Category Archives: NBA

NBA Preview: Awards, Hype, Prediction Edition

With the NBA Season getting ready to start it’s only right that we answer a few questions in regards to awards, playoff seeding, finals predictions etc…. Please be sure to sound off and voice your opinions and enlighten us on your predictions.

Statistical Predictions:

Who will lead the league in scoring?

  
Hornback: Kevin Durant

Fort: Kevin Durant

Carter: Kevin Durant

Who will lead the league in rebounds?

  Hornback: Andre Drummond

Fort: Hassan Whiteside

Carter: Deandre Jordan

Who will lead the league in assists?

  

Hornback: John Wall

Fort: John Wall

Carter: Chris Paul

Who will lead the league in PER? (Player Efficiency Rating)

    
Hornback: Anthony Davis

Fort: Anthony Davis

Carter: Chris Paul

Who will lead the league in usage percentage?

  Hornback: LeBron James

Fort: Carmelo Anthony

Carter: James Harden

What will be the top 5 offenses?

   
Hornback:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Thunder
  4. Hawks
  5. Spurs

Fort:

  1. Warriors
  2. Clippers
  3. Thunder
  4. Hawks
  5. Spurs

Carter:

  1. Clippers
  2. Warriors
  3. Thunder
  4. Rockets
  5. Heat

What will be the top 5 defenses?

    
Hornback:

  1. Jazz
  2. Warriors
  3. Bucks
  4. Grizzlies
  5. Wizards

Fort:

  1. Warriors
  2. Wizards
  3. Cavaliers
  4. Bucks
  5. Thunder

Carter:

  1. Bucks
  2. Bulls
  3. Pelicans
  4. Warriors
  5. Jazz

Awards Predictions:

Who will be this season’s Coach of the Year?

  

Hornback: Alvin Gentry

Fort: Erik Spolestra

Carter: Jason Kidd

Who will be this season’s Executive of the Year?

  
Hornback: R. C. Buford (San Antonio)

Fort: Pat Riley (Miami)

Carter: John Hammond (Milwaukee)

Who will be the season’s Rookie of the Year?

  Hornback: Jahlil Okafor

Fort: Emannuel Mudiay (Winslow very close 2nd)

Carter: Karl-Anthony Towns

Who will be this season’s Most Valuable Player of the Year?

  Hornback: James Harden

Fort: Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook

Carter: James Harden

Who will be this season’s Defensive Player of the Year?

  Hornback: Rudy Gobert

Fort: Dwight Howard

Carter: Anthony Davis

Who will be this season’s Sixth Man of the Year?

  Hornback: Isaiah Thomas

Fort: Louis Williams

Carter: Isaiah Thomas

Who will be this season’s Most Improved Player?

  
Hornback: Derrick Favors

Fort: Jordan Clarkson

Carter: Rudy Gobert

All NBA 1st Team

Hornback:
Steph Curry
James Harden
LeBron James
Anthony Davis
Dwight Howard

Fort: 
Russell Westbrook
James Harden
LeBron James
Kevin Durant
Anthony Davis

Carter:
Chris Paul
James Harden
LeBron James
Blake Griffin
Anthony Davis

All NBA 2nd Team

Hornback:
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge
DeMarcus Cousins

Fort: 
John Wall
Steph Curry
Paul George
Lamarcus Aldridge
Blake Griffin

Carter:
Steph Curry
Russell Westbrook
Kevin Durant
LaMarcus Aldridge
Demarcus Cousins

All NBA 3rd Team

Hornback:
John Wall
Jimmy Butler
Kevin Love
Blake Griffin
Marc Gasol

Fort: 
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Chris Bosh
Marc Gasol

Carter:
John Wall
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Pau Gasol
Marc Gasol

All NBA Defensive 1st Team

Hornback:
John Wall
Tony Allen
Draymond Green
Anthony Davis
Rudy Gobert

Fort: 
John Wall
Jeff Teague
Kawhi Leonard
LeBron James

Carter:
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Anthony Davis
Rudy Gobert

All NBA Defensive 2nd Team

Hornback:
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Kawhi Leonard
Serge Ibaka
Marc Gasol

Fort: 
Chris Paul
Jimmy Butler
Paul George
Anthony Davis
Deandre Jordan

Carter:
Michael Conley
Tony Allen
Draymond Green
Serge Ibaka
Deandre Jordan

All NBA Rookie Team

Hornback:
D’Angelo Russell
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mario Hezonja
Stanley Johnson
Jahlil Okafor

Fort: 
Emmanuel Mudiay
D’Angelo Russell
Justice Winslow
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

Carter:
Emmanuel Mudiay
Mario Hezonja
Stanley Johnson
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

Playoff Predictions

  
DeShawn Hornback:

  1. Warriors
  2. Spurs
  3. Rockets
  4. Clippers
  5. Thunder
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Jazz

Ryan Fort

  1. Thunder
  2. Warriors
  3. Rockets
  4. Spurs
  5. Clippers
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Pelicans
  8. Mavs

Tyler Carter:

  1. Spurs
  2. Warriors
  3. Clippers
  4. Rockets
  5. Thunder
  6. Grizzlies
  7. Suns
  8. Kings

  
Hornback:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Hawks
  3. Wizards
  4. Bulls
  5. Raptors
  6. Heat
  7. Bucks
  8. Detroit

Fort:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Hawks
  3. Wizards
  4. Heat
  5. Bulls
  6. Raptors
  7. Bucks
  8. Pistons

Carter:

  1. Cavaliers
  2. Bulls
  3. Heat
  4. Raptors
  5. Wizards
  6. Bucks
  7. Hawks
  8. Pacers

Final Four

Hornback: 

Spurs vs Warriors
Cavaliers vs Wizards

Fort: 

Thunder vs Rockets
Cavaliers vs Heat

Carter:

Spurs vs Clippers
Cavaliers vs Heat

Finals Predictions:

  
Hornback:

Spurs vs Cavaliers Cavaliers in 7

Fort: 

Thunder vs Heat Thunder in 6

Carter:

Spurs vs Cavaliers Cavaliers in 6

LeBron James The GOAT?: The Definition of Greatness pt.1

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In the last 10 or so years there have been many debates in basketball about Lebron’s status among the greatest. Where does he rank among the greatest NBA players of all time? Is Lebron top 10 as of right now? Is he top 5 or even the Greatest of All Time? Feel free to share your opinions in the comment section upon reading.

A few years back the idea of Lebron being the greatest of all time wasn’t a serious thought simply due to the fact that he needed to build and stack his resume. Now that Lebron James is entering his 13th year in the NBA a case can be made that he at least deserves a top ten spot amongst the Greatest NBA players of all time.

To call Lebron James one of the Greatest we must first define what greatness is. Greatness is measured not only by an individual’s skill and physical talent, but also by what I define as “tangibles.” The literal definition of tangible is something that can be physically touched, like an award. In basketball certain tangibles are MVP awards, Scoring title awards, All-Star MVP awards or of course an NBA Championship, to name a few. The most important tangibles are NBA Championships, Finals MVPs, MVPs, and Scoring Titles. Also there are certain honorary tangibles like All-Star Game participation, All NBA first Team, All Defensive First Team, etc.

By setting these standards it is easier to list your top ten Greatest of all time. Lets take a look at mine for example.

Top Ten w/ Lebron James:

  1. Michael Jordan; 6 Championships, 6 Finals MVPs, 5 MVPs, 10 scoring titles, etc.

  2. Kareem Abdul Jabbar; 6 Championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 6 MVPs, 2 scoring titles, etc.

  3. Magic Johnson; 5 Champions, 3 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs, 4 time assist leader, etc.

  4. Shaquille O’neal; 4 Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, 1 MVP, 2 scoring titles, etc.

  5. Bill Russell; 11 Championships, 5 MVPs, 4 time rebounding champion, etc.

  6. Kobe Bryant; 5 championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 MVP, 2 scoring titles, etc.

  7. Larry Bird; 3 Championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 3 MVPs, 1 All-Star MVP, etc.

  8. Tim Duncan; 5 Championships, 3 Finals MVPs, 2 MVPs, 1 All-Star MVP, etc.

  9. Wilt Chamberlain; 2 Championships, 1 Final MVP, 4 MVPs, 7 scoring titles, etc.

  10. Lebron James; 2 Championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 4 MVPs, 1 scoring title, etc.

  11. Hakeem Olajuwon; 2 Championships, 2 Finals MVPs, 1 MVP, 3 time block leader, etc.

By looking at the top ten list you can see that the players are not listed necessarily based on their awards and NBA championships, but by their Greatness. From a brief look at each player’s career you can understand the reason behind their spot on the list (even if your list might be different). Michael Jordan in addition to his overall dominance in the 90s he was considered, by most, the most skilled player playing in the NBA from 1987-1998, even during the period he was playing baseball. Now Jordan is still considered, by most, the best to ever play the game. Kareem Abdul Jabbar dominated in the 70s and continued to help his team win championships in the 80s. He also might be the only player in the history of the NBA who developed an unstoppable shot, maybe besides Dirk Nowitzki. Magic Johnson was one of the main reasons basketball was revived in the 80s his skill and showmanship sold out arenas throughout his career. In addition to that he was not only a triple double machine, but also, in my opinion the greatest passer of all time. The list goes on until we arrive at ten, Lebron James.

Currently, Lebron is at the ten spot, which is pretty good considering the fact that he is not done with his NBA career yet. It was hard for me to put him over Hakeem, but he earned that spot. Lebron James have been known for having the individual skills for years and he has continued to improve his skill. The only thing he was missing was the most important “tangible,” an NBA Championship. Now that he has two championships he no longer be considered subpar or overrated and he has earned the right to be mentioned in the same breath as the All-Time greats.. Not only has he proved to be the most dynamic forward the game has ever seen, he also has a unique combination of strength and speed, not to mention his size at 6’ 8” 250 lbs. And to top it off he now has the accomplishments; MVPs, Finals MVPs, and of course 2 championships. Not to knock Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, he had any accomplishments, too, however, it pains me to say Lebron’s skill and his resume gives him a small edge over Hakeem “The Dream.” Another fact that helps Lebron’s case, is that he was able to take his team to the finals 6 times. Having lost four of them, the fact that he was able to get there counts for something, not to mention his tremendous effort in the road to the finals and in the finals (with the exception of 2011).

Now, this section is for those out there that believe Lebron James as of right now 2015 is he greatest of all time. In one brief statement your wrong. In my opinion, to call the Lebron James we watch right now the Greatest of all Time is disrespect to those other 8 or 9 people on the list, especially the Greatest of all Time; Michael Jordan. However, if you think Lebron James is the most skilled and talented player of all time (your still wrong in my opinion) then you have a debate.

Tune in for my next article about Lebron skills in comparison to the rest of the Greats. As for now, feel free to comment on the article; your likes and dislikes; your opinions about the Greats; or even share your top ten list.

Article By: Hashim Ashimi

The Kid from Akron, Ohio

  

Man this kid out of Akron. No, not the kid who became a king, and not the kid who was on a national spotlight at the age of 18. The other kid out of Akron. The one who was a 3 star recruit; that wasn’t even ranked. This kid wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and go to Virginia Tech, but they would not guarantee him anything more than a chance to be a walk on. The same kid who was said to not have the same upside as Johnny Flynn or Ricky Rubio after having multiple explosive games at Davidson. The same kid who everyone tried to write off after multiple nagging ankle injuries that seemed like they would be the death of him. 

Now, this kid is the one who dropped 54 points in Madison Square Garden. This kid has broken the 3 pointers in a season record not once but twice. This kid is the one who we all took notice when in the 2013 postseason he single handily destroyed the Nuggets. This kid is the same one who helped lead one of the greatest teams ever to a 67-15 record. This kid is the one who was named the MVP of the 2014-15 regular season. This kid is now a champion.

Steph Curry has become transcendent across the nation. His disregard for taking the most inexcusable shots and being a wonderful gifted passer at the same time is something to behold. You’re going to have players 10-15 years from now that grew up wanting to be Steph Curry. Therefore, I want to end this debate right now. Nobody outside of Westbrook and Chris Paul is anywhere near the stratosphere Curry is in right now. Those two I can accept, but don’t mention all these guys who either have people get buckets on them daily (Lillard), or cannot ever have a winning record without LeBron playing with him (Kyrie).

We’ve all seen how the league is changing towards outside shooting, and Steph is the spear head of that change. Let this sink in for a moment. Before Steph was in the argument for greatest shooter of all time, the argument was always thrown up whether Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Steve Nash, or Larry Bird were the greatest. All extremely efficient but none of them ever took the shots that Curry takes. Curry nearly shot 50% this season, and all you have to do is look up any highlights against the Clippers and Chris Paul to know none of these shots are simple pull ups or spot ups. He’s arguably the best ball handler in the game and he utilizes that to create shots 30 feet from the basket. It’s something we’ve never seen and likely won’t see again for a very long time.

This past season, Steph averaged his least amount of minutes ever outside of the season he only played 26 games in. Most teams couldn’t even get him to play in the 4th quarter unless they were a worthy opponent. He shot 48% from the field, 44% from 3, and 91% from the free throw line. He averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.0 steals. He had a PER of 28, led the league in win shares per 48 minutes, and his team was a best 122 points on 100 possessions with Steph on the floor. Steph is on a wonderfully coached team along with crazy amounts of talent all around him. This shouldn’t bring him down as an overall player in any ranking. Jordan had one of the best supporting casts ever in the late 90s and we all agree that he is the greatest player to ever step on to an NBA court, so let’s not try and bring down Steph for the same thing.

In the playoffs, Steph brought his game to another level just like he has every year since destroying the Nuggets. Averaging 28.3 points, 6.4 assists, and 5.0 rebounds all on 45% shooting from the field and 42% from 3. He took the Pelicans’ heat out with that crazy corner 3, figured out Conley then dismantled the Grizzlies play by play, took the MVP runner up head on and came out on top, and took on that other kid from Akron, The King, and kept the Cavs from making any type of comeback scoring 19 in the 4th quarter of the closing game.

This baby faced assassin has a bright future still. The Warriors have a great young core around them that has a good 5+ years left on them. Watch out everyone in the West, because I can guarantee Steph will continue giving defenses hell, breaking the system, hitting shots that you allow 99% of other players in this league to take. Curry is a special talent that wasn’t recognized for most of his life despite being the son of the sharpshooter Dell Curry. He was that other kid who wasn’t being nationally televised in high school. He wasn’t expected to be the next Jordan. He wasn’t expected to even make the NBA as an unranked player and a 3 star recruit. Now he’s making everyone pay and he’s on top of the world.

Andre Iguodala: Everything You Didn’t Know

By now you’ve probably read or heard of the Iguodala story a thousand times over. This could possibly be a different take on Andre that you wouldn’t see from many other columns, blogs, or articles. I’m not unbiased when it comes to my man Iggy, and I will fully admit that. I am a Philadelphia 76ers fan before anything else. I grew up a fan of Allen Iverson and my love for the team stayed even after he left for the Nuggets. The Sixers needed someone to step up as the team’s best player and who better for the job than the young, extremely athletic wing with the same initials of A.I. ? Andre was never expected to be a star or the leading man for a team, but my Sixers threw all that responsibility on him pretty early.

Coming out of college, he was scouted as he could be a great defender, extremely athletic, but was very poor on the offensive end and nobody knew if he could translate his game to the NBA effectively. In college at Arizona, he won most valuable player on the team by votes from the rest of his teammates. He had 3 triple doubles in his sophomore season which is 2nd most in a single season of that conference (1st is Jason Kidd). Everyone knew he could effect many aspects of the game, but nonetheless looking back there were 7 guys picked over him that should not have been. Dwight Howard, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris, Josh Childress, Luol Deng, and (facepalm) Rafael Araujo were all picked over him. Obviously Howard is the one exception, but every single other guy mentioned doesn’t even start; hell 3 of them aren’t even in the league anymore.

During the Iggy era in Philadelphia, we went to the playoffs multiple times without much success because of the supreme lack of overall talent compared to our competition. Despite those multiple appearances without much surrounding talent, Iggy was only an allstar once. He never quite earned the respect he deserved from the coaches in the league. Even though Iggy was known to be an elite defender for many years, he only made all defensive teams twice. His best seasons went completely unnoticed when in the 06-07 season he averaged 18.2 points per game, 5.7 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 2.0 steals all while shooting 44% from the field. In the 08-09 season, he averaged 18.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.6 steals while shooting 47%. Both of those seasons Iggy received 0 recognition, and they were easily his two best years. In the playoffs, the team as a whole couldn’t quite get it done, but Iggy more than did his part. In 2010, facing the defending eastern conference champions, the Sixers managed to push this series to 6. Notably, Iggy had a game winner in Orlando in this series. He’s always been a clutch player believe it or not. You can look it up on YouTube he has more than you would expect. Our one saving grace was the 2012 season. which ironically was Iggy’s last season, when we took down the 1st seeded Bulls after Rose went down and came VERY close to beating the Boston Celtics; which even to my own surprise took 7 games for us to go down.

That following offseason began a new chapter for Andre in the infamous trade that netted the 76ers Andrew Bynum, the Nuggets got Iggy and some picks, and the Magic received the 76ers young center Nikola Vucevic (facepalm). The Nuggets ascended that year with young Ty Lawson making a huge jump, Danilo Gallinari being the main scorer for more than half the season, and once again Andre being the glue that holds everything together as the playmaker, the 2nd best rebounder, and guarding the best guy on the other team every night. The Nuggets became the 3rd seed and became an underdog pick for many. Then that’s when we all got to meet a guy named Steph Curry. Steph dominated the Nuggets, completely dismantling them. That offseason Iggy chose not to resign with the Nuggets but instead went to join the Warriors.

It was the kind of move I said at the time that could push the Warriors over the hump 3-4 years down the road from that point. Andre’s first season with the Warriors started out very well. He hit a game winner against the Thunder after a ridiculous Westbrook shot, then had a 2nd game winner against the Hawks. Then a leg injury seemed to hamper him the rest of the season. He was still effective, but not playing up to his standards. Then came the 2014-15 season.  With a head coaching change that had many scratching their heads, and even though I was in favor of a scheme change for more ball movement; I still wasn’t expecting this much of an overhaul. Kerr came in and asked the former all-star before the regular season to come off the bench. Initially, Andre took the role reluctantly but then soon began to thrive leading the 2nd unit. There was a legitimate argument that Andre should have been 6th man this year even though the stats were not anything special. You could not quantify his overall impact when he came into games.

Then the playoffs came where he played tremendous defense, in particular LeBron and Harden had a lot of trouble whenever Andre was standing in front of them. This Finals series became a story about Andre more than anything else. The Cavs plan was to double Steph any chance they got, keep a guy face guarding Klay, and have someone else drop down to protect the paint. The Cavs were doing their best to force Andre and Draymond to beat them. It took a few games for Draymond to step up, but Andre was answering the call from the very beginning. It just wasn’t enough and the Warriors were forcing a lot of unnecessary shots in the first 3 games. Out of those 3 games there was no doubt that through all of the struggles, Andre had performed head and shoulders above everyone else on his own team. He was playing like a veteran who’s been there before despite never reaching a conference finals before this season. His defense on LeBron, his timely buckets when the Cavs forced him to shoot, and the way he ran in transition is what earned himself the MVP.

This is a special time for me. In basketball, as a fan, I don’t seem to win when going for my teams or guys. I am a 76ers fan and the closest we’ve come to winning anything is when Iverson was trying to find a way to beat the best duo in history that was Shaq and Kobe (another argument for another day). Even though the 76ers are not holding up a trophy right now, it feels like a small victory for me. The guy I grew up with for a good portion of my life that was leading my team to playoff appearances has won a ring. But he didn’t just get on a good team to ride along for the ring. Andre Iguodala is the NBA Finals MVP. He has etched himself into history and possibly has a spot in the hall of fame waiting for him because of this. Although we’re suffering through one of the worst stretches in franchise history, the rest of my 76er fans should feel a small victory for the guy who tried to carry us for so long; that now has a Finals MVP.

What Makes Him so Special?

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Great players are often defined by legacies, accomplishments, and other stellar achievements. When a great player has a team that fails, we put the onus, the blame, on them. Being held accountable is the responsibility that comes with being great- there is no way around it.

Over the past few decades, the NBA has seen a number of great players fail to win. Dominique Wilkins, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Steve Nash, and Charles Barkley are some of the guys who headline that list.

For a long stretch Kobe (for not winning without Shaq) and LeBron were ridiculed for their teams failing efforts. Carmelo Anthony and Tracy McGrady took some heat. Allen Iverson, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams were mocked. Even Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki had moments of scrutiny as well.

There hasn’t been another guy in NBA history who has been protected and excused for his teams mishaps like Chris Paul has been. He’s the most clean slated superstar ever. We give him all types of praise when he really shouldn’t receive anything at all. He hasn’t done anything.

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Every year there’s a new excuse for Paul’s failures. The excuses have ranged from him having a bad coach to his supporting cast being mediocre. It’s everyone’s fault but his year in and year out.

Recently, when the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead against the Rockets Chris Paul was not called out for his play or for his leadership. Fingers were instead pointed towards Griffin for being too young and mistake prone, Jordan for missing free throws, Doc. Rivers for his poor coaching and Clippers not having a bench. (Same downfall and reasonings occurred during his first year with the LAC when Vinny Del Negro was coach. While in New Orleans he didn’t have that great of a supporting cast.)

As the “best” player, the captain, the floor general of a team shouldn’t you be the one who’s held accountable for when things go wrong? Since when do players who rank in the Top 5 ( present day) get a pass and receive little blame?

He doesn’t have an NBA Championship. He doesn’t have an MVP award. And he has not been past the second round of the playoffs.

Outside of Tracy McGrady, Chris Paul is the most underwhelming superstar to have played in the postseason the past 15 years. Instead of bouncing out of the first round like T-Mac, CP3 lasts until the second. That’s not great.

Chris Paul is the only allstar caliber guard not named John Wall or Damian Lillard, who has not been to the Conference Finals. Guys like Mike Conley, Russell Westbrook, Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, James Harden, Klay Thompson etc. have all played in a Conference Finals.

After just three healthy years Stephen Curry has already passed up Chris Paul in terms of playoff success. Maybe even career wise.

When you look at a few of the great point guards Paul is compared to each one has something to hang their hats on, and he does not.

•John Stockton appeared in a couple of NBA Finals and is the All-Time Assists Leader.

•Magic Johnson was a 5 time NBA Champ, 3x MVP and 3x Finals MVP.

•Gary Payton won a Defensive Player of the year award, appeared in a few NBA Finals and owns a ring.

•Isiah Thomas was a Finals MVP.

•Jason Kidd appeared in multiple NBA Finals and owns a ring.

•Oscar Robertson was an MVP and NBA Champion.

•Steve Nash was a 2x MVP and was on the cusp of the making the NBA Finals a few times.

Young guards Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose already have MVP awards; Curry has a shot a legitimate shot at winning a ring right now.

With young guys already accomplishing things he hasn’t is it safe to say he’s been leaped over in time? Is Chris Paul as good as we thought or did we overrate him?

Think about it. What has Paul accomplished in his career that stands out and will be remembered? He has no awards that stand out on his resume.

As of now Paul’s three biggest accomplishments have been his endorsement deal with State Farm, bringing the cities of Oklahoma and New Orleans to the NBA landscape and winning Gold medals with Team USA. Other than those feats Paul has accomplished next to nothing.

With the new wave of talent and guys like Russell Westbrook, Anthony Davis, Stephen Curry, John Wall and a few more coming into their own time is steadily ticking for Chris Paul to accomplish something of great importance.

He might be the best point guard of his generation. But what exactly does that prove if he doesn’t have the catalog other great players have?

Numbers aside, he has to prove that he’s that guy. And the only way he can do that is by winning. Win an award. Win a championship. Hell, get past the second round.

Twitter: @RyanDFort or
@Fortonsportsinc

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I’d love to hear/see y’all’s thoughts & opinions on this. Comment below and share your feelings.

Warriors (1) vs Cavaliers (2) The Finals Are Here

It’s all been coming down to this moment. The NBA Finals. All the storylines will come to an end with each team looking to capture the Larry O’Brien trophy with just 4 more wins. The Golden State Warriors are looking for their first title in over 30 years, and the Cleveland Cavaliers are looking for their first one ever. We have the most entertaining and best team by record for the entire NBA season against the best player in the world.
The Cavs have had to go through multiple injuries throughout this years playoffs but still have managed to come out on top in the East; all because of one player by the name of LeBron James. With Love completely out of the picture, they’ve had Tristan Thompson step up and make plenty of noise this postseason. Thompson’s offensive rebounding has sparked the Cavs and it looks like Cleveland could be even better than before if Kyrie can get back to 100%. Kyrie will have to be huge for the Cavs to have a chance against their opponents.

 

The Warriors have looked like the best team in the league all season long and that includes the postseason. Outside of two losses, (that have only helped the Warriors) they have steamrolled through all of their competition so far. Curry has been nothing short of spectacular this postseason, and Kerr has proven time and time again of how great of a coach he has the potential to be.

STARTERS:

PG: K. Irving vs S. Curry

SG: JR Smith vs K. Thompson

SF: LB. James vs H. Barnes

PF: T. Thompson vs D. Green

C: T. Mozgof vs A. Bogut

Keys:

Cleveland has to be perfect in this series. The Warriors are just too good at too many things for Cleveland to be anything but perfect in this series. Thompson needs to destroy on the offensive boards because that could cause Golden State to rotate out of their small lineup quickly. A lineup that has taken out many teams quickly.

Next, someone has to help LeBron. LeBron is going to have Draymond Green, Harrison Barnes, Shaun Livingston, Klay Thompson, and Andre Iguadala all rotating on him. This series is going to be hell for LeBron with all those guys guarding him, so someone somewhere has to step up and help releive the pressure off the man. If they don’t, the series could look very similar to the prior Finals of 2007 or 2014.

This is Kyrie’s time to shine. The focus will be 100% on LeBron and this is when this man should be earning his paycheck. Golden State has tremendous defense all around, but it’s going to be centered on LeBron and Kyrie HAS to take advantage of that. If Cleveland is to have a chance Kyrie has to step up and score big time buckets for them.

JR Smith can be ridiculously good and ridiculously bad as most know. If he gets hot he can match some of the 3pt shooting on Golden State, but if he’s off he’ll shoot his team out of the game really quick. Cleveland fans are hoping for the former because if you have JR being efficient, LeBron doing his thing, and Kyrie taking advantage of his opportunities, then that’s a recipe for success.
In game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, we saw just how bad ISO ball can get in Cleveland. If they fall back on that like they do so often, then the Cavs simply won’t win. A solution? Move the ball. LeBron needs to do what he does best and that’s penetrate and kick to the open guy. If they fall back on running an ISO offense late in games, then the team will fall apart.

The Warriors are going against a tall task. Playing against LeBron James. Only 2 teams in the last 5 years have been able to beat him, and both times they were the championship winning teams those years. If the Warriors truly want to win, they will have to go through LeBron to do so. The Warriors need to rotate defenders on LeBron constantly. Never give him the same look and get fresh bodies that are able to at least give him trouble.

Steph Curry needs to continue what he’s done all postseason. Pick his spots, don’t force anything, and continue to be the vocal leader of this machine. If Curry can continue doing so, then the Cavs won’t have an answer for him. He’s too quick around screens, has the fastest release in the league, and his handles are on par with Kyrie’s.

The lineup situation will be very interesting. Tristan Thompson should be able to trounce the small lineup with his offensive rebounding, but Cleveland likes to fall on a small lineup of their own with LeBron at the 4. This will be a chess match between coaches and Kerr has won those all season long. Kerr cannot be anything less than what he’s been all season long which is one step ahead of the competition in preparing his team for what they must face.

Klay Thompson has to get his offense going. He was able to get through the Rockets without being needed to score too much, but this is the Finals. Klay has to hit his shots for the Warriors to be comfortable. To make things easier on Steph, Klay’s scoring efficiency is a must.

Prediction: Curry raises the trophy for Golden State after beating LeBron and the Cavs 4-1. The Warriors as an entire organization are on a completely different level right now. From the front office all the way down to the players; the Warriors are a beat above all their competition. I believe in the end, ISO ball will kill the Cavs while the Warriors thrive off of ridiculous Steph shots and precise ball movement. Regardless of what happens in this series, this is a successful season for both franchises as they both have gone farther than they were suppose to. We should all be entertained by these two superstars, LeBron and Steph, engaging in amazing basketball for the trophy.

You can see the other writer’s predictions below.
Ryan Fort: Warriors 4-1 but if Kyrie is 100% Cavs in 6.
R’Mon Allen: Cavs 4-2
Tyler Carter: Warriors 4-3
Jonathan Ayala:Warriors 4-2
Hashim Ashimi: Warriors 4-2

Warriors (1) vs Rockets (2) MVP Faces the Runner Up

Even though James Harden was in everyone’s MVP ballots as either 1st or 2nd, nobody expected to see Houston still a factor in the playoffs at this point. Now the Rockets are only one series left against the powerhouse Golden State Warriors, who went through the test that most representatives in the finals have to face at some point in the playoffs; which is a team that will beat you up.

As soon as the Warriors got past all those beatings, they came back and completely dominated the Grizzlies in the final 3 games of that series with Curry doing what he does best and making things look so easy. Kerr has proven time and time again that he will be destined to be a great coach, making the perfect adjustments that allow his team to do what they want. The #1 reason for the Warriors taking control of that series was because of his move to place Bogut on Tony Allen. This then forced the Grizzlies to shoot less than 40% in the paint for the rest of that series.

The Rockets were not expected to be here 1 or 2 games ago but nonetheless, the Clippers eventually had the demise so many prayed upon. What the Rockets proved best with that last series is that they have a lot more depth than anyone is willing to talk about. Josh Smith is the X factor for this team, and when he’s going and gets his playmaking going it’s all but over for almost any team they’ve faced. The game that saved the Rockets’ season had the MVP runner up on the bench for pretty much the entire 4th quarter.

The Rockets are 0-4 in the regular season against the Warriors but of course 2 of those are without Dwight, so I’m going to be apart of the “it’s not the playoffs; it doesn’t matter” group for now.

STARTERS:

PG: S. Curry vs J. Terry

SG: K. Thompson vs J. Harden

SF: H. Barnes vs T. Ariza

PF: D. Green vs T. Jones

C: A. Bogut vs D. Howard

Keys:

The Warriors have to not get baited by Harden’s lunges. They cannot let them live at the free throw line like they try and do. Also, somebody has to keep Howard off the glass because: 1. It allows Houston to get up multiple shots, and 2. If they can get the defensive rebound, they can get out and run since Houston’s transition defense leaves much to be desired.

Otherwise they just have to play their game and not allow Houston to get going off of ugly basketball. It seems like when things are going horribly wrong for both teams, that Houston always comes out on top, and I honestly have no idea why that is. Probably something to do with the 31 3-pointers they shoot per game.

Houston has got to find a way to slow down Curry. I don’t know personally where that answer lies, because Ariza will probably be guarding Klay most of the time, but Jason Terry just has no chance against Curry. Houston can’t allow Curry to be so casual and to just pick whenever he wants to get going. Running guys off the 3 point line won’t be enough because out of everyone else left in the playoffs, GS leads everyone in points in the paint. They’re excellent at making that one extra pass for easy layups. Harden has to focus on defense as well as his offense for this series. GS has too many weapons for him to be hidden on defense. Even though his defense isn’t as bad as it once was, Harden still isn’t the most reliable guy on defense, which is totally understandable with the load he has carried offensively all year long; however, NBA champions have to power through things like this, and in the WCF there’s no way Houston can win without Harden fulfilling his potential on both sides of the floor.

Dwight is an unstoppable force when he’s engaged. He’s the one thing GS doesn’t really have an answer for. His athleticism on both sides of the floor can wreak havoc, but if he’s not engaged then Houston’s championship hopes are all but gone. Dwight needs to average at least 5-6 offensive rebounds a game for this team to have a chance.

Prediction Golden State represents the western conference after beating the Rockets 4-1. GS just has too many options: more depth, better defense, offense, and just everything needed to win a basketball game. If Beverly was actually still healthy, then this could be a little bit interesting, but the current matchup just calls for embarrasment on behalf of Jason Terry. The Warriors just faced the toughest defense in the playoffs and walked away with essentially 3 blowouts. This will be interesting to see how these playoffs conclude.

Hawks (1) vs Cavaliers (2) 

1964 was the last time the Cleveland Cavaliers won a championship. Also, it has been 51 years since the Cleveland Browns won this city it’s last championship. Can LeBron change that? For Atlanta, it’s been a long time as well. It’s been 20 years since the Atlanta Braves won a championship, and for the Hawks it’s been even worse as this is their first time in the conference finals in 45 years.

These two teams are so vastly different in their makeups. You have Cleveland, a team who relies on many ISOs from their main two guys Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. While the Hawks on the other side rely on heavy spacing, ball movement, and 3 point shooting. Cleveland has had to deal with many injuries while the Hawks have been completely healthy for the most part this post season.

During the regular season, Atlanta won the series 3-1 which included one blowout, but that was early in the season when Cleveland still had Dion Waiters on their team.  We’ve seen these two styles clash before in the postseason, so the question is: how will it play out? Let’s break everything down.

Starters:

PG: K. Irving vs J. Teague

SG: JR. Smith vs K. Korver

SF: LeBron vs D. Carroll

PF: T. Thompson vs P. Millsap

C: T. Mozgof vs A. Horford 

Keys:

Atlanta has to keep the ball moving. Ball movement is what got Atlanta the #1 seed in the East and there have been too many times this postseason where they have gotten stagnant in stretches. If the ball isn’t moving, especially against Cleveland, then this will be a very quick series.

Their defense is not up to par with anyone else left in the playoffs and they will get exposed unless that changes. LeBron and Kyrie could really kill this team in ISOs as they don’t have outstanding defenders to match up with either player, especially LeBron. Teague might give issues to Kyrie at times, but they have absolutely no answer for LeBron in this series.

Kyle Korver is the life of this team on offense. If Korver is off for most of this series, then it will be over quickly. Korver takes on so much attention from the defense with his shooting that he has to be knocking down shots to open things up for Carroll, Teague, and Horford.

Cleveland has to run the 3pt shooters off of the 3pt line. The Hawks rely on their spacing to create everything and if you take that away, they become an average team. If they don’t run those shooters off, then they will slaughter the Cleveland defense with their pinpoint ball movement.

This is a series meant for LeBron and he should take advantage of it as much as possible. This could be one of those series that defines LeBron’s greatness because he could easily dominate each of these games from beginning to end on the offensive side of the ball.

Although JR Smith is starting in this series, I wouldn’t be surprised if Shumpert ended up playing more minutes. The last thing they can allow is Korver to get off easy 3s, and I just don’t like that JR vs Korver matchup. Don’t be surprised if they move Shumpert on to Korver to run through the infinite screens he’s going to have set..

Prediction: Cleveland wins 4-2. I believe for two games Atlanta will be hot, and when they’re hot they’re nearly impossible to beat. I believe at some point there will be an adjustment made that takes Korver out of the equation, and if that happens game over. LeBron should dominate Carroll, and despite Carroll improving a lot on defense, he should have no chance against the best player in the world.

Rockets(2) vs Clippers(3) Legacies On The Line

This should be a very fun series all the way around. The Rockets have the runner up in the MVP ballot against a very determined squad led by two superstars; Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. Both teams were very close in their regular season production, but the Rockets did it without their 2nd best player in Dwight Howard. Howard is healthy now and has been looking like the prime Dwight Howard that led Orlando to the finals.
  Throughout the year the Clippers have been desperately trying to find a way to help their bench deficiencies but to no avail. They had Nate Robinson for a minute who ended up being injured, Glen Davis isn’t the worst thing in the world, and Jamal Crawford’s +/- hasn’t been pretty this year either. Oh, and there’s Austin Rivers who gives every Clipper fan a heart attack when he steps out onto the floor. Depth is key in the playoffs and it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a true contender rely on their starters as heavily as the Clippers do. One injury to that lineup would completely tear them apart. Even if it was Matt Barnes, the +/- takes a significant drop.
  On the other side you have the Rockets who basically have been playing like Harden and everyone else up until the playoffs. Dwight Howard has been the best Rocket in the playoffs for 10 of the past 11 (excluding Harden’s 40+pt performance) games now, and I don’t see that disappearing. Despite how many feel about Howard, there is no denying that he turns it on when playoff time comes around. Josh Smith was extremely effective against the Mavs in the last round but he does that every time he faces them so it wasn’t too big of a surprise. If they rely on Harden to be 44% of the offense like he was all regular season, then I doubt they’ll have a chance to win.
STARTERS:
PG: J. Terry vs C. Paul
SG: J. Harden vs J. Reddick
SF: T. Ariza vs M. Barnes
PF: T. Jones vs B. Griffin
C: D. Howard vs D. Jordan

KEYS:
  Outside scoring has been difficult for the Clippers as of late. That outside shot will be key to opening things up for Chris Paul and Blake Griffin to create inside. They need at least 8-12 3-pointers a game to have a chance at winning.
  Jamal Crawford needs to be a positive factor for them off the bench. Anytime he shows up it’s usually a win for Los Angeles. If Jamal can have at least 2 or 3 explosive games, then it won’t be good for Houston.
  The Rockets have to find someone to guard Chris Paul. Jason Terry will get torched if he’s the best answer. Harden has the skill set but it has completely vanished since coming to Houston, and Ariza just doesn’t seem fast enough. Losing Beverly hurt a lot because they need him especially right now.
  If the entire team contributes the way they did against the Mavericks, I don’t know if the Clippers have a chance. The Rockets definitely have more valuable bodies to throw at them while the Clippers will be draining themselves if the Rockets can keep fresh bodies out there.
  I have the Clippers beating the Rockets 4-2. It’s crazy every logical thought in my brain says that Houston is the right pick, but seeing Chris Paul willing his team through that game 7 victory has taken me over. Another part of it is that I’m not sure if I trust Harden in the playoffs quite yet. Oh, and don’t worry about missing the games as they’ll probably last all night long with hack-a-Howard, hack-a-Jordan, hack-a-Dorsey, hack-a-Smith, etc…man that’s an exciting rule.

Cavaliers (2) vs Bulls (3) Once again the Bulls face LeBron

 

  This is obviously the series that everyone is looking forward to. It is believed by many to be the series that determines who will be representing the Eastern Conference in the Finals. There are great storylines everywhere in this series. LeBron trying to bring his hometown its first championship in 40 years, the rise of Jimmy Butler from role player to superstar, Rose playing in his first playoff games since 2011; showing us what he has left after multiple injuries, or even Pau Gasol, who was thought to be way past being an essential piece to a championship team, but is easily the most important player on the team now. However, the question is: Which of these storylines will have an ending worth telling?

  The Cavs were struggling early on this year, but made some great moves in the middle of the season which has changed them from an average team to a team that could take the Eastern Conference. JR Smith and Iman Shumpert look reborn after leaving New York, and Timofy Mozgof has literally become the most important player on the team with the best +/-. The Cavs are an athletic team and they try to use that as an advantage every time down the floor. On offense at times they are unstoppable when they move the ball. On defense though, without Mozgof in, it can get real ugly real quick.
  For The Bulls this year, we honestly don’t know what to expect. The playoffs so far this season have been the only time the Bulls have had everyone healthy. They have so many players capable of taking over games if needed that it’s ridiculous. Whether it’s Jimmy G Buckets hitting a dagger 3, Mirotic dropping 20 in the 4th, Rose hitting a mean crossover pull up jumper at midrange, or even players like Etuwan Moore; the Bulls seem to always have someone willing to step up and make the big shots when it counts. The defense Chicago is normally known hasn’t been up to their standards of the past years, but the team still has the pieces to lock down when they absolutely need them to.
STARTERS:
PG: K. Irving vs D. Rose
SG: J. Butler vs JR. Smith
SF: M. Dunleavy vs L. James
PF: P. Gasol vs T. Thompson
C: J. Noah vs T. Mozgof
Keys:
  It will be interesting how things go down the stretch for the Cavs and how they choose to run their offense. Near the end of games it gets stagnant and becomes a whole lot of ISOs which can be bad if the Bulls play it right. The Cavs need to keep the pick & rolls going to make the defense pay attention to the other guys. If you don’t keep them on their toes and run a lot of ISOs, then the Cavs will end up getting burned by it.
  This series will be mainly determined by not the best player in the world, but the best two point guards. If Rose ever outplays Kyrie in a game, the Cavs will lose plain and simple. If Rose beats Kyrie, this series will end quickly. Kyrie needs to score at least 25-30 for his team to win especially with Kevin Love out for the entire playoffs.
  Jimmy Butler by the stats is easily the best defender in the NBA to put on LeBron but the part that should worry the Bulls is if he can lockdown on the defensive end while still being able to drop 20 points on the offensive end.
  The Cavs are coming in hurt. Kevin Love is out and even though he has been far from the “best power forward in the league” many people thought him to be before; the team relies on the spacing he gives them because defenses still can’t leave him open.
  LeBron just needs to keep everyone involved and Mozgof needs to be in the game as much as possible. Tristan Thompson is the X factor in this series. If he can come into the starting lineup and prove to be a valuable asset against starters, it will be a huge boost in favor of Cleveland.
  Bulls win the series 4-2. The Bulls are coming at full throttle and the battered Cavs will have a lot of problems keeping up. JR Smith has potentially doomed another one of his teams making a stupid decision that has forced him out of 2 games. Derrick Rose needs to shine and show us the Rose we remember from his MVP season, because if he can win his matchup, the Cavs will have no chance of winning this series. Oh and the Noah versus LeBron, and Noah versus Cleveland rivalries should be fun.
To see Noah’s thoughts on Cleveland click below.