Tag Archives: NBA

Spurs vs Thunder: Dynasty vs Heir Apparent

The San Antonio Spurs vs the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The Dynasty vs The Heir Apparent.

The 2012 NBA Western Conference championship series should be exciting to say the least and I believe that the winner of this series will win the NBA championship.

I’m picking the Spurs.

No, I’m not a Thunder hater. Over the last few years, I’ve picked them to become the new “power” in the Western Conference.

In 2010 they pushed the Los Angeles Lakers to six games, finally losing on a tip in by Pau Gasol with 0.5 seconds left. The Lakers went on to win it all.

In 2011 they battled the Dallas Mavericks in a fiercely contested 5 game series. The Mavs went on to win it all.

This year, the Thunder finally vanquished the Lakers (who missed the presence of Lamar Odom and Derek Fisher). But now they face their greatest challenge. The Spurs are to Kevin Durant and the Thunder what the Detroit Pistons were to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the early 90s. San Antonio is the veteran team with the championship titles under its belt, who have “been there, done that”.

The Thunder are the up and coming, exciting team with a scoring machine at the helm. But they lack a consistent front court scoring threat and this can lead to them living and dying by the jumper.

I expect the Thunder to push the Spurs. I expect this Western Conference Finals to probably go six games. And when it’s all said and done, I expect the Spurs to go on to win it all.

5 Reasons Why the Spurs Will Beat the Thunder

Will the San Antonio Spurs / Oklahoma City Thunder 2012 NBA Western Conference Finals be similar to the Spurs / Los Angeles Clippers series or will they go six or even seven games? That remains to be seen, but I believe that when this series is over, the Spurs will stand triumphant. Here are five reasons why San Antonio will win.

Experience

The Spurs are a veteran team that know what it takes to win a championship. They know what it takes to win multiple championships and have the core group of those title campaigns intact and running on all cylinders. San Antonio will not fold under pressure. This combination of experience and poise was demonstrated in their 24 point comeback in Game 3 against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Health

The Spurs are healthy for the first time in a long time. If Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are not physically at 100%, they are definitely closer to it than they have been this late in a season in years. San Antonio is difficult to beat when their triple threats are not hobbled with injuries.

Depth

San Antonio is the deepest team left in the NBA playoffs. This depth helps to contribute to Reason 2 (Health) on this list by keeping minutes for their Big 3 down. The Spurs tend to go at least 10 players deep and played the entire roster (13) for two games in the Clippers series. Less playing time and more rest equals less wear and tear on the veteran stars.

More Offense

I know a lot of people may disagree with the Spurs having more offensive firepower than the Thunder, but it’s true. If you don’t believe me, complete this little exercise.

Subtract starters Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and sixth man James Harden from the OKC scoring column.

Then subtract starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and sixth man Manu Ginobili from the San Antonio scoring column.

Now, if you anticipate that these 6 players will cancel each other out, where do the points come from for each team? The deciding factor will be their respective supporting casts. Let’s begin by comparing the rest of the starters for each team.

San Antonio’s Boris Diaw, Kawhi Leonard, and Daniel Green are combining for an average of 25.4 points over 5 playoff games. Oklahoma City’s Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Thabo Sefolosha are combining for an average of 17.2 points over 5 playoff games. The advantage goes to the Spurs.

After Ginobili, the Spurs have 5 players on the bench who can score in double figures, Tiago Splitter, Stephen Jackson, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, and DeJuan Blair. As far as consistent bench scoring, in OKC after Harden, there’s nothing but tumbleweeds. The Thunder’s Big 3 bear more of a scoring burden than their counterparts on the Spurs.

Sense of Urgency

The Spurs have to go into “carpe diem” mode, they must “seize the day”. The core of this team isn’t getting any younger and all three haven’t been healthy at the same time this deep in the playoffs in years. San Antonio has to take full advantage of this shortened season to win what could be the final opportunity for a title with Duncan, Parker and Ginobli. The Thunder are getting better every year and who knows what moves other Western Conference contenders will make in the off season and early part of next season.

Conclusion

The Spurs vs Thunder series should come down to experience and depth. Also don’t forget that the Spurs have long had the reputation of being a defensive team (that 24-0 run against the Clippers was a reminder). If San Antonio’s defense takes one of OKC’s three scorers out of the picture, where do they recoup those points? The Thunder are right on the brink of being the new Western Conference power. But they’re not quite there yet.

 

How to Trade Away an NBA Championship

 

Now that the NBA 2010-11 season has come and gone, I’ve had a chance to sit back and think about some of the conversations I had regarding championship predictions. Here are my thoughts on how two teams showed us “How to Trade Away an NBA Championship“.

When the Boston Celtics added both Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal to their roster, I picked them as the odds on favorite to win the Eastern Conference title and possibly the NBA championship. I mean this team was a Kendrick Perkins injury away from winning in 2010.

Yes there was all the hoopla over the Miami Heat having created their own version of the “Big Three”, but neither they nor any other team in the East could match up with the Celtics new fortified front court of Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Glenn Davis along with the two O’Neals.

At that point, my top four teams in the East were:

  1. Boston Celtics – experience (made the NBA Finals in 2008 and 2010), front court depth, perimeter shooting
  2. Orlando Magic – experience (made the NBA Finals in 2009), depth, perimeter shooting
  3. Chicago Bulls – up and coming team with depth
  4. Miami Heat – the addition of LeBron James and Chris Bosh catapulted this team to the upper echelon in the East, but the lack of depth on the roster made me hesitant to rank them ahead of the Bulls

Then out of nowhere, Orlando did something stupid.

A Dumb Trade

The Orlando Magic traded Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat, Mickael Pietrus, a first-round draft pick, and cash to the Phoenix Suns for Jason Richardson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Earl Clark. Subtracting Vince Carter is actually a plus. But losing Gortat and Pietrus cost the Magic both inside presence, defense and three point shooting. Gortat was capable of spelling Dwight Howard and contributing a double-double if necessary. Pietrus was one of their best defenders and a three point threat who could also provide double figures in points. Bringing in headcase Gilbert Arenas was the final nail in the Magic’s “We Don’t Want to Win” coffin.

Anything Dumb Thing You Can Do, We Can Do Dumber

Orlando’s trade was like switching bikes with a friend and finding out a tire is flat. Boston trading Kendrick Perkins to the Oklahoma Thunder was like swapping your parachute for a sheet, that you can tie around your neck like a cape, just before you jump out of a plane. In other words, just plain stupid.

Even though the Miami Heat had created their own “Big Three”, the Heat lacked the size to bang with the Celtics in the paint. Maybe this was Danny Ainge trying to pay off the karma loan of that Garnett trade his boy Kevin McHale hooked him up with a few years ago. In the short term, the Perkins trade ended up coming back to hurt the Celtics. I think the long term will be pretty much the same.

The Outcomes

These trades by the Eastern Conference teams that I had ranked 1 and 2 opened the door for Chicago and Miami. The teams finished the regular season ranked as follows:

  1. Chicago Bulls 62 Wins
  2. Miami Heat 58 Wins
  3. Boston Celtics 56 Wins
  4. Orlando Magic 52 Wins

Without the inside presence of Kendrick Perkins, the Celtics would lose to the Heat in the Conference Semifinals. We can only wonder how the Celtics, with Perkins, would have fared against the Dallas Mavericks. Especially if Brendan Haywood were to still be injured and unavailable for most of the Finals.

Oh well, the two Eastern Conference teams that have played in 3 of the last 4 NBA championship series decided that they would rather sit this one out.

 

The Jordan vs LeBron Debate

 

The NBA pressed its face up to the maternity ward window that is the American high school basketball system, pointed at LeBron James, began passing out cigars and shouting, “That’s my baby!” The NBA needed a new Lil Baby to replace its old Lil Baby, Kobe Bryant, who was supposed to replace Michael Jordan. The NBA proclaimed its new baby “King” and hoped and prayed that the Cleveland Cavaliers would turn out to be the Chicago Bulls of the 2000s.

If we had a dollar for every Michael Jordan / LeBron James comparison that sportscasters are compelled to make (I believe they’re each required to make fourteen a game in order to retain their jobs) there would not be a national debt.

Although this debate was incredibly lopsided, it was “entertained” mostly by deluded fans conditioned much like Pavlov’s dogs to begin salivating the moment someone rang the “Who’s better MJ or LeBron” bell. And of course there were the children. Alas the children (for the children know no better) were entranced by the pixie dust The League was sprinkling over their innocent heads, bless their naïve little hearts.

So we find ourselves with two schools of thought. On one side of the line we have the poor disillusioned fools who still love and jock Michael Jordan like there’s no tomorrow, even after he revealed his true, petty, spiteful little self at his Hall of Fame induction (of all places). And on the other side of the line we have the poor disillusioned fools who still love and jock LeBron James like there’s no tomorrow, even after he revealed his true, selfish, Huggies pampered self at the NBA Finals post game press conference for Game 6 (of all places).

Just for clarification, I’ll let you in on a little secret. I am not a Michael Jordan fan. I’m aware that thus far in this post there might have been some ambiguity regarding that matter, but I’ll just put it out there and clear the “Air” once and for all. Also, as much as this might shock you, I am not a LeBron James fan either.

Most people will always consider LeBron James to be the guy who abandoned ship. He will always be the guy who had the big bad wolf blow down his house of sticks. And to be fair, yes Chris Bosh did run to the Miami Heat from his own house of straw. But honestly, who truly gives a damn?

James and Bosh are hoping that they can build a brick home on the Miami estate similar to the one Dwayne Wade (and Udonis Haslem was there) built in 2006. A then underrated Wade was joined by a Shaquille O’Neal who at the time was the bigger name, but on the downside of his career and Gary “The Glove” Payton. Payton was also at the tail end of his career. Wade willed that team back from being down 0-2 to win it all.

Remember that what Lebron and Bosh are doing has already been done. Karl Malone and Gary Payton ran to the 2003-04 Los Angeles Lakers believing that their very presence alongside O’Neal and Kobe Bryant guaranteed a championship for The new “Lake Show” and its four future hall of famers. They were wrong. The Lakers were defeated by the less heralded Detroit Pistons.

The way it stands right now, Jordan has 6 championship rings. LeBron has the same number of NBA championship rings as me. To be fair, Jordan did have 3 years of college ball under his belt before entering the NBA. So let’s spot LeBron 3 years. If Miami can three-peat with the Three Kings, well then LeBron fans can say, “I wanna be like”. They’ll be half way to “Mike”.

LeBron has now played 8 years in the league. Jordan had won two championships by his eighth season and a third title in his ninth year. If Lebron plays at least 15 years (like Mike) or more he may still win a couple championships, but 6 or 7. I don’t think so. And that’s including when he comes to play his final two seasons with the Washington Wizards and they decide to get all “Wizards, King James, Camelot and the quest for the Holy Grail Championship” on us.

The bottom line is that in the NBA moving or acquiring one or two individuals can change the entire landscape. The Boston Celtics did this with their Big 3 of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen. Even the Heat and Lakers teams I’ve mentioned in this post made it to the championship series. But people, it’s like an arms race. One team makes a move, another is going to make a move to counter. And believe me, there will be moves made to counter the Three Kings.

Will LeBron get 3, 4 or even 5 championships? Well there’s this guy out west named Kevin Durant and this upstart team called the Oklahoma Thunder that you might want to really start paying attention to. They may very well be the new San Antonio Spurs.

So what happens if LeBron never wins a championship? Don’t you worry, it’ll be alright. The League will find itself a new Lil Baby (*cough* Blake Griffin *cough* dunk contest rigged *cough* marketing ploy). It always does. Besides, we can always start the debate: Who’s better Michael Jordan or Robert Horry?