Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game 82 Implications

The Clippers and Suns wrapped up their last game of the regular season last night, with LA giving themselves a chance at the #2 seed and guaranteeing at least #3, but the other 28 teams finish tonight. There are subplots aplenty with almost all of the games affecting either playoff seeding or the lottery order, so I decided to run through them, game by game. The good folks at tankathon.com have some great information to confirm what I thought about the lottery odds, and the playoff tiebreakers are courtesy of SBNation.com. All times are Pacific.

4:00 PM: Hornets (33-48) at Raptors (48-33): Charlotte has been ravaged by injuries to close the year, having lost 5 straight and is locked in at the 9th worst record, giving them a 6.1% chance of jumping into the top 3 and a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery. Toronto, meanwhile, suffered a heartbreaking loss last night, so they need to win AND hope for Chicago to lose in order to claim the #3 seed in the East and face Milwaukee. Otherwise, they'll open against Washington in the 4-5 series.

5:00 PM Hawks (60-21) at Bulls (49-32): Atlanta has long since wrapped up the top Eastern seed, so this only matters to them if they want to affect their side of the playoff bracket since they might view Chicago as a bigger or lesser threat in a potential second round matchup. If Chicago wins, they secure the #3 seed.

5:00 PM Spurs (55-26) at Pelicans (44-37): Arguably the most important game of the night, San Antonio can secure the #2 seed with a win by virtue of being division winners, and they could potentially drop to #6 with a loss. Memphis is the only team they lose the tiebreaker to. New Orleans would still have a chance if they lost, but if they win, they're in and don't have to worry about the OKC-'Sota result. They lose their first round pick to Houston whether it is the 14th or 18th pick.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

2015 NBA Post Trade Deadline Power Rankings

So much for a quiet Trade Deadline. Despite so many early season trades, this year's chaos trumped anything from the past few years, so I had to share some thoughts on each team after not writing anything NBA related for a while due to work and grad school. Below is my ranking of where each franchise stands with an eye towards the future along with their current record, and the offense and defensive ranks are based on Points Per Possession (per ESPN.com as of today) since that is the truest efficiency rating. Pure points per game or shooting percentages don't encompass everything since they can be affected by the pace of the game, turnovers, fouls, and the type of shot taken. Lastly, if there was a deadline deal, I included a summary, along with the players' salary information from BasketballInsiders.com, and the draft pick details from RealGM.com.

30. New York Knicks: 10-44. Offense: 98.7 (28th). Defense: 107.6 (28th)

Traded: Pablo Prigioni ($1,662,961 this season, $290,000 of $1,734,572 guaranteed next season)

Received: Alexey Shved ($3,282,057 this season, RFA this summer) and the Rockets' 2017 and 2019 2nd round picks

I'm surprised that New York actually added salary after Phil Jackson nearly got them under the Luxury Tax, but this is good trade for the Knickerbockers. They add some much needed draft picks (even if they are so far into the future), shed the modest amount due to Prigioni this summer, and get a look at the much younger Shved, who actually fits Phil's preference in the triangle offense for a big PG with some shooting ability. It is ridiculous that Carmelo Anthony played in the All-Star game before shutting it down for the season -- if  his knee was in enough pain to require surgery, why play in an exhibition? -- but they've secured cap space and are on the right track to secure the best lottery odds for the post player they desperately need in this system, Jahlil Okafor...even if those odds are still just a 25% chance at the #1 pick.

29. Los Angeles Lakers: 13-41. Offense: 101.3 (23rd). Defense: 108.6 (29th)

With the fourth worst record in the league right now, L.A. has an 82.8% chance at keeping their top-5 protected pick, but whenever that pick ends up being conveyed to complete the Steve Nash deal, they'll still owe another first round pick to Orlando two years later thanks to the Dwight Howard trade. While they were wise to pick up Houston's first round pick by taking Jeremy Lin off their hands, second round pick Jordan Clarkson has some nice potential, and Ed Davis was an incredible steal at the minimum for this season, this roster is still barren of talent overall, with no foundation player at any position. Seventh overall pick Julius Randle breaking his leg in the first game was one of the biggest tragedies of the year, and Kobe Bryant ending up injured for the third straight year makes his ridiculous contract extension look even worse. It will be interesting to see how they navigate their cap space in free agency this summer with the last year of Kobe's contract coming off the books in the summer of 2016 when the massive TV contract will jump up the salary cap.
Andrew Wiggins has soared above his peers.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves: 12-42. Offense: 99.5 (T-25th). Defense: 109.2 (30th)

Traded: Thaddeus Young ($9,660,869 this season, $10,221,739 early termination option this summer)

Received: Kevin Garnett ($12,000,000 this season)

The Big Ticket returning to where it all started 20 years ago is a great story, but trading 26 year old Thad Young wasn't the best use of assets considering that he cost them Miami's first round pick from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade. Maybe there weren't any future values better than KG's influence if Young indicated that he was going to opt for free agency this summer, but the mere fact that this was a possibility made the choice to trade for him instead of simply keeping top 10-protected pick a questionable one. President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders has had an uneven performance so far (which is still better than what Head Coach Flip Saunders has done), with this trade capping off a trade season that included dumping Corey Brewer for Troy Daniels and two second round picks, including a valuable one from Sacramento this year; flipping Daniels and cheap free agent signing Mo Williams for Gary Neal's expiring contract and a possibly valuable 2019 Miami second round pick via Charlotte; and trading a heavily protected 2017 first round pick for Adreian Payne, who was the 15th pick in last year's draft but hasn't been overly impressive in the D-League.

Of course, the most important move of all was trading for Andrew Wiggins, the #1 prospect of his class and next great NBA star, last summer as the key piece of the Love trade. He's had some ups and downs as you'd expect from a 19 year old, but things appeared to have clicked since the end of December. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what caused this change (it occurred not long after Shabazz Muhammad joined the starting lineup, allowing Wiggins to have the ball in his hands more and have a size advantage against opposing shooting guards, but it has continued with Muhammad injured and Kevin Martin back healthy), but since December 23rd, when he went off against the Cavaliers team that traded him, he has averaged 18.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists with 47.1% shooting overall in 14.7 attempts, 34.9% from three in 2.3 attempts, and 76.9% from the line in 4.8 attempts in 28 games, all the while defending the opponents' top perimeter threats. This kind of two way versatility provides a foundation piece for a franchise that has Ricky Rubio locked up along with Muhammad, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett (the other piece of the love Trade), Zach LaVine, and now Payne all on their rookie scale contracts. They could all become solid rotation players down the line to go with Wiggins, Rubio, and their high lottery pick this summer-- I hope they end up with Karl Towns as their elite big to be mentored by Garnett compared to the others they already have.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX

New England +1 versus Seattle: There are so many story lines that have been talked about already that I'm going to just focus on the matchups with the following exception: the line shift is fascinating. After opening with the Seahawks favored by 1, the public overreacted to the Conference Championship Games so much that the line moved about 4 points in the Patriots' favor in the ensuing week, but there must have been heavy money over the last few days to shift it all the way back to Seattle -1. Going against the Wise Guys' big money is cause for concern, but I still feel that New England has the best team.
Beast Mode will be New England's focus since as he goes, so does Seattle.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Championship Sunday 2015

Green Bay +8 at Seattle: I understand that the Packers have had their struggles in Seattle recently and that Aaron Rodgers is essentially playing on one leg, but this is still too many points to be laying against the likely MVP. His lack of current mobility and the crowd noise will make like difficult for him against the Seahawks pass rushers, but if they can establish the running game early with Eddie Lacy, they are so good at heavy play action. None of that might matter if they can't tackle Marshawn Lynch, so it is imperative that they play with a lead early and establish a ball-control type offense to limit his rushing attempts. Sam Shields, Tramon Williams, and Casey Heyward are good enough in man coverage that they can play with a safety in the box to stop the run, especially with Seattle's best deep threat, the raw yet speedy second rounder Paul Richardson, suffering a torn ACL last week.

Indianapolis +7 at New England: I'm sticking to my guns and not opposing Andrew Luck with this high of a spread, but I do expect the Patriots to win. There's no one that can cover Rob Gronkowski, and New England has dominated Indy with a power run game in the past. Maybe Jonas Gray will see the light of day after landing in Bill Belichick's doghouse for sleeping through his alarm after his 200 yard primetime performance against these Colts, or maybe LeGarratte Blount will tie the franchise playoff record of 166 yards like these teams' playoff meeting last year. Either way, the Colts' biggest strength on defense is their corners' man coverage, and Tom Brady doesn't need to consistently use his outside receivers to be effective. Besides catching a dime of a TD from Brady, Brandon LaFell's biggest impact was blocking for Amendola's first score, and Julian Edelman's big play was the double pass we've all been waiting for since he came into the league as a college QB. Especially with Indy's offensive line's surprising performance last week, I wouldn't put anything past Luck's heroics and T.Y. Hilton's speed, but this secondary is a tough matchup for them.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

NFL Divisional Round

Baltimore +7 at New England: The main question for me in this game is whether or not the Patriots' perimeter threats can take advantage of the Ravens' corners. Rob Gronkowski is the best weapon in football, but he is likely to draw safety Will Hill, arguably the best member of Baltimore's secondary. New England's running game can keep defenses honest, and their secondary should be able to contain  Joe Flacco, despite his annual playoff transformation. Whoever is healthier between defensive end Chandler Jones and left tackle Eugene Monroe will of course impact Flacco, as well. Justin Forsett's consistent movement in the running game should help keep this game close, though, so I have to take the points in this mini-rivalry despite feeling the Pats will pull it out.

Carolina +12.5 at Seattle: Carolina's chances of winning in Seattle are slim, but they've played the defending champs tough of late. If they can get Jonathan Stewart consistently involved early, they'll have a chance since the running game is the best say to attack the Seahawks defense. The rejuvenation of the Panthers defense thanks to previously unknowns like Bene Benwikere should keep Russell Wilson's squad from running away with it.
Carolina needs to run well to protect Cam from rushers like Cliff Avril in obvious passing downs.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

NFL Wild Card Weekend 2014

Carolina -5.5 versus Arizona: If the line was any higher, it would have have been tempting to take the points based purely on the Cardinals defense keeping the game close. As it stands, you have to go against Ryan Lindley on the road, especially since the red hot Panthers have had a stable offense since Jonathan Stewart got healthy to become the featured back.
Without a running game, Suggs should tee off.

Baltimore +3 at Pittsburgh: The Ravens haven't had any playoff success in their rival's backyard, but now will be their best opportunity with All-Pro runningback Le'Veon Bell injured. Of course, Big Ben threw for six touchdowns against this undermanned Baltimore the last time these teams met (although, the last one was a meaningless 4th down call that exemplified why Todd Haley is such a divisive coordinator). That and the fact that the Ravens' offense hasn't been consistent down the stretch make it a tough call to go with the underdog, but I can't help but think that a one-sided offense can't have continued success against a stout defensive front getting Haloti Ngata aack.

Indianapolis -3.5 versus Cincinnati: So much has changed for both teams since the Colts dominated 27-0 at home in Week 7 that it's almost not worth mentioning. With Ahmad Bradshaw on IR for Indy and Jeremy Hill now the feature back for Cincy, these teams are pretty even, and whenever Andrew Luck isn't facing a clearly superior team, I don't bet against him putting his team in a position to win, especially at home. The fact that the Bengals can now rely on Hill's power running game with Gio Bernard playing a complimentary role, they can control game flow and minimize the chances of Andy Dalton falling apart in prime time again. However, not having their best player, A.J. Green, is likely to prove too crippling a blow. Look for Luck to use his tight ends in the short passing game to mitigate the Bengals pass rush, and T.Y. Hilton's playmaking ability tends to shine in the bright lights.
You've got to go with the far superior quarterback at home.

Detroit +6.5 at Dallas: I'm tempted to pick the Lions to pull the outright upset since the teams have comparable talent, and the Cowboys have been better on the road than at home this year. However, Detroit is 0-17 on the road against winning teams with Matthew Stafford as the starting quarterback, including a crucial loss last week in Green Bay caused them to drop from the #2 seed and a first round bye to their current #6 seed and having to go to Dallas and potentially to Seattle next week. I think the Lions' stout defensive line can slow down the All-Pro rushing attack of DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys' offensive line enough to keep the game close, but Tony Romo is playing better than his embattled #9 counterpart. Detroit does have a better shot of containing Dez Bryant than Dallas does of Calvin Johnson due to their superior defense overall, so if they do stop Murray to prevent the Cowboys from controlling time of possession, they could expose Rob Marinelli's overachieving unit.Thus, I'm taking the points.

Friday, December 26, 2014

NFL Week 17

Detroit +7.5 at Green Bay
Jacksonville +9.5 at Houston
Indianapolis -7 at Tennessee
Baltimore -13 versus Cleveland
New England -5 versus Buffalo
Miami -6 versus Nee York Jets
Chicago +6 at Minnesota
San Diego +1 at Kansas City
Was hinting +5.5 versus Dallas
Philadelphia-+2.5 at New York Giants
Carolina +3 at Atlanta
New Orleans -4 at Tampa Bay
St. Louis +12.5 at Seattle
San Francisco -6.5 versus Arizona
Oakland +14 at Denver
Cincinnati +3.5 at Pittsburgh