Monday, April 30, 2012

WRD NBA Playoff Predictions

I know the NBA playoffs are underway, and we're a little late to the party here, but we're a little shorthanded and have been overwhelmed with the NFL draft over at our brother site, The Bay Area Sports Journal.

Anyway, I don't care where each series stands right now, I am going to go ahead and pick the same picks I would have had the playoffs not begun yet, so here we go:

Western Conference Playoffs

Round 1

Spurs over Jazz (5 games)- Spurs have the experience and Pap has them rested.
Clippers over Grizzlies (7 games)- I think this is going to be the best series in this round.
Lakers over Nuggets (5 games)- The Nugs just aren't playing well and Kobe and Bynum are.
Thunder over Maverics (6 games)- Mavs will put up a fight, but Thunder can be best in West.

Round 2

Clippers over Spurs (7 games)
Thunder over Lakers (7 games)

I think the Western semi's provide some great match-ups, but I just think it's the Clippers time and the Spurs will run out of gas. The Thunder have proven to be one of the best all-around teams in the league, and as long as they stay on track, not even a balanced Lakers squad should stop them, but both could go either way, really.

Western Conference Finals

Thunder over Clippers (6 games)

I liked the Clippers at the beginning of the year, and although they've had some injuries, they should be playing in the Western Conf. championship. Unfortunately for them though, if the Thunder are peaking, like most expect them to, then LA just won't be able to keep up.

Eastern Conference Playoffs

First Round

Bulls over 76ers (6 games)- This could be it for Chicago, as they lost DRose for the year.
Hawks over Celtics (7 games)- This is going to be a good series, I'll go with the younger Hawks.
Pacers over Magic (6 games)- The Magic lost their only hope when Howard went down.
Heat over Knicks (5 games)- Heat look determined!

Round 2

Hawks over Bulls (6 games)
Heat over Pacers (5 games)

I think the Hawks may not be the most talented team in the East (sans Horford), but they are hitting their stride at the right time, playing well at the end of the year and it could carry them all the way to the Eastern Finals.

Eastern Conference Finals

Heat over Hawks (4 games)

The Hawks, or whoever ends up here, will be no match for Miami, who are playing with a renowned mean-streak and, as I said, appear determined to be this years NBA champs.

2012 NBA Championship

Heat over Thunder (6 games)

This is the finals' match-up I'm really pulling for, either this or Lakers/Heat. The Thunder would provide the Heat with tougher match-ups and I truly believe these are each leagues best teams. As good and talented as OKC are, they're still a tad green, and Miami was here last year and got embarrassed once already. I think it's there's for the taking  this time around, and heads will definitely roll if they don't ( Eric Spoelstra?)

Friday, April 27, 2012

Warriors Win Coin-Flip for 7 Spot in Lottery

Well folks, the Warriors plan to lose while still developing their young players came to a sweet ending Friday, as the team won the coin flip that would determine their slot in the draft, 7th or 8th. We all know that if the W's keep a top-7 pick, they get to hang onto that pick, but if they pick after 7, they lose it, so this is a huge win for Golden State as they're most likely going to end up with their best case scenario, 5 draft picks. So unless a team from 8-13 jumps into the top-3 (which is a 20% chance) through the lottery, the Warriors will get that high-end first  rounder.

UNC's Harrison Barnes
Now the speculation will begin to fly as to who the W's may take should they indeed stay in the top-7 like it appears they will. I'm still in the midst of covering the NFL draft over on our other site, The Bay Area Sports Journal, so I don't have the time today to delve into this too much more, and there really isn't much more to say. It's a great coupe for Golden State, as I said, and now really gives them a chance to add some talent in the draft, with two first rounders and limited cap space for free agents. Now that we have an idea of where the W's will choose, we can start speculating who may fall to them (assuming they stay at 7), and in one of the more stacked draft. The first name I think off when thinking of who could last until pick-7, and based on team needs, is uber-talented UNC small forward Harrison Barnes. The guy has been praised by Michael Jordan, hailed by NBA scouts. He didn't have a great 2012 NCAA tourney, which could make him fall here, but he did have average 22 points, 8 boards and 2.5 assists in last years Tourney and is one of the rare NCAA players to score 40 in a game. He's said to be one of the best all-around players in this draft, which is exactly what the Warriors will be looking for. Not only a guy who can put up some points offensively, but also a guy who can defend other three's like Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James. We'll have much, much more time to analyze the NBA draft prospects as it approaches, but at least Warriors fans can breathe a little easier Friday, knowing their team has an 80% chance at retaining pick-7, something that looked like a true long-shot just a month ago.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Warriors Switch GM's, Wrap Up Season

The Warriors have a new GM, but their front-office will remain largely the same, as Larry Riley had his tittle changed to head of scouting and personnel. In moves former player agent and Warriors assitent GM is known around the league to be a smart negotiator and is a much younger, in-tune with today's athlete than Riley was.

Still, the dynamics to the front-office will remain largely the same, as Riley, West, Lacob and Myers will all have input on what the Warriors do on the player movement front, but obviously Lacob targeted Myers for this job when he bought the team and hired him last summer, so this comes as a surprise to very few close to the organization. It shouldn't really change the Warriors philosophy too much, though I listened to Myers' first interview on the radio yesterday and he sounds like he has a pretty good idea as to what he's doing and what his plan of attack will be this offseason. As far as the Warriors team is concerned, they've been basically a non-factor this month, with the season winding down, and every body's focus turning over to baseball and the NFL draft. The W's officially end their 2012 season tonight vs. the Spurs, and assuming they lose, they're going to end up with the 8th worst record in the league, landing them in the lottery and keeping hope alive that they could slip into the top-7 and keep all their potential picks. If that happens the W's will wind up with 5 draft choices in this upcoming draft, said to be one of the deeper ones in recent years, and for a team with limited cap-space, that would be a huge coupe.

The Wounded Warriors
In our final post of the 2012 season, it wouldn't be 2012 Warriors basketball without talking about their latest star to go under the knife. After Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry each had ankle operations, power forward David Lee will undergo a minor procedure to repair a torn ab muscle. The Warriors also announced a timetable for Steph Curry's return, saying he'd be back on the court within 3-4 months, meaning he should be a go in plenty of time for camp and the opening of the 2012/13 campaign, barring any set-backs. We'll have a full 2012 Warriors Review post in the coming days once the NFL Draft dust settles, but after another rough year in Golden State, I do think change is right around the corner. We'll talk much more about the prospects of next years team in our upcoming posts, but just to think that they'll have Bogut and Curry healthy and fresh (knock on wood) along with the hopeful new infusion of talent from the draft, the Warriors will be a much different team next season than the one we saw start the 2011/12 lockout shortened season. It's taken all season, but last years picks are starting to pan out a bit as Thompson, Jenkins and Tyler all look like they're going to have important roles on this team moving forward, as Thompson has solidified his spot as the starting SG, Jenkins as backup PG and Tyler as the new Epke Udoh, who will likely be the first off the bench in a back up role to Bogut and Lee next year, providing solid defense and some inside scoring.

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Saturday, April 21, 2012

Warriors' Curry and Bogut Set for More Surgery

Well, the Warriors expected plan of having a healthy Curry and Andrew Bogut to catalyze their team heading into the 2012/13 season, they may have to look to a plan B, as Larry Riley announced this weekend that both Curry and Bogut, the Warriors two most valuable pieces, will undergo further surgery on their injured ankles.

More Surgery for Steph
Now, the Warriors really didn't elaborate too much into it other than both players will be going under the knife soon, and that Andrew Bogut will certainly miss this summer's games with Australia he was hoping to heal in time for. The surgery on Bogut is to remove more bone spurs from his ankle, and is more of a "cleanup" procedure as Riley put it, so hopefully he'll be at or near 100% by the time camp rolls around in October. Now Curry's a whole other animal. The Warriors have described his surgery as "exploratory" which to me says that Curry's ankles are still bad and nobody really knows what's going on there. That to me is the scary surgery of the two, because if Curry has torn ligaments or something in that ankle, than he could be down for a healthy portion of next season as well, and may never quite be an NBA caliber point-guard. There's no denying his ability to shoot, but one would only assume that all these ankle operations are going to take a toll, and one of Curry's biggest assets, his speed, may no longer be an asset. Anyway, that's kind of worst case scenario. Hopefully they go in and clean up some loose cartilage or something, and both players will be bright and ready come October, but you can't help but think, what if neither is ready come opening night next season? With the Warriors lack of cap space, we could be looking at potentially one of the worst teams in the NBA.

Now, there are a few healthy players who've thrived lately, and who will make it their due diligence to ensure that Curry or no Curry, this team will score and run at a good pace next fall. Klay Thompson continues to improve his all-around game, as he's now gaining consistency on both ends of the floor with more regularity. For example, in April, he's scored 17 or more points in 8 of his 12 April starts, and has averaged about 19 per night in that span. He's upped his season average to a respectable 12 points, 2 boards and 2 dimes per night, way up from where he was when he was playing second fiddle to Monta Ellis.
Thompson Thriving
In fact, in his 25 games as the starter, he's averaged 18/3/3 with 1.2 steals, which is right around what Monta has done with his new club during this stretch. He's a sniper from long-range and is still learning how to create for himself and others off the dribble, averaging 5 assists in his last 6 ballgames. That's what Monta was so good at doing and an area I was expecting a huge dropoff with Thompson out there, but he's developing quite nicely. Charles Jenkins has also taken over as the full-time starter at the point in April, and although he's had ups and downs, he's got 11 and 10 assists in his last two games, and had a 27-point night at the end of March, showing his capabilities as a backup point guard. But Jeremy Tyler, to me, has been the real standout these last few nights. He's taken over at the 4 spot with David Lee down, and has dominated, averaging 14 points, 8 boards, 1.5 steals and a block over his last 3 starts. With Lee missing the last 4 games, the Warriors have had virtually no inside presence, but Tyler has been a nice exception of late.

And with 4 games left on the schedule, and the Warriors currently sitting in the 8th seed in the draft order, all eyes will be on them as they finish out the year. Of course, there's still the lottery coming up which will ultimately decide their fate, but the Warriors, without Lee, are looking like they have a real shot at losing out and possibly making that bottom-7 with any luck from one of the other bottom feeders. It'll definitely be an interesting final week though, as the Warriors try and find some light at the end of the tunnel in a truly forgettable campaign.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Warriors Entering Key Stretch for Lottery

The Warriors have played better than I believe management was expecting since the Monta Ellis trade, as it really culminated with their whopping of the Nuggets over Denver a few nights ago.

After that win, the Warriors moved to 13th on he list of potentially 14 lottery teams, and the lower they get, obviously, the lower their chances of landing in the top-7 are. At least, if they finished in the bottom-10, there would be at least a decent shot of getting a top-7 pick. It's going to come down to these last crucial weeks, in which the Warriors have a brutal schedule. Jackson played David Lee just 22 minutes in Monday nights game, and it may have been to ensure that the Warriors lost the game, I'm not sure, but Lee, basically single-handely has been keeping them from being one of the worst teams in the league. It's like you can't turn that guy off as Tom Tolbert says on the team's flagship station, KNBR. Before Lee's decrease in PT Monday, he averaged 26 points and 9 boards in the W's last two victories. He's been the one rock in the lineup since the Ellis trade. Klay Thompson has been solid as well, and has shown his ability as a scorer, but he's still got a ways to go with his all-around game before he can be considered a top-tier shooting guard. I think he has the skill-set to do it though, as he can put up points in a hurry and is big enough to defend bigger back courts. He's just got to work on his ball-handeling, going to the hoop instead of catch and shooting every time, and he's still got work to do on the defensive end.

One of the brighter occurrences for Golden State over the last few games though has been the slight emergence of Jeremy Tyler. He had a 14 point, 5 rebound night followed up with a 10 point, 8 rebound, 2 block night in the W's win over Denver. I don't know why it took so long for Jackson to start using him as the starting center, but he appears to finally have that slot, and should have it locked down the rest of the season. Like most rookies, he needs to cut down on turnovers and foul trouble, but he looks like he could make a decent backup to Bogut. The thing the Warriors really need to be figuring out right now is who they're going to keep, who they're going to let go and what roles each player will be playing come next year. They also need to be eying the draft, which is the outlet where the Warriors will make most of their offseason additions this summer. They could ink a free agent or two, but they won't be playing with much cap space with the huge contracts of Biedrins, Bogut, Jefferson and Lee. Right now, they're likely to finish up with San Antonio's first rounder, which would pit them around pick 27. In most mock-drafts I've seen, they've been mostly linked to 3 players. Vanderbilt small forward Jeff Taylor and two of Kentucky's talented starting-5 that cruised to a National tittle; their PG, Marquis Taylor, and SF Terrence Jones (pictured to right). I see Jones as the most unlikely to last that long, as he's a defensive wizard who showed he can score when he has to (didn't really need to much on that team). He's got that LeBron body type and can impose you on the defensive end while, but had an off year shooting the ball (12.5 ppg after 16+ last season).

If Jones is off the board, like many suggest, the guy I'm taking a shine too and hoping falls to them is Vandy's Jeff Taylor, as he reminds me a bit of Tim Duncan in a way that he stayed all 4 years and kept getting better, shooting 42% from beyond the arc and averaging 16 ppg and 6 rpg in his senior season. I don't really get the Taylor proposition, as he's a point guard and the last thing the W's need is another backup point behind Robinson and Jenkins, though he did have a few nice games in the tourney but I'd rather have his teammate, 6'5" SG Doron Lamb (22 pts, 2 assists, 3 rebounds in National Championship and 2-year starting sophomore in an NBA D-League level team, or better).

Monday, April 2, 2012

Warriors Take Lakers to the Brink in LA

The Lakers are a team who every one's overlooking a bit with the surging Thunder and the unbeatable Heat, but they've been quietly dominating since that Sessions deal and it's made them a much more complete squad. However, the Warriors put up a valiant effort Sunday night, taking them down to the wire, but losing in the end, 120-112.

There were plenty of positives to take out of this game, but also one huge negative that had absolutely nothing to do with this game that I'll mention in the next paragraph. We'll start with the good, which is the only way to describe the way the W's bench responded after being called upon early and often. Klay Thompson didn't match-up with Kobe as well as he did last week in Oakland, as Kobe scored 40 on the rookie and put him in foul trouble that kept him on the floor for just 27 minutes. Still, Thompson played a decent 27 minutes, despite not being able to do much to slow Kobe, I mean, after all, he's Kobe and when he's on, nobody can stop him. The Warriors even threw Dominic McGuire on him when Thompson was on the pine and he couldn't keep up with the quickness of the future Hall-of-Famer. Kobe put on a clinic, and Sessions did exactly what the Lakers brought him to LA to do, but the Lakers key big man, Andrew Bynum, went down after 10 minutes of play, which gave the Warriors an opening. They attacked with David Lee, who finished with 27 points, and then had him kick out to the shooters, Robinson (17 points/26 mins), Richardson (16 points/25 mins) and Rush, and finished up with a season high 7 assists. It almost gave you a taste things to come next year when Bogut is in uniform and both he and Lee are in the post either taking it to the hole or kicking out to the snipers on the floor.

At the same time, I couldn't go a WRD post without saying at least something negative, and the thing I'm talking about is the same thing that made me livid last week when Larry Riley and the Warriors brass just expected J.J. Hickson to clear waivers and land on their laps in New Orleans where he was all set to sign a deal with Golden State if he did clear waivers that day. Fact is, the Warriors are stupid for not claiming the big man when they had the chance, as they had first dibs before Portland. All the 23 year-old, 6'10, 250 pound big had done in Portland has averaged 16.8 points and 7.9 boards in 28 minutes of play. Don't say I didn't warn you guys. I was saying all along that Hickson was in-properly used in Sac and would go off with whatever team he next signed with and what do you know, he's doing the same thing he did in 2010 with Charlotte. The kid can play and the Warriors missed out on a chance to get a impact player for basically nothing, and a big-man at that, which should have sealed the deal. I mean, this team is signing the Earl Barron's of the world, but they don't claim a good young big like Hickson? That just makes no sense to me whatsoever. Not sure if it was a roster space thing or what, but the fact that Hickson wanted to go to the Warriors, could have gone to the Warriors and should have gone to the Warriors is blowing up in Larry Riley's face right about now!