Thursday, May 31, 2012

Initial Reaction to Last Night's Lottery Results

We should have know. Well, more specifically, I should have known better than to not bet on the NBA-owned Hornets in the lottery (to be fair, Saints owner Tom Benson should officially become the owner over the summer). [EDIT: I should add that while suspect, I am not one to believe in conspiracy theories. Zach Lowe's excellent coverage of the lottery process make it pretty clear that it is practically impossible to rig the results.] When looking at the betting odds for the lottery, I went with the 8/1 Kings because they almost always drop in the lottery process, and I thought they were due for some positive energy to help harbor their arena situation. Plus, an all-Kentucky frontcourt of Anthony Davis with DeMarcus Cousins would have been incredible. I stared long and hard at the 5/1 odds for the Hornets as a secondary bet but didn't pull the trigger. Alas, it's over now, and the lottery order is now set after the unusual occurrence of just one team jumping up while the rest held to form. Let's mock:

1. Hornets: Kentucky F/C Anthony Davis: A no-brainer that should help the team's chances of re-signing restricted free agent Eric Gordon if they open up the wallet. It's unclear whether or not the team will re-sign Chris Kaman and/or trade Emeka Okafor, but Davis would fit with either of them as well as rookie Gustavo Ayon, who showed to be a solid rotation big man.
The 'Brow is excited to go back to the city where he won the  National Championship.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Revisiting Old Ideas for the Thunder and Lakers

Despite the typical excitement of a Game 7, another slugfest between the Celtics and Sixers is not expected to be the highlight of this Memorial Day weekend (I'm picking Boston at home to continue the streak of alternating wins in this series, by the way). That right is reserved for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals between the Thunder and the Spurs. This is the matchup we have been waiting for, and the two teams are a combined 16-1 so far in the playoffs, hardly encountering any speed bumps on their roads to face each other. I should have picked this fairly obvious Conference Finals matchup because, as I said in my playoff picks, if I'm being honest with myself, the Spurs are the best bet to win it all. They are just an absolute machine right now, going 32-3 in their past 35 games (which includes resting their starters), and they are an incredible 43-4 in their last 47 games in which Tony Parker plays, as John Hollinger points out.

I love Leonard 's game, but he lacks the size on KD
However, there are two key factors that I think could give the Thunder the Conference crown. The first is how coach Scott Brooks manages his rotation. As I have consistently argued, Oklahoma City's best lineup is when it goes small with Kevin Durant as the power forward, and as many have pointed out, this strategy can be especially effective against the Spurs. San Antonio prefers to only have one "bruiser" playing inside at a time: coach Popovich usually plays "stretch 4's" Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner alongside Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter. Durant would have no difficulties on defense against them, and this lineup would cause matchup  trouble for the Spurs because the Thunder would have an extra perimeter weapon on the floor instead of another non-threatening big man. San Antonio does not necessarily have anyone with the size to guard Durant (although rookie Kawhi Leonard, who I still maintain was the steal of the draft, has made things tough on him), so how Pop handles his rotations against him will be interesting to watch as well.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Could the Thunder emulate the '05 Suns? What if they signed Steve Nash?

With the Oklahoma City Thunder having swept the defending champs on Saturday, there hasn't been much to think about other than their possible second round opponent and the condition of starting center Kendrick Perkins' hip strain. The former seemed like a near certainty once the Lakers took a 3-1 lead on the Nuggets, but after Tuesday's entertaining Nuggets win in L.A., the series looks very interesting with the series returning to the high altitude of Denver tonight and Kobe Bryant a game-time decision with a stomach ailment. Depending on the result of that series and the status of Perkins' hip (he's still listed as "day-to-day"), the Thunder could face some interesting decisions with its starting lineup.