Sports Dojo NBA Christmas Special

Welcome back once again. Seeing as Christmas is right around the corner, it’s the perfect time for a four part; all you can read NBA mini series. There are new developments in the NBA every night, leading to great clips of buzzer beaters and draw dropping plays. We’ll start with the playoff standings as of December 21st and break down how each “playoff team” got there. The first piece will follow the Eastern Conference and the second will be devoted to the Western Conference. By the 4th article in the series, you will know everything going on across the NBA leading up to the tremendous match-ups scheduled for Christmas day. As always, let’s begin with the lighter side of the NBA.

Eventually there will be a piece devoted to the various ways James, Wade, and Bosh photo bomb each other, but for now add this one to the collection.

Eastern Conference:

  1. Indiana Pacers (21-5) — There isn’t much surprise here. They’re keeping pace with the Western Conference powerhouses and their inter conference rivals, the Heat. Between Indiana and Portland, these two teams boast the most top to bottom starting five. In addition to this, they are getting valuable minutes from Luis Scola and CJ Watson off the bench. Things only get better as Danny Granger is expected to return from injury sooner rather than later, making this lethal team even more dangerous.
  2. Miami Heat (20-6) — South Beach has been rather quiet lately, that is if you believe Dwyane Wade‘s comments on the Heat. In a sit down interview with the one and only Stephen A. Smith, Wade claimed that the Heat let their play do the talking, not their mouths. Interestingly enough Wade also hinted that he believes the Pacers are a team the Heat will have to go through to get to the Finals. Why can’t it just be May already? LeBron James leads the league in PER with an impressive 30.0 while also putting on one of the best statistical shooting seasons of his career; flirting with .601.
  3. Atlanta Hawks (15-12) – Jeff Teague is one of the best guards that no one talks about. Everyone hears about John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, and Damian Lillard but people forget about Teague’s talent. He’s helped the Hawks climb out of an early hole and 6 wins over their past 8 games. Teague also ranks 13th in free throws made (124) and 4th in total assists (217).
  4. Boston Celtics (12-15) — I don’t know if this is a pleasant surprise or not because I had high expectations for an extremely poor season. Brad Stevens is easily my favorite coach in the NBA this year and what he’s done with what he’s got is rather impressive. The emergence of Jared Sullinger as a Kevin Love 2.0 is promising with his knack for double digit rebounds and new found sweet spot beyond the 3-point line. What hurts any Celtics’ player is the rotation Stevens uses during games. Leading to up and down numbers but Sully is emerging as a solid piece for years to come.
  5. Charlotte Bobcats (13-14) — If there is one surprise from this list of teams, the Bobcats may be it. It’s baffling actually when you consider their ranked 28th in Field Goal percentage (.423), 28th in points per game (92.0), and dead last in 3-point field goal percentage (.305). Kemba Walker has been a workhorse for the Bobcats so far. Ranked 12th in the league in total minutes played (955), 20thin field goals made (179), and 17th in total steals (42).
  6. Detroit Pistons (13-15) — Through this point in the season, this team is my pick for biggest bust. Of course every team needs time to mesh so I will cut them some slack, but they’re playing in an Eastern Conference with only three teams with winning records. The collective talent level between Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Andre Drummond, and Greg Monroe seems to indicate that they’re ready to take the next step to an elite level but this team needs some time. I’ll continue to harp on these guys all season long so I apologize in advance. They do own the crown for most rebounds (1245) and that is a big reason why they were able to claim a huge victory over the Heat in Miami.
  7. Washington Wizards (11-13) — The two unsung stars of this team are Bradley Beal and Trevor Ariza. A lot of credit has gone to John Wall, which is well deserved, but Wall is getting more help from his supporting cast. Beal averages 20.3 points per game which leads the team while Ariza chips in 15 ppg, 5.8 rpg, and 1.9 steals per game.
  8. Toronto Raptors (10-14) – Unfortunately I don’t see this team sneaking into the playoffs, but hey, for now they’re playing the Pacers, so they got that going for them! They’ve had a stretch of 5 wins and 5 loses which doesn’t help them move up the standings but they have a chance to get into the playoffs thanks to a weak Atlantic Division. The Celtics can easily tank and lose games and open up a possible 3 or 4 seed for the winner of this division. They are not a good rebounding team. They’re ranked 27th with 1034 total rebounds.

From past articles, you can certainly notice the weakness of the Eastern conference. Eastern conference “playoff teams” have a combined record of 116-96. Which is above .500 but when you look at the Western Conference (143-65) they have a little bit of catching up to do.

Stay tuned tomorrow for a look at the Western Conference playoff picture and more NBA. As always, continue to enjoy.

Twitter: @brosephmeola

E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

Thanksgiving Spar

First, we would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home, and we hope you have safe travels and a fun time wherever you end up. Now for sparring…

Greg to Joe

At the beginning of this year, did it even cross your mind that Jadeveon Clowney could be playing on the same defensive line as JJ Watt? Can you imagine how good Clowney could be without the constant double teams? Wade Phillips would probably be able to even get Clowney 1 v. 1 with a running back in the back field. That would be funny…

How could we possibly have predicted that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons would be the top competition to the Jaguars for the top draft pick? The Falcons literally have nothing besides Matty Ice, Julio Jones and Roddy White. I don’t think their defense is good. They don’t have a running back they can count on. It’s rough for them. And the same goes for the Texans. Without Brian Cushing at middle linebacker, they are lost. Watt can’t do it all on his own. Arian Foster is beat up, and their offensive line isn’t the same as it was in Foster’s glory days. Matt Schaub, their starter since 2008, might be the worst quarterback on the roster too. That’s the sad thing.

Finally, I was able to see the Ravens dominate a game. Unfortunately, it was against Geno Smith playing in M&T Bank stadium, so it is nothing to be overly impressed with.

Patriots’ game… Crazy… thoughts?

Joe to Greg

I don’t think that thought ever crossed my mind until now. I think that’s scary because the Texans look like a lock for at least the 7th pick. We can speculate about what specific draft pick they get all day but I don’t see them dropping lower than the 5th pick barring some crazy, irrelevant end of the season winning streak. Imagine a healthy Cushing and Clowney… I think that will free up JJ Watt and gives him a chance to become the menace he was during the 2012 season.

I have the pleasure of living with a Falcons fan and one of the points brought up while watching the games on Sunday was how each conference has one team that totally busted. The NFC has the Falcons (2-9) while the AFC has the Texans (2-9). Injuries have plagued both teams so it’s understandable that they’re struggling in certain aspects of the game but it’s still a huge surprise nonetheless. Foster seems like a totally different runner and Matt Schaub…well lets just leave it at that. Unfortunately for the Texans season it’s like you said, just a sad thing.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady after the Sunday night thriller (Photo Cred: Steven Senne)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady after the Sunday night thriller (Photo Cred: Steven Senne)

The Brady-Manning bowl wasn’t much of a duel between two great quarterbacks. Not because of the surprising lack of production from Peyton Manning (19/36 for 150 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT with a 28.1 QBR and 70.4 RTG), but for two main reasons, the fumbles and the weather. There aren’t many times you see 11 fumbles in one game, but those fumbles kill drives, kill momentum, and like we saw with the last fumble, kill a team’s chances of winning the game. The wind on the other hand was the reason why Bill Belichick decided to give Peyton Manning the ball first in overtime and have the winds become a “12th defender” if you will. Manning’s numbers took a huge dent because of the stellar performance of Knowshon Moreno who had 37 carries for 224 yards and a score. No quarterback should throw against the Patriots…literally just run every play and you will win. I’m disappointed with the how the game ended because I wanted either Manning or Brady to have an impact on the outcome of the game, especially in overtime. How many times will we ever see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning against each other in overtime? It was great for both teams regardless because they played in a playoff type atmosphere with playoff type conditions, which can only help them prepare for a potential rematch later on. Don’t forget the Superbowl is played in New York in February. Should be interesting…any thoughts on the NFL? Can we please talk about some of the MLB trades? Pretty please?

Greg to Joe

With football, the Super Bowl is in the New York and that is exactly why I have been saying all year the Broncos won’t win it. It is not because Peyton Manning is not mentally able to compete in the cold. It is because he cannot physically compete in the cold. His ball loses juice, and it will never pierce the wind in New York Super Bowl Sunday. Obviously, I am of the belief that there is no way that the New York will have good weather for this game. If its a beautiful day, Manning would have a shot, assuming he gets there of course.

Your reply reminded me to post my thoughts on the Rangers-Tigers trade. I like it for both sides, but I think the Tigers got the better end. The money saved is crucial, and Prince Fielder‘s hitting skills might be deteriorating. I am a little concerned he just isn’t the same hitter. The Peralta signing and Bourjos trade for the Cardinals were EXACTLY what the Cardinals needed. They got a shortstop and a defensive center field with unbelievable speed. They managed to fill these needs without giving up anything! David Freese was going to go anyway, so they could get Kolten Wong in the line up. I can’t wait to watch this team play next year. And just a reminder, people will say the Cardinals overpaid for Peralta, but they are underpaying basically everyone else on that roster. With the loss of Carlos Beltran, they probably bought themselves more wins and are saving 2 million dollars this season. I would be worried about the forth year. He is pretty big for a shortstop. He may not last there. The Red Sox and Orioles haven’t made any huge moves, but the Yankees did. They bring in Brian McCann. They desperately needed a catcher, and McCann should have a career high in home runs next year with the extremely short porch in right. Any thoughts on the baseball deals?

Your a bigger basketball guy than I, what do you think of Derrick Rose going down?

Joe to Greg

Similar to you, I don’t think the Broncos can win with poor conditions, that is if they manage to reach the ultimate game. Regardless I think the weather will be a factor in the game, but we’ll have ample amounts of time to talk about that once we know who is actually in the game.

My impressions on the Rangers-Tigers trade are fairly indifferent. I have this feeling that Fielder has past his peak in terms of hitting. Over a 3 season span (2011-2012-2013), Fielder’s home runs (38-30-25) and RBI production has dropped (120-108-106). What’s even more surprising, out of a possible 810 regular season games over the past 5 seasons, Fielder has only missed ONE game, back in 2010 when he was with Milwaukee. I’ve had him on my fantasy baseball team the past 2 seasons as well so I’m familiar with most of his stats. I noticed a slight drop in overall production this year but he can still prove to be effective for the Rangers. Sometimes a change of scenery makes a big difference. Knowing that Jacoby Ellsbury is leaving this offseason, I’ve got a pretty bold prediction.  I’ve heard rumors that the Red Sox might be interested in acquiring Carlos Beltran, but I’m trying to contain my excitement because I’m pretty sure the whole AL East is interested in him. They acquired another righty in the bullpen, Burke Badenhop, from the Brewers for a minor league hurler. My eyes are focused on Beltran but time will tell.

I’m planning on coming out with a piece for Beyond the Arc soon regarding some of these injuries and recent action, but two quick thoughts about the D-Rose injury…

The Eastern Conference Finals matchup is essentially locked in stone. The Miami Heat versus the Indiana Pacers seems inevitable and it’s because D-Rose went down. The Bulls are an incredibly talented team but they just can’t go against Miami or Indiana without a player of D-Rose’s caliber. I’m picking the Pacers, yes the Pacers, to get the #1 seed in the East. After they lost in Miami in Game 7 last season, the Pacers know how close they were to a finals appearance. I think they’re extremely motivated to get home court advantage. Home court advantage for them is having 4 of 7 games in Indiana against Miami.

The Bulls WILL make a trade… this comes from another NBA-minded friend of mine, but he’s calling for Evan Turner of the Philadelphia Sixers to get traded to the Bulls for some sort of draft pick exchange. I don’t know how far-fetched that idea is but 1) Turner played his college ball at Ohio State and he grew up in Chicago and 2) Turner is still on his rookie deal meaning he is cheaper to obtain than if this situation occurred two years in the future. Going on this assumption, look for the Bulls to deal a combination of Kirk Hinrich, another small bench guy, and a first round pick to get Turner. Either way I’d be extremely surprised if the Bulls didn’t attempt to bolster their roster in some way shape or form.

What are you predictions for the Turkey Day games?

Greg to Joe

I am in totally agreement with Ellsbury. The Sox are a smart organization, and I think they know he won’t be able to provide the same value later in his career. I liken him to Michael Bourn. He is basically Michael Bourn except he hits like 3 more homers a year and has a career average about .020 points higher. Bourn got 4 years for $48 million. Ellsbury is also a Boras client so all things considered, he is going to be asking for a lot of money. An amount that a lot of organizations won’t be willing to pay. I think the Red Sox let him walk, and I think he ends up in Seattle (my bold prediction). It makes a whole lot of sense. The Mariners are trying to become relevant again, so they will probably over pay for someone. There park is also huge, which will play to Ellsbury’s strengths. Ellsbury will not hit double-digit homers again, but in Seattle’s rather large ballpark, he could lead the league in doubles.

I can’t agree with your bold prediction because… I WANT BELTRAN MORE! He makes a lot more sense in Baltimore. The Red Sox already have a full-time DH, and Beltran can’t play the field full time again. Papi isn’t going to play first base unless they are in an NL park. Baltimore doesn’t have a full-time DH, and Beltran would just make a great lineup even better. Now if they could only find some pitching..

I don’t think they Bulls trade is so far fetched, but I think they will be fine this year. Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA and will find a way to rally the team. Deng and Noah will be able to do a lot for them, and Jimmy Butler is underrated in my opinion. Even if the Bulls make a trade for Evan Turner, they won’t win the title. So I don’t see a point. I do see a situation where they ship Deng away for picks and try to get a ping pong ball. That’s unlikely thought. I think the most likely situation is they stand pat and do nothing.

I agree on the Pacers. They are so good on defense it is unreal. Paul George is a top player in the NBA and is a serious threat to take the MVP from LeBron. It won’t happen, but he’ll make it close.

Thanksgiving day games are close to my heart. The Ravens play in a game that, much like last week, is a must win if they want to make the playoffs. If they take down the Steelers, they will be GREAT position to take down the division. The Ravens get to play at home in the cold (temperatures expected between 30 & 40 degrees), and that is perfect for Flacco. His arm strength gives him an advantage in the cold. The Steelers have Big Ben, but I think the Ravens defense is better. It is so close. It will come down to who hits the long TD pass and that will decide the game. I don’t see a lot of long sustained drives coming this week.

(Photo Cred: James D. Smith/ AP)

(Photo Cred: James D. Smith/ AP)

ATS Picks for Thanksgiving games

Greg

Lions -7 – The Packers are not the same without Aaron Rodgers. Megatron will have a big first half, and the second half will be ALL Reggie Bush running wild.

Raiders +9.5 – 9.5 is a lot of points. The Cowboys are pretty bad in pass defense (31st in yards per game). Matt McGloin has SHOCKED everyone. He sucked at Penn State, but he is hot now and I think he keeps it up. I think the Cowboys could get upset at home if they aren’t careful.

Ravens -3 – I have to believe they make it back to the playoffs so I believe they win at home against an old Steelers team,

Joe

Packers +7 – I’m only picking this under the assumption Matt Flynn is going to look like the Matt Flynn that used to play for the Packers. The Lions were 9 point favorites at home against the Buccaneers last weekend and lost. I think the Lions win, but it’ll be closer than people think…or Megatron will just go off, which is fine because he’s on my fantasy team. I just wanted a lot of points scored.

Cowboys -7.5 – I don’t know why I’m doing this. This is the Cowboys after all but the line dropped a little. If this is at 9.5 I’d probably take the Raiders +9.5 but I don’t have enough confidence in them. I like Romo….(fast forward to Thursday night….why the hell did I pick the Cowboys? Lets just say I regret this pick already)

Ravens -3 – Keep winning those games, Flacco. December 22nd is coming up and I can’t wait (Patriots @ Ravens – Sunday Night Football)

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

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

NFL, NBA and MLB: The All-in-One Spar

Greg to Joe

How’s it going mayne? I decided to start the sparring Sunday night because I have no time this week and its gonna be brutal.

draftstreetSo fantasy football has been so up and down for me. Most importantly, I do not know when to start CJ Spiller. When he plays well, he is on my bench. It’s so depressing. Anyway. I am doing well in all of my leagues and will be competing for a playoff spot in every league. BTW, winning Draftstreet with 4 players left and you  have 1.

If I wasn’t watching the Ravens go for two right now, I would be watching the Buccaneers-Seahawks game. Who would have thought that this game would have been tied up BY SEATTLE  with under 2 minutes late? Unbelievable game. Mike James has looked just as good as Doug Martin if not better. Buccaneers were so close to quitting on their coach. Now, they could be taking down one of the “best” teams in the NFC. I put quotations because I think the best teams in the NFC are now the 49ers, Saints, and Packers. The Seahawks’ offense is not good enough to win a championship, unless they pull a Ravens’ title run together and get hot at the right time. Who knows whats going to happen in the playoffs. It is all about who is hot. Final football note, its funny how no one is taking the 9-0 team seriously. Personally, I am with the majority. I don’t think they can do anything in the postseason this year, but we’ll see.

So the MLB season is over. Congrats to the Red Sox, and I hope you had fun at the parade. I am so shocked that they won the whole thing. They would not have sniffed the postseason if this site was up before the beginning of the 2013 MLB season. Unbelievable. Do you have any going away thoughts on the MLB?

Joe to Greg

All I have to say is, Andre. Johnson. Right around the time you sent this e-mail I was looking dead in the water. You still had four players going, three of which were playing in the Colts-Texans game. Until Johnson threw down 45 points. Who knows what’ll happen next with our matchup. Yahoo Fantasy is pretty much a lost cause for me but ESPN I love my team. I think I’m going to end up losing this week but I had Megatron, Frank Gore, and Hakeem Nicks on a bye so you can only do so much.

The parade was awesome. I was front row on one of the gates at the beginning of the parade so it was cool to see everyone go by. They led the parade off with the security officer from the ALCS game, which got the crowd even more pumped up. All in all, a great parade. Back in our Week 4 Spar we made our predictions for the MLB playoffs and my prediction payed off (humble brag). Sox in 6 over the Cards. I can’t say I’m surprised because I think the Sox just had more experience and they had those chemistry guys that every clubhouse needs to make runs in the playoffs. The biggest impact in the series was timely hitting in my opinion. They just seemed to find a way to get runs when they needed them. Congrats to the Sox. Anyways, good bye to the MLB season. Are there any moments during the season that stand out to you or any big plays you’ll always remember?

I agree with your Seattle comment, I don’t think they have the offensive firepower to hang with the Packers or the Saints. Their defense is their trademark but I lack confidence in the way their offense runs. It’s Week 9 and I still don’t know what to make of the Chiefs. Yes their 9-0, but I think I’m with the majority as well on this one. I don’t see a lot of postseason success in their future. Don’t want to get off on a tangent here but I loved how the Patriots played yesterday. Finally with a healthy Amendola and Gronk. Aaron Dobson is becoming more apart of the offense as well. How do you feel about the Ravens state? Any comments leading up the Packers-Bears game tonight (Monday)?

Greg to Joe

Andre Johnson just kept catching passes and it was so frustrating for me. I was so positive that I was going to win that DraftStreet contest and of course I lost. Also, another fun fact. My Yahoo team has scored the most points out of anyone in the league, but I haven’t won any weekly  ten dollars and I am not in first place. One reason why I am considering retiring from fantasy football next year. So much luck is involved that it is very frustrating to watch Tyler sit in first with a less superior team.

The biggest MLB moments for me are the Mariano Rivera All Star game. That was pretty awesome. It was definitely a good game to watch as well, surprisingly. I still can’t get over the slider/changeup Carlos Martinez threw to Shane Victorino in the World Series still puts me into a state of euphoria when I watch it. Oh my is it good. The only defensive plays I can think of are the Jose Iglesias plays he made with the Tigers. He may not be able to hit, but his glove will make him a major leaguer for a long time. You got any offseason predictions? I have a few, but I want to see your take first.

Dobson is finally showing why he was taken in the NFL Draft and Kenbrell Thompkins wasn’t. He is the better of the two receivers, but he is finally showing it. Also, Gronk is a game changer. I think the Patriots are back on track, but can easily be knocked off if Gronk or Amendola get hurt again. With the Ravens… I can see them win between 5-9 wins. 9 wins is possible if something happens in practice this week and they change the o-line blocking scheme. Kelechi Osemele was being talked about as a top 10 guard in the NFL, but his back has hampered him this year and has finally put him out for the season. If the Ravens can take down the Bengals this week, I will feel much better about the season, but I don’t know if that will happen. Also, I question Joe Flacco‘s health. I think he might be hurt because you can tell his arm strength has been zapped for some reason. We’ll see more in the following weeks.

Joe to Greg

As far as my offseason predictions go, I haven’t put much thought into them. I see Jacoby Ellsbury leaving Boston, as sad as it sounds. The Cardinals won the NL Central by 3 games this season (Pittsburgh in 2nd) and I think they’ll win again but by more than 5 games. They’re the reigning NL champs and I don’t see them dropping off, we’ve talked about them multiple times throughout our spars and reviews, but the strong homegrown base and the experience from playing in a World Series will do wonders for this team going forward. I’ll have to think of others for now. How about yourself?

Also, any first impressions on the start of the NBA season?

Greg to Joe

Yeah, I doubt that Ellsbury stays in Boston. I think he ends up in Seattle as they try to turn things around. The Cubs could also be in on him. I want to see the contract that the Yankees give Robinson Cano. It will probably be more than $200 million, but the question is by how much. I also think the Cardinals will finally fix their shortstop problem. I see them doing one of three things. One, they sign Johnny Peralta to shore that up. Two, they trade one of their young pitchers for a shortstop like Jurickson Profar or Elvis Andrus. The Rangers need pitching and they have two shortstops. I would love for a deal with the Orioles like… Lance Lynn for JJ Hardy and Jonathan Schoop/Adrian Marin. That will never happed especially after the Machado injury. The Orioles would have no shortstop for the beginning of the season. These two previous options involve getting ride of David Freese, moving Matt Carpenter back to third base and putting Kolten Wong at second base. The third option is keep Freese, keep Carpenter at second, and put Wong at shortstop. It’s not unreasonable, and the Cardinals’ shortstop situation will be a lot better than it was last year if they do any of these options. My final two big predictions are Shin-Sho Choo is a Met by January, and Masahiro Tanaka is an Angel. The Mets are the perfect fit for Choo. He becomes a veteran leader of a young team. It also puts the Mets in a good spot to contend in the next two years with their dominant young pitching and solid infield. Oh, I also forgot my last prediction. Carlos Beltran is either an Oriole next year, or he returns to his roots and resigns with the Kansas City Royals.

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

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

The NBA season has been interesting. Michael Carter-Williams is playing as good as anyone in the NBA right now and led the Sixers to 3 wins to start the season. That will in no way shape or form continue, but it was quite astonishing. I think the East is shaping up to be a three team race between the Heat, Pacers, and Nets. If the Nets are able to use Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett like the Spurs use Duncan, they will be dominant this year. I also love Enes Kanter. He is big man with a sweet jumper. If Utah wins the lottery next year, they’ll be a semi-contender in 2014-2015. Also, LeBron is still going back to Cleveland. The best situation for him. What do you think of the NBA season so far?

Joe to Greg

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Mike Trout sliding into 2nd base (Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

I like your predictions, especially the Rangers and Cardinals discussions. They really have the perfect holes to fill and it would be stupid not to explore those options. I think Cano gets south of $250 million, which is just out of this world to even think about. It makes me think of what Mike Trout might get offered, not saying it will be a huge number like that but who knows. The NBA has definitely been intriguing so far. Michael Carter-Williams is proving the doubters wrong and starting off a tremendous rookie campaign. The Celtics and Jazz seem to be the early favorites for the best lottery picks. Miami has struggles playing in the first quarters for some reason and the Indiana Pacers are 5-0? Who would’ve thought it. I love Enes Kanter and my equivalent is Jonas Valanciusnas from the Toronto Raptors. He’s been a beast who has averaged 15 points and 9.5 rebounds in his past two games. He’s been dominating down low, grabbing boards and posting a field goal % of 57.14. A great fantasy commodity in deep leagues. More on the NBA season to come. Any quick thoughts on the NFL this week? I’m a fan of the San Francisco-Carolina game and I think the Dallas-New Orleans game is going to be a shootout.

Greg’s Final thought

  1. If I am Mike Trout and the Angels approach me with an extension, I accept nothing less than $300 million over 10 years. I am serious. And quite frankly, it would be a discount for the Angels.
  2. Game of the Week for me is Panthers at the 49ers. I wanna see how Newton and Kaepernick perform against top defenses.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

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**