Golden State Favored To Win the NBA Finals But Can They Be Beat?

The common question every National Basketball Association (NBA) team has this year is how to go about figuring out a way to defeat the Golden State Warriors.  They are the clear favorites to win the NBA Finals according to BoydsBets.com.  And, it’s not even close.

No team has a better core of front line players including newly acquired Kevin Durant and returning stars Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. The statistics are staggering for the Warriors after 36 games into the 2017 campaign including ranking first in points per game (117.5), field goal percentage (.499%), points per minute (.49) while ranking in the top tier of the league in free throw percentage (.795 – 7th), and points off turnovers (18.2 per game – 4th). In other words, do not fret if Kevin Durant would mesh with his new teammates since these numbers are quite telling.

So what do the Warriors lack in their attempt to retake the NBA championship in 2017? I would offer up the lack of bench strength and the shortage of a middle man that can control the paint while staying physical versus the teams that slow the pace of the game, namely when the NBA playoffs arrive. As Durant arrived via free agency, those that significantly contributed to the team last year were let go including center Andrew Bogut, Marreese Speights, Festus Ezeli, and Harrison Barnes. The departure of these big men will create a challenge to the Warriors in how they go about slowing down a team that can crash the boards. Arrivals Zaza Pachulia and David West will struggle keeping teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers from crashing the boards to create second and third opportunities to score.

This in lies the strategy to slow the Warriors train from running rough shot over the NBA which includes being physical, utilizing versatile small and power forwards to defend against Stephen Curry, and making certain they are limited to one shot. Multiple teams have found success using big and physical forwards on Curry as to limit his ability to launch three point shots, and equally important, prevent him from driving the lane. Players such as Kawhi Leonard (Spurs), Jae Crowder (Celtics), and Kevin Love in last year’s finals were able to defend using their size and skill to bother the shot of Curry and limit his dribble penetration. Slowing down the Warriors shot attempts is advantageous as well since many of the second and third shot attempts are often times converted into three point field goals by Klay Thompson, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, or Draymond Green.

One can argue that five teams have a legitimate chance to keep the Warriors from hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy including the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Cleveland Cavaliers. As noted in the Western Conference, the Spurs can slow down the game with their proficient offense led by Leonard, Pau Gasol, Tony Parker, and LaMarcus Aldridge. Each can match up with the Warrior’s star players while outperforming their weak bench as was the case on October 25th in a 129 to 100 victory. If the Clippers get healthy, they can match up with the Warriors as well with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul who is one of the best lock down defenders in the NBA, and Deandre Jordan who limits the Warriors to one shot per possession. In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics brought in Al Horford, previously of the Atlanta Hawks, to fill the paint and limit teams to one shot. Isaiah Thomas can match Curry’s scoring on a given night while two bigger bodies in Jay Crowder and Marcus Smart can make things difficult on Curry on the offensive end.

The defending champion Cavaliers did well in slowing Curry in the finals using Kevin Love and LeBron James to shadow him. Yet what was most successful was Tristan Thompson guarding the paint and not permitting the Warriors from getting second and third shot attempts. By doing so, the Cavaliers avoided the Warriors from adding on to their 59.3% field goal percentage attained when gaining an offensive rebound. In the end, the Warriors are built to win this year if they can migrate through the regular season by keeping their stars healthy for the playoff run. The blueprint for success lies with an opponent’s ability to apply pressure to Curry by trapping him, or forcing him to swing the ball out to a team member that is less of an offensive threat. Obviously, this becomes a lot more doable when Durant and Thompson are not on the floor and one does not have to defeat the Warriors in a long seven game series.

Best NBA Players That Are On Bad Teams

The NBA is a league filled with talent, but good players can get stuck on bad teams.  Normally great players don’t go to terrible teams via free agency, they are drafted to bad teams and despite their best efforts, can’t save the franchise.  Since there are five players on the floor at any one time, you’ll see plenty of stars below who are on teams destined to not win a championship.

#1: Devin Booker

Devin Booker is on a Suns team that is controlled by one of the worst owners in the league. Robert Sarver has allowed the team to sink to a point where no one wants to play there. Steve Kerr was run off from the Suns, went to TV, was hired by the Warriors and he has already won a title. The Suns are so misguided that they will waste Devin Booker’s best years, trade him or both.

#2: John Wall

The Wizards are not as bad as everyone thinks, but they are not good enough to support a player of his caliber. Bradley Beal is a complementary piece for the team, but they do not have any other talent. John Wall is a first overall pick who should have accomplished more in his short career, but the Wizards are not getting any better. Wall seems like the player who will leave the first chance he gets because he needs to be on a team that will give him support.

#3: Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid is a better physical specimen than Hakeem Olajuwon was, but he is on the worst team in the league. The 76ers believe they may tank their way to a title by picking up lottery players, but they will suffer through many more terrible seasons first. Sure, Embiid is prone to injury, and he may not last past age 30. A player of his caliber does not come along often, and the 76ers may allow him to wound himself out of the league.

#4: DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins is the best player on the Kings, and he has won quite a few games for Sacramento on his own. However, the Kings are a hapless franchise that is not capable of bringing in talent around Cousins, and they have lost games due to their stubbornness in roster development. Roster development is one of the most-difficult jobs in the NBA, and their front office has not yet learned how to bring players together that will support Cousins. Cousins deserves to be on a contender, and there are several other California teams that would serve him quite well.

#5: Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis came to the Pelicans and everyone thought he was going to be the cornerstone to turn the franchise around. He is capable of scoring 40 points a night and pulling down 20 rebounds. He has scored over 50 points in a game, and the brow is the only worthy player on the roster. The Pelicans lucked into Davis by winning the NBA draft lottery, but they have done nothing with him. He is still in his prime and might still get better, but he may be moved to a team that will use his talent more-effectively. The Lakers or Celtics would be wonderful destinations for Davis, but he has not asked for a trade at this time.

The best players on the worst teams are losing time as they spend years of their lives playing on teams with no direction. The Suns, Pelicans, Kings, 76ers and Wizards provide no substantial support for fine players. Their lack of attention to detail ruins young careers.

NBA Players Who Could Have Entered the Draft Sooner

The new rule that was introduced in the NBA has been a center of controversy. It requires that a player who has just completed high school cannot be drafted that following summer.  One has to spend one more year playing in either in college or an overseas league as a professional.

Some players though choose to stay in school longer and thus delay the start of their professional careers.  For most players, it’s a good idea to stay back, get stronger, and improve their game.  But for others, it hurt their draft stock and cost them extra dollars. Here are some players who I think should have declared for the draft a little bit sooner.

Joakim Noah
Joakim Noah now plays for the New York Knicks after starting his career with the Chicago Bulls.  Noah was considered one of the best players in college, but after winning a national title with Florida decided to stay an extra year and defend.  The Gators won again, but Noah’s draft stock didn’t improve at all.  He would have been a top three pick, and instead possibly moved down a few spots.  He also missed out on an extra year of earning multi-million dollars.

Jared Sullinger
Jared averaged 17.2 points and 10.5 rebounds during his time with the Ohio State.  The forward led his Buckeye team to a crazy sweet sixteen NCAA appearance before losing to Kentucky.  He would have been taken in the top ten of that year’s draft, but decided to come back for his sophomore year.  His numbers were nearly the same, but dropped off a little bit.  Thus, he cost himself not only an extra year of money, but possibly dropped several slots after the lack of improvement.

Chris Duhon
Duhon was very successful when he played for the Duke Blue Devils. Despite coming off the bench for two seasons, he built a strong synergy with other players. The point guard proved vital to the team and earned a spot in the starting five.  Like most Blue Devil players at the time, he finished out his four years at Duke before entering the draft.  With his talent and athletic ability he probably could have been drafted higher if he came out after his junior year.

James Michael McAdoo
McAdoo had a nice three year career with the North Carolina Tar Heels.  He came off the bench his freshman year, but his sophomore year saw him put up 7.3 rebounds and 14.4 points per game.  Instead of entering the draft, he decided to come back for his junior year.  His numbers dropped and McAdoo ended up not even being drafted.

Taj Gibson
I’m not even sure what happened with Gibson, but he was one of the oldest freshman in the country during the 2006-07 season when he was 21 years old.  I know I was only 18 my first year at school, so not sure what he did with those three extra years.  Anyway, when you are that old coming into the draft, you aren’t going to be seen as having as much upside as a younger kid.

Michael Redd
Michael Redd stayed in school for three years at Ohio State, but his point averages dropped from 21.9 to 19.5 to finally 17.5.  As a sophomore him and Scoonie Penn led the Buckeyes to a Final Four appearance.  He probably should have entered the draft then, because his stock definitely wasn’t as high after his junior year.  He ended up going to the Milwaukee Bucks with the 43rd pick overall.  He had a solid NBA career, but would have served himself well to have had started it earlier.

Worst Franchises in the NBA

When you think of the worst franchises in the NBA a few come to mind almost immediately.  Fans of the league know which teams simply do not have a culture that promotes winning. The NBA is a league of harsh realities. The Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Spurs sit on one end of the league, and everyone else sits on the other. This article tells the story of the worst teams in the league that are falling faster by the second.

#1: New York Knicks

The Knicks are a storied franchise in a famous arena, but they have been a train wreck for awhile now. They have not been good in a very long time, and they do not appear to be getting any better. The Knicks are controlled by the Dolan family who have mismanaged the team badly, and the team stays in the headlines only because they are in New York. A franchise this bad in any other city would have been written off long ago.

#2: Sacramento Kings

The Sacramento Kings were quite close to moving from the city before a deal was brokered to sell the team to someone local. Arco Arena will be replaced, but the Kings will still be futile. They have been at the bottom of the league for ages, and they have not made an appearance in the finals ever. They are so futile in their attempts at success that they are often left out of conversation about California teams.

#3: Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets have had some nice moments, but they are a bad franchise with only one truly great player to their credit. Kiki Vandeweghe has not played basketball in decades, and the Nuggets continually search for ways to succeed. They are not a rich team. They are not a popular team, and they do not have superstar power that will make them relevant again.

#4: Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks once had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on their roster back when his name was Lew Alcindor. He changed his name, brought the team a title, won the MVP and left for Los Angeles. The Bucks have struggled ever since due to a lack of talent, local interest and ownership consistency. The team has been sold many times, and they do not look to remain stable in the future. Wisconsin is a football state with a floundering basketball team.

#5: Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers recently won a championship, but they did so on the back of one man. They will fall victim to the curse of loneliness when LeBron leaves or retires, and they will be in the same position as the Milwaukee Bucks. The team was hapless before LeBron came into the league, and they will fall back to the bottom of the league soon enough. They are a team hanging on by a wing and a prayer for as long as they can.

#6: Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has been a mediocre franchise for most of its existence. They have made it past the second round of the playoffs once, and they won 60 games in the regular season only to be blown out of the water by the Cavaliers. Their franchise once had an ownership group so bad they sued each other, and their subsequent owner had to sell the team after racist emails were released.

The Clippers did not make this list because they are a story all unto themselves. Their franchise was owned by someone who only cared about the money, was a virulent racist and allowed his divorce to play out while the team was sold. The NBA is a hot commodity, but not with help from these seven teams.

Best International Players in NBA History

International NBA players have contributed a great deal of talent to the NBA over the decades. These NBA stars gave us some of the best action and talent to ever hit the basketball court. These players shattered the misconceptions regarding the skills of players from other countries. They played the game and took it to another level entirely. Their contributions to the sport will go down in the history books as some of the best to ever be seen.

1.Hakeem Olajuwon
Number one on my list is Hakeem Olajuwon from Nigeria. He is arguably the best center to every play center. His performance in 1994 was deemed by many as the best of his career. He combined his athletic prowess with technical knowledge that took his game above and beyond. Hakeem Olajuwon started his athletic career as a soccer player and later transitioned to basketball. He was considered the first really great international basketball player in the NBA.

2. Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan is the number two on my list of the NBA’s best international players. He is considered the best to ever consistently play power-forward in the manner in which he has over his entire eighteen-year career. He played with the same energy and prowess in the beginning as he did toward the end of his unprecedented career.Tim Duncan is from the Virgin Islands originally. He is known not only as an incredible player but an equally great team mate. He has proven over the years that he is all around on of the best to ever play basketball.

3. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk Nowitzki is my number on the list of the best international NBA players of all time. He is considered to be one of the top power forwards to ever play in the NBA.His victory in Miami over the super team in 2011 is considered the highlight of his professional career. He completely changed the way many fans saw European players. He led his team to many victories and had a long and memorable career.

4.Patrick Ewing Jr.
Patrick Ewing Jr. is my number four on the list. He had a magnificent streak in the middle of his career made him considered by many to be the best center the game had ever seen. His decline over the last years of his career somewhat tarnished his career, but despite the lackluster performance towards the end, his peak time on the court is some of the best playing the NBA has ever seen. Patrick Ewing was from Jamaica.

5.Dominique Wilkins
Domonique Wilkins is the number five on the list of all-time best international NBA players. His career between 1985 and 1994 is considered to be one of the best to ever be seen on the court. His athletic abilities and aggressive style made him a force to be reckoned with. He was one of the most successful all-time players and could be compared to the best in the history of the NBA. He destroyed the image of European players being soft.