Beyond the Arc – The First Edition

Welcome to the Dojo’s Beyond the Arc, a place for all things NBA, with a statistical spin. What a start to the season. As the season is two weeks deep, there are already some news worth noting. If you guessed that Russell Westbrook would miss only 2 games instead of 4-6 weeks, give yourself a pat on the back. If you guessed that the Philadelphia Sixers would take down the Heat on opening night, and Michael Carter-Williams would nearly get a QUADRUPLE-DOUBLE in his rookie debut, give yourself a day off. Historical Check: He was later named Player of the Week in the NBA, the second rookie ever to win the honors in his opening week and first since Shaquille O’Neal did it in 1992. Is it weird to start talking about Phoenix (5-2) looking more complete than Denver (2-4)? Why is Derrick Rose among the league leaders in turnovers? Regardless, here are some player and team trends so far.

Usage Percentage and Player Efficiency Rating: Derrick Rose’s turnover issues uncovered

First let’s not forget Derrick Rose hasn’t played competitive basketball in more than a year. He needs time to adjust but more on that in a minute. Here are some statistical reasons why he’s turning the ball over so much. Two big themes for future articles are Usage Percentage (USG%) and Player Efficiency Rating (PER). Simply put, USG% helps us analyze how many of a team’s total possessions a given player uses while he is in the game. PER accounts for the positive achievements (such as made field goals, made free throws, blocks, steals) and negative achievements (turnovers, missed shots, personal fouls) a player has throughout the game. The league average is 15. Take a look at an example to understand this more…

USG% Leaders (minimum of 6 games)

  1. 36.0 — DeMarcus Cousins, SAC
  2. 31.8 — Rudy Gay, TOR
  3. 31.0 — Kevin Durant, OKC
  4. 30.6 — Derrick Rose, CHI
  5. 29.9 — Ramon Sessions, CHA

The glaring fact here is that their respective teams heavily rely upon these players. To shed light on these numbers more, we use PER.

PER Leaders (minimum 6 games)

  1. 29.6 — Anthony Davis, NOP
  2. 29.2 — Kevin Love, MIN
  3. 28.8 — Kevin Durant, OKC
  4. 28.5 — Chris Paul, LAC
  5. 27.8 — DeMarcus Cousins, SAC

When you see these two numbers together, you can notice how they show overall player efficiency. Kevin Durant is the best example of this because he has a high USG%, meaning a high percentage of the Thunder’s total possessions in one game go through him. Noticing the fact that he ranks third in the league in PER, we can use these two factors as an indication of how efficient he is, given the high number of possessions he gets…having a high USG% and equally high PER means you’re very efficient. The same cannot be said for Derrick Rose, who ranks fourth in USG% (30.6). When you look at his PER though, things change. He ranks well out of the top 100, with a subpar 6.7…that’s not like the D-Rose we all know, who during his MVP season had a 23.5 PER. Turnovers are the hot topic, and per game, he averages 4.2 TO. Per 36 minutes, he averages 4.8. Using stats based off of 36 minutes will usually be higher depending on the particular category. When you reflect a player’s stats off of a closer interval, say 36 minutes, it helps to show individual’s performance and takes into account when someone is sitting on the bench and the fact that no one’s averages are based on them playing every minute. His PER is brought down because of his turnovers and his USG% tells us that the ball is going through him A LOT, inevitably leading to more turnovers. He will have to figure out how to pass more effectively but when you see those high turnover numbers it shouldn’t be that surprising anymore. After all, he carries the ball up the court almost every possession. Rose will get back into the swing of things; he is just trying to get some of the rust out. If he continues to jump and then pass in mid air to someone, the Bulls are doomed.

The Suns and the Sixers:

Well I’ll be honest I didn’t expect the Suns or the 76ers to hold the 3 and 5 spot in their respected conferences. It is early for the Suns but a nice combo of Eric Bledsoe (26.6 USG% and 25.4 PER) and Markieff Morris (21.4 USG% and 27.5 PER) has gone a long way in terms of their 5-2 start. The leagues top 5 leaders in Margin of Victory (MOV) begin with the Pacers, then Spurs, Warriors, Timberwolves, and the Heat. These all seem pretty self-explanatory but can you guess the number six holder? If it was obvious enough, the Phoenix Suns do with an MOV of 4.29. Up next, Brooklyn comes to town and then they have a back to back with the Sacramento Kings, on the horizon…November 25th, a date with the Heat in Miami. We’ll soon see what this team is made of.

Across the country, Philly is making there own noise. Michael Carter-Williams is boasting an incredible 17.4 ppg, 7.9 apg, 5.4 apg, and 2.6 spg. His shot selection can always improve, considering he is shooting 38% from the field, but he’s a rookie and there are great early signs. Evan Turner is starting to play like the 2nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. Turning in a nice 23.0 ppg, 63 rpg, 3.1 apg, and 20.2 PER through eight games. After winning their first 3, the 76ers have lost four of five. Hopefully, they have a little early season energy to stay competitive, but in a loaded draft next year, is winning games good? That’s a shot to the Celtics who made me extremely happy when they lost their four first games. They then succeeded to upset me by going on a four game win streak. If they get into the playoffs I’m paying anyone who e-mails me a question five bucks…this better not happen.

The Pacers are for real:

How real? Well to start their defense only allows 84.5 ppg. Then there is this quote from Roy Hibbert

“Everybody has to sacrifice something… It’s somebody different every night. I don’t expect to have 20-point nights all the time.”

When you play unselfishly and have that sort of mentality, you’re going to win games. We’ll be watching, Indiana, don’t forget you’re entering the spotlight now. By the way, Paul George’s stat line through eight games: 24.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 3.6 apg, 29.7 USG%, and 25.9 PER… a prime example of how to show up to start the season.

Dojo Power Rankings Top 10 (through 2 weeks and not reflecting any games from Nov 12th and on):

1. 8-0 Indiana Pacers (Paul George an easy favorite for best performance thus far. Roy Hibbert is dominating the defensive side as well, already with 35 blocks – 4.38 bpg)

2. 7-1 San Antonio Spurs (Classic Popovich. Working the deep bench and resting the vets…makes me like my finals pick more and more)

3. 4-3 Miami Heat (We haven’t seen the high intensity, lockdown defense for a whole game, they’ll save that for the playoffs but a lackadaisical start for LeBron’s standards. Still when they’re called upon late in games the Heat will show up to play…fun fact: the Lakers third go round to win three in a row saw them start 11-19, don’t fret Miami)

4. 5-1 Oklahoma City Thunder (It’s like the injury never happened…)

5. 5-3 Minnesota Timberwolves (Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love are tearing it up…the health factor is big with this team but you can easily put them ahead of OKC or Miami right now…very scary team to face)

6. 5-3 Los Angeles Clippers (Chris Paul is the best player in Los Angeles. Yes, I said it)

7. 5-3 Houston Rockets (Hack-a-Dwight is back!!! More on this to come)

8. 4-3 Golden State Warriors (I really wish I took the under of 10 games before “Stephen Curry” and “ankle injury” was mentioned in a headline…luckily it was minor. They’re one of the fastest teams up and down the court in the league and they sure are entertaining)

9. 5-2 Portland Trailblazers (What do you make of a team that has loses to Phoenix and Houston but a big win against San Antonio?)

10. 4-3 Atlanta Hawks (My first thought wasn’t about the Hawks season, it was about how it took SEVEN Western Conference teams before we mentioned a THIRD Eastern Conference team…yikes…they’ve beaten 4 teams with a combined record of 10-19 – Toronto, Sacramento, Orlando, and Charlotte – the quality of the Eastern Conference everyone! Obviously, SAC is in the West)

Teams Looking In:

-Detroit Pistons: I’m just waiting for the Jennings-Smith-Monroe-Drummond core to click and mesh. They’ll be in this group eventually.

-Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose can’t struggle with turnovers forever…….right?

-Phoenix Suns: How long can the party last? I’m guessing another two weeks before the schedule starts to eat them up. I love being proven wrong though.

Teams Falling Out:

-Atlanta Hawks: Yes, I’m staring at you Atlanta. Their next six games, NYK, PHI, @NYK, @MIA, DET, @DET. I say they go 3-3.

-Portland Trailblazers: Remember there is only so much space in the Western Conference. Eventually teams like Detroit or Chicago will pull through in the East and one of these teams will have to fall out of the top 10.

***Best Hustle Play through 2 weeks***

Kawhi Leonard getting better with each possession. Great unselfish play.

Kawhi Leonard’s supreme hustle play

***Best Display of Fundamentals***

I’m a sucker for post moves but honesty I’m speechless. I didn’t know Andrew Bynum had it in him…especially over Noah.

Bynum’s got moves

***Hack-a-Dwight Special***

This is what happens when you foul Dwight Howard late in the game…

Stay tuned for Part II in the coming weeks and continue to enjoy.

-E-Mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

-@brosephmeola

Dojo NBA Preview

Finally. It’s almost time for the 2013 NBA season to get underway. It’s time for a preview to get everyone acclimated for the new season. For those that may forget, the Miami Heat are the two-time defending champions. There are new faces in new places, an already highly anticipated 2014 draft class, tons of what-ifs, and a looming free-agent summer with too many names to mention. For a much more comprehensive and specific look at each team, look for Bill Simmons and Jalen Rose’s NBA Preview on Grantland as they countdown the season with video podcasts breaking down each team’s moves this offseason. You can find the link at the end of the page. Now without further ado, here is a short 2013 NBA Preview…Dojo style.

Note:

-Teams listed in their respected groups are in no particular order. The groupings themselves are rough rankings based on playoff chances.

The White Belts

Phoenix Suns

They just pulled off a nice trade. Giving them four potential first round picks in next years draft. This team will make more noise during next year’s offseason than during the actual season.

Orlando Magic

Victor Oladipo, Arron Afflalo, Tobias Harris, and Nikola Vucevic headline a very athletic and young Orlando group. Another rebuilding year is coming, but aiming for a low pick this season isn’t necessarily bad. Lets put it this way, you don’t want to be like some of the teams coming up who are shooting for the 8th seeds and losing first round.

Philadelphia Sixers

Jrue Holiday v. Michael Beasley (Photo Cred: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Jrue Holiday v. Michael Beasley (Photo Cred: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

There’s a lot to be excited for with the Sixers, but the problem is some people (Philly fans) are impatient. There big move was made on draft night when the Sixers told everyone how they were going to approach the season. Blow. It. Up. They sent their best player over the past two seasons, Jrue Holiday, to New Orleans.  In return, the Pelicans sent Philly; C Nerlens Noel, a 2nd-round pick that turned into Pierre Jackson, and a 2014 first round pick. They will have some nice young talent moving forward. I like this team in three or four years.

Utah Jazz

Look for improvement from Derrick Favors and Gordon Hayward, both of whom lead a young team. Once rookie Trey Burke comes back from a minor injury, they should be competitive but lose the close 4th-quarter games.

Sacramento Kings

A team that has DeMarcus Cousins leading them? We’ll see. I do like the athletic guard combo of Isiah Thomas and Ben McLemore.

The Yellow Belts

Charlotte Bobcats

I like Cody Zeller, the addition of Al Jefferson, and a maturing group consisting of Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. They will have some fight in them and I expect them to win more games than they did last year (21), but nothing higher than 30.

Boston Celtics

It’s another team looking to bottom out. Pierce, Garnett, and Terry are gone. What’s left isn’t much but the addition of Brad Stevens at head coach should show some promise if Danny Ainge brings in the right pieces. The fact that I know the Celtics will struggle makes me happy because I don’t have to stress about them making the playoffs or contending at all. Another reason why I can’t wait for the season to start so I can enjoy it without rooting for one specific team.

Toronto Raptors

The biggest rumor will be where SF Rudy Gay goes. My guess…Houston flips Omer Asik, Omri Casspi, and Aaron Brooks for Gay and Kyle Lowry. Totally not going to happen but that’s the glory of trade rumors.

Atlanta Hawks

It’s now Al Horford’s team with the departure of longtime Hawk, Josh Smith. Jeff Teague’s play at point guard will also be important to any success they may have. At the same time, Josh Smith’s departure could mean nothing, they were the 6th seed in the playoffs last year…

The Orange Belts

Washington Wizards

John Wall is the ultimate factor with this team. I like their athletic potential with Trevor Ariza, Otto Potter Jr., Bradley Beal, and Kevin Seraphin. However, potential means very little for this year, and they lack a counter punch to Wall. With Wall healthy for a whole season it’s easily believable that they will eclipse their season win total from last year (29).

Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (Photo Cred: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (Photo Cred: Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports)

Kyrie Irving returns with another season under his belt. The young sensation continues to climb the ranks of the NBA’s elite. Last season, he poured in 22.5 PPG, 5.9 APG, 3.7 RPG and shooting .855 percent from the free throw line. He’s a stud. The Cavs also surprised people when they took Anthony Bennett #1 overall. He’ll be interesting to watch. Also they brought back former head coach Mike Brown. Maybe in preparation for LeBron next summer? (Sorry I can’t resist.)

***Note from Editor: REMINDER TO ALL READERS: email admin@thesportsdojo.com to place your bets against me (Greg) in LeBron’s 2014 destination. He’s gonna be a Cav***

New Orleans Pelicans

They will be a fast energetic team. Jrue Holiday immediately steps in as a dependable scorer and distributor. With Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis at Jrue’s side, this team could do a lot of damage for the experience they have. Ryan Anderson provides some much needed veteran experience. It’s just unfortunate that they sit in the Western Conference where they are shooting for a low 7 or 8 seed in the playoffs. Consider the fact that (without spoiling anything and in no particular order), the Thunder, Grizzlies, Warriors, Blazers, Clippers, Rockets, and Spurs haven’t been mentioned, it’s tough to find them sitting in with some of these teams.

Los Angeles Lakers

Simply put, when Kobe Bryant comes back from his achilles injury determines where this team ends up.

The Green Belts

Minnesota Timberwolves

I love me some Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. The ultimate big man-little man duo. Rubio loves to dish out the assists and Kevin Love is lethal when healthy. A very entertaining team to watch that sat at the bottom of the Northwest division last season, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard and Nicolas Batum headline the dangerous backcourt for the Trail Blazers. These two loves to shoot the three at the same rate that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson shoot. J.J. Hickson was traded in the summer, and although many may not know about him, he was a nice compliment to LaMarcus Aldridge down low. What they lost in Hickson, they made up for with Robin Lopez. While Brook Lopez (BKN) may be the better of the two brothers, both are efficient scorers down low. The Blazers 10th pick, rookie CJ McCollum, will miss the first eight to ten weeks with a foot injury but once he returns, it will be a nice blend of guards between himself, Lillard, and Batum. Don’t forget they added Thomas Robinson, the 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Milwaukee Bucks

(Fox Sports Television)

Giannis Antetokounmpo and his GIANT hands (Fox Sports Television)

Don’t sleep on the Bucks! Don’t forget this name: Giannis Antetokounmpo, their 15th overall pick last year. He’s already drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant because of his incredible athleticism and long, lanky arms. They finally gave up on the Brandon Jennings project while also giving away Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick. Brandon Knight comes in as the go to guard alongside new arrival O.J. Mayo. They have the young play of 3 year center LARRY SANDERS (out of VCU) who deserves to have his name spelled in capital letters every time you say it. I also like the guard play off the bench from Gary Neal, who saw minutes in the NBA Finals with the Spurs and Luke Ridnour, the player that everyone feels has traveled his fair share from team to team, but has only been on 3 teams  (Seattle, Milwaukee, and Minnesota).

The Blue Belts

Denver Nuggets

Ty Lawson is a top ten point guard in the league. He’s easily one of the fastest players in the league which is a reason this Denver team is always relevant. They play at a high tempo in an high altitude arena that affects teams late in games if they try to play the run and gun style the Nuggets love. Kenneth Faried is an athletic freak who is only getting better but what hurts this team is what they lost. They lost Andre Iguodala, Corey Brewer, and Masai Ujiri. I’d be surprised if anyone knew who Masai Ujiri was since he’s never played in an NBA game. You may have heard of him because he recently signed a 5 year, $15 million deal to become the GM of the Toronto Raptors. Just know that he won NBA Executive of the Year last year; the guy knows what he’s doing in Toronto. Which is why Rudy Gay WILL be traded… back to the Nuggets. The lost of Iguodala hurts because they just lost their best perimeter defender. They add J.J. Hickson, which I like for defensive rebounding, but his defense is poor. I don’t see this team doing any damage because they’re missing something (aka a legitimate SF or defense in general). Dating back to the 2003-2004 season (so 10 seasons), the Nuggets have reached 50 wins 5 times, reached the playoffs 10 times, BUT they have lost in the first round 9 times. The only time they won in the first round, they made it to the conference finals, ultimately losing to the Lakers who would go on to defeat Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic in 5 games.

Detroit Pistons

Don’t be so surprised. This isn’t the Pistons team that has gone a combined 111-201 in the past four seasons. Fresh off of an active summer, the Pistons have immediately leapfrogged into the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The key additions to the team are SF/PF Josh Smith, formerly of the Atlanta Hawks, and Brandon Jennings, former PG of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Pistons may boast the best starting front court in the Eastern Conference this season (Indiana’s Hibbert/West/George maybe a tad better, more on them later). With Smith in the SF and two young developing big men in PF Greg Monroe and C Andre Drummond. Drummond is coming off a rookie campaign in which he averaged a modest 7.9 PPG, 7.6 RPG, while shooting over 60% from the field. For Monroe, the team is there for the taking. Entering his fourth year in the league, Monroe is coming off a junior season in which he played in 81 games and averaged 16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, and 1.3 SPG. How far Detroit can go depends on the play of their bigs. They’re easily one of my favorite teams to watch this year.

Dallas Mavericks

You always love to have Dirk Nowitzki on the team. I don’t like the shooting habits of Monta Ellis or the defense of Jose Calderon. Calderon has exceptional passing ability and averaged 7.1 assists last year so his offensive contribution is important. They can make a run to get into the playoffs but they’re bench play is key (Jae Crowder, Devin Harris, Vince Carter), which is where I lack faith.

The Violet Belts

Memphis Grizzlies

If you want to know how to play defense as a team, watch the Memphis Grizzlies. Zach Randolph and Defensive Player of the Year, Marc Gasol return to a team desperate for some outside shooting. They have a solid defensive makeup when you combine Tony Allen and Tayshaun Prince to the mix, but they lack a shooting guard or small forward with long range shooting. Mike Conley is a more than competent point guard but when your bench has names like Quincy Pondexter and Jarryd Bayless, it’s time to hit the trade market. This is one of many teams that missed their window to win a championship. Last year the Lakers were out of the playoffs, the Grizz ousted the Clippers, and defeated the Thunder without Westbrook. If you think about it, everything went right for them, but they couldn’t handle the Spurs in the end. Expect another gritty, physical Memphis team this year.

New York Knicks

You’ll hear me talk about the Knicks enough throughout the season. You have to love having Carmelo Anthony on the team but their competition at the 2-guard concerns me. J.R. Smith was god awful in the playoffs last season and simply won’t stop shooting. I like Iman Shumpert, he plays exceptional defense and he does things like this.

They’re looking at a 4 or 5 seed in the Eastern conference behind the Heat, Pacers, Nets, and Bulls.

The Brown Belts

Golden State Warriors

Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, The Splash Brothers. I love the addition of Andrew Iguodala because now you have a team that is one key player away from contending with the Heat. Don’t think I’m crazy. They have a starting five of Curry/Thompson/Iguodala/Lee/Bogut with Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green providing minutes off the bench. One of the most exciting teams to watch on any random night, this is a team to remember come April and May.

Brooklyn Nets

Without cheating, see if you can name these 5 players based on their salary for the upcoming year:

Player A: $18.4 million

Player B: $21.4 million

Player C: $15.3 million

Player D: $12.4 million

Player E: $14.6 million

(Take a minute to think)

(…)

(One more)

(…)

If you guessed Brooklyn’s starting lineup, you’re correct! (A- Deron Williams, B- Joe Johnson, C- Paul Pierce, D- Kevin Garnett, E- Brook Lopez). That is a ridiculous amount of money for just 5 players. The question here is whether or not this team can compete with Miami, Indiana, and Chicago. If you look at this graphic, I think they are pretty well rounded in all areas of offense. Don’t forget that Williams averaged over 10 assists last season. This team is one to watch for in the playoffs without a doubt.

Screen Shot 2013-10-28 at 1.06.27 PM

One last hypothetical question here…if Brooklyn gets to the Eastern Conference finals against Miami. Honestly, who do you have winning? Would you take Williams/Johnson/Pierce/Garnett/Lopez or Chalmers/Wade/LeBron/Bosh/Oden? We’ll break down Miami more thoroughly but Brooklyn has huge advantages at PG and C so always keep that in mind; to be continued.

Houston Rockets

There is a lot to like about this team. To get the big guys out of the way (no pun intended), Dwight Howard gets his second fresh start. The Rockets were more of an up-tempo team last year, but with the arrival of Howard, things may slow down. They have great ball handlers in Jeremy Lin, James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Terrence Jones. Which will only create space for Dwight down low because if you leave any of these shooters open to double team Dwight, the Rockets will make you pay. Besides the pending trade of Rudy Gay, similar to Bill Simmons, I think that the Rockets other center, Omer Asik, will be traded. He is a great player, don’t get me wrong, but both him and Dwight shoot below 50% from the free throw line…you tell me if you want both of them on the court in the last 5 minutes of a game. Hack-A-Dwight will turn into Hack-A-Rocket. A side note, Chandler Parsons may be one of my top ten favorite players to watch this year. More on this list later.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Two years ago they were in The NBA Finals duking it out with the Heat, but it’s been a long time since then. James Harden is still gone and they received another gut punch when they got rid of Kevin Martin this past offseason (Martin was apart of the deal that sent Harden to Houston). Not to mention Russell Westbrook is going to miss at least four weeks with his knee injury (Update: maybe only two weeks). It’s Kevin Durant’s time to shine. He’s the #2 player in the league behind LeBron, which is how it has been for the past year or so, but it’s time to grow up. Durant needs to carry the Thunder until Westbrook comes back to lighten the load. I’m expecting Sam Presti (GM) to make some sort of move to help bolster the roster during the season. They won’t be making any Finals trips without a little more offensive help from players not named Durant and Westbrook.

Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul and Doc Rivers. The team’s success hinges on these two factors but the play of DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin is also imperative. While I love “Lob City”, they falter in the playoffs every year because of an inability to run a half court offense. Will it happen again? Whatcha got, Doc?

The Black Belts

Indiana Pacers

My pick to win the Eastern Conference this year. Paul George will be a top 5 player this year if he competes like he did in last years playoffs. I boasted about the frontcourt of the Detroit Pistons (Smith/Monroe/Drummond) but like I said before, Indiana’s may be a tad better. George/West/Hibbert all played quality minutes during their bout with the Miami Heat last year, which is why I give the edge to them because of experience. Detroit’s frontcourt is extremely talented, but very young as well. Another Indiana themed pick of mine is Roy Hibbert for Defensive Player of the Year. I guess we’ll see.

Chicago Bulls

Hey, did you know Derrick Rose is back? Well he’s back and better than ever; or so it seems. On paper, they have one of the best defensive units in the league. You could talk me into a debate between them and Memphis. They show off a combination of Rose/Butler/Deng/Boozer/Noah and Taj Gibson off the bench and laying crunch time minutes, I’d be legitimately afraid of seeing this team in the playoffs. People make a huge deal about the Bulls and the Heat. Rightfully so because the Bulls are good, but I won’t say they can compete for the East until after I see Rose play in the regular season. People already forget about how the Pacers took the Heat to seven games in the conference finals last year. As of now, if there was a rankings for who would beat the Heat this season, I’d go with 1a. Pacers followed closely by 1b. Bulls.

San Antonio Spurs

My pick to come out of the Western Conference for a second straight year, the Spurs bring back the majority of the core that were 20 seconds away from winning the NBA Finals in Game 6. We all know the story…Chris Bosh was finally in the right place…Ray Allen did his thing…LeBron gets ring #2. It hurt to see a Spurs team go out like that. They are the old veterans boiling with experience but just because its one year later doesn’t matter. NEWS FLASH: The Western Conference is up for grabs. Top to bottom the West has the better teams compared to the East. What is weird is that the Spurs can essentially walk into the playoffs. Kobe isn’t returning for a couple months, and Westbrook is out for a couple weeks. The path to the playoffs may seem easier for the Spurs with injury plagued teams surrounding them. The Warriors can expose them with their speed and outside shooting, but then again the Spurs trumped Golden State in the playoffs last year so I wouldn’t put it past Tim Duncan to be able to do it again. The Clippers will falter one way or the other like they have in the past, leaving me to believe the Spurs have an excellent shot of making it back to the finals.

Miami Heat

This is a preview for the upcoming season, so even though both of my predictions to represent The NBA Finals have already been mentioned and I stated at the beginning of this piece that the teams aren’t in any significant order, the Heat have to open at the number 1 spot. People (and by people I mean Bill Simmons) ranked the Bulls ahead of the Heat in their preseason rankings. I love the Bulls don’t get me wrong, but you can’t leap frog the two-time defending Miami Heat in any power ranking poll. I don’t care what star player is returning from injury. Miami will be in the thick of things like always, but I don’t think they will have the energy to three-peat.

LeBron after his first title (Photo Cred: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

LeBron after his first title (Photo Cred: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

The season will be filled with ups and downs, so expect the unexpected. Enjoy the buzzer beaters, the comebacks wins, the unexpected losses, the big games, the big names, and above all, enjoy the 2013-2014 season. The Heat have won two championships in a row, so the league is against them. Your move, LeBron.

2013-2014 Predictions

MVP: Kevin Durant…All bias’ aside, for this to happen, a couple things need to align the right way:

1) He needs to post another 50-40-90 line for the second consecutive season: For those that are unaware, a player enters the 50-40-90 club by shooting above 50% from the field, shooting above 40% from three, and shooting above 90% from the free throw line…to give people an idea of how hard this is, it’s only occurred 10 times EVER, accomplished by Steve Nash (4 times), Larry Bird (2), Mark Price (1), Dirk Nowitzki (1), Reggie Miller (1), and Durant (1) last year

2) He needs to win the scoring title

3) Keep OKC in the top 3-4 of the Western Conference…what I really mean is that he needs to show he can play without Russell Westbrook

4) Continue to show growth: every year we see Durant, similarly to LeBron, improve on a different facet of his game. With Westbrook out, his distribution of the ball needs to be on point to involve other teammates.

Defensive player of the Year: Roy Hibbert

Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo

He decides if he wants it or not. There aren’t many rookies being thrusted into a starting guard spot besides Trey Burke.

Sixth Man of the Year: Iman Shumpart

This assumes the Mike Woodson starts J.R. Smith, but Shumpart is the better player and it will be clear this year.

All-NBA first team:

G: Chris Paul

G: James Harden

F: LeBron James

F: Kevin Durant

C: Dwight Howard

East #1 Seed: Miami Heat

East team to remember: Indiana Pacers

It’s funny that I say this after the Pacers straight up fought to the death with the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals last season. The Heat will be the Heat, people are going to religiously follow the Derrick Rose comeback tour, and Brooklyn’s new core will be fun to watch. Clearing the way for the Pacers to possibly coast under the radar until the playoffs once again.

West #1 Seed: Los Angeles Clippers

They are built to win many regular season games, remember that the Spurs will give teams wins to rest starters late in the season and the Thunder are going to be without Russell Westbrook, meaning KD carries the workload until then and they won’t start out as hot as they have in recent memory.

West team to remember: Golden State Warriors

Don’t take their run last post season as a fluke. The Warriors added veteran guard Andre Igudola to the mix, giving them the ability to match up well defensively against teams with dynamic shooting guards or small forwards (aka LeBron, KD, Melo).

Eastern Conference Finals: Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers (Pacers in 7)

Western Conference Finals: San Antonio Spurs vs. Los Angeles Clippers (Spurs in 6)

Finals Pick: San Antonio vs. Indiana Pacers (Spurs in 6)

2013-2014 Champion: San Antonio Spurs

Duncan, Ginobili, Parker, and Coach Popovich go “Ray Lewis” on everyone; they easily get into the playoffs without caring for their seed, win each round with their years of experience, and go out on top like all greats should.

Links:

Grantland 2013 NBA Previews: http://www.grantland.com/nbapreview2013

Joe Meola

Twitter – @brosephmeola

E-Mail – senseimeola@gmail.com

**Feel free to email me with questions and comments and have a chance to be mentioned in an upcoming article**

 

Peyton Returns to Indianapolis

A quick review: Well, well, well. Look who decided to show up. STEVAN RIDLEY, one of my favorite New England Patriots to criticize, finally had a huge day. I’m still going to complain about him because 1) I sat him in my fantasy league, causing me to lose for the first time this year and 2) Greg and I played a weekly fantasy league at draftstreet.com and Greg used him against me…oh the joys of fantasy sports. (For those interested in stats – Ridley’s line: 20 car, 96 rush yards, 2 TDs, 1 rec, 14 rec yards…good for 23 points in ESPN PPR leagues). Now the game itself was entertaining, which concluded with a 17-yard TD pass from Tom Brady to Kenbrell Thompkins with :05 seconds left. The Saints looked poised to win the game, but Tom Brady got the ball back down 1 with 3:29 left. He failed to drive down the field, and the Saints quickly countered and kicked a field goal to stretch the lead to 4 points with 2:24 left. The Patriots’ O was obligated to go for it on fourth down the next drive, but failed to convert. Drew Brees and company couldn’t pick up the first down on the following drive, and their failed attempt led to Brady getting the ball back for a third time in under 3 minutes. This time, the result was different and ended in the Pats favor. Enjoy watching Brady and Brees while they’re still playing, regardless of what team you root for. Above all else I hope you enjoyed watching a Brees-Brady game, they don’t come around often. Without further ado, the game of the week for Week 7.
Peyton Manning chucking the football all over the field Sunday Night in 2012 (Photo Cred: David Zalubowski/AP)

Peyton Manning chucking the football all over the field Sunday Night in 2012 (Photo Cred: David Zalubowski/AP)

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis Colts

Case for the Broncos: As discussed in this week’s Spar, I’m looking forward to the Broncos offense facing a formidable defense. The Colts D looked suspect at times in their 19-9 loss to San Diego Monday night, there will be a lot of work to do on a short week for Andrew Luck and company. Back to Denver, Peyton Manning, through 6 games, has 22 TDs, 2 INTs, 74.2 completion percentage, and 2,179 passing yards. He’s playing unbelievably, and there isn’t any sign of slowing down. They’re averaging 44.2 points per game and the next closest offense is Dallas, averaging 30.2 The case for the Broncos almost seems self-explanatory, they lead the league in what matters most. Wins. (Note from the Editor about the Bronco’s Defense – Von Miller is going to be playing his first game of the year Sunday night.)
Case for the Colts: Andrew Luck came off one of his worst performances of the year in his Monday Night debut against the San Diego Chargers. Going 18 for 30 with 202 yards and 1 INT. If Luck and company have any expectation of competing with Manning, they’ll need to do a better job running the ball. Trent Richardson will need to step up after turning in just 40 yards. The problem is that the Broncos run defense is #1 in the NFL allowing just 69.8 yards per game. The biggest question for the Colts is how they plan to put up points if they go down early. While the Broncos defense deserves a ton of credit, a reason that they have the #1 run defense is because their offense scores points and take the lead, forcing other teams to abandon the run and pass to catch up with the high powered Denver offense.
No fantasy studs or duds this week but some players with rising stock…
Keenan Allen – San Diego Chargers WR (over 20 ESPN PPR points in past two games)
Joseph Randle – Dallas Cowboys RB (DeMarco Murray injury)
Nick Foles – Philadelphia Eagles QB (Michael Vick injury)
 
Pick: Denver Broncos 37 — Indianapolis Colts 24
History:
Record since Week 3: 4 – 0 (home team in CAPS)
3 – MIAMI over Atlanta (W)
4 – NEW ORLEANS over Miami (W)
5 – Denver over DALLAS (W)
6 – NEW ENGLAND over New Orleans (W)
7 – Denver over INDIANAPOLIS…
@brosephmeola

Game of the Week- Week 6

My apologies for my brief absence away from the “Game of the Week” column. The column started in Week 3, which saw a game between the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons. Without recapping the game, the teams are heading in opposite directions. The Dolphins are 3-2 and tied for second place in the AFC East. While the Falcons have had a rough start, going 1-4 and taking on more injuries every week. Now why are we talking about Week 3? Well with Week 6 on the horizon, the big game of the week is….

Jacksonville Jaguars at Denver Broncos… Ok. Ok. I’m joking.

New Orleans Saints at New England Patriots

Case for the Saints: The Saints sit alone atop the NFC South and when I say “alone”, I mean ALONE:

Saints 5-0 (@ NE)

Panthers 1-3 (@ MIN)

Falcons 1-4 (much needed Bye)

Buccaneers 0-4 (vs. PHI)

(Photo Cred: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Photo Cred: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Now that doesn’t mean that the Saints can ease up on the gas pedal now. They get a bye in Week 7 so coming in with momentum, and an unblemished record, means a lot. Following the Seattle loss to Indy this past weekend, the Saints are now in sole possession of the number one seed in the NFC. But before we get ahead of ourselves, how did they get there? Well it starts with the defense…through five games, they have forced 11 turnovers. Having a positive turnover margin means your creating more opportunities for your team rather than the other. Also, they have this player named Drew Brees, who would be competing with Peyton Manning for MVP so far if there was a competition. The Saints have also found their biggest threat in Jimmy Graham, the match-up nightmare tight end. Graham is in the ranked in the top 3 for receptions, touchdowns, and yards. He’s a tight end that is leading the league in receiving yards and he’s always a threat against whatever defense he plays.

Case for the Patriots: I made a contract with myself that prohibited me from talking about the Patriots’ season until they were healthy/improved. While they are in no way there yet, I must discuss some small matters in light of their upcoming game. Without criticizing too much, their offense needs to improve. Yes, I know Gronk is out/coming back soon, but there is enough talent there to make some noise. I think this game means more to the Patriots because all of a sudden, they have two teams right behind them in the division. Both the Jets and Dolphins are 3-2, while the Pats are 4-1. All three teams are in action this week, so the division lead is on the line. Tom Brady‘s 52 game streak with a touchdown pass was snapped last week so look for Brady to come out throwing after tough weather conditions last week. This game is more important for division implications and because of that, I think the Patriots will have enough to win. Remember, the Patriots defense is notorious for giving up yards, not points. They’re ranked second in the NFL, giving up 14 points per game

 

Fantasy Notes

One Dud: In my first and only “Game of the Week” Column, I predicted that Stevan Ridley would continue to upset owners. While he’s hurt right now, don’t expect a big day from Julian Edelman. For those lucky enough to ride his production so far, Amendola has returned, Gronk is returning (EDIT: Doubtful for Sunday), and Kenbrell Thompkins gets more redzone and deep ball targets. Edelman was nice while he was getting targets, but its time to move on.

One Stud

Terrance Williams, WR Dallas Cowboys

Miles Austin is hurt and all of a sudden Williams is the #2 wide receiver for Tony Romo. Coming off a game against the Denver Broncos in which he tallied 4 receptions for 151 yards, and 1 score, he now faces the Washington Redskins. If you didn’t know already, Washington has given up 9 touchdowns through the air, good for tenth most in the NFL. Plus, Romo is coming off arguably one of the best games of his career, and he’s going to be looking to throw the ball.

Pick: New Orleans Saints 24 – New England Patriots 31

History:

Record since Week 3: 3 – 0 (home team in CAPS)

3 – MIAMI over Atlanta (W)

4 – NEW ORLEANS over Miami (W)

5 – Denver over DALLAS (W)

6 – NEW ENGLAND over New Orleans

@brosephmeola

senseimeola@gmail.com

***Contact me if you have anything sports related or interesting you want to talk about. Maybe I’ll mention you in the Week 6 Spar***

 

EPL Weekly Review 9/25-9/30

With the completion of week 6 of the EPL, the league table is slowly taking shape. Arsenal are two points clear at the top while Liverpool and Tottenham are treading closely at their heels. This week’s fixtures caused frustration amongst last year’s the top five teams as Arsenal were the only side who didn’t drop points. The premier fixture of the week pitted Chelsea at Tottenham in a London derby. Jose Mourinho did not start Juan Mata in Chelsea’s 10 role, opting for Oscar instead.  Tottenham dominated the first half run of play as Eriksen orchestrated the offense. Soldado’s ability to hold up the attack paid off when he assisted Sigurðsson 19th minute goal. The second half provided a change of momentum when Mata entered the game for Chelsea. Chelsea drew even when John Terry headed in a Mata free kick. The Blues were controlling the match and pressing for a second until Fernando Torres picked up his second yellow card. Torres has since received a three match ban for scratching Vertonghen in the face. The man advantage shifted the momentum back in favor of Spurs until the final whistle sounded, ending the game as a 1-1 draw.

Manchester City’s away trouble persisted with a loss at Aston Villa. The first half was a heavily one sided affair as Aston Villa sat on their heels and played a defensive game. The Villans were without their star striker Benteke who is sidelined with a hip injury. The deadlock broke when Yaya Toure hammered home a corner just before half. Villa played much more attacking in the second half and drew even in just 7 minutes on an offsides goal. City scored again shortly after on another corner kick to reclaim the lead. Bakuna scored his first goal for Aston Villa on a perfect free kick to draw even once more. Brad Guzan, the American keeper, provided an assist off a booming long ball just 2 minutes later. The long clearance inexcusably split the City defenders and left Weimann on a one on one with Joe Hart. The conversion was enough to secure Villa a win and the early title of this year’s “Giant Slayer.’

Cardiff City won their first away game in the Premier League with a spare time goal from sub Jordan Mutch. This embarrassing home loss pushed Fulham into the relegation zone and may make Jol the second manager casualty of the season. Bryan Ruiz and Mutch scored near identical curlers but the latter was the winner. Cardiff City won 2-1.

Hull City and Cardiff have both been surprisingly good. Despite being recently promoted, both squads sit mid table. Hull won off a controversial penalty at home against West Ham. A long cross went untouched as Robert Brady collapsed in the penalty area under the pressure of a defender. He converted the game winning goal for his third of the season. The Hammers are just a point above relegation zone. They’re schedule gets no easier as they face Tottenham, Man City and Swansea next.

Manchester United’s troubles persisted as well, falling to West Brom 1-2. The Red Devils have fallen 8 points back of the lead. David Moyes’ side looks uninspired save for Wayne Rooney whose goal was their only of the contest. West Brom’s first goal was scored by Amalfitano, who showed incredible composure to finish a run started in his own half.  West Brom scored again in the 67th minute off of wonderful team play and a brilliant finish by Berahino. The Manchester back line showed its age.

Southampton stayed towards the top of the table with a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace. Palace emerged from half time sluggish and the Saints netted two early goals. Rickie Lambert’s goal was of particular note, curling over the wall before deflecting off the post and in. Southampton face Swansea and Manchester United next. The Saints will look to defend their home undefeated record against Swansea and take advantage of the ailing Red Devils. Crystal Palace will try to fight their way out of relegation against Fulham in two matches.

The final saturday match was the league leading Arsenal away against Swansea. Aaron Ramsey returned to Wales to the sound of resounding boos. Theo Walcott’s minor surgery put Serge Gnabry into the starting lineup for the third straight game. Swansea, true to form, possessed the ball and controlled the first half. Arsenal’s backline held and took control in the second half. Gnabry scored his first Premier League goal in the 58th minute. Four minutes later Aaron Ramsey continued his incredible form, finishing a beautiful team goal that proved to be the game winner. Ben Davies 81st goal wasn’t enough to pull Swansea back and Arsenal moved to two points clear at the top of the table.

Norwich City won 1-0 at Stoke City after Asmir Begovic let in a goal uncharacteristic of him. This was just Norwich 2nd win of the season as they are adjusting to offseason squad changes. Norwich have a difficult road ahead of them as they face Chelsea and Arsenal in their next two fixtures. It will be a difficult climb back to mid table. Stoke will play ailing Fulham on the road next match. A win here will maintain early distance from the relegation zone.

Luis Suarez made his return for Liverpool after his controversial offseason. After harsh demands to leave the team and dramatic tension between him and management, Suarez stayed in Liverpool. His ban for biting Ivanovic last season finally ended and he reminded us just how good he is. Suarez put away two goals in his season debut but Daniel Sturridge continued his form as well. Sturridge put away the first of Liverpool’s 3 goals and provided the assist for the second. Sturridge sits alone ahead of league scoring chart with 5 goals. Giaccherini scored his second league goal and fifth of the season, but thats all Sunderland could manage. Liverpool now sits in second place while Sunderland is dead last with a single point.

The final match of the week was monday at Goodison Park where Everton hosted Newcastle United. Alan Pardew’s decision not to start Cabaye proved costly for Newcastle as Everton dominated the first half. Lukaku had an incredible performance for Everton, scoring twice. The loan deal was a great piece of business for Everton. Lukaku gets the starts he needs to grow as a player and avoids the pressure that comes with being Chelsea’s starting striker. The Everton wing backs created opportunity after opportunity for the Blues, running up a 3-0 lead at halftime. The second half was a change of pace for Newcastle after Cabaye was subbed in. The run of play shifted in favor of the Magpies including a near miss trickling off the post early in the half. Cabaye scored a long shot fantastically placed in the top right corner. Newcastle created a few more opportunities but to little avail. The game seemed over until Remy cleaned up a loose ball Everton failed to clear in the box. The fourth official gave 4 minutes of extra time but it wasn’t enough to complete the stunning comeback. Everton remain the only unbeaten side in the league.

 

1. Tigres vs. Queretaro F.C.

http://i.minus.com/ivBryFaHIihhz.gif

 

2. West Brom vs. Man United

https://lh5.googleusercontent.com/-gw7HT15Srg4/UkbzRXZnlBI/AAAAAAAAAac/t8XnqYKWHNw/s800/utdlosingtowba.gif

 

3. Newcastle vs. Everton

http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2838/10025899043_7f6a95cc1f_o.gif

 

4. Rubin Kazan vs. Dinamo Moscow

http://i.imgur.com/wA4zFIi.gif

 

5. Barcelona vs. Real Sociedad

http://i.minus.com/iwlzdVoM3C6Qg.gif

 

The early League table bears many interesting headlines. The preseason favorites of Chelsea, City and United are not in the top four, Arsenal tops the table despite their lack of depth, and Liverpool has returned to title contention. However, this is very early in the season and table position could be due strength, or lack there of, of schedule. The following table compares the points accumulated this season in comparison with their identical fixtures of last season. It is meant to give a sense of relativity and a better idea of who has improved over the offseason.

While Arsenal have made their way to top of the table, they have dropped 3 points compared to their results of last season, namely, the loss at home to Aston Villa. Chelsea has dropped a significant amount of points as well. Last year, they won at Tottenham, home against Everton, and at Manchester United. This year, they drew Tottenham and Manchester United while losing to Everton. This is a loss of 7 points. However, they beat Fulham at home this year despite drawing them last year creating a net loss of 5 points. Southampton and Aston Villa are the most improved sides while Manchester United has suffered terribly.

Daniel Dicce tiene un 94% en su examen de espanol esta semana.