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If The NBA Playoffs Started Today

The playoffs start in the last weeks of April, and it should be a good one this year. For starters there is the return of the injured Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls, the new big three in Cleveland, and the always powerful western conference. These results were based off the week of November 14-17.

If for some strange reason the playoffs kicked off tonight there would be quite a mix-up of the usual teams that are in the playoffs each season. 

For example, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs with the eight seed would face the hot Memphis Grizzlies with the first seed.

That is one of the surprises early in the season.  Yes we know that it will never happen having playoffs in the middle of November, but wouldn’t it be fun to see some of the other irregular playoff matchups as of now. 

Let’s start with the always powerful Western Conference

We discussed the defending champs taking on the Grizzlies.  These teams actually battle it out come playoff time, but most of the time the Spurs are first place while the Grizzlies are in the eight seed.  

The Spurs and the Grizzlies are two great teams.  So whether one is first, last, or vice versa.  These playoff bound teams will always put on a show in the stacked western conference.

Next, there is the battle of the 2 and the 8 seed.  There is the second seed Houston Rockets, and the 7th seed New Orleans Pelicans. 

The Rockets, since picking up James Harden and Dwight Howard are always a force coming out of the west.  They are no strangers to the playoffs.

The New Orleans Pelicans on the other hand are the new kids on the block but with their star Anthony Davis having a stellar season and their offense improving since last season; it is not farfetched to see the Pelicans chasing the Larry O’Brien Trophy. 

The third seed in the west in this young season is the Golden State Warriors and their young high flying team.  With names like the “Splash Brothers” both Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry lead this team with fast-paced offense and high percentage shooting. 

Besides their superb shooting, they also have big men that can hold down the paint, and yes take great shots.
The team that they will face off against will be the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns were not even a playoff team last year, but with star Eric Bledsoe showing the league and the naysayers criticizing him of his big contract in the off season why they paid him so much. 
He also has the likes of Goran Dragic, and Isaiah Thomas in the starting lineup it is time to consider that the ever so difficult has improved even more with the Suns stepping it up this season. 

They are moving in the right direction to be a force in the west for the next few years.

If this team were in the eastern conference it would be a playoff team without a doubt.  That just shows how difficult the West is.  Not only do you have to win, but win a lot. 

The Phoenix Suns should be in the playoffs come April, but we shall see how that goes. 

The final hypothetical matchup is one between the Dallas Mavericks and the Portland Trailblazers.  The Blazers have the 4th seed while the Mavs have the 5th seed.  These two teams are always in the mix. 

The Mavs won it all back in 2011.  They were able to take care of the Miami Heat in six games.

These teams still have a tough long road ahead of them.  In this hypothetical situation there is a  team that  finished in second place last season, but are not even in the playoffs. 

This team is the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Thunder has an excuse a pretty good one at that.  They are missing not one but two of its stars.  The Thunder had initially started out with their biggest star, Kevin Durant. 

Durant’s loss was an instant impact.  Durant is the defending NBA scoring champ, so you know that the Thunder is missing that.  

If that was not enough of a tough loss, a few games in the season they lose their other star Russell Westbrook. 

The Thunder look to get their stars back sometime during the season, and hopefully they are able to bounce back and be in the playoffs again.

Now let’s look at the Eastern conference.  The East has been known to have a handful of good teams. 

Yes they are not as stacked as the West is but the teams that are in the playoffs and most notably the top five or six are constant visitors to the playoffs. 

The first mock matchup comes with the number one Toronto Raptors vs. The Brooklyn Nets.  The Raptors are looking to bounce back from last season. 

This matchup will be a rematch of last years first round playoffs where the Raptors who were the Atlantic Division champs and the 3rd playoff berth. 

The Raptors are one of the hottest teams this season.  They stumbled in the playoffs where they were able to take the Nets to seven games, where they were able to beat the Raptors.

With young stars like Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry the Raptors look to continue being on top of the Atlantic and what looks like the Eastern Conference as well.  

They face off against the Brooklyn Nets.  The Nets are kind of a mystery at times. 

They are not talked about as much as other notable Eastern Conference teams.  With a combination of young and old stars the Nets are always in the mix come playoff time. 

The current leading scorer Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Kevin Garnett, and Brook Lopez it’s hard to say that they cannot succeed in April.
The next matchup comes with the seven seeded Miami Heat vs. the Washington Wizards. 

The Heat coming out of the NBA Finals a loser, and losing their biggest player in the offseason look to show what they got without the services of LeBron James.

They still have the majority of their core in Miami, with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh.

Yet, without James the Heat struggle, but that does not mean that they will get it together and show why they went to the NBA Finals for four straight years.

The Wizards, who are trying to go back to the playoffs after they took on the heavily favored Chicago Bulls and taking care of them in five games.  

They still look to continue from last years success and after adding some help on the bench and starting lineup its looking good for Washington’s chances. 

They have the services of John Wall, and the veteran Paul Pierce to help them get there.

The next matchup is the Chicago Bulls vs.  The Milwaukee Bucks.  The Bulls who were taken care of by the Wizards last season look to come back to the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. 

They will also have their young star Derrick Rose somewhat healthy after missing all of last season and only playing 10 games in the last two seasons. 

Besides Rose’s return they were also able to add the team with the Spaniard Pau Gasol joining the Bulls this season, after he left the Lakers for the Windy City.  

The Bucks are a surprise team right now even early in the season, but yet they are still in the mix.  Who knows if that will continue this season. 

Yet they have a stacked roster on paper.  There is O.J. Mayo, Brandon Knight, Jared Dudley, Larry Sanders, and Zaza Pachulia it’s easy to say they are playoff bound.

The final matchup is the fourth seeded Cleveland Cavaliers and the fifth seeded Atlanta Hawks.  The biggest news of the offseason was in Cleveland. 

For starters the Cavs got the first overall pick again, the return of LeBron James, and the signing of Kevin Love. 

The Cavs are the favorite to win the NBA Finals now that they have both James, and Love, but you cannot forget the young Kyrie Irving it is difficult to bet against this new big three. 

The Hawks on the other hand are playoff bound again after last season where they were able to nab the 8th seed before being taken out by the number overall seed Indiana Pacers.  

Yet they continue to be there when playoffs start.   Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague, and Kyle Korver are the ones leading the Hawks to the top of the east, but can they push through the first round of the playoffs or will it be the same story as the last few years.

Talking about the ones that are currently not in the mix is the former first seed in the Eastern Conference the Indiana Pacers. 

The Pacers have a dismal record and look pretty bad in this young season.  They are also missing their star Paul George, who was injured playing with Team USA in the FIBA championships. 
They are trying to come back and be a force in the east how they have for the past two years.  They took on the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last two years.

So you know they are doing something right, but will that be the same this season.

We will hypothetically see this season, to see if these teams will be in the same spots they are now. 

Or will we see one of the teams that are currently out of the playoffs be the first seed or will they stay out?  Will teams that were in the conference finals, that are now out of the playoffs make a run again. 

We will see but if the playoffs started today it would still be a good two months of playoff basketball.


4 Questions for the Upcoming NBA Season

By Omar Rodriguez

The NBA is back.  The basketball gods are alive again.

Since the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Miami Heat to claim their fourth ring, a lot of things have changed. The biggest news of course is the return of the “King,” LeBron James, to the Cleveland Cavaliers.  The return comes after his rocky departure and the debacle that was The Decision, where he announced on national television that he will be taking his talents to South Beach.

Along with James, Kevin Love was added to the Cavs roster.  So now with Love, James, and young gun Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers are now the favorites to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy come June.

And there are more new faces in new places.  For example, Paul Pierce to the Washington Wizards, Pau Gasol to the Chicago Bulls, and Chandler Parsons leaving the Houston Rockets to join their Texas neighbor, the Dallas Mavericks.

Andrew Wiggins, the first overall pick of the Cavs, had not even played one minute on the team before he was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Kevin Love trade.  It’s a good time to be a fan of basketball. With that said, here are some of the questions for the new NBA season.


Will the Cavs Take it All?

Before LeBron James’ announcement, the Cavs were among the bottom 10 teams in terms of winning the NBA championship.  After the announcement, they jumped up to the top five.

And after Kevin Love—aka “the Double-Double Machine”—was traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cavs, Cleveland is now the favorite to win it all.  James, arguably the best player in the league, can make any team a contender.

Now, with an impressive supporting cast including Love and Irving, they are clearly the best team on paper.  The Cavaliers will still have some kinks to work out.  They will still need to decide on a starting lineup, and with James and Love getting plugged into the offense, the players will have to adjust to one another.

Throughout the preseason, the Cavs showed glimpses of what they can be—or are going to be—this season.  The team should only improve as its plethora of superstars mesh with one another.  Kevin Love is coming off a double-double average season with 26 points and 12 rebounds. In Minnesota, he was the lead scorer and the go-to guy for the Wolves.  Can he still be a force now that he will not be the go to guy anymore?  The claims that his defensive skills are lackluster will certainly be under the microscope this season.

Kyrie Irving, the star player before the arrival of James and Love, will have to adjust to being the third option instead of the primary option.  He will still get his touches and his points this season, but will he be what we know he can be this season?  LeBron James will now take those last-second shots for the win, and Kevin Love will be down low attacking the paint.  Will Irving be playing the clean up crew and still be able to be one of the best point guards in the game, or will he be overshadowed?  Only time will tell.

With all that being said, the Cavs are still the ones to topple in the East.  But with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and hot young teams like the Washington Wizards and the Toronto Raptors on their tails, it should be an exciting Eastern conference shootout.


Can the Spurs Repeat?

The reigning NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs took care of business and beat the Miami Heat in five games.  The previous season, with the Heat and Spurs playing in the Finals again, the Spurs fell apart in the final two games.

It all started with the debacle that was Game 6 where they were up by five points with less than 30 seconds left. They would eventually tie the game and send it to overtime after Ray Allen and his three-pointer. The Heat pulled away in overtime and eventually won game 7 to claim their second straight NBA title.  This stuck with the Spurs, who would soon get their chance to take on the Heat again for the championship.

Of course things would be different.

The Spurs outplayed the Heat and the rest of the Western Conference in the playoffs in 2013.  They finished with the best record in the league.  They were hot.

Along with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker the Spurs still had most of their core.  In the background, Kawhi Leonard was slowly developing and improving with the best team in the NBA.  Leonard had a great playoff run last year, nabbing the NBA Finals MVP.

He is one of the best all-around players in the league.  He is one of the young stars on the aging Spurs.  He is the future of the team.  The core of the team Duncan, Ginobli, and Parker all returned for the Spurs this season.  The most notable free agent for San Antonio this season was not a player this season, but a coach.

The Spurs were happy to announce that head coach Gregg Popovich would return for a few more seasons.  Along with Duncan and Boris Diaw, who decided to return to the team after signing contract extensions, it was obvious that Popovich would stay as well.  The core of the team is still there so they will always be a threat.  Yet nobody talks about the Spurs during the regular season, even though they always finish either first or second in the tougher of the two conference.

Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Portland Trailblazers, Golden State Warriors, and the Los Angeles Clippers are always in the mix as well. San Antonio is not a glamorous team that always catches headlines, and they are ok with that.  They let their play do the talking.

With a great coach, seasoned veterans, and a young star, the Spurs will always be in the mix to be in the playoffs, and most notably the NBA Finals to claim their fifth title.  They now have to deal with a new revamped Cavaliers team that has LeBron and Love.


Should Games Be Shortened?

After the NBA announced that it would experiment with shorter game times, the league was unsure what to expect.  The new game would be played in 44 minutes instead of the usual 48.  The first game played with the new time was between the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics.

The average time for a regular game is two hours and 15 minutes.  The new game was played in one hour and 58 minutes. The quarters were now only 11 minutes, and the second and fourth quarters only used two timeouts instead of the usual three.  The time could benefit some players to take some ease off of them for the long season.

Another suggestion around the league would be to shorten the season instead of shortening the games. The season consists of 82 games for each team.  Now the possibility of the season getting shortened is unlikely.  There are clear financial issues that would stop both the owners and the players.

It would not benefit either financially, but will benefit the players giving them more time to rest and play harder with fewer games on the schedule.  It would ultimately benefit the fans of the NBA since the players would be better rested and not as fatigued.

The last time the season was shortened was the 2011 NBA season, and that was cut by means of a lockout that lasted from mid-July to Christmas Day.  The season was now 66 games instead of the regular 82.  The loss of the 16 games cost the owners, league, and its players over 400 million dollars.  So the likelihood of the season being cut down is pretty low.

The time shortage will be more of a possibility but not much of a difference in the eyes of the players and the fans.  The difference of only 17 minutes is not that drastic, so the likelihood of the four-minute shortage is not likely.  The league should try to look at things that can be cut down during the game.

Some of the things that can be worked on is enforcing when timeouts are done, times of free throws, analysis of replays, and delay of games.  Stricter rules should be implemented on these things before moving on to cutting the actual game and season.


Which New Face in a New Place (Besides James and Love) Will Have the Biggest Impact on Their Team?

The reason that James and Love are not included in this section is that we all know that they will succeed.

As stated earlier, the Cavs are the new favorites to win the trophy.  But who else has a shot to have the biggest impact on their team? Pau Gasol with the Bulls?  Gasol was one of the most sought after free agents this past season.  After rejecting the Los Angeles Lakers’ contract extension, Gasol decided to take his talents to the Windy City to join Derrick Rose and the fan favorite Joakim Noah.

The Bulls, now looking healthier than ever, sit behind the Cavs to win the East after adding Gasol and with a healthy Rose.

Then there is “The Truth”—Paul Pierce—joining the high-flying John Wall in Washington.  The Wizards are a little short-handed, so Pierce will most likely be starting this season, unlike like last season where he came off the bench with the Brooklyn Nets.

Another aging veteran who has been moved around is Vince Carter joining the Memphis Grizzlies.  Carter will likely still be coming off the bench, but his services will help the Grizzlies be an even bigger contender in the West.

One of the biggest stories was the previous Houston Rockets’ team being imploded. Chandler Parsons left for one of the other teams in the Lone Star State.  Then there was Jeremy Lin partaking in the Hollywood lifestyle by joining the Los Angeles Lakers, and most likely being the starter after Steve Nash announced that he will be out for the rest of the season due to lingering back injuries.

Then there is Omer Asik flew east to join the New Orleans Pelicans and their young star, Anthony Davis.  Parsons is one of the best small forwards in the league right now and should have an instant impact on the aging Mavericks squad. It’s interesting to see players with new teams, with some leaving entire conferences.  So they will then have to adjust to a new conference and a new team.

Finally, there is Andrew Wiggins, who technically is not a new face in a new place since he has not played one NBA minute yet, having been was traded from the Cavs to the Wolves in the Love trade.

So he changed teams within a few months, and before officially playing one regular-season minute this year, he is still considered the front-runner for rookie of the year.  His Minnesota Timberwolves seem to be taking shape with the Spainiard Ricky Rubio and the former UNLV star Anthony Bennett backing him up.

Wiggins was the first overall pick for a reason.  He now knows where he will play this year, after he was unsure whether he would be a Cav or not.  He now has some additional fire after the Cavs traded him to show them what they missed out on with their first overall pick.

This year’s NBA season should be a good one, with the new big three formed in Cleveland, other teams stacking up their rosters to combat the Cavs, and of course the reigning NBA Champs in San Antonio.  As the season plays out, some of these questions might be answered, some might not.

Can they come out swinging or will they stumble out the gate?  Or will the stumbling happen at the end of the season come playoff time?  The Spurs, no longer the favorite to win, even though they won it all last year, want teams to underestimate them.

They know who they are, and with their mixture of veteran and young talent, it looks like they have the formula to do it again.  The league can also continue to try out the 44-minute game to see if it can actually work.  Now that the crazy free agency has come to an end and we see familiar faces in unfamiliar places, we get to see what they can offer to their new clubs.  Let the threes fly, the dunks slam, the trash talking begin, and the nasty crossovers commence.

The NBA is back.

Omar Rodriguez is a writer for Scouts Alley.

A History of the Wizards-Cavs Rivalry

By Matt Graber

The Washington Wizards begin their regular season October 29th against the Miami Heat. But November 21st, a home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, is the date that Wizards fans have circled on their calenders. Because, in case you missed it, the Wizards-Cavs rivalry is back on.

On Monday, at Wizards Media Day, Bradley Beal claimed that the tandem of he and John Wall are “definitely the best backcourt in the NBA”. A bold claim, sure, but hardly unreasonable, especially for media day. However, Cavs guard Dion Waiters took offense. From ESPN.com:

“That’s nonsense,” Waiters said after practice Tuesday. “(Beal is) supposed to say that, but I know deep down, he’s not messing with me and Ky (Kyrie Irving). I think me and Ky are the best backcourt, young backcourt. That’s all.”

John Wall disagreed, and he let Waiters know it:

“Why he say that? They haven’t seen a playoff game yet so when they make one they can start talking,” Wall said after the Wizards completed their first training camp practice of the season. “But if you’re going to be the best back court, you have to start. This is the year he’s probably starting so let’s see who got to best back court. You got to be a starting back court to be the best back court.”

Shots fired. The back-and-forth continued on Twitter until this instant classic from Waiters:

Yeah, it’s on. And it’s about time, because the Wizards and Cavs have the talent, relevancy, personalities, individual matchups and history to once again be one of the most entertaining rivalries in the NBA. In case you forgot about Round 1 of the rivalry, here’s a recap of their engaging and volatile trilogy of first-round matchups.

2006: The first of three consecutive Wizards-Cavs playoff meetings came in 2006 and featured a close and highly entertaining duel between Gilbert Arenas and a 22-year-old LeBron James, who was making his playoff debut.

That sentence may not make sense today, but you must remember that Gilbert Arenas used to be an All-Star and one of the NBA’s best scorers. The series has highly competitive, and Arenas and James put up some ridiculous numbers.

The two led their respective teams in scoring each game, highlighted by LeBron edging Arenas 45 points to 44 in Game 5. Unfortunately, the Cavs prevailed 4-2, including three heartbreaking 1 point victories, two coming via game-winning LeBron layups:

(He totally traveled on the second one, but I digress)

2007: 2006 was a fun, competitive and intriguing series featuring stellar individual performances and down-to-the-wire contests. 2007, not so much. The Wizards didn’t have Arenas or Caron Butler, LeBron had a year of playoff experience under his belt, and the Cavs eviscerated the Wizards 4-0 en route to the Finals. The less said about this, the better. Let’s just move on, okay?

2008: Now here is were it gets interesting, mainly due the Wizards guard and instigator DeShawn Stevenson. Stevenson felt it would be wise to call LeBron ‘overrated’. Because LeBron, coming off a devastating loss in the Finals and desperate to cement his greatness, needed even more motivation against a rival team.  The Wizards were much more competitive this time around, even winning Game 3 by 36. But a fired-up LeBron led the Cavs to a third straight series victory, dropping 27, 13 and 13 in a series-clinching Game 6.

Unlike the previous two years, this series featured plenty of off-court drama. James refused to comment on Stevenson’s taunt, likening it to Jay-Z responding to a diss from Soulja Boy. This led to both rappers inserting themselves into the feud. Soulja Boy attended game three at the Verizon Center and had his music played over the PA, while Jay-Z dropped this:

So yeah, the Cavs won the first round, but it wasn’t a total loss for Wizards fans. The team actually made the playoffs three years in a row, and we got to see a prime Gilbert Arenas do his thing. And DeShawn Stevenson certainly enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame.

Now, after years of ineptitude and mediocrity from both sides, the rivalry is back on. Both teams are packed with real talent, and both are positioned to be Eastern Conference contenders for years to come. Wall vs. Irving. Beal vs. Waiters. Pierce vs. James. It’s gonna be a good one, and it’s gonna have real championship implications. Get excited.

Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley and Air Alamo and an editor at Wizards 101. Follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber

Why Everyone Wins The Kevin Love Trade

By Matt Graber

The last major move of the NBA offseason has finally been made, as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves reportedly have a handshake agreement in place to swap Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a first round pick for Kevin Love. Here’s a look at how the blockbuster trade affects each team’s future, and how it’s a rare win-win situation.

What It Means For The Cavs: So it’s probably safe to say that the Cavs won this offseason, huh? Adding LeBron James and now Kevin Love has taken the team from perennial disappointment to title favorite. James, Love, and Kyrie Irving give the Cavs a legit Big Three and give LeBron the opportunity to compete for titles now instead of waiting for a young team to mature.

This was a great trade for the Cavs. When you have the opportunity to add a top-10 player to your team, you take it, especially when that team already includes the best player in the world and a 22-year old All-Star point guard. And for all the talk of Love being overrated, or stat-hungry, or a sub-par defender, he’s still one of the best players in the league.

Sure, stats can be overrated and they don’t necessarily tell the whole story, but 26 and 12 can’t be ignored. Love is an elite rebounder, a quality three-point bomber, and one of the best passing big men in the league; the mere thought of Love throwing his brilliant outlet passes to LeBron must have Cavs fans salivating.

The Cavs made the right call in taking Love’s proven production over potential. Wiggins could have developed into a perfect sidekick for LeBron. Anthony Bennett might make major strides this season. But ‘could’ and ‘might’ aren’t really what the Cavs are looking for after signing a 29-year-old Lebron to a two-year deal. Both parties know there is pressure to win now; the Love trade gives them the best chance to do that.

And that’s the new question on everyone’s mind; can the Cavs win it all this year? They seem to be mirroring the Heat’s blueprint for roster construction: flank LeBron with an All-Star on the perimeter (Irving, Wade) and in the frontcourt (Love, Bosh), then use the allure of playing with LeBron to attract battle-tested veterans looking for one last shot at a ring; guys like Mike Miller, James Jones, and possibly Ray Allen, Shawn Marion and Chauncey Billups. Add in youngsters like Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellevedova and veteran forward Anderson Varejao, and the Cavs should have the talent and depth to make a serious run.

They won’t be a defensive juggernaut, as both Love and Irving are lacking in that department. But James, Love, Irving and Waiters will give the team a scary offensive arsenal. They’ll be able to outscore anybody, and they’ll have experienced role players who can still thrive in the playoffs. Love takes them from title contenders to title favorites, making the trade a smart and necessary move.

What it Means for the Wolves: This was the best haul the Wolves could have gotten, even better than Golden State’s offer of Klay Thompson and David Lee. Thompson, while a skilled shooter and sound defender, doesn’t have the potential that Wiggins does, and his game wouldn’t look nearly as impressive without Steph Curry. He’s better off staying in Golden State with his fellow Splash Brother, and the Wolves are better off not paying for two years of Lee at $15 million a pop followed by paying Thompson the massive new contract he’ll likely command in 2016.

Wiggins has the potential to become a legitimate two-way superstar. Whether he’ll live up to that potential remains to be seen, but his floor seems to be quality perimeter defender and decent scorer. If he can improve his ball handling and his shooting, he can become much more than that – he can be a two-way menace. Either way, Minnesota will find out soon enough. Wiggins won’t be a third option on this team – he’ll be a focal point on both ends of the floor and the new face of the franchise. That has to be appealing to a kid who recently said he just wants to go to a team that wants him.

The Wolves won’t be a very good team next year, but they’ll be a hell of a lot of fun to watch. A crafty passer like Ricky Rubio surrounded by athletes like Wiggins, Zach Lavine and Corey Brewer will lead to some breathtaking dunks and entertaining fastbreaks. They’ll be League Pass darlings, not the worst label for a rebuilding team.

Wiggins will join Rubio, Lavine, Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng, who came on strong last year, to form an intriguing young core. Add center Nikola Pekovic and forward Thad Young (Anthony Bennett to the Sixers for Young seems like a done deal), and the Wolves have a decent collection of talent. Couple that with two first round picks next year, and the Wolves rebuild is off to a quick and promising start.


Photo credit: Keith Allison / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Matt Graber is a writer for Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @Matt14Graber

A Letter to the Cleveland Cavaliers

By Murphy Powell

Hi Cleveland Cavaliers, I hope you’re doing well. I mean, I know the team is doing well, I just wanted to make sure you were thinking straight. I heard you were considering trading Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett for Kevin Love. I don’t want to second-guess you guys, I mean you’re the professionals here. But you’ve had a lot of opportunities lately. A lot of opportunities, and you’ve squandered them all. Every one. Picking Anthony Bennett instead of Victor Oladipo, for example. So instead of going through with this trade – if that’s what you were thinking of doing – I want to encourage you to channel your inner George Costanza and do the opposite of what you were thinking. You’ve made a lot of wrong moves, so doing the opposite would be the right move, right? I can think of three different things to do with your situation. Let’s think these through. 1) Don’t make the trade. You just drafted Andrew Wiggins. Are you seriously going to deal him right away? Before he even plays a minute on your floor? That’s insane. From what I hear, Wiggins’ game should translate in a great way to the NBA. Could you imagine seeing him and LeBron fly down the court, probably throwing a ton of alley-oops to each other and being super exciting? Well if you trade him, you can’t. Also, Wiggins can be your guy of the future. Think about when LeBron leaves. When he does, whenever that is, you’ll need someone to take over. Who better to do that than Andrew Wiggins? And who better to teach Andrew Wiggins about basketball, and being awesome, and all that business than LeBron? Think: you could have LeBron James, without question one of the top 10 players of all-time, teach the future of your franchise. And all you have to do is not trade that guy. Maybe Wiggins will turn out great. Maybe he’ll turn out a bust. But do you want to be 7 or 8 years down the road and see Wiggins – who at that time could be one of the best basketballers on the planet – leading Minnesota to playoff run after playoff run and wish you had him? 2) Make the trade. Your team doesn’t have a great post presence right now. Love is only 25, and he’s already one of the best big men in the league. He’s a great rebounder, a good shooter and one of the best passing big men there is. You can’t pass up an opportunity to grab one of the league’s best players and pair him up with – probably – the league’s very best player. There’s no need worrying about the future. Love has said he’ll re-sign with you after the season, and having him around will probably keep LeBron happy and in Cleveland. Plus Kevin Love’s uncle is Mike Love of the Beach Boys! Just think of all the sweet surf rock you could bring to Cleveland! 3) Wait. You know what Kevin Love is going to do at the end of the season? Not sign with Minnesota. So you have all the bargaining power. The team you have in July 2014 doesn’t have to be the same team you have in June 2015 while LeBron is probably leading you to the Finals. Just wait this whole thing out. Wiggins hasn’t played for a second. He could turn out to be a great fit with LeBron. If he does, don’t trade him. If they turn out to be awful for each other and just don’t fit at all, trade him. And think about potential injuries. If Kevin Love gets hurt in the first week of the season, you don’t have to worry about it. If Wiggins gets hurt, that’s rough, but your team’s probably still ok. Don’t forget: you do still have Kyrie Irving to pair with LeBron. Again, you have the power here, not Minnesota. You can do whatever you want, and you have until the February trade deadline to do it. Whatever you do, it’s probably not a bad decision. Love is great, Wiggins could be great. LeBron’s definitely great. This is a pretty good problem to have. Take care. Love, Murphy

  Murphy Powell is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter @MurphyPowell.

Why Heat Fans Shouldn’t Be Mad at LeBron James

By John Stoeter


Photo Credit: By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Dwyane Wade an LeBron James) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo Credit: By Keith Allison from Owings Mills, USA (Dwyane Wade an LeBron James) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

While it is understandable for any Miami Heat fan to be upset with LeBron James for leaving the  Heat, they should first look at everything he brought to the organization during his tenure in Miami.

Dwyane Wade and his 26.6 PPG led the 2009-2010 Miami Heat team to a 47-35 record, which qualified for the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference. However their playoff run was short-lived as they were eliminated by the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round.

According to Basketball Reference, Jermaine O’Neal was the highest paid player with a whopping salary of $23,010,000. Udonis Haslem was second on the team in Win Shares with 6, followed closely behind Quentin Richardson with 5.8. And they ranked 15th in attendance with 726,935.

Now let’s take a look at the 2010-2011 Miami Heat team which included the emergence of LeBron James and Chris Bosh alongside Dwyane Wade. The Miami Heat improved to a 61-21 record and found themselves in the NBA Finals against the Dallas Mavericks. They improved their attendance to 5th in the NBA with 810,930. In the 2011-2012 NBA season they were 4th in the league with an attendance of 657,855. (Keep in mind that the 2011-2012 NBA season was shortened to 66 games due to a NBA lockout.) The Miami Heat attendance rate increased to 3rd in the league during the 2012-2013 NBA season with 819,290. And even though the Heat didn’t see an increase in attendance during the 2013-2014 season, it still qualified for 4th-best in the NBA.

During the four seasons LeBron James played for the Miami Heat, they had a top-five attendance rate. Not only did LeBron James bring an influx of money to Heat organization, he also brought championships back along with him. The Miami Heat won two consecutive NBA titles from 2012-2013. LeBron James won the MVP award and the Finals MVP award during both of those seasons. James brought a much needed excitement back to the city of Miami. He brought resilience and recognition back to an organization in need of it. But most importantly he brought back two banners that now hang proudly in AmericanAirlines Arena.

For instance, fellow Scouts Alley creator Murphy Powell and I attended Game 2 of the 2013 NBA Finals. We went to the NBA Finals strictly just to see LeBron James, the greatest player in the NBA. And while the both of us have always liked the Miami Heat because they were in Florida, we never truly cared for them. We never truly cared until LeBron James joined the team that is. And the high increase in attendance shows that many other NBA fans felt the same way as we did.

So to any bitter Miami Heat fans, you should be thankful for everything LeBron James has done for the Miami Heat organization. The recognition and relevance in which the Miami Heat have received these past four seasons are all thanks to LeBron James. Unless you are a die-hard Miami Heat fan, the average fan would not even remember Quentin Richardson. Yet, he was the Miami Heat’s third most productive player from the 2009-2010 season. Would y’all have rather seen more consecutive seasons such as the 2009-2010 season, or the four amazing and energizing seasons LeBron James provided? So be happy for the many wonderful memories that LeBron James shared with Miami.

The Miami Heat will see a decrease in attendance this year and the fans can clamor it’s because of “bandwagon” fans. But once the bitterness and heartbreak subsides, they’ll truly see how lucky they were to witness the King James dynasty in Miami. Heat fans will remember the shoe-less Mike Miller, LeBron losing his headband, the infamous Ray Allen shot, and all the excitement Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals brought. They’ll look into those rafters at AmericanAirlines Arena and thank LeBron James for his 2012 and 2013 NBA Championships, and truly realize the legacy he created for the Miami Heat organization.

  • LeBron’s left-handed game winner in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2013

Lebron James

  • LeBron’s career-ending dunk on Jason Terry

Lebron James

  • LeBron’s clutch shot to ice Game 7 of the 2013 NBA Finals.

Lebron James

  • LeBron’s monsterous block on Tiago Splitter

Lebron James

Not 1, Not 2, Well Maybe Only 2?

By John Stoeter

The decision that sent Lebron James packing to South Beach in 2010 can ultimately be the same decision that sends him packing his bags back to Cleveland in 2014. During Lebron’s spell in Miami, the team has been to four straight NBA Finals appearances while winning two of them. So what seems to be the problem? Similar to his Cleveland days, Lebron has little to no help surrounding him.

In the 2014 NBA Finals Lebron scored 28.2 PPG, leading the Miami Heat in scoring. The other two members of the so-called big three averaged 29.2 PPG. Unfortunately for Lebron and the Heat, this was Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade’s combined PPG for the series. Well Bosh and Wade must be producing elsewhere then, correct? False. Bosh and Wade went on to average only 9 rebounds per game and 3.6 assists per game during the 2014 NBA Finals. Sure, if each one did that individually then that doesn’t sound all too bad. However, these were their combined statistics, whereas Lebron James averaged 7.8 rebounds and 4 assists.

The combination of Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade only averaged 1 more point than James while producing fewer assists and only averaging 1.2 rebounds more than the king. At this point, Lebron must be quoting his inner Bugs Bunny in Space Jam, saying, “We need your help!!!!” Seriously, minus Lebron, the Spurs made the Heat look like a Michael Jordan-less Tune Squad.

In a must-win Game 4 in Miami, Dwyane Wade shot 3-13 from the field and only scored 10 points. Chris Bosh scored 12 points but managed to grab only 4 rebounds. Lebron out-rebounded the starting squad by his lonesome. In a win-or-go-home Game 5, Chris Bosh shot 6-14, going 0-5 from behind the three-point line while only producing 13 points. Dwyane Wade shot 4-12, only manufacturing 11 buckets. Lebron went on to lead the team in scoring with 31 while also leading the team in rebounds and assists. The Miami Heat’s lack of offensive production has to at least have Lebron squabbling the options of taking his talents to Cleveland. So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of a decision part two.

The Cleveland Advantage

       The combination of Kyrie Irving and Andrew Wiggins has to at least spark the interest of Lebron James. Kyrie Irving is a premiere PG in the league and his 20.8 PPG has to at least attract Lebron James slightly. And if you remember Kyrie Irving stole the show by winning this years MVP in the all-star game. The kid seems to be big time and is dripping with potential. The ability for James to actually come off the ball and play a true SF/PF position would be very beneficial for him. Most importantly, it would be very beneficial for his legs and his body. As we have all seen in the previous year’s finals, Lebron struggles with severe leg cramps. And although there are many reasons behind this, you have to like the idea of Kyrie Irving being able to reduce the stress of Lebron James and his legs. More than likely Lebron will still have the ball the majority of the time. But the idea that he can actually play with a great PG for once instead of a multitude of mediocre ones has to be intriguing.

Now let’s get to the Andrew Wiggins factor of the Cavaliers sales pitch. The phenom freshman from the Kansas Jayhawks has been raved upon since his high school days. Similar to another number one draft pick by the Cavaliers named Lebron James. Before his transition to college, many experts dubbed Andrew Wiggins to be the next Lebron James. Not to mention, it is believed that Andrew Wiggins’ game will transition very smoothly into the NBA. An NBA-sized court will allow Wiggins to move with more spacing which he seems to be a lot more comfortable doing. The trio of James, Irving, and Wiggins has the capability of a true big 3 with some athletic scoring ability. Not to mention, unlike the Miami Heat of 2014 which was running on lack of cartilage and fumes, this team has youth behind it.

But the biggest benefit to a possible Cleveland return for the king is that it’s home. The decision for Lebron James to return to Cleveland is simply deeper than a good team with a chance of winning. A couple weeks ago Lebron posted videos on Instagram of him and his buddies from Cleveland. He is quoted saying, “Man I miss my dogs! Can’t wait to get home for the summer.” Lebron stills owns a home there and returns every summer to vacation. The majority of his friends and family still reside in Cleveland and the surrounding areas. It seems to me that Lebron would love nothing more than to return to Cleveland and win their first major professional title since 1964. The hometown villain could become a hero and cement his legacy in Cleveland sports forever. As the saying goes, “there’s no place like home.”

Cleveland Crisis

       First, let’s address the youth of this team. Andrew Wiggins is only 19 and Kyrie Irving is just 22. While there have been rookies who have risen to stardom and help win titles before, it is very uncommon for a team this young to do so. The major core of this team would be 24 and younger besides Anderson Varejao. I don’t believe James will want to come to a team in which he feels he will have to coach throughout the season. In my opinion, James will be more interested on a team where he can contend immediately. Lebron is interested in rings, not coaching young stars and molding their future. This Cavaliers team hoisted a 33-49 record last year and have yet to receive a winning season since the departure of James. Although they have had much “luck” in the NBA draft, they have been bad enough to receive three number one draft picks in the past four seasons. And not to mention, this is the same team that wasted the 2013 number one pick on Anthony Bennett.

       Also, this is the same exact organization that failed to provide James with any extra help or relief necessary to provide a serious NBA Finals run. Seriously, there were seasons in which Larry Hughes and an old washed-up Shaq and Ben Wallace led the team in salary. Does Lebron really want to risk his future on another bad management fiasco in Cleveland?

       The other big question mark on this team is newly hired head coach David Blatt. The man is a widely successful European coach. But who knows if his style of play will translate into a successful offense in the NBA. I believe that all these question marks surrounding Cleveland will be a little bit too much for Lebron James to commit to. Maybe in a few years as this team matures we will finally see a return of the king in Cleveland.

In Riley We Trust

       Lebron James will have a sit-down with Pat Riley today. He will announce his doubts and uncertainties for the following Miami Heat season, but all in all it’s about winning, and I believe that Lebron trusts Pat Riley enough to make the moves around him in order to create a roster capable of another championship run. At the moment the heat only have four players currently committed to this season’s basketball team. These players consist of Norris Cole, Shabazz Napier, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. This so far looks like a much better and youthful team to build around Lebron. But if you add in the fact that Udonis Haslem, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Ray Allen are likely to sign with the Heat again if Lebron does, the average age of the roster starts to take a significant hit.

       In order for Lebron to resign with the Heat, I believe they have to get some true scoring power or make a trade for a guy like Marc Gasol. A true center in Miami is a must-need. If Chris Bosh can go back to shooting his mid-range shot and playing PF then the Heat immediately look better. Taking Bosh away from grabbing boards and adding in a center who can do that will ultimately be a significant upgrade for the team. Lebron will trust in Riley and his genius mind and go on to play another season for the Miami Heat.

The Rumor Portion

       Everybody loves a sweet rumor so let me end with a wild prediction. It was reported earlier that after speaking with Lebron James, Chris Bosh and his agent have started to at least take offers from other teams. One offer being the 4 year/88 million dollar deal with the Houston Rockets. Lebron James needs more star power and scoring in Miami. However, he knows that the Heat will not rid themselves of Dwyane Wade. Even though Wade has a bum knee and looked like a shell of himself in the previous NBA Finals; his job is safe. The guy is hero in that city and loved by all. He has been a part of all of the organizations championships and it’s pretty safe to say that his job is locked up.

       So here is where it gets interesting. What if Lebron was toying with Chris Bosh in order for him to leave town? Maybe Pat Riley and Lebron James discuss a evil maniacal plan to rid themselves of Bosh and his salary. They make the announcement that Lebron won’t be returning to Miami, creating a frenzy in the free agent market. Chris Bosh makes the decision to sign with the Rockets. Which, personally, I find to be a great pick up. And it leaves the Rockets as a number one favorite out of the west. Bosh with his mid-range and Howard with the rebounds and defense would create the best PF/C combo in the league.

       But back to the Lebron sweepstakes. After a day or two of pandemonium it’s announced that the Heat sign Carmelo Anthony to a deal, which was the evil plan created by James and Riley. Next thing you know, the Heat are back in business with another big blockbuster free agency. Thus leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers heartbroken, playing the role of scapegoat while Lebron James returns to the Miami Heat organization.

       The Miami Heat roster could look something like this:

PG: Cole/Napier

SG: Wade

SF: Anthony

PF: James

C: Whoever, it doesn’t matter

Let’s say the bench looks something similar to this.

SG: Allen

SF: Granger

PF: McRoberts

PF: Haslem

C: Anderson/Oden

Throw in whoever else they decide to add to the mix. Now that sounds like some serious championship contention and an immediate upgrade for the Miami Heat and Lebron James.

John Stoeter is a creator of Scouts Alley. You can follow him on Twitter at @Stoeter850.