R-n-G Award Picks: Most Improved Player - Ersan Ilyasova, Milwaukee Bucks
Runner-Ups: Ryan Anderson, Jeremy Lin, and like, 50 other players
The Most Improved Player award is both the most difficult award to determine, as well as the least important award the league gives out. ”Most Improved” can mean be decided with a variety of reasons, and determining which aspect is more important than the others is completely arbitrary. In spite of this reasoning, though, the award exists and a winner must be awarded.
So how does one choose a player that deserves the MIP award? It can go to a player that rarely saw the court the previous season, then eventually found a big role his next year (Jeremy Lin). Or it can also go to a player that is basically doing the exact same thing he did the year before, just with more minutes (Ryan Anderson). Kevin Love won it last year for going from a really good player to a great player (much like Andrew Bynum this year). There’s also the jump from being a rookie to a 2nd year player and making improvements that would inevitably happen (countless sophomore players like Paul George, Ekpe Udoh, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, etc).
My choice of Ersan Ilyasova fits into the “I’m getting more minutes” category. He gets the edge over Ryan Anderson because Ilyasova’s play made Andrew Bogut expendable for the Milwaukee Bucks. His offensive improvement and ability to get rebounds (he went for 29 points and 25 rebounds on February 19th) reassured that the Bucks still had a decent frontline, even without Bogut.
The fact that Ilyasova was in a contract year could also explain some of his improved play.
I was pretty close to choosing Jeremy Lin for succeeding in a role that the Knicks desperately needed, but his recent injury backtracked him from playing enough games to seriously consider Lin as the winner. And Ryan Anderson deserves some consideration for playing well in more minutes in spite of all of the Dwight Howard drama (and he’s also on a contract year).
2012 NBA Trade Deadline Round-Up
So Dwight Howard opts in for another year in his contract for Orlando, but that doesn’t mean this year’s trade deadline wasn’t full of surprises and head scratchers. Let’s recap:
The Warriors look towards the future. The Lakers get a solid, young point guard and a solid, young F/C, adding depth. The Blazers start rebuilding by taking on expiring contracts. The Clippers get an offensive minded, tall off-guard. The Spurs and Popovich get Stephen Jackson back. The Nets do work to try and keep Deron Williams. The Pacers get a nice offensive minded guard. The Cavaliers have four top 40 2012 draft picks. The Wizards get smarter. The Nuggets get over their buyers remorse of Nene (in the expense of McGee and his expiring deal). The Rockets are trying to get better. The Grizzlies give Sam Young a home after finding no place in their roster.
And there you have it. The trade deadline, everybody. Enjoy the rest of your NBA season!
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski Reports:
Golden State Warriors trade Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown to the Milwaukee Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson
There are reasons that this trade is both great and awful.
The Bucks finally get some consistent offense with Monta, and Udoh’s defense is a great replacement for Bogut. Kwame Brown’s 7 million dollar contract is expiring at the end of the season, leaving the Bucks with some extra caproom this upcoming offseason.
But will a Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis backcourt tandem work? It can either go well, or go worse than the Curry-Ellis combo. Good luck Scott Skiles.
The Warriors finally solve their starting center problems with Andrew Bogut. They get Stephen Jackson back, but after this season he has only one year left of $10 mil, good for future offers/cap space. Klay Thompson finally gets more minutes and the opportunity to start. Bogut is currently injured, but gives the Warriors the opportunity to tank and have a better chance to keep their Top 7 protected 1st round pick that the Utah Jazz currently have. Best part: it is finally Stephen Curry’s team.
But the Warriors are taking a risk building around two injury prone players. Both Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut have fallen to many injuries in the past couple years. Curry’s ankle has been a problem all season and Bogut will be out the whole season due to an ankle. Looks like the Warriors are willing to bet on two players that share two ankles. Also, Stephen Jackson is back. Yikes.
As a huge Warriors fan, I’m okay with the trade, as long as Bogut comes back completely healthy, but I wish they were able to get a draft pick back of some sort. Also, I am incredibly sad that Udoh and his uncanny +/- will be leaving the team. He was definitely one of my favorites these past couple seasons.
-random note, I find it hilariously ridiculous that the Warriors traded Stephen Jackson back in 2009 for Vladamir Radmonavic and an injured Raja Bell, only to get him back in 2012 (along with Bogut) for Monta, Udoh, and Kwame’s expiring deal. huh.
Good luck to all of them, and keep on runnin’ ‘n’ gunnin’.
2011-2012 Bold Statements: Eastern Conference Standings
In my opinion the Eastern Conference standings will more or less be the same. The same eight teams will be in the playoffs with shifts in standings that will definitely be effected by the shortened season. As for the other 7 teams… let’s just say that they are still pretty bad.
The Miami Heat are undoubtably the clear favorites to win the Division title this season, and more than likely will have the best record in the league. I find no reason why they won’t plow through the Eastern Conference and eventually end up in the NBA Finals once again. They had a full year to create chemistry and added Shane Battier, an elite perimeter defender who can create space on the court and knock down the open 3.
The Chicago Bulls organization feel like they found the answer to their problems when they picked up Rip Hamilton this offseason, and they’re right. He’s the scoring shooting guard that the Bulls needed last year to take offensive pressure off of Derrick Rose. Furthermore, the Bulls have the same core players from last season and they’re still a relatively young-middle aged team. With Rose signing an extension this week, expect the Bulls to be contending for a title for years to come.
The New York Knicks with the third seed? I believe it. Their addition of Tyson Chandler is their greatest move because he will be able to hide Carmelo’s and Amar’e’s defensive liabilities without needing to do much on offense. Rookie Iman Shumpert, while having an awesome name, also looks like he can become a solid role player behind Douglas, Fields, and Baron when he comes back from injury (no comment on Mike Bibby). Also: JORTS!
The success of the Orlando Magic depends on one thing and one thing only: when will Dwight Howard be traded? If Dwight stays with the Magic all season, they have the 3rd-4th seed on lock. If he gets traded (which I believe he will be), then they will definitely drop in the standings, based upon who Orlando gets back. Either way, the team needs to find some sort of identity, and guys like Jameer Nelson, Jason Richardson, and Big Baby need to step up and stay consistent all year.
If this was a normal 82 game season, the Boston Celtics would no doubt be the 3rd seed again. With this compressed 66 game season, though, I expect them to only be good enough to make get a lower seed, and then work their hardest during the playoffs. Garnett, Allen, Pierce, and maybe even O’neal won’t be playing 66 games each, which leaves Brandon Bass, Marquis Daniels, Keyon Dooling, and Chris Wilcox cleaning up the mess. Yikes. Bass will have a good year, though, filling in for Garnett in Doc’s system.
I am actually very high on this Indiana Pacers team. They have upgraded their roster and have a deep bench, so they might have a chance to take that 5th seed (depending on how many games the Celtics veterans take off). They replaced guys like Mike Dunleavy, Josh McRoberts, James Posey, and Brandon Rush with George Hill, David West, Louis Amundson, and 2 more inches on Paul George. You read correctly, Paul George grew 2 inches taller this summer. Also, a full year under Frank Vogel sure won’t hurt.
I’m probably as low on the Atlanta Hawks as I am high on the Pacers. I don’t think the Hawks will realize how much Jamal Crawford meant to the offense of this team until it’s too late, and Tracy McGrady sure as hell isn’t the answer. Also, the Hawks are now the NBA’s oldest team with an average age of over 30 years old. They still have enough talent to earn a solid Playoff spot, but I don’t see them going far.
The Philadelphia 76er’s roster hasn’t changed very much from last season, so you can’t say they haven’t gotten any better, but they also haven’t gotten any worse either. This team will basically earn their 8th seed because no other team in the Eastern Conference is good enough to have better records. Sorry to the Nets and the Bucks.
The Unfortunate Ones
The Milwaukee Bucks were the 9th seed last season. They are a very good defensive team that needs a lot of help on the offensive end. Their answer? Stephen Jackson and Mike Dunleavy. 9th seed sounds right.
The New Jersey Nets will have a full year (and hopefully more) with All-Star point guard Deron Williams. In spite of this, their 10th seed is more-so related to the other teams being worse than getting any better, especially with Brook Lopez being out until February with a foot injury.
The Washington Wizards are the youngest team in the league, but with 2nd year John Wall looking more like a leader, they have an okay chance at maturing. They will still be pretty bad, though. The bright side? They will be exciting (though sloppy) to watch. Dunks on dunks on dunks!
I actually have a lot of hope for this Detroit Pistons team this season. Lawrence Frank should be a good coach, coming from Doc Rivers’ system in Boston. I’m expecting Austin Daye to have a breakout season. Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight will be great. Blame their poor record on Joe Dumars for locking Charlie V, Gordon, Stuckey, and Prince long-term.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have Kyrie Irving who will be great in this league. Problem? No one else will be able to give him much help. To the draft it is!
Just look at the Charlotte Bobcats’ roster and don’t tell me that they won’t be one of the bottom 3 teams in the league next year. Kemba Walker will be great, but I doubt he will get enough touches with Corey Maggette on the court. Plus, Boris Diaw is 30 pounds heavier and will play point-center. Take that how you will.
Jonas Valanciunas will not be with the Toronto Raptors this year. Players like Aaron Gray, Jamaal Magloire, Gary Forbes, and Rasual Butler will not change anything. Dwane Casey has a lot on his plate for this team.
Slick, Kareem, Donnie
photo by Bob Peterson
Day 25 of Lost NBA Games
14 games originally scheduled. Am I really gonna go through this? It’s the day after Thanksgiving and everyone’s lethargic from all the food and exhausted from Black Friday shopping. Today would have been a perfect day to just sit in front of the TV and watch a few games. (It would have been a) good thing there’s a lot to pick from.
Orlando Magic vs. Charlotte Bobcats - Firstly, I need to stop typing “Charlotte Hornets.” That’s the 3rd time I’ve caught myself. Secondly, I’d watch this just to watch their two tiny point guards in Jameer Nelson and DJ Augustin go at it.
Houston Rockets vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - I never thought I’d see the day when the Timberwolves have a bigger (and possibly even better) front court than the Rockets. This is arguable, but the Wolves have a good amount of potential now.
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Boston Celtics - Two great defenses would be going at it. Boston wins 75-70. Forreal tho, out of the 3 games these two teams played last season, they reached over 90 once in an overtime game. And the last one? The Bucks only scored 56 points. FIFTY-SIX. Jesus christ the Bucks need to find some offense. I guess they’re hoping S-Jax’s streaky shooting helps them.
New York Knicks vs. New Jersey Nets - I think these are just worth watching because this will be the Nets’ last year in New Jersey before moving to Brooklyn. Then it’ll forreal become a New York battle.
Toronto Raptors vs. Miami Heat - The Raptors would have gotten kiiiiiiiilled. No way will the league’s worst defense contain Wade, Lebron, or even Bosh.
Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers - Hello first round of the 2011 playoffs. That doesn’t really mean anything, but this time the Pacers have George Hill who is the closest person they have that can keep up with Derrick Rose. But then again, no one can keep up with Derrick Rose (unless you’re 6’8”, 250 lbs, with a 7 ft wingspan, but then again you’re a freak of nature).
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - Ah, a meeting from the WC Semis. That really was a great series going into game 7. I hope that these two squads keep going at it because both teams are pretty similar in my opinion. Great matchups. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to see Rudy Gay go up against Kevin Durant?
Washington Wizards vs. Detroit Pistons - I don’t even think Detroit or DC fans would want to watch this. Or maybe I’m just a hater. At least there’s John Wall?
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. San Antonio Spurs - I’d honestly watch this just for Kyrie Irving going up against Tony Parker. Otherwise… c’mon, it’s the Cavs.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Denver Nuggets - If the Thunder and Grizzlies weren’t meeting, this would definitely be the game of the day. Two great and exciting teams with crazy, tattooed Shooting Guards. Who wouldn’t want to see this? (Yes, I was talking about JR Smith and DeShawn Stevenson).
LA Clippers vs. Phoenix Suns - I just wanna see Blake Griffin get this dunk back from Marcin Gortat (even though that was a Clippers home game). Otherwise, this would’ve been a super fun game. Fast pace + highlights = NBA gold.
Utah Jazz vs. Portland Trailblazers - I’d watch this just to see the Jazz throw all of their big men at LMA. Also, Wes Matthews should have a good game, if last season is any indication.
Sacramento Kings vs. LA Lakers - Tyreke vs. Kobe looks cool (both matchup wise and name wise). Cousins vs. Bynum also looks fun. With that said, Metta World Peace would kill in this game. Just a hunch.
New Orleans Hornets vs. Golden State Warriors - 2nd meeting of the year. Dope matchup. I’m super sad this isn’t happening.
I’m only allowed up to 10 photos? lame.
Day 23 of Lost NBA Games
10 games we could have kept track of while you wait for it to be Thanksgiving.
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Charlotte Bobcats - I’m gonna be frank here, but the Bobcats would get killed inside. Non-sequitur, but I first typed Charlotte Hornets, but then caught myself. I miss those days.
Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers - I can’t help but SMH when I look at the Cavs’ roster. They don’t have much outside of Kyrie Irving, Boom Dizzle (barely), Omri Casspi, Antawn Jamison, and Anderson Varejao. And even then, that’s a bit sketchy (besides Kyrie). The Pacers, on the other hand, have Darren Collison, George Hill, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Paul George, and Psycho T. Very promising.
Los Angeles Lakers vs. Oklahoma City Thunder - Why wouldn’t you want to watch a game between these two teams. Classic Kobe vs. Durant. I would write more, but it’s pretty self-explanatory.
Toronto Raptors vs. Boston Celtics - You would have had the worst defense (30th in Defensive Efficiency with 110… wow) against a team with one of the best defenses (2nd with a Defensive Efficiency of 97.8). Um, yeah, that basically explains it all.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Detroit Pistons - Every now and then you see a matchup that doesn’t really matter too much. They meet only twice a year, and honestly none of the matchups look very promising. Raymond Felton vs. Rodney Stuckey maybe? Otherwise, I actually don’t know how to approach this game. Sorry folks.
New Jersey Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks - I would love to see Deron Williams light up for 50 over Brandon Jennings. I’m still sore from the time Jennings scored 55 on the Warriors back in his rookie season. Brooke Lopez vs. Andrew Bogut also looks like a very intriguing matchup.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Houston Rockets - The best and the worst out of the Southwest Division. Granted, the Rockets are still a very solid over-.500 team, so that statement doesn’t even mean much. This should’ve been a really fun game with Kevin Martin and Dirk Nowitzki shooting the lights out.
Golden State Warriors vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see Dorell Wright drop 9 three-pointers at the Target Center. Can’t believe that was already almost a whole year ago (Nov. 27, 2010).
Orlando Magic vs. San Antonio Spurs - You can’t not love the idea of this game. Two great defensive big men duke it out in San Antonio, and it would have been great. Dwight Howard. Tim Duncan. Damn.
Utah Jazz vs. Sacramento Kings - Wow, I actually think the Kings own this matchup. Granted, the Jazz’s front line is deeper and looks stronger, but the Kings’ backcourt should’ve made up for it.
Day 19 of Lost NBA Games
I’m skipping Day 18. For one, I’m already two days late, and the only game that was really worth watching out of the 12 that day would have been a Denver Nuggets vs. Oklahoma City Thunder matchup. That actually looked really good, being a rematch from the first round of the playoffs last season. Though I’ve been calling out a lot of Denver games during this “season” it is a bit hard to really gauge how they’ll be next season with how many free agents they have, a good amount of which you don’t know will be coming back. At at this point in the lockout, three of them are in China with a “no-out clause” for the lockout.
There was also a Portland vs. Indiana game scheduled. LMA vs. Hibbert would have been pretty dope.
Alright here we go, Day 19 - Saturday, November 19th
Dallas Mavericks vs. Atlanta Hawks - One great team vs. a very solid team with some good match-ups. Josh Smith would have a huge assignment against Dirk. Tyson Chandler would have a lot to handle in Al Horford. You got an aging Kidd going against Teague (most likely). I like how this game would look, in my opinion.
New Orleans Hornets vs. Orlando Magic - A little bit of bias here because I really like both teams, but honestly why wouldn’t you want to watch this game? The team with (arguably) the best point guard in the league right now would go against the team with (unarguably) the best center in the league right now. This may have been one of the last times these two might see each other with these two teams too, both going into free agency in 2012. Further than that, though, you have Okafor, West (maybe), and Landry working down low for NOLA and Orlando with a plethora of outside shooters. Should make for a fun game.
Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Memphis Grizzlies - This one might seem crazy and it might seem like I keep pushing for the Grizzlies this season, but hear me out. Kevin Love and Derrick Williams vs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Of course, Rudy Gay makes this no contest, but I love the matchup at the post.
Portland Trailblazers vs. Milwaukee Bucks - The Bucks have a really good defense (4th best Defensive rating last season with a 102.5) so I’m wondering if their defensive powerhouse Andrew Bogut could contain a guy like LaMarcus Aldridge. Could have been fun, if the Bucks could find their offense, that is.
Chicago Bulls vs. Los Angeles Clippers - Derrick Rose vs. Blake Griffin. This matchup already happened in Day 8, so whoever made up this schedule is an asshole for finishing their series together in the season by the 19th day. Either way, this game would have had the most explosive point guard against the most explosive power forward. It’s always a sad day when these two don’t play.
Day 16 of Lost NBA Games - Wednesday, Nov. 16th
I’m skipping the 15th because there were only 4 games and they were all pretty much “meh.” Today, though? Wednesdays are usually packed with tons of games to make up for the 2 or 3 scheduled for Thursdays. Boy, did we miss a good day today. 13 games slated with a great amount worth watching. Let’s get into it!
Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors - I’d feel bad if this whole “season” I barely talk about the Toronto Raptors, so I’m choosing this match-up for two reasons: Toronto Raptors’ horrible defense matched up with the Suns’ fast pace should make for a pretty fun offensive game to watch. Key word: fun, not necessarily great.
Houston Rockets vs. New Orleans Hornets - I mentioned on Day 12 how any matchup between any of the five teams in the Southwest Division is a must watch, and there are no exceptions. Of course, a Yao-less Rockets squad is lacking down low with Chuck Hayes at starting Center, and Lowry and Dragic will get killed against Chris Paul, but Kevin Martin will do work against whoever the Hornets have at the 2. Should be a good one to watch.
Boston Celtics vs. Miami Heat - Oh man, this one would have been on ESPN. Pretty much THE marquee game of the night. Two great defenses, two great teams that would be fighting for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and will more than likely meet again in the Playoffs. This one’s basically a “no duh.”
Milwaukee Bucks vs. Minnesota Timberwolves - You might think I’m crazy for putting this up… and maybe I am. I’m just down to see a showdown between Ricky Rubio and Brandon Jennings, along with Andrew Bogut going at it Derrick Williams and Kevin Love down low. You also have Stephen Jackson matched up against Michael Beasley… lol.
Dallas Mavericks vs. Memphis Grizzlies - They already met up on Day 11, so I won’t get too much into this one. Nonetheless, this would’ve still be a great game to watch. Also, both teams will be retaining most of their players, saving that Gasol, Randolph, and Chandler don’t get moved whenever the offseason starts, but it seems unlikely that the Mavs will get rid of their defensive centerpiece, and Randolph wants to stay with Gasol. Either way, great game.
Chicago Bulls vs Portland Trailblazers - It’s already pretty great getting a game with either Derrick Rose or LaMarcus Aldridge, and you only get these two meeting up twice a year. It’s sad we’re missing it because of the lockout.
New York Knicks vs. Denver Nuggets - Can you believe that this would have been their first matchup ever since the Carmelo trade last year? Another ESPN game and this one would have been epic. Who knows how Denver fans would react to Carmelo’s return? Well… other than the people of Denver, but I guess the rest of us will never know. Sad day.
Philadelphia 76ers vs. Golden State Warriors - I’m putting this one down mostly out of bias. I went to this Warriors home game vs. the 76ers last season with some of my best friends and had a great time. Of course, now a couple of those friends are in LA and the game has been cancelled, so recreating it is a no go (plus, it’s a Wednesday) but it would’ve been fun to do it again. Plus, I’m a big fan of Andre Iguodala.