Stanley Cup Preview

We’ve made it to the Stanley Cup.  As hockey fans, and as Sharks fans (That “we” means a whole lot more this year.), the time has come.  Its the Cup.

San Jose Sharks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Its amazing that this Sharks team made it to the Cup.  Its nothing anyone, even the most optimistic Sharks’ fan, would have expected.

They’ve got here playing teams that play similar styles to them.  And have beaten them.

The Penguins are a team that plays a similar style to the Sharks, which is a good thing for San Jose.

Pittsburgh has gotten here in an interesting way.  While their stars are playing well, they haven’t been their top contributors this postseason.  Many other guys have stepped up.  Especially at goaltender. Matt Murray has been on fire this postseason.  I doubted him earlier in the playoffs.  He’s gained my respect, and is one of the few concerns I have about this series as a Sharks fan.

The Sharks have their stars playing their best hockey.  Brent Burns has been the best player of the playoffs.  Joe Pavelski has been amazing.  Everyone is producing.

I think San Jose’s offense is a little better than Pittsburgh’s, mostly due to the productive stars.

Its about whether the Sharks can get the puck past Matt Murray, which at times will be a tough task.

Pittsburgh most definitely has the goalie advantage.  If Pittsburgh’s true offensive producers can score, then Martin Jones needs to step up.  He’s been fine, but this is the Cup.  You have to play your best.

These teams are gonna beat the crap out of each other, which goes in the Sharks favor.  Big hits lead to penalties, and the San Jose power play is deadly.  If the Sharks can force Pittsburgh into commiting penalties, the Penguins will find themselves trailing in games.

Pittsburgh can win the series if they can overwhelm Martin Jones, which means getting contribution from their top liners.

I think San Jose’s offense and physical play wins this series though.  The Sharks have proved they can beat teams who play similarly to them. This is why I wanted to play the Penguins, as opposed to a speedy and crafty Tampa Bay team.

I’m excited for one of my teams to actually beat a Pittsburgh team for once.  Its literally never happened.

Pick: Sharks in 7 

Recapping All The Latest NBA Coaching Moves

We’ve had a lot of coaching moves during these Conference Finals.  Here are my thoughts on the latest hires.

Kings hire Dave Joerger

I think Dave Joerger got treated unfairly in Memphis.  That guy led a crappy and injury-riddled team to the postseason.  Sure, maybe there was tension with the front office.  But if you’re Memphis, don’t you figure that stuff out to keep this good of a coach?

The Kings got a great coach, which we have said many times before.  Joerger has to know what he is getting himself into with the Kings.  They are discombobulated beyond belief.  I could run this team better.

I hope the Kings realize for once what kinda coach they landed.  It probably won’t happen, and he’ll be out in a year.  But Joerger can get the most out of his players.  That goes miles when it comes to dealing with DeMarcus Cousins.

I think this is a smart hire by the Kings.  But I’m also excited to rip them in one year for firing him after a “disappointing season”.

Pacers hire Nate McMillan

I don’t know a lot about Nate McMillan.  However, based off everything I have read, it seems like this is a solid hire.

Most concerns with McMillan seem to be his ability to adjust to new ways.  Teams in the NBA are doing just that.

The Pacers have a good roster to adjust.  Its just gonna take McMillan’s buy-in.  Myles Turner is awesome and is a true stretch 4, necessary for today’s NBA.

Indiana’s biggest needs are good guards.  Based off last season, George Hill and Monta Ellis aren’t gonna get it done.  Thats something McMillan is gonna have to deal with until the higher-ups improve it.

I would think that the Pacers wouldn’t have hired McMillan unless he bought into the way they were gonna play.  If thats the case, then this should turn out okay.  I still think letting Frank Vogel go was a mistake (more on that later).

Knicks hire Jeff Hornacek

This was definitely one of the biggest surprises of the coaching carousel.  It was shocking that Phil Jackson went away from his tree, and is going to shy away from the Triangle.

When Jeff Hornacek was hired, I couldn’t happy enough for him.  He was unfairly let go in Phoenix, which is something I’m still bitter about as a Suns fan.  He’s probably my Dad’s favorite player of all-time (Thats not confirmed) and is one of mine.  We’re happy for him.

But at the same time, when the hiring was first announced, it was a tad confusing, I’ll admit.  It shied away from everything Phil Jackson has preached and said.  Hornacek’s offense in Phoenix was fit for today’s modern NBA.  We know Jackson’s views don’t fit that.

As more information came out, it was said that Jackson wouldn’t force Hornacek to run the triangle, which is smart.  I think a offense ran by Hornacek with triangle elements could be really dicey.  We’re in an innovative time right now.  Teams are doing all they can to find new ways to play, all because of the way the NBA is going.

I’m not saying this is gonna be revolutionary, but its worth a shot, right?  Why not?

The Knicks need a point guard first, and I think theres a good chance that point guard is Mike Conley or Ricky Rubio.  But for now, the Knicks made a good hire.

Magic hire Frank Vogel

Frank Vogel was unfairly let go in Indiana.  I was amazed that Larry Bird would let such a good coach go.

Vogel did a great job developing guys in Indiana, and he’s gonna have the same job in Orlando.  The Magic are a super young and raw team, but have plenty of talent for the long run.  They just need time and training.  I think Vogel is the right guy to lead them.

Wizards hire Scott Brooks

Its really hard to judge this move without considering the Wizards’ chances at Kevin Durant.  Which are, lets say, gone.

Its still pretty fishy.  I think Scott Brooks is a decent coach who was made out better than he is in Oklahoma City, due to the star-power they had there.  He was still unfairly let go from there.

Brooks has some issues to work out in Washington.  They have to figure out whether they’re gonna pay Bradley Beal.  They have an issue at power forward.  Most of last season’s struggles had to do with Beal’s injury and the fact that they tried to play in a modern way without a modern roster.

It will be interesting to see what Brooks does with this current team.  Its hard to judge right now because of Beal’s impending free agency.  But if the Wizards want to continue last season’s style under Brooks, they need some revamping.

Lakers hire Luke Walton

I called this as soon as Byron Scott was fired.  It was destined to happen.

I do think Luke Walton can coach.  This is a roster that has a lot of potential, but this is the Lakers, and they don’t like to wait.  Theres a good chance one of these young guys gets flipped for someone this Summer.

If the Lakers want to keep developing these guys though, Walton is the guy to do that.  There will be steady improvement as these guys develop.  Its unlikely the Lakers take this route, but it is the right one.

The Lakers making logical decisions has been a rare event over the past three years.  They’ve made one hiring Walton.  The 2nd one would be rebuilding normally.

Timberwolves hire Tom Thibodeau

I am so happy for all my Timberwolves friends, who are going to have a more than competent coach this upcoming season.

The trajectory of this Timberwolves team for the next two seasons is insanely high.  I honestly think they could win 40 games next year, just due to improvement from young guys, coaching, and the addition of whoever they take at No.5 overall in June’s draft.

This was an early hire, but it doesn’t matter when you get a coach this good.  Yeah, Tom Thibodeau is gonna work his players to death.  He’s a tough coach.  But isn’t this kinda what a team this young needs?  And can you imagine how good they will be defensively?  They’re already pretty good!

I think the Wolves have one more developmental year in them, but come 2017-2018, they could easily be contenders.

Nets hire Kenny Atkinson

Like Nate McMillan, I don’t know a ton about Kenny Atkinson.  I trust Sean Marks though, the new GM.  I think he is smart and knows what he is doing.  Thats why this works out fine.

If Atkinson isn’t the right guy, they can let him go.  Its not like it will be controversial.  They’re gonna suck anyways.

Rockets hire Mike D’Antoni

I love Mike D’Antoni because his Suns teams got me into basketball.  He’s revolutionary and deserved another opportunity.

But in Houston?

I don’t see this as the greatest fit.  The Rockets need help improving their defense and effort.  D’Antoni has never been a defensive guru and has had issues with guys in the locker room in previous jobs.  When it comes to dealing with players’ effort, locker room tension can occur.

It pains me to criticize someone hiring D’Antoni, but it just seems like there had to be a better fit for this Houston team.

I am though, excited for them to score like crazy.  They could be putting up close to 110 points a game next year.

Have a good Memorial Day Weekend.  I will be studying for finals while also writing a Stanley Cup preview, which will be up Monday.

Raptors-Cavaliers Series Preview

Toronto Raptors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

I think the Miami-Toronto series was one of few that we see in the NBA where the worst team won.  That series was a total sketch-fest.  It was all about who showed up for Toronto.  And in Game 7, their guards showed up.

This is a series though, that even if their guards show up, it won’t be pretty for them.

Kyrie Irving is an animal.  Give him any opportunity and he will capitalize on it.  You can’t totally trust Kyle Lowry, especially against someone as good as Irving.  He will be overwhelmed.

You’d think that DeMar DeRozan would be an upgrade over J.R. Smith, though in these playoffs, thats somehow a different story.  Cleveland is shooting the lights out of the East from deep.  Thats a skill the Raptors have lacked lately, DeRozan especially.  A big J.R. Smith game usually wins it for the Cavaliers.  There’s a chance that could be every game.

The mismatches keep going for the Raptors.  DeMarre Carrol on Lebron James doesn’t even need words.

Remember when the Cavs blew through the East on Lebron’s back?  And still made the Finals?  Yeah, this is what happens when you have a fully loaded Cavaliers team.  Those mismatches are doubled when you face a team like Toronto.

Patrick Patterson on Kevin Love is interesting, though Love’s versatility will probably overcome Patterson’s defense.  This is the most competitive position-on-position matchup in this series.

Jonas Valancuinas would and is going to give this series meaning.  He won’t play Game 1, but should return eventually.  When he does, he is a consistent offensive producer Toronto can go to, which will go miles if Toronto is going to get a game in this series.

Until then, Toronto scoring points is going to be a big problem.  And who knows when “until then” is.  Therefore…

Pick: Cavaliers in 4

Thunder-Warriors Series Preview

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Golden State Warriors

No matter who won between Oklahoma City and San Antonio, we were going to get an epic Western Conference Finals.

We have.  And this series has been totally rejuvenated by Oklahoma City, whos playing out of their mind.  Kevin Durant is having an amazing postseason, Billy Donavan’s not acting stupid, and Dion Waiters is actually doing stuff!  Oh boy, I’m already making fun of Oklahoma City.

They beat the Spurs, which was a great accomplishment, but they’re still so easy to pick on.  It feels just a little funny that they’re here, right?

Durant was amazing against the Spurs, which was so unprecedented since Kawhi Leonard was guarding him most of the time.  We found out two things: 1) Kawhi is human.  He can’t guard everyone.  KD is a tough enough assignment.  A hot KD was just too much.  Thats the main reason Oklahoma City won the series.  2)  If this continues, then the Warriors need to be afraid.  This is nothing to take lightly.

There is no point in saying one point guard will do better than the other in this series.  Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry are the two best point guards in the league.  They’re both so polished all around.  I think they check each other out a bit.  Meaning that Curry doesn’t have an amazing series, but neither does Russ.  They’re both good enough defenders to limit one another.  At the same time, Russ doesn’t possess the three-point threat that Curry has.

This could be a big series for Klay Thompson, especially if Steph is limited a bit.  The Thunder have no good defenders for him.

Klay is gonna have to step up.  Draymond Green is the most unique player in the league, but the Thunder have a nice rotation of bodies they could throw at him.  Steven Adams has really came on for them.  Enes Kanter has played well, though his defensive skills, are, well, not great.  Serge Ibaka needs a rejuvenation, but its not like he’s gonna be in a pressure spot.

Even with some of the defensive liabilities the Thunder’s big men have, its still fresh bodies consistently being thrown at Draymond.  Thats a huge plus, and goes far if they contain him a bit.

If you’re the Thunder, you’re not gonna stop the Warriors.  You have to contain them, then answer.  They can answer, and they’re capable of containing.  But sometimes your best is just not enough.

Steph Curry is gonna still have big games in this series.  I just think it will come in spurts.

Golden State is not gonna be able to guard KD.  If Kawhi Leonard couldn’t, there won’t be anyone who will have a chance with him on the Warriors.

But if you’re the Warriors, do you feel good about the Splash Brothers against KD?

Its a tough call.  If Curry has no problems against Russ, I think that matchup goes in the favor of Golden State.

If thats the way it goes, these teams might average 120 points a game this series.

Russell Westbrook’s defense is the X-factor in this series.  Its about effort with him.  You’d think considering what is at stake for OKC, that full effort will be displayed.

This has been a somewhat sketchy Thunder team, mostly due to their coach.  Because of that, its hard to see Russ showing up in every game.  I think there is a little bit of “My team, your team” with him and Durant, and its affecting Russ’ effort sometimes.

I’m taking the Warriors.  This is going to be an amazing series.

Pick: Warriors in 7

NHL Conference Finals Preview

We are so close to the Stanley Cup.  Which means the last week of school, which means Finals.  A lot of finals.  Sports and school.

Anyways, here’s previews for the West and East Final, which begins tonight with Game 1 of Penguins-Lightning.

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

What an unprecedented East Final.

The Penguins pulled off a massive upset in the 2nd round, beating the President Trophy winners in six games on an OT goal.  It was a fantastic series.  One of the few where I’m not sure if the best team won…

Tampa Bay beat the Islanders, which wasn’t shocking whatsoever.  Its fair to say this will be a test for the Lightning.

I think this series is going to be very contradictory.  A lot of things will make sense and a lot won’t.  I think both teams will have a game where they massacre the other.  I think there will be a 3OT game at some point.  Why?  They’re both so evenly matched.

Tampa Bay’s biggest problem heading into this series will be their offense, and if they are able to keep up.  This will be the series they will miss Steven Stamkos (Although, reports today say he might be back soon).  However, Tampa Bay has gotten great production out of their key players, unlike Pittsburgh, where guys on lower lines have produced more their stars.

If I’m the Lightning, I trust my defense if guys like Nick Bonino and Ian Cole are Pittsburgh’s most productive guys.  Ben Bishop is a fantastic goalie if anything gets through the D.

Matt Murray has gained my trust as a goalie.  He will have his hands full with a crafty and speedy offense like Tampa Bay’s, but Pittsburgh’s strong defense and Murray’s own improvement should somewhat contain Tampa’s offense.

I think this is overall a low-scoring series, but Tampa Bay’s craftiness on offense and star-power (thats producing) is too much for the Penguins.

Pick: Lightning in 7

St. Louis Blues vs. San Jose Sharks 

*Jaws music*

Be afraid everyone!  Be very afraid!

I’ve been calling a Sharks Cup run ever since they beat the Kings in the first round, and now, they’re only four wins away.

I think this is dangerous series for St. Louis.  Nobody really expected them here.  Usually, thats a good thing.  But this is a team that has trouble at the end of games and much worse goaltending than their opponent.  I think it goes against them.

San Jose is on fire.  I was talking to a friend of mine today, who actually has the Sharks going all the way.  He reminded me that momentum can never be underrated in hockey.  It carries.  That can only help San Jose.

San Jose is scoring an insane amount of goals, and against good defenses too.  Plus, Jake Allen and Brian Elliot are probably the worst goalies they’ve faced this postseason.  I expect the Sharks to continue their rampant goal-scoring.

It will be tough for the Blues to keep up.  And even if they do, who says they’ll keep the lead?  The collapses went both ways in the Dallas series, but St. Louis has the history of it behind them.  Advantage: San Jose.

Its clear by now San Jose is the better team.  I’m excited for the Cup, in which we’ll probably lose to Tampa Bay in like five.

Pick: San Jose in 5

Previewing Cavaliers-Hawks and Raptors-Heat

With the 2nd round out West underway, here are previews of the Eastern Conference’s 2nd round series, which begin tonight.

#1 Cleveland Cavaliers vs. #4 Atlanta Hawks

This is going to be a fascinating series on so many levels.  Atlanta has played so well lately, handling the Celtics in six games (It really felt like five.).  Cleveland got past a frisky Detroit team, which rejuvenated Kevin Love.

I don’t feel like this is the series for him though.  Paul Millsap has played out of his mind lately, and he’s no matchup for Love defensively.  Since last series wasn’t the series Kevin Love disappeared, this one will be.

Tristan Thompson also has a mismatch with Al Horford, another Hawk who gave Boston serious issues.  Thompson is subpar defensively, and can’t match the sheer talent of Horford on either end.

This is a favorable matchup for Kyrie Irving, as Jeff Teague is a very sketchy defender.  I don’t know whether its about effort with him or just not being good enough defense.

The Hawks will win this series by using the same advantages they used and had against Boston.  The only problem is that the competition they are facing is much greater.

I really like Kent Bazemore.  He was a great player for Golden State, and has finally gained a bigger role with Atlanta.

However, if you’re scouting Bazemore, this is not going to be a series you’ll look for his positives in.  He’s gonna be guarding Lebron James, or attempting to, at least.

We’ve seen what Lebron and the Cavs can do with only Lebron in a playoff series.  They took the NBA champions to six games last year with only Lebron left.  Atlanta isn’t Golden State by any means, but they’re the best competition a healthy Cavs team has seen in the playoffs.  If the Cavs can do what they did to Golden State with one of their big three last year, imagine what they can do to this Hawks team with three of their big three.

Its scary, and while I want to give Atlanta a shot to win in seven games, I can’t do it.  Sure, Kevin Love may be limited in this series, but the fact that Atlanta doesn’t have guys good enough to cover Kyrie and Lebron is too overwhelming.

I’m giving Atlanta two games for Paul Millsap and Al Horford.  I think they each have big games in this series.  Besides that, this series is Cleveland’s.

Pick: Cavaliers in 6 

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #3 Miami Heat

After watching the first round where Toronto barely made it out alive, they’re lucky I am even writing about this series.

The Raptors’ biggest issue has been getting off to good starts in games.  Its the reason they were taken to seven games against the Pacers.  Toronto is so sketchy at the start.  They get down big and then scramble.  As the first round displayed, sometimes the scramble works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Toronto can’t have that happen in this series.  The Heat are too good at taking advantage of other’s mistakes.  Ask Charlotte.

Miami was super fun to watch in the first round.  Hassan Whiteside was a beast, as Charlotte had no match for him.  Him against Jonas Valanciunas will be fascinating.  They’re both extremely skilled defensively, but Whiteside’s ultra-effectiveness may prove to be the difference.  He does things you don’t totally notice, but they show up in efficiency stats.  He’ll still get overpaid by $30 million this Summer.

Speaking of other guys who will get massively overpaid this Summer, DeMar DeRozan had a horrendous first round.  He was partly at fault for Toronto’s crappy starts against the Pacers.  Toronto needs him to snap out of it and play good enough defense to stop Miami’s wings, who have been on fire lately.

DeRozan or Kyle Lowry must step up.  Neither had great first rounds.  Lowry is capable of snapping out of it, but has Goran Dragic defending him.

The Raptors need to attack the rim, especially in Heat lineups that feature Whiteside as the biggest guy.  Thats definitely not saying Whiteside is bad defensively, but when he’s biggest man on the court, it does open the lane more for the Raptors.  Toronto can’t rely on outside shooting anymore, and Valanciunas will have a tough time producing against Whiteside.

Miami needs to do what they do best in this series.  It shouldn’t be too hard to score on this Toronto defense, and if the Raptors lay eggs to start games, then there will be no excuses for the Heat.

Pick: Heat in 5