Saturday, April 16, 2016

2016 NBA Regular Season Wrap Up

It's just about playoff time, but I wanted to put a bow on the regular season with my two cents on the potential award winners before making some predictions on the first round.

Most Valuable Player: Stephen Curry
A repeat is almost a forgone conclusion.

The reigning MVP probably won't win the award unanimously, but he should. To go along with leading the defending champs to a record setting 73-9 season despite having a target on their backs every game, Curry accomplished the following personal feats:
  • Led the league in Player Efficiency Rating (31.5), Win Shares (17.9), scoring (30.1 points per game) despite sitting out 19 fourth quarters, steals per game (2.1), and total steals (169).
  • Became just the 7th player to record a 50/40/90 shooting season and had the highest scoring season of anyone in that club.
  • Broke his own record for most 3's in a season from last season, 286, with an eye-popping 402. J.J. Redick's incredible 47.5% 3 point percentage may have beaten Curry's 45.4%, but he made less than half the total number of shots with 200. Just an insane stat.
Defensive Player of the Year: Kawhi Leonard

Another repeat winner from last year, he again edges out Draymond Green for me, and it's more deserving now than when he missed 18 games last season. It's almost a coin flip between the two since Green's versatility to basically guard 1 through 5 unlocks so much for the 73 win Warriors, but I decided to go with the spearhead of the best defense in the league. The Spurs won 67 games in their own right, and they gave up 2.2 points per 100 possessions fewer than the second best defense.
Towns will pick up a lot of hardware in his career.

Rookie of the Year: Karl-Anthony Towns

This one should be unanimous, as well, as Towns won Rookie of the Month all 6 times. I had no doubts about him as the top pick in last year's draft, but I had no idea he'd be able to be this good this fast. He's also seems like such a good kid that I view him like a better shooting Tim Duncan, which is incredible praise, but I think Bill Simmons captured his style better as a combination of Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

2016 NBA Trade Deadline Review

The 2016 Trade Deadline has now passed, and I've rounded up almost every detail of all the deals made this week with the exception of the exact cash involved in some trades. I will add my thoughts on each deal over the weekend, but for now, here's the list of teams with action along with my updated team assets spreadsheets.

Detroit-Orlando

Pistons get:
Tobias Harris$16,000,000$17,200,000$16,000,000$14,800,000

Magic get:
Brandon Jennings$8,344,497
Ersan Ilyasova$7,900,000$8,400,000

Charlotte-Memphis-Miami

Hornets get:
Courtney Lee$5,675,000
$542,714 (from Memphis)

Grizzlies get:
Chris Andersen$5,000,000
P.J. Hairston$1,201,440
'17 Miami 2nd (protected 41-60, then unprotected)
'18 Charlotte 2nd
'19 Boston 2nd (protected 31-55)
'19 Brooklyn 2nd

Heat get:
Brian Roberts$2,854,940

Miami-New Orleans

Pelicans get:
Jarnell Stokes$845,059$980,431$1,251,245
$721,300

Heat get:
'18 New Orleans 2nd (protected 31-55)

Detroit-Houston

Pistons get:
Donatas Motiejunas$2,288,205$6,223,825
Marcus Thornton$947,276

Rockets get:
Joel Anthony$2,500,000$2,500,000
'16 Detroit 1st (top 8 protected, top 10 protected through '21, then unprotected)

Cleveland-Orlando-Portland

Cavaliers get:
Channing Frye$8,193,029$7,806,971$7,420,912

Magic get:
Jared Cunningham$947,276
'20 Cleveland 2nd (via Portland)

Blazers get:
Anderson Varejao$9,638,554$10,361,446$10,000,000
'18 Cleveland 1st (top 10 protected through '19, then becomes a '21 2nd and the lesser of the Lakers' or Minnesota's '19 2nd)
  • Tim Frazier waived for roster spot and then Varejao waived upon completion.

Atlanta-Chicago-Utah

Hawks get:
Kirk Hinrich$2,854,940

Bulls get:
Justin Holiday$947,276$1,015,696
'18 Denver 2nd

Jazz get:
Shelvin Mack$2,433,333$2,433,334

Denver-Oklahoma City

Thunder get:
Randy Foye$3,135,000

Nuggets get:
Steve Novak$3,750,001
D.J. Augustin$3,000,000
'16 Charlotte 2nd (protected 56-60)
'16 Oklahoma City 2nd
  • Novak waived upon completion.

Miami-Portland

Heat get:

Blazers gets:
Brian Roberts$2,854,940
'21 Miami 2nd


Phoenix-Washington

Phoenix gets:
Kris Humphries$4,440,000$4,630,000
DeJuan Blair$2,000,000$2,000,000
'16 Washington 1st (top 9 protected through '21, then unprotected)

Washington gets:

Markieff Morris$8,000,000$7,400,000$8,000,000$8,600,000
  • Blair waived upon completion.

Los Angeles-Memphis

Clippers get:
Jeff Green$9,450,000

Grizzlies get:
Lance Stephenson$9,000,000$9,405,000
'19 Los Angeles 1st (top 14 protected through '20, then becomes '22 2nd)

Houston-Philadelphia

Rockets get:
Draft rights to Chukwudiebere Maduabum

76ers get:
Joel Anthony$2,500,000$2,500,000
'17 Denver 2nd
  • JaKarr Sampson waived for roster spot.

Pre-Trade Deadline 2016 NBA Power Rankings, Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, here is an evaluation of the bottom half of the league based what they've done so far along with what's in store for their future.

16. Portland Trail Blazers, 27-27 (27 H/27 A) +0.6. Offense: 7th (104.4)/Defense: 18th (104.3)


The good:
  • They won 12 of their last 15 heading into the break to get their point differential into the green, arguably warranting a higher spot in these rankings.
  • C.J. McCollum has built on his strong finish to last year and provided a lot of value as both the starting shooting guard and backup point guard with Damian Lillard. What that small back court lacks in defense they make up for with dynamic scoring and playmaking, and Allen Crabbe has started to reach his potential as a third guard in a contract year, as well. 
  • The quick rebuild in the front court has gone well around them with their smart, low-risk acquisitions all paying off. Along with his usual activity, Al-Farouq Aminu is hitting 3's at a career high rate in the first year of a solid contract; Mason Plumlee has started every game like Aminu and contributed positively on both ends, including doubling his assist rate; Ed Davis is finally getting some appreciation for his yeoman's work on the boards and interior scoring; and former top 15 picks Noah Vonleh and Maurice Harkless have shown their talents at times in their roles.
The bad:
  • The calculated risk of the Arron Afflalo rental cost them a talented young wing in Will Barton and potentially a mid-first round pick, somewhat hampering potential trades to try and make a playoff push.
  • As fun as the Lillard-McCollum back court is, they'll always be limited defensively, and their young bigs sometimes lack the focus necessary to make up for that.
The interesting:
  • They have the most cap room in the league to help facilitate a deadline deal, either to provide an upgrade for themselves or to accumulate assets from desperate teams, and as ESPN's Kevin Pelton has pointed out in his chats, they could actually save money by only paying the prorated amount left on someone's contract instead of owing the difference between their payroll and the salary floor to their current players.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pre-Trade Deadline 2016 NBA Power Rankings, Part 1

The 2015-2016 NBA season is over halfway done, so it's about time I shared some of my thoughts on it. Besides being broken in half due to length, this post has been delayed a couple of times with my research over the past couple of weeks, updating my team assets spreadsheets, and working with the Super Bowl Host Committee last week with the big game in town. Alas, I've included screenshots of each team's page (with some older draft rights being cut off due to irrelevancy) with their records, number of home or away games, point differential, and efficiencies (points per 100 possessions) to assess the current outputs of each team with an eye towards future outlooks.

1. Golden State Warriors, 48-4 (24 H/28 A) +12.5. Offense: 1st (113.1)/Defense: 2nd (99.2)


The good:
  • Despite missing their head coach for most of the year until now, the defending champs came out on fire, starting the season 24-0 to shatter the previous NBA record for the best start of a season that was 15-0, and that first loss was on the back-end of a back to back after a double OT game to cap off a 7 game road trip. The 72 win record is in sight.
  • To go with the top offense (by a solid margin) in the league, they're edging out the Pacers and Celtics for the 2nd best defense in the league, a year after having the top defense and barely finishing behind the Clippers for the #1 offense.
  • Stephen Curry, the reigning MVP, has gotten even better, leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating (32.1, which would be an NBA record), scoring (29.8, despite sitting out the 4th quarter 14 times), and 3's made (245, already the 7th most in a season and on pace for 392 to obliterate his own record of 286). He's also set to become just the 7th player to join the 50/40/90 club.
  • Draymond Green, who should've been starting in the All-Star Game if not for the ridiculousness of fan voting, is having career highs across the board with a lot of the offense running through him, leading to an incredible 7.2 assists per game, the 7th best mark in the league and most of all non-point guards. Those numbers are padded by being able to pass to the best shooting backcourt in the league along with guys having surprising shooting years like Andre Iguodala (38.7 3P%) and Brandon Rush (45.0 3P%), but he is also shooting a career high 42.0 3P% to go along with that playmaking and usual versatile defense. Just an incredibly valuable player.
The bad:
  • Extensions were not reached with fourth year players Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli, meaning that the Warriors might have big overpayments to match in restricted free-agency this summer in order to keep their young core together.
  • They are lacking in draft capital, owing their 2017 first rounder to Utah and not having a 2nd round pick until 2019.
The interesting:
  • How high can the return of Steve Kerr raise their ceiling? Luke Walton did an incredible job helping them to a 39-4 record as head coach and is likely to garner offers from other teams like Alvin Gentry did last year as top assistant, but Kerr can better manage the rotations and minutes. Intermixing the starters more with 6th Man of the Year candidate Iguodala, swiss-army knife Shaun Livingston, and the rest of the bench can help prevent any offensive lulls.
  • The NBA debut of first round pick Kevon Looney was a pleasant surprise recently, and he could become a key part of that bench if he puts it all together with his Green-like skill set.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Super Bowl 50

Broncos +5.5 versus Panthers

The big game is finally here, and it's been an exciting time here in the Bay Area. I was fortunate enough to work with the Super Bowl Host Committee this week, and besides all of the 49ers jerseys, there definitely seems to be more Broncos fans here. Perhaps the Panthers contingent has been sticking in the South Bay closer to the stadium, but it is something to consider.

Carolina are rightful favorites after their continued roll throughout the season, and there aren't any clear reasons to pick them to lose. With arguably the two best defenses in the league, though, I'd expect the game to be within reach for either team at the end, so I'm taking the points. The broken forearm that Thomas Davis suffered 2 weeks ago, which was apparent right when it happened, is cause for concern even though he's going to try and play through it, and Denver's ferocious defense proved in their last game that they can basically win a game by themselves. Michael Oher has played surprisingly well at left tackle for this offensive line that far exceeded expectations, but Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware provide as tough a test on the outside as their is in the league. 

The real question will be whether Peyton Manning can lead the Broncos on enough scoring drives to pull the game out. Luke Kuechley takes away so much in coverage over the middle in addition to stuffing the run behind Star Lotuleilei and Kawann Short, so big plays from the dynamic receiver duo of Demaryious Thomas and Emanuel Sanders will be required on the outside. Cam Newton and Greg Olsen are likely to make more plays through the air overall, and Newton puts so much pressure on defenses on the ground with Jonathan Stewart, as well. Thus, C.J. Anderson and Ronnie Hillman will have to generate consistent rushing yards to keep this from getting away from them. I think that they can do it and Manning will make the right reads enough to make this pick. Should be a good one.
Chris Harris Jr., Von Miller, and Malik Jackson are examples of Denver's playmakers at each level.
Last week: 1-1
2015 Season Total: 135-118-13

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2015 Conference Title Picks

Patriots -3 at Broncos

New England re-emerged out of their bye week looking like the defending Super Bowl champions that they are, and Tom Brady was able to compensate for his banged up offensive line by getting the ball out quick with Julian Edelman back healthy. Chris Harris Jr., Denver's best corner who will follow Edelman and Danny Amendola to the slot, sounds pretty hampered by his nagging shoulder injury, so "Minitron" could be the difference maker in this one with all of the attention on Rob Gronkowski. On the other side, I know this is being billed as Brady-Manning 17, but Peyton just isn't the same player anymore. It's hard to see him challenging New England's corners, and the Patriots' defensive front could dominate the line of scrimmage, affecting the running game. Also working against them is that they keep feeding less efficient Ronnie Hillman, who only has 578 yards on 157 carries (3.68 average) since their Week 7 bye compared to C.J. Anderson's 100 caries for 612 yards (6.12 average), per Rotoworld's Evan Silva. Add in Manning's struggles in cold weather, and I feel comfortable taking the favored Patriots despite their history in Denver (Champ Bailey fumbled!).
Jabaal Sheard and Chandler Jones lead arguably the best pass rush NE's had against Manning.
Panthers -3 versus Cardinals
The former DPOY impacts the game in multiple areas.

I've loved this Cardinals team all year, but it still seems like the 16-1 Panthers aren't getting enough respect in Vegas. Yes, they let up in the second half last week, but that's because they could afford to after that 31-0 butt-kicking they laid to open the game. Their corner depth behind Josh Norman will be challenged against Carson Palmer's high powered offense, especially with postseason monster Larry Fitzgerald in the slot, but Luke Kuechly is incredible in coverage and could take David Johnson out of the game. Arizona's corner depth behind Patrick Peterson could be an issue for them, as well, since Tyrann Mathieu played more snaps in the nickel than at safety before tearing his ACL again, but they're facing an even less imposing receiver group than last week. I'm not sure they can stop Carolina's running game, though, and Cam Newton has just been playing terrific ball. I'm taking the home team and likely MVP.

Last week: 3-0-1
2015 Season Total: 134-117-13

Saturday, January 16, 2016

2015 NFL Divisional Round Picks

Patriots -4.5 versus Chiefs

The best weekend in football starts with arguably its best game as the defending Super Bowl champs host the team that has won 11 in a row, and there's plenty of injury mystery on both sides. The most concrete news appears to be that Julian Edelman is going to return from his broken foot, which is huge since he is arguably just as important to New England's offense as Rob Gronkowski, who is questionable himself. Kanas City's fearsome pass rush going against the Patriots' shaky offensive line is cause for concern, but laying the points with the better quarterback and coach is the right call, especially at home after a bye week.
I'm not anticipating Jamie Collins and this defense allowing many points.
Packers +7 at Cardinals

I've gone back and forth on this one before deciding that the points are just too much. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers finally looked like themselves again over the last 3 quarters last week when it counted, and I just can't completely count out a player of his caliber on this stage, especially with their defense matching up decently enough to continue to stay in the game. Arizona did completely destroy Green Bay in this matchup 3 weeks ago, though, and they have been the better team all year. Throwing the Cardinals in a teaser is probably the best course of action, but I'm not laying this many points straight up.
Rodgers led a furious comeback to force OT last time these teams met in the playoffs.

Panthers -1.5 versus Seahawks

The opening line of -3 seemed low already, and now this line is even more surprising after Seattle was lucky to escape last week. That near-loss doesn't mean they aren't still a dangerous team, but how many times does Carolina have to keep proving doubters wrong? I don't necessarily think the Panthers are as talented as you'd expect out of a 15-1 team, but they should take care of business here at home after a bye week against an underdog playing their third straight road game. Getting Jonathan Stewart back healthy helps, and Greg Olsen already exploited the Seahawks' weakness against tight ends in the comeback win in Week 6.
Cam Newton made his MVP case against this defense once already.
Broncos -7 versus Steelers

The movement on this line makes more sense given Antonio Brown's concussion, and it is almost too high for me to take it. However, Denver almost won in Pittsburgh a month ago before Brown went nuclear on their normally shutdown defense, and now Ben Roethlisberger is limited by an injury to his throwing shoulder. With DeAngelo Williams also out, the Broncos should get back to their stingy ways at home, which will highlight all of their defensive studs, a lot of whom are set to be free agents. The timing was curious, but they locked down one of their stout defensive ends, Derek Wolfe, to a fair contract yesterday, likely meaning that Malik Jackson is set for a payday elsewhere since a lot of money still needs to be set aside for linebackers Von Miller, Danny Trevathan, and Brandon Marshall. And that's before we even get into the last year of Peyton Manning's deal compared to Brock Osweiler's impending free agency, as well, which will likely be impacted by these playoffs. For now, I believe Manning can do enough against this unimposing secondary to get by.
Just because you've seen it all week doesn't mean that Demaryius Thomas owning the Steelers isn't true.
Last week: 4-0
2015 Season Total: 131-117-12