Monday, October 30, 2017

The Golden Nuggets: The NBA's sleeper playoff team?

The Golden Nuggets: NBA sleeper playoff team?

Last year was a very predictable NBA season, with the addition of former MVP Kevin Durant many people assumed that the Golden State Warriors would beat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals. Although the NBA Finals result seemed inevitable, one team caught the league by surprise and that was the Utah Jazz. In 2016 the Jazz won 40 games, ultimately coming up short of the playoffs with the 9th seed in the very competitive Western conference. The following year they won 51 games placing them 5th in the Western Conference, sending them to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
 Similar to the Jazz the Denver Nuggets will be looking to do the same thing this upcoming season. Last year the Nuggets finished 9th in the Western Conference with a 40-42 record, falling just short of the playoffs. This off-season the Nuggets made a big splash in free-agency by bringing in all-star PF Paul Millsap this summer. Last season Millsap averaged 18 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 3.7 APG while shooting 44 percent from the field, his versatility will be a key weapon for the Nuggets this season.
Furthermore, for the Nuggets to be successful their young and upcoming players Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, and Jamal Murray must take a big step forward in their development. This will be another key, after trading their leading scorer Danilo Gallinari to the Clippers this off-season. Nikola Jokic who averaged 16.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG along with 6 triple-doubles and 39 double-doubles. Big expectations will also fall on Harris’ shoulders after the productive season he had last year where he averaged 14.9 PPG while shooting 50 percent from the field, and 42 percent from three. Last but certainly not least Jamal Murray will be looking build off of his 2016 Rising Star Challenge MVP performance and become an elite player.
 I believe if these 3 players along with Millsap can build chemistry and stay healthy, the Nuggets will increase their win total by at least 8-10 games and end up as a 6th or 7th seed. One big advantage that the Nuggets have is their depth, and they added to thatthis off-season by drafting former stretch-four Tyler Lydon from Syracuse and former Big 12 All-American PG Monte Morris. Also off their bench is the high-flying rebounding machine Kenneth Faried, versatile wing Will Barton, former lottery pick Emmanuel Mudiay, and athletic Center Mason Plumlee. Along with that, more players expected to contribute are Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez and Trey Lyles.
Not many people believe the Nuggets will be a good team, but they have all the qualities of potential playoff team: consistent three-point shooting, elite rebounders, un-matched depth, and a true team identity. The Denver Nuggets finished 3rd in the NBA last year averaging 111.7 PPG and are more than capable of doing so again. Prepare yourself to see the Nuggets put on a show, and return to a franchise that is respected and will compete for a deep playoff run for years to come.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Era of the Mediocre Shooting Guard

The Era of the Mediocre Shooting Guard

What happened to the shooting guard position over the last 3-5 seasons? The shooting guard position has changed drastically over the years due to the rapid development of the point guards and small forward’s offensive production.
In the 80s and early 90s the point guards main responsibility was to set the offense up, score about 12-15 points, and not turn the ball over. Also, small forwards main skillset typically was a great on-ball defender with elite athleticism and usually limited offensively. In the modern era both positions are usually the best players on their teams and are expected to handle majority of the team’s offensive production. The talent from top to bottom of the shooting guards position has significantly declined in various ways such as All-Star appearances, overall statistical value and pure talent. However, throughout the history of the NBA the shooting guard position has given us some of the greatest players of all time, from Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant to Allen Iverson and Ray Allen. Furthermore, you could argue that shooting guards are not only the most valuable but, possibly even the most popular position in the history of the NBA.
You may ask the question what defines a great shooting guard? Is it the competitiveness and heart of Michael Jordan or the work ethic and flat out scoring ability of Kobe Bryant? Maybe its quickness and athleticism of Allen Iverson or Ray Allen’s uncanny ability to shoot the ball.
In today’s NBA, the top 4 best shooting guards are considered by many to be James Harden, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, and DeMar DeRozan. These 4 players have combined for 10 NBA All-Star Appearances, 2 NBA championships and 5 All-NBA selection teams. Although these players combined to average a solid 23.8 PPG, none of them have claimed the leagues scoring title. Since the decline and retirement of Kobe Bryant’s career, the league is waiting on the next hall of fame caliber shooting guard.
Where is this type of player?  Per CBS sports 9 of the top 50 greatest players of All-Time players were shooting guards. However, out of the top 10 shooting guards in the league today, only 2 may be considered Hall of Fame worthy. Although these 2 players (Harden and Thompson) are affective their skill sets differ drastically. Harden is elite on the offensive end, averaging 27 PPG over the last 4 seasons along with 7 assists. Although he is a great offensively he struggles on the defensive and as a leader of a franchise. Thompson, who averages 19.1 PPG over his six-year career is an elite sharpshooter and defensively specialist with great height and length for his position. To his detriment Thompson, like many of the other shooting guards, isn’t considered the best player on his team. In fact, only 2 teams (Raptors and Rockets) can definitively say their best player resides at the shooting guard position. This is stark contrast to the previous era where we saw the players such as Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy, Michael Redd, Tracy McGrady, and Vince Carter dominated the league.
 Fortunately for the shooting guard position there is hope, up and coming superstars such as Devin Booker and C.J. McCollum are steadily improving and have unbelievable potential. This season Booker scored 70 points in a game, which is the most points since Kobe Bryant scored 81 in 2006. McCollum is also coming off a great season, averaging 23 PPG while shooting 42 percent from three. Also, new draftees such as Markelle Fultz and Malik Monk have the potential to resurrect the dying shooting guard position.

Until then where do the current shooting guards go from here? They must continue to develop their games, win championships, and turn back the clock to continue the legacy of the great shooting guards that came before them.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Why Josh Jackson is the best prospect in this years draft

Why Josh Jackson is the best prospect in this years draft

Many NBA scouts and analysts have Washington guard Markelle Fultz as the predicted number one overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft and believe he could be a future All-Star down the road. There is one talented small forward from Kansas that also needs to join the conversation as far as future All-Stars in this draft are concerned.
As a freshman Josh Jackson had a sensational year averaging 16.3 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 3 APG while shooting 51.3 percent from the field. This season he was also named Big 12 Freshman of the Year, First-team All-Big 12, and Second-team All-American. What Jackson does on the offensive end is impressive he finishes well through contact when he gets to the rim, he also possesses a very high basketball IQ that allows him to find open teammates on the court. What makes him so valuable as a NBA prospect is his versatility on both sides of the floor. Jackson is a lock-down defender and is very disruptive in the passing lanes and coming weak side to block shots averaging 1.5 BPG and 1.5 SPG.  The 6’8 wing has a solid 6’9.75 wingspan along with his elite athleticism that will help him with his transition to the NBA. The team that drafts Jackson will be bringing in a guy with a blue-collar work ethic, he enjoys doing all the dirty work that will help his team be successful.
Jackson is an elite prospect, but has things to work on such as his perimeter shooting and free-throw shooting. Although statistically he shot well from the three-point line with a percentage of 37.8 percent he only shot 90 total attempts and made 34 of them. His shot isn’t broken; he just has a unique form that causes inconsistency at times. If he can develop his three-point shot on a level similar to the consistency of Rudy Gay who shoots 34.5 percent over his career from three he will be a bigger threat offensively. On the other hand, his free-throw shooting needs to improve drastically this season at Kansas he shot 56.6 percent. Along with his shooting he needs to improve on playing defense without fouling, a lot of the time he will try to jump the passing lane and miss the ball causing him to foul. He picked up 4 or more fouls in 5 of Kansas’ first 15 games, and fouled out of 3 of them. The best ability is availability so cutting down on fouls will be key for him while he transitions to the league.
Jackson is a great NBA prospect that has many intangibles that will help him transition to the NBA, if continues to work hard develop his perimeter shooting and fine tune his skills we will be looking at a future star in the NBA. He has the potential to be the best player in the 2017 draft, but only time will tell to see how good he can be and which team selects him on June 22nd.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Third Times A Charm, But This Time No Excuses

Third Times A Charm, But This Time No Excuses

As we all know the 2017 NBA finals are set to begin Thursday June 1st as the Golden State Warriors face off against the Cleveland Cavaliers for the third time in as many years. The first go around the Warriors defeated the Cavaliers in 6 games. One could argue that the Warriors might have lost if All-Star Guard and Forward Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would have been healthy. Instead Lebron James gave everything he had with a team full of solid role players at best and took the soon to be champs to 6 games. A year later the two power house teams matched up again in the Finals. Golden State jumped all over the Cavs taking a 3-1 lead. With another championship, nearly within grasp for Golden State for the second year in a row the impossible happened. James had back-to-back 41 point games, along with Irving out playing the unanimous MVP in Steph Curry. The Cavs came back and defeated the Warriors in 7 games bringing home Cleveland’s first NBA championship in its franchise history. What the Cavs did was seemingly impossible many teams had tried, but all had failed. Teams leading 3-1 in the NBA Finals were 32-0 all time. It was “against all odds” James said in a post-game press conference. Once again the results of the Finals brought out a huge argument. The premise of the argument being if Draymond Green hadn’t been suspended for game 5 then would the Warriors have repeated as champions?
Finally, for the third year in a row we will get to see another star-studded NBA Finals between Golden State and Cleveland. This year teams are similar, but still have qualities that make them different from a year ago. Both teams have gotten better from a personnel stand point. The Warriors brought in Former MVP in Kevin Durant in free-agency this summer along with JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia and the Cavs brought in Deron Williams and Kyle Korver in trades in the middle of the season.
The past two finals there has been a lot of debates and questions revolving around which team was better and this team would have won if certain players weren’t suspended and injured. Well this year there are no excuses, both teams are playing their best brand of basketball and both teams are healthy. Golden State went 12-0 in the playoffs and the Cavs went 12-1. This year’s Finals will feature arguably the 1st and 2nd best players in the world, James and Durant. If either team loses there are no excuses as fans of the game, we need to hold these two future Hall of Famers accountable for their short comings. Over Durant’s 10-year career he has faced very little to no criticism when he has come up short in the playoffs. For example, in last year’s Western Conference Finals the Thunder blew a 3-1 lead against the Warriors. It was a team loss nonetheless, but from another perspective Durant did not get the job done when his team need him most. If Durant would have played anywhere near what he is capable of the Thunder would have advanced to the Finals. Durant is one of the best scorers the NBA has ever seen and will be a Hall of Famer when it is all said and done. If we are going to acknowledge him as a future NBA legend, we need to raise our expectations on him and criticize him more if he chokes in this year’s Finals. Durant better be ready to play in the Finals; Golden State didn’t bring him here to be mediocre when he is counted on most. He was brought in for big moments like this, this not a parade where he is just sitting around coasting to a championship, I expect him to go at and challenge LeBron so we can see what he is made of in the big moments.
On the other hand, LeBron James has been ridiculed and criticized much more often even for things that have little do with basketball. Regardless in this year’s Finals there should be no excuses for James if he comes up short. It seems like there is always an excuse or a reason that’s justifies LeBron’s failures. “he doesn’t have help”. “Irving and Love were injured”. Etc.… Not this year we cannot no longer tolerate excuses for James. The past few weeks many basketball analyst have been asking the question is LeBron better than Michael Jordan? How can we say that? Jordan never made excuses and never used them as scapegoats to justify his short comings. Jordan simply got it done regardless of the situation he was put in, winning 6 championships in 8 years. LeBron has a great team he has potentially two Hall of Famers on his team just like Jordan and arguably better role players as well. If James comes up short in this year’s Finals for whatever reason it’s on him. Maybe he didn’t do enough or didn’t play well enough down the stretch. Yes, the Warriors have 4 All-Stars on their team, but at the end of the day you must compete and perform at a high level to win the NBA Finals. James in this years playoffs has been sensational averaging 32.5 PPG, 7 APG, 8 RPG while shooting 56.6 percent from the field. He has a great team, the will power, and ability to get the job done, you can’t be called the greatest of all-time and not get the job done in the Finals.

This will be the best Finals match-up between these two teams over the past three years. Stars need to play like stars and be ready to play at all times throughout the series. Teams are both playing well, have the talent to compete, and are all healthy it’s now their turn to go out there compete and the best team will win. Winner takes all and this time no excuses for either team or each team’s key players.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Another Man Of Steel: Bam Adebayo

Another Man of Steel: Bam Adebayo

Dwight Howard in his prime was the most dominant big man in the league, bringing in 3 Defensive MVP’s, 5 All-NBA first team selections, and 8 All-Star selections. In this year’s upcoming draft there is a draftee that has similar qualities and that has the potential to be just as good as Howard.
Bam Adebayo is a 6’10 260-pound beast from university of Kentucky. This season Adebayo average 13 PPG, 8 RPG, 1.5 BPG, and shot 59 percent from field. NBA scouts will be enamored with his motor, potential, and physical gifts. If Adebayo is selected to a team with a good point guard, he will thrive in the league. Adebayo is very effective in the pick and roll, throwing down ferocious dunks and getting offensive rebounds making 75 percent of his put-back layups.
His biggest impact in the NBA will be on the defensive side of the ball. With his lateral quickness and leaping ability he will be able to switch on guards and forwards without getting blown by. In today’s small-ball NBA big men that can move like Adebayo and switch on guards and forwards are very valuable. He also has the potential to be an elite rim-protector with his 7’1.5 wingspan, and a 39.5 maximum vertical.
At 19 Adebayo, is physically and athletically is ready to play in league. He seeks out contact and battles for position to get rebounds. Long-term Adebayo could be a consistent double-double guy for a long time in the association. This season at Kentucky Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox stole a lot of the limelight from Adebayo and he didn’t get the ball as much, but he showed NBA scouts he had skills that could translate to the NBA and make him a solid player for years to come. “You’re talking about a player who can guard all five positions, has more perimeter skills than people know, and someone with size and a physique that immediately translates to that league. Bam is a great kid with a ton of upside. Should he decide to stay in the draft, he will be an outstanding four man in the NBA. Every organization needs character and Bam is a high-character kid who only cares about winning.” Coach Calipari said.
Adebayo offensively has room for improvement, if he develops a few more offensive moves in the post and improve his free-throw percentage he could be a potential All-Star in a few years. Currently Adebayo is expected to be drafted mid to late in the first round, which could do wonders for his career because a playoff team will probably end up drafting him. If the organization that drafts him allows him to learn and develop in a few seasons we could be looking at one of the next dominant big men in the NBA.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

She's A Beast: Recee Caldwell

She’s A Beast: Recee Caldwell

McDonald's All-American, elite scorer, great leader, and an even better person. All these characteristics describe Texas Tech’s star guard Recee Caldwell. This season Caldwell put up 14.5 PPG, 4.5 APG, 2.8 RPG, while shooting 36.4 percent from the three-point line and 38.1 percent from the field. Her efforts this season brought her All-Big 12 Honorable mention. Caldwell scored 20 plus points in 10 of their 31 games with career high of 38 points against Texas A&M. Her ability to create her own shot, along with creating opportunities for others is special and should not be ignored.
            I spoke to Caldwell about her approach to the game, this seasons results, her take on her play this season, what she plans to work on this off-season, and her opinion on why the WNBA isn’t as popular as the NBA.
TB: what is your biggest motivation?
RC: To make my family proud, and take care of them. My mom and dad have taken care of me my whole life and I wanted to show my gratitude by taking care of them one day.
TB: With all your success on the court how are you able to stay so humble?
RC: Talents are not from me they come from God. Why would I take credit for something that isn’t all me?
TB: What do you need to work on this off-season?
RC: This offseason I will be working on finishing at the rim through contact, moving without the ball to make myself a better offense player, and consistency on the defensive side of the ball.
TB: Do you prefer to play on or off the ball offensively?
RC: I prefer to play on the ball, I like to create for other and put them in situations to score along with creating my own shot.
TB: With your abilities as player and your success why are you considered underrated?
RC: We didn’t have a lot of publicity this season. If we start winning publicity and recognition will start to come but we have to win games first.
TB: Why is the WNBA not as popular as the NBA?
RC: It’s because of the style of play in the NBA they play more free you don’t see a lot of sets being ran they allow the players to just play.
TB: What are your expectations for next season?
RC: I would like to improve as a player and as a team, hopefully I will be able to lead my team to the NCAA tournament next year.
The sky is the limit for Caldwell, Lady Raider fans and I will expect big things from her next season. With her abilities to score the ball at will and make her teammates better one could assume that she will be selected to the 1st or 2nd All-Big 12 teams next season and start to get the national recognition she deserves. If and when she improves her game this off-season Recee Caldwell will be a household name and no one will underestimate or underrate her again.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Monte Morris: Diamond In The Rough

Monte Morris: Diamond In The Rough

Every year, The NBA Draft has hidden gems that many teams pass on for various reasons such as measurables, age, potential, and production. For example, potential rookie of the year guard Malcolm Brogdon, coming out of college many teams were concerned about what position he would play and his ability to score efficiently and consistently. All thirty teams passed on him once and 5 teams passed on him a second time until the Bucks took a chance on him with their 36th pick in the second round. With that being said, there will be another player many teams pass on that I believe will have a very solid NBA career in Monte Morris from Iowa State.
As a senior, yes as a senior he averaged 16.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 6.2 APG. Morris is a pure point guard that simply doesn’t turn the ball over. He led the country in assist-to-turnover ratio 4 years in a row. Also during his tenure at Iowa State, he was a Big 12 1st team All-American in 2017 and 2 time Big 12 2nd team All-American in 15-16. Morris has a very balanced game he’s very solid on off the ball defense which made him the all-time leader in steals in Iowa State history. Offensively he can score from all three levels very well, especially at the rim and from midrange, but has a lethal three-point shot, shooting 38 percent for his career.

NBA teams with aging point guards or need to upgrade at that position should consider drafting him such as the Spurs, Heat, Bulls, Knicks, and 76ers. The risk on Morris is very low many mock drafts have him going middle-to late in the second round. He’s a very clean cut, hardworking player which you can attest to by his averages going up every year of his college career. Yes, he considered “old” because he stayed all 4 years, but is there really an issue drafting seasoned players out of college? 4-year college players come to the NBA more mature and their individual game will be more polished. The teams that drafted Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Draymond Green, and Jimmy Butler all have a strong case for why drafting seniors out of college isn’t such a bad thing. If I was an NBA franchise with an early second round pick and point guard is a position of need for my team I’d quickly jump the gun and draft Monte Morris. Don’t be the team that missed out on this hidden gem it might just come back to haunt you in a few years.