NBA 2K 15: Teams 2 Watch ( East)

When most NBA writers preview an upcoming season, they do so by covering all 30 teams. Not me.  If you watch NBA basketball like I do, you know who the bottom-feeders are, and why it can be rather boring spending time discussing the teams who’s only shot at contention -of any kind- is that of who gets first pick in next seasons’ draft!

No disrespect to the unfortunate “less thans”, but because today’s sports’ culture is all about  ” instant mashed potatoes”, I’ve decided to get right to the point and give my take on which teams’  will matter in the 2014-15 NBA season.

Starting with the East, here are the ‘Teams’ 2 Watch’ this season:

BULLS:  Every time I watch the Bulls, it is clear to see in Thibodeau the Spurs/Popovich pedigree. Despite the abscence of Rose and Deng last season, Thib’s still managed to get  48 wins out of a depleted “MASH UNIT.”  Add to this mix former Laker Pau Gasol, fifth ranked NCAA all-time Division I scorer Doug McDermott, and 6′ 10″  ‘Inside-Out’  Nikola Mirotic, and it’s no tellin’ just how much havoc Thib’s and co. will wreck this season; provided Rose can stay healthy the entire season.

RAPTORS:  DeMar DeRozan,  Kyle Lowery,  Amir Johnson,  Terrence Ross,  Jonas Valanciunas, and  Lou Williams are, and will be, a headache for whomever they play. Coach Casey has no excuse for this squad not to improve on last year’s success; need to get away from so many overtime games (1-6) last season.

KNICKS:  Phil Jackson is the only person I’ve seen to ever get NBA-ego’s to come together just long enough to win an NBA Title. So, excuse me for not understanding all the doubt folks had surrounding his return to basketball because he decided to claim a front office position (with the Knicks) instead of his customary seat on the bench, saying, ” Phil can’t be the difference for the Knicks unless he’s the coach!”  I say those folks don’t understand just how much damage an over-inflated NBA ego can cause. For a man of his stature to win multiple NBA Titles with some of the most volatile personalities the game has ever seen, it wouldn’t matter the capacity Phil chose, just so long as he’s somewhere in the building!

PISTONS: Recently acquired Stan Van Gundy will get the motor going in this city once again. Like him or not, Gundy understands how to get his players to play to their strengths. With a front-court every team in the NBA would dream of in Monroe and Drummond, the Pistons only need for Josh Smith to stop jackin’ so many trey’s and become the complete player he should be, and Jennings to understand the difference between point-guard and facilitator. Once that happens, Van Gundy’s version of the Pistons’ ain’t gon’ be nothin’ nice.

HAWKS:  Coach Budenholzer’s Hawks made unwanted press with the admission of co-owner Bruce Levenson’s, and GM Danny Ferry’s racist remarks regading Hawks fans. Sometimes, thing’s of this nature can unravel not only a franchise (regardless of sport) off the court, but on the court as well. Al Horford’s return, combined with Milsaps relentless play and Budenholzer’s  San Antonio pedigree, the Hawks will use the fallout from management’s ” brainlock” moment to re-establish the cohesiveness necessary  to make them contenders.

WIZARDS:  The Wizards are a ” round robin” lock simply because of their front-court of  Gortat and Nene. Beal’s wrist injury is not so serious that the wiz’ will falter in his abscence. Wall, Gortat, and Nene will keep the ship afloat til Beal gets back in the fold. There is one thing that I question; can Paul Pierce make more of a difference than Trevor Ariza?  We’ll see. If so, the capitol could be in for a big time celebration.

NETS: After Kidd’s exodus, Brooklyn went out and got one of the NBA’s best in Lionel Hollins. That said, the clock is ticking on Deron Williams and his band of merry men to finally put to good use all the money  Prokorov has dished out over the last few seasons. This team’s ticket to a Finals appearance is solely tied to their ability to rebound, which was second worst (38.1) in the NBA last season.

CAVS:  With all the “ready made” off-season moves, don’t talk to me about what this team does in the regular season or playoffs. With Love, Irving, and James, the only talk surrounding the new “Big-3” should be not 1… not 2… not 3…  CHAMPIONSHIP(s)! PERIOD.

Honorable Mention: Heat – Wade and Bosh will be out to prove something.  Hornets – Al  Jefferson is coming; forget the plantar this go round!

As always, let us know what you think: http://www.theshopreport.com

NBA 2K13 In Season Review: Oklahoma City Thunder

I don’t usually deviate from my blog script, but last week’s blog about the L.A. Clippers instead of the Oklahoma City Thunder was, in my estimation, absolutely necessary given the fact both the Clippers’ and Lakers’ are the talk of the town despite OKC holding the best overall record in the NBA at 28-8. It’s not to say OKC is not worthy of conversation, it’s just not Hollywood;- and we all know Hollywood rules!! So they say.

As I just mentioned, the OKC Thunder are a league best 28-8, but I hate to have to be the one to tell you that an NBA Championship is not in the cards for the Thunder this year, and this time it won’t be because of David Stern. This OKC team reminds me-in many ways- like the 2006 Dallas Mavericks. A team that scores in bunches (105.7 per-leads the NBA), shoots well from the 3-pt line(39.6% also 1st-NBA), 1st in ft% at 84%- which is a crucial element come playoff time- and are 3rd overall from the field at 48.9%. These are the types of offensive numbers that can win you a regular season and maybe a playoff round or two, but is it enough to win it all? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s not forget: Live by the jumper, die by the jumper; anyone who watches the NBA knows Durant, Westbrook, and Kevin Martin are all volume shooters!!! No matter how much of an offensive threat a team is, establishing an inside presence and defense are key components to winning a title.

When it comes to rebounding the ball, the numbers are contradictory to say the least. They rank 24th overall in offensive rebounding with 379 (lg avg-417), and 7th in defensive rebounding with 1182. This contradiction gets lost in the fact that OKC is 10th in the league in pts allowed at 96.5. I’m not suggesting that defense is totally absent in OKC, i’m merely pointing out the fact that offensive rebounding deficiency has a funny way of rearing it’s ugly head the further you advance in the playoffs. The game is shortened and slowed down in the playoffs; long jumpshots lead to long run-outs for the other team.

Free-throws are not only playoff crucial, but it’s an area where the Thunder(84%-NBA best) don’t have any worries as long as they can maintain it during the pressure packed moments that each playoff round brings. Despite all the fancy, more games are won/lost at the free-throw line than they are by taking jumpshots. Look it up.

OKC on paper can run/outrun any team that’s put in front of them on any given day. The absence of Ibaka’s 14.3 per/g on the inside, Westbrook’s ability to make good decisions and control “game tempo”, and Durant posting up like Dirk in 2010, will not only have their fans’ “running for the exits”, but send OKC home with another silver medal.