Odds & Ins

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2017-2018 – NBA MVP – Odds to Win courtesy of Bovada Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada

 

Bovada Casino in Las Vegas released their “Super Early” odds on the players favored to win the NBA MVP Award. To no surprise,  the reigning League MVP – Russell Westbrook – and Finals MVP – Kevin Durant – top the list. Behind them in the top 5 are Kawhi Leonard, LeBron James, and James Harden. The list from Bovada includes two surprise names and one glaring omission. The two surprises are Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers. Both players are young and talented but have yet to show much on the NBA level. Embiid was finally able to see some time on the court last season after missing two seasons due to injuries. While playing in 31 games, Embiid flashed potential that has Philly fans excited about the process. Ben Simmons was the #1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft out of LSU but never played a minute last season because of a broken right foot. At 66/1 for Embiid and 50/1 for Simmons an ambitious person could take a chance on one or both of them and be in for a nice pay day. The missing name that had a few fans going nuts was “Rudy Gobert” of the Utah Jazz. Gobert is the anchor in the middle for Utah. With Gordon Hayward’s departure during free agency this is now Rudy’s Team. He’ll need to step up his production on offense but his 1st Team All-Defensive selection and 2nd Team All-NBA selection show the type of player he is. According to basketball-reference.com Gobert was top 10 in eight of the NBA’s traditional statistical categories and top 10 in fifteen of the NBA’s advanced statistical categories. Any fan that follows the NBA closely knows that if Utah has success next season Rudy will be a legit MVP candidate.

It’s too early to be considering an MVP in the NBA but I’ll have a bit of fun.

Most likely to be the media favorite: Kevin Durant (Did you see the 2017 NBA Finals?)

Most likely to be the darling pick: Giannis Antetokounmpo “The Greek Freak” (The NBA media is always looking for the next young guy to ride. Right now it is Giannis)

Most likely to be slept on: Steph Curry (KD came to town and everyone forgot about Steph! With another ring under his belt, look for “The 2-time League MVP, Unanimous and first of his kind, Father of the disrespectful 3 point shot, from North Carolina” to unload and help those that are sleeping wake up.

Most likely to lose some votes: Russell Westbrook (The addition of Paul George will help Russell and OKC in a major way. Unfortunately for Russ that may cost him some MVP votes)

Most likely to gain some votes: James Harden (Yes I know Chris Paul joined the Rockets. That’s the main reason I feel Harden will gain some votes. Harden’s movement without the ball while allow him to be more efficient (scary huh?). Also don’t be surprised if you see Harden step up a bit on the defensive end.

The Odds I wouldn’t pass on: Gordon Hayward (The 70/1 odds on him is amazing and down right impossible to pass on. New team – in a bigger market – in the weaker Conference is just one of many reasons to consider wagering on Gordon. Some fans are skeptical but I expect big things from Boston’s new Small Forward.)

Lastly I leave you with a question. Would you wager $1,000 on one player or put different amounts on 3 or 4 players? I’m still contemplating on what I’d do.

 

Odds & Ins

It’s Over…

The NBA Finals are over and the Golden State Warriors are the Champions (of the world Craig). Congrats to them on winning their 2nd title in 3 years. Not too many people were surprised by the results of this season. That doesn’t mean we didn’t get a bunch of dumb thoughts from fans and media members. In the future I encourage you to enjoy these games and save the “hot takes” for something else.

Kevin Durant went to Golden State to get over a few humps. Those humps included the Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City’s front office, and LeBron James. I’ll take the three in reverse order. LeBron James has been the best player in the NBA for 8-10 years now and it is no surprise that after winning his first championship KD admitted that LeBron was the guy he was “chasing” and the only guy he felt could look him in the eyes in basketball terms. Durant’s performance during the 2017 NBA Finals more than showed his desire to win. Oklahoma City’s front office is probably kicking themselves repeatedly and they should. They spent their time with Durant making questionable moves over and over and over. Jeff Van Gundy spent most of this Finals talking about Durant’s abilities and rightfully so. But I couldn’t help thinking “this is what happens when you’re not passing to Andre Roberson!” You don’t need me to tell you how great Golden State is cause you already know. Durant was surrounded by guys that made his game easier. On the offensive end, the spacing afforded to him must’ve been a dream come true. Not having to watch KD go isolation, bring the ball up the court in a point forward role, or just stand waiting was nice to see. Golden State maximized his offensive talents by being themselves. Durant maximized his talents on the defensive end by being a team player. Also how hard can it be to transition a skilled 7-footer – who currently is #1 or #2 on current best player lists – into one of the greatest teams most of us have seen?

LeBron James, LeBron James, LeBron James is now 3-5 in NBA Finals and some people find that as something to laugh at. Long ago I marveled at the fact Magic Johnson made it to NINE NBA finals (5 wins in those appearances) and feel that LeBron will get to 10 before he’s done. LeBron has exceeded every level of expectation that was placed upon him on the basketball court. I’ve read and heard fools state that he made “the wrong play” in Game 3 when he passed to an open Kyle Korver. For the sake of your sanity please don’t discuss anything with people saying that. The Golden State Warriors paid LeBron the ultimate sign of respect when they went and got Kevin Durant last summer. To me that’s all that needs to be said. For those that thought this, NO Andrew Wiggins nor Carmelo Anthony would’ve made a difference in this series against Golden State. The Cavaliers needed defense something they lacked most of the 2016-2017 season.

Overall the NBA is in a very good place. If I had to rate them on a scale of 1-10, I’d say they’re an 8.5. There are some things that could be improved but I’m far from disappointed. Superteams aren’t the problem some make them out to be. There’s talent – young talent ready to make big jumps – throughout the league. We watched one of the youngest All-Star games in NBA history. Russell Westbrook and James Harden had historic seasons. We saw a rivalry blossom between Washington & Boston. I could go on about the positives to takeaway from the season but I’m not getting paid for this. And think about it, next season we get to enjoy the sights and sounds of  LaVar Ball. I can already hear him laughing.

 

It’s Over…

NBA Western Conference Playoffs

The Playoffs start on Saturday, April 15 and the Western Conference teams are set. I’ll give a brief preview of each series and who I expect to win.

Golden State Warriors (1) VS Portland Trail Blazers (8)

Golden State won the season series 4-0. Golden State had two blowout victories (largest margin 45 points) and two close wins (smallest margin 2 points). The Warriors scored an average of 125 ppg while shooting an average of 52.7% in all 4 games. The two teams haven’t seen each other since January 29th. Portland added Jusuf Nurkic – who is likely to miss this series because of a broken leg – via trade in February. The Warriors had some rocky games (started 2-5 without KD) but dealt with the knee injury to Durant very well. The Warriors rattled off 13 wins in a row before KD returned on April 8th. Golden State wins this series. Only thing to consider is number of games. GSW beat Portland 4-1 last season in the Playoffs.

 

Los Angeles Clippers (4) VS Utah Jazz (5)

Los Angeles Clippers won the season series 3-1. This is the 2nd most intriguing matchup in the Western Conference First Round. I’m not sure how exciting it will be though. The Clippers had 3 victories that ranged from 13-15 points. In those 3 defeats, Utah was simply unable to score averaging only 80.7 ppg. The Jazz shot a woeful 27.9% from 3-point range in their losses to LAC while shooting a sizzling 66.7% in their only win. Utah attempted an average of 22.3 shots from 3-point range in the season series against the Clippers. The terrible shooting from long range is surprising because Utah has shot 37.2% on 3-point shot attempts (which is 9th best in the league as of 4/12/2017). The Clippers are slightly better at 37.5% on 115 more attempts. The teams aren’t much different when you look at the League’s Advanced Statistics. Both teams are top 15 in Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating while being top 6 in Net Rating. The one difference is the pace that each team plays at. Utah is 30th (last) in PACE and the Clippers are 17th. The team that can dictate the flow of each game in this series will likely be the winner. I have the Clippers being that winner in 7 games.

Houston Rockets (3) VS Oklahoma City Thunder (6)

Houston won the season series 3-1. Easily the most exciting matchup in the First Round of the NBA Playoffs. This series could feature the MVP, Coach of the Year, and 6th Man of the Year winners. I expect this series to be fast and exciting just like the 4 games played during the regular season. 3 of the 4 games were decided by 3 points or less. Both teams averaged over 110 ppg and shot plenty of 3-pointers in each game. Houston true to their motto averaged 40! 3-point attempts while OKC averaged 28.3. This series will be built as “Harden VS Westbrook” but it’ll be more than that. Both players are top 3 in points per game (Westbrook 1st & Harden 3rd) and assists per game (Harden 1st & Westbrook 3rd). Houston’s overall firepower and ability to shoot the 3 will be the deciding factor. Westbrook will be able to will his teammates to a couple of victories but in the end the series will go to Houston in 6 games.

 

San Antonio Spurs (2) VS Memphis Grizzlies (7)

Season series was 2-2. I have no desire to watch this series let alone type this paragraph. But here I am. Both teams won their home games. The games were tough and rugged as you’d expect. Both teams had average field goal percentages in the low 40s during the 4 games. Each team barely got over 90 ppg for the season series. Memphis will grit and grind their way to a win or two but the Spurs will ride MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard into the 2nd Round. Spurs in 6 games.

Stats courtesy of:

http://www.basketball-reference.com/leagues/NBA_2017_leaders.html

http://stats.nba.com/

NBA Western Conference Playoffs

Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 2

The NBA Season starts TODAY and I can’t wait! Shout out to Bart Scott. It promises to be another exciting season as we’ve had player move here and there. There’s been a lot of chirping from all over the League. We’ll get to see how it all plays out over the next 8 months. Today I’ll layout the moves made in the NBA’s Western Conference and share a few thoughts on each team. The teams are listed in the order in which they finished at the end of the 2015-2016 regular season. At the end I’ll list who I think the 8 playoff teams will be.

Golden State Warriors – Hard to imagine that the team with the best regular season record in NBA history, first ever unanimous MVP, and 3 All NBA performers would get better but they did. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals to Cleveland; the Warriors went and signed Kevin Durant. GSW also brought in Zaza Pachulia and David West. As expected Harrison Barnes left the team and Andrew Bogut was traded away. The Warriors are the favorites to win the championship. We’ll see if they can seal the deal this season.

San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs had an excellent season but got trounced in the playoffs by OKC. As a result we saw the retirement of legendary power Forward Tim Duncan. Boris Diaw was traded to Utah for a future 2nd round draft pick. The Spurs signed Pau Gasol as a replacement for Duncan. It’ll be interesting to see how Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge play together. They also signed David Lee. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are back but look for Patty Mills to see his role increase. We’ll get to see if Kawhi Leonard can shoulder the load this season. Keep an eye on Aldridge to see if he remains happy in San Antonio.

Oklahoma City Thunder – You’d have to be very unfamiliar with the NBA to not know that they lost one of the best players in the current era. Kevin Durant got tired of Russell Westbrook and went to Golden State over the summer. Golden State knocked them out of the 2016 Playoffs. OKC blew a 3-1 series lead and the rest is history. Serge Ibaka was traded on Draft Day for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis(11th pick of 2016 NBA Draft). Westbrook signed a contract extension but the Thunder will need to lock up big man Steven Adams too. The Thunder will fall in the West without KD…we’re just not sure how far.

Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers were the 4th best team in the Western Conference but got bounced in the First Round by Portland after injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The core of the Clippers roster is still the same. They still don’t have a small forward to rely on as Paul Pierce revealed that he’s finally retiring at season’s end. Doc Rivers gave new contracts to Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute and his son Austin. Mo Speights, Brandon Bass, and Raymond Felton joined the team via free agency. They drafted Brice Johnson – who will be out with a herniated disc in his lower back – and Diamond Stone. This is a make or break season for the Clippers. If they don’t reach the Western Conference Finals this season then it’s time for some players to move on.

Portland Trail Blazers – Portland had an unexpected run to the Playoffs after a slow start last season. Terry Stotts was able to get his squad to the 2nd Round before they bowed out to Golden State in 5 games. Dame Lillard leads the way sidekick C.J. McCollum. McCollum rode his Most Improved  Player Award – season to a new contract. Portland also resigned Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe. Crabbe was given  a whopping 4 year – $75 million dollar deal. Evan Turner joined from Boston and Festus Ezeli from Golden State. Unfortunately Festus is out with a knee injury and his return is unknown. Expect a big season from Lillard as the Blazers will look to ride their successful wave.

Dallas Mavericks – Dallas had an average season that concluded by getting thumped by OKC in the Playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki got a 2 year – $50 Million dollar deal over the summer. Harrison Barnes signed with the team and Andrew Bogut joined via trade. The Mavs resigned Dwight Powell and Deron Williams too. Seth Curry and Quincy Acy were some under the radar signings. No clue what to expect in Dallas. On paper it doesn’t look exciting.

Memphis Grizzlies – After being torn apart by injuries last season the Grizzlies hope to have better luck. As it stands today, they’re off to a bad start with a list of players injured. New Head Coach David Fizdale will have his work cut out for him. Memphis gave Mike Conley a max deal over the summer and signed Chandler Parsons. Zach Randolph will come off the bench and seems to be OK with that idea. It’s hard out here for a pimp. Good luck Memphis.

Houston Rockets – Squeaked into the Playoffs after a season full of turmoil. They exited the Playoffs quickly. Dwight Howard is gone and the team hopes to have better chemistry. Mike D’Antoni takes over as coach and they want to get up and down the court. Free agency saw the addition of – two former New Orleans Pelicans – Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. James Harden restructured his contract and hopes to get back to the level of play he displayed in the 2014-2015 season. Nene joined Houston and Michael Beasley was traded to Milwaukee for Tyler Ennis. Houston will score a lot but not sure how much they’ll defend.

Utah Jazz – Utah is an up and coming team that was close to making the Playoffs last season. The Jazz ended their season giving up 60 points to Kobe Bryant in his final game. In hopes of making the Playoffs, Utah brought in some veteran players via free agency and trades. They acquired Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw via free agency. Utah was able to bring in George Hill via a 3 – team trade. The Jazz will be without Alec Burks(knee) and Gordon Heyward(finger) to start the season. Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, and Diaw are also battling injuries. Big man Rudy Gobert is poised for a breakout season and 2nd year player Trey Lyles is ready to show his vast skills. The Jazz will bring Dante Exum along slowly as he continues to recover from ACL injury.

Sacramento Kings – Boogie Cousins is excited about new head coach Dave Joerger who joins them after his time in Memphis. During a Draft Day trade the Kings picked up Bogdan Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis and a 2020 2nd round draft pick from Phoenix. They signed an array of wing players after trading away Marco Belinelli to Charlotte. Those players are Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Matt Barnes, and Garrett Temple. The Kings also signed point guard Ty Lawson after Rajon Rondo left town. Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore are both looking to play their way out of Sacramento. The team’s management still leaves a lot to be desired. But many fans are hoping the new arena is a sign of new things to come.

 

Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are another team that I’m not sure where they’re going. They have some young talented players – Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Emmanuel Mudiay – but do they have enough veterans to balance out the squad. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have battled injuries. Kenneth Faried has been rumored to be on the trade block but still remains in Denver. Rookie Jamal Murray will be looking to score buckets and get  teammates involved. The Nuggets will fall into a funk again this season and struggle to make progress.

New Orleans Pelicans – How many games will Anthony Davis play? Start there and you’ll get an idea of what kind of season the Pelicans will have. In his 4 year career, Davis has never played more than 68 games. That season marked career high statistics for AD and coincided with New Orleans making a playoff appearance. Jrue Holiday is out after his wife gave birth to their child before having brain surgery. Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon left the team via free agency but some new players arrived in return. The Pelicans drafted Buddy Hield and Cheick Diallo. The team acquired Solomon Hill, Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore, Terrence Jones, and Lance Stephenson in free agency. With Holiday out, Tim Frazier and Galloway will need to step up. And as I stated above, Anthony Davis needs to stay healthy and on the court if New Orleans wants to be in the Playoff race.

Minnesota Timberwolves – Minnesota jumped from “cool team to watch” to “cool team expected to make the Playoffs” when they hired Tom Thibodeau to be Head Coach. Thibodeau will have a team full of young players to choose from. Most notably the last two Rookie of the Year Award winners, Karl Anthony-Towns(2015-2016) and Andrew Wiggins(2014-2015). In the 1st round of the 2016 NBA Draft Minnesota selected Kris Dunn. Dunn was a prolific scorer in college but he’ll be expected to distribute more in the NBA. The Timberwolves also bring back Shabazz Muhammad, high flying Zach LaVine, and Ricky Rubio. Nikola Pekovic will be out all season due to an Achilles injury. That means Gorgui Dieng and Adrien Payne will have to step up. Minnesota brought in Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, and Jordan Hill over the summer. The Timberwolves will improve but not enough to make the Playoffs. They’re still missing a few veteran pieces.

 

Phoenix Suns – The valley of the sun was very hot last season after team chemistry and injuries caused things to go awry. Jeff Hornacek was replaced by Earl Watson. The Suns will lean on their guards to carry the load. They’ll need Eric Bledsoe to stay healthy after he only played 31 games last season. Brandon Knight had a decent season while he was healthy but that was for only 52 games. Devin Booker was the lone bright star for the team. Booker started in 51 of the 76 games he started in and posted 13.8 points/game, 2.6 assists/game, and 2.5 rebounds/game to earn a spot on the NBA Rookie 1st Team. T.J. Warren was solid last season and Alex Len showed flashes of what he can do. P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler, and Leandro Barbosa are all seasoned vets but that won’t be enough to move the Suns up in the West.

Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe is gone but the Lakers now have Luke Walton as Head Coach. The Lakers won’t win much but they’ll be fun to watch. Walton will have the team playing at a pace that suits the team. The team re-signed Jordan Clarkson and brought in Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Metta World Peace, and Thomas Robinson via free agency. They drafted the skinny but talented Brandon Ingram 2nd overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. D’Angelo Russell should thrive the most in this new style of play. Julius Randle will see his role increase while Nick Young and Lou Williams will still be able to get up a decent number of shots each game. The Lakers will reach the 24.5 wins mark but that’s about it.

Western Conference Playoff Predictions (in order):

Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers

San Antonio Spurs

Portland Trail Blazers

Houston Rockets

Utah Jazz

Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder

Close but no cigar: Sacramento, Dallas, New Orleans, and Minnesota

Rookie of the Year – Buddy Heild, New Orleans Pelicans

Most Improved – Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks

Defensive Player of the Year – Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

6th Man of the Year – Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors

Most Valuable Player – Paul George, Indiana Pacers

All stats, rosters, team transactions and more courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/

Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 2

Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo

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(LARS BARON/GETTY IMAGES)
The most scrutinized group of Team USA Men’s Basketball players – since the 2002 through 2006 team cycle – left the Rio Olympics with gold around their necks.  In a way this team’s personality was similar to the career of its “leader” Carmelo Anthony.  There were questions from the beginning about the strength of this team after so many stars had backed out.  Melo and Kevin Durant were the only two players with Olympic experience. 6 players on the squad had no International experience at all.

The games started and Team USA blew through their first 7 opponents – 5 exhibition games and 2 Preliminary Round games in the Olympics – and many wondered if they’d be challenged. But then they faced Australia, Serbia, and France. The USA would only win those games by a combined total of 16 points while allowing an average of 92 points per game. And just like that the narrative flipped. They were no longer seen as an unbeatable team and the questions about there not being enough stars returned. Any of this talk of no defense and lack of “star” talent sound familiar to the narrative around Carmelo?

The Knockout Round started with a blowout victory over Argentina and a tight semifinal win over Spain.  Both opponents had been familiar with Team USA over the last ten years. Argentina won Silver at the 2002 FIBA World Cup and Gold at the 2004 Olympics.  During the 2002 FIBA World Cup they became the first team to defeat a USA Team composed of all NBA players. That defeat along with a few others led to Team USA revamping the way they selected players.  Meanwhile Spain finished runner up to Team USA in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games. This Olympics saw Team USA face Serbia in the Gold Medal Round.  The game was close for a quarter.  Then in the 2nd Quarter Kevin Durant took over and the game was out of reach.  Durant finished the game with 30 points and renewed confidence heading to Golden State.

All types of things were being said about the US Men’s Basketball Team.  They didn’t have enough star players.  They didn’t move the ball enough – I harped on this a lot – or play the type of defense that was needed.  They either won by too much or didn’t win by enough. They didn’t have any competition or maybe they do thought some after a few close games.  The games aren’t entertaining some said and they need an age limit chirped some others. Yet after all of the noise, Team USA won the final game by 30 and defeated its last 3 opponents by an average of 21 points per game.  Funny how they took in everything around them and kept Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo.

 

 

Goin’ Hard in the Paint Like Carmelo

Tendencies 

Sports is all about developing proper habits and being able to repeat them efficiently at a high level. In the NBA, they practice a countless number of hours as individuals. They practice hundreds of times, play 82 games and then some if they make the Playoffs. They are fed scouting reports and watch hours upon hours of film. Yet when it’s the crucial moments of a game we all ask “why did ____ do that?” without thinking about the tendencies that a NBA team or player develops over the course of a season. 

Yes, the Oklahoma City Thunder are sick. They blew a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals because of – yep – tendencies. For 3 of the first 4 games OKC did everything “right”. KD and Russ shared the ball – they trusted their teammates – and did things folks have said they needed to do. But by Game 5 it was back to the old tendencies. KD threw up 31 shots and Russ wasn’t too far behind with 28 attempts. The next highest was Ibaka at 10 attempts (32 total for guys not wearing “35” or “0′). Games 6 and 7 played out much the same and we saw the Thunder “choke” as most like to call it in sports.

 

Call it what you want but I didn’t see a team choking. I saw a team reverting back to the tendencies we knew them to have. 2 star players trying to do most of the work alone. They couldn’t shake what has been in them – 8 seasons for KD and 7 for Westbrook – their NBA careers. Those two have played the same through injuries and other setbacks. Now it’s time for them to look at those tendencies and decide if they want to try a different path or stay the same. Lucky for them it’s only basketball.

Tendencies