Happy Easter! NBA Playoffs are starting

Welcome back NBA fans! It is time for the player report card for the second third point of the season using my proprietary grading system. The following list is the ranking of the top 25 players for the 2016-2017 season.

  1. Russell Westbrook – +25.43
  2. James Harden – +25.14
  3. LeBron James – +23.40
  4. Chris Paul – +22.98
  5. John Wall – +21.62
  6. Kevin Durant – +21.21
  7. Jimmy Butler – +20.71
  8. Giannis Antetokounmpo – +20.63
  9. Draymond Green – +19.43
  10. Ricky Rubio – +19.17
  11. Anthony Davis – +19.04
  12. Nicola Jokic – +18.34
  13. Jeff Teague – +17.63
  14. Karl Anthony Towns – +17.13
  15. Rudy Gobert – +16.64
  16. DeAndre Jordan – +16.44
  17. Blake Griffin – +16.38
  18. Kawhi Leonard – +16.29
  19. Kyle Lowry – +16.13
  20. DeMarcus Cousins – +16.12
  21. Stephen Curry – +15.67
  22. Mike Conley – +15.29
  23. Damian Lillard – +14.97
  24. Hassan Whiteside – +14.89
  25. Nicolas Batum – +14.42                                                                                                                                             Russell Westbrook put it into another gear in the last third of the season to end up as the NBA Maven Player of the Year. James Harden is next with LeBron James finishing the season strong and moving into third place. Chris Paul is fourth after LeBron. The rest of the top ten are with John Wall at the five spot followed by Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Draymond Green and surprise Ricky Rubio rounding out the top ten. The remaining 15 places in the top 25 had quite a bit of movement with Nicola Jokic rising up to 12th and Karl Anthony Towns moving up the list where KAT sits at 14th on the list at the end of the season.

     

    At the end of the season it is becoming clear that the following teams are the only real contenders for the NBA title this year: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Washington Wizards. The Cavs have added Deron Williams to help but they still will need Kevin Love in full form to get to the finals and repeat. The Wizards will challenge the Cavs this year as they are now playing very good basketball under their coach Scott Brooks. John Wall is playing at a high level and the Wizards are going to be a tough out for anybody. The Milwaukee Bucks may pull off a first round upset with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing at an All-Pro level this year. But that being said if the Warriors can stay healthy and keep Draymond Green in the game they will likely win it all this year. Too much talent, it is as simple as that.

Until the next blog post you can follow me on Twitter @NBAMaven1. I appreciate any and all feedback!

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The Cavs Go for Two in a Row

Welcome back NBA fans! It is time for the player report card for the first third point of the season using my proprietary grading system. The following list is the ranking of the top 25 players for the first third of the season.

  1. James Harden – +25.82
  2. Russell Westbrook – +24.71
  3. Chris Paul – +24.14
  4. LeBron James – +22.57
  5. Draymond Green – +21.74
  6. Kevin Durant – +21.54
  7. Giannis Antetokounmpo- +21.08
  8. John Wall – +20,.20
  9. Anthony Davis – +19.78
  10. Jimmy Butler – +19.19
  11. Jeff Teague – +16.66
  12. Kyle Lowry – +16.30
  13. Blake Griffin – +16.15
  14. Kawhi Leonard – +15.92
  15. Damian Lillard – +15.66
  16. Rudy Gobert- +14.83
  17. Stephen Curry – +14.97
  18. Ricky Rubio – +14.59
  19. DeMar DeRozan – +14.59
  20. Kevin Love – +14.33
  21. Rajon Rondo – +14.30
  22. Hassan Whiteside – +14.21
  23. Tim Frazier – +13.96
  24. Mike Conley – +13.89
  25. Paul Millsap – +13.84

 

I am sure there will be people that think how can James Harden be grading higher than Russell Westbrook with Westbrook having all those triple doubles. Both of these players play a style of basketball that I am a big proponent of and that is take the ball to the basket and score when the clock is stopped. Harden just does it a little better because he makes fewer turnovers and makes more free throws. Both of these players are pretty much doing it all on their own for their respective teams. It will be interesting to see how well they hold up over the course of the season. Last night Harden became the first NBA player to have a triple double of a minimum of 50 points, 15 rebounds and 15 assists. He also tied Wilt Chamberlain’s record for most points scored by a NBA player with a triple double by scoring 53 points. Once again the late great Wilt Chamberlain is still mentioned in the record books. This record of Wilt’s is about 50 years old so Harden had a magnificent game. Any time your name is alongside Wilt’s in the record books you can be sure that it was a once in a lifetime performance.

There are some new additions to this list from the end of season ranking I listed in my previous blog. The two most interesting names on my list are Jeff Teague and Tim Frazier. Jeff Teague appears to really like playing at Indiana as he is playing at a higher level this year so far. Tim Frazier is taking advantage of his playing time due to Jrue Halliday’s injury and showing that he is a very capable point guard in the league. DeMar DeRozan is also a new addition and he is playing very well so far this year. He and Kyle Lowry have some people talking about the Raptors being a title contender. Another notable addition to the list is Rudy Gobert. The big Frenchman has the Jazz playing very good basketball. A couple of notable players dropping out of the rankings are Pau Gasol and Greg Monroe. Pau Gasol signed with the Spurs and has a lesser role with the Spurs than he had with the bulls and his numbers are reflecting that. Greg Monroe is player that made the list for the first third of last season. He looked like he would be a significant contributor for the Milwaukee Bucks but for some reason Jason Kidd has him sitting on the bench. I question that move by Kidd. Monroe should get more playing time. As long as I am talking about the Bucks I recall discussing Giannis Antetokounmpo in my end of season blog last spring and he is improving his game in a big way. He looks like the next big superstar in the NBA!

At the third point of the season it is becoming clear that the following teams are the only real contenders for the NBA title this year: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Toronto Raptors. I believe Cleveland will repeat as champions. LeBron James is still the best player in the game and now that Kevin Love is fully integrated into the Cavs offense along with Kyrie Irving playing at a high level I don’t believe that they can be beat. At the minimum it looks like a 7th Finals appearance for LeBron will happen this summer. I am not discounting Golden State but I don’t think they will be able to get it done against Cleveland at least this year yet. Future years look bright for this team with the addition of Kevin Durant.My next player report card will be posted at the two thirds point of the season which will coincide with the NBA All Star Game break period. Until the next blog post you can follow me on Twitter @NBAMaven1. I appreciate any and all feedback!

One for the Land

First of all, congratulations to the Cleveland Cavaliers on winning the NBA title. Secondly, I am going to have to eat crow regarding my prediction of Golden State winning it all. I underestimated the will of LeBron James. I have never underestimated his ability but I didn’t think he would be able to do it with the Cavs. However, Kyrie Irving stepped up his game just in time so LeBron wasn’t playing alone. Once again LeBron proved to everyone that he is THE DAWG of the NBA. I believe there is no doubt anymore that he is the best basketball player on the planet. Steph Curry had another excellent year but as I tweeted earlier I didn’t think he was the real MVP of the league and definitely not a unanimous choice for MVP. I believed LeBron was the MVP based on the fact that Cleveland without LeBron doesn’t even make the playoffs much less win the title, whereas Golden State with Steph is still a playoff team. I felt that Draymond Green was the MVP of the Warriors based on the fact that his suspension for game 5 in the Finals was what allowed the Cavs to win it all. Regarding Steph Curry’s unanimous MVP selection I believe the MVP award from the league writers is a vanity show and not really indicative of who is the real MVP. Look at it this way, Wilt Chamberlain, in 1961-1962 playing for the Philadelphia Warriors, averaged 50.4 points and 25.7 rebounds a game and was not voted the league MVP, so I look at a lot of these awards as popularity contests and not real accurate evaluations of players’ talents and contributions to their respective teams. Even if you happen to agree with Steph being voted MVP you would still expect some votes going to LeBron and other players like Russell Westbrook, who had an outstanding year. In fact if Westbrook wouldn’t have deferred to Kevin Durant at the end of game six in their playoff series with Golden State, Oklahoma City would have been in the Finals and not the Warriors. Westbrook should have taken over at the end of the game instead of Durant, who turned over the ball several times at the end of the game allowing the Warriors to overcome them. It wouldn’t have mattered who represented the Western Conference anyway because LeBron was on a mission to win one for the Land and that he did. Kudos to LeBron and maybe the brothers in the barbershops across the country will stop calling him LaWanda, because #LeBronJames aka THE DAWG, is all the way up and his opponents couldn’t keep up.

Looking forward to next year there are some interesting discussions regarding the top free agents, LeBron and Kevin Durant, going on in cities like Miami, New York, Washington and Oakland. Word out of Miami is that don’t be surprised if LeBron opts out to return to play with his buddy DWade and possibly win a couple more titles with him. New York, Washington and Oakland are talking a lot about Kevin Durant. He would make each of them much better, possibly unstoppable and OKC would not be a contender anymore. He was recently offered a government cabinet position by the Governor of Oklahoma. He might stay in OKC after all. We shall see. The player I think that is going to be on the rise next year is Giannis Antetokounmpo. He has tremendous physical attributes and improved his play in the last third of the season this past year and I expect him to continue to do so. My hometown team the Timberwolves drafted Kris Dunn from Providence. He is a defensive stopper and should fit into Coach Thibs system of playing. Tyus Jones does not appear to be big enough or good enough defensive player to be interested  the league much longer. Dunn gives the TWolves some insurance in case Ricky Rubio gets hurt, which has happened all too often in Ricky’s career. The Timberwolves look like they are getting all the pieces of the puzzle together but they need to retire Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince as they are done. It will be interesting to see how they will play with Thibodeau running things now. They have all the talent to be a future contender but we will have to wait and see. As far as the Olympic Games are concerned the USA should easily win the gold. Maybe France or Lithuania could cause some problems but that is about it. Spain would have been my choice to challenge the USA, and they will still be a force, but without Marc Gasol they will be playing at a disadvantage.
Until the next blog post you can follow me on Twitter at @NBAMaven1. I appreciate any and all feedaback!

Warriors Record Year

Welcome back NBA fans! It is time for the player report card for the end of the season, using my proprietary grading system. The following list is the ranking of the top 25 players for the season.

 

  1. Russell Westbrook – +24.76
  2. Chris Paul – +23.05
  3. Rajon Rondo – +22.58
  4. Draymond Green – +20.62
  5. LeBron James – +19.66
  6. John Wall – +19.56
  7. Ricky Rubio – +19.17
  8. Stephen Curry – +18.86
  9. Kevin Durant – +18.17
  10. James Harden – +18.08
  11. Pau Gasol – +17.26
  12. Jimmy Butler – +16.34
  13. DeAndre Jordan – +15.79
  14. Anthony Davis – +15.67
  15. Kawhi Leonard – +15.43
  16. Kyle Lowry – +15.25
  17. Paul Millsap – +15.09
  18. Kemba Walker – +14.42
  19. Hassan Whiteside – +14.36
  20. Giannis Antetokounmpo – +14.06
  21. DeMarcus Cousins – +13.75
  22. Karl Anthony Towns – +13.29
  23. Al Horford – +13.28
  24. Greg Monroe – +13.05
  25. Damian Lillard – +12.81

 

First of all, congratulations to the Golden State Warriors on their outstanding record breaking regular season they just finished! They are everyone’s favorite to win it all this year, but they won’t go unchallenged in their quest to repeat as champions. It will be a very interesting postseason tournament this year. I can’t wait to see how it plays out. There are some new additions to this list from the second third of the season ranking I listed in my previous blog. Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are hurt and won’t play enough games to be included in the rankings for the season. Zaza Pachulia fell off the top 25 list while Giannis Antetokounmpo went from being an average +10.06 to a +14.06 in the last third of the season to make it onto the top 25 list for the year. An amazing improvement achieved over a short period of time. ESPN the Magazine did an article about him in their analytics issue a couple of months ago regarding his unique physical attributes. Giannis Antetokounmpo is looking like he will be the next young superstar to emerge on the NBA scene. Draymond Green and Stephen Curry just seem to get better as the year goes on. Draymond Green has elevated his game to such a level that he is playing in another zone right now. He is my most improved player of the year. Stephen Curry looks like he could repeat as MVP this year. As I stated previously if the Warriors stay healthy they are going to win it all. Ricky Rubio, from my hometown Minnesota Timberwolves, showed how good a player he can be when he is healthy. Karl Anthony Towns should be the consensus Rookie of the Year for the NBA and he just kept improving his game as the year went on.

 

Congrats to my hometown Minnesota Timberwolves for signing Tom Thibodeau as their next head coach and head of basketball operations. Finally it appears the organization is going to have a professional operation instead of one that always appeared to be running an unprofessional form of patronage. From the beginning with son-in-law Bob Stein to Kevin McHale to David Khan to Flip Saunders loading up their coaching staff and front office with their children and their yes men it has not been pretty as they have not been to the playoffs for 12 years. Let’s hope Thibodeau hires the right coaching staff to help develop the tremendous young talent this team has right now.

 

At the end of the season it is becoming clear that the following teams are the only real contenders for the NBA title this year: Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Atlanta Hawks. As I stated previously Golden State will repeat as champions if Draymond Green keeps playing at the level he has been playing at and if the Warriors can keep Stephen Curry healthy and not get hit with injuries to their key players. If Golden State gets hit by the injury bug, I see the San Antonio Spurs going up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA finals with San Antonio winning in seven games. As much as I like and respect LeBron James I have to pick the San Antonio Spurs to win the title because of their coach. Greg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA and he will be the difference in the finals. The darkhorse contenders that could rise up and surprise everybody and win the title are the Atlanta Hawks and the Los Angeles Clippers. The Hawks have a very good coach and play well as a team and unlike most NBA teams they actually run plays instead of being stuck in the pick and roll offense that has infected the NBA over the past 15-20 years. The Clippers’ Chris Paul has elevated his game in the last third of the season and now that Blake Griffin is back the Clippers could surprise everybody and win it all.

 

Finally I would like to pay tribute to a couple of giants of the game, Red Auerbach and Sid Hartman. These two gentlemen were the architects of the first two dynasties in the NBA. Sid Hartman was the architect of the first NBA dynasty with the Minneapolis Laker in the 1950’s before they moved to Los Angeles. Red Auerbach, as everyone knows, was the genius behind the Boston Celtics dynasty of the late 1950’s and 1960’s. The Celtics won 11 titles in 13 years with Red coaching them for 10 of the titles and Bill Russell as the player/coach, for the last title in their title run, in 1969. From the beginning of their title run with players like Bill Russell, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek in the 1960’s, to John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and Charlie Scott in the 1970’s to Larry Bird, Robert Parrish and Kevin McHale in the 1980’s; Red Auerbach displayed an uncanny knack for identifying talent and developing that talent into champions. He didn’t coach the team after the 1960’s but he built this franchise into one of the greatest dynasties in the history of sport!

 

Until the next blog post you can follow me on Twitter at @NBAMaven1 during the playoffs. I will be live tweeting during games so look for my tweets during the playoffs. I appreciate any and all feedback!

All Star Analysis

Welcome NBA fans! A few years ago I was visiting a friend in Washington, DC and we talked about the state of the NBA. It was my friend’s contention, and mine as well, that there are only about 15 to 20 players in the NBA worth paying to see. So I decided to start grading the top players in the NBA with my grading system. The goal of my blog is to educate and inform NBA fans so that they may better appreciate and understand the league and its top players. At times it may appear that I’m preaching to hate but all I’m trying to do is set the record straight.

In the NBA there are basically four types of players. They are as follows:
Playmakers – players like Chris Paul, Tony Parker, Ricky Rubio, etc.
Scorers/shooters – players like Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, James Harden, Klay Thompson, etc.
Workers – Joachim Noah, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Davis, etc.
Non producers – ie.practice fodder, roster fillins, retreads, etc.

There are also players that don’t necessarily fit into one category. Most notably LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

My grading system tends to favor the playmakers but can also help identify the workers. Scorers/shooters do not generally grade out as high in my grading system but are needed to have a championship team. NBA championship teams almost always have had at least one player who can create his own shot and score off the dribble consistently. The following is a list of the top 25 players in the league last year based on my grading system. The numbers next to their names are per game averages.

  1. Chris Paul – +24.71
  2. Anthony Davis – +20.88
  3. Russell Westbrook – +20.51
  4. John Wall – +20.08
  5. Stephen Curry – +18.87
  6. James Harden – +18.83
  7. LeBron James – +17.40
  8. Pau Gasol – +16.47
  9. DeAndre Jordan – +16.44
  10. Blake Griffin – +15.81
  11. Demarcus Cousins – +15.80
  12. Jimmy Butler – +15.55
  13. Jeff Teague – +15.12
  14. Tim Duncan – +15.00
  15. Marc Gasol – +14.83
  16. Joachim Noah – +14.62
  17. Kawhi Leonard – +14.47
  18. Al Horford – +14.36
  19. Rajon Rondo – +13.94
  20. Damian Lillard – +13.76
  21. Kyle Lowry – +13.76
  22. Erik Bledsoe – +13.70
  23. LaMarcus Aldridge – +13.19
  24. Paul Millsap – +12.88
  25. Kyrie Irving – +12.36

Based on my grading system the top player in the league last year was Chris Paul. But as I stated previously in this article my system is biased towards playmakers. A person could argue that Anthony Davis was really the top player in the league last year. Chris Paul controls the ball the majority of the time for the Clippers and therefore his grading is just going to be higher because he gets so many assists per game while making few turnovers per game. Anthony Davis on the other hand is the prototypical worker type that I mentioned earlier. He is doing work all over the basketball court, he scores, rebounds, block shots and make steals. These two players along with Russell Westbrook and John Wall had great seasons last year. That being said it is still my belief that LeBron James is still the best player in the league. LeBron James has been to the NBA finals six times, winning two titles, while being coached by below average coaches. Had LeBron James been coached by someone like Phil Jackson or Pat Riley he would probably have 10 championship rings by now. He would’ve probably had his third ring last year had Kylie Irving and Kevin Love stayed healthy through the playoffs.

I will be putting together a list of the top 25 players for the first third of the season during Christmas break. My next blog will list these players. Stay tuned!

The following list is my All Time NBA 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams. Before I list the players for my All Time NBA 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams I would like to clarify one thing. I hear the talking heads on TV talk about Michael Jordan as being the greatest player ever. I wholeheartedly disagree. Based on my 55+ years of watching the NBA, Wilt Chamberlain is the best player to have ever played in the league. There was never anybody like him before him and there has never been anybody like him since he retired. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal are the closest to being as dominant as Wilt Chamberlain was. LeBron James is the closest to being like Wilt in regards to freakish athleticism. I hope that before I die I will get to see another player like Wilt Chamberlain. Here is my list of the All Time NBA 1st, 2nd and 3rd teams. Please be advised I have picked six players per team as the sixth man has always been an integral part of championship squads.

1st Team
Wilt Chamberlain
Bill Russell
Julius Erving
LeBron James
Magic Johnson
Oscar Robertson

2nd Team
Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Michael Jordan
Kobe Bryant
John Stockton
Karl Malone
Jerry West

3rd Team
Shaquille O’Neal
Tim Duncan
Nate Thurmond
Larry Bird
John Havlicek
Tiny Archibauld

I am sure that there will be a lot of people who disagree with my choice of players for these teams.

On a closing note I would like to engage in some critical analysis of my hometown team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Minnesota Timberwolves organization has been and continues to be a total sorry mess. This organization needs a complete and total overhaul. It needs new ownership, new management and in the near term a new coaching staff.

The Timberwolves finally have some talent but lack good coaching. Ricky Rubio is the perfect example of why the Timberwolves need a new coaching staff. He is going into his 5th year with the team and still can’t shoot for a damn. He could become an elite player if the coaches would help him develop a consistent mid-range jump shot. He is playing very well so far but could be even better if he had a consistent mid-range jump shot. The Timberwolves would win more games and possibly be a solid playoff team if Ricky Rubio shot the ball better. Gorgui Dieng is another example of a player that is not utilized properly by the coaching staff. He graded out last year at +12.04 on my grading system. He is also the prototypical worker type I mentioned earlier. The Timberwolves coaching staff run very few sets for him and he basically just goes out and does work every night. In his rookie season after Nicola Peckovic got hurt, he had 3 or 4 twenty point and twenty rebound games. That is because the coach at the time, Rick Adelman, ran sets for him and let him do his work. I sure wish Adelman was still the coach. In regards to Kevin Garnett and Tayshaun Prince, the Timberwolves should have Garnett retire immediately and bury Prince on the bench. Tayshaun Prince should be called the invisible man because in most games he’s invisible. Garnett should retire so he is not a cripple in a wheelchair in 5 to 10 years or sooner. The Timberwolves should give up on the experiment with Zach Levine as point guard, he is a shooting guard and should be starting and playing alongside Ricky Rubio with the first team. Maybe the Wolves should give Tyus Jones a chance as the back-up point guard. He certainly does not lack any confidence in his abilities although I believe he is too little to be an impact player in the NBA. But the Wolves might as well find out sooner rather than later about this kid. It might help sell tickets being that Tyus Jones is a local kid. Adrian Payne should have his name changed to Adrian Painful because he is painful to watch. Who are the Timberwolves scouts that find these guys? It doesn’t appear to me that they are earning their money.

The young players such as Karl Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins remind me of a young Walt Bellamy and a young Bob Dandridge. Shabazz Muhammed should get all of Tayshaun Prince’s minutes as he is another worker who could make them a better team. I would like to see the Timberwolves hire Scott Brooks as their next coach. He got a bad deal in Oklahoma City. I think he could make the Timberwolves into a contender. The most recent news regarding the Timberwolves is that the owner Glenn Taylor is selling 30% of the team. I hope he changes his mind and decides to sell 100% of the team.