Tag Archives: young teams

Memphis vs. OKC: Their Futures

The theme of the NBA playoffs seems to be the youth movement. Aside from the Mavs, all three teams left are fairly young, and look like they’ll be around for years to come, which had me thinking more about the future than this year. Today I was looking at the Memphis and OKC rosters for the next few years, and there was one thing that stood out to me, how can they keep these cores together? There’s a couple of reasons I think a team like Memphis has a better chance than OKC at sustaining success for the next six years like say Miami and Chicago probably will too. The reason I decided to compare Memphis and OKC is because they are both small market teams that are very young.

I’ll start with the Grizzlies, since it’s a team that for some reason has grown on me a lot over the season. What made Memphis successful this season? Their size and scrappiness on defense. Their size with Marc Gasol and Z-Bo is tough to match for any team. Z-Bo already got his extension, and obviously Gasol is going to be making more than $3M next year and every year after that, so Gasol is priority #1 for them this off-season. They have a bargain PG in Conley locked up for five years, who seems to be slowly getting better even though barely anyone had faith in him (myself included). They will also have Rudy Gay back in the lineup next year. He’s been labeled over rated, but if you saw him play much this year you’d know that isn’t the case, and he might even be worth his huge contract when it’s all said and done. The media talk about Gay has bugged me, because everyone seems to think he is Joe Johnson part II, when a) he’s five years younger than Joe, and b) he gets more steals, rebounds, and blocks than Joe (ie. plays defense). Am I the only one that thinks it’s obsured that people think they need to trade Rudy Gay? After Gay played with team USA on the gold medal run this year, he seemed to get it, which is a time when normally players seem to figure it out (mid-20’s) or be destined to never figure it out. Unfortunately for us (and him), he broke his arm during the last month of the regular season, so he wasn’t around this year in the playoffs, and now he should be traded!?! Really!?! My question for those people calling for them to trade Gay is, are you really putting a lot of stock in OJ (I play no defense and am a little crazy) Mayo. That’s what you’d be replacing Gay with in the long term if they’re building from in house talent. Tony Allen and OJ Mayo both feel like 6th men types to me, and you can find them elsewhere if you need to. Tony Allen is a shut down defensive guy, but is limited in offense. OJ is great when asked to help out the offense, but doesn’t play defense as we saw Harden torching him over and over. Gay plays both ways, and no, I’m not sure on his sexual prefrences, but I do know he works as hard on defense as his offense. He also made a few game winners this year if you didn’t remember, don’t you think he would’ve helped in that triple OT game when they needed a clutch bucket from anyone badly? I do, and think this is a team that hasn’t reached it’s full potential as Gay, Conley, and Gasol will all improve. As I said in the past, Memphis has a bright future for at least the next five years.

The curious case of OKC. They currently have a roster that has ALL their big names at or under the age of 22, which seems great on the outside looking in. It’s amazing to me that everyone thinks that everything will be great for them for the next decade when there will be a ton of franchise changing decisions on the horizon. It’s a team that has dealt with little as far as basketball careers go, since almost all of the important players except Perkins and Durant are still on their rookie contracts. What I understand about this team is this, Durant works harder than anyone on the team, he’s their best player, it rubs off on everyone else, etc., but does it rub others the wrong way on how he’s mister perfect? I’m asking Westbrook this question as I go along, because he’s the main player that you have to question within this team. Forget all the ill-advised shots he took against the Grizzlies, the real question becomes does he want to be Robin or does he want to be Derrick Rose (aka Superman) on his OWN team?

It's all fun and games till someone wants more out of the relationship than the other one does.

Does Westbrook have the Scottie Pippen and Lebron gene that says “I’m okay being the sidekick”? From what I’ve observed, I feel like Westbrook has more of an alpha type personality than Durant as far as being demonstrative on and off the court. At times we saw him ignore Durant during the game, which begs the question if we have to pick one, who is it? If you didn’t pick Durant your fooling yourself. Yes, I understand that the way this team was built was genius, and the envy of the league at the moment, but how sustainable is this team? They picked Ibaka, Harden, Maynor, and Westbrook all in the top five, and all of them are going to be asking for their paydays once they are done playing for these very friendly rookie contracts they are currently in. I think Ibaka just started playing hoops last week and is getting better by the game, so aren’t he and Westbrook going to command top dollar? Would they stay to play with Durant for the sake of winning or do either of them think they can do it on their own elsewhere? That might not even be the biggest question for them moving forward. Money is a funny thing that can lure anyone away from anywhere, and I’m sure Ibaka has some homies that need help in the Congo. Westbrook was born and raised in LA, and doesn’t it seem likely with his alpha type character he’d want to try to spread his wings on his own to see if he can lead a team like Derrick Rose is? I’m not saying that this team is going to get blown up for sure, but you have to wonder in a small market like thiers how big is that window. You’d think with them all being so young it would be a decade long window, but at the moment I just don’t see it being anywhere near that long. The Heat and Grizzlies both have their cores locked up for a lot longer than the Thunder do. The 2012-13 season might be their last hurrah as a group together, and if that’s the case, Miami and Memphis will still have their cores locked up for three more years after that. All I’m saying is that this groups window might only be three years, and I’m praying I’m right since I’d love to see Durant getting frustrated and leaving so his paychecks aren’t signed by Clay Bennett anymore…

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Playoffs Getting Interesting…

It’s been a entertaining NBA playoffs thus far. Teams that we thought were favorites aren’t turning out to be the powerhouses that we originally thought they were. Like I said back on 4/20, there’s a changing of the eras in the NBA. I didn’t think it would be this year, but thought it was on the horizon. More and more it’s looking like this year is the year of change. Another good thing is I don’t think any of these series are rigged so far. Well done Stern, usually we can tell!

Mavs 2, Lakers 0 –  As they say once the home team loses the series really starts. I think someone forgot to tell the Lakers that the series started after game 1. Last night’s Lakers game was disturbing to the fans down here in LA, much to my enjoyment. It’s fitting that this is the first year I was somewhat rooting for them because I didn’t want any of the Eastern Conference teams to win it all. I can’t believe I admitted that, but yes, I was rooting for the Lakers a little. I am enjoying that some Lakers fans said they would win the series in 3 games against this soft Mavs team. Obviously, that can’t happen, but it was an indication of how they overlooked Mavs in general. Maybe the players were listening to the radio shows and got full of themselves or maybe this team is just plain dysfunctional. I won’t call this series done, because the Mavs have a long history of choking in the playoffs when the pressure is at it’s highest. The pressure of closing the Lakers out is going to be big, and close to the pressure of closing the Heat out in the Finals four years ago. That Mavs team was much different though, they have only two players from that finals roster, and were much softer without Chandler. This version of the Mavs feels a lot better, but I won’t believe it until they close out this series. Either way, the winner will lose next round to one of the young guns in the changing of the guards.

Memphis 1, Seattle 1 – Everyone thought the young team that would make an impact out West was going to be the Supersonics when it’s really been the Grizzlies who have shocked the world. I didn’t pick the Grizz to win that first series against the Spurs, especially without Gay in the lineup, but did think they were a good team all the way back in November when I regretted leaving them off my playoff predictions. Both franchises have figured out how to build a contender, and they have one glaring thing in common, size. Size matters in the NBA, just ask Steve Nash. It was always the Lakers biggest advantage for the last three years, and what do teams have to do to knock them off? Get bigger. Memphis did that through free agency and trades (Gasol, Z-Bo). Seattle did the same (Perkins, Ibaka), and now both teams look like they could beat anyone with solid role guys and their stars knowing exactly what is needed of them to be successful. I’m going to say whoever wins this series will be representing the west in the finals. I’m rooting for it to be Memphis, because I still have a hard time rooting for Sam Presti to succeed on any front.

Miami 2, Boston 0 – The team I picked to represent the East is looking about as good as it has all season. I thought that Boston was in trouble before this series started. Wade ALWAYS gives Boston fits, and that’s going back to when Wade was the only player worth anything in Miami. Last year I think he dropped close to 50 one playoff game in Boston to help the Heat avoid getting swept. Now that he has Lebron and Bosh who can also give Boston fits, he no longer has to put up 50 to will his team to a win. What’s even scarier about this Miami team is they look more comfortable playing together than they have all year. The Celtics on the other hand look a lot like the Lakers this postseason. They haven’t really looked good for more than one or two games the whole second season. They know it’s their last shot with their great coach, and might be pressing a little too hard or could just be old. Is it a lame duck coaching situation for Boston and LA that’s getting them down? Are they not playing as hard because they know there’s a new coach on the horizon after this season? Probably not, but I have to throw it out there. I guess this series hasn’t started yet since the home team hasn’t lost, but this video seems to sum up how high people are on the C’s right now…

Chicago 1, Atlanta 1 – Of the teams left in the playoffs, I’ve probably watched these two teams the least. I’m not sure why, but I was never totally sold on Chicago. Derrick Rose’s ankle is what this series hinges on, and personally I think getting the MVP is a jinx. No guard since Jordan has won a title the year they won the MVP. This day in age only big men that win the MVP get championships. Like I said before, I haven’t watched Chicago a lot, but is there anyway their defense is overrated a little? Indiana and Atlanta aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts ranking in the middle of the pack in the NBA, but are putting up over 90 in the playoffs where scoring is usually down against the unbreakable Thibodeau defense. Atlanta is the toughest team for me to figure out. They blow teams out, and get blown out just as much. You’re never really sure what you’re going to get from them. I can’t figure out why they went away from Jeff Teague, who was lighting Chicago up in game 2, but that happened, and they didn’t come close to winning. I actually like a lot of Atlanta’s players, but for some reason just can’t seem to talk myself into rooting for them. Don’t they feel like they are Mavs of the East? Good enough to be in the playoffs every year, but not good enough to go very far…


Changing of the Eras in the NBA?

I’ve watched as much as I could of these NBA playoffs so far, and with every lower seed playing the higher seed tough it got me thinking about the state of the NBA. Make no mistake, t’s in a great state right now as every team in the playoffs looks good even some of the lower seeds. In basketball we usually don’t see a ton of surprises, because you don’t surprise any team four times in a series. That’s what basketball has right over all the other sports, they always get the true champion, because no road traveled is easy. That’s not really the case in every other sport. Coming to conclusions like this makes it even tougher as a Warriors fan…

I guess the first question that popped into my head is this one of the last chances for the “older” teams to win a championship? Maybe not this year, but it’s coming. This year we have the traditional favorites that you can’t really bet against like the Lakers, Celtics, and Spurs, but how much longer can their reign last? Most of their top-tier stars are well into their 30’s, and these teams are all stumbling a little already in this first round. I’m not saying that I’ve counted these teams out already for this year or next, because that would be ridiculously short sighted. I do find myself having a hard time seeing them continue their dominance beyond this year especially last years finals pairing. The Lakers and Celtics will have some huge questions to answer at the conclusion of the season. Both are going to be praying that their coaches stay, and Phil has already said he believes there will be a long lockout which is a reason he wants to retire. Doc might be thinking the same thing. New coach and new system doesn’t usually equal championships, but you can teach an old dog new tricks every once in awhile. The Spurs are finding it impossible to have their big three healthy and together when it matters for the past few seasons. Maybe the lockout would help them since they wouldn’t have to play nearly as many games, keeping these older guys fresh without a long regular season might be to their advantage, but at the same time I don’t see that making up for slowly eroding skills. The NBA is an era league, that started way back with Bill Russell dominating. More recently, we went from the Bird-Magic era to the current Kobe-Duncan era, so are we heading into a new era? Oh my the possibilities that are coming to light are enticing.

The East is stacked with young superstar talent as we all know. The Bulls, Knicks, and Heat are sure to be battling it out for years to come barring injury of course. Nearly all the superstars on those teams have had previous playoff failures, so in my eyes these teams aren’t as inexperienced as some would have you believe. The West isn’t as clear cut as the East in terms of power, but the Grizzlies are the second youngest team in the league, and have showed promise against the Spurs just like the Thunder did with the Lakers last year as an 8 seed. OKC is the seeming favorite to be the heir apparent to the Western Conference Throne, and I can’t argue with that. A side note on the Sonics, why doesn’t every GM follow the blueprint that they used? Get a superstar, have cap space to spend on the other players, build through the draft, and boom, you have an elite team. The Clippers have a solid core with a superstar that can only get better, oops, I shouldn’t ever put the Clippers in a championship post… Anyways you get the point, and my question is who’s era is it going to belong to?