Monday, 11 June 2012

On the move: predicting trades

For the armchair GMs among us, the new CBA was a blessing in disguise. A bevy of changes such as the harsher luxury tax, raising of the salary floor and easing of restrictions on salaries being matched in trades all offer compelling reasons for front offices getting to know their contemporaries around the league. And if not them, then we'll gladly contribute via the blogosphere!

Before I get into things, I'll offer a brief explanation of why the above changes matter.

1. Harsher lux-tax: In the pre-lockout era, many teams chose not to spend over the luxury tax threshold. In many cases, it's understandable - the old lux-tax meant a team at the threshold looking to sign a player with their MLE might have signed a decent role player to a $5 million/year contract... but the tax meant that player really cost $10 million. Harsh. Now it's harsher. Need me to go on?

2. Higher salary floor: Now, there's almost no such thing as a contract that can't be traded. A team like the Hawks are probably interested in shedding Joe Johnson's behemoth of a contract, and a team like Charlotte might be interested in acquiring it. Why? Because teams have to spend a certain amount - 85% of the cap next season, 90% for the seasons after that. And, if a team is spending a large portion of its cap on one player then there's more room for young, cheap players - usually guys on their rookie scale contracts.

3. Pre-lockout, player salaries in trades had to match within 125% - now it's 150%. That's pretty significant - it's now perfectly legal according to the CBA to trade John Salmons for Marc Gasol (doesn't mean such a trade wouldn't be criminal!). Basically, there are many more possible trade scenarios (not necessarily probable or plausible) than there once was. Unfortunately, teams over the lux-tax still suffer the 125% rule. Otherwise, the Heat could trade Dwyane Wade for DeAndre Jordan! At least, the numbers would work if both teams weren't tax payers...

So, with that in mind, there are a number of teams that will be seeking trades for financial reasons. Obviously, in some cases on-court reasons apply, too.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

An NBA Mock Draft - Based On Team Needs

In the basketball blogging world, there are a handful of things absolutely everyone does, or wants to do. Among them are power rankings, season/playoff/trade/free agent predictions and, at this time of year - mock drafts.

Annoyingly, in most of these things you won't find much variety - that's why I've started moving away from the ESPNs and NBA.coms of the world, gravitating more toward places that I can find qualified information and qualified comment, sites like RealGM and the various SB Nation blogs.

Though it might not always show, I try to model this blog around that particular style - objectivity, research, making sure whatever I say has some sort of foundation. Every now and then I'll tap into a topic like Linsanity that might get me more clicks than my usual Suns-centric posts would, but if I do that, you'll notice it's never a rehash of the same argument somebody else has already made. This is an important skill in journalism, something I learned right near the start of my study, and something I try to abide by at all times.

So why is all of the above important? Because in doing this, a mock draft - especially at this time of year, I want to make a point of the fact that I'm not just taking Draft Express's rankings and changing the comments. This mock is based on two things - snippets of information I've picked up from RealGM and others sites (usually front office comments) and TEAM NEED. In order to make this mock different to all the others, I've decided to throw the "best player available" theory out the window - in a draft like this, with depth at most positions, I don't think it really applies. Without further ado, my 2012 NBA mock draft!

Hit the jump to see it!


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Short story I wrote for uni...

I wrote this about 6 weeks ago for a uni assignment - task was a 1000 word short story on a topic of your choosing. I had no idea what to wrote about, so I turned my writer's block into a distinction. Sometimes I wonder why I didn't do this from the start...

 Anyway, here it is - 

There it was again. A short burst of inspiration, immediately consumed into the vacuum of the blank page. With every passing minute, the emptiness staring back seemed to grow, almost infinitely.

That's it. There's no hope anymore. What on earth could possibly satisfy the thousand word hunger of the beast? Knowing that it had to be fed by Monday made the pressure even worse. Opening the floodgates to the dam of words wasn't an option - over feeding this beast was just as bad as not feeding it at all.
This monster required perfection.


Michael knew the responsibility was his. It was he after all that adopted the demon, accepting its care as part of his quest to become a Word Smith. it was a task that had to be done.

At first, he thought it would be simple. One thousand words is a barrier crossed very early for a Word Smith, aspiring or otherwise. Why should this be any different?

Michael soon learned that the appetite of the beast would not be quelled with random drivel - the script had to be of outstanding quality, anything less and the demon would regurgitate the work and force him to start from scratch.

First, he had tried a diet of simple poetry; then a fond memory, enhanced with fiction - all to no avail. The beast would not accept these half-hearted meals.

Several days ensued where pen did not meet paper. Michael reasoned that his best work usually came at the last moment, spurred by the do-or-die reality of the situation.

The problem was, this has been do-or-die from the beginning. Deep in his mind, Michael knew this, but refused to openly acknowledge it. It would take him too far from his comfort zone. He didn't like it, so he pretended to not know it.


Again, a flash of inspiration teased him. That was it, he'd had enough. Michael resolved to carry his writing pad everywhere he went, ready to record the thoughts that had previously escaped.

It wouldn't be that simple, of course. The ideas had a tendency to hide whenever pen and paper were nearby. Still, Michael reasoned that his mind couldn't lie dormant the whole time. Ideas were bound to come along... eventually.


The deadline drew nearer, and Michael still had blank pages before him. Rather than see another day wasted with no writing, Michael decided to spend the day seeking the counsel of his Word Smith peers and superiors. He had once read, "many minds are greater than one" and sought to apply that wisdom to his task.

Michael met with Seth, a senior Word Smith assigned to the Great Web. His advice was simple, saying to Michael "Don't try to outsmart yourself. Write within your limits; do it well and you will appear genuine, believable. Try to deceive your readers at your own peril."

Taking Seth's advice, Michael returned to his dormitory to give it a test run.

Consciously avoiding bombastic paragraphs, Michael soon wrote a short passage that for once, actually satisfied his standards. By shedding his lexiphanic nature he discovered his writing had become easier to read and subsequently appealing to a larger audience.

With three days until the monster's deadline, the feeling of relief at such a revelation was almost overwhelming. Michael's training had taught him caution, though, and he knew not to get ahead of himself. The task was not yet done. The celebrations will have to wait until the words are comfortably digesting in the beast's stomach.


The next day, Michael awoke with eagerness hoping to finally complete his task. The morning passed in a blur as pen scratched paper, the noise had a rhythmic quality to it that helped spur on Michael's progress. Further and further he was drawn into the 'zone', hypnotised by the repetitiveness of left to right. Michael had become so oblivious to the world around him that he failed to notice the sky darkening above, violent storms threatening to unleash themselves at any moment.

With a tremendous crash of thunder, the skies opened. The noise startled Michael, its sheer volume causing his ears to ring and the force of the sound making the floors around him shudder. Michael looked up to inspect the clouds that had apparently snuck up on him. Examining the strange detail in the contours of the water vapour led Michael to conclude something was... different.

Then with another violent clap, the dorm shook and the rain fell harder. Except, there was no flash accompanying the thunder. Michael pondered this for a moment, considering how this was possible. Then, with horror, he recalled the long-ago history lesson he'd sat for his entry exam. This was no storm of nature. It was the signal for the mysterious and evil Illiterati's imminent arrival.

Many years ago, a war took place between two warring factions - the Word Smiths and the Illiterati. The Word Smiths fought for the integrity of written language, while the Illiterati made it their agenda to butcher writing to irrelevance, preferring a world with only spoken language. Their motive seemed to be pure evil, and they were regarded as such. Still, they'd been in hiding so long that most except the oldest of war veterans and most attentive of students recalled their existence.

Even the beast feared their approach, almost succumbing to the inevitable doom that was looming above.
Michael panicked. What could he do? The last war ended with the greatest Word Smiths sacrificing themselves to drive off the Illiterati and banish them to the wilderness. Today, no great Word Smiths remained, at least none mighty enough to overcome the might of the Illiterati. Gone was JuVer, Tolk and Hemway. Contemporaries Meyer, Brown and Pattin are the most successful of their era, but stand no chance facing up to the likes of Illiterati goonies Sandykyle and Bushmaster, much less their leader, Shackle O’Kneel.

The clouds parted and the entire Illiterati force descended to wreak havoc. Almost without a fight, the Word Smiths were slaughtered and the Illiterati established their supremacy.

Michael threw his work into the fire in order to hide his identity, and then trudged outside to accept his cruel fate. Enslaved by the Illiterati to demolish the Grand Library, the last shreds of literal history disappeared before his eyes.

All hope for Michael's dreams were gone. Reluctantly, he whispered to himself, "Maybe I wasn't meant to be a Word Smith after all."

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Reviewing the 2011-12 Phoenix Suns...

Back in December, I wrote about three different scenarios the Suns could find themselves in at the end of the season. That post is here.

In that post, I mentioned that it's most likely the Suns will finish in the 7-10 range, which has absolutely turned out to be true. In that, I refute the notion this Suns team has overachieved - they're exactly where I, and many other Suns writers and fans expected them to be.

To get the best picture of the past 66 games, it's best to split this season in two - pre-All-Star break and post-All-Star break.

Leading into the break, the Suns sported a 14-20 record, hovering around 13th place in the West. The only consistent Suns during this time were Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat. Nash played well enough to earn his eighth All-Star selection, while Gortat received some backing from the media as a candidate for the reserve center spot. Everyone else struggled, to the point that coach Alvin Gentry resorted to starting the one dimensional defensive specialist Ronnie Price for a short stretch. The offense was stagnant outside of the Nash-Gortat pick and roll, and the defense was even worse. Pre-All-Star, the Suns were massively underachieving.

All-Star weekend treated us to four minutes and four assists from Nash, and allowed the rest of the Suns to get some rest. It was around this time that backup point guard Sebastian Telfair, seemingly out of nowhere and at the time, somewhat questionably called out the coaching staff and asked for more trust in he and the rest of the second unit.

As a result of this, or more likely Gentry thinking "Why the hell not?", the Suns bench started to see more minutes. With minutes came confidence, and eventually chemistry, resulting in pretty-good-for-backups play from Telfair, Michael Redd, Shannon Brown, Markieff Morris and Robin Lopez. Many will point to this as the turning point in the Suns' season, to which I have no objection. It was well established that the Suns starting five had no problems building leads, as their league-best plus-minus showed. Now with a functional bench, the Suns found themselves winning more games, leading eventually to a 19-12 post-All-Star record and finishing just three games shy of the playoffs, in a race that lasted until the second last game of the season.

The Suns threw together a rag-tag collection of role-players, prospects and has-beens on mostly one year contracts, hoping to compete while maintaining an eye (and the necessary flexibility) towards the bigger prize of 2012 free agency.

Before I delve into results at an individual level, I'll give your eyes a rest and offer you the following highlights of the 2011-12 Suns:

Steve Nash Birthday Game Winner

Markieff Morris Poster on Blake Griffin

Jared Dudley Gets Fired Up (What's Up?! What's Up?! WHAT'S UP?!)

Hakim Warrick, Dunker

Steve Nash Passes Oscar Robertson For #5 All Time Assists

Hit the link to keep reading...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Mind blowing.

Every now and then, you'll come across something incredible. Sometimes it'll be a quote that really hits home, others a great coffee you can get only when you find the back-alley cafe. I found something incredible today, this time courtesy of YouTube.

Some of you will have seen this video already, owing to the 1,130,712 views it's already accrued and the fact it's been out since November last year.

Let me clarify that I'm not a huge fan of dubstep, or even shredding anymore. This, though... is pure awesomeness.

And yes, it's legit.


Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Out of the ashes... again

Ball so hard mof***as wanna fine me
(Matt York/AP)

At the start of every NBA season, the Phoenix Suns consistently get labelled as a team with no chance - be it age has finally caught up with the ageless; the role players can no longer fill their role or that Robert Sarver is a meanie - that the Suns have battled through since as long as I have been following the NBA.

In the 2009-10 season, the Suns unexpectedly caught fire post-All Star break and stormed to the Western Conference Finals as the #3 seed, only to be ousted in six games courtesy of an other-worldly performance from Kobe Bryant and a then-Ron Artest buzzer-beater.

The following season, Amare Stoudemire had left for New York and again, the Suns found themselves on the outside looking in. A series of front office mistakes (trading for Hedo Turkoglu to play PF, signing Josh Childress to the full MLE) led to a major mid-season trade, with the hopes of making a playoff push only to see Channing Frye go down to injury and Vince Carter disappoint with his inconsistent play. The Suns scraped together a 40-42 record, finishing six games out of the final playoff spot and 10th overall, the lone bright spots being the stellar play of Steve Nash and Grant Hill, and the emergence of Marcin Gortat as an up-and-coming big.

The beginning of the 2011-12 season saw the departures of Carter, Aaron Brooks and Mickael Pietrus. Ronnie Price, Sebastian Telfair, Shannon Brown, Markieff Morris and Michael Redd were the newcomers, with all except Morris (draft) coming via free agency. Critics said the Suns were replacing a team of role players with more role players. For the first half of the season, those critics looked right - the Suns floundered below the .500 mark before finally developing some chemistry and finding a rotation that worked.

The Suns started beating teams they shouldn't be beating, defeating the Lakers, Mavs, Grizzlies, pre-Rubio-injury Wolves and the Clippers (twice); and beating comfortably the teams they're supposed to. Now, at 23-23 the Suns sit 1.5 games out of the final playoff spot behind the slumping Rockets and inconsistent Jazz.

The question must be asked: can this Suns team keep up their blistering pace and offer a repeat of the 2009-10 run?

The pieces are there - above average defense, potent offense and a deep bench. Detroit proved it's possible to have playoffs success without a superstar, so it's unfair to write this team off just yet. If Phoenix maintains its current pace, it would finish around 42-24 and project to make a run at a middle playoff seed.

Of course, there's a caveat - the Suns schedule down the stretch is tough, meaning they'll probably have to lift their play even further to maintain the pace they've set.

Eternally underrated, this Phoenix team is yet again rising from the ashes to prove their doubters wrong. This team is dangerous. Watch out, West. The Suns are coming.

Monday, 12 March 2012

How Orlando can win with Dwight - A four step plan

Danny Granger (left) shoots over Dwight Howard on January 26, 2011 at Conseco Fieldhouse
(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
By now, most NBA fans are familiar with the "Dwightmare", the follow-on from LeBron, Carmelo and CP3's final season with the teams that drafted them. Most seem to think Dwight's had enough of Orlando and is sure to team up with Deron Williams on the Nets or Mavs after the season.

The Magic, unlike the Hornets and Nuggets aren't convinced their star is bolting and seem poised to take the Cleveland route, holding onto Howard through the trade deadline and letting him enter free agency to decide his own fate.

Personally, I'm a fan of this approach. Chris Webber said it best: "Championship teams are stubborn". Dallas, LA and Boston all stuck with their core when given an opportunity to blow it up and rebuild, and those teams account for the last four championships. The 2008-09 season proved to us that a team built around Dwight Howard can get to the Finals - only a series of ill-fated trades and unfortunate injuries have prevented the Magic from returning.

I honestly believe Dwight's best chances for personal and team glory come with the Magic. In this era of super teams, Dwight is good enough to be the only max contract player on a championship team. Keep reading to see how...

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Gilbert Arenas - Wacky but Honest, too.

Sam Amick, a very good reporter working for Sports Illustrated, sat down with the great enigma that is Gilbert Arenas and produced one of the most candid interviews to ever come from someone as famous as Arenas.

Reading the interview, it feels like you're a part of a casual conversation between friends, talking about things with an honesty rarely seen in journalism these days.

For me, the interview gives an insight into the reality of life in the NBA and opens my eyes to what the man, Arenas, is truly about. He's been labelled a locker-room cancer, an egomaniac, a wacko and a bad influence. He's still a little crazy, but you get the feeling that when he says the gun incident was a one-off thing, he's telling the truth.

Arenas, it would seem, has finally had that epiphany he needed to wake himself up and turn his life around, to get back on track. He's surprisingly family-oriented for someone who had such a me-first reputation.

To read about someone like Gilbert Arenas, who's had such a negative image for so long, and have that perception completely flipped is rewarding, and in a strange way, reassuring too.

Give the interview a read. It'll be worth your while.

Gilbert Arenas talks with Sam Amick of

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

All I do is Lin, Lin, Lin

Ahhh, Jeremy Lin. I've been resisting the urge to write about Lin for pretty much the entire past week. I mean, every man and his dog has had something to say about Linsanity, so it's a pretty tough task to come up with something that hasn't already been covered. So, with that in mind, I'm not even going to bother. What I'm going to write about, like many before me (and probably a handful after me) is why #Linning is a trend, and is not here to stay.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

The Future of the Phoenix Suns

"Free Steve Nash!" "Fire Gentry!" "Trade ____!"

Such is the collective feeling of the Suns fanbase. Suns fans don't like what they're seeing so far this season, and honestly, I don't blame them. One might think that Sarver & co. would have learned a little something from the failed identity change of 2008-09, but yet again we find ourselves looking at a Suns team being asked to focus on defense first, throwing the familiar run 'n' gun style out the window. Like in 2009, it's not working very well.

Historically, the Suns have been quick in their rebuilding process and haven't really had any extended periods of losing, a la Golden State or the Clippers. To me, this preserves some hope that the franchise will put their plan in motion in time to minimise the rebuilding years and have the team back around the top of the West where they belong.

Part of the foundation has been laid, with just six guys under contract after the season (Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley, Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and Markieff Morris) meaning there is money to be spent - what's important is that the Suns spend it on the right guys. Milwaukee and Detroit are two good examples of what can happen when teams make poor use of cap room. The next step would be to draft well, with Charlotte being an example of failing to capitalize on multiple lottery selections.

Above all, the Suns need to avoid the infamous mediocrity treadmill. That's why there's so much talk of trading Nash among Suns fans, because they're of the belief that Nash elevates this team from terrible to average, which puts the team (at this stage) in the late lottery, making it all the more difficult to draft the next franchise cornerstone.

The problem with that, though, is that the Bobcats, Wizards, Hornets and Pistons are all doing a much better job of losing, and the Raptors, Nets, Warriors, Kings, Knicks, Cavs and Bucks are all at around the same level, hovering between .300 and .400  in the standings. Obviously, the season's only around 1/3 complete, so things can (and likely will) change by the time the draft lottery is run. Despite that, it's hard to see the Suns losing enough games to significantly improve their chances of landing the #1 pick, with or without Nash at the helm.

Luckily, this draft class is touted as the deepest since the famous '03 class of LeBron and co., so Phoenix don't necessarily have to pick in the Top 5 to land a key piece of the future. Furthermore, there's talk of some lottery prospects staying in school another year, strengthening the following draft in a year the Suns are likely to be in the lottery again.

Building around a core of Gortat and bench role players means the supporting cast is already in place, leaving holes in the roster that can be filled by one guy at a time, instead of having to rely on a committee - i.e. franchise players. It's easier said than done, that's certain, but the Suns have the flexibility to land franchise players in all 3 possible ways (trade, draft and free agency).

Rather than trading Nash, I'd consider re-signing him. Call me crazy, but for $8-10 million there's still no other point guard I'd rather have running my team, and if I get to watch the brilliance of Nash without compromising the rebuilding process (i.e. the team still sucks enough to land good prospects), then a future with Nash is the future of the Phoenix Suns I'd like to see.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

NBA Questions, v3.0

Last edition was almost three weeks ago. Sorry about the delay folks, been doing some other stuff that's kept me busy.

You can have a look at what I had to say last time around here. The things I've made good calls on have started getting a little repetitive, so I'll let you look back for yourself to see where I've been right and wrong. In the future I'll still highlight the extremes, right or wrong, of things that I've said for the convenience of all.

Moving along, here's what I've absorbed from NBA-land in the last 20 or so days:

  • I know I've mentioned it before, but INJURIES! New additions to the hobbled list include Andrew Bogut, Al Horford (went down not long after my last Questions post), Luol Deng and Andrea Bargnani, who all figure to miss considerable chunks of the season. That's without mentioning the guys with nagging injuries like 'Melo, CP3, Rose and Rondo. Hey NBA, let's not make this condensed season a recurring thing, yeah?
  • On Bogut, will this guy ever catch a break? Poor choice of words, perhaps. Easily in the Top 5 at his position when healthy, maybe even Top 3, Bogut just can't seem to stay on the floor. Hopefully he gets a good run of health before his best years are behind him.
  • Dwight Howard expressed his displeasure with his teammates after losing to the lowly Hornets, telling guys to "stay home" if they weren't going to give 100%. Did Dwight ever stop to think that the pot might be calling the kettle black in criticising players for not being fully committed to their team?
  • Looks like some of this year's rookies are making a lot of fans and media types eat their words. Kyrie Irving, Brandon Knight, MarShon Brooks and Kemba Walker have all shown glimpses of future all-star level production, already showing us that this draft class is more than the "good role players at best" class it's been described as in the past.
  • Speaking of drafts, unfortunate as it is, it would seem that there will be quite a few teams competing for the top pick, with 12 teams sporting a win/loss percentage of less than 39% (teams are, in order: Milwaukee, Cleveland, New York, New Jersey, Phoenix, Golden State, Sacramento, Toronto, New Orleans, Detroit, Washington and Charlotte), with 5 of those at 30% or lower. 
  • On a more positive note, Steve Nash continues to lead the league in assists, despite the talent surrounding him being at an all-time low. Gone are the pick and roll finishers, and so too it would seem the excellent perimeter shooters. How is he doing it? Is Nash the best passer in the history of the game? Definitely worthy of discussion.
That's all I've got this time. Feel free to start a debate about the best passers in NBA history in the comments section. More posts coming soon!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

JaVale McGee... tosser.

And people wonder (do they?) why the Wizards still suck. I actually think this team would somehow be less dysfunctional with Gilbert Arenas still in town. How often do you see a young team in the middle of a rebuilding phase reach the point where it needs to be blown up and started from scratch?

It's teams run like this that convince me I could be an NBA GM and run a better show than half the league.

PS - see what I did with the title? McGee "tossed" himself an alley... tosser... geddit?

Monday, 16 January 2012


I may or may note have written here that I want to study journalism. I don't remember. Anyway, now it's definitely out there. I want to study journalism.

And hey, waddya know? I got my "Confirmation of Enrolment" letter in the mail today. Due to being a full time father at the moment, and not living near any campuses, I decided to make use of Open Universities Australia's online study options to start taking some classes.

I'm excited. Why wouldn't I be? Over the years, I've tried my hand at a lot of different jobs, only to find my heart wasn't in it and EVERY time I found myself being called to writing. Since I first started writing to share in 2007, my peers have told me I could write for a living, but I always doubted myself. I knew I was capable of expressing myself on paper, but I always felt like my writing was kind of... raw.

I only started taking writing seriously around the same time I started paying attention in school, around 2006. By then, I'd missed out on a lot of the fundamentals of writing that I should know. I guess being untrained has given me, to an extent, my own style. I like that, but I'd like to have the ability to turn out professional jobs when the need arises - like, in a job, for example. I think a lot of what I try to say would be better conveyed if my writing wasn't so all over the place, too. Which can only be a good thing.

It feels good, really good to be finally working towards achieving something that I know I want to do. For once, I feel like I'm doing something for all the right reasons. I don't know if 10 years down the line I'll be working as a journalist, or if it'll be a professional writer in some other capacity. I AM sure though, that this is the right place to start.

First up, starting February 27th - Creative and Professional Writing and News and Politics.

Thank you to a certain best friend's mother for planting the seed, and thank you to everyone else that has had a say in this for giving me the confidence to give it a shot - and enabling me to do so.

When I get the chance, I'll get those names published as some of the most important influences in my life for the world to see.

I'm excited, people. Let the learning begin!

Friday, 13 January 2012

Early Season MVP Candidates

Who said this season wasn't going to be fun? Early days yet, but these are my Top 10 candidates (in order) for the MVP.

1. LeBron James, Miami Heat (8-3) - 29ppg, 8.5rpg, 7.5apg, 2.0spg, .570 FG%
Am I the only one noticing just how dominant James has been so far this season? Probably not. Just about every MVP ranking I've seen this season lists LeBron as the #1. I think it's unanimous. Scary thing is, now that he's working more down low, these numbers are realistically sustainable. Yikes.

2. Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers (8-4) - 30.3ppg, 5.9rpg, 5.7apg, .459 FG%

I think this guy actually prefers to play injured. Back to back 40 point games to take the early lead in the scoring title, decent percentage for a volume shooter and he's dishing out more assists than he has since the 2004-05 season. According to LA fans, he's also defending and rebounding at a more intense level than he has in recent seasons. To all those folks on twitter who were doubting Kobe, saying he's "no longer Top 5"... SMH.

3. Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder (10-2) - 25.7ppg, 7.2rpg, 3.6apg, 1.2bpg, .491 FG%
Still the best player on the NBA's best team (so far), KD almost gets consideration by default. Never mind that he's sacrificing some of his shots to get his teammates more involved offensively (assists are at a career high) without complaint, you'd have to be seriously nitpicking to find something bad to say about Durant's campaign thus far.

4. Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls (10-2) - 20.7ppg, 3.3rpg, 8.6apg, .450 FG%
Has Rose quietly snuck past Chris Paul and Deron Williams as the league's best point man? The way he's carrying Chicago's offense without scoring 25ppg makes for an interesting debate. There's room for improvement, too - Rose is making just 1.5 three pointers out of 5 attempts per game for a shade under 31%. He'll either make more or take the ball inside for a boost in efficiency or assists. Glad to have him on my fantasy team!

5. Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic (8-3) - 20.5ppg, 15.2rpg, 2.2bpg, 1.6spg, .586 FG%
Thirty-nine free throw attempts in a single game. That's something you might expect to see from two teams combined on an average night, not from an individual. It's an NBA record, and if he shot from the line at an average NBA level (75%) he would've broken the record for made free throws, too. Won't be the last record he breaks in his career, in Orlando or otherwise.

6. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (7-3) - 22.2ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.2spg, .489 FG%
Aldridge has made the transition away from Roy/Oden seem effortless and hardly of significance. What is significant is that he's still ballin', proving last season was no fluke. He's quickly moving up the arm chair ranks of best bigs in the game, and Portland's early season form more than justifies it.

7. Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves (3 -7) - 23.6ppg, 14.7rpg, 2.2 3pm, .424 FG%
Figures to jockey with Dwight for the rebounding title all season long, and with that spanish guy in town figures to finish the season shooting at a better clip than 42%. Makes the list for his dominant rebounding and his improved outside shooting (connecting on 2.2 of his 5.4 attempts per game), and will rise/fall with his team's success.

8. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (8-4) - 16.8ppg, 8.8rpg, 3.1apg, 1.4spg, 1.6bpg, .506 FG%
After a slow start, Josh Smith has been Atlanta's best player, followed by daylight, then Al Horford. Now it's daylight in third, too with Horford going down with a torn pectoral muscle, meaning Smith's touches are bound to increase, as will his rebounding. He's a 5x5 threat nightly and, dare I say it, if he keeps up this level of play, the Hawks might not be losing all that much with Horford out...

9. Chris Bosh, Miami Heat (8-3) - 19.4ppg, 8.1rpg, 1.7apg, 1.0spg, 1.0bpg, .512 FG%
Tom Ziller, of SB Nation and Sactown Royalty fame observed that Bosh has been the Heat's second best player so far this season, and I find myself agreeing. He's trying to add range to his jumpshot, extending himself out to the arc more this season than he has in his career, which makes sense for Miami as extra spacing to allow LeBron to occupy the block. Often criticised since joining the Heat (myself among the doubters), Bosh is proving a lot of people wrong so far this season.

10. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers (5-3) - 16.1ppg, 2.9rpg, 8.8apg, 2.8spg, .515 FG%
Chris Paul... one gets the feeling he's holding back for something big. Read that again. Then looks at his stats. Then consider what they'll look like Paul decides to hit the next gear. Keep in mind too that he's still getting used to having two athletic bigs in the froncourt and two excellent spot-up shooters on the wings and REALLY let your imagination go wild with the numbers he might put up, especially in the assist department. Getting Paul was a win-now move (I wrote a few weeks ago that Eric Gordon will end up the better player), and when it starts showing in the standings, CP should start hearing more MVP chatter.

Outside looking in: Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Tony Parker, Ray Allen

Monday, 9 January 2012

NBA Week 2.5 - Questions, Answers to Week One

It would seem I'm a little slack with my scheduling. I'd intended to make this a weekly feature, offering up observations on the week's news and play, and answering (where possible) the questions I asked myself from the week prior. So, let's not conform to times and dates and just roll with it, yeah? Sounds good!

So, on the 29th I wrote this after four days of NBA action. These are the things that still hold true from last time 'round:

  • Miami are a good basketball team.
  • Boston and Dallas so far, are not.
  • NY still can't rely on Chandler to be their only center.
  • John Wall will not break out this year.
  • Jrue Holiday will.
  • The Suns picked the better twin. 'Kieff looks good.
I said some other things too, most of which shouldn't really be commented on for a little while longer. Too soon to tell with those ones. Now, for the next bout of things I've noticed/want to mention!

  • Steve Nash has found some form, and strangely enough, so have the Suns. In wins over Portland and Milwaukee, Nash has 27 points (86% shooting), 26 assists to 6 turnovers and is a combined +48. He played 28 and 27 minutes respectively.
  • Markieff Morris will earn All-Rookie First Team honours, if he can keep this pace up.
  • Injuries to key players will be a recurring theme this season, it would seem. Memphis (Randolph, knee), San Antonio (Ginobili, hand), New Jersey (Lopez, foot) and Oklahoma (Maynor, knee) all face the prospect of playing without these guys for most of, if not the entire season. How they deal with it will play a huge part in their postseason aspirations.
  • The Knicks could use a smart, been-there-done-that PG to run the show. Funny how that works.
  • Three of last season's playoff teams are under the .500 mark, all out West... South West, to be precise: Dallas (4-5), Memphis (3-4) and New Orleans (2-6) are on pace to miss the post season.
  • The Clippers (4-2), Jazz (5-3) and Suns (4-4) are the teams taking their spot at this point.
  • Boston is the only team out East not in the top 8 out of last season's playoff teams. Celtics fans shouldn't worry, though - Cleveland took their place. Shouldn't last too long.
  • Speaking of not lasting long... are the Pacers really the 3rd best team in the East? Who saw that one coming?
  • Ricky Rubio had 14 assists today. Expect more of the same as the season goes on.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Phoenix 102, Portland 77

This game is the perfect example of what I had in mind when I said the Suns can be a playoff team. Strong defense, and more importantly strong rebounding led to good looks for Phoenix on the break, and some strong play from Steve Nash (17 pts, 9 ast, 7-7 FG) accounted for all the half court offense the Suns needed.

Markieff Morris had yet another impressive game, boarding strong and shooting well from outside (he even hit a three from about 30' as the shot clock expired), and could well be making a case for Rookie of the Year.

The Blazers were probably tired, having just flown in from a win over LA at home, but it's an impressive W for the Suns none the less.

Team rebounding, team defense and sharing the ball got the win tonight, and I expect to see this type of play throughout. This roster has the potential to achieve a similar chemistry to the '09/10 WCF team, which in a season like this would be HUGE.

Glad to see the Suns get a quality win. Bring on the Bucks!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

A Change or Two

I'm still getting used to what I can do with this website. In a lot of ways, it's still (and will probably always remain) a work in progress. I'm trying to keep the layout relatively simple, and I don't want to clutter the homepage with useless widgets and whatnot.

Anyway, after exploring the gadgets available I've gone with two new additions to the site, both of which can be found on the right hand margin of the homepage: an RSS feed providing the latest basketball related news courtesy of RealGM, probably my favourite source of NBA news; and a collection of links to some of my favourite NBA blogs... the list will grow with time.

Suggestions for blogs to add to the blog roll are welcome. Enjoy!

An Exciting Announcement!

Very rarely is a successful blog a 100% individual effort. Often, websites like this will utilise more than one author or contributor to the site. In some cases, it's to reduce the work load on the blog's creator, and in others the intention is to provide an increase in published content and to give readers some variety, to see the same topic discussed from more than one perspective.

Initially, I had planned to keep this blog as a solo venture until it outgrew me, where I could have people approaching me asking to be a contributor. That might come across as cocky, but trust me, it happens. Instead (and this forms part of The Exciting Announcement), I've reached an agreement with an old friend of mine, somebody I've known since high school.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Run, DMC

News surfaced earlier in the week that DeMarcus Cousins wants out of Sacramento after a feud with Kings coach Paul Westphal.

It's no secret that Cousins has maturity issues - it's the sole reason he fell to #5 behind the likes of Evan Turner, Derrick Favors and Wesley Johnson - but the extent of it has more or less remained behind closed doors. That Westphal has chosen to go public with his feelings points to the fact that this goes a lot deeper than Cousins' poor shot selection and a lack of defensive effort, a revelation that should alarm Kings fans and give cause for a lot of DMC fans to at least rethink their evaluation of the young man.

Over at Sactown Royalty, SB Nation's Kings blog, the fans are split on whether Cousins is truly a head case (a la Ron Artest Metta World Peace) or is just clashing with a historically soft coach and just needs to grow up (presumably, a drill sergeant type coach couldn't hurt). One of the commenters at Sactown Royalty made a brilliant comparison between Cousins and two All-NBA talent big men, who also happened to have mental issues - Eddy Curry (who refused to admit to a heart condition, then went on a crusade to dethrone Shaq as the biggest fat-ass in the league) and Zach Randolph (who was more interested in his own stats [and other off-court... distractions] and exerting himself only when it suited his next contract). Randolph eventually found himself in the right situation with the Grizzlies and led Memphis to one game short of the Western Conference Finals. Curry is currently with the Miami Heat after being out of action for... well, I've never seen him dress for a game, put it that way. This is surely his last chance on an NBA roster, and by this stage he figures to be little more than a backup on a bad team or a 3rd stringer on a good one.

Is DeMarcus Cousins on a similar trajectory? It's hard to say no. He's been described as selfish and childish. Cousins apologists will point to his age and suggest he'll grow out of it, but that's not going to happen without some help. In my opinion, it would take a new coach, a change of scenery or a veteran bitch-slapping some sense into him, maybe even all three. Technically, the Kings could fire/not extend Westphal, move to Kansas City and bring in some strong locker room voices, but that wouldn't really be a win for Sacramento fans, so let's forget that.

In all reality, the Kings' best hopes for getting DeMarcus to grow up is to crack down on any future misconduct from now on and threaten to suspend him for long stretches if his act doesn't improve. They could also use some voices in the locker room with a little more credibility than John Salmons and Chuck Hayes. Someone who hasn't just been in the league, but has been there, done that. The likes of Lamar Odom or Tyson Chandler would be ideal, but obviously unrealistic - the Kings could do worse than make a play for a guy cut from the mold of a Kurt Thomas.

For Cousins to reach his potential, he's going to have to start respecting the coaching staff, his teammates and himself. NBA players are egomaniacs as a rule, but only the truly transcendent talents (LeBron, Kobe) can justify their egos. DeMarcus Cousins, while highly skilled, is not a transcendent talent and the sooner he realises that, the better.

Don't read too much into the trade rumours, because Cousins has no leverage and the Kings could conceivably keep him under contract, through his rookie scale and then restricted free agent status for at least another 4 seasons.

I had every intention of finishing up by offering some fun (if unlikely) trade scenarios via the ESPN Trade Machine. I fidgeted with a few different outcomes, mostly trying to make all parties happy... couldn't do it. Best I could come up with was to ship Cousins to Charlotte (Jordan would surely have his respect... surely) in return for production at the 3 in the way of Corey Maggette. Yeah... I think the Kings could do better. As a Suns fan, I wouldn't mind swapping one hot-headed, glass-door-smashing defensive big man for a hot-headed, near-Pau Gasol-punching offensive big man. But then, I think of Eddy Curry and figure I'd rather hold onto Lopez and have a crack at Cousins in RFA if he's got his shit together.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. Don't expect Cousins to get traded any time soon, but don't expect him to grow up either. DMC wants to run, and he'll probably end up offended by the fact nobody actually wants to trade for him. Another chip on the shoulder, just what he needs. This surely won't be the last we hear of DeMarcus Cousins.