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Grizzlies (5) vs Blazers Preview (4) : Injury Riddled

Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27)

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Portland and Memphis are two of the most compelling teams out West. Every year they have stretches during the regular season where they look unbeatable and then around playoff time they become super vulnerable. During the offseason both teams improved their bench to a certain extent and during the season made moves that were supposed to propel them to the top of the conference.

In order to beat certain teams in the West Portland had to upgrade their bench. They swung a deal with Denver that allowed them to bring in shooting guard Aaron Afflalo, a nice two-way player. Memphis on the other hand needed a wing player who could create their own shot, score and defend. They made a trade with Boston who sent them small forward Jeff Green. Both of these moves catapulted each team to newer heights. Each team improved depth wise, scoring wise and defensively. But it only lasted for so long.

Starters

PG: D.Lillard vs. M.Conley

SG: A.Afflalo vs.  C.Lee

SF: N.Batum vs. T.Allen

PF: L.Aldridge vs. Z.Randolph

C: R.Lopez vs. M.Gasol

As the season went on both teams were derailed by injuries. Batum and Aldridge have been ailing and missed a few games here and there. Aaron Affalo has an injured shoulder and starting shooting guard Wesley Mathews is out for the season due to an Achilles injury. Memphis on the other have been dealing with injuries that have pertained to Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Both teams are still formidable to say the least.

Memphis won the season series 4-0. Most of the games were competitive but Memphis proved to be the better squad.

Keys:

Portland

Despite being the 4 seed the Blazers will be playing this series on the road where they have struggled. In order to beat Memphis the Blazers need to push the tempo. The Grizz often go long periods without scoring and if Portland can hit shots they’ll have Memphis playing from behind. On the defensive side of the ball Aldridge and Lopez must find a way to stop Memphis’ big men. If they get dominated in the paint the Blazers can hang it up.

Memphis

The Grizzlies smothering defense gets a chance to go up against a depleted Blazers. If Conley can contain Lillard and Gasol can disrupt Aldridge’s flow the Blazers will have to find scoring else where. On the offensive end Memphis just needs to pund the rock inside. There isn’t a team in the league that can contend with Memphis’ front court and that should be on full display this series.

Prediction Grizzlies beat the Blazers 4-1. Both teams are dealing with injuries but Memphis is the healthier squad. If Z-Bo and Gasol are dominating the series will end quickly. Having homecourt advantage also is Memphis’ favor.

NBA Awards 2014-15

Most Valuable Player Award:

 

James Harden: 27.6 ppg, 5.7 reb, and 6.9 apg

Steph Curry: 24.0 ppg, 7.7 ast, 2.0 stl, 48% FG, and 44% 3pt

Russell Westbrook: 28.0 ppg, 8.6 ast, 7.3 reb, and 2.1 stl

Ashimi: I’m not going to go as far as calling James Harden the new “King James,” however with the season he’s having this year I can’t argue with anyone who does. His ability to score this season surpassed every other MVP candidate, and his awareness on offense seems to be improving every year. James Harden has continued to improve his game and confidence every year, and this year Harden has proven to me that he is the NBA’s Most Valuable Player.

Hornback: I’m actually of the belief that we should have co-MVPs this year. Curry is THE reason the Warriors are where they are, and Harden has proven to everyone he can carry a team to an elite level. Also, both players have shown a knack to close out games.

Fort: I’m going against the grain here on my pick…Give me Russell Westbrook. He’s having to do everything himself without much help. Rebounding, scoring, facilitating, defending EVERYTHING. If he hadn’t have a missed the games that he did OKC would easily be the playoffs… Take Westbrook away from OKC and they wouldn’t be a 25 win team (including the injuries that is.) If not Westbrook for MVP, give me AD for the exact same reasons. San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three

Carter: Stephen Curry is personally an easy choice for the NBA’s MVP. He’s scoring extremely efficiently and also has led his team to the best record in the extremely tough Western Conference. Curry may have the better surrounding cast, but that doesn’t take away from what he’s done.

Most Improved Player of the Year:

 

Jimmy Butler: 

2013-2014 Stats: 13.1 ppg, 4.9 reb, 2.6 ast, 1.9 stl, .5 blk, 39.7% FG, 28.3% 3pt, and 76.9% FT

2014-2015 Stats: 20.1 ppg, 5.8 reb, 3.3 ast, 1.8 stl, .5 blk, 46.2% FG, 36.6% 3pt, and 84.3% FT

Ashimi: Jimmy Butler has evolved from a player strictly known for his exceptional defense to a lockdown defender who is also an offensive threat. Now that he added offense to his game, he has become an elite player and an important part of the Chicago Bulls’ offense and defense. His stats show his improvement in just one short year and he still has room to improve.

Hornback: I’ve always been a fan of Jimmy Butler as a workhorse and a defensive player. Never did I expect him to come out being a focal point of Chicago’s offense like he became this year. He has shown some star (not superstar quite yet) potential this year.

Fort: I’m going against the grain here again by saying Hassan Whiteside. He was no where to be found last season & then all of a sudden he blew up. In 2011 he basically averaged 2pts 2reb & 1blk. This season he’s essentially averaging 12pts 10reb & 3blks while also recording triple-doubles and breaking Heat rebounding records. Huge jump from a player few knew about going into this season.Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls

Carter: Butler has tremendously stepped up his game and has earned my vote. Now with a good offensive game paired with his great defense, Butler has emerged as a star. He deserves this award for helping shoulder the load following Derrick Rose’s injuries.

Sixth Man:

4

Jamal Crawford: 16.2 ppg, 2.0 reb, and 2.5 ast

Isaiah Thomas: 16.5 ppg, 4.2 ast(entire season) 19.5 ppg, 5.4apg(time with the Celtics)

Lou Williams: 15.5 ppg, 1.8 reb, 2.0 ast

Ashimi: This category is tough, but I have to give it to Jamal Crawford because there have been many games this season in which his spark off the bench lead to a Clipper’s win.

Hornback: I said from the very beginning that Isaiah Thomas would win 6th man before the season started and I’m sticking to that. He should be a starter in my opinion, and is averaging numbers better than most starting point guards in the East. He’s even leading the Celtics to the playoffs.

Fort: Thomas is the obvious pick in my opinion. He’s leading Boston to the playoffs and doesn’t have the same caliber of talent around him like the other candidates. The game would be easier for him if he had just a tad bit more help.

Carter: Lou Williams has been helping Toronto in many ways especially in scoring once DeMar Derozan and Kyle Lowry went down. He’s been having a career year coming off the bench, and was essential to some team wins by cutting down on his turnovers.

Rookie of the Year:

 

Andrew Wiggins: 16.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 1.9 apg

Ashimi: Personally few rookies really stood out to me this year. Orlando’s Elfrid Peyton was one rookie that stood out, however Wiggins is statistically better.

Hornback: I want to go with Mirotic but because he has not done this all year, I’m going to have to go with Wiggins because all year long he’s been consistent. Sad year as we didn’t get to see the full potential of Jabari Parker or Julius Randle. With them, this race could’ve been much more competitive.

Fort: Wiggins…. But as a fan of the Lakers Jordan Clarkson isn’t too far behind. He’s kept the Lakers in most games (that he’s played in) and has been a better overall player than Wiggins & company…. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to see Randle, Embiid or Parker because they would’ve had cases as well. clarkson

Per 36 Minutes:

Wiggins – 16.8ppg  4.5reb 2.1ast 43.6 FG% 31.5 3pt%

Clarkson -17.1ppg 5.0ast 4.7reb 44.8 FG% 31.4 3pt%

Mirotic – 18.2ppg  8.8reb 2.1ast 40.7 FG% 31.7 3pt%

Payton – 10.7ppg  7.7reb 5.1ast 42.7 FG% 26.8 3pt%

Noel – 11.6ppg  2.0ast 9.5reb 2.1stl 2.2blk 46.2 FG%

Carter: Minnesota has had a bright spot this season in Andrew Wiggins. He’s averaged the most points and has had the most 30+ point games out of all rookies. An easy choice for Rookie of the Year, although Mirotic has had a great second half of the season.

Defensive Player of the Year:

 

Anthony Davis: 24.3 ppg, 2.9 blk, 10.2 reb and 1.5 stl

Ashimi: This was another tough category. One player that stood out to me on defense, besides Davis, this season is Joakim Noah. He has been a defensive anchor for the Bulls this season, however Davis has been the best individual defensive player this season. He is literally 7 steals away from recording 100 steals and 100 blocks this year.

Hornback: Defensive player of the year was hard for me. If I considered the latter half of the year I’d more than likely take Rudy Gobert but over the course of the year I’ll take Anthony Davis. Always been a defensive force getting in passing lanes and sending shots to the cheap seats. 

Fort: Anthony Davis. He’s a monster in every aspect of the game. He dominates the game offensively and still has enough energy to be impactful on the opposite end. That hard to find in bigs today.

Carter: Anthony Davis should have been an easy choice. Although he’s been dominant on both sides of the ball, his defense makes the biggest impact in games. He’s such a presence in the paint that teams actively avoid him.

All NBA First Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. James Harden
  3. LeBron James
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Pau Gasol

Hornback:

  1. Steph Curry
  2. James Harden
  3. LeBron James
  4. Anthony Davis

5. Demarcus Cousins

Fort:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. Steph Curry
  3. James Harden
  4. LeBron James
  5. Anthony Davis

Carter:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Russell Westbrook
  3. James Harden
  4. LeBron James
  5. Anthony Davis

 

All NBA Second Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Stephen Curry
  2. Damian Lillard
  3. Kevin Durant
  4. LaMarcus Aldridge
  5. Demarcus Cousins

Hornback:

  1. Russell Westbrook
  2. John Wall
  3. Lamarcus Aldridge
  4. Pau Gasol
  5. Marc Gasol

Fort:

  1. Chris Paul
  2. John Wall
  3. LaMarcus Aldridge
  4. Pau Gasol
  5. DeMarcus Cousins

Carter:

1. Chris Paul

  1. John Wall
  2. Lamarcus Aldridge
  3. Pau Gasol
  4. Tim Duncan

 

All Defensive First Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Jeff Teague
  2. Jimmy Butler
  3. Kawhi Leonard
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Joakim Noah

Hornback:

  1. Jeff Teague
  2. Tony Allen
  3. Draymond Green
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Rudy Gobert

Fort:

  1. John Wall
  2. Jeff Teague
  3. Tony Allen
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Joakim Noah

Carter:

  1. Jeff Teague
  2. Kawhi Leonard
  3. Draymond Green
  4. Anthony Davis
  5. Deandre Jordan

 

All Rookie First Team:

Ashimi:

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Elfrid Payton
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

Hornback:

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Elfrid Payton
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

Fort:

  1. Jordan Clarkson
  2. Elfrid Payton
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

Carter:

  1. Elfrid Payton
  2. Jordan Clarkson
  3. Andrew Wiggins
  4. Nikola Mirotić
  5. Nerlens Noel

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For The Fans:

Which player surprised you the most this season?

Who’s your coach of the year?

Who’s your executive of the year?

Comment your picks and winners below!

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The Oklahoma City Thunder Were Favored Over Memphis Why? – Omavi Darden

Once Russell Westbrook was lost due to injury, many people still claimed that the Thunder could make it to the NBA Finals without him. I immediately disagreed with that claim.

For starters, the Thunder had a ferocious battle tested Grizzlies team to get by first. I already knew from the jump, that the Grizzlies would give the Thunder serious problems in the interior. The lethal combination of Zach and Marc scoring in the paint area and fighting for rebounds would obviously wear this undermanned Thunder team down over a 7 game series.

Their defensive schemes were just as good. The Grizzlies do a good job of forcing opposing teams top offensive players into spots on the court where there is help defense (greatly reducing the % of attempted shots and good for disrupting an efficient offense).

Next people seem to forget how good Mike Conley is. He is a top 10 point guard in my opinion. He is a good floor general, can stretch the floor with his shooting touch, and isn’t afraid to take big shots down the stretch of tight games. He is so agile and fast, he gives defenders fits trying to stay in front of him and guard him.

People also forgot that Memphis had a Tony Allen and a Tayshaun Prince. These two players are superb one on one defenders, and great team defenders as well. Tony is a quicker more physical defender who can get up in you, and pressure you into tough spots on the court. Prince is a tall/longer/finesse defender who uses his body to maneuver himself into advantageous positions on the court over offensive players (to the point where he can literally dictate the shot that the offensive player takes), and still contests it with his outstretched arms, resulting in a lower % shot. That’s exactly what Memphis wants you to do.

Marc is also the leader of this tantalizing defense. He doesn’t necessarily block a lot of shots or make the most exciting defensive plays, but its his paint presence alone that allows this Memphis team to function so well defensively. His help defense and rotations on defense are crisp as can be. He alters a lot of shots attempted in the paint area, causing them to miss severely. This Memphis team really believes in one another, and the trust factor is the reason they operate so well as a unit. Players know where teammates want the ball on offense, and also know where the help side defense is going to be at.

Memphis doesn’t necessarily have a designated star player on their team that they rely on to get them buckets at the end of close games. However, they don’t need one because they are such a good team. At the end of the day I understand Kevin Durant is a star in this league, and he can drop 40 on any given night. But at the end of the day, one man can not expect to take on a whole team and be victorious. Memphis ended up winning this series 4-1 I’m not too surprised.

Omavi Darden