Should the Thunder Tank?

With the injuries to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban recently had a suggestion for Oklahoma City’s management: “The question I don’t think anybody has asked is, why don’t they pull a David Robinson and try to get Tim Duncan?”

If you don’t understand what Cuban is talking about, he is referring to the 1996-97 Spurs.  David Robinson had an injury plagued season, missing all but six games due to a broken foot.  The Spurs finished with a miserable 20-62 record, but in the process, put themselves in the running to grab the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft.

You know the rest… The Spurs won the lottery, drafted some kid named Tim Duncan, and never looked back.  After five championships, I don’t think the Spurs have any regrets and the 1996-97 season is long forgotten.

The Spurs make Cuban’s question sound intriguing.  But should the Thunder actually follow through and tank this year?

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Lakers No Laughingstock

Stop the presses, and stop laughing.

The Lakers may have lost Tuesday night to the Memphis Grizzlies, but their performance was a worthy follow-up to a convincing win two nights ago against the Charlotte Hornets. They parlayed that 107-92 victory, keyed by a huge third-quarter rally, into a valiant assault on the league’s best home team. And they nearly won.

The game was tight until, with 6:50 remaining in the fourth, the Grizzlies opened up a 17-point lead.

You’re forgiven for suffering pangs of deja vu. This Lakers team has displayed an early-season predilection for folding late.

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Everybody Should Love Draymond

While everybody has been talking about Klay Thompson’s recent max extension, the Warriors have another contract concern looming: Draymond Green’s impending free agency next summer.

Green is restricted, so the Warriors will be able to match any offer sheet he signs with another team. However, Draymond’s market value has been skyrocketing; with Andrew Bogut going down before last year’s playoffs and David Lee sidelined to begin this year, Green has had a chance to show the world what he’s got in extended minutes, and he hasn’t disappointed at all.

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Fog City vs. Smog City

As a Clipper fan, I had a feeling we were going to get stomped on in Oracle Arena.  It’s still early in the season, but the Clippers have been suspect throughout the preseason and through the beginning of the regular season.  Sure we miss Collison, sure we're still missing an athletic 3 (despite Reggie Bullock looking good), sure this is our 5th game in 7 days, sure the Warriors played terrific.  And if you think it had something to do with our former assistant coach Alvin Gentry joining the Warriors coaching staff, I’ll even give you that. But the real question is, what’s going on in Smog City?

Not to take anything away from the Warriors (no flex). They're good, and they know it... It shows in their confidence and intensity. But I'm not here to marvel at how good the Warriors looked. I'll leave that up to the Bay Area. I want to focus on two things I took away from the Clippers-Warriors game.  

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Opening Week: NBA Roundtable

The NBA Season is barely a week old, but so much has already transpired. Among other news, Westbrook and D-Rose have both already gotten hurt, Klay Thompson got paid, and the King made his return. There's clearly too much to talk about, but we'll try to cover some of the NBA's hottest issues in the infant stages of the season.  So without further ado...

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Griffin, Love & Aldridge: On the Outside

Three of the NBA’s best power forwards couldn’t be more different.  Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, and LaMarcus Aldridge all have legitimate cases for claiming the title of top dog, (so does Anthony Davis, who has had two incredible games thus far) and each for completely different reasons:

Kevin Love might be the best rebounder in the NBA despite never being the biggest nor most athletic player on the court.  While he is a defensive liability, Love has an incredible basketball IQ, a plethora of moves in the post, a nice stroke from the outside, and one of the greatest outlet passes in recent memory. 

 

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NBA Opening Night: Five Takeaways

The 2014-15 NBA Season has officially tipped off, and it looks like we’re in for an extremely entertaining year of basketball.  Only three games have been played, but we got a glimpse into what all six teams look like in competitive action that actually counts.  

Now I know it is dangerous to jump to conclusions so early in the season, but there were still a lot of telling signs in regards to teams' identities and players' roles and capabilities.  So whether you were able to catch the games or not, let's review some intriguing developments from Tuesday:

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Are the Lakers About to Piss Off the Whole League... Again?

In 2008, the Memphis Grizzlies traded Pau Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers for perennial punchline KWAMAY Brown (to paraphrase Stephen A.) and a bag of peanuts.

The deal was universally panned. Clearly the deck was stacked in favor of the big-market juggernaut. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich gave voice to the collective disgust emanating from the rest of the league:

“What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” said Popovich. “There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

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The Good, the Bad & the Ugly: LA Clippers 2014-15 Outlook

Yes, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Doc Rivers are all back.  Yes, Ralph Lawler will be back on the mic, announcing each and every "Bingo!" and alerting us of Lawler's Law (it's the law!).  But no, not much else will be the same.

Though most of their biggest cogs remain the same from last season, the Los Angeles Clippers are a very different team and organization this year.  Some changes I like, some I don't, and some are just... going to be hard to get used to.  So let's break down some of the most important things to look out for in the upcoming season.

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Predictions: Busts of the 2014-15 NBA Season

The one and only Jake Weiner from (D)Roses & Thorns and I have collaborated to pinpoint this year’s busts in the NBA.  I’m talking about the Larry Sanderses and the Josh Smiths of last year.  Whether it’s injuries, age, or simply not fitting in on a new team, the following six guys don’t have a sunny outlook for the 2014-15 season.  Our six breakout players will be released very soon.  So without further ado:

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Has Kevin Durant Already Lost This Year's MVP Race?

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the reigning MVP Kevin Durant will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks with a Jones fracture, an injury where the bone at the base of the small toe breaks.  And with just under two weeks until the 2014-15 NBA season tips off, the Thunder will undoubtedly miss their superstar on the court.  But how will this injury impact Kevin Durant’s chances of defending the Maurice Podoloff Trophy?

Well, before Durant went down, Vegas had LeBron James as the favorite to win the MVP this year with 3:2 odds while Durant came in at second with 3:1 odds.  Now, James’ odds have improved to 5:6 while Durant's have fallen to 4:1.  While the odd shifts correctly reflect that Durant’s chances of winning MVP have diminished, Vegas still severely underestimates the uphill battle Durant faces.  Let’s see why by breaking down a few key components to winning the NBA’s most coveted award:

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Big Buck Ballin'

Some time passes and a lonely Bleu Mont Dairy wrapper floats by aloof. Is there anything in Wisconsin other than cheese I wonder? More importantly, does Jabari Parker like cheese? Would the ever-stingy O.J. Mayo share his provolone sub with Ersan after practice? These questions are profound but only cheese related.  I think something else, a bigger interest, is “brewing” in me (Milwaukee also has good beer…I think). There is something about the Bucks that is tantalizing when one dives into the pool of possibility. Often, I am a blind optimist to my own demise, but sometimes, just sometimes, my feral instincts direct me to the brink of something special. I strongly believe there is more to the Bucks than the eye can see, and I openly declare they will be title contenders in 4-6 years. 

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NBA Roundtable!

We got a few of our writers together to share a few of the debates we have had in the offseason.  We reflect on some of the great moments of last year, and also look forward to all the excitement of the upcoming season.  Joining us this week is Bulls-aficionado Jake Weiner of (D)Roses and Thorns Enjoy:

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Trouble Buzzing in Charlotte

The Charlotte Hornets are looking to take another step forward.  Last year, they made the playoffs for the second time under the reign of Michael Jordan, but were swept out by LeBron James and the Miami Heat.  So the team went to work this offseason, quickly signing the gifted-but-combustible Lance Stephenson away from the Indiana Pacers.  They also added Marvin Williams to replace Josh McRoberts as the starting power forward and drafted a physical specimen in Noah Vonleh and a knockdown shooter in P.J. Hairston.

Charlotte has most of its core returning from last season and is looking to grow into a legitimate contender.  But will these moves be enough to make the Charlotte Hornets one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference this year?  ESPN’s Forecast Panel has them projected to finish 5th in the East, but there are some signs that indicate it won’t be quite so easy to duplicate a trip to the playoffs.

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How J-Smoove Can Find His Groove

NBA free agency is winding down.  Yet, a couple high-profile names still don’t know where they will be playing next year: restricted free agents Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe.  The former is in the middle of a contract negotiation meltdown with the Suns, pushing his relationship with the team to “the verge of [being] irreparable."  The latter is disgruntled with the current roster makeup of his Detroit Pistons.  More specifically, Monroe has a problem with a certain player:

Josh Smith.

I understand that Smith and Monroe share the same natural position (power forward) and do not complement each other’s games, but Monroe is at the point where he is on the verge of signing a one-year qualifying offer from the Pistons instead of agreeing to a lucrative long-term deal.  The implied message is that Monroe will flee the Motor City next summer if Smith is still there.

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Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: More Than a Number Game

The 2013 NBA Draft class didn’t exactly take the league by storm…. Of the top 7 picks, Victor Oladipo seems like the only player to truly meet expectations thus far.  Anthony Bennett became just the 5th number 1 overall pick in 26 years to miss an NBA All-Rookie team; Otto Porter was kept out with a hip injury for the first half of the year and was stuck behind Trevor Ariza and Martell Webster upon his return; Cody Zeller and Alex Len still look like big reaches as the 4th and 5th picks respectively; Nerlens Noel has yet to play a game due to an ACL tear during his one-year stop at Kentucky; and the most memorable part of Ben McLemore’s season came courtesy of LeBron James.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the 8th pick, doesn’t seem much different from his aforementioned fellow draftees….  Well, at least on paper he doesn’t: he averaged just 5.9 points per game on 39.6% shooting and not much of anything else, but quietly displayed his defensive prowess.

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Tony Allen: the Birth of the GRINDfather

I had a chance to make my first trip to the FedExForum, home of the Memphis Grizzlies.  My beloved Los Angeles Clippers were playing in the playoffs for just the fifth time in my 22 years of life (and three of those appearances occurred before I was 5).  Luckily, I was attending Vanderbilt University in Nashville, and decided to make the 3-hour drive to Memphis to root my team on in Game 1.

The game was a memorable one.  The Clippers made a historic 27-point comeback.  Reggie Evans transformed into our MVP.  Swaggy P drained three consecutive 3’s in the 4th quarter. And I blacked out when Kenyon Martin locked down Rudy Gay at the buzzer.  But the thing that stuck out most to me that night wasn’t our miraculous win.

On the long drive to the Forum, my friends and I were debating which Grizzly player was likely the most popular.  Was it Zach Randolph?  Rudy Gay?  Marc Gasol?  Mike Conley?

While there was a good mix of Z-Bo and Gay jerseys, there was another jersey that popped up with alarming frequency around the arena: #9, for Tony Allen.

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Who Are You, Scotty Hopson?

You’re probably unfamiliar with a name that has quietly emerged in NBA headlines recently: Scotty Hopson. 

In the past week, Hopson was traded THREE times in TWO days. 

Yes, you read that correctly.  The 6’7” shooting guard found his fourth home in the NBA, all in just 48 hours.  He was originally sent from Cleveland to Charlotte in exchange for Brendan Haywood and the draft rights to Dwight Powell.  Shortly after, the Hornets shipped him to the New Orleans Pelicans for cash considerations (let the name change confusion begin).  Finally, he was sent to the Rockets as part of one of the biggest deals of the offseason, a three team trade that landed Omer Asik and Trevor Ariza with their new franchises, New Orleans and Houston respectively.

I have so many questions!  Why is this guy so popular?!  What could teams possibly see in a player who has appeared in only two NBA games, posting a staggering 1 point, 1 assist, and 1 steal in 7 minutes of action?  But really… Who is Scotty Hopson and how the hell did we end up talking about him?

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POW! PAU! POW!

I'll try my best not to dance a little jig as I write this, but let it be known that as a Bulls fan, I am absolutely beaming.

This past week has been a nervous one.  While the wider basketball world waited on tenterhooks to hear where Lebron James planned to play next season, Chicagoans were preoccupied with Melo-watch, praying that the one of the league's most effortless scorers would choose to bolster our anemic offense, which, paired with the perennially dominant Thibodeau defense, figured to rocket the Bulls to the top of the Eastern Conference.  By noon on Saturday, it was clear Melo was staying with the Knicks, and Bulls-fans were left wondering what big moves the front office had left to make.  We needn't have feared--Gar Forman had a plan.

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For Every Decision, There’s a Reaction

July 11, 2014. 

It may seem like just another date on the calendar, but LeBron James changed that in a flash.  James turned the sports world upside down with the Decision 2.0, opting to return to the place he calls home: Cleveland.

James has been dealing with the burden and stress that comes along with simultaneously being the face of the league and a free agent.  The media has had the King under a magnifying glass, watching his every move and updating the world on his agent’s meetings with other teams, his travel plans to Brazil, and what time he tucked his kids into bed last night (okay, okay, maybe the last one is a joke).

But now that James has made his move, the pressure has shifted to others to respond to his choice to return to Cleveland.  So let’s break down the situations of the people and teams most affected by the Decision 2.0:

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