NBA Season Preview: 2014-2015 Season

A year ago we at HooPs, excited to start the 2013-2014 season previewed and highlighted last year’s season with excitement on the following:
– the Battle in the Western Conference
– Weighed on the chances of the Heat three-peat
– Return of Derrick Rose
– And the draft class of the summer of 2014

Some things haven’t changed and some have.

The West is conceivably just as deep as it was a year ago. There are 7 or 8 teams that have championship aspirations. There may be as many as 12 Western teams that could make the playoffs if they were in the Eastern conference.

Derrick Rose is set to return “AGAIN”. Wish him a healthy season.

The Heat failed to three-peat while The Spurs hoist their 5th championship of the Duncan era. Now on to the 2014-2015 season.

SpursBig3

New Faces in New Places
Jeremy Lin in Los Angeles. Chandler Parsons in Dallas. Trevor Ariza in Houston. Jason Terry in Houston. LeBron JAMES BACK IN CLEVELAND! Chris Bosh stays in Miami. Pao Gasol in Chicago. Luol Deng in Miami. Kevin Love in CLEVELAND. Lance Stephenson to Charlotte. Melo stays in New York. Who else of importance? Paul Pierce to the Wizards. And the Spurs still have their big 3 and the best coach in the league. Favorites? Yes!

How the West was Won
The West is better than ever. We say that every year but chew on this. The top 3 teams in the West in no particular order are Spurs, Thunder and Clippers. The next 3 are Warriors, Blazers and Grizzlies again in no particular order. Only 2 of these 6 teams will make the playoffs: Rockets, Mavericks, Suns, Kings and Nuggets and Timberwolves.
It’s possible that 10 teams in the West will have winning records. To get into the playoffs may require 50 wins this season in the loaded West!
(Last year, Dallas won 49 games as the 8th seed)

Opening Night: October 28, 2014
Three games slated for Tuesday, 10/28/2014
Magic vs Pelicans
and then 2 games on TNT. First the Mavericks visit the Spurs for a Texas showdown and then the Rockets visit the Lakers in the late night game.
In game 2, Kobe Bryant plays against Dwight Howard and Jeremy Lin plays against his former team.

Championship Contenders

East– NewLookCavs

Cleveland. Any team with LeBron James, who is widely regarded as the best player on the planet, is an instant title contender. Now add Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, Shawn Marion, Mike Miller, Dion Waiters, Anderson Varejao and James Jones. First you had my interest, now you have my attention! (Django Unchained)

Chicago. Adding Paul Gasol to a healthy Derek Rose, Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Kirk Hinrich AND a tenacious Tom Thibodeau defensive system will be a welcome nemesis to Cleveland’s supremacy.

All other eastern conference teams are playing for third place with Raptors and Wizards likely to round out the top 4.

West
Spurs – Embark on their first “successful” title defense.
Clippers and Chris Paul – Hope to get to CP3’s first ever Conference Finals.
Thunder – Plan to weather the storm till reigning MVP Kevin Durant returns.
Warriors, Mavericks, Rockets and Grizzlies – Wish to join the elite of the West and make deep playoff runs.

LoveThisGame

Let’s get it Started!
Welcome to the 2014-2015 NBA season.
May the best team win!

HooPs

Measuring Stick

GeorgevsHarden
I’m excited about tonight.

I love games that pit a great offense against a great defense. Or an elite defender vs a talented scorer. Why? Because I want to see what gives. Who will impose their will? What style will result?

The Rockets have one of the best offenses in the NBA and are undefeated at home against the Eastern Conference this season (including a recent win against the Miami Heat this week).
The Pacers have the best defense in the league and lead the NBA by allowing only 91.6 points per game.

Set the stage:
Pacers have lost 2 straight games. They are coming off back to back road losses against the Warriors and the Bobcats. They have not lost 3 in a row this season. Paul George has been roasted by the media recently for scoring only 2 points against the Charlotte Bobcats in his last game AND for his desire to be mentored by LeBron James.

The Rockets are the hottest team in 2014. They are sporting the NBA’s best record in 2014.
Both teams will be extremely motivated to put their best effort on the floor tonight.

For those that love a battle in the trenches, 2 Of the best big men in the game will go against each other. Dwight Howard vs Roy Hibbert.
DHvsRH

James Harden vs Paul George
Paul George has gotten the best of this matchup lately. Since joining the Rockets, Harden has averaged less than 17 points per game against Indiana while shooting only 24% from the field. Ouch!

Terrence Jones vs the savvy vet David West

Also keep your eye on Indiana’s bench featuring Evan Turner and Luis Scola.

With the Miami Heat in hot pursuit, the Pacers need a win to stay in first place in the East. And they also play the Dallas Mavericks on the road on Sunday. The Rockets have 21 games remaining. The Pacers also have 21 left.
standings

tonight’s matchup is on national TV tonight on ESPN.
big stage.
Bright Lights. Flashing lights.
Who has the Heart of a Champion?

Let’s see which stars shine.

In other news, the Spurs dominate the Heat at home 111-78 last night. Clippers also rout the Lakers in historic fashion.

– HooPs
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3 Days into The Season, 11/1/2013

Three days into the NBA regular-season.

19 games have been played.

A couple teams have played two games.

Most have only played one.

What have we learned?

On opening night, we learned that the Miami Heat won’t relinquish their crown too easily.  After their ring ceremony they triumphed over the Chicago Bulls in Derek Rose’s return.

Also on opening night, the Lakers surprised the Clippers and the entire league by winning 116–103. The Lakers bench put up a statistical anomaly in 76 points with newcomers Xavier Henry, returnee Jordan Farmar and Nick Young shining.

 

On NBA night #2, Wednesday night, 28 teams were in action with the following notables:

  • Dwight’s 1st game in a Rockets uniform produced 17 points in a career-high tying 26 rebounds as the Rockets defeat the Charlotte Bobcats.
  • Mavericks win their first game of the season over the Hawks
  • Kevin Durant puts up 42 points in a thunder win over the home team Utah Jazz
  • Cleveland surprises the newly rebuilt  Nets and ruin Jason kids coaching debut. Kyrie
  • Kings beat the Nuggets at home by 2 points behind Demarcus Cousins’ 30 points.
  • The Warriors bring the Lakers back to reality with a 125-94 home win. It was a rout from the start with Klay Thompspn scoring a career-high 38 points by shooting 15 of 19 overall field goals and 5 of 7 on three pointers.
  • Suns beat the Blazers at home to overcome a big game from Damian Lillard.
  • Pistons defeated the Wizards.
  • Pacers squeaked by the Pelicans.

mcw

  • And last but definitely not the least, rookie Michael Carter–Williams leading the Philadelphia 76ers in a four-point defeat over the defending champion Miami Heat. As the world knows, he brook several rookie and NBA records by scoring 22 points, 12 assists, 7 rebounds and 9 steals!!  “What better way to start your NBA career” remarked LeBron James. I agree. He received praise from many and the likes of Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. Even I sent him a tweet! Waiting for the HoopsReportCard mention but I digress.

Its early but a few teams expected to miss the playoffs that posted huge wins – Kings over the Warriors in a huge home opener.  Cavs and Kyrie Irving beat the new-look Nets. The Suns beat the Blazers.

 

Last night featured only 2 games. The Knicks visiting the Bulls and the Clippers hosting the Golden State Warriors. The skinny? Knicks lose by 1 point.  And the Clippers bounce back in a real way again the Warriors putting up 126 points to win by 9 led by Chris Paul’s 42 points, 15 assists and 4 blocks.

 

At the conclusion of this weekend there will be winning streaks, losing steaks and division leaders. Yes! Already! Basketball is back!

Tonight there are 13 more games. The national spotlight is on the  Spurs at the Lakers on ESPN.

ENJOY!

We definitely will

-Hoops (@HoopsReportCard)

NBA Season Preview: Hoops Edition 2013-2014 Season

A new NBA season begins in a matter of days. A time for 30 teams to have unbridled optimism of what could be for the coming year, I time to realize the strength of your poker hand and/or for others – or a time to tank early for the coveted draft piece.

NBA2014

 

A few things to watch for this season:

1. New Orleans pelicans youth  movements:

pelicans

Potential starting lineup of Drew holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis. Let’s not forget about sharpshooter Ryan Anderson. The Pelicans had the 2nd best record this preseason.  Yes 7-1.  They won their first 6 games, lost 1 and then finished off preseason with a win. We will definitely see an exciting young team with tons of upside.  Can they get the 8th seed in the west?

 

2. The return of rookie of the year Damian Lillard:

Lillard spent time working on game. More specifically, his goal was to focus on his defense and being mentored by none other than Gary Payton “The Glove”. The Blazers have some nice pickups in McCollum, Thomas Robinson, Robin Lopez and company.

 

3. John Wall and the Washington Wizards:

Over the weekend, the Wizards traded Emeka Okafor for Marcin Gortat.  This gives the Wiz an exciting combination of Nene & Gortat with John Wall & Bradley Beal.

 

4.  Andrew Bynum and the circus in Cleveland. Return of coach Mike Brown. Cleveland’s season will hinge on their commitment to defense and the health, focus and motivation of Andrew Bynum (just as Philadelphia’s season hung on Bynum’s shoulders last season).

 

5. Dwight Howard Saga:

Howard joins forces with James Harden, Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons.  And a solid bench of Francisco Garcia, Patrick Beverly and Omri Casspi.  Francisco a sniper. Deadly from 3 point range. Patrick Beverly whom most in the league know as the player that put Russell Westbrook out of the playoffs, is a pest on defense and solid 3 point shooter. And Omri Casspi, the first Israeli-born player in the NBA was trying to make the team prior to the preseason but shot above 54% in the preseason (most of which were 3-pointers) has seemed to earn his minutes.

Does Asik stay or go?  The Rockets will be the subject of trade rumors for most of the coming season due to Asik being highly coveted for his size and defensive ability.  Chris Bosh or Ryan Anderson or even Jeff Green have all been mentioned in rumors.

The Rockets strategy is no secret – surround Dwight Howard with capable shooters to keep defenses honest and subject the opposition to a healthy dose of pick-and-roll with Harden and Lin.

 

6. Championship or bust for the Brooklyn Nets:

– New coach Jason Kidd

– deep pockets owner Prokhorov

– KG, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry additions

– Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez return

With senior citizens on any squad, health is the biggest concern.  This team looks outstanding on paper as long as it includes healthy versions of KG, Pierce and Williams.  Can they challenge the Heat for the East crown?

 

7. Derrick Rose Returns!!

D. Rose looked explosive in the preseason.  He attacked the rim, hit the jumper and helped the Bulls become the only undefeated team in the preseason (8-0). How will the Bulls fare in the East.  They play tough every night.  Much props to Thibodeau for the defensive resiliency on each night.  However, prior to the season starting, I’d have to rank the Bulls in 4th place in the East after the Heat, Pacers, Nets.  Maybe even #5 after the Knicks.

 

8. Can the Heat three-peat?

The Heat are vying for 4 consecutive finals appearances this season.  They are coming off back to back titles and the 2nd longest winning streak in NBA history (27 consecutive wins) last seasons.  They have added Greg Oden, lost Mike Miller and have Ray Allen coming back.  Can they stay healthy and defend their title? Will LeBron win his 5th MVP award? Will Dwayne Wade return to his 2006/2007 self?  Will Greg Oden still be on the court come playoff time? Can the Heat stay focused through 82 long games and still be motivated prior to the playoffs? Or Should we just give them the 3peat like last year?

 

9. Opening Night October 29th

There are two games slated for opening nights but let’s discuss the most exciting to: number one the Battle of LA pits the Lakers versus the Clippers and Number 2 the Miami Heat versus the Chicago Bulls – fireworks!

10. Exhilarating battle Out West

It is a weeping and moaning and a gnashing of teeth is evidently a reference to the struggles and warfare to gain supremacy in the Western Conference. In the previous 4 seasons, 4 different teams have won the Western Conference crown.  This year could see a 5 consecutive “different” team win the West.  With upstarts like the Clippers, Rockets, Warriors and Grizzlies all sporting deep teams.  And let’s not forget perennial favorites in the Spurs and Thunder.

It goes without saying, the west is a powerhouse.  6 or 7 teams in the West will be very solid teams.  Making the playoffs won’t be easy.  In fact, 4 out of the following 6 teams WILL miss the playoffs:  Pelicans, Mavericks, Blazers, Lakers, Nuggets and Timberwolves.

In closing, HoopsReportCard made our contributions and were featured in ESPN’s #NBARank

 

 

Finally, and lest we forget.  VINO!  Will Kobe Bryant return to his top-5-player form?  Will he lead the Lakers to the playoffs?

That and many more questions, will begin to be answered starting ToNight!!

Hoops (@HoopsReportCard)

The Youngest Team in the Playoffs: The Houston Rockets

youngRockets

A week ago, I began writing a piece on the Houston Rockets entitled “The team no one wants to see in the playoffs”.  This was on the strength of the young Rockets clinching their first playoff berth since 2009 on 4/9/2013.

Since then the Rockets have lost 3 of their final 4 games and dropped from the 6th seed to the 8th and final seed in the Western conference playoffs. Rest assured: the NBA gets what they want.  Dream matchups and high ratings: 1) James  Harden against his former team with an abundance of story lines 2) The Lakers get the best chance to stay in the playoffs longer against the Spurs.  Okay! Enough with conspiracy theories 🙂

What is the Rockets ceiling?

I recall the ESPN analysts and so-called NBA experts making their preseason picks. Not one picked the Rockets to make the playoffs. Surprisingly, the Rockets were battling for the 6 seed just 2 days. They just finished the 2012-2013 the regular season with 45 wins. To think that this young team which actually endured a 7 game losing streak earlier in the season and still finish just short of 50 total wins is unfathomable but should be delightful to Rockets fans.

How did they do it?

Time to give credit to the coaching staff and the GM. We live in a world where no one gets enough credit when a job is “well-done” yet receive extra helpings of blame when things turn south. (As a reminder this was partially written on April 9th, much of this was not evident during the Rockets meltdown against the Lakers last night in Los Angeles).

Kevin McHale has instilled a unique offense that has the youngest team in the league lead the league in scoring. The Houston Rockets will make history this season. They will as a team be the team that has 1) taken the most 3 point attempts in a season on NBA history and 2) the team that has made the most 3 point field goals in NBA history.  This team does not have a Ray Allen nor Reggie Miller nor Tim Legler nor Ryan Anderson for that matter. What they do have is 2 guards that push the pace and create open looks for 5 or 6 very capable shooters.

GM, Darryl Morey pulled a major deal by signing James Harden from the OKC Thunder giving the Rockets a bonafide star and surrounding him with talent that has promising potential.

To say that Harden has surpassed expectations is an understatement. It would be a good investment for a team to see positive rewards in 2 or 3 seasons in seeing a star player blossom into an ALLSTAR “eventually”. But what did Harden do IMMEDIATELY:

– started the first two games of the season by scoring 37 and 45 respectively.

– becoming an unquestionable Allstar at his first shot as a starter in a conference loaded with high caliber guard talent

– breaking a few Rockets records in his first season including consecutive games scoring 20+ points, consecutive games scoring 25+, most free throws made and attempted in a single season and more

– leading the league in free throws attempted. The only player this season averaging over 10+ free throw attempts

– Should I continue?!

Chandler Parsons – Chandler is the best monetary value in NBA basketball.  Do you remember a nice young player named Chase Budinger?!  Yeah, I almost didn’t either.  Chandler has made us all forget him.  And with Budinger being out most of this season with injuries, Parsons is the undeniable choice between the two.  He has improved his shooting, really good at cuts to the basket and if he gets his defense back to its previous 1st year prowess, will be on his way. And that shot to send that game into overtime! Chandler might be the only “untouchable” (untradeable) player on the Rockets besides Harden.

Jeremy Lin – has improved in every month this season.  I think his improved play especially in the past 3 months has brought him into his own. I think Lin is the X-factor in the Rockets making any noise in the playoffs.   When he limits his turnovers and plays with the aggressive motivation like he showed against his former teams (NY Knicks and Golden State), the sky is the limit for the Rockets.  He doesn’t have to be CP3 nor does he even have to be LINSANITY. But if he limits his mistakes and fearlessly runs the offense, then the Rockets can make some noise.

What makes the Rockets unique? The following players were virtual unknowns from last year but have really impressed this year.

Omer Asik – Omer has been in the top 3 league leaders in rebounding all season. He is another player that has met and exceeded all expectations for him.  He would be a perfect candidate for Hakeem Olajuwon’s “big-man-camp” this offseason.  The development of a post game and ability to hit a 12 to 15 footer would end talks/speculation/dreams/lusts of Dwight Howard in Houston (unless Dwight says he wants to leaves LA).

Patrick Beverly –  Patrick is the prototype of a backup point guard. Tenacious on defense, decent spot up shooter, reliable rebounder, limits turnovers. And McHale has gone to him increasingly in the 4th quarter to close out games.  I have seen about 3 instances that Rockets would probably have lost games offensively and defensively without him on the floor.  The most compelling in San Antonio when he was subbed in for Lin because Tony Parker went basket, basket, free throws, basket on Lin consecutively.  Beverly comes in and gets a huge block (like a center!), which the for-sure basket would have resulted in a 6 point deficit instead of the resulting 1 point deficit (5 point switch! with Chandler knocking down a 3).

Greg Smith – Greg spent a lot of time in the D league. Has a back to the basket game. He is a 2nd year, 6′ 11″ big man out of Fresno State. And gives huge contributions for an undrafted center in my opinion.

Terrence Jones – He had the most DNPCD of any Rocket this season.  Also spent a lot of time in the D-league.  Now making solid contributions in more minutes played of late especially with Chandler and Delfino out in the past 10 games. He might be the wild card.   He appears to have a more polished offensive game then both Donatus Motiejunas and Thomas Robinson (in limited sample size).

And there are more: James Anderson, Aaron Brooks, Francisco Garcia, Donatus Motiejunas & Thomas Robinson.

Bottom line, Houston is good enough offensively to win a road game. When you can win a road game, then you can win a series — against the Memphis Grizzles or against the San Antonio Spurs!  Since the Rockets “shot-themselves-in-the-foot” and did not take care of Phoenix on the road or LA, they get a gift of a postseason matchup with the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder.

How will the Rockets fair? Will they win a playoff game?  Will they force 7 games? I won’t attempt to predict the outcome.  You can find such predictions on every website out there.

Consider this the quiet before the storm.  The time for reflection before the battle. The team with average experience under 2 years finishes at 8 games above .500.  The same record as a Lakers team that has been on fire lately and has 4 “superstars”.

Turnovers and defense will be the big questions surrounding the Rockets. Can the young Rockets limit their turnovers? Can they hold their own defensively? Will their high octane offense still operate at a high level in the postseason?

We will begin to find out on Sunday.

@HoopsReportCard

https://twitter.com/HoopsReportCard

Battle for the Playoffs: In the West – March 9, 2013

wildwildWest

 

After a Friday night of 12 NBA games, let’s reflect — the Miami heat (after 17 straight wins) clinches a playoff birth in the East. But let’s focus on the Western conference, where things are far from settled.

Welcome to the wild wild West.  Yes, this is the west. A place that the best team record-wise San Antonio has NOT clinched the playoffs yet. And the worst team record-wise (a tie between Phoenix and New Orleans) has not been eliminated from playoff contention YET.

San Antonio, Oklahoma City and the LA Clippers hold the top 3 spots. Memphis and Denver hold spots 4 and 5 respectively. The tightest race is for the final 3 spots in the Western conference playoff race currently held by Golden State, Houston and Utah for the 6th, 7th and 8th spots respectively.

The LA Lakers are in the 9th slot only half a game (0.5) behind Utah for the 8th and final spot. The door appears to be wide open for the Lakers to snatch the 8th slot from Utah. Utah has lost 3 straight games and 7 of their last 10 as they struggle on the road.
Kobe Bryant aka Black Mamba led the Lakers to a thrilling come-from-behind win against the visiting Toronto Raptors last night with 41 points and an array of impressive 3 point shots and dunks. That’s 3 wins in 4 games for the Lake Show. All 3 come back wins. And the only loss coming against the mighty Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s clear that LA is playing its best basketball of the season. The final 5 weeks to the season will be exciting to say the least as we see who gets in and who goes home.
 Utah loses a heart breaker in Chicago when Marco Belinelli sank a 3-pointer with 5.9 seconds left to send Utah to its 3rd straight loss.
The Houston Rockets win a crucial Western Conference matchup against Golden State to  win their 3rd straight against the Warriors and move within 1 game of them for the 6th seed in the West. Houston hosts Golden State on March 17 for the final meeting between these two teams this season.
In other relevant news, Memphis beats Cleveland for their 11th win in 12 games.  Dallas squeezed by Detroit. And Darren Williams sets an NBA record with nine 3-pointers in the first half and a franchise record with eleven (11) 3-pointers in the game!
The West is heating up.  Stay Tuned
Signing off,
– King of Hoops