Recapping Yesterday’s NHL Madness

Like usual, I was completely away from my phone when piles of news came through.  But its rare when it all comes from the same league, and when the magnitude is this large.  Yesterday was one of those days.  Here’s a recap:

On Steven Stamkos re-signing with the Lightning…

The only thought/hope I had on Steven Stamkos leaving the Lightning was if he went to New York to sign with the Rangers.  I always thought he’d return to Tampa Bay.  The Lightning are so close to going all the way.  A year ago, Chicago was simply the better team.  This season, injuries killed them towards the end of the season.

The Lightning are so close to a championship, and I think Stamkos realized that if he left, it’d be like starting over again.  All the teams that he was considering are no where near as close as Tampa is to contending.  That was, I think, the key factor in him staying.

At the same time, I was surprised by the contract.  Reports had the Red Wings and Rangers offering Stamkos $10 million per year, and report had as high as $12 million.  Numbers like those would have made Stamkos the highest or third-highest paid player instead of the 9th.  Its a tad confusing, because there’s no way Tampa Bay asked him to take a hometown discount.  You don’t do that when you’re trying to re-sign the best free agent in years.  Perhaps the length and total value of the contract made up for the lower-than-expected AAV.

As much as I would have liked the Rangers to sign Stamkos, his decision to re-sign with the Lightning was no surprise.

On the Edmonton-New Jersey trade…

I don’t think anyone associated with hockey can explain this one.  Taylor Hall was one of the many exciting players they have in Edmonton, and now he’s been dumped on this crappy, no-good Devils team.  This is an excellent trade for New Jersey.

Its mind-boggling that Edmonton was convinced to give up Hall for Adam Larsson, who’s a good defensemen, but has a long way to go and may not get to that potential.  Hall is young and proven.

Peter Chiarelli’s comments were idiotic.  “This is the price you have to pay for defense.”  OK, how about paying a guy in free agency (Milan Lucic?), and having that be the price you pay?

I’m upset if I’m Taylor Hall.  I feel really bad for him, and agree with his comments.

On the Montreal-Nashville trade…

This put the cherry on top for an already crazy day.  No matter how lopsided or not this trade was, everyone’s mind was blown that this type of blockbuster went down.  Wait, can blockbusters be 1-for-1 swaps?  Anyways, there is so much to cover with this single trade.

Canadiens fans are pissed, and they have a right to be.  P.K. Subban is one of the five best players in the league.  Shea Weber has been plummeting down that list for awhile now.  However, its not like Habs fans should be all that surprised.  We’ve known since the trade deadline that a Subban trade was possible, and the draft only gave those rumors more momentum (Including a fake trade that got Twitter really confused, including me!).  But Habs’ fans anger is in the return.  Other teams would have had larger and more talented packages to give Montreal.  Nashville gave them one of their best players, but Weber’s in decline and has one of the worst contracts in the league.

There is no way Subban has the same value as Weber.  Thats why the one-for-one aspect of this trade was so shocking.  It seemed insane that Montreal didn’t ask for more.

However, let me make a case for how this trade ends up being good for the Canadiens.  Habs fans, hear me out.  The Canadiens have made two major moves this offseason: Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw.  Essentially, Montreal traded Subban for Shaw and Weber.

I think putting it that way sounds better, and maybe leaves Montreal fans a little more content with this trade.  In my mind, Subban for Shaw and Weber sounds pretty good.

But to many fans and probably other NHL GMs, Subban would widely be considered untouchable.  There’s another reason why the trade was so shocking.  I think there’s no doubt there were issues between the team and Subban.  I think the Canadiens had secretly been shopping him since the trade deadline.  There’s no reason to just gauge that type of player’s value, like many teams do at deadlines and drafts with their players.  Those issues, which had to exist, are so disappointing considering Subban’s popularity with the city.  Thats yet another reasons why Habs fans are so upset.

As for Nashville, I mean, that was a sweet trade.  I think the Predators should be very pleased with themselves.  And honestly, I think they feel like they got away with murder, which may or may not be true.  Subban’s an awesome addition, and the Predators are finally closing holes they’ve had for so long.  There’s no doubt they will be a contender heading into next season.

Questions And Observations From The NBA Draft

Before we enter into the chaos that is free agency, lets go back and recap the NBA Draft in seven quick topics and questions.

The Celtics did all they could do, which may be good or bad

The Celtics called half the league back at the trade deadline trying to get something done, and ended up with the same team heading into the postseason.  Pre-draft, they did the same thing.  The Celtics were working on trades with Chicago and Philadelphia, both involving the No.3 pick.  Neither went through, and only one were giving them a guaranteed star.  So, the Celtics kept the pick, but stunned everyone in taking Jaylen Brown when they were reportedly enamored with Kris Dunn, as many were.

And since the Celtics have an already full roster, a ton of assets, and eight picks in the draft, they had to wiggle their way through.  Boston took three draft-and-stash guys.  It was upsetting to fans, understandingly, but also has its pros.  The Celtics are eventually going to cash in these assets for one or two true impact guys.  Trading in those assets is going to take away many players.  The draft-and-stash guys can then be used as the bench for a very good team in a couple years.

Sure, this draft may be frustrating to some Celtics fans, but the reason for it is because of the future of the current team.  And its a bright one.

The Serge Ibaka trade is a win-win

Many people don’t like this trade for Orlando.  It makes sense.  They clearly gave up on Victor Olidipo, and shipped him to Oklahoma City where he will probably take over the starting shooting guard position.  This trade is awesome for OKC.  A backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Olidipo is scary good all the sudden, much better than any backcourt they played this season.  Oklahoma City also gets Domantas Sabonis, a guy who I don’t know a ton about, but went No.12 in the draft and is going to a place that is very good at developing.

Sure, Orlando gave up a lot, but they will use Serge Ibaka right.  This team has a ways to go with development, so Ibaka’s veteran presence should boost them ahead.  Orlando is taking a risk in hoping Aaron Gordon can play the 3-spot, but Ibaka is now their best player and will definitely make a impact.

The Suns made me mad but in the end left me happy

I hated the Dragan Bender pick at No.4.  He was the one guy I was really unhappy with in this draft.  I didn’t like the uncertainty when it comes to what he is.  I was really upset until No.8 overall, when the Kings traded Marquese Chriss to the Suns.

I was totally confused as to why the Kings traded back.  It was basically a seven player draft, when it comes to the first talent drop-off, and the 7th guy got moved to eight since the Celtics took Jaylen Brown.  Chriss was there as the hometown guy and they passed.

I’m pumped to add Chriss.  He can play three positions and is insanely athletic.  He’s just another young piece to add to an already very talented team.  The key for next season will be figuring the rotation and playing lineups that make sense.

I loved the Tyler Ulis pick at No.34.  Its great value, and Ulis can play.  I just hope he sees time.  We already have a ton of guards like Boston.

The Bender pick was a rough start to the night, but it only got better later on.

The Timberwolves are unfairly good

The second surprise of the night was Kris Dunn falling all the way to No.5.  The Celtics and Suns were the first two teams that had a crack at him, and both somehow passed.

With the talent Minnesota already has, it was smart to take the best player available.  Thats the way every team should go about things: Take the best player and figure out the rest later.  The Timberwolves did that, and now begins the figuring out period.

Whats gonna happen during that period?  Hopefully its a Ricky Rubio trade.  I’m sure many Timberwolves fans feel that way.

Minnesota was reportedly in talks with Phoenix and Philadelphia during the draft about Rubio (If the Suns ended up with Dragan Bender and Ricky Rubio in the same night, I might have cried myself to sleep.).  However, the market for Rubio has cooled.  The teams that were looking to move players during the draft aren’t now.  The draft is partly about gauging guys’ value, and a lot of teams did that on draft night.  I’m not saying Minnesota did with Rubio, but what I am saying is that teams would have been more open to make a trade that night rather than now.

When I was playing with Ricky Rubio trades during the season, there were a lot of options.  Philadelphia, New York, Indiana, Utah.  Only one of those teams is still in need: The 76ers.  The other teams solved their issues through trades or the draft.

I don’t think Kris Dunn and Rubio can play together, and playing them together puts a more talented player (than Rubio) on the bench.  I don’t wanna see Dunn’s career start like this.

Minnesota fans should root for a Ricky Rubio trade, but no matter what, I think you all will be okay.

Do the Bucks know what they’re doing?

The Bucks have a ton of talent on their team.  They have been and will be one of my favorite teams to watch.  But their talent isn’t spread out, well, kinda.

Their talent is certainly spread out when it comes to the wingspans on this team.  But thats the issue.  The only talent is in these long athletic guys who can defend.  There’s not a ton of true playmaking yet.  Sure, its flashy, but we need some good ole’ get-to-the-basket/physical type play with this team.

The pick of Thon Maker at No.10 was ambitious.  I like the potential (Story of this draft), but there’s too much to be unsure of.  And he’s practically the same player as Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, just rawer and displays all the skills.  They have a ton of the same player, and meanwhile don’t have a good enough point guard, and need to get rid of crappy front court players (Cough, Greg Monroe).

This roster is almost there, but the Bucks have to hope that the developmental stage goes right and that needs are addressed.

The 76ers use old tactics, expectedly and unexpectedly

The pick of Ben Simmons at No.1 was a no-brainer.  But are we sure Sam Hinkie would have made the pick?

He probably would have, but a Hinkie stereo-type would have suggested he’d take Dragan Bender.  If that would have happened, the first criticism of Hinkie from me would have came.

Selecting Timothe Luwawu and Furkan Korkmaz with their two other first round picks was definitely Hinkie-style.  You’d think, since the Colangelos are running this team, that they’d go with bigger names who’d have more of an immediate impact.  Perhaps this is a progression of thought from the 76ers, which is good news for those who didn’t agree with Hinkie’s exit.

I’ve really fell in love with Luwawu since he was picked.  He’s a scorer and Philly needs as many of those as they can get.  Plus, the guy is sick.  I mean, look at him.  He’s awesome.

How did these guys go undrafted?

  • Alex Poythress
  • Fred VanVleet
  • Gary Payton ll
  • Kaleb Tarczewski
  • Perry Ellis
  • Wayne Selden
  • Ryan Archidianco

Some of these guys have signed already, but these are all big-name college players who somehow weren’t drafted last Thursday.  Its a great group that has a ton of potential.

Its Time To Induct LeBron James Onto The GOATS Page

The 2016 NBA Finals did it for me.  I went and argued against it for years, and had to finally succumb.  LeBron James is now one of the goats.

A lot of people had been pushing me to do it for awhile, but he needed that 3rd ring.  Larry Bird, who was once the 4th GOAT, only won that many.  I was skeptical LeBron was gonna win another one, at least in Cleveland.  But it came together in the most unlikely fashion, and somehow against the GOAT team, regular season-wise at least.

LeBron moving into the goats is all about one thing: How he stacks up with Bird.  They’re the two best forwards of all-time, and thats all that mattered when moving LeBron up.

LeBron’s played 13 seasons and Bird only played 13.  And we still have a good amount of LeBron left.  He’s already there:

  • Rings: 3 vs. 3= Tie
  • MVPs: 4 vs. 3= LeBron
  • Finals MVPs: 3 vs. 2= LeBron
  • All Stars: 12 vs. 12= Tie
  • NBA First Teams: 10 vs. 9= LeBron

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has always been lower on my list than most, simply because I think there’s no way he wins six rings if he doesn’t have Magic Johnson.  Kareem won two Finals MVPs, meaning he was the best player on his team only twice in the six Finals he appeared in.  LeBron has been the best player in all three Finals, and in some had limited help.  Kareem always had Magic, and Magic did his thing, leading to two Finals MVPs too.

LeBron against Wilt Chamberlain is a no brainer.  Wilt’s insane numbers get him as high as he is, but keep in mind he only won a single ring as he was going against poor competition.  Still, no matter that competition, Wilt’s numbers are insane for anyone in a basketball game.

LeBron against anyone lower than Wilt doesn’t need any explanation.

Though you have to leave the possibility open, its rare for me to see LeBron advance any further.  There’s a chance my top three never changes.

No matter what though, it is true.  We are witnessing greatness.

GOATS before LeBron’s induction:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Bill Russell
  3. Magic Johnson
  4. Larry Bird
  5. Wilt Chamberlain

GOATS after LeBron’s induction:

  1. Michael Jordan
  2. Bill Russell
  3. Magic Johnson
  4. LeBron James
  5. Larry Bird

You can also view my top 25 GOATs, which is updated to include LeBron’s induction…

2016 NBA Mock Draft

Here is my full NBA Mock Draft, with help from ESPN’s Mock Draft Machine.

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 10.27.46 PM

This mock draft is going to be different from others.  I have my whole draft listed above, instead of writing on each pick.  I will only be writing on certain picks.  Picks that I know the most about the players.  I don’t know a ton about this draft, mostly because I’ve been 100% into the playoffs, the fact that I don’t watch nearly as much college basketball as I do NBA, and the fact that this is a really, really bad draft, at least, it is coming into it.

The picks I will write on are probably the big names.

No.1, Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons, LSU

I wrote a lot about this possibility here, and how Simmons’ possible success could actually turn Sam Hinkie into a true genius.

Reports have the 76ers already telling Simmons that he will be their pick.

The 76ers have other moves to make (More on that soon).  I think once those moves are made, this team will actually start to come together.

I’m as high as you can be on Ben Simmons.  I think he’s the best prospect since Kevin Durant, and is a do-it-all player.  With a little bit of work on his jumpshot, he can become a point-forward.  Having a guy that versatile could be able to offset the problem of playing two centers at once.

No.2, Los Angeles Lakers: Brandon Ingram, Duke

I honestly thought Brandon Ingram should have stayed another year in school.  The guy is super raw offensively.  The Lakers are gonna be bummed they can’t take Simmons, because Ingram isn’t going to be an instant star.  He has a lot of potential, which is this draft in a nutshell.

Ingram’s main problem is that I don’t know exactly what he is yet.  There’s stages where you have to know what type of player a guy is, and the 2nd  is the draft.  The next is after three seasons in the league.  Ingram hasn’t hit the 2nd stage, and thats worrisome.

No.3, Boston Celtics: TRADE: Celtics trade No.3 overall to Philadelphia 76ers for Jahlil Okafor, Philadelphia 76ers pick Kris Dunn, Providence

This makes all the sense in the world.  The last thing Boston needs is another big man or guard that they don’t know what to do with.  They already have a clogged rotation.  It makes sense to have a clogged rotation when its full of good players.  Adding Jahlil Okafor gives them another good player.

Get rid of Okafor clears up things for Philly too.  This way, they can play Kris Dunn, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Nerleans Noel, and Joel Embiid together, and not have three true big men of this caliber in the rotation.

That lineup works.  Noel is more versatile than Okafor or Embiid, so you could play him at the 4-spot.  Embiid is kept near the glass.  Then you have Simmons and Saric playing small.  It should work.  This trade makes sense for both involved.

Reports have had the 76ers wanting another top five pick, presumably to take a point guard.  Kris Dunn is the best point guard in the draft.  That guy is NBA ready, too.  He’d be a great fit and addition with his readiness, which is desperately needed for such a young and raw team.

No.4, Phoenix Suns: Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

OK, this probably seems too high for most of you.  But I’m a Suns fan and I know what I want.

The Suns need a guy who we can park on the wing and have him score.  Buddy Hield is exactly that.  The guy can flat-out score.  He’s exactly what we need.

The criticism of Hield is that he can’t create is own shot, or that he isn’t a guard.  No, he’s not.  Thats exactly what I want the Suns to draft him.  Thats exactly what we don’t need.

Bring me Buddy!

No.5, Minnesota Timberwolves: Jamal Murray, Kentucky

If the Jimmy Butler trade for Minnesota doesn’t go through (At this point, I don’t think it will.), then the move the Timberwolves make is sliding in Jamal Murray for Ricky Rubio, and shipping Rubio to New York or Indiana or someplace.

I think Murray is a true point guard.  I think he has the three pieces point guards need.  Rubio doesn’t.  We’ve been through this.  Rubio can’t shoot.  Murray can.

People are worried about Murray commanding and having point guard vision.  The guy is young.  He can develop it.

And if you’re the Timberwolves, Rubio is practically the oldest guy in the starting lineup.  Why not just ship him out and go all with two-or-three year guys?

No.6, New Orleans Pelicans: Marquese Chriss, Washington

Whats there not to like?  Marquese Chriss is the playmaker the Pelicans need.  He can play three positions, but isn’t a point-forward like Ben Simmons or Thon Maker.  He’s insanely athletic.  Its an insane comparison, but there’s a lot of LeBron James in Marquese Chriss.

This Pelicans roster is in nasty shape.  Chriss won’t immediately turn them around, but will provide some excitement for the fans.

No.7, Denver Nuggets: TRADE:  Nuggets trade No.7 pick and more to Sacramento for Demarcus Cousins, Kings take Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender has give me a lot of trouble in this draft.  I’ve gone back and forth quite a bit.

I don’t like him.  I don’t know whether he’s a center, a power forward, a stretch 4, or a versatile player who can play 3, 4,  and 5.  I think NBA teams should stay away.

I’ve scoured the whole first round trying to find a spot for him, and I can’t.  So, I had to come up with a stupid trade that features a stupid team.  The Kings are perfect.

Denver has been connected to Kevin Love and Boogie for awhile, so why not trade this pick, clear out some money and players, and get one of the best centers in the league?

Its a dumb trade for all involved, but I think the Kings are dumb enough to do it.  And the Kings are definitely dumb enough to draft Dragan Bender.

This is basically a scapegoat since I don’t like Bender, am not sure where he should go, and don’t know if Denver has any true needs.

No.9, Toronto Raptors: Henry Ellenson, Marquette

The power forward position for the Raptors this past season was a constant holdup.  They tried many different types of guys there, and none seemed to work.  However, I feel like that problem was lack of talent, not lack of fit.

Based off what I’ve watched and read, it seems like Henry Ellenson’s ceiling is Kevin Love.  The question remains as to whether he’s a stretch 4 or not.

I think this is a risk Toronto should take.  You’d hope that no matter what, Ellenson is an upgrade over anyone at the 4-spot.

No.10, Milwaukee Bucks: Jaylen Brown, California

Jaylen Brown is another super raw player in this draft.  But he fits what Milwaukee is trying to do.  He’s another long and athletic player.  But I worry about what else he is.  I don’t trust really anything with him yet.  However, I don’t think the Bucks care that much.  They may be able to take a risk here.  We know Jason Kidd can.

No.11, Orlando Magic: Jakob Poeltl, Utah

The Magic do have Nikola Vucevic, who I really like.  But Vucevic isn’t liked by everyone and has been floated in some trade rumors over the past couple seasons.  Poeltl is a guy that you put down low and surround with shooters.  He’s going to be that one big guy down low for the Magic.

No.14, Chicago Bulls: Skal Labissiere, Kentucky

The Bulls may lose Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah in free agency this Summer, so drafting a big guy makes sense.

However, Skal Labissiere is one of the guys who I thought should have stayed another year.  He’s super raw all around, and that worries me a bit.  Why not stay at Kentucky with one of the best coaches in the sport, and develop yourself a little more?

Still, Labissiere and Bobby Portis would be really fun to watch together.

No.15, Denver Nuggets: Thon Maker, Canada

Thon Maker could be a lot of things.  The only issue is that we’re not sure whether he’s even good.

If everything we have heard is true, he’s basically a point-forward who’s 7-1.  Yeah, sounds enticing.

We don’t know if Thon Maker is really good or not because the only tape we have is shot in a high school gym.  And he’s playing against players who might be pickup caliber.

Again, it sounds to good to be true.  Denver can afford to take a risk.  This is the definition of a “We’ll see” pick.

No.20, Indiana Pacers: Tyler Ullis, Kentucky

I hate Indiana’s current backcourt.  I think its the reason they underachieved this season and is part of the reason why Frank Vogel was fired.  Take Tyler Ullis here and see if he can force his way into the starting lineup.

No.21, Atlanta Hawks: Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

It sounds likely that the Hawks are making a trade with one of their point guards draft night, so taking Demetrius Jackson here gives them a 2nd guy.  Jackson was awesome in the NCAA Tournament, and has the skills to become an NBA caliber point guard.

No.25, Los Angeles Clippers: Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

The Clippers struggled to fill their 3-spot all season.  Take Denzel Valentine here, let him develop a bit more, and plug him in later in the season.  The guy can shoot.  The Clippers need that, similar to the Suns.  I think the mid-20s is Valentine’s range.

No.30, Golden State Warriors: Taurean Prince, Baylor

If the Warriors lose Harrison Barnes and don’t sign Kevin Durant, they’ll have a bit of a hole at small forward.  Andre Iguodala would love to start again, but taking Taurean Prince gives them some depth at the 3-spot.

NBA Finals Roundup

The series was weird.  The pick was wrong.  Game 7 was epic.  And the pick for Game 7 was right.  Yeah, this series was really weird.

Game 6 didn’t turn out the way I thought it would.  The Warriors lacked effort and let LeBron James manhandle them again.  This set up an exciting and conflicting Game 7.  I had no idea who’d win until Sunday morning.

Good games usually fly by, and Game 7 did.  I kept looking at the game clock thinking how fast the game was going by.  Thats because it was smooth and fun to watch.  Exactly what we expected and deserved as fans.

The back and forth was beautiful.  Cleveland won because of a shot, which we will hit later, but a couple interesting adjustments kept the game close.  There were moments when it felt like the Cavaliers were letting the game get out of hand.

First, Kevin Love woke up from his playoff coma, and delivered when it mattered most.  I didn’t think it was smart to start him, but he showed early that I was wrong.  The way he played, grabbing rebounds, posting up, reminded me of him in Minnesota.  It looked like that Kevin Love again.  His play didn’t win Cleveland the game, but it sure helped them stay in it.  With Love playing that way, the original starting lineup works.  It fits.  Cleveland played a lot differently than they usually do last night.  They kinda looked like Golden State.  And thats because of the way Love played.  Needless to say, its still very probable that Love is traded this Summer.  I don’t trust him to play like that every game.  Neither should the Cavaliers.

Tying into the play of the Cavaliers, they relentlessly attacked the rim.  Thats how they scored their points.  Yeah, Golden State was raining threes throughout the game, and there were times when Cleveland tried to counter (This is when they got themselves in trouble.).  But I kept stressing on Twitter:  If Cleveland attacks the rim, and scores at this rate, they can figure out the math problem at the end of the game.  If they do that, it will still be close in crunch time.  Wa-lah!  Look at what happened.

I had a feeling it’d be an epic game as we got closer to tip off.  I thought it’d go down to crunch time.

I guess the 89-89 knot for three minutes was exciting.  I mean, it was tense, even more since shots weren’t going in.  We all knew though, at some point, one had to fall.  Kyrie Irving’s did.

This was the game-winner.  That doesn’t go down, and who knows where the rest of the games goes.

As soon as it went down, I knew it was the game-winner.  I shocked by how underwhelming ESPN’s announcers sounded about it.  Then again, the shot occurred with 53 seconds left.

LeBron’s performance in last year’s Finals was unlike anything I had ever seen.  But he alone just wasn’t enough.  And that was okay.  The title-winning Warriors were amazing.

But towards halftime of Game 7, I was worried about the game for the Cavaliers because of the  reasons I displayed above.  At that point, I was really concerned about whether LeBron (and his performance) and this surrounding cast was enough.  If it wasn’t, then moves bigger than what we’re expecting this Summer were gonna happen.

The Cavaliers were down 3-1 because of LeBron being too passive with the ball.  Game 5 and on, that changed.  It turned out that LeBron playing this way, with help from Kyrie and Kevin Love, was enough.  It was enough for the 3rd time, and this time in Cleveland.

I don’t like the term “deserving” when it comes to winning championships.  But Cleveland has been through hell and back with its sports.  They’ve waited the longest.  And its so important that the King, someone as iconic as LeBron James is now, is the one that ended the drought.  Thats why this is so special.

I’ll have a column later in the week on LeBron’s legacy, which has grown so much since the end of Game 7.  I said with one more ring he’d enter top five conversation, because thats where the next best forward is, who also has three rings.  His legacy has now entered the top five all-time, enough for a spot on the GOATS page.  That column will be his induction onto the page.

As for the Warriors, its a disappointing end to the greatest regular season of all-time.  You can’t deny the fact that they went 73-9.  The “Doesn’t mean a thing without the ring” statement is dumb.  No one won more games than them, and they have the unique and innovative factor to go along with it. Sure, the Finals loss is an asterisk when you’re comparing the best teams ever.  But you can’t deny the record or disrespect them.  They lost the series on a shot.  And one of the greatest players ever beat them throughout it.

This weird series had an epic ending.  None of the teams deserved it.  We did.

What To Expect From The Rest Of The Finals

In every game of this year’s Finals, something has gone wrong for someone.  Golden State dominated Games 1 and 2 because Kevin Love is a liability, and started both games.  Love getting hurt was the best thing to happen to the Cavaliers in this series.  Cleveland killed Golden State in Game 3 because their new lineup worked, and the Splash Brothers were cold.

Game 4 was huge, because the Cavaliers had a decision to make regarding Love, and had to expect a better performance from the Splash Brothers.  The Cavaliers made the right decision in starting Richard Jefferson, and played well the entire game, until Tyronn Lue forgot how to coach.

In the final six minutes of Game 4, the Cavaliers had zero ball movement offensively, and went totally iso with their play.  And Tyronn Lue did nothing.  Sure, fatigue played a part.  But Ty Lue forgot to coach in those final six minutes.  That lost them the game.  Cleveland had Game 4 in their hands.

The morning after Game 4, my mindset on the series was this:

What I had seen before the final six minutes of Game 4 had me convinced.  It was setting up an epic Game 5, until Draymond Green’s suspension brought down the excitement a bit.

I thought Draymond’s suspension was unnecessary.  Sure, it wasn’t great what he did, but it was no worse than him giving Steven Adams a shot in that area.  The NBA should have suspended him for that, not the LeBron incident.

Draymond’s absence from Game 5 last night was substantial, but its not why the Warriors lost.  That was an epic performance from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.  It was time for Kyrie to show up and for LeBron to take over.  We’d been waiting on both of those to happen in these Finals.  They both happened in one game, and thats why the Warriors lost.  Golden State didn’t play bad.  Cleveland just played so much better.

Taking in all of this, Game 6 is shaping up to be an epic game, if everything goes right.  Here are those steps:

  1. Cleveland starts Richard Jefferson
  2. Draymond comes back fired up
  3. Splash Brothers play well
  4. Tyrone Lue coaches in crunch time
  5. LeBron isn’t passive
  6. Kyrie plays well

If all this happens in Game 6 (or 7), it will be epic.  This is the Finals.  This is what we expect, right?

We’ve yet to have a game go down to the wire in this series.  We almost had it in Game 4.  Game 6 should be that game, if all goes right.  We deserve it.

On the Jimmy Butler trade rumors…

News broke prior to last night’s game tipping off that the Timberwolves are making a push to trade for Jimmy Butler.  This isn’t too surprising, since the Celtics made offer at the Trade Deadline in February, plus his old coach (Which he reportedly liked.) is now in Minnesota, and since he doesn’t seem too happy in Chicago.

The report said that Minnesota would part ways with their No.5 overall pick in the Draft, but what people don’t understand is thats not nearly enough.

The Wolves have plenty of assets to do a deal if they want to.  However, their interest says three things.

  1. They don’t like Jamal Murray much
  2. They plan on keeping Ricky Rubio as their point guard
  3. They have realized what Zach Lavine is

Giving up the No.5 overall pick means no Jamal Murray and no Ricky Rubio trade this Summer.  With a team this good, having Ricky Rubio at point guard is fine.  You know how I feel about him.

This also says that Minnesota has realized Zach Lavine isn’t a point guard.  He’s a two-gaurd and has been since he got in the league.  I love Zach Lavine.  He’s awesome to watch and can shoot.  But he’s not a point guard.  He’s not exactly what we thought we’d be.

To get a deal done with Chicago, this is what would have to occur:

Screen Shot 2016-06-14 at 11.43.18 AM

Throw in the No.5 overall pick, and we have a deal.  (The Trade Machine doesn’t allow picks to be traded.)

I think thats enough.  Chicago clearly likes someone who’s going to go in the top six or so.  There’s your pick value.

Chicago probably demands Lavine since they’re losing their starting shooting guard.  The Wolves probably figure that Butler’s ceiling is higher than Lavine’s, which is a fair assumption.  One of my Wolves friends told me “I like Lavine, but I like Butler a lot more.”  You’d think the Wolves feel that way too.  Anyone can understand that.

Nikola Pekovic is in this trade because 1) The Wolves need to dump him.  2) His fat contract balances out the money (AKA, makes the trade successful.).  3) The Bulls could actually use him!  Chicago may lose Joakim Noah AND Pau Gasol in free agency this Summer.  Pek and Bobby Portis could be fun to watch, if it came down to it.

I’ve said that I think this Timberwolves team is gonna win 40 games next season.  If they make a trade like this, practically swapping Jimmy Butler in for Zach Lavine, the playoffs should be very well in sight.

Stanley Cup Roundup

Last night was a rough night.

It was a foreseeable rough night.  After Game 4, when Pittsburgh led the series 3-1, I knew it was over.  Not just because of the series lead, but because thats when I knew they were truly the better team.

It was an odd series.  It never felt like matchups mattered that much.  Both teams took turns having good nights.  It alternated for awhile, but the back-to-back overtime games screwed it up.

The Sharks had Game 2, until Martin Jones watched the puck go over his head for the OT winner.  The alternating good/bad night theory slowly dissipated after that.  If San Jose has one game to look back on and feel bad, Game 2 is it.

Pittsburgh was the better team in many ways.  I thought their effort in the 2nd and 3rd period of Game 6 was better.  They wanted to the raise the Cup that night.  They were determined.

The Penguins passing was much better throughout the series.  They were much cleaner than the Sharks.  In the 3rd period of Game 6, the pucks that the Sharks were moving across the ice were going to no one.  It looked like they had given up.

At the ten minute mark of the 3rd period in Game 6, I knew it was over.  They were only down 2-1 at the time, but the pucks weren’t going anywhere, and the Penguins had dominated possession then and throughout that game.

That was a common thing throughout the series.  It wasn’t exactly defensive slumps by the Sharks, it was offensive outbursts by the Penguins.  Pittsburgh’s offense was better, which was something I didn’t foresee.  San Jose’s power play dying this series didn’t help.  The best power play of the playoffs didn’t show up in the most important series.  Had it, this series might not yet be over.

The goalies in this series were both fantastic.  Biased me thought Martin Jones should have won the Conn Smythe Trophy, even though he was on the losing team.  I’ll rant about that later.  But Jones kept the Sharks in this series.  I thought he was excellent, expect when the Penguins got him distracted and he didn’t turn his head around quickly enough.  But some of the ridiculous saves he made in this Cup were incredible to watch.

Like, how.

But Matt Murray was somehow better.

I was skeptical of Murray early in the postseason.  I like my goalies to have experience in the postseason.  Murray had none.  And he proved me wrong.

I didn’t carry a grudge on him throughout the rest of the postseason like I sometimes do with others.  Thats because I didn’t just think he was hot, I think he’s actually really good.

This gets into the debate of who should have won the Conn Smythe trophy last night, which was something I was steaming about but also couldn’t totally figure out.  It was hard to pick a MVP for the postseason.  Had the Sharks won, they would’ve had more options to pick from.

I thought Matt Murray deserved the trophy.  If he didn’t step up, the Penguins wouldn’t of had a true goalie for the postseason.  If that was the case, they wouldn’t have gotten to the Cup.

My runner-up was Kris Letang, who had five points in the series and scored the 2nd best +/- on the team.

And who’d they give it to?  Sydney Crosby, who disappeared for most of this postseason.  Great night for his legacy, which honestly, doesn’t need anything added to it.  Thats a compliment.

Hey though, at least deciding who won the Conn Smythe won’t be as difficult as deciding who gets the Finals MVP in basketball.

The lesson I can learn from this Cup is don’t get your hopes up.  Its okay to root for who you want to play, but don’t ever feel like you can beat them.  If they got here, they’re at least as good as you.  Pittsburgh was that, and unfortunately more.

What May Force Kevin Durant To Leave The Thunder This Summer

Never has there ever been this many factors deciding a certain free agency.  I guess it makes sense when we’re talking about the 2nd best player in the league.

Its rare when the 2nd best player in the league hits free agency.  No one this talented has hit the market since Lebron James was out of a contract in Miami.  Sure, many very good players have signed new contracts in the Summer, but not a lot of those guys were truly threatening to leave.

I think its very possible Kevin Durant leaves this Summer.  There’s a lot of reasons to do it.  But theres also a lot reasons against it.

We all know it makes most financial sense for KD to sign a one year, maximum contract with the Thunder this Summer.  It pays him the most money, keeps him in Oklahoma City, and allows him to enter free agency again next Summer, where he would be able to sign long-term for close to $200 million.

Those are unheard of numbers for the NBA, but thats where we’re headed with this cap rise.

Durant, no matter what kinda contract and where, makes more money signing long term next Summer.  But theres many reasons why leaving now makes sense.

Coming into these playoffs, the mindset was that the Thunder had to make the Finals to keep KD.  That happening was a long shot, but it seemed like they had to considering the underwhelming regular season.

Then the Thunder went up 3-1 on the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, and the mindset of the Summer shifted.  The Thunder may lose in the Finals, but they knocked out the best team ever, and totally put themselves together in ways we hadn’t seen before.

Games 6 and 7 of the West Finals shifted the mindset once again, and thats where we are now.  It was a total collapse by the Thunder, something we’ve seen all season.

Putting the blame on KD and Russell Westbrook is idiotic.  They’re two of the ten best players in the league.  Its not their fault.  The blame should be placed on Billy Donavan, not only for allowing these late-game collapses in the regular season, but letting them end their season.

If I’m Kevin Durant, I’m telling the Thunder to fire Billy Donavan or I’m leaving.

I’ve been one of Donovan’s biggest critics.  I doubt KD really feels that way about Donavan.  But I think its a factor.  One of many.

Look at the coaches for teams KD has been linked to: Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, Brad Stevens, Erik Spolestera.  None of those guys compare to Billy Donavan.

I’m making the case for Durant to leave this Summer because I don’t want another year of his career wasted.  I believe thats a realistic statement.  And Billy Donavan is pretty much responsible for it.

Maybe the Thunder correct those issues next season.  Coaching had them two wins away from the Finals.  Nothing else was holding them back.  This was Donavan’s first year.  He can learn.  Its just hard to forget when it cost them their season.  I’m sure that last sentence is what KD is thinking.

Another factor that will go far in deciding what KD does is the West-East power balance.  If I’m KD, I’m doing all I can to go East.  Miami and Boston seem like the most likely destinations.  Both have a ton of pros.  Coaching, talent, location.  Miami will do anything to get KD and anything to please him, due to Pat Riley’s presence.  Boston could sign KD with cap space, then cash in assets in a trade for a star.  The Celtics are still a little raw since they’re young.  Boston probably has the best potential out of all the teams KD could end up signing with, but it’d take the longest to get a ring.

Out West, the Thunder (duh), Warriors, Spurs, Rockets, and Clippers all seem likely.  But the real question is, can any of these teams with a new weapon in Durant surpass Golden State?

If he goes to the Warriors, it would be incredibly unfair.  It’d be amazing to watch, but you might as well not even play the regular season.  No one has been able to stop this Warriors team.

The Spurs wouldn’t be too unfair.   But this fit doesn’t make the most sense.  Golden State has a greater need for KD since Harrison Barnes may leave in free agency.  The Spurs would have to make a move to fit him in.  San Antonio needs upgrades at positions Kevin Durant doesn’t play (Center, point guard).

If you start to narrow it down in terms of fit, the Clippers, Thunder, and Rockets make most sense.

But again, is that a formula to beat the Warriors?  And out West, beating the Warriors doesn’t get you the title.

See, these factors all go so far in deciding what will happen this Summer.  There’s never been anything quite similar.

But what I know is that, as a basketball fan, I’m tired of seeing KD not succeeding all the way.  Its not his fault that he can’t.  Its one of those rare cases where you can’t blame it on the player.  What you can blame it on, is the coach that he can leave behind this Summer.

NBA Finals Preview

Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors

Last year, the Warriors made the infamous move to bench Andrew Bogut and start Andre Iguodala.  It helped Golden State win the series, and inspired a move that led to much success the following season.  That change led to the creation of the “Death Lineup”.

It was Golden State’s go-to in crunch time this season.  It most definitely helped them win 73 games.

And now, the Warriors find themselves against the team that inspired that lineup.  The difference is nothing needs to change this time.

The Warriors have to go with the Stephen Curry-Klay Thompson-Harrison Barnes-Andre Iguodala-Draymond Green lineup in this series.  Its necessary to stop Lebron James.  Things could get ugly if Harrison Barnes is forced to guard Lebron.  We found that out when Golden State was down 2-1 last year.

Starting Barnes is something many are going to ponder, as he didn’t start in Game 7 against the Thunder.  But that was a different series.  The Warriors needed a little bit more size to beat Oklahoma City.  In this series, they need defense.

With that lineup playing the majority of minutes, the Warriors should be in good shape.  Here’s what can happen if they don’t use it…

We know Lebron can win a series by himself.  Without good defense containing him, and Kyrie Irving being able to do his thing, (Steph isn’t a bad defender, but he isn’t great.) the Cavaliers have a shot at this series.  It hinges on Golden State being illogical, which isn’t likely to happen.

This is not going to be Kevin Love’s series.  We’ve said that a lot this postseason.  Too much.  Its one of few remaining reasons why Love doesn’t fit with the Cavaliers.

Taking away Love shouldn’t be a huge deal.  We know the Cavaliers can win without him (Yet another reason.).  I think Draymond Green is back in this series.  He’s going to check himself back in.  And if I’m the Cavaliers, I’m very afraid of that.

Andrew Bogut’s minutes are going to be limited if the Warriors do the right thing, but no matter what, the matchup at center is an underwhelming one.  It doesn’t feel like either of these guys, Bogut and Tristan Thompson, are going to be big contributions in this series.  The small ball takeover is going to show it’s ultimate wrath throughout this one.

The Cavaliers defense is a big X-Factor in this series.  Golden State’s offense has had it’s issues this postseason, but this is a fresh start against a worse team.  The Warriors play drastically different from Cleveland.  Fast, passing-oriented, and lights-out shooting.  The Cavaliers love to isolate their guys and let them take bad shots.

Its hard to see the Cavaliers stopping the Warriors’ offense.  They’re not very long or quick.  Its just a really bad matchup for Cleveland.  This has never been a good defensive team.  How does anyone think they’re going to stop one of the best offenses in the NBA?

Iguodala’s defense may be what decides this series.  If he can’t contain Lebron, then the Cavaliers can easily win this series.  But Iggy had such a good finish to the West Finals.  I think that will carry over, and he’ll contain him.  If I’m the Warriors, I like my chances of the Splash Brothers+Draymond Green against Kyrie Irving.

Pick: Warriors in 6