Rising Big Men: Whiteside vs. D-Mo

Every NBA season, we see a few obscure names emerge from the depths of anonymity.  Some players explode for a stretch when a teammate goes down with an injury.  Others find their niche and role on a new team with a different system.  There are also those who just haven’t been given a chance until now.

This year, a plethora of young big men have been able to rise to the occasion, but a few names separate themselves from the rest: Hassan Whiteside, Donatas Motiejunas, Rudy Gobert and Jusuf Nurkic.  While none of these four players are even close to becoming household names, their performances have been noteworthy and their futures look bright.  

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Clippers' Seven Game Swing

After stumbling to a 5-4 start, the Clippers have rebounded with the most successful road trip in franchise history.  They won an unprecedented six out of seven games with the only loss coming to an emerging Memphis Grizzlies team led by darkhorse MVP candidate Marc Gasol.  It helps that the opposition was softer than usual; the wins came against Orlando, Miami (without Dwyane Wade), Charlotte, Detroit, Houston (without Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones, Patrick Beverley), and Utah.  Regardless, the Clippers won these games in convincing fashion and look to have snapped out of their funk.  They became the first team in NBA history to have an average win margin above 11 in a road trip of seven games or longer, proving their dominance as of late.

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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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LeBron Awaits His Kingdom in Cleveland

Before analyzing Cleveland’s imminent dynasty after the Homecoming, the Return of the King, the Decision 2.0, or whatever else you want to call LeBron’s move back to Cleveland, I want to quickly say something to the dying breed of hardcore LeBron haters still out there: 

One thing is clear about LeBron James’ public perception at this point: no matter what he does, there will always be those who shamelessly deride and treat him as a villain. LeBron has coped with the pressure of becoming the greatest NBA player of all time, ever since he was in high school.

Such a subjective expectation inevitably leads to constant controversy and scrutiny of every press conference, headband placement, cramp, and decision James has made throughout his young adulthood and tumultuous twenties. Most fans willing to exercise empathy can hardly blame LeBron for some of his missteps given his circumstances, but unfortunately, empathy tends to yield to sensationalism among sports fans.

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Stretch Bigs: Show Me the Money

Free agency has gotten off to a slow start, thanks to the one and only LeBron James.  However, there have already been a few signings, and big men with shooting range have been flying off the shelf.  Three have signed with new teams (Channing Frye, Spencer Hawes, and Josh McRoberts), while another took a hometown discount on his new extension (Dirk Nowitzki).

As defenses have developed smarter schemes and game plans, floor spacing and shooting have never been more important.  Thus, teams have been slobbering over big men who can shoot from distance (players also known as stretch bigs), throwing large sums of money their way.  But are all of these stretch bigs really worth it?

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