2017 NBA Playoff Predictions

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After a long 82 game season, the sweet 16 teams are ready to rock n roll…

The West matchups are all great and anything can happen. The East matchups are more predictable.

Let’s start with the East:

#1 Celtics vs #8 Bulls

They split the season series 2-2. This is one series that could go the distance and although the Celtics should win, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if the Bulls unseat the #1 seed.

The Bulls are a great rebounding team while the Celtics are the 4th weakest in that category. Both Butler and Wade have to have great series for the Bulls to have a chance.

Isaiah Thomas is the key to the Celtic’s success along with Avery Bradley, the best defensive guard in the league. They also have a great home winning record (30-11).

Prediction: Celtics in 6.

#2 Cavs vs #7 Pacers

Cavs won the season series 3-1. The Cavs played the last two games of the season smartly by not playing LeBron and Kyrie due to “injuries”. They basically tanked these games and gave up the #1 seed to avoid having to play the Bulls who swept the Cavs 4-0 during the season. Pacers have only Paul George and very little beyond him.

Prediction: Cavs will sweep in 4.

#3 Raptors vs #6 Bucks

Raptors won the season series 3-1. The Raptors made two key acquisitions during the season, Serge Ibaka and PJ Tucker while the Bucks lost Jabari Parker to season ending knee injury. The Raptors were the best 4th quarter team in the league. They do have depth which helps to explain their 4th quarter success.

Prediction: Raptors in 5.

#4 Wizards vs #5 Hawks

Wizards won the season series 3-1.  The Wizards have a great back court with Wall and Beal. The Hawks have the 4th best defense in the league but their offense is dreadful. They finished with a winning record but were outscored by a negative 70 points this season. This is not likely to change in the playoffs.

Prediction: Wizards in 6.

Now, for the Wild, Wild West:

#1 Warriors vs #8 Trail Blazers

The Warriors won the season series 4-0. This is deceiving as the all 4 wins were before the All-Star break. Since then, the Blazers have acquired Jusuf Nurkic and have won 17 of their last 24 games. Nurkic did suffer a fractured left leg but is expected to play. We won’t know at what level he will play. The Warriors lost Durant for 6 weeks but adjusted very nicely and won 13 straight games without him. This actually made the team stronger as the bench got extra work and responded fabulously. Durant came back for the last 3 games and looked strong playing long minutes. His shot came back in the last game of the season.

The Warriors are the deepest team in the league… Strength in Numbers.

Prediction: Warriors in 5.

#2 Spurs vs #7 Grizzlies

The Spurs and Grizzlies split the season series 2-2. This will be a great series as both teams will try their best to impose their will on each other. The Grizzlies are the grind-it-out team while the Spurs play with precision and simply know how to win. Marc Gasol and Z-Bo Randolph are beasts while Mike Conley is the most under-rated guard in the league. If the Grizzlies can control the boards (especially offensively) and get 2nd chance points, they have a shot. But the Spurs have Kawhi and a very deep bench. Both teams are great defensively so every game will come down to the wire. The Spurs’ bench will be the difference.

Prediction: Spurs in 6.

#3 Rockets vs #6 Thunder

The Rockets won the season series 3-1. This will have very high national viewing ratings as it pits Harden vs Westbrook, the dual of the MVP candidates. Westbrook will out-point Harden but the Rockets have other 3 point weapons that the Thunder lack. The difference is that the Rockets have a much deeper bench. Additionally, Harden can draw defenders to him and he can dish to his other weapons. Westbrook will draw defenders, also, but his other weapons are bb-guns.

Prediction: Rockets in 5.

#4 Clipper vs #5 Jazz

Clippers won the season series 3-1. This will be the best of the 1st round match-ups. The Jazz are the “coming” team while the Clippers are the “going” team. What I mean by that is that the Jazz are the upstarts while the Clippers have been a playoff team for years without many playoff successes. This is their final try as Paul, Griffin and Reddick will be free agents after this year. If Hayward and Hill have a great series, then they will be the difference. Gobert will outplay Jordan. Paul and Griffin have to have monster games in order for the Clipper to win.

Prediction: Jazz in 7.

2016-2017 NBA Player Plus/Minus Statistics

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The Plus/Minus statistic measures how the team performs when the player is on the court. A higher Plus score means that the team scores more points when the player is on the court and the Minus score is the converse.

This stat is influenced by how the other 4 players perform. However, over a season, a conclusion can be made that players having the highest Plus scores do have a positive impact on their teams.

Following is the Plus/Minus scores for the 2016-2017 NBA season for the Top 50 ranked players with positive Plus scores. You can draw your own conclusions on what this means to the MVP voters. One thing that can positively be concluded is that the Warriors have 5 of the top 6 players with respect to this metric. Thus, it should come as no surprise that they have the best record in the league.

Note: These stats come from Sportingcharts.com

Rank Player Team Plus/Minus Per Game Per 36 minutes
1 Stephen Curry GS 979 12.7 13.7
2 Draymond Green GS 815 11 12.1
3 Klay Thompson GS 771 10.1 10.7
4 Kevin Durant GS 653 11.1 11.9
5 Chris Paul LAC 526 9.1 10.4
6 Andre Iguodala GS 513 6.9 9.5
7 LeBron James CLE 495 6.9 6.6
8 Kawhi Leonard SA 453 6.4 6.8
9 Rudy Gobert UTA 432 5.6 5.9
10 J.J. Redick LAC 419 5.6 7.1
11 James Harden HOU 417 5.4 5.3
12 DeAndre Jordan LAC 412 5.3 6
13 Patty Mills SA 411 5.4 8.8
14 Zaza Pachulia GS 395 5.9 11.8
15 Blake Griffin LAC 392 6.8 7.1
16 Ryan Anderson HOU 386 5.7 6.9
17 Trevor Ariza HOU 385 5 5.2
18 Patrick Beverley HOU 354 5.5 6.5
19 Kevin Love CLE 345 6.1 7
20 Gordon Hayward UTA 342 4.9 5.1
21 Kyrie Irving CLE 338 4.8 5
22 Patrick Patterson TOR 336 5.4 7.9
23 Eric Gordon HOU 332 4.6 5.3
24 Jae Crowder BOS 330 4.8 5.3
25 Kyle Lowry TOR 327 5.7 5.5
26 Bradley Beal WAS 318 4.2 4.4
27 David Lee SA 297 4 7.7
28 LaMarcus Aldridge SA 293 4.2 4.7
29 JaVale McGee GS 292 3.9 15.2
30 Nikola Jokic DEN 281 4.1 5.3
31 Danny Green SA 276 4.2 5.6
32 Manu Ginobili SA 266 4 7.7
33 Russell Westbrook OKC 259 3.3 3.4
34 John Wall WAS 255 3.3 3.3
35 Isaiah Thomas BOS 245 3.4 3.6
36 George Hill UTA 238 5.1 5.7
37 Cody Zeller CHA 230 3.9 5
38 Dewayne Dedmon SA 221 3.1 6.3
39 Pau Gasol SA 217 3.6 5
40 Luc Richard Mbah a Moute LAC 217 2.8 4.6
41 Marcin Gortat WAS 215 2.7 3.1
42 Steven Adams OKC 209 2.8 3.3
43 Jonathon Simmons SA 209 2.8 5.8
44 Victor Oladipo OKC 206 3.3 3.5
45 Otto Porter WAS 200 2.5 2.8
46 Kemba Walker CHA 195 2.5 2.6
47 Al Horford BOS 194 3 3.3
48 Nene Hilario HOU 191 2.9 5.9
49 Tony Parker SA 190 3.2 4.5
50 Amir Johnson BOS 189 2.4 4.3

The Warriors are the Best, but the Cavs are the Champs

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As we head into the 2017 NBA playoffs, the Warriors have guaranteed the #1 seed throughout the playoffs. The Cavs are seeded #1 in the East as of this writing, but they have not yet secured it. Regardless, the Warriors and Cavs are the two most dominant teams in the playoffs.

The Warriors have a tougher road ahead of them as the Spurs will rise up and present them with a huge challenge. Fortunately for the Warriors, the Grizzlies, who present the Warriors with match up problems, have to play the Spurs in the 1st round. The Rockets and Thunder who sport the two top MVP candidates simply aren’t deep enough.

The advantage that the Warriors have is that they have a rested Durant with whom they have integrated into their system already. It’ll take only a couple of games for KD to be playoff ready. Additionally, with KD’s absence, the bench got much stronger. West, Iguodala, Livingston, Barnes, Clark, McCaw and McGee will “out bench” their opponents and Kerr knows “match ups”. My belief is that Matt Barnes will be the difference maker in the Finals this year. He, along with Draymond, brings a toughness that the Warriors lacked last year. Thank goodness that the Kings traded Boogie to the Pelicans, who in the process, had to release Barnes allowing the Warriors to pick him up. Lastly, the Warriors are the best defensive team in the NBA and it will show throughout the playoffs.

The Cavs have been struggling lately, but they are the Champs. One can never discount a LeBron lead team, especially during a playoff run. Both the Celtics and Wizards will give the Cavs a good series if/when they meet, but count on the Cavs to represent the East in the Finals… period.

Everyone, including me, wants to see a Warriors vs Cavs repeat match up in the Finals. With the Cavs being challenged this year in the East, look for the Warriors to win the Finals in 6.

2017 NBA MVP

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Here is my take on the 2017 NBA MVP. There seems to be a consensus that the winner will be amongst 4 players… LeBron, Westbrook, Harden, or Leonard.

There is no mention of Steph Curry even though he is the reigning 2 time MVP and his stats for this year mirror his stats of 2 years ago when he won his first MVP. Additionally, there is no mention of Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson or Draymond Green, all of whom are having a great year. The Warriors have the best record in the NBA for a reason. They are ranked #1 in both Defense and Offense. Yet, nobody from the #1 ranked team is even mentioned as an MVP candidate.

The NBA selects its MVP based mostly on individual accomplishments. If that were the only criteria, then Westbrook would win hands down. If making the team better were a large component, then Harden, Leonard and Thomas would be ranked higher than Westbrook.

I use another component based on performance against the best team in the league (the Warriors) when they play them at home giving them home court advantage. By looking at the MVP candidates’ performance at home against the Warriors, their team lost and the candidates’ performance basically sucked. The most important stat in the chart below is the Plus/Minus column. This number reflects how the team performed while that individual was on the court. As an example, on Jan 16, LeBron played 35 minutes and during his playing time, the Warriors outscored the Cavs by 32 points. The poor shooting stats across the board reflects the dominance of the Warrior Defense.

Date Minutes Shooting 3 Pts Plus/Minus Score
LeBron James Jan 16 35 6-18 1-4 -32 126-91 Warriors
Russell Westbrook Mar 20 27 4-16 1-6 -25 111-95 Warriors
James Harden Mar 28 38 5-20 1-9 -9 113-96 Warriors
Kawhi Leonard Mar 29 36 7-20 0-5 -4 110-98 Warriors
Isaiah Thomas Mar 8 35 7-20 4-10 +4 99-86 Celtics

 

While Isaiah Thomas’ shooting stats aren’t great, he had a positive Plus/Minus and the Celtics beat the Warriors at Oakland. Additionally, it is clear that Isaiah has made the Celtics much better and as of this writing, they are only 1 game behind the Cavs for the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Since no Warrior player is under consideration, I am picking Isaiah Thomas as my NBA MVP for 2017.

LaVar Ball – Basketball Media Craze

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LaVar Ball has made some outlandish statements about his son, Lonzo, being better than Steph Curry, Michael Jordan, or Jason Kidd. He went on say, “Back in my heyday, I would kill Michael Jordan one-on-one.” For context, LaVar played basketball at Washington State where he averaged 2 points per game before transferring to Cal State – Los Angeles, a Division II program. He was an All-Conference player there in 1990. Not sure, but I think Jordan’s resume reads a bit better than LaVar’s…

LaVar has been involved in war of words with the likes of Stephen A. Smith, Charles Barkley, and LeBron James to mention a few and there is no sign that his lips will stop moving as he still has two more sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, who play for Chino Hills High School. In one game, while LiAngelo was out, LaMelo scored 92 points.

Now that UCLA has been ousted by Kentucky in the March Madness tournament and Freshman De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky outscored Lonzo, 39 to 10, his whole family will suffer major backlash.

My take on LaVar is that he is a brilliant marketer of his sons. They will be NBA level players and while we won’t know how good they will be at the highest level, we do know that they will mostly likely be set financially for life.

Having said that, I don’t know how his sons and his wife, Tina, feel about LaVar’s big mouth. There are reports out there indicating that Tina suffered a major stroke in February, 2017 and that LaVar has not allowed his sons to visit her due to the media attention it would draw. During a life threatening skull surgery on Tina to reduce pressure, LaVar chose to watch his sons play at Chino Hills High School instead of being with his wife.

If there is harmony within the Ball family, I’m fine with LaVar’s marketing strategy. If the reports of Tina’s health and actions that LaVar has taken are true, then it appears on the surface that there some serious family issues that LaVar needs to prioritize. After all, sports is entertainment, family is life… While I don’t know them, my prayers go out to Tina and the Ball family.

My advice to LaVar is to relax, support his family and let his son’s actions and play on the court speak for themselves. But most importantly, TAKE CARE OF YOUR WIFE !!!

Past NBA stars don’t respect Steph Curry and the Warriors

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Oscar Robertson, Phil Jackson and Charles Barkley don’t respect Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors success. Oscar believes that Curry is good only because today’s NBA coaches don’t know how to defend shooters. Oscar further states that his teammate Adrian Smith was a better shooter than Steph (huh?). Phil believes that Steph Curry reminds him of Chris Jackson/ Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, who had a short but brilliant run in NBA (Huh?). Charles said last year that the Warriors couldn’t win an NBA title because they are a bunch of midgets who only shoot 3-pointers. This year, Charles is guaranteeing that the Warriors won’t repeat for the same reason.

I understand that these are high profile great old timers whose voices should be heard.

My take on it is that what the Warriors are doing is not only revolutionary, it is totally FUN. This is what sports is meant to be. Sometimes, it is wiser to just chill out and enjoy greatness in the making.