafted with tremendous hype from not only the teams that drafted them, but all of the media and analysts. These were players who were "can't miss" players who were sure to turn around their franchises in a very short period of time. These were guys expected to turn their respective franchises into championship caliber teams.
With this definition now in mind, it suddenly doesn't seem as though Anthony Bennett really is a bust. As a matter of fact, he isn't even in the discussion. Bennett being drafted #1 overall and failing to deliver isn't the same as being hyped by all the media as the second coming of Karl Malone and failing to deliver. If Bennett had been viewed by all of the media and draft analysts as this "can't miss player" like another Karl Malone, then he would certainly be a "bust". But he wasn't. As a matter of fact, he was a viewed a borderline top ten pick in a weak NBA draft.
In my mock draft (not that I'm a draft expert), I had Bennett going #10 overall to the Portland Trail Blazers. In other mock drafts, I saw him going anywhere from 5 to 10. When he went #1 overall, everybody was shocked and couldn't believe it. Certainly Nerlens Noel, Alex Len, or Victor Oladipo would go #1 overall. But no, the Cavaliers instead decided to role the dice on Bennet, which up to this point has blown up in their face. To make things worse, Bennett is suddenly being compared to all #1 overall picks ever taken when he shouldn't even be in the same conversation as them. But being picked #1 overall suddenly has his name being brought up in conversations that include LeBron James, Shaquille O'Neal, Patrick Ewing, and Hakeem Olajuwon. Among #1 picks that didn't pan out, he's suddenly the new Kwame Brown or Michael Olowokandi.
Those of us in sports media world need to be careful how we view Bennett's struggles as a #1 overall pick. Rather than focusing all of our energy and attention on him, we need to instead focus our attention on the Cleveland Cavaliers and their moronic front office. Specifically their general manager Chris Grant and owner Dan Gilbert. These guys need to take all the heat and blame for drafting a kid #1 overall when the rest of the basketball world didn't feel as though he was that kind of talent. If the Cavaliers really wanted him, why didn't they trade down to get him and get more picks? By drafting him #1 overall they had to know that there would be a ton of hype on him that wasn't warranted, making this selection an incredibly horrible PR move in addition to being a stupid basketball decision. The story of Bennett's struggles as a #1 overall pick shouldn't be treated as a #1 overall pick failing to deliver. It should rather be treated as a front office failing to show competence at properly evaluating NBA talent.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord for the latest NBA news.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
To kick off the New Year, I figured I would release a fresh slate of power rankings!
1. Indiana Pacers (25-5): The Pacers are riding a very nice 5 game winning streak right now, I don't see a realistic loss until maybe the 18th of January against the Clippers at home. After that, they have a trip out west where they could lose at maybe Golden State and Denver. The point is, the Pacers are going to continue to win, and continue to make a strong push for the #1 seed in the East. The biggest thing Frank Vogel needs to figure out right now is how to work Danny Granger into the rotation due to the emergence of Lance Stephenson as a legit wing partner to accompany Paul George.
2. Portland Trail Blazers (25-7): The Trail Blazers aren't slowing down at all, and I don't see them slowing down any time soon if at all. Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge are forming the best point guard/power forward duo since Tony Parker and Tim Duncan, who were the best point guard/power forward duo since John Stockton and Karl Malone. That kind of duo has been proven to be successful in the NBA, and when you add good wing guys like Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, you got a recipe for championship success.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-6): The key for the Thunder will be to weather the storm until Russell Westbrook returns after the All-Star break. They have to find a way to keep Kevin Durant fresh enough for the last 6 minutes of the game so that he can go to work and close games. This means guys like Jeremy Lamb have to step up.
4. Miami Heat (24-7): When healthy, this is still the best team in the NBA. But if Dwayne Wade can't stay healthy, they are in serious trouble. But this is more of the overarching narrative of their season. As of right now, they are still playing really well, and LeBron James is playing like an MVP. However, so long as the Pacers remain ahead of them in the standings, they have to be worried about their 3-peat odds.
5. San Antonio Spurs (25-7): The Spurs are 0-6 against the Thunder, Trail Blazers, Rockets, and Clippers this season, which means they are 25-1 against the rest of the NBA. The point is, they are playing really well, but not against the teams they will have to beat to reach the NBA finals. While they are still viewed as the team to beat out West, they'll want to beat some of these teams before the playoffs start to validate their status as such.
6. Phoenix Suns (19-11): The key to the Phoenix Suns' success is quality coaching, unselfish play, and a sound frontcourt and backcourt. These Suns aren't going anywhere anytime soon. Look for them to be a playoff team come April.
7. Golden State Warriors (20-13): The Warriors have won 6 straight games including a stomping of the Nuggets in Denver. The return of Andre Iguodala seems to have made a big difference to this team. If they're healthy, look out. They have a nice balance of scoring with David Lee, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and defense with Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut. However, their bench is a bit of a concern outside of Harrison Barnes, which is why its imperative for them that their starting five stays healthy.
8. Houston Rockets (21-13): They've overall held their own against the best teams in the Western Conference this season. With as deep as the West is, it's hard to see them reach the NBA Finals, but if Dwight Howard can average 25 points per game or more in the playoffs, they'll be able to make a run.
9. Los Angeles Clippers (21-12): Getting spanked at home by the Suns is actually pretty alarming despite the success that the Suns are having. Doc Rivers is trying to light a fire in the belly of his team by telling them they haven't done anything yet and also saying they are still a "work in progress". He doesn't want his team to start thinking they are entitled to championship level respect from opponents. I like what Rivers is doing, and now it's time to see if his team responds well to his words.
10. Dallas Mavericks (19-13): Given the ridiculous depth of the Western Conference, it's easy for a quality team like the Mavericks to get lost in the shuffle. This team has tremendous offensive potency and can hang with anybody on the offensive end. They just need to shore up their defense a bit by getting Samuel Dalembert rolling.
11. Atlanta Hawks (18-14): With Al Horford out for the season, they're going to need Paul Millsap to step up even more. He's averaging a solid 17.9 points and 8.6 rebounds per game right now, but if he can have games like he did on Tuesday (34 points and 15 rebounds), the Hawks will be able to hang on to the #3 seed in the East. Of course, he won't be able to have games like that all the time, but if he can put up around 23 points and 10+ rebounds a game, that should be enough to keep them where they are at. Of course, the loss of Horford takes away any remote chance of advancing past the 2nd round of the playoffs.
12. Minnesota Timberwolves (15-16): Kevin Love not getting the call when Shawn Marion fouled him at the end of their game against the Mavericks was a sad reminder to the Timberwolves that Kevin Love is yet to earn superstar status, even though he plays better than half of the "superstars" in the NBA.
13. Toronto Raptors (14-15): They lead the Atlantic Division, which I guess speaks for something. Trading away Rudy Gay doesn't seem to be hurting their playoff odds at the moment, and rumor has it that Masai Ujiri isn't done making moves.
14. Washington Wizards (14-15): This team is much better when Bradley Beal is in the backcourt to accompany their budding all-star point guard John Wall. If Wall and Beal stays healthy, they'll easily be a playoff team in the horrible Eastern Conference.
15. New Orleans Pelicans (14-15): They went 1-4 on this their 5 game road trip against the Nuggets, Warriors, Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Kings. Not too pretty right now for the Pelicans.
16. Charlotte Bobcats (14-18): I'm convinced that a Kemba Walker/Al Jefferson duo has a lot of promise. The record says otherwise, but I expect these guys to get above .500 by season's end.
17. Denver Nuggets (14-16): The Nuggets are missing the presence of Danilo Gallinari. Hopefully he can come back soon.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (13-17): The return of Marc Gasol will be a big boost to this team. But will it be a big enough boost to vault them into the playoffs?
19. Detroit Pistons (14-19): If Josh Smith is only going to average 15 points and 6.5 rebounds, they might as well trade him. They would be better off to focus on running a heavier dose of pick and roll basketball with Brandon Jennings and Andre Drummond/Greg Monroe.
20. Boston Celtics (13-18): The return of Rajon Rondo is coming soon. If the rest of their division continues to flounder, look for the return of Rondo to get them into the playoffs by winning the Atlantic Division.
21. Chicago Bulls (12-18): Losing Luol Deng for any extended period of time is beyond disastrous for this team after Derrick Rose going down. Hopefully with Deng back playing, they don't have to play any more games without him.
22. Los Angeles Lakers (13-19): The Lakers front office looks incredibly incompetent right now with the way they overpaid Kobe Bryant and also tried to convince their fans that they are building a contender around him. It's almost laughable.
23. Sacramento Kings (10-20): Rudy Gay and the Kings could be a nice fit together. The Kings need another all-star and Rudy Gay needs a permanent home.
24. Brooklyn Nets (10-21): Is there anything positive to say about this team? Brook Lopez is done for the season, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are pissed off, and Jason Kidd is counting the days until he is fired. This team is beyond a disaster.
25. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-21): With Andrew Bynum suspended from the team, it's back to the lottery for this team.
26. Orlando Magic (10-21): Arron Afflalo wants to get all-star consideration, but with this kind of record, it'll be hard for him to get any consideration from coaches, though I do think he deserves serious consideration.
27. New York Knicks (9-21): The Knicks are an embarrassment to the mecca of basketball that is Madison Square Garden.
28. Utah Jazz (10-24): If this team were in the East, they'd be a playoff team. No joke. Trey Burke is playing really well, Alec Burks is proving to be a really nice fit in the back court and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are showing why there is so much hype around them. Of course, they play in the monstrously tough Western Conference, so they aren't going to get a lot of wins to show for it.
29. Philadelphia 76ers (9-21): They have fallen back to earth. After their hot start, they've dropped back into the range where we thought they'd be. Of course, given the pathetic state of their division and the Eastern Conference, they are only 5.5 games out of the division lead and 3.5 games back of the #8 seed in the East.
30. Milwaukee Bucks (7-24): Brandon Knight's 37 points against the Lakers on New Year's Eve gives this team a flicker of hope for future success in a season that has them winning the race for the most ping pong balls in the NBA Draft Lottery.
---Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord