Thursday, 3 July 2014

End of the Big Three?

Back in 2010, when Lebron James made his heralded "Decision" to join the Miami Heat, joining Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, the NBA went crazy. A new dynasty had been formed, right in front of our eyes. Expectations were extremely high for this team, and the Heat didn't disappoint. Winning 2 championships with 4 consecutive Finals appearances, it would be hard to call that anything but a success. However, flash-forward to 2014, with Free Agency on its way, and with the Big 3 opting out of their contracts, the future remains uncertain for the Heat.

After losing to the Spurs in the 2014 Finals, Pat Riley went on the record to say:

"We need to retool, not rebuild."

Now, in order for the Heat to retool, it was expected that the Big 3 would opt out of their current contracts with the Heat to take less money and free up some cap space. However, reports have circulated of Lebron's intentions of getting a max deal, which is certainly not what the Heat had hoped for. To add to that, Chris Bosh is looking for a deal that is in the range of 5 years for $90 million, a contract that would be similar to Kyrie Irving's. Dwyane Wade, on the other hand, has not been heard from yet. Is there cause for concern in South Beach?

To answer the question, no. The prospects of LeBron James leaving the Heat are very slim at this point.  A max deal for Lebron would mean a salary of $20.7 million next season. Although this would leave less cap space for Pat Riley to operate with, the Heat would much rather give James what he wants rather than letting him go. As well, letting Bosh go would make the Heat's frontcourt even weaker. Pau Gasol would be a viable option for his replacement, but the Heat would only have the full mid-level exception of $5.3 million to offer him. In the case of Dwyane Wade, it seems as if staying with the Heat would be the best option for him. Finishing his career in Miami, his only team, would put the finishing touches on an already remarkable legacy.

James has given no indication of an interest to leave Miami, and has not spoken to the media since the start of Free Agency. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade have also joined this silence. This silence from the Big 3 could be a positive thing. Perhaps, taking a step back from the perpetual onslaught of the media is exactly what the Big 3 need. Time away to reflect on the past for years, and time away to make a decision about their future.

What do you think will happen to the Big 3? Share your opinions in the comments below.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

The Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes

After being traded from the Denver Nuggets to the New York Knicks in 2011, it was thought that a new era of basketball would dawn in New York, the mecca of basketball. Well, that didn't happen. In the past three seasons, the Knicks, led by Anthony, have struggled to find their identity, failing to make it past the second round of the Playoffs. Although, Anthony has continued to shine during his time in the spotlight in New York, as he averaged 27.4 ppg, 6.5 rpg, and 3.1 apg last season. Anthony has opted out of his contract with the Knicks and is therefore an unrestricted free agent this summer. Ladies and gentlemen, let the show begin..

As of right now, the frontrunners in the Carmelo Anthony Sweepstakes are the Chicago Bulls and the Houston Rockets. The LA Lakers have also shown some interest. Of course, there is still a possibility that Anthony could stay with the Knicks (but who really believes that). This week, Carmelo will (or already has) meet with the Bulls, Rockets, Mavericks and Lakers. Of course, each of these teams has something very different to offer.

With the Bulls:

Carmelo would join a strong and battle-tested team, with the likes of Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and Taj Gibson. Anthony would fill the need of a scoring (what he really does best), as the Bulls were ranked 30th overall in scoring. With Anthony in tow, the Bulls would instantly become an Eastern Conference contender. Paired with a deep bench and a great coach in Tom Thibodeau, there is reason to believe that Chicago would be the best fit for Carmelo Anthony.

With the Rockets:

With two superstars in James Harden and Dwight Howard already on the Rockets, the acquisition of Anthony would create a formidable Big 3 in a highly competitive Western Conference. In a team that is more offense-oriented, Anthony would flourish, given the ability operate freely. However, Anthony, who is notoriously known as a lackluster defender, would not help the situation in Houston on the defensive end.

With the Mavericks:

The Dallas Mavericks have always been active in the hopes of acquiring a marquee star player. In recent years, the Mavs have not had much luck. Instead, they have boosted their roster with quality role players such as Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Shawn Marion, and Monta Ellis. Not to mention Dirk Nowitzki, who will be instrumental in recruiting Carmelo. Even with Carmelo Anthony, it would still be difficult to succeed in a dominant Western Conference. Given Carmelo's intentions to play for a contending team, Dallas may not be the best option for him.

With the Lakers:

This is where it gets interesting. The Lakers have always managed to maintain a winning roster, no matter the circumstances. From Wilt to Kareem to Magic to Shaq to Kobe, the Lakers have had their share of star players. However, it appears that the well has run dry. Long gone are the days where the prospects of playing in LA would draw all the superstars. Instead, the Lakers are left with an aging Kobe Bryant paired with an incredibly underwhelming supporting cast, with the likes of Kendall Marshall and Ryan Kelly as headliners. With the score-first attidude of Kobe Bryant and the score-first attitude of Carmelo Anthony, Carmelo could cause more problems than he fixes by joining the Lakers.

You've seen all the options. Where do you think Carmelo should go? Voice your opinions in the comments below.

Free Agency 2014 - Kyle Lowry

After leading the Raptors to a franchise best 48-win season, and carrying his team against the Brooklyn Nets in the first round of the Playoffs, Kyle Lowry has cemented himself as an All-Star point guard. Coming off of career high averages of 17.9 ppg, 7.4 apg, and 4.9 rpg, while increasing his 3-point percentage to 38%, Lowry has drawn interest from multiple free agent suitors.

The Houston Rockets and the Miami have been in talks of signing Lowry, with both teams planning to make a chase for him. However, it does appear that the Toronto Raptors are still the front runners to keep Lowry, after talking of a 5-year extension. After the June 1st deadline, Lowry was contacted by both the Raptors and the Rockets, but it still remains to be seen what the Rockets have to offer. Due to the Raptors early-bird rights, they are able to sign Lowry for the most money. However, Lowry has made it known that his intentions are to play for a contender, which the Raptors are a few steps away from.

As for the Miami Heat, their first priorities are to re-sign the Big Three, as LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade, have all opted-out of their contracts with the Heat. Whether or not the Big Three will take a pay cut to clear some cap space for the Heat is still unknown. After the Heat's lackluster performance in the 2014 Finals, as they were demolished by the Spurs in 5 games, it is apparent that they will need to retool their line-up. With a glaring weakness at the PG position, Lowry would be a perfect fit. Although, it appears that the Heat will not have enough money to lure Lowry to South Beach.

The Raptors have currently put a 4-year/44 million dollar deal on the table. As the competition racks up in the Lowry sweepstakes, a 5th year in the contract may be needed to cement the deal. Returning to a young core of Demar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas, and Patrick Patternson could be promising. As this team has shown us what they are capable of, retaining Lowry would be a huge step forward in continuing a winning culture in Toronto.

As Free Agency continues, stay tuned on W2 Hoops for more NBA news..

Friday, 4 April 2014

Kevin Durant and LeBron James: The Battle For MVP

The MVP is officially on.

It’s a showdown between the reigning 3-time MVP Lebron James and 3 time-scoring champ Kevin Durant. Throughout the ups-and-downs of this season, one thing is clear. It’s definitely a two man race. Other contenders like Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Paul George just haven’t been able to raise their game to compete with the talent that Durant and James provide.

                                                 So… who should get the MVP?

There are so many factors that ultimately decide who takes home the trophy at the end of the year. The most important of which are individual statistics and team success. Also, consistency is another key factor, as being able to play at a high level throughout the season is incredibly important. All of these factors will helps the voters decide who gets the MVP award.

Individual Stats:

At the time of this writing, Kevin Durant has scored 25 or more points in 39 consecutive games. He’s trailing Michael Jordan’s record of 40 straight games. Durant has carried the Thunder this year, with Westbrook out to injury. Without Russ, Durant has seen improvements all across the boards, with increases in points, assists, FG’s, and True Shooting Percentage. Durant has also managed to accumulate an astounding PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 30.5, 1.5 points higher than Lebron’s. In the month of January, Durant had five 50-point games, including a career high 54 points against the Golden State Warriors. He also exploded for 51 points and the game-winner against the Toronto Raptors. Such Jordan-esque play of late could be attributed to Durant saying, “I’m tired of being second, I want to win”.

                Lebron James is Lebron James. He will always be Lebron James. But, will that be enough to win the MVP? Over the past three seasons with Miami, Lebron has average roughly 27 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 6.5 assists. Those are numbers that we have come to expect from Lebron. It’s almost as if he has created a golden standard for NBA statlines. In this three season time frame, he has led the Heat to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances, along with back-to back championships. But this season has been a little different for the Heat. They are currently in the 2nd seed, trailing Indiana by three games. Dwayne Wade has had trouble dealing with his re-occuring knee injuries, transferring more of the load to Lebron. Has he handled it well? Without Dwayne Wade, the Heat have meddled around .500 this season, giving reason to believe that fatigue could be wearing on Lebron. With free-agency around the corner for Lebron and Bosh, the Heat had better hope for better play from the supporting cast.

ROUND ONE goes to Kevin Durant.

Team Success:

Oklahoma City Thunder:

The Thunder are trailing the Spurs (who they just snapped their 19 game winning streak) for the first stop in the Western Conference. Kevin Durant has stepped up his game amidst injuries throughout the season to both Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. Although, this has not helped their road record, which currently stands at 23-12. The Thunder have to step up their production away from home, although they do have a home record of 32-7. The Thunder have thrived against the poorly competitive Eastern Conference, and have a 33-13 record against the West. With the level of competition, it shows that the Thunder is clearly one of the best teams in the league.

Miami Heat: 

The Miami Heat are currently atop of the Eastern Conference, and have a very good chance of finishing first in the East, if they can hold on. The Pacers are having an untimely slump, ranking last in fast-break points in the last eighteen games. The Heat have elected to rest key players down the stretch, including Dwayne Wade and Ray Allen.  This will allow the Heat to play with an added element of energy during the playoffs, while giving additional minutes to the bench guys during the home stretch of the season.  The Heat are 30-6 at home, but are a meager 22-16 on the road. As well, they have a record of 32-14 against the Eastern conference, which is certainly not the best.

ROUND TWO goes to Durant. 

Game over. 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Rudy Gay Traded to the Sacramento Kings

Year after year, time after time, Toronto Raptor fans have been let down. New reports from Yahoo Sports have signaled the unfortunate doomsday for the Raps. The blockbuster trade, which will reportedly send Gay, Quincy Acy and Aaron Gray in exchange for the Kings' John Salmons, Vasquez and Patterson, signals a turning point for both franchises.

Toronto has been trying to turn it around the past couple of years with numerous acquisitions in Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, Steve Novak and Tyler Hansbrough in an attempt to change the culture for this highly disappointing Raptor franchise. The Kings, on the other hand, are looking to build with young, up-and-coming players in DeMarcus Cousins, Ben McLemore, and the recently acquired Derrick Williams already in tow. This Rudy Gay trade sends them into the playoff mix although there are still questions to be asked about team chemistry and how Gay and Cousins will mesh on the court. For the Raptors, this trade does not come as a surprise with Gay's lackluster play as of late and the urgency to clear Gay's $19 million that he is due next season. One could say that with recent change in management for the Raps, with the hiring of former Denver Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri, that the franchise in headed into the wrong direction and it remains to be seen how this trade will affect the team.

As of right now, much is uncertain. The Rudy-less Raptors will play the Lakers later on tonight, with Kobe Bryant making his return from his Achilles injury. Stay tuned for more details and news...

On second thought, this may be the reason why he was traded.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Toronto to Host 2016 NBA All-Star Game

            Yes that's right. The All-Star game is coming north of the border. It's been a while since we've had some interesting news this off-season, so this comes with both great surprise and delight.  Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun reports that multiple sources have told the Toronto Sun that a deal to have the All-Star game in Toronto is on the horizon. An official announcement is expected shortly (possibly this week) and further details are expected. Coincidentally, the All-Star game to-be will align with the 20th Anniversary of none other than the Toronto Raptors. 

            Having the All-Star game in Toronto would be an excellent way of celebrating the Raptor's 20th anniversary, as this would be the first ever All-Star game hosted in Canada. The Raptors have not been very successful since their humble start in 1995, as part of the expansion draft with the Vancouver Grizzlies. Although, the Raptors have had their share in the spotlight, thanks to multiple outstanding performances by Chris Bosh, Vince Carter, and Tracy McGrady, among others. I mean, who could forget Vince's incredible showing at the 2000 Dunk Contest? All-Star weekends, with all their fun festivities and competitions and media attention, continue to draw in fans by the masses, year by year. With all it's multiculturalism, basketball has really found a home in Toronto. And what a better way to reward the fans, with a 3 day basketball fiesta!

Oh and just in case you've forgotten, here are some highlights from the 2000 NBA Dunk Contest..