NBA Lord's NBA Blog

NBA Lord's NBA Blog

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Wednesday Windmill: The Utah Jazz have a star in Gordon Hayward

                                          (Credit: Click here for link)

     This past summer, the Utah Jazz matched Gordon Hayward's 4 year, $63M offer sheet with the Charlotte Hornets, keeping him in Salt Lake City. While there was some speculation at the time about whether or not that was a good decision, there is little speculation now. Gordon Hayward is playing up to his contract in every way the Utah Jazz could have hoped, averaging 19.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game. He has fully embraced the role of being a star and is always more than willing to close games when given the opportunity.

     In Utah's most recent game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Hayward put the Timberwolves to sleep by scoring six points in the final two minutes with two of those points coming off of a steal. In that instance Gordon Hayward demonstrated why he is worth all the money by making a clutch play on defense as well as on offense.

     Standing at 6'8 and 207 lbs., Hayward has the quickness and hand-eye coordination of an elite tennis player, which is why he is such a threat on offense as well as defense. Due to his combination of size, speed, and skill there really isn't anything he can't do. He can shoot, pass, rebound, steal, and block shots, and the scary thing is he's only going to get better and more confident.

   There are still questions about what the Jazz have in the rest of their talented young players, but there is little question now of as to what they have in Gordon Hayward. He's transforming into a legitimate all-star right before our eyes and is the first sure piece the Utah Jazz have to build around for the coming seasons. Hopefully they can get the right pieces around him to keep him in a Jazz uniform for life.

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


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Daily Dunks: 12/29-1/4

                           (Credit---Andy Melton. Image is smaller than original size. Click here for source)

Welcome to my first installment of Daily Dunks! Throughout the week, this page will be updated with the top news from each day as well as the NBA scores! Check this article every day to see what news you have missed. The page will be updated through the following Sunday until a new Daily Dunks page is created for the following week on Monday nights.

Monday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. Timberwolves PG Ricky Rubio has no firm date for his return. A mid-January return is the best guess at the moment (Click here for more info).

#2. Miroslav Raduljica's contract with the Timberwolves is guaranteed for the rest of the season (Click here for more info).

#3. Wizards' small forward Martell Webster was active for Monday's game (Click here for more info).

#4. Heat power forward Chris Bosh was active for Monday's game (Click here for more info).

#5. Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler and Rockets shooting guard James Harden won player of the week honors for last week (Click here for more info).

#6. Clippers center Spencer Hawes was active on Monday (Click here for more info).

#7. The Hornets sent rookie power forward Noah Vonleh to the D-League (Click here for more info).

#8. The Lakers claimed power forward Tarik Black off waivers from the Rockets and waived small forward Xavier Henry (Click here for more info).

#9. Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony is dealing with soreness in his left knee. He could miss some time (Click here for more info).

#10. Cavaliers head coach David Blatt appears to be in some hot water. (Click here for more info).

Monday's NBA Final Scores: Clippers 101 Jazz 97.  Bulls 92 Pacers 90. Bucks 104 Hornets 94 (OT). Magic 102 Heat 101. Nets 107 Kings 99. Wizards 104 Rockets 103.

Tuesday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. Hornets center Al Jefferson has a groin strain. He'll miss at least one month (Click here for more info).

#2. Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving returned from his knee injury on Tuesday. He had 35 points, 6 rebounds, and 9 assists.

#3. Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon (shoulder) plans to return to practice on Saturday. He says he should be playing in a game very soon (Click here for more info).

#4. Thunder small forward Kevin Durant (ankle) is expected to make his return on Wednesday against the Suns (Click here for more info).

#5. The Sacramento Kings signed Tyrone Corbin to be their head coach for the rest of the season (Click here for more info).

#6. Knicks power forward Andrea Bargnani fully practiced on Tuesday and expects to make his season debut on Wednesday (Click here for more info).

#7. Jazz shooting guard Alec Burks will undergo season-ending surgery on his left shoulder (Click here for more info).

#8. Kenyon Martin will workout for the Bucks. The Cavaliers are also interested in him (Click here for more info).

#9.The Heat assigned rookie point guard Shabazz Napier to the D-League to join the Sioux Falls Skyforce (Click here for more info).

#10. Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant had a triple-double on Tuesday. He had 23 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.

Tuesday's NBA Final Scores: 

Grizzlies 95 Spurs 87. Jazz 100 Timberwolves 94. Warriors 126 76ers 86. Pistons 109 Magic 86. Hawks 109 Cavaliers 101. Pelicans 110 Suns 106. Nets 96 Bulls 82. Mavericks 114 Wizards 87. Lakers 111 Nuggets 103. Trail Blazers 102 Raptors 97 (OT).

Wednesday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. Thunder small forward Kevin Durant returned and dropped 44 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists on the Suns. Russell Westbrook was also ejected from the game for two technical fouls (Click here for more info).

#2. LeBron James (knee), Kevin Love (back), and Shawn Marion (ankle) all didn't play for the Cavaliers.

#3. The Hornets recalled rookie power forward Noah Vonleh from the D-League (Click here for more info).

#4. The Cavaliers received a $4.9M Disabled Player Exception due to Anderson Varejao's season-ending Achilles injury (Click here for more info).

#5. The Pistons assigned rookie guard Spencer Dinwiddie to the D-League to join the Grand Rapids Drive (Click here for more info).

#6. The Jazz assigned guard Toure' Murry to the D-League to join the Idaho Stampede (Click here for more info).

#7. In addition to Andrea Bargnani making his season debut, J.R. Smith (heel) returned to the lineup for the Knicks after a 10 game absence (Click here for more info).

#8. Rockets shooting guard James Harden had 36 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists against the Hornets.

Wednesday's NBA Final Scores: 

Celtics 106 Kings 84. Pacers 106 Heat 95. Clippers 99 Knicks 78. Bucks 96 Cavaliers 80. Rockets 102 Hornets 83. Spurs 95 Pelicans 93 (OT). Thunder 137 Suns 134 (OT).

Thursday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. Cavaliers small forward LeBron James is expected to miss two weeks due to strains in his left knee and back (Click here for more info).

#2. Hawks center Al Horford (illness) practice fully on Thursday and should be good to go Friday night in Salt Lake City (Click here for more info).

#3. The Nets assigned guard Markel Brown and forward Cory Jefferson to the D-League to join the Maine Red Claws (Click here for more info).

#4. Kings rookie power forward Eric Moreland has a torn labrum and will undergo surgery. His season is over (Click here for more info).

#5. Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony plans to play through his knee pain (Click here for more info).

#6. The Warriors plan to keep David Lee coming of the bench (Click here for more info).

#7. Bulls power forward Pau Gasol blocked a career high 9 shots against the Nuggets.

#8. Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler had 26 points,  8 rebounds, and 8 assists against the Nuggets.

#9. Timberwolves rookie shooting guard Andrew Wiggins had 27 points and 9 rebounds against the Kings.

#10. Nuggets center Jusuf Nurkic had a double-double against the Bulls: 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Thursday's NBA Scores: 

Kings 110 Timberwolves 107. Bulls 106 Nuggets 101.

Friday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. Timberwolves shooting guard Kevin Martin (wrist) could be back in two weeks. He may also have a stint in the D-League to complete his rehab (Click here for more info).

#2. Bulls rookie small forward Doug McDermott  (knee) hopes to practice in two weeks (Click here for info).

#3. Knicks power forward Andrea Bargnani is hurt again. He injured his right calf (Click here for more info).

#4. 100% of the Atlanta Hawks are for sale (Click here for more info).

#5. Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love returned on Friday. He had 27 points and 5 rebounds.

#6. Ty Lawson has talked to Kevin Durant about joining forces on the Wizards in D.C. Lawson has roots to the D.C. area as well (Click here for more info).

#7. Rumor: The Nuggets may fired Brian Shaw and replace him with Mike D'Antoni (Click here for more info).

#8. Bucks power forward Larry Sanders is out indefinitely due to personal reasons (Click here for more info).

#9. Mavericks point guard Rajon Rondo returned to Boston and dominated the Celtics. He had 29 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists.

#10. Warriors forward Draymond Green had a triple double on Friday: 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists.

Friday's NBA Scores: 

Hawks 98 Jazz 92. Warriors 126 Raptors 105. Grizzlies 109 Lakers 106. Nets 100 Magic 98. Cavaliers 91 Hornets 87. Mavericks 119 Celtics 101. Pistons 97 Knicks 81. Pelicans 111 Rockets 83. Thunder 109 Wizards 102. Pacers 94 Bucks 91. Suns 112 76ers 96.

Saturday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. Jazz rookie Rodney Hood will miss several games with a left heel injury (Click here for more info).

#2. Pistons center Greg Monroe has signed with the Jordan Brand (Click here for more info).

#3. Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler didn't play against the Celtics. Mike Dunleavy was out, too (Click here for more info).

#4. Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony could be done for the year (Click here for more info).

#5. Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is targeting a Thursday return (Click here for more info).

#6. Grizzlies center Marc Gasol plans to keep his options open in free agency (Click here for more info).

#7. Emeka Okafor doesn't plan to return until next year if at all (Click here for more info).

#8. Josh Smith is no longer a starter for the Rockets (Click here for more info).

#9. Bojan Bogdanovic is no longer in the Nets' rotation (Click here for more info).

#10. Rajon Rondo comments on his defense, or lack thereof (Click here for more info).

Saturday's NBA Scores: 

Jazz 101 Timberwolves 89. Nuggets 114 Grizzlies 85. Hornets 98 Magic 90. Bulls 109 Celtics 104 (OT). Rockets 115 Heat 79. Spurs 101 Wizards 92. Hawks 115 Trail Blazers 107. Clippers 127 76ers 91.

Sunday's Daily Dunks: 

#1. The Wizards are shopping Glen Rice Jr, and will waive him on Wednesday if they can't find a home for him (Click here for more info).

#2. Samuel Dalembert could be on his way out of New York (Click here for more info).

#3. Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving won't make the trip to Philadelphia on Monday (Click here for more info).

#4. Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant (rest) won't play on Monday (Click here for more info).

#5. The Jazz waived guard Toure' Murry and signed guard Elijah Millsap to a 10-day contract (Click here for more info).

#6. The Lakers recalled center Tarik Black and guard Jordan Clarkson from the D-League (Click here for more info).

#7. Lakers forward Wesley Johnson has a strained right hip flexor and is out indefinitely (Click here for more info).

#8. Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw is thinking about getting rid of morning shoot arounds (Click here for more info).

#9. Pistons point guard Brandon Jennings had 35 points and 7 assists against the Kings .

#10. Lakers forward Julius Randle will undergo foot surgery on Tuesday (Click here for more info).

Sunday's NBA Scores: 

Mavericks 109 Cavaliers 90. Pistons 114 Kings 95. Heat 88 Nets 84. Bucks 95 Knicks 82. Suns 125 Raptors 109. Lakers 88 Pacers 87.

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

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday's Fresh NBA Power Rankings: December 26, 2014

Here are my Power Rankings for December 26, 2014. Enjoy!

1. Portland Trail Blazers (23-7): I'm loving the Trail Blazers right now. They have won six of their last seven games with two wins over the Spurs and one win over the Thunder. They have a very nice seven-game home stand starting tonight against the 76ers. They should continue to rack up the wins.

2. Atlanta Hawks (21-7): Wins against the Bulls, Cavaliers, Rockets, Mavericks, and Clippers all in a row is very impressive.

3. Golden State Warriors (23-5): They are starting to come back down to earth a bit. It'll be interesting to see how Steve Kerr handles the small adversity.

4. Memphis Grizzlies (21-7): They are currently on a three game losing skid. Hopefully the skid can end tonight against the Rockets. It's going to be tough without Zach Randolph.

5. Houston Rockets (20-7): In addition to Corey Brewer, they've also added Josh Smith who was waived by the Pistons this week. The Rockets are going for it.

6. Toronto Raptors (22-7): They're staying afloat while DeMar DeRozan remains out. Very impressive.

7. Chicago Bulls (20-9): Derrick Rose continues to get better and he appears to have all the pieces around him to win a championship. Right now, the Bulls are my pick to win the East.

8. Washington Wizards (20-8):  Paul Pierce has so far been a nice fit. He's averaging  12.7 points and 1.3 threes per game. He's doing exactly what they hoped he would do.

9. Dallas Mavericks (20-10):  J.J. Barea can still play and with Rajon Rondo, Raymond Felton, and Devin Harris also playing the point guard position, look for the Mavericks to make another move. Odds are good Barea is gone.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (20-10): People are sleeping on the Clippers right now due to the success of the teams ahead of them in the West. But the reality is that if you take the Spurs and Thunder out of the equation for the sake of argument, the Clippers are just as much of a contender as any other team in the West.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers (17-11): People are acting like these guys aren't contenders which I find to be insane. A team with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love can absolutely contend in the Eastern Conference even with Anderson Varejao out for the year.

12. San Antonio Spurs (18-12): They keep plugging away without Kawhi Leonard, but his hand injury is a big concern.

13. Phoenix Suns (16-14): Until they trade Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, or Eric Bledsoe, this team will stay right where they are at.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder (14-16): So long as they have either Russell Westbrook or Kevin Durant healthy, they play just fine. Not up to a championship level, but they are fine as in they can make the playoffs. One does have to wonder whether or not it's smart for them to keep Durant and Westbrook together when both guys essentially do the same thing.

15. New Orleans Pelicans (14-14): Nobody is talking about the Pelicans and yet they are only one game out of the #8 spot in the West.

16. Milwaukee Bucks (14-15): Jason Kidd is keeping the ship afloat without Jabari Parker. I have to say I'm impressed.

17. Miami Heat (14-16): Luckily for them, the East is garbage because otherwise the absence of Chris Bosh would really be a concern.

18. Brooklyn Nets (13-15): The emergence of Mason Plumlee has been fun to watch. Especially for those of us who have him on our fantasy team.

19. Sacramento Kings (12-16): The ship appears to be sinking in Sacramento which is sad given the optimism they had at the beginning of the season.

20. Denver Nuggets (12-17): Danilo Gallinari is out for three weeks due to a knee injury. The injury bug keeps affecting this team.

21. Boston Celtics (10-17): Looking at this roster, it's not clear what move needs to be made next to get this team back into championship contention. Danny Ainge has his work cut out for him.

22. Orlando Magic (11-20): Losing by 8 points to the 76ers at home is pretty bad.

23. Charlotte Hornets (10-19): They need to get this Lance Stephenson situation resolved quickly. Either trade him, waive him, or come out and support him. They've done none of those three things which is why they continue to flounder.

24. Indiana Pacers (10-19): It's hard for them to tank when the whole conference is so bad. They could make the playoffs.

25. Los Angeles Lakers (9-20): 55% of people polled on ESPN's Sports Nation said the Lakers are better off without Kobe Bryant. That means 55% of the people who voted on that poll are stupid.

26. Utah Jazz (9-20): A key problem for this team is they have a log jam at point guard with Dante Exum and Trey Burke and they also have a log jam at center with Enes Kanter and Rudy Gobert. They need to make a move.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-22): Ricky Rubio should be back soon.

28. Detroit Pistons (5-23): Waiving Josh Smith was equally shocking as it was stupid.

29. New York Knicks (5-26): Phil Jackson isn't happy and he promises change. We'll see.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (4-23): If they actually get Andrei Kirilenko to play for them, he might be able to bring them something.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bear Territory Tuesday: We learned nothing from Cal's loss to Wisconsin

     Cal had its biggest game of the season on Monday night when the #6 ranked Wisconsin Badgers came to Haas Pavilion. I arrived at Haas Pavilion 5 minutes into the game partly due to getting held up at the Bart Station. My ticket did not have enough money on it to allow me through the turnstiles and so I had to make the necessary payments to get through. After running back and forth across the downtown Berkeley Bart station to get a new ticket, which I later threw away thinking it was the other ticket, I eventually left the station and arrived at Haas Pavilion.
     When I finally got to my seat, I found myself in an environment that I hadn't experienced at Haas Pavilion since the game against #1 ranked Arizona last year. The building was absolutely electric and buzzing. Without even knowing who Cal was playing, you could sense that it was a game with something much more on the line than the other games played this season.
     Cal started off really slow and struggled to find their groove early on in the game. Only Tyrone Wallace appeared to be comfortable under the bright lights from the very beginning. Wisconsin simply outplayed Cal in the first half. They dominated in the paint, they got good looks from beyond the arc, etc. The play that capped it all off was a play at the very end of the first half in which Wisconsin executed a beautiful backdoor play, with one Wisconsin player hitting a cutting teammate for an And-1 opportunity. It was at that moment that I realized we were not in Kansas anymore. Wisconsin was at a whole other level, taking Cal completely by surprise while in the process taking a 32-20 lead into the half.

     The second half was much better for Cal. Jordan Mathews finally woke up and gave Tyrone Wallace some much needed help, hitting some jump shots and getting to the lane for some baskets inside. Unfortunately for Cal, the hole they dug themselves into during the first half was too much for them to overcome, but to their credit they didn't go down without a fight. Rather than letting Wisconsin win by 20 or 30 points, Cal played Wisconsin to a 36-36 tie in the second half, losing only by 12 points by the final score of 68-56. Tyrone Wallace finished the game with 17 points and 7 rebounds and Nigel Hayes led Wisconsin with 17 points and 13 rebounds.

     If you are a Cal fan reading this, you probably have your own conclusions about what this loss means for Cal and what we should take away from this loss. I will share with you what my main conclusion is and you are free to agree or disagree. My conclusion is that we really didn't learn anything about Cal.  You are probably asking yourself upon reading this "Why am I reading a blog post that says we didn't learn anything? That's why I'm reading this blog post!" This is a fair question to ask, so let me explain what I mean by this.

     Going into this game there were a ton of questions about where Cal fits in the big picture of college basketball. Are they a Top 25 team? Are they an NCAA tournament caliber team? Are they as good as their record or is their record inflated due to a string of easy opponents? None of those questions were answered after Monday night's loss. I repeat none of them!

     In terms of whether or not Cal is a Top 25 team, we still don't know. A lot of teams in the Top 25 would go down to Wisconsin by 12-16 points and we would still consider those teams worthy to be in the Top 25. Wisconsin is more than a Top 25 team. They are a serious threat to win the National Championship. They backed up their #6 ranking as I think most of us thought they would. Losing to a team that is ranked as high as Wisconsin is nothing to be ashamed of. Especially when you play them as close as Cal did.

     In addition, Cal was without their sophomore starting shooting guard Jabari Bird, who is currently dealing with a stress fracture in his left foot. With him being out, it really wasn't realistic to expect Cal to win the game. Would Cal have defeated Wisconsin with Jabari Bird healthy? Probably not, but it is certainly conceivable given the fact that Cal only lost by 12 points. Therefore, it really isn't fair to judge this loss too harshly.

     Are they a legitimate NCAA tournament caliber team? I think they have what it takes to get to the tournament, but let's keep in mind that Cal knocked off #1 ranked Arizona last year and still failed to reach the NCAA tournament. That fact alone teaches us that one game against a national title contender win or lose doesn't determine your NCAA tournament status.

     I suppose had they gotten crushed by 40 points that would have been a bad thing, but nobody expected that. The betting line on the game was Wisconsin by 10 points and the game more or less went just as the guys down in Vegas thought it would go. The win over Syracuse told us that Cal has a very good team that should be able to compete in the PAC-12 and make a push for the NCAA tournament. Nothing from the loss to Wisconsin should change that belief.

     In terms of are they as good as their record indicates (10-2), once again we don't know. They've played a lot of close games against some mid-major schools like Montana, Princeton, and Wyoming, but to their credit Cal won those games. We can't knock them for almost losing when they exhibited a lot of toughness and determination to get those wins. There's a lot more good to take away from those close wins then there is bad.

     In conclusion, we learned nothing from Cal's loss to Wisconsin. One could say we learned that Tyrone Wallace can step up his game against big time competition, but that really shouldn't have come as a surprise judging by how he played against Princeton, Syracuse, and Nevada. One could also say we learned that David Kravish is in a funk and that Cal needs him to be successful, but this we already knew going into the game. He hasn't played particularly well all year and this game was just another data point on that map.

     Lastly, one could also say we learned that Cal needs Jabari Bird healthy, but this is stating the obvious. Every team needs their McDonald's All-American healthy to compete against top ten teams except for maybe Kentucky since they are stacked beyond belief. What will really teach us about Cal is how they play during PAC-12 play and how they play once Jabari Bird returns.

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

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bear Territory Friday: What is Tyrone Wallace's NBA potential?

                                         (Credit: George Nikitin-Associated Press. Click here for link)

     Cal junior point guard Tyrone Wallace is off to a sensational start this season, averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4.5 assists going into Friday night's contest against Eastern Washington, a game which Cal won by the score of 78-67. Because my blog is an NBA blog which features Cal basketball every week, I thought it would be good to synthesize Cal basketball with the NBA and give my thoughts on what Tyrone Wallace's NBA potential is.

     When looking at a player's NBA potential there are several things to consider, but I will list a few of the key essentials: #1. You want to consider the player's size for his position. #2. You want to consider the player's skills as they pertain to his position. #3. You want to evaluate the player's defensive abilities. #4. You want to evaluate the player's ability to create his own shot. #5. You want to evaluate the player's overall athletic ability. When looking at these five essentials, I think that Tyrone Wallace has the potential to be a really good NBA player, likely landing in the middle to late first round of the 2015 NBA Draft.

     Right out of the gate, Tyrone Wallace has great size for his position: 6'5 and 200 lbs. He's a long lanky kid who can use his length to score in the post over taller defenders. For a shooting guard, he's average size, but for a point guard, he's considered big in the NBA, and that is a huge plus for his draft stock and NBA potential.

     When looking at his skills for his position, he's got a lot of great tools to work with if you are an NBA team. He handles the ball really well, gets in the lane to attack the basket, finishes well around the rim, and he has a great IQ. In addition, he rebounds extraordinarily well for a guy of his size and also can facilitate and distribute the ball. His weaknesses are foul shooting and three-point shooting, though his three-point shooting has improved a lot. His free throw percentage hovers around 50% which is abysmal for a point guard. If he wants to succeed as an NBA point guard he will have to shoot better from the foul line, especially since getting into the lane is his major strength.

     As for the defensive side of the ball, he's very good, getting 1.4 steals per game. He holds his own defensively against smaller and quicker guards laterally while also bothering them with his length. A player's ability to play defense in the NBA is huge in terms of determining his draft stock and long-term potential. If a player can't defend, that's a huge mark against a player and fortunately for Wallace his defense is a plus in terms of his NBA potential.

     As for creating his own shot, Tyrone Wallace is fantastic. He plays well in the pick and roll as well as in isolation, giving him the ability to create his own shot from anywhere on the floor. If he wants to pull up for a three, he can do it; if he wants to slash to the basket for a layup, he can do it. A player with this kind of versatility is a hot commodity in the NBA. Last season, he was much more dependent on slashing to the basket to score, but this year he is getting more comfortable with his three-point shot, which I think is really key to his rising draft stock.

     As for athletic ability, he definitely has all the tools of an NBA athlete. He has the size, the quickness, and the leaping ability. When he steps on the floor in college, he is clearly one of the best athletes on the court. He stands out like all NBA prospects do.

     Now what does this all mean for his NBA potential as a whole? Long-term, I think he could be a solid starting point guard in the NBA producing 14 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 2 steals per game. Because of that long-term potential, I think he likely lands in the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft. I could see him going as high as #15 in the 2015 NBA Draft if he keeps on improving like he is. has him going #27 at the moment in their current mock draft for 2015, but if he keeps on improving, there's no reason why he couldn't be a top 15 pick. Especially in a weak draft.

     Ironically, there was chatter of him being this high of a pick when he was a freshman, but that talk cooled when it was clear he needed some development. But now, two years later, he is emerging into one of college basketball's brightest stars and a premiere star in the PAC-12. If you hear Tyrone Wallace's name called early on in the 2015 NBA Draft, don't be surprised. He has the tools to be very effective in the NBA.

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

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: December 19, 2014

Here are my NBA power rankings for December 19, 2014. Enjoy!

#1. Golden State Warriors (22-3): The loss in Memphis was expected, at least by me. They're still playing the best basketball of any team in the NBA right now, but I wouldn't say they are heads and shoulders above everybody else. Hence, they're going to lose a game every now and then. Especially in the vicious Western Conference.

#2. Memphis Grizzlies (21-4): They are nipping at the heels of the Warriors and after beating them and the Spurs in back-to-back nights, I would say they sent a strong message that there will be no easy wins against them in the "Grind House" or in any building. Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley look like a championship caliber big three and they also seem to have a championship caliber supporting cast.

#3. Houston Rockets (19-6): James Harden is averaging 26.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 6.7 assists per game. The man is absolutely worthy of being in the MVP conversation. As for the rest of the team, the addition of Corey Brewer could make a difference. It'll be interesting to see how he fits in.

#4. Portland Trail Blazers (20-6): The loss of Robin Lopez is potentially huge. The depth of this team will be tested over the coming weeks that he is out.

#5. Toronto Raptors (20-6): Even though they are playing Eastern Conference teams, going on a 4 game winning streak with DeMar DeRozan out speaks highly of this team.

#6. Washington Wizards (18-6): They are on a five game winning streak with games upcoming @Miami, vs. Phoenix, vs. Chicago, and @New York on Christmas. I bet they win all of those games. They are playing that good.

#7. Atlanta Hawks (18-7): Back in July, I wrote the Hawks would be a contender. I'm glad to see my prediction getting backed up by their fantastic play. The Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, and Al Horford  quartet is for real. Note:  If you want to read that blog post from July, click here.

#8. Dallas Mavericks (19-8): The addition of Rajon Rondo could be huge enough to vault them into championship contending status. We'll have to wait and see.

#9. San Antonio Spurs (17-9): Injuries to Kawhi Leonard have to concern this team. They need him healthy to repeat as NBA champs.

#10. Cleveland Cavaliers (14-10): They have slowed down a bit, losing three out of their last four games. They need to pick it back up and I'm confident that they will.

#11. Los Angeles Clippers (18-7): What makes these guys scary is that Blake Griffin is starting to develop his range as a shooter. He is even knocking down threes on occasion. Look out.

#12. Chicago Bulls (16-9): Glad to see that Derrick Rose's body is holding up. As for Taj Gibson, he is having ankle issues. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Injuries is the only thing holding this team back.

#13. New Orleans Pelicans (13-12): So long as Anthony Davis plays like a monster, they will remain a threat. And by threat I mean they could win a first round series given the right match up.

#14. Oklahoma City Thunder (12-14): We can stop asking if these guys will make the playoffs. They will. The only thing that has to worry them is that they really have to make up for lost time and do better than the 6-8 range in the West. Any injury they get, even if it's Durant or Westbrook missing just one game, is a huge deal.

#15. Milwaukee Bucks (14-13): They could still make the playoffs, but the soul of this team has been sucked out of them thanks to the loss of Jabari Parker for the season. Best wishes to him on a speedy recovery.

#16. Miami Heat (12-14): The loss of Josh McRoberts is huge. Wade and Bosh don't have much support now that he is gone. Even with him, I think it was becoming apparent that this team isn't going anywhere.

#17. Phoenix Suns (13-14):  I have a feeling these guys are going to be on the outside looking in come playoff time. With the Mavericks making a move for Rondo and the Thunder getting healthy, it just looks like these guys are gonna get squeezed out.

#18. Brooklyn Nets (10-14): So long as this team doesn't have a permanent centerpiece for the future (and yes, Brook Lopez is reportedly on the trade block or at least potentially), they will flounder.

#19. Denver Nuggets (10-15): This team is once again skidding, but I expect them to wake up and push back towards that .500 mark. Maybe they can get some wins against the Hornets, Nets, and Timberwolves. It could happen.

#20. Sacramento Kings (11-15): They are a laughing stock right now with all that has happened over the last week. Their coach Mike Malone got fired to everybody's surprise and their owner Vivek Ranadive is telling Tyrone Corbin to use "Cherry Pickers" on defense. The sad thing is that the front office is making this team look bad when in reality, the on court improvement has been enormous.

#21. Boston Celtics (9-14): I said they needed to trade Rajon Rondo and they did. They dealt him and Dwight Powell to the Mavericks for Brandan Wright, Jae Crowder, and Jameer Nelson. My only concern is that I think they could have perhaps gotten more for him, but all the same, the starting point guard job now belongs to Marcus Smart, which for them is a good thing.

#22. Utah Jazz (7-19): Everybody is worried about their point guard situation, but I honestly think both Trey Burke and Dante Exum have the potential to be fantastic point guards. It's just not likely they keep them both for the long haul.

#23. Los Angeles Lakers (8-17): The Lakers are starting to look like an ok team thanks to Kobe Bryant and Nick Young. With them on the floor they are not a free win, but there are enough good teams out West to keep them bogged down right around the level they are at.

#24. Orlando Magic (10-18): It would be great if they could get Aaron Gordon back soon, but that doesn't look likely.

#25. Indiana Pacers (8-18): They are lottery bound, which is actually ok. But whatever they do, they should not bring back Lance Stephenson.

#26. Charlotte Hornets (6-19): It is officially a lost season in Charlotte. I'm saying it now. The only good part about this season for them is that "Buzz City" is back. Beyond that, this season has been a disaster.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-19): They may be bad, but they gotta feel good knowing they got the best rookie in the 2014 draft class and possibly the best two. Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins both look legit.

#28. Detroit Pistons (5-21): Greg Monroe isn't coming back. They need to trade him and I think they will.

#29. New York Knicks (5-23): Maybe they should trade Carmelo Anthony and just blow the whole thing up. Why not?

#30. Philadelphia 76ers (2-22): They are back at the bottom where they belong. Here is what I can tell you about the 76ers beyond the fact that they stink: They actually have a bright future with all the young talent and assets they are acquiring. E.g. Dario Saric playing for Anadolu Efes Istanbul in Turkey is looking good and has won a Euroleague player of the month award.

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: December 12, 2014

     Here are my NBA Power Rankings for Friday December 12, 2014. Enjoy!

#1. Golden State Warriors (19-2): The Warriors have now won 14 straight games and it hasn't been due to a herculean effort by Stephen Curry. Everybody is chipping in and contributing, making this team even more scary. That being said, Stephen Curry is putting up a strong case for league MVP at this point of the season (23.0 points, 7.7 assists, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game).

#2. Memphis Grizzlies (17-4): The game against the Warriors on Tuesday could decide who is ranked #1 next week. It should be fun to see if Tony Allen and Courtney Lee can slow down Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson on the perimeter. I can't wait!

#3. Houston Rockets (17-5):  James Harden is playing some fantastic basketball right now. He had 44 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 3 steals against the Kings on Thursday, and the previous three games, he scored 34 points, 15 points, and 38 points. If you want to know how the Rockets are still winning without Dwight Howard it's because of James Harden and his sensational play.

#4. Los Angeles Clippers (16-5): Nobody is talking about the Clippers' nine game winning streak that they have going into tonight's game in D.C..  These guys are playing really well right now.

#5. Portland Trail Blazers (17-5): Even with the Thunder getting on a roll, these guys still are in prime position to win the Northwest division. Their focus now needs to be on getting the #1 seed in the West, which will be no easy task.

#6. Atlanta Hawks (15-6): The Paul Millsap/Al Horford combo is starting to look good. They've won eight straight games and are gunning for nine straight wins tonight against the Magic.

#7. San Antonio Spurs (16-6): I know it doesn't feel like these guys are moving up the ranks, but in reality, they are doing all that they need to be doing in order to get back to the NBA Finals. All these guys care about is May and June, but unfortunately for them, caring only about that still requires them to be winning games at a solid clip.

#8. Toronto Raptors (16-6): They need DeMar DeRozan back. That simple.

#9. Cleveland Cavaliers (13-8): These guys are starting to wake up, having won eight out of their last nine games. With nobody in the East really taking control, I'd say the Cavaliers are the front runners to win the East at this point.

#10. Washington Wizards (15-6): The maturation of Bradley Beal and John Wall is fun to watch. They aren't as good of a backcourt duo as Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, but they are in that same zip code.

#11. Dallas Mavericks (17-7): Saturday's game against the Warriors at home is huge. If they beat the Warriors, that will really send a strong message to the rest of the NBA.

#12. Chicago Bulls (13-8): What really helps this team is that their conference is weak. If they get healthy, they have all the makings of a team that could run the table. They just need to stay afloat and get healthy by April.

#13. Oklahoma City Thunder (9-13): They are only a couple of games out of the #8 seed in the West. I'm confident they'll make the playoffs.

#14. Phoenix Suns (12-11): If Alex Len can actually become a productive center, he could vault these guys into championship contending status in the coming years.

#15. Milwaukee Bucks (11-2):  They will be tested on their upcoming Western Conference road trip: @Phoenix, @Portland, @Sacramento, and @Los Angeles Clippers. The trip starts on December 15.

#16. Sacramento Kings (11-12): Just like the Raptors, they need their star back. So long as DeMarcus Cousins is out, the Kings will struggle.

#17. New Orleans Pelicans (10-11): Eric Gordon has really let this team down.

#18. Denver Nuggets (10-12): I have faith in this team's ability to stay the course as a .500 team. I'm not worried.

#19. Miami Heat (10-12): Remember when people were like "Don't sleep on the Heat"? I may have been one of those people, haha. But it looks like they aren't going to be much of a threat. They obviously are not the same team without LeBron James.

#20. Brooklyn Nets (8-12): If they really are open to trading Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, and Brook Lopez, they might as well waive the white flag.

#21. Orlando Magic (9-15): Amazingly, they are staying in the playoff hunt as I predicted that they would.

#22. Boston Celtics (7-13): Marcus Smart's 23 points against the Wizards was a definite bright flash that this team needed in terms of giving them some hope.

#23. Indiana Pacers (7-15): They've lost six straight games and likely will have seven straight losses after tonight's game against the Raptors.

#24. Utah Jazz (6-16): They beat the Spurs at home. That says something good about this team.

#25. Charlotte Hornets (6-15): Several teams are interested in Lance Stephenson. These guys probably should listen to some offers.

#26. Los Angeles Lakers (6-16): Ronnie Price and Ed Davis starting over Carlos Boozer and Jeremy Lin is all you need to know about the current state of the Lakers.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (5-16): Andrew Wiggins is the real deal. These guys have a future with him on their team.

#28. New York Knicks (4-20): These guys are awful.

#29. Philadelphia 76ers (2-19): They went up a spot in my rankings!!!! Congrats to them!!!

#30. Detroit Pistons (3-19): They have fallen below the 76ers in my Power Rankings. It is that bad right now in the Motor City.

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Bear Territory Thursday: Could Cal be better than last year?

     Before the season started, I thought that Cal was going to have a drop off from last season. It wasn't that I didn't believe in the team or didn't have faith, it just had to do with who was no longer on the team.

     Last season, Cal was led by Justin Cobbs and Richard Solomon. Cobbs averaged 15.6 points and 5.8 assists per game and Solomon averaged 11.0 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. Both guys were truly the heart and soul of the team even though they had talented players around them like Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird, and David Kravish. When Cal needed a basket in crunch time, Justin Cobbs was there to make a play. When Cal needed to make a big stop defensively, Richard Solomon was patrolling the paint ready to grab a rebound.

     With them now playing professionally, I wasn't sure if Cal had anybody who could fill their shoes. But now it looks like Cal does thanks to the emergence of Tyrone Wallace as a superstar. Wallace is averaging 19.0 points, 8.8 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest and in the process is willing to takeover games in crunch time. In addition, David Kravish, Jabari Bird, Sam Singer, and Jordan Mathews are all improved players from last year.

     The combination of Wallace's sensational play, the improvement of players around him, and Cal's fantastic 8-1 start has me thinking that perhaps this year's team is better than last year's team. I know it's early in the season and also that Cal has had some shaky wins, but the wins over Nevada and Wyoming this past week were really solid. Cal certainly seems likely to be 10-1 when #5 Wisconsin comes to town on the 23rd and should Cal stun Wisconsin, there will be absolutely no reason for Cal to not be ranked in the Top 25, which is something that last year's team never accomplished.

     Right now, Tyrone Wallace is doing more than Justin Cobbs was doing last year, and given that basketball is such a star driven sport, that in and of itself is enough of a reason to say that Cal has a better team this year. In addition, the freshmen from last year (Jabari Bird, Sam Singer, Jordan Mathews, and Kameron Rooks) all have a year under their belts, making them more mature and ready to contribute. The only real knock on this year's team is that they don't have as much size up front as last year, but actually, the emergence of freshman center Kingsley Okoroh has surprisingly given this team a more sound presence in the paint than anticipated.

     I know we have a long way to go in the season and that there is still plenty of basketball to be played before the final verdict is in, but right now I believe that Cal has a better basketball team than last season. Don't at all be surprised if instead of making a deep run in the NIT, you see Cal making a deep run in the NCAA tournament. They might actually be that good. Go Bears!

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Friday Fresh NBA Power Rankings: December 5, 2014

                                          (Credit: Matthew Addie. Click here for full image and source)

Here are my NBA Power Rankings for December 5, 2014. Enjoy!

#1. Golden State Warriors (16-2): The Warriors have won 11 straight games and are seeded #1 in the Western Conference.  The most impressive part about this run is that they are doing this without David Lee.

#2. Memphis Grizzlies (15-3): The Rockets got even with them earlier this week, handing them just their third loss of the season. I do not doubt that the Grizzlies will bounce back from this, but they have some tough opponents coming to town like the Spurs, Mavericks, and Heat.

#3. Houston Rockets (14-4): Defeating the Grizzlies without Dwight Howard is beyond impressive. That is a really encouraging win for this Rockets team.

#4.  Portland Trail Blazers (15-4): The Portland Trail Blazers are playing some really good basketball right now. They just need to hope the other good teams in the Western Conference like the Rockets, Warriors, and Grizzlies cool off.

#5. Toronto Raptors (15-4): The loss of DeMar DeRozan for the foreseeable future is a blow to this team, but it's a blow they can withstand due to the Eastern Conference being garbage.

#6. Dallas Mavericks (15-5): They have two legit closers in Monta Ellis and Dirk Nowitzki. That makes them really scary.

#7. San Antonio Spurs (13-5): I rarely say that there are "big games" in December, especially for teams like the Spurs. But I actually think tonight's trip to Memphis is a huge game for the Spurs. They need to remind people that they are still the defending champs.

#8. Los Angeles Clippers (13-5): They are currently riding on a six game winning streak. With games against the Pelicans and Suns at home coming up, that streak should extend to eight before they head out on an Eastern Conference road trip.

#9. Atlanta Hawks (11-6): Remember how we wondered how good these guys would be with a healthy Paul Millsap and a healthy Al Horford? I think we are starting to have that questioned answered. These guys look pretty good.

#10. Washington Wizards (12-5): Bradley Beal may be back, but now Nene is hurt and Paul Pierce has been dealing with a toe injury. Injuries are the only thing holding this team back from perhaps being the best team in the Eastern Conference.

#11. Chicago Bulls (12-7): Speaking of injuries, this team too needs to get healthy. Derrick Rose is back, but now it's Taj Gibson who is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. This team needs to get all its key players healthy so that we can know how good they actually are.

#12. Cleveland Cavaliers (10-7): During his last three games, Kyrie Irving has scored 24 points, 28 points and 37 points. If he keeps playing like this, these guys will be as scary as we thought they would be. Evidence of this is that they are currently on a five game winning streak.

#13. Phoenix Suns (11-8): They have a three game road trip starting tonight: @Dallas, @Houston, and @Los Angeles Clippers. These three games will tell us a lot about how good these guys actually are.

#14. Denver Nuggets (9-9): If they can consistently figure out how to win on the road, they could be a playoff team. Denver is always a tough place to play even when the Nuggets aren't terribly good and this year, the Nuggets are pretty good.

#15. Milwaukee Bucks (10-10): With the way these guys are playing under Jason Kidd, maybe the Nets made a mistake in letting him go.

#16. Miami Heat (9-9): People were buying the Heat as a sleeper team to win the East at the beginning of the year, but now it looks like that was wishful thinking. They are still a competitive team, but not a team we should take seriously as a contender.

#17. New Orleans Pelicans (8-9): Getting blown out by the Warriors on Thursday is just a reminder that even with Anthony Davis playing like a beast, this team still needs to get a lot better and provide him with more quality players.

#18. Sacramento Kings (9-9): Hopefully they can get DeMarcus Cousins back soon. I heard it was only a two game absence, so odds are good that they'll have him back by Monday.

#19. Oklahoma City Thunder (5-13): Why the sudden jump in the power rankings? Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are back! These guys should be able to make the playoffs and start climbing up the power rankings. #19 is where they are gonna have to start.

#20. Brooklyn Nets (8-9):  Paul Pierce did well to get out of Brooklyn. These guys seem destined for another mediocre season.

#21. Indiana Pacers (7-12): They've been trying to tread water without Paul George and they are starting to look tired. I don't see them making the playoffs and perhaps another high draft pick would do this team some good. Yes, I just mentioned the draft in December!

#22. Orlando Magic (7-14):  The loss to the Warriors at the hands of Stephen Curry was heartbreaking given they actually played a championship contending team really well on the road.

#23. Boston Celtics (5-11): There isn't a lot for Celtics fans to be happy about. Rondo is still around and the team has lost 8 of their last 10 games.

#24. Utah Jazz (5-14): I honestly like what I've seen from this team. Gordon Hayward, Derrick Favors, Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, and Dante Exum look fine. They are just in a brutal conference.

#25. Los Angeles Lakers (5-14): For all this talk about Kobe Bryant playing so well for his age, his team still sucks.

#26. Charlotte Hornets (4-15): I wrote a blog piece about their struggles earlier this week, so feel free to check it out. The short version is as follows: Lance Stephenson, Kemba Walker, and Gerald Henderson are struggling.

#27. Minnesota Timberwolves (4-13): Losing to the 76ers is depressing.

#28. New York Knicks (4-16): Amare' Stoudemire is finally playing like he's worth one-third of his contract!

#29. Detroit Pistons (3-16): I actually think they'll lose to the 76ers on Saturday. That's how bad it's gotten.

#30. Philadelphia 76ers (1-17): They won a game!!! Next goal for them to is get out of the #30 spot in my power rankings. A win over Detroit on Saturday might do the trick!

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bear Territory Thursday: Should Cal feel encouraged by close wins?

     Cal had a really close call on Wednesday night against Montana, winning 78-76 in double overtime. If it wasn't for a timely three by Jordan Mathews and a little bit of luck, Cal would have suffered an embarrassing home loss. The absence of Jabari Bird due to a foot injury didn't help, but even with him resting, Cal still should have defeated Montana by more than 2 points. Cal played sloppy basketball all night against the Grizzlies, turning the ball over at inopportune times while also finding ways to fall behind. But amid all these errors and mistakes, Cal still won the game, and that in and of itself is enough of a reason for Cal to feel encouraged.

     I don't doubt that Cal should feel like they have a lot to improve on after their close call against Montana as well as their single digit win over a mediocre Fresno State team on Sunday. Cal showed that when you don't make your free throws and in the process get careless with the ball, it's going to be hard to win games. If they continue to make those same mistakes, they will struggle once PAC-12 play begins.

     Fortunately, turnovers and foul shots are fixable mistakes. They are more mental errors than they are errors of being outplayed or outmatched. Tyrone Wallace for example repeatedly got to the foul line over these last two games and yet he really struggled to make his free throws. He can change that by practicing his foul shots and being more confident.

     The ability to correct these mistakes as well as the fact that they still found ways to win is why Cal should feel encouraged by these past couple of victories. They know that even when they have bad days and play poorly, they can still find ways to salvage the victory. I think experiencing wins like this will serve Cal well in the long-term provided they fix their mistakes and get better. It's never a bad thing to get tested early in the season. Especially when you still walk away with the win. Cal's next couple of games are Sunday at Nevada and Wednesday at home against Wyoming.

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

Wednesday Windmill: The Charlotte Hornets Need To Wake Up

     The Charlotte Hornets are currently 4-15, playing far worse than anybody expected. The expectations put on this team weren't terribly high, but they weren't low, either. Most basketball analysts including myself expected this team to be a threat to win an opening round playoff series, which is why this 4-15 start has all of us scratching our heads and asking "What is going on with this team?".
      One might point to the fact that Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Noah Vonleh, and Gary Neal have been injured, but that doesn't explain such a poor start. What explains their poor start is that their "money players" haven't stepped up.
     Al Jefferson is averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, so he is doing his part, but the other three main players on this team (Lance Stephenson, Gerald Henderson, and Kemba Walker) have all played well below their expectations. Kemba Walker is scoring only 14 points per game, which just won't cut it for a guy who is supposed to be the #2 player on this team.
     As for Lance Stephenson, his 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds per contest is beyond disappointing for a guy who signed a three-year, $27M contract. Stephenson was supposed to be the #3 option on this team who would change them from a playoff pretender to a playoff contender. He has instead done nothing but disappoint and leave Charlotte fans wondering if he was really worth the money or if he was just a good system player in Indiana.

     Gerald Henderson, who averaged 14 points per game last year, is averaging only 6.8 points per game while also producing fewer rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. His drop off has been staggering and nothing short of alarming. Out of all the players who have been struggling, his struggles seem to be the most perplexing.

     Whatever the problem is, whether it's Lance Stephenson failing to deliver or Kemba Walker not playing like a legit #2 option, the Hornets have to change something and make a move to energize themselves. The return of the nickname "Hornets" has energized this city, but it looks like more needs to be done to make "Buzz City" a place where playoff teams don't want to go.

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