Thursday, May 31, 2012

Warriors Stick at 7, Rumors Swirling

Well, the Warriors brass and their fan base can all breath much easier after the NBA lottery took place this week. The Warriors kept their 7th selection, protecting the pick from the Utah Jazz who would have received the pick had the Warriors picked below 7.

W's Looking Into SF's
Before the lottery, the Warriors were apparently discussing trade possibilities with Utah in the event they did lose out on the top-7, and those talks hit a wall, so it's a very good thing the W's won't be parting with anymore commodities to ensure a spot in the top part of this draft. However, almost immediately after the lottery and the Warriors were awarded their pick, trade rumors again began to swirl, and will likely continue all the way up until the June 28th draft. The Warriors apparently are searching hard for a proven small forward, and with their limited cap space, the only likely way their going to acquire one would be via trade. A few names that hit the web Thursday in regards to this rumor were Atlanta's Josh Smith, Memphis' Rudy Gay and Indian's Danny Granger. Now, when I look at these guys and compare them to who the Warriors may be able to get at pick 7, I can definitely see why the Dubs would be interested in a possible deal. I mean, if they could get a guy like Gay or Granger for just a draft pick, that would be a deal that would be tough to pass up. That said, these are just rumors and I'm not sure if there's any truth to any of the names that have surfaced, but I do like the idea. The Warriors are in "win now" mode, and they've put together a pretty nice core of players, especially if they can get them all healthy. Their one position of need right now though is that small forward spot, where Dorrell Wright is too inconsistent and Richard Jefferson is just no longer an effective starter. I do like Perry Jones and Kentucky's Terrance Jones, but again, for a team in the Warriors position, who need to make the playoffs as quickly and often as possible, getting a young proven player over a young raw talent makes a lot of sense.

Also, the Warriors have been linked to just about every serviceable free agent point guard lately, and I expect them to find one in order to take some pressure off of Steph Curry early. The most intriguing name to surface is former Warrior and current New York Knicks restricted free agent, Jeremy Lin. After the "Linsanity" died down this year, he got hurt and fell off mightily towards the end of the season and many believe he may have worn out his welcome in New York. I know it's hard to fathom since just a few months ago, that city was going crazy over Lin, basically dubbing him their franchise savior. Lin has many skills and talents, and I think he'd be an ideal fit for the quick-paced Warriors, but I just don't see NY letting him go after the impact he had there. Two other names that will become available are Ray Felton and Andre Miller, a couple of veteran point guards who you pretty much know what your going to get with. I'd definitely go with Lin if given a choice, but Miller would also be a decent complimentary piece too if Lin sticks in the big apple.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thunder, Spurs, Heat and Celtics the Final 4

The NBA's version of the final four, better known as the Conference Championships, have begun and we're looking at some very intriguing match-ups. The Eastern-favorite Miami Heat have gotten off to a 1-0 start vs. the surging, veteran infused Boston Celtics, while in the West, the veteran-led Spurs have taken early control over the young and talented Thunder.

Parker and Ginobili Leading SA
After one game, even in a best of 7 series, it's really tough to tell how things are going to go, but I'm still sticking by the two teams I expected to meet in the Finals for pretty much the whole 2nd half of the season and those two teams are the Heat and Thunder. The Spurs did net the #1 seed in the West and have played extremely well in May, but I still think this series is the OKC's to lose. They barely missed pulling out a victory in game one as their star point guard continues to dictate the way things go for that team. Russel Westbrook was OK in Sunday's game, but his 7-21 shooting and 4 turnovers need to improve big time in order to take some pressure off Kevin Durrant. I mean, Durrant is a great talent and all, but the Spurs have obviously curtailed their game to ensure Durrant isn't the one to go crazy and beat them, so it's going to have to be Westbrook and Harden who take the pressure of #35. At the same time, you have to give some credit to San Antonio for continuing to barrel through opponents, and a big reason for that has been the play of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. It's no accident the Spurs have had so much success the last decade plus, a lot of that was because of Tim Duncan, but this year especially, with the shortened season, the Spurs called upon younger guys and relied more heavily on Parker to lead while Duncan saw his minutes limited. As fun to watch and talented the Thunder are, the Spurs are equally intriguing to follow because of the different ways they can beat you and the fundamentally sound basketball they play. If any team is going to take down a Heat or Thunder-quality team, it'll most likely be the boys from San Antonio, much like the Mavs did in 2011.

LeBron's Heat Up 1-0 on Celtics
Over in the East, again, the Heat have put themselves in prime position to be the Eastern Conference reps at the NBA Finals in June, but I don't think they'll be able to roll over the Celtics like they did Monday night. Boston has been the team that got hot at the right time and it's taken them to the conference finals, despite the fact most people didn't expect to see them make it past the first round, much less the second. At the same time though, the Celtics had to go 6 games in the first round, then the full 7 in order to knock off the 76ers in the Semi's, so I'm not sure what kind of push the aging core has. The one player in particular who's really fell on hard times for Boston and was basically non-existent in game one is Ray Allen. He struggled so badly that Doc Rivers went public with his concern for his team's shooting guard spot and mentioned the possibility of removing Allen from the starting lineup. The only issue with that idea is the lack of options the Celtics have at the guard spot right now. My guess is they could sacrifice some offense for defense and throw former Warrior Michael Pietrus into the lineup and have him go up against LeBron. There are just too many things the Celtics would need to overcome in order to win this series, and despite their impressive run in the playoffs up till now, I think this is where it ends for Doc Rivers' bunch.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Warriors Destined For San Francisco

Well, the move that many Warrior fans have been waiting for ever since the Warriors expressed interest in moving out of Oakland finally have their answer.

Warriors SF Uniforms
The NBA declared Monday that the Warriors would likely be moving back across the bay in time for the 2017 season. The Warriors recently brought back their "The City" jerseys, the ones they originally wore when they were in San Francisco, which started the pondering as to whether the Warriors will move our not. This is good news for Warriors fans, even if your an Oakland resident, as at least they're staying in the Bay Area, and won't be moving down south to San Jose or any other Silicon Valley destination. There are a lot of East Bay Warrior fans that won't be as excited about the move, but again, this move was for the best for the organization. The fact of the matter is that the Warriors were having trouble attracting free agents to come to play in Oakland, and that may start changing when this team makes the move back across the bay. At the same time, some purists are worried that the die hard nature of the Warrior fans that have clogged the Oracle the last decade or so will disintegrate. I'm not though. This move is being given a ton of advance notice, and it's not like the W's are jumping ship next season. Chances are this teams roster will be overhauled and have a much different look to it  when the team does get a new Downtown San Francisco arena and first and foremost, this team is staying in the Bay Area. Heck, the changes came this last season when they got rid of one of the all-time Warrior greats in Monta Ellis. I get the sting Oakland fans are feeling after this news, but it could be a helluva lot of worse.

With the playoffs still going, and the regular season done, there hasn't really been any personnel issues to discuss, but one Warrior who's been touted repeatedly since the end of the season was their rookie shooting guard Klay Thompson. After finishing 6th in the ROY balloting earlier in the month, the Warriors first year guard earned himself a spot on the NBA All-Rookie team. The first Warrior besides Stephen Curry to get such honors in a long, long time. I'm telling you, I have a good feeling about the direction that this team is heading, with their draft situation and core of their team set to return to full health next season.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Warriors Season Review: Part 2

In Part One of our Warriors Season review last week, we touched on most of the positives to come out of the 2011/2012 NBA season for Golden State. Today, we wrap up our season review, as we prepare to turn our focus towards the NBA Finals and the June draft. In this post, we'll discuss the things that didn't go so well for Golden State.

Biedrins Struggled
Things started out roughly for Golden State before the season even got going, as they were spurned by every free agent big man they were interested in, only managing to sign Kwame Brown. Their first choice was Tyson Chandler, but he choose to sign with a contender in New York and join Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. They couldn't even manage to get their backup plan to jump ship from the LA Clippers after offering DeAndre Jordan a massive deal only to be spurned, but that's now looking more like a blessing in disguise than anything else. The big problem for the Warriors, and one I think they'll regret until the day he leaves, is not amestying Andris Biedrins and his large remaining contract when they could have gotten that deal off their books and freed up some real cash heading into this summer. Instead though, they played it cautiously, knowing they were short of big men, and they decided to hand on to Biedrins. After that decision, they should have saved their amnesty. Instead, they used it to release Charlie Bell, a guard who had just a year remaining on his deal and wasn't very expensive. I never got that move, and after the deal for Andrew Bogut, the Warriors will have nearly $20M/year committed to these two centers over the next few seasons. So before the lockout-shortened 2011/12 season even got going for Golden State, they had a lot of fans scratching their heads in the Bay Area with their suspect use of the brief free agency period. The best move they made before opening their season on Christmas, was trading for Brandon Rush but they needed more than that.

Curry's Glass Ankles
Now, after the season got going, the team ran into another problem. They couldn't, for the life of them, keep everyone on the floor and healthy. They lost Curry early in January, and he was never really much of a factor after that, only returning for a few brief stints before being shut down for the year around mid-season. Monta Ellis played well in the first half and was the team's first half MVP before the trade, then David Lee picked up slack in absence of Ellis, Udoh, Curry and their new addition, Andrew Bogut. However, one guy who they were counting on mightily to carry the load offensively, Dorrell Wright, fell off badly from his breakout '10-'11 campaign and that caused another big hole in a starting lineup already missing their star point guard and center. As I said in the first part of the review, Klay Thompson stepped up huge in wake of dealing Ellis, and he was acknowledged last week ranking 6th in the NBA Rookie of the Year voting. Had it not been for the emergence of Thompson, this year could have been much worse. At the very least, the Warriors appear to be pretty set at the 2 guard, especially if they retain Brandon Rush this summer. The real problem for Golden State in 2012 were injuries, plain and simple. That said though, even if Curry stayed healthy, this team still lacked that solid man in the middle most playoff teams have and I doubt they would have done much better than they did. The Warriors got decent play from their point guard spot, especially after Nate Robinson came aboard, it was the lack of presence in the middle that kept them from competing with the big dogs, and that's why they felt it so necessary to deal the face of their organization in Monta in order to land a potential all-star center in Bogut. As long as both Curry and Bogut are healthy come October, and stay that way throughout the season, things should take a 180 for Golden State next season, especially if they play it smart in the draft.

All in all, with the way things were at mid-season, Warrior fans have to be pretty stoked that the Dubs appear to have a stronghold on their number 7 pick. At mid-season, it was looking like a lost cause, as they clearly weren't a playoff team, but not bad enough to make the top-7. But by the end of the season, the Warriors had more guys in suits on the bench they they did in actual uniform, and they were starting 3-4 rookies per night at many points in April. That both played well into their draft strategy as well as giving young players like Charles Jenkins and Jeremy Tyler some much needed experience... We here at WRD also wanted to encourage readers to check out these online betting sites if your planning to do any wagering on the playoffs.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Thunder Look Like the Best in the West

Well, we all know how favored the Miami Heat are in the Eastern Conference, but anyone who didn't think the Thunder are the clear team to beat in the West may be thinking differently after their game one demolishing of the Lakers.

Westbrook Erupts!
It was playoff dominance that I haven't seen in quite sometime, as the Thunder beat LA by almost 30 points and Russell Westbrook showed exactly what he's capable of doing when he turns it on. The spidery point guard provided 27 points, 9 assists and 7 boards for the victorious Thunder. Also, Kevin Durrant chipped in with a 25/8/4 line. All the while, LA struggled from the field all night, as the Thunder really showed what kind of defensive powerhouse they can be. LA's "twin towers", Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, combined for just 30 points and the Lakers got nothing from their bench while across the court, the Thunder got a lift from their star 6th man, James Harden. I didn't know how complete and dominant of the team the Thunder can really be until witnessing that massacre Monday night, and it was a loss the Lakers are going to have a tough time bouncing back from. I mean, they didn't play horribly, Kobe scored 20 and was 7-18 from the field, but they just didn't seem to be playing with the urgency that OKC was, something Bryant ripped his team for in the last round. I was looking at this series all along as the real Western Conference Finals, because I think these are the West's two best squads. You have to give some credence to the San Antonio Spurs, but I just think they're a little too old right now to last through May and into June, so again, I stand by my prediction that whoever wins this series faces the Heat in the Finals. Hopefully LA can at least rebound enough to make this series interesting, but they seem way behind the 8-ball for a team just 1 game down.

We'll jump back into our Warriors season review in the next post, just wanted to put some thoughts in regarding the big game last night as it was one of the biggest and most un-expected whooping in recent playoff history and I don't see it getting much better for LA.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Warriors Season Review: Part 1 of 2

Since the regular season ended a few weeks ago, we haven't really done an assessment of the Warriors 2011-12 season here at The Rundown. We figured we'd go ahead and break it into two parts: The Good from from this past season, and the bad.

A Healthy Bogut Will Be Huge!
We'll go ahead and start off with the positives that came out of this season, and even in a year in which the Warriors were decimated by injuries, there were still some very good things to build off heading into 2012-13. The first thing that comes to mind for me is obviously the acquisition of Andrew Bogut, who will give the Warriors a talent at center they haven't had in decades, assuming he can stay on the floor. He'll be paired in the Warriors front court with our choice for their 2012 team MVP, David Lee, who performed much better in his 2nd season with Golden State (20 PPG/9.9 RPG). The Warriors did have to pay a steep price in order to get the Aussie big man, parting with their longest tenured player and one of the most talented guards in the NBA in Monta Ellis, as well as a rising defensive big man and 2010 first round pick, Ekpe Udoh. However, this trade helped the Warriors accomplish more than just adding a much needed presence in the middle. The deal also helped ensure the Warriors held onto their much needed top-7 draft choice, which they won in a coin toss after the season. They still have to go through the lottery, but they most likely will stick at 7, which is a big coupe considering they have very little cap space to work with. Another big deal this team made that could pay off was attaining both Richard Jefferson, who played well for the Warriors, and the Spurs first rounder in exchange for Stephen Jackson. Jefferson not only provides veteran leadership that this young team desperately needs, but he also could represent an upgrade at small forward in 2012-13 if the Warriors end up going with him over the one-dimensional Dorrell Wright. That extra first round choice could end up helping the Warriors if they want to move up in the draft, or if they just sit where they are, they'll should end up with two solid talents with two first round picks in a very deep draft. One thing the Warriors have successfully done in recent drafts, dating back to the selection of Monta Ellis, has been using their lower picks and 2nd round picks wisely. Even last years choosing of Jeremy Tyler and Charles Jenkins are looking like two solid value picks after the way each player ended the season.

Another rookie, the W's first rounder and 11th overall choice in last June's draft, Klay Thompson, really made parting with Ellis a much easier pill to swallow. In fact, if you compare the two guards play over the last month and half of 2012, you'll see very similar stats, despite each being completely different players. In his 29 starts in place of Ellis, Thompson averaged 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal while shooting a sturdy 42% from beyond the arc for the year. In comparison, for Milwaukee in 21 games, Ellis averaged
K. Thompson: Breakout Rookie!
just 17 points and shoot 26% from 3-point range. Again though, each are two completely different players, but Thompson showed us this year that he's more than just a catch-and-shoot guy. While he's not at Ellis' level in terms of distributing the ball and going to the rim, he's a solid ball-handler with good passing smarts and should play extremely well with Steph Curry. Lee was the teams MVP, but Thompson was the teams breakout star. The Warriors also eliminated their small backcourt issue, and even though I made it quite clear here that I'd have much rather dealt Curry than Ellis (even before Curry's ankles became built of glass), they just weren't going to get as much value for Curry, with the ankle issue looming, than he'll provide them when he gets healthy (assuming that day comes). Also Curry is more of a pure point guard than Monta, and has much of the same skill-set but he's a better shooter than Monta too. With Jefferson, Curry, Thompson and the likely return of Brandon Rush, the Warriors have some guys who can snipe from beyond the arc and that element will be very fun to watch next year with Lee and Bogut inside kicking balls out to the shooters. I know a lot of the Warriors potential for next year and beyond is based on the health two players, Curry and Bogut, but I really like the direction this team is headed in, with all the draft choices and the young nucleus already in-tact. Again, I think they need to prioritize Brandon Rush over any of their other free agents, as he not only brings positional flexibility, but a ridiculous efficiency in both field goal and 3-point percentages.

I'd also like to see Nate Robinson retained after a strong year from him in absence of Curry and Ellis. He was the one guy who the Warriors could count on to bring the ball up the court and run the offense after the ladder two players became unavailable. In 51 games, he put up an average of 11 ppg, 2 rpg and 4.5 apg in only 23 minutes of play. He'd again provide some stability and a veteran backup to Curry, who will likely have his playing time limited to begin the season as he just underwent surgery that has an expected 3-month rehabilitation window before he can get back on the court. The season doesn't start until October, so that will give him some time to regain strength before training camp, but the Warriors will definitely take it easy on him. Same with Bogut, though Curry plays point guard and relies heavily on his cuts and drives for much of his offense and production. Still, with Bogut's historic injury issues, the Warriors certainly won't overwork him too much too soon.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Playoffs Heat-ing Up

Well, heading into the 2012 NBA Playoffs, the two consensus favorites to reach the finals, and the two teams we picked here at WRD, were the OKC Thunder and the Miami Heat. The Thunder rolled past the defending champion Dallas Mavericks with a 4-0 sweep, but the Heat failed to do so against their counterpart, the New York Knicks, as NY beat them in game four to keep hopes alive behind a valiant effort by Caremlo Anthony.

Melo's 41 Keeps NY Breathing
With all the Knicks injury issues, I didn't think they would have won a single game without a healthy Stoudemire and without their breakout point guard Jeremy Lin, but Carmelo Anthony prevailed over LeBron James in game 4, once again showing that James can disappear in crunch time. Melo outplayed the Miami star, scoring 41 points in the process to push NY to a 2-point victory to keep them alive. On the other side of the spectrum, the upset in the making thus far has the top-seeded Chicago Bulls down 3 games to 1 to the 8th seeded Philadelphia 76ers, who were reeling heading into postseason. However, the Bulls lost their star point guard Derrick Rose, as well as any Championship aspirations they had for 2012, and have failed to respond like winners, making the Heat now the clear-cut favorites in the East. They still do have to win another game vs. a New York team that gained a lot of momentum in that game 4 win, so there's still a slight chance they could get derailed, but unless injury strikes or they completely melt down, I don't see them having any problems going through a Knicks squad that has players dropping left and right (lost Baron Davis in game 4). Then the Indiana Pacers who look to be heading to the next round, assuming they beat out the Dwight Howard-less Orlando Magic (Pacers have 3-1 lead in series). In perhaps the most interesting match-up in the Eastern Conference's round 1 though has been the aging Boston Celtics vs. the young gun Atlanta Hawks. I thought the Hawks, even without their star center Al Horford and Joe Johnson and Josh Smith each banged up, had enough talent to battle and possibly beat Boston, but the Celtics big-three have shown they can still turn it on when it counts. Boston's up 2-1 in the series and currently is leading by 20 points in the 2nd half of game 4. They to me look like the dark-horses in the East, and may be the one team that Miami fears. They have a pretty similar team to the Dallas Mavericks, with veteran grit, good defense and a smart point guard, and we all know how they fared vs. Dallas last June.

Over in the West, as I said, the Thunder are the only team that cleanly swept their opponent and are sitting there in round two waiting for the winner of the Lakers/Nuggets series. LA has the lead and should beat Denver, but it'll be the LA/OKC match-up that could determine which team represents the West in the finals. With respect to the Spurs, I think the Lakers and Thunder are the two best teams in the West this year, and one of them will reach the finals. The Spurs have been impressive in their series with Utah though, however the Jazz are one of the worst teams in this years bracket, with a 3-0 lead heading into game four on Monday night. The somewhat overlooked series, the Memphis/Clippers match-up has been an exciting one as well, with the Clippers holding a 2-1 lead, but Memphis could just as easily be in the drivers seat, losing game 3 by just a point. I think Memphis is the better overall team and I do think they'll battle back and beat the Clippers, but that is one of series I'm trying not to miss a minute of, and there aren't many of those in the first round.