Do the Dallas Mavs have high expectations

Many people believe the Dallas Mavericks are one of the “new hopes” of the NBA. But, they still have to prove they can play atop the Western Conference with the big boys – and they have to prove they can go and take it – by not letting LA run roughshod. I think we can all agree the Mavericks are getting better and, perhaps, can win the NBA championship – of course it is possible for Luka and company.

They are currently tied up at 2 games apiece in the playoffs.
What should we expect, and what could we expect?
They have a solid combination of scorers who can pound teams quickly, before opposing defenses are completely set up, Dallas is sitting at 3rd in the NBA at 116 ppg. They have a very efficient style that is a lot of fun to watch.

It’s scary to think about how nasty the Mavs can be, if all on the same page. Especially as Luka Doncic is still just 21 years old – and I don’t think he has come close to moving into his prime yet, he is only getting better. His numbers have been remarkably dynamic over the last 2 seasons, so it’s hard to imagine he is just going to fade away anytime soon. The rock will be in his hands, a lot – and good things always happen, when that happens. I fully expect Luka to be the impressive offensive player he always has been.

Doncic led the Dallas Mavericks in scoring in last seasons journey with 21ppg, as well as assists per game at 6.0 – but they finished at just 33-49. Which was rough, they had been a steady 50-55 win team since 2000 – with 12 seasons winning 50 or more games since then, but recently had started to slip. Luka is and always will be a very tough cover, his shooting and skills on the court are without question, the soul of this team.
Kristaps Porzingis – the deadly PF – still needs to improve his post up game down low, in my opinion. This will put him even that much tougher to defend, with his size and shooting skills – but it would also put Porzingis in a better position to use his 7-3 length and get more rebounds.
His 9.5 rpg is solid, but could be a 12-13/game player.
Another area that he can improve in, is his passing – he plays it safe, always looking to just making the safe play – he doesnt punch when in the corner. I don’t want risky – but someone who fights back with a couple haymakers when shoved in the corner. Porzingis rarely takes any risks with his passing, he seems to be preoccupied with making the “right” decision. The 7-3 Latvian rarely drives and kicks out – I would expect that to keep improving with Luka and Hardaway lurking around the arc, knocking it down from downtown.
But, overall, Porzingis has been stellar over his 4 year career. He has really shown what he can do in Dallas – and he is showing it off, and has had 3+ turnovers in a game only 9 times this season – but has also had 3+ assists in just 15 games this season as well.
One of the biggest questions for the Mavs will be – is Tim Hardaway getting around the 15 shots/game that he was getting over the last 2 seasons timeframe. Something is going to have to give being that he is surrounded by so many other scoring options in Dallas, and there are more important things to do for the team. His scoring ability is underrated – but they have some big time players just like VegasTopDogs has big time handicapping experts.
This season, he has been getting up an average of 12.6 shots /game, and when he is putting up 16 or more shots /game – the Mavs have not been winning – his ball movement is more important to their winning ways. When Tim gets 16 shots up, the Mavs are just 5-9, when he gets 4+ assists the Mavs are 9-4.
The most interesting member of Dallas will likely be the veteran Hardaway – with Luka and Porzingis as far bigger scoring options. The 27 year old SG was dropped into the scoring option 3 spot for this team – as his numbers had been trending upward over the 2016-2018 seasons, going from 14 to 18ppg since 2016. But with Doncic scoring at a 29ppg clip, and Porzingis getting his 19 /game – Tim getting his scoring chances can be inconsistent.
The Dallas Mavericks have made the end of the season, and the upcoming NBA playoffs very exciting. Regardless of whether the Mavericks win it all during this weird NBA season, they have a fun talented team to watch – and there are even better days ahead in Dallas – without question. If they dont prevail in the playoffs vs the Clippers or Lakers – it’s perfectly understandable. As fun and exciting as Dallas look on paper, it takes a lot to win it all – many forget that many great teams have been beaten in the NBA playoffs with even better teams. If the Mavs lose, you can’t pin it on Luka or Porzingis – but if the Mavericks win it all – it would be pretty amazing.

Why the Los Angeles Clippers are going to win the NBA Championship

The LA Clippers are entering the playoffs as the #2 seed in the West. They made a magnificent splash with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George and then when you look at their overall talent, they have a really solid contender on their court. This is a team that is hungry. Since 1980, they have had 23 seasons with a 40% or less winning percentage, they have been the joke to their big brother in LA. But, now, they believe they can win a championship with Leonard and George leading the team. Their offense has been daunting, at 4th in the league, and their defense is better than most teams. Let’s look at why they will win it this season.

All teams shoot to get their dangerous combination on the court – but there always seems to be a combination that just works.
Enter Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

When in form and in full health, Paul George is a top 10 player and a sure winner.
I firmly believe that.
George has been banged up in his past – but he has emerged as a better player than he ever was. He lost everything but 6 games during his 2014 season, then bounced back in 2015 with 23ppg, then in 2018 he averaged 28 ppg and led the NBA at 2.2 steals /game. He has shown astonishing resilience and determination. Then in this last off-season George was grabbed by the Clips, as art of their hard push. George is an excellent creator with the ball in his hands, and is unafraid to put the ball on the floor and take it to the rack. He can create buckets whether attacking the rim, or kicking out to one of their veteran guards, to drop a trey.

George has great confidence in his game, has shown awesome touch from behind the arc, is a deft passer and can clean the glass, on both the defensive and on the offensive side. He is also making threes at just about a 41% clip which is more than enough to keep a defense honest.

No one sees Kawhi Leonard coming. He just quietly shows up and then so many games later, he is either winning MVP’s, or winning championships. Leonard is one of the top 3 players in the NBA right now, hands down. He had a sensational finals against the Warriors last season, when they were supposed to be wrecked, by loading up 28.5ppg and 9.8rpg. He has shown he can walk onto a good team and instantly make it a championship team.

The 6-7 SF has grown, before our eyes, especially over the last 2 seasons, after his San Antonio debacle- into a good shooter, a fierce defender and a smart player who can lead a team. No one seems to pay attention, until you look at the scoreboard and see you’re losing and he has quietly put up 25 and 10. He doesn’t force the game, and is sneaky good. The 28 year old superstar has the absolute heart to lead this team to a title. The Klaw and PG13 feed off of each other and are as dangerous a duo as anyone in the game.

Having major superstars Leonard and George along with a stellar bench is enormous. The Clippers have a great group of bench players that can all hang some quick buckets, and provide excellent relief for the starters. Montrezl Harrell is averaging 18.6ppg off the bench, while Lou Williams is averaging 18.5ppg and 5.7apg off the bench. These guys alone, would likely start on almost every other team in the league.

Williams is a sharpshooting backup SG who has been hitting 36% from deep during the regular season, in 29 minutes per game during his 2019 season. Harrell is one of the best reserve bigs in the league, he is more than a handful and super efficient – as long as he is healthy. They have a huge offensive advantage when they get the production they get from off the bench, they can legitimately go 10 men deep every single night without losing much productivity. Going deep into their rotation and keeping a serviceable player on the court at all times, is huge. And they have that option.

So many have swooned and cheered over the “other LA team” but I don’t think anyone should forget the Clippers, the “cousin Oliver” to the Lakers team. The Lakers made some huge headlines over last off-season with the moves they made – but I still think I trust the Clippers offense more than the Lakers right now.

A winning mindset is needed to have to compete for a title, and the Clippers have that, along with other right pieces in place. The Clippers have a sweet roster, they have a top coach, and they have an impressive bench that can swing things. They have a good case as to why they will win it all this season. I feel that if they can stay healthy – then they have the ability to win it all.

Cavaliers vs. Celtics – It’s a long Series!

LeBron James is LeBron James and there is very little more that can be said about his play in this year’s playoffs and his career as a whole. The man is going for his eighth consecutive NBA Finals appearance and that on its face is a remarkable accomplishment. Of course the argument can be made about the “watered down, Eastern Conference, the “lack of talent” the “mediocre play” and on and on it goes. Maybe these arguments have merit, who knows and honestly, who cares? Lebron is the best player in the NBA at this time and where he fits on the “all-time greatest” list, remains to be seen. He may not be better than Mike right now but let’s face it, he’s giving Mike a run for his money.

 

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Having said all of that… LeBron took a beat down on Sunday at the hands of the Boston Celtics and it wasn’t a gentle beating, it was a boxing match and LeBron forgot to bring his gloves! Where was he? He forgot to show up. Can LeBron make us all look stupid on Tuesday night in game two? Absolutely he can and he just might, however, he must get serious, this Celtics team is not the Celtics team of a few years ago or even last season. This team is for real and they showed their toughness against the Philadelphia 76ers.

 

The bookies are adjusting their numbers as we speak, a final score of 108-83 is not what anybody had predicted and certainly not what bookmakers from Vegas or what the offshore guys were thinking. We all knew the Celtics were good and we all know they have found their niche and its defense, but who knew that they were this good? Are they really this good, or was this a one game fluke and game two will tell a completely different story?

 

Surprisingly, the Celtics and the Cav’s only faced each other three times in the regular season and Cleveland won two of the three. The regular season is so entirely different than the postseason that it’s nearly impossible to take anything away from the meetings. What we have now is what we saw in the previous playoff matchups in rounds one and two.

 

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The Cavaliers have a great response record; when they get down, they get back up and they usually do it in a big way. However, it is safe to say that nobody expected the Celtics to pound the Cav’s by 25 points. This was an embarrassing loss and it was doubly embarrassing to LeBron James. 15 points is weak, James didn’t show up for this game and he let his team down. Don’t count on this to happen twice!

 

10 Star – Warriors looking Like Same Old Warriors – Fearless Unbeatable

 

Follow the numbers, follow the lines and odds. This one is interesting for sure. The more interesting number is the series itself. There are 6 possible games left and you can bet that LeBron won’t be absent again. But don’t think for one second that the Celtics are intimidated, they most certainly are not and they will be prepared for a firestorm from the Cavaliers and LeBron James.

 

Brad Stevens may be the most prepared coach in this postseason. He plays the x’s and o’s to perfection and he gets the most out of his grinders. He will be prepared but not over prepared for Lebron. Stevens is too smart to over adjust to LeBron James.

 

The Celtics most likely come away with a game two win, it will be close and could be a dogfight to the finish but it probably goes the way of the cloverleaf. This will be a big hole for LeBron to crawl out of but if there is anybody that can find a way, it will be LeBron.

This offseason for Kevin Durant could be Thunderous

kevin-durant-may-leave-Nike-for-Under-Amour-30-mill-a-year-offer

The 7 time All-Star, Kevin Durant is going to be a highly sought after free agent this off season when the NBA Playoffs are completed. He made a little under 90 million during his time in Oklahoma City, while scoring 17,000+ points and snagging 4500+ rebounds in his 9 year career. He will also be garnishing a ton of expected attention from many other teams looking for the “final piece”, or “the big draw” to their teams to help them in their quest to become a world champion.

The “Durantula” has been nothing short of outstanding in his excellent career, doing everything he could do in his power to get his team to the next level, including getting them to the NBA Finals in 2011-2012. Where he was outstanding, but attention was drawn away from their truest star, by their shooting PG, Russell Westbrook. He was getting 4 less shots/game compared to his “point guard,” who Durant was shooting much better than, at 54-41%. And Westbrook, at times, took over considerably, with seemingly his own game plan entirely at times. Maybe a change would be in the best interest for Durant, at this point in his career, for the upcoming talented free agent.

Some teams that I feel would be definite landing pads for Durant to have a strong chance at going to in the summer are the Pelicans, the Celtics, the Raptors, or even the Clippers. I am going to break down the team I think would be the best fits for him to go to.

The Raptors should make a heavy push to get Durant. They already have some excellent players in DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry and big boy rebounder, Jonas Valanciunas. If they were able to make a move ad get Durant, that could be an insane grab. They have some flexibility and could trade a producing veteran, like DeMarre Carroll or talented youngster, Terrence Ross and even a 1st rounder to get him. I also think they have a very real shot at doing such.

This last year has shown me that the Raptors have finally found a real identity and are going to be a contender for years to come. The East, on the whole, is a weaker conference, and the Raptors can make a very real run for the tittle, with a serous move like that.

Another team, I think would be a great fit would be the Boston Celtics. They would already have a fantastic supporting cast that would accommodate his style of play, and he’d at last have a good coach in Brad Stevens. If the C’s could land him, they would be the “Beast of the East” for several years down the road, that is a guarantee.

They have the complete package for him to join. They have a backcourt with Isaiah Thomas and Avery Bradley, both who can score and both are not afraid to give up the ball when they are instructed to do so. They have a lock down defending guard, as well in Bradley, and an underrated shooter, and defender, in Jae Crowder. By adding Durant they get the explosive “superstar” that has the very real capabilities to drop 40-45 on any hot night. And on top of that, Boston has the cap space to make the moves necessary with over 50 million to spend. As well as they have a talented bench which is possibly one of the best in the NBA. If there is a Coach who can satisfy the needs of a Durant, Stevens is just that.

Cleveland is currently the only real contender in the Eastern Conference. They have packaged the team to beat across the board, for now, to make other teams very concerned when they come to their doorstep. They have beaten the Celtics, and the Raptors, 8-5 combined in their last 2 seasons’ matchups. With LeBron James, Kyrie and KLove they have a power squad every night. This is a pretty common agreement amongst the majority of fans. KD to Boston would definitely put them over the top. And Coach Stevens would coach circles around Tyronn Lue.

Beyond it simply being a great fit, system wise, the history in Boston is very rich and the fan support is top notch. He could ask legends, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen, when they went to Beantown. Durant could really build himself a mighty legacy and become immortalized as a Boston legend, to stand next to the other greats.

Things to consider, if Durant goes to a team, like the Clippers, I question if everyone will jump on him for it, just like they did with Lebron and when he went to the Heat. Taking off to a team that is already very good ( a top 2 finish in their division every year since 2011-2012 and 5 straight playoff appearance in the last 5 seasons )and make them just that much better, is often frowned upon in any sport, basketball in particular. Because it has been happening so much lately. Basketball is dictated by the players now, not by the teams themselves. It’s unfortunate, the times have changed. Loyalty to a team is only and oftentimes only as loyal as the dollar they put in your pocket, or the players you can join up with. Players in this generation simply don’t have the killer instinct to stick with a team, through thick and thin, defeating everyone in their path anymore, we have “witnessed it” before.

And it wold be essentially the same exact thing that LeBron did. Just that Durant would be leaving a much better supporting cast in Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. LeBron was dragged through the mud for leaving a team with Sebastian Telfair, Delonte West and Anthony Parker, and still got them through 5 Eastern conference semis, 2 Eastern conference finals, and a Championship game while carrying that well below average team, on his shoulders. So I really hope if he goes to a power contender, that his name is brought up in the same path as LeBron. Otherwise, it is bluntly biased and uncalled for.

Although, I feel the main reason LeBron has been hated so much for going to Miami, was the way he approached it. The outlandish TV special was just beyond ridiculous. Not condoning the idiocy of it, but I am sure if he had the chance to get a “do over” he would do it very differently. I think he was a young guy, with bad advice and counsel, and he has apologized for the renowned debacle numerous times.

Wherever Durant decides to go, if he leaves, he will make them for the better. I am hoping he goes to a team that is on the brink, like the Celtics, a place where he is gong to bring them to the next step. If the C’s could lure him to Boston they will win another NBA Championship, and could build another dynasty for the next 5+ years. Rumors also have the NY Knicks and Miami Heat very interested.

Written by Tony Karpinski of VegasTopDogs.com

NBA Title Contenders

Golden-State-Warriors

With Lebron James coming off a career night on Sunday finishing with 37 points, 18 rebounds and 13 assist, not to mention a quite 3 steals for the King.   Sunday’s game was another example of a Cavalier stepping up with a big performance to edge the Hawks in another close game. For some reason the books have the betting public fooled with a big favorite in Cleveland giving up 8 points at home in Tuesday’s game. Based on the Hawks being a smaller market team in comparison to the Lakers, Knicks and Nets, the public quickly shifts opinion and has a short memory when it comes to Atlanta being the number 1 seed in the East, and easily showing better chemistry throughout the season as a close second to the Golden State Warriors, this elimination matchup should have a line closer to a +3 for the Hawks. During Sunday’s game playing without Kyle Korver a 49% three point shooter for the year, and Al Horford being wrongfully ejected in the 2nd quarter the Atlanta Hawks managed to stay in the game and holding a lead with a minute left in regulation and overtime.

There is no way a better team and number 1 seeded NBA team should be getting 8 points in an elimination game. It’s clear that the Cleveland Cavaliers are simply having good fortune in continuous breaks as the opposition battles injury and controversy. I do not expect Lebron’s Cavaliers to have the same fortune in the NBA Finals against a very deep and balanced Golden State Warriors team. On Tuesday Night look for the Hawks to easily cover and push Cleveland to a game 5 back in Atlanta on Thursday and also go hard on the Warriors to take the NBA Title.

Written by Bill Obrien of VegasTopDogs.com

Would the NBA be a better product if young players were forced to play longer in college

San Antonio Spurs

In a day and age where players options have become so open it gives them all so many choices on what to do. From even going to college, to whether or not they are staying long term, or jumping straight from high school. Should players be able to make their own choices? Of course they should be able to. It doesn’t make any logical sense to say they shouldn’t be able to do as such. Everyone can choose their own path in life.

But, as always, it seems to always come down to making the almighty dollar. And now in a world of the one and done rule in college to turn pro earlier, it is even more ridiculously obvious. Does one seriously think that, that 1 little year in college taking the easiest course is bettering the individual, when everyone and their mother knows the kid is looking to jump ship the second he gets the chance? And the fact of the monster payrolls the players get when going pro, is obviously a very tempting offer. Reading between the lines, if you skip college and go straight to the NBA, even if you aren’t a successful star, you can make enough money from NBA salary to make the decision worth it. Which is sadly becoming a choice that many people want to roll the dice on. Even though most don’t make it, and then they not only have no pro career, but nothing to fall back on either, if they get bumped from the pro level of sports. The money only lasts so long, then what?

The game itself, could be even better if more players were truly ready. And quite obviously, not all players are ready for the next level. I would think that some guys would want to work on their weaknesses in college, before taking it to the pro level. Get their game to the maximum level it can. Think about the kids who jump quick, just to sit at the end of the bench. Seriously, do you think that kids future in the league is bright? Or is he just jumping out and getting paid? Because they aren’t good enough to really be there, which bothers me terribly.

Take a look at 2013 14th pick, Shabazz Muhammad as an example. He was excellent in college. He was scoring 18 a night and grabbing 5 boards a game. Now here he is, in his rookie year in the pros, he’s scoring 4 pts a night, playing 8 minutes a game. And getting paid 1.8 million a year. Does this make sense to anyone, but Shabazz Muhammad? Imagine if he played 2-3 more years in college, he in all probability could have been a 26 ppg guy, running for a title, and in the end, would have likely been a much better player, than he actually believed he was. And yes, would have gotten paid, and probably even better.

The NBA is a business, and it produces entertainment for pay, and that’s fine. But, I think the NBA should be a better tuned machine that picks it’s employees with the absolute best skills to get the big bucks, not a guy scoring 3 a game for millions a year. And I wish the players wanted the best product, and to be the best they can be, as much as the fans, but I don’t think they really care all that much.

If you want to avoid college altogether, then they should have to tryout for the NBA D-league. It’s still pro ball, and they get paid, since that what it really all boils down to. There are vast amounts of very talented players, who not only are playing pro, but are all still looking for that call to get pulled up to the NBA. If truly good enough to make it in the NBA, a D-baller will shine beyond measure. Seriously, think about some of the NBA players who made the jump and were prosperous in the NBA straight from high school. LeBron, he would have lit it up in the D-league. Same goes for Kobe and Kevin Garnett.

Be a better player, to play against the best.

Written by TonyK of VegasTopDogs.com

Who is the real leader on the surprising Atlanta Hawks

AtlHawks
This season has definitely not looked the way many people, fans or expert analysts expected it to look this deep into the season thus far. I am more than certain no one had the Hawks, who were 38-44 in 2013 and crawled in at the 8 slot to be a playoff seed. To being a potential 60 game winning team that is scoring 103 a night and playing some great defense as well.
The Hawks have one of the deepest and most complete teams in the Eastern Conference. And with Mike Budenholzer coaching them, he has kept them motivated, playing great team ball. The Hawks have been making good teams look bad, by playing good basketball. Many naysayers have wanted to throw a lot of what they have done this season, as being a lucky team. But, after 50+ games it’s about that time to seriously look at this team as a title contender. I question if the Cavs can guard them, I don’t see the Wizards being able to outscore them. And on top of that, the Bulls have absolutely no continuity.
The sign of any good team is to handle your business vs the inferior teams as well. They have obliterated the inferior opponents they have faced. Taking down teams that the top 5 in the East should beat. And they have also compiled a pretty impressive win streak as well, with their big 19 gamer. If you have any question as if the Hawks are truly currently in the mix, do not dismiss them because of the schedule they have been handed, early in the season.
The East is wide open, so why not the Hawks this year?
They have had many guys on the team contribute, which reminds me of the Detroit Pistons in a weird sort of way, when they had Rip, Chauncy and Rasheed Wallace as their team in 2003, when they were a title winner. Where there biggest and baddest scoring threat was Rip, dropping 18 a night.
Paul Milsap has been excellent in his role. Jeff Teague has been fantastic, scoring the ball at 17 a game, and his ball distribution as well, 8 dimes. He has quick hands, making plays that are both smart and decisive. Teague has seemingly stepped in to play the “Tony Parker” type role, by his distributing the ball and scoring when needed.
They are showing some styles that are similar to some of the past great teams, playing a style like the Spurs have in the past, as well as the Pistons of the past. Playing with confidence and great teamwork. They change their game and they know the biggest threats on the court, and they then adjust to the biggest threats. And when on offense, they stay spaced out on the court, to make the right basketball play repeatedly.
As far as the team goes, the man who keeps the wheels going forward has been Al Horford, the biggest key to the teams success. Big Al has progressed from the one dimensional player from the past. He has bounced back after his torn right pectoral muscle that had him lose the majority of last season. Horford has returned this year as the anchor, on both the offensive side as well as the defensive side of things.
They would not be nearly this good without his solid shooting. He makes opposing defenses break down in the middle because of him, as well as his midrange game, spreads the court a bit as well.
Horford, has finally seemed to come into the game. He has played better than he has in 8 seasons. He gives the Hawks a big enough presence in the paint to disrupt opponents’ offenses. And, he has shown he can protect the rim as well, with his shot blocking ability.
The fact that the Hawks have so many playmakers, he may not always be able to showcase his importance, on the scoreboard and stuffing the stat lines. If he actually had the freedom to play loose every night, his numbers would be even more impressive. Al is not expected to get your typical center rebounding numbers, in the 10-12 range. They like to keep the team spacing, and rebounding has been a team effort, which is why 5 players are getting 4 or more boards a game.
Horford could easily average 24 and 10 if he played more on his own style of play, but that’s not the case. He has bought in full fledged, and is into the Hawks system. And he is with them 100%. The best players are willing to sacrifice their own stats for the team. unfortunately, it’s not often enough. Without Horford, the Hawks would be a very average team, and would not be nearly the team they are now. To put into perspective, Horford has scored in double figures all but a handful of games, including many 20 point games, this season. He has a multitude of double doubles.
Knocking down 54% from the field, which is currently at 9th best in the NBA. As far as a defender he is 21st in the league in blocks. If the Hawks keep going in this direction, with Big Al, healthy, and in the lineup, they truly are one of the most impossible teams to defend.
Written by TonyK for VegasTopDogs.com

Why the Cleveland Cavs, they are ready for a playoff run

CavsGirl
This season has been interesting to say the least for the Cavs. But they have already improved their record to bettering last season’s win total of just 33 wins.
There were times, early in the season, where every Cav has fallen into the trap of watching LeBron dribble forever, at times, out on the wing or top of the key before he explodes to the hoop, or put up a step-back jumper. We all were worried about Kevin Love, because he had been losing huge rebounding numbers earlier in the year. But, everything has seemingly come together. It’s all part of the process of a team learning about each other.
It takes some time for a team to gel, and they have been nothing short of dominant since the middle of January. KLove is putting up the 3 ball at a higher rate this year, at 40% of his field goal attempts than he ever has before. Love is a different player this year, because he has been forced to adjust his game. He is no longer a spread the offense 4, with complete control of the team, he has become an oversized 3. And his numbers have declined. With 17 and 10 rebounds a game, knocking down 36% of the treys his chucks up, he still is the great player he always was, but he is a slice to a bigger cake now. Being part of a unit like this, you have to expect the supporting star pieces to lose some numbers, but that’s what putting together winners is about.
Tristan Thompson has shown great maturity, especially when he had to step up his game, when Love was out earlier in the year. Thompson is continuing his growth on the team, putting up points down low, and grabbing boards, and using his length and athleticism to make plays happen in the paint.
LeBron has been fantastic since the mid January stretch, averaging 30 points, 9 assists, 8 rebounds and 2 steals. He has been the main reason for Cleveland’s great turnaround since their eye opening 19-20 start, when we were all beginning to think this team was going to be a complete failure. LeBron James and Irving have begun to find their combination on the court.
James with his role as the dominant player and Irving scoring buckets like few other point guards can. When LeBron was out vs the Blazers back on 1.28, he lit them up for 55, evidence that, yes, he can still take over as well, if need be. Then his phenomenal 57 pt explosion vs the defending champion, Spurs where he went 7-7 from deep, including clutch shots and smart play, solidifies this team.
The trade when they dumped off Dion Waiters helped the team get J.R. Smith. Although he has never seen a shot he didn’t like, has done so at a more efficient rate than Waiters did, with his 12 a game. Picking up guards Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith from the Knicks, has been a great boost. Getting them 18 points between them, and Shumpert is also a decent defender as well. And I loved when they grabbed center Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets, 11 ppg and 7 rpg and a game that is perfect to compliment LeBron’s, drive and kick game. Mozgov has vastly improved during his time in Cleveland over his performance in Denver this year. His scoring has been up. And the teams assist rate for teammates getting assists when he is on the floor, is up to 4.7% from just 2.8%. Which basically means, when he is out there, things are opened up and players are getting good shots.
For the naysayers, and “LeBron haters” who jump on them being just average. On the road, they have been just average and vs the West they have been 17-12, while going 25-13 against the East. That is the one piece that needs to be cleaned up.
The path to the title, isn’t going to come easy. If they can make it through the East, challenges from a rough and tumble, rugged West, where defending champs, San Antonio will try to show the NBA they are still the best. It will be like a prizefight every game, with the obscenely talented Western conference.
Before the season started, the East was expected to come down to Chicago and Cleveland, based off of the big moves that were made. But we know what happened in Chi-town, and the Cavs have made it a point to make a vicious run to the finish. James looking healthy and in charge, Kevin Love appearing more comfortable in his new role, and the teams new additions, the Cavs are ready to make a push, and have a better team put together than any other team in the East,
They need to take care of the regular season then move on to the second, more important, season. I think we still haven’t seen the best of what the team can put together. It may sound crazy, but I think they can still actually get better. There is no question, the Cavs will likely have home court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs this year, barring a complete meltdown. Anyone who actually wondered if the Cavs would be good enough to make the playoffs, this season, has not watched these players play before. Don’t give up so quickly, when a team has greatness through it.
As of this time, in the last 13 games they’ve held opponents to fewer than 90 which would, over the season, would rank 1st in the NBA. The Bulls are a legit 2 man team, the Raptors are very solid, and the Hawks have been great, but if the playoffs started tonight, I’d still, hands down, take the Cavaliers over the field.
We will see if they can do it. Make the doubters shake their heads, make the haters, hate more.

2014 NBA Finals

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by Jim Feist of VegasTopDogs.com

 Say, what happened to “Youth Must Be Served?” Last year a pair of veteran teams met in the NBA Finals, with Miami winning its second straight title in seven games against the aging Spurs. Lo and behold, the same team teams made it to the Conference Finals again, with the young Pacers and Thunder trying to break through. Two years ago it was supposed to be the time the kids stepped up in Oklahoma City stepped up. OKC came close, winning Game 1 of the Finals before Miami won four in a row. The previous year a younger Miami team came close, carving out a 2-1 series lead before collapsing, as it was those old fogies in Dallas who came away with the title – another veteran team winning the whole thing. You get the sense the NBA is suddenly an old man’s game. In fact veteran NBA teams have been on a roll, with the Celtics winning it all in 2008, the Lakers in 2009-10, the Mavericks in 2012 out of nowhere, and the Heat the last two years. This year young teams from Chicago, Atlanta, Charlotte, Washington, Memphis and Golden State made the playoffs but are gone.

In 2012 the thirty-something Mavericks won it all as a No. 3 seed. Despite then 26-year old Jose Barea running all over the place, it was a veteran Dallas team behind then 33-year old Dirk Nowitzki, 34-year old Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Peja Stojakovic (both 34) and 39-year old Jason Kidd. This year the NBA’s Final Four has a pair of young teams (Pacers and Thunder) against the old men of San Antonio and Miami. While the NBA is more of an athletic game, primed for young legs, the experience of the Mavericks certainly helped them two years ago and helped the Spurs plow their way to the No. 1 seed for the second season in a row. But at some point age can work against a team, breaking down from injuries. There really haven’t been many youthful teams winning the NBA title lately. The Celtics and Lakers were veteran teams that clashed in the Finals in 2008 and 2010. The experienced Lakers topped the young Orlando Magic in 2009, blowing out the kids in Game 1, 100-75. Prior to that veteran teams like the Spurs, Pistons and 2006 Miami Heat won titles. Ahh, the Miami Heat. They really aren’t that youthful, with LeBron James the only kid at age 29, and even he’s been in the league ten years. He’s also been in the NBA Finals in 2007 with Cleveland. Dwyane Wade (age 32) already has a ring with the 2006 Heat, a veteran team that also had Shaq, Antoine Walker and Gary Payton. One thing that stands out with the NBA’s Final Four of 2014 is defense.

The Thunder, Pacers, Spurs and Heat all finished in the Top 10 in the NBA during the regular season in either points allowed for field goal shooting defense. Oklahoma City was tops in the West in FG shooting defense, while the Pacers were best in the NBA. This shouldn’t surprise. Two years ago Miami was sixth in points allowed during the regular season, Dallas was 10th; Miami was second in field goal defense (.434%), while Dallas was 8th (.450%). The Western Conference Finals was a terrific clash of Youth vs. Experience. Oklahoma City has 25-year old 6-10 Kevin Durant and 25-year old Russell Westbrook (23.7 ppg), while the Spurs are filthy with age and talent. The Spurs have 38-year old Tim Duncan, 36-year old Manu Ginobili and 31-year old Tony Parker, though the Spurs rely heavily on their bench, which leads the league in scoring for the fifth straight season. So how did defending champion Miami do against the Best of the West? They got crushed by the Thunder (112-95) at home, won at OKC (103-81), got blown out at San Antonio (111-87) and won at home over the Spurs (113-101). Which shows how little stock you should put in regular season meetings, as situational factors and injuries come into play. Are the kids ready to take over? Or will we see another bunch of old men hoist the trophy?

What is it going to take for Warriors to win the NBA title?

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The Warriors play on the road has been decent, winning 24 games during the season, and they have been strong enough to hold their own. But when playing against the best on the league, they have been not fared well in the win column, away from the home court in the Oracle Arena.

Obviously, playing in the West is a whole new world, and they won 51 games. Which alone in itself is a compliment, to any one team. In the much weaker, East they would have been top 3 likely with 55+ wins. Instead, for them, they came into the NBA playoffs a 6th seed, as a team that has players like Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson both of whom are top notch deep ball terrors in the league. Curry dropping 24 a game and Klay, 18.

And then with David Lee knocking down 52% from the floor, and let’s not forget about the underrated Andre Iguodala who can drop economical points on anyone, when getting the opportunity. When Iguodala gets 10 or more shots in a game, the Warriors are 8-3. Making them, that much more of a difficult matchup for teams to deal with.

One large flaw I have with them, is at home they have to improve, they actually are not a dominant home team. They are good, but not great. To win you have to own and completely master your home court, and make teams cry before you punish them on your home floor. In 2012 when the Miami Heat won the title, they were 28-5 at home. The Lakers were 34-7 in 2010.

Over the last 5 seasons, the eventual NBA champions have 164 wins in their home arena, with an amazing 83% win pct. You simply cannot “just win” at home.

The Warriors are loaded with young athletic young stars on the team. They can score in bunches, and the team puts up big time numbers on a nightly basis, with a 10th ranked 104 a game. They also have a very beefed-up rebounding squad, with David Lee and when healthy, the 7 footer, Andrew Bogut, hitting the boards well.

They move the ball around very well, helping to make them a high scoring team, Stephen Curry make teams play them on the deep ball, and they have the ability to shoot well against any other team in the NBA. Curry can do whatever he wants on the offensive side of the ball, making opponents cringe when he starts to find his rhythm.

The playoffs, overall, have not been kind to Golden State, having never won a title even though making the playoffs numerous times. Having had some excellent teams, in the early to mid 90s, with Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, and Mitch Richmond, they still never got to the big series. They never got the chance to play in the big game, or even a Conference championship, in an era that was mostly owned at the time by the Bulls and Rockets.

For the Warriors to get to the next level in the nasty Western Conference, they have to get passed the Spurs first and foremost. Which is not easy. Even though aging, they just keep moving along, and the next king in line, seems to be the Thunder. Playing in the Pacific division, they have to make sure they beat the Clippers at least 3 of the times they matchup with them.

Build a base around Curry and Thompson and make teams pay, when they settle to shoot the lights out against you.

Written by TonyK of VegasTopDogs.com