Archive for February, 2013

NBA Power Rankings

Posted: 02/25/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

Time for a ranking of each of the NBA’s 30 teams.

TIER 1:

1. Miami Heat (40-14).. They don’t have the best winning percentage in the NBA, but #1 is the Heat’s spot to lose until they prove otherwise. Right now, they are just widening between themselves and the gap. Their winning streak has stretched to 11 games, including a home win over the Clippers and a four game road winning streak in that span that included wins over the Thunder, Bulls and Hawks. LeBron is going to win the MVP unless something drastic happens, and Dwyane Wade has quietly continued being dominant. When your top three shooters are shooting a combined 46 times per game and making more than 25 of those shots (close to 55%), you know you have a good team.

2. San Antonio Spurs (45-13).. The Spurs have the best record in the NBA, and have extended their lead over the Thunder to three games. Right now, it looks like San Antonio is going to get the #1 seed in the West, and their team looks poised to wreak havoc in the playoffs.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-15).. The Thunder wrap up the big three in the NBA right now, and these three teams really won’t be judged by what they do in the regular season. Right now, the Thunder just have to be holding their breath and hoping they don’t have to face the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets, led by former Thunder and emerging OKC-killer James Harden, could cause OKC a lot of problems. Kevin Durant, putting up 18 shots per game, isn’t even shooting the most on his team. That distinction goes to Russell Westbrook, who is shooting just 43% from the floor (Durant is at 51%). Durant needs to shoot more, even though he is already scoring an easy 28 points per game.

TIER 2:

4. Memphis Grizzlies (37-18).. The Grizzlies are now 8-3 since the trade of Rudy Gay. That includes a seven game roll that they are riding right now. This Memphis team is very good defensively. They have given up 82 points or fewer in their last three wins, which is reflected by Zach Randolph’s 46 rebounds in that span. Tayshaun Prince is obviously not the player that Gay is, but it sure looks like he fits their team better than the younger Rudy Gay did. The Grizzlies are the #4 seed in the West right now, and I think they will be happy to hold onto home field advantage in the first round.

5. Indiana Pacers (35-21).. The Pacers continue to roll. In the game before the All Star break, they beat the Bobcats by 24. In their three games after the break, they have won by an average of 28 points. Enough said. Oh one more thing: Danny Granger is back. That is all.

6. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18).. The Clippers have won five of their last six, but I still didn’t want to rank them this high, as they lost at home to the Spurs by 26. Still, they have a better record than the two teams immediately above them, so I’ll keep them here.

7. Denver Nuggets (35-22).. The Nuggets have lost four of their last six, but five of their last six games have been on the road. 15 of their last 25 games are at home. The Nuggets have a worse record than the Knicks, but I’m ranking them higher because I believe that they would beat the Knicks in a winner take all game.

8. New York Knicks (33-20).. The Knicks are the last team in tier two. They have really been struggling recently, but are still the #3 team in the East and I wouldn’t be surprised if they turned it around a little bit going into the playoffs. They need more production from guys other than Carmelo Anthony. Melo is averaging 12.4 more points per game than the second highest scorer on the team, J.R. Smith. Maybe it’s time to consider putting Amare Stoudemire back in the starting lineup. Amare’s 22 PER is close to Melo’s 23.

TIER 3:

9. Houston Rockets (31-27).. The Rockets do not have a good record, but I expect it to only get better from here. Their 106.3 points per game is second best in the NBA. Their win over Oklahoma City was intriguing, as is Jeremy Lin and his play of late.

10. Golden State Warriors (33-23).. The Warriors three game winning streak came at the perfect time: off a six game losing streak. They beat the Spurs for the first time since 2008, which might be a sign of things to come.

11. Los Angeles Lakers (28-29).. Here come the Lakers… This doesn’t mean I think they will make the playoffs, but if they played the Jazz, Nets, Bulls or Hawks right now, I believe they would win.

12. Brooklyn Nets (33-24).. The Nets will go into the playoffs as a 4-6 seed, most likely. They need everyone healthy (Joe Johnson is hurt now) if they want a chance to get deep into the playoffs, because without Johnson they are starting… C.J. Watson. Ouch.

13. Chicago Bulls (32-24).. Still playing ugly games, still without Derrick Rose, still comfortably in the playoffs… Things haven’t changed in Chi-town.

14. Atlanta Hawks (31-23)
15. Utah Jazz (31-25)
.. I’m putting these two together because both were expected to make big trades (Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Josh Smith all could have moved) but didn’t. They are both mediocre.

TIER 4:

16. Boston Celtics (29-27).. The Celtics now look safely in the playoffs, and could even climb to the six or five seed. They have been stumbling recently, but I think the Jordan Crawford for nothing trade was excellent.

17. T0ronto Raptors (23-33).. The Raptors have climbed into a tie for 9th with the Sixers, and they could possibly pass the Bucks. They have won seven of their last 10, gaining tons of precious ground.

18. Dallas Mavericks (25-30).. Dirk is averaging close to 20 points per game over his last nine, and he has hit more than half of his three point attempts in that time. Still, they are 5 games out of the playoffs and would have to jump the Blazers, Lakers (doesn’t seem likely) and one of the Jazz or Rockets to make the playoffs.

19. Portland Trailblazers (26-30).. The Blazers had a cinderella first half to the season, but we all knew they would end up in the lottery. Still, they look to have a bright future.

20. Milwaukee Bucks (26-28).. The Bucks are in a seemingly never ending skid, as they’ve lost nine of their last 11. Luckily for them, the teams below the Bucks haven’t exactly been playing like the Heat, so they still are comfortably in the playoffs. As a side note, if the Bucks don’t give up 130 points per game, Larry Sanders should win defensive player of the year. Look at the lineup they will be rolling with for much of each game:
Brandon Jennings-Monta Ellis backcourt (two of the worst perimeter defenders in the NBA)
JJ “I have to play defense? But I can shoot!” Redick
Ersan “I’m to small to play PF, so it’s not my fault that Al Horford scored against me” Ilyasova
Larry Sanders.

TIER 4:

21. Washington Wizards (17-37).. If I were the Heat, Thunder or Spurs coach, I’d much rather want to play the four teams directly above the Wizards than I would the Wizards. They are rolling of late, and look to be a dangerous team coming out of the all-star break.

22. New Orleans Hornets (20-37).. Quietly, the Hornets have started to turn it around. This could be a sign of things to come. After shopping Eric Gordon at the trade deadline, they held EG, who is not playing in most games since returning from a knee injury (seems to be a recurring theme, no?). Anthony Davis has a fantastic 21 PER, and Ryan Anderson continues to hit 3+ three point shots per game. The frontcourt of Davis-Robin Lopez (20+ PER) has been better than we expected.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33).. There hasn’t been many positive things to say about the T-Wolves. Hey, at least Ricky Rubio has been playing well.

24. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-38).. The Cavs are 7-6 since their underrated trade for Marressee Speights. Hey, I’m trying to find some positives. Oh, that Kyrie dude is pretty good.

25. Detroit Pistons (22-36).. Two positives: The Pistons are getting Andre Drummond back soon, and they are one of only two teams to beat the Spurs since January 11th.

26. Philadelphia 76ers (22-32).. This team is disgusting.

TIER 5:

27. Sacramento Kings (19-38).. They are a mess. But they aren’t as much of a mess as the bottom three.

28. Orlando Magic (15-41).. At least they have one guy (Nikola Vucevic) who has had a breakout season this year and is averaging a double double.

29. Phoenix Suns (18-39).. The Suns are even worse than their record indicates

30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-43).. I guess they aren’t as bad as they were last year.

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Granderson out 10 weeks with broken arm

Posted: 02/24/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

Now that seems painful. Curtis Granderson fractured his forearm in his first spring training at bat. In the top of the first, he took a pitch from J.A. Happ that hit him squarely in the wrist. As he was escorted off the field, he seemed to be in a lot of pain (now we know why. Ouch.) Both Granderson and manager Joe Girardi were surprised at the severity of the injury.”It was just one specific spot,” Granderson said. “Nothing moved up or down. No numbness. No tingling. Just that spot. Kind of felt like you hit your funny bone, but only in that spot.” ”I was actually kind of shocked,” Girardi added. “He wasn’t in a lot of pain. I guess he’s got a high pain threshold.” In the second inning, Yankees starter Adam Warren hit Brett Lawrie with a pitch. Granderson didn’t believe either HBP was on purpose, though. As for the on field implications, the Yankees take another huge blow. The already injury ridden team lost their best power hitter and at the start of the season could be down to just two players (Mark Teixera and Robinson Cano) who gave the team 20-homer power. The Yanks were already hurting in the power department after letting Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez, Nick Swisher, Endy Chavez and Andrew Jones gone. Plus, Alex Rodriguez (by the way, I haven’t been posting about the steroid stuff and I really don’t want to. Read the baseball news.) might not play this year. So the Yankees have gone from possible AL East champions to likely third place finishers (never count them out). It’ll be interesting to see if they make any moves to try to rebound from this.

Coming up: NBA Powerrankings and NCAA Bubble Watch

NCAA Coach of the Year Candidates

Posted: 02/20/2013 by phillyisforphanatics215 in Basketball, NCAA

Overall, this NCAA Men’s Basketball Season has been crazy to say the least. There have numerous amounts of “upsets” and no team has pulled away from the pack and has been considered the top team.

There are 4 coaches in particular who have done tremendous jobs and who deserve the honor; Colorado State Coach Larry Eustachy, Virginia Coach Tony Bennett, Oregon Coach Dana Altman, and last but surely not least Miami Coach Jim Larranaga.

The case for Larry Eustachy is a pretty good one, at season’s start the Rams had a slim chance to enter March Madness and this would have probably come via winning the Mountain West’s conference tournament. There chances to win that event were minimal but somehow, Eustachy has gotten his Rams to break into the AP Top 25 for the first time since 1954. In addition, their ranking may continue to rise as a result of a pretty easy schedule.

The case for Tony Bennett, is primarily  due to Virginia’s spectacular “in your face” defense. His team could shock the entire ACC if they could manage to get into the “Big Dance”. Especially, when one considers the strength of schedule they have including games against Miami and Duke, two top ten teams.

The Case for Dana Altman, in a conference full of disappointing surprises, it is good that there is at least one that is happy.  The Ducks were predicted in the preseason to be 7th in the Pac-12 and currently they are sitting close to the top. In addition, Altman is dealing with a very young backcourt and he has handled it very well.

Lastly, Jim Larranaga’s case, his team was predicted to finish outside of the top three in the ACC but currently they are arguably No. 1 in all of the land with a ton of quality wins. What is most surprising, is how they remain undefeated  in the ACC, which is a very competitive conference.

No matter, who ends up winning the award it will probably be a great choice.

Predictions for NBA Trade Deadline

Posted: 02/20/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

The deadline is tomorrow, and there are rumors swirling. There are sure to be some impact players traded, but who, and where to?

Eric Bledsoe is traded to the Jazz for a package headlined by Paul Millsap: This trade just makes so much sense that it has to happen. The Jazz have a good problem to have: They have too many big men. A trade of Millsap would open up playing time for Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. Bledsoe would give them a real starting point guard. For a team starting Jamaal Tinsley and Randy Foye, that’s a good thing. As for the Clippers, they are trading a bench player (their 7th or 8th man) for a starter who would help their rebounding deficiencies and give them much more flexibility. This trade makes both likely playoff teams much more dangerous.

J.J. Redick is traded to the Bulls for Richard Hamilton, Marquis Teague and a pick: Another trade that makes perfect sense. The Bulls get a shooter who just makes their team more well rounded and lethal. The Magic continue to rebuild by picking up young players (Teague could be a future starter) and draft picks.

Josh Smith is dealt to the Bucks or Mavericks: If it’s to the Bucks, it will be for either a Monta Ellis centered deal or a deal with a young player (maybe Larry Sanders) and a Beno Udrih type expiring contract. As for the Mavericks, Darren Collison, Shawn Marion and a few young guys might do the trick. I wouldn’t want my team to trade for Smith, though, because he’ll want a max contract and he doesn’t really deserve one.

Jordan Crawford is dealt: I don’t know who to, but it seems pretty obvious to me that the dynamic two guard will be traded before the deadline. He isn’t happy with his bench role, and Washington doesn’t really need him as they have an emerging Bradley Beal. I would guess he goes to Memphis– they need a scorer.

The Suns will blow their “team” up: The Suns are a mess. They are going to blow it all up and tank for the #1 pick.

Lakers hold pat: The Lakers are in a tough position. Pau Gasol looked like a prime trade candidate, but now he is injured and out indefinitely. If I were them, I might dangle Dwight Howard and see what I could get, but that might be admitting defeat. Plus, they still want to re-sign Dwight. Steve Nash could be traded, but I doubt it. The most likely scenario involves the Lakers just holding their players and praying for a late season run.

Post All Star Game Playoff Predictions

Posted: 02/18/2013 by levcohen in Basketball

The All Star game ended in another West triumph by a modest score of 143-138. It’s the third straight West win, and it came in the way I thought it would. They pretty much led from start to finish, and the high octane scoring was led by non other than Kevin Durant. My MVP prediction was a James Harden MVP. Harden scored in the teens, which isn’t a great ASG performance. Chris Paul ended up rightfully taking the hardware. Now on to my predictions for what the 2013 playoffs will look like.

Eastern Conference.

1. Miami Heat (61-21).. The Heat will end the season on a 25-7 tear and open the playoffs just the way they wanted to. Their team will be hot, but they will have no injuries and will be fresh. I pity the eight seed.

2. Indiana Pacers (52-30).. The Pacers will overtake the Knicks in the last few weeks and take the two seed from New York. This prediction has them finishing 20-9, which might seem optimistic until you consider three things.

  1. Danny Granger is returning soon
  2. The Pacers have been mentioned in trade talks for Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick
  3. The team has been scoring better of late, as they are averaging 101 PPG in their last 10 games, up from an average of 93 for the whole seasons

3. New York Knicks (48-34).. The Knicks are going to play .500 basketball for the rest of the season, and close out the year with the three seed. They have shown signs of slowing down in their last four games. They just haven’t looked good in any of the four, and ended up losing three of those four games, three of which were against bad teams (Toronto, Minnesota, Washington).

4. Chicago Bulls (47-35)..  Derrick Rose is in no hurry to come back, which is why I don’t think the Bulls are going to jump the Pacers and Knicks. Still, they have played extremely good basketball this year without Rose. This has been because of some surprisingly good play by Jimmy Butler and Nate Robinson, both backups for most of the season who have stepped up in certain big instances.

5. Boston Celtics (45-37).. The Celtics will win seventeen of their next thirty games. I don’t expect them to make any trades, and with the way they’ve been playing recently I see them overtaking Brooklyn and Atlanta before falling to Chicago in the first round of the playoffs.

6. Brooklyn Nets (44-38).. The Nets are going to go into the playoffs on a four game losing streak, and are going to go 13-16 after the all star break. I’m not very confident in Brooklyn’s depth or their defense or their durability.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40).. The Bucks will continue to play slightly above average basketball for the rest of the season and take the seven seed. Hopefully it will be enough to convince Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to stay, because those two are fun to watch together.

8. Atlanta Hawks (41-41).. After trading Josh Smith for future help, the Hawks will plummet into the 8th spot, and end the season after a 12-19 stretch. The future looks brighter, but they will have no chance without Smith in the first round against Miami. If they keep Smith, I could see them grabbing a six seed and giving the Knicks a run for their money.

Western Conference.

1. San Antonio Spurs (62-20).. Ho-hum for the Spurs. They’ll go 20-8 after the all star break with their key guys getting some days off, and they’ll still finish with the best record in the NBA.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder (60-22).. The Thunder have gained a ton of respect over the past few years, and now nobody will want to face them in the playoffs. They match up very well against the Spurs and Clippers, and really their only problem match-up would be Memphis, who could pound them down low.

3. Los Angeles Clippers (59-23).. The Clippers close out the West’s big three. I really don’t envision any other team coming out of the West other than one of those three, although Memphis and Denver might have small chances. Nobody wants to face Lob City in the first round, either. Imagine their team if they were to trade Bledsoe for Paul Millsap. They could have a crunch-time lineup of: Chris Paul (best point guard in the game), Jamal Crawford (nobody heats up faster then him), Lamar Odom (does everything), Millsap (undersized but has a great shot and is a good rebounder), Blake Griffin (top big man). Anyone want to mess with that?

4. Denver Nuggets (54-28).. The Nuggets are going to finish just as strong as they’ve played recently, mainly because their home court advantage is so valuable. They are 22-3 in the mile high city, and 16 of their 28 remaining games are at home. If they can win 14 at home, they’ll only need to go 7-5 on the road to make this record possible, and I think that will happen.

5. Memphis Grizzlies (51-31).. I see Memphis finishing 18-13 after the all star break, which isn’t as good as their current record would suggest. They’ve had trouble since Rudy Gay was traded, and I think they’ll continue to have a transitioning period, but they’ll be a match-up problem for a team in the first round.

6. Golden State Warriors (48-34).. The Warriors have Andrew Bogut back (at least for now), and their starting lineup looks quite good right now. Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson at guard, with a Harrison Barnes-David Lee-Bogut frontcourt.

7. Houston Rockets (45-37)… The Rockets would need to go 16-11 for this to happen, and I think that’s definitely doable. The seven seed is not ideal though, because they’d face the Thunder in round one.

8. Utah Jazz (43-39).. The Jazz will just barely hold on to the 8th seed as the season comes to an end. An Eric Bledsoe for Paul Millsap trade could help them, and they have Mo Williams returning, and Williams will just push them into the playoffs.

NBA Award Predictions:
MVP: LeBron James (yes, him again)
Defensive Player of the Year: Joakim Noah (he should get this recognition, no matter how annoying he is)
Rookie of the Year: Damian Lillard
Most Improved Player: Paul George

Scoring Leader: Kevin Durant (29.4 PPG)
Assists Leader: Rajon Rondo (11.1 APG).. Rondo qualifies for this stat as he surpassed the 400 assist total needed. His 11.1 assists per game will win out, as nobody else is averaging double digit assists right now.Rebounds Leader: Tyson Chandler (11.6 RPG).. Currently in 6th, Chandler will just edge out Z-Bo, Asik and Vucevic.
Steals Leader: Chris Paul (2.7 SPG)
Blocks Leader: Serge Ibaka (3.1 BPG).. Ibaka will pass Larry Sanders at the end of the year

All Star Game Preview

Posted: 02/17/2013 by levcohen in Basketball
Tags: ,

It’s that time of year again. The NBA all star game. Last night was all star Saturday, and the skills competition, dunk contest and three point contest were preformed. The winners are as followed:
Skills competition: Damian Lillard. Runner up: Jrue Holiday.. Flunked: Tony Parker, Jeff Teague
Dunk contest: Terrence Ross. Runner up: Jeremy Evans.. Flunked: James White
Three point contest: Kyrie Irving. Runner up: Matt Bonner… Flunked: Paul George

Now it’s time to preview the ASG:
The Point Guards:
East:
Rajon Rondo (inj)
Kyrie Irving
Jrue Holiday

West:
Chris Paul
Russell Westbrook
Tony Parker

With Rondo, I might give the East the edge. But without the star distributor, the West has a clear edge, especially since Rondo’s replacement is Brook Lopez, who certainly won’t help in the point guard discussion. Paul is the best player on this list, and Westbrook is second. Kyrie is very good, but he doesn’t compare to the top guards in the West. Another problem is that the East isn’t even starting a PG with Rondo out. The lineup is as follows: Dwyane Wade, LeBron, Melo, Bosh, Garnett.

The Shooting Guards:
East:
Dwyane Wade
Paul George

West:
Kobe Bryant
James Harden

The West, with the two best shooting guards in the NBA, have another edge. Let’s be clear here: Wade and George are two of the five best SG’s in the NBA. But neither of them is #1 or #2. Kobe is still performing at an All-NBA level, and Harden is having a breakout year. Plus, Harden is playing on his home court.

The Small Forwards:
East:
LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony
Luol Deng

West:
Kevin Durant

This is no contest. Kevin Durant is one of the two best players in the NBA, but there is no way he will get an advantage over three all-stars, including the best player in the world. This win for the East almost makes up for their PG and SG deficiencies.

The PF/C’s:
East:
Kevin Garnett
Chris Bosh
Brook Lopez (inj replacement)
Tyson Chandler
Joakim Noah

West:
Tim Duncan
Blake Griffin
Dwight Howard
LaMarcus Aldridge
David Lee
Zach Randolph

Edge: West. There just aren’t that many great big men in the NBA right now. Even if I said that Howard was the worst one among these players (he’s been playing that way this year), the West still has an advantage. Duncan still maintains and advantage over Garnett. Griffin is a better all around player than Bosh. Lee, Randolph and Aldridge aren’t comparable to Noah, Chandler and Lopez, because the first group scores a lot more but the second group has two of the best defenders in the NBA (Noah and Chandler). Lopez is having a breakout season, but so is David Lee.

Overall Edge: West

Final Score Prediction: West- 156, East- 148Leading Scorer: Kevin Durant (37)
MVP: James Harden (28 points, 7 rebounds, 9 assists)

Proposed Ejections for Hitting Illegally

Posted: 02/15/2013 by phillyisforphanatics215 in Football, NCAA
Tags: ,

Under an NCAA proposal, next year a player who delivers a hit to the head on a defenseless opponent would be ejected from the game.

The NCAA Football Rules Committee has already announced that they would like a bigger penalty than 15 yards for a hit on a defenseless player. Assuming that the Playing Rules Oversight Panel agrees with this proposition, the player who delivered the hit will be ejected in addition to a 15-yard penalty. However, the rules does allow video replay to determine if the athlete should indeed be ejected. To overturn an ejection, the replay official must have conclusive evidence that the hit was unintentional.

If the athlete is ejected in the first half, they will sit out for the remainder of that game but will be able to return for the beginning of their next game. However, if the player is ejected in the second half of the game, they will sit out the remander of that game and sit out the first half of their next game. They will be able to return for the second half of their next game.

This proposed change was not expected, but it makes that this would come out of the committee’s three-day meeting focused on  player safety.