Posts Tagged With: NBA

Friday Fives: 5 Questions Heading into Game 2

 

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I think we can say we are officially back. For now.  Time for one of our favorite past-times: Friday Fives.  Here’s how this worked. I, Maneikis, posed 5 questions to our panel (Me, Will Weir aka “The Fedora’d One” and Taylor “I now prefer TJ” Simpson), and what you will read is our email exchange regarding each of these key questions heading into the critical Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Fun drinking game alert: every time we refer to Lebron by a name other than Lebron or anytime you feel we are being complete homers, you drink.  Prepare to get dnruk.

  1. How do we stop Tristan Thompson?

Will: Tristan has been bashing us over the head with a mallet like a kid playing Whack-A-Mole in an arcade for about 2 or 3 years now.  Feels like every game he gets about 20 rebounds vs. us and we are just powerless.  Having said that, they need to try something.  Rebounding has been a sore spot for C’s all year, not a secret.  Amir Johnson? Child Please. Tyler Zeller? I’ll pass.  Traditional big men are out.  Unfortunately, we can’t have Al guard both him and Kevin Love, so I think the answer has to fall to primarily Marcus Smart and maybe even a dash of Jae Crowder.  At this point, the best hope is that these 2 can be bulldogs and, at best, slow him down.  Marcus seems like he’ll get 1st billing, Jae doesn’t have the speed to stay with LBJ (Step up on up Jaylen!), but maybe he has the strength to battle with Tristan like he did with Morris last round.

Maneikis: Will, I totally agree per our conversation last night.  Marcus can bang with the big guys as long as it’s purely physical play.  The moment you add skill to the mix, Marcus tends to struggle, but he relishes the wrestling matches.  I’d also like to see us try to exploit him on the defensive end by going small and giving Marcus an opportunity to run PnR with Horford.  That might force the Cavs into some unnatural defensive rotations (have Thompson and Love ever had to defend a PnR together?), and we might even get some of their bigs in foul trouble.  I don’t see us stopping Thompson from getting rebounds, but I do expect us to make him work for those rebounds and to make him uncomfortable on the defensive end of the floor.

TJ:  Tristan is a player who has the specific skill set that exploits the biggest weakness on the Celtics’ roster – offensive rebounding.  It would be like if in The Illiad the Trojans hired a mercenary to a $60 million dollar contract whose lone skill was throwing arrows at soldiers’ heels.  In the first round against the Bulls the Celtics made Robin Lopez look like Wilt Chamberlain, so an honest goal would just not to end up like any of Wilt’s famed 20,000 women – you know, completely fucked.  However as many basketball coaches have repeated to me throughout the years, there is no secret to boxing out; it just takes placement, intention and a whole lot of effort. Dedicate a spot on the floor to one of the Lunks (Kelly, Zeller, Amir) who sole purpose is to stay between the basket and Tristan Thompson.  Barring a sudden fix for what has been a glaring flaw all year, sign his step-sister Kendall to a 10-day. She fixed institutionalized racism with a mere soft drink, so I’m sure she can grab a few rebounds.

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Dear Isaiah Thomas,

I’m writing this to you because no one has written the article I want to read. Or maybe they have, but I just can’t get enough of reading about “The King in The Fourth” (sorry Kobe, but IT already has a nickname).  This article is not about the recent tragedy that shook the foundations of your family.  It’s not about your contract.  And it is definitely not about your height.  This is all about how your performance in Game 2 temporarily made us forget about our city’s sordid, racist past and present.  Continue reading

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End of Season Awards

You won’t find many surprises on this list, but I decided to post this anyways.  This season was the most interesting regular season in recent memory, so I wanted to give these players their props for bringing excitement to my otherwise boring life in my 27th revolution around the sun.

MVP

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Wardell Stephen Curry was phenomenal from start to finish, capping off the greatest offensive season ever with a ridiculous 45 points in three quarters while leading his team to the best regular season ever.  400 Threes? Check. Stop-What-You’re-Doing-And-Turn On-League Pass Heat Checks? Check. Clutch Shots? Check. 50-40-90 club? Check. This dude was the best player in the league almost every night, and no one else should garner any first place votes. Steph, I salute you. You are everything a man should be. (Leonard, James, Westbrook, and Paul round out the top 5)

Most Improved Player

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Kawhi Leonard has become a superstar.  He is the best two-way player in the league and now consistently plays with the greatness that he flashed two years ago when he won the Finals MVP.  He is by far the best wing defender in the league and shoots the ball with top 5 efficiency. He is the perfect player to carry the Spurs into the next era, and may be the reason the Spurs knock the Warriors out of the playoffs.  If he wins another Finals MVP, Kawhi will be the front-runner for next year’s regular season MVP award. (Curry, Crowder, Kemba Walker, and CJ Mccollum round of the top 5)

Defensive POY

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Draymond Green can literally guard 5 positions on the floor. People have been purported to do so in the past, but Draymond can actually do it.  I seen’t it! At 6 6, Draymond should not be capable of guarding centers, but in this era of small ball, very few bigs have the ability to take advantage of mismatches in the post.  Draymond uses his leverage to get underneath bigger players and has the length and quick-jumping ability to bother the fade-away jumpers that he forces in the mid-post.  His quickness on the perimeter allows the Dubs to switch most pick-and-rolls, and although some guards sneak by him, he can usually block their shots from behind with his Revisesque recovery speed.  He is the heart and soul of the league’s best team, and although Kawhi does many things better than Draymond, Green’s ability to guard 1-5 gives him the slight nod over Leonard. (Leonard, Whiteside, Avery Bradley, and Deandre Jordan round out the top 5)

Rookie of the Year

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 Karl Anthony Towns won me $250 on a $5 while I was in Vegas recently, so he definitely gets the nod here.  That jump hook on the baseline to beat the Blazers cemented Towns not only as the ROY, but also as an All-NBA performer in my ballot.  He is doing things that few rookies have done, and seemingly got stronger throughout the season.  He is already a two-way player, and he has the skill set to be the league’s premiere big man for the next 15 years.  The T-Wolves have a very bright future and the rest of the league should expect to fear the bite of their top dog for years to come.

Coach of the Year

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Brad Stevens may have some stiff competition for this award, but I left Isaiah Thomas off of my All-NBA teams, gave Leonard the nod over Crowder for MIP and Livingston the edge over Turner for 6th man, so I had to make at least one homer pick here. I mean it’s my blog and no one is really paying attention anyways, and even now as I type this sentence I’m resisting the urge to give all of these awards to my boys in green.  Stevens has maximized the potential of the entire roster and has the Celtics feeling good entering the playoffs after that insane comeback victory over the Heat.  His ATO plays are legendary and his unchanging demeanor is rivaled only by Jay Wright. Dear Danny Ainge: if you give Stevens a superstar, he will give you a championship.

6th Man

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Shaun Livingston has really impressed me all year with his steady play anchoring the Dubs all-time bench.  He shoots his shots every game and allows Steph to play off the ball for extended minutes, which significantly reduces Curry’s energy spent and increases floor space with all of the attention Steph garners off of the ball.  Livingston also wins the Stephen A. Smith award for NBA player with the biggest forehead.

 

All NBA Teams

1st Team: Curry, Westbrook, Leonard, James, Green

2nd Team: Paul, Lillard, Durant, George, Aldridge

3rd Team: Lowry, Thompson, Derozan, Millsap, Towns

Apologies to Isaiah Thomas and James Harden

 

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The 2015-2016 Boston Celtics

#IT4MVP

We’re baaaaaaack! We’re back we’re back we’re back! We’re back, so back!!!!!!! It’s been almost two years since we last wrote something on this blog, but we’ve always been here, we just weren’t posting content to the site.  Thanks for sticking with us.

Following last season’s improbable playoff push, the Boston Celtics’ future looked as bright as any franchise in the NBA.  They had solid young talent, a “treasure trove” of draft picks from Danny Ainge’s shrewd sorcery, and the best young coach in the league.  The narrative was, and largely still is, that these three in conjunction could land Boston its next big name. Fans were dreaming about Boogie Cousins, Carmelo Anthony, and other headline grabbers because that is who the media was telling us could take the franchise back to its lofty standards. However, it did not happen over the summer despite reports of Kevin Love possibly switching allegiances, and it did not happen at the trade deadline, despite reports ranging from the realistic to the utterly absurd (no Gary Tanguay, Anthony Davis was never coming to Boston).  Meanwhile, the current iteration of the Celtics struggled to stay above .500 and seemingly could not close out games down the stretch.  It was frustrating to watch, and I’m sure it was even more frustrating to be a part of.  My friends and I kicked around trade ideas that could steal Paul George or Jimmy Butler away from their teams, and groaned as we saw well-executed plays resulting in missed shots in the fourth-quarters of winnable games. Still, as any fan that bleeds green would, I watched every game, and saw some signs that these Celtics were starting to become a problem for the rest of the league.   They were starting to become contenders.

It’s easy to be a prisoner of the moment and say that I’m writing this article due to the Celtics’ upset win in Oakland last night, but the Celtics did not get lucky last night.  They won because they deserved to win and this is becoming a delightful trend for Celtics fans.  They play the brand of basketball that has come to define their identity and is giving opposing teams fits. For the C’s, it starts with their defensive pressure in the backcourt and their willingness to play much bigger than their size.  When last season began, the Celtics’ three-headed monster of Rondo, Bradley, and Smart wreaked havoc upon the league for about five games, but then Smart turned his ankle, Rondo realized defense meant he had to try, and quickly the foundation of the team crumbled.  But they shipped Rondo out for an unheralded rotation wing, Jae Crowder, a supreme athlete who looked like he belonged on a football field, not a basketball court, and we started to see improvement.  Crowder struggled to fit in last season, but we could see his potential, especially on the defensive end.  He’s strong, physical, and versatile enough to guard multiple positions (traits he shares with many other Celtics like Bradley, Smart, Turner, Olynick, and Jerebko). Not only that, but he has great defensive instincts to complement heady play and intelligent team schemes. Fast forward to today, and that ball-hawking, physical potential has been unlocked and it keeps the Celtics’ competitive in every contest. For fans who love defense, the Celtics’ ability to “turn it on” is every bit as exciting as a “Curry Flurry” of three-pointers in Golden Sate. Check out these highlights from the first game against Golden State earlier this season.

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This is the type of intensity with which fans are falling in love, and this team plays this hard almost every night.  They are a collective of talented, ultra-competitive players whom Coach Stevens understands better than almost any other coach understands his players.  The Celtics will be down ten, Stevens will call one of his uncanny, momentum stopping timeouts, and Smart, Bradley, and Crowder will stalk onto the court with the body language of Fulton Reed and Dean Portman ready to turn elite ball-handlers into JV  point guards playing Varsity for the first time.  Whatever message Stevens delivers during those timeouts gets through to these guys and they quickly respond. It gets to the point where All-Stars like Damian Lillard do not even want to bring the ball up the court (seriously, he barely touched the ball in the second half the other night, but CJ McCollum stepped up big time), and teams are forced to have a secondary or tertiary ball-handler advance the ball past midcourt while wasting half of the shot clock.  It throws teams out of their rhythm at worst, and completely alters the game at its best. To be able to play full-court defense at the NBA level is something we may have never seen before to the extent that these guys can do it.  And Stevens knows it.  Anytime his team is down, he will go to a lineup of Smart, Bradley, Crowder, Evan Turner, and one of his versatile big men, and before you know it the Celtics will have made up the deficit. And this is when they decide to unleash the league’s best-kept secret and this team’s MVP.  Enter Isaiah Thomas.

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In last year’s hard-fought playoff series with the Cavs, the Celtics could not get buckets down the stretch.  The Celts turned the series into a wrestling match, which played to their own strengths, but in the end they could not score when it mattered  (after last night’s game, I’m thinking maybe someone was just wearing the wrong shoes).  The main reason: Boston’s best offensive player is Isaiah Thomas and he only stands 5 feet 9 inches.  The Cavs’ defensive stalwart Iman Shumpert bothered him with length, a logical strategy with which most teams try to minimize Thomas’ elite scoring ability.  We saw it often early in this season, but Stevens and Thomas have seemingly figured out how to combat his size disadvantage.  Isaiah really struggles against length versus a set defense, so getting him out in transition via suffocating defense is the best chance at getting him going and winning games. The Celtics couldn’t get steals and stops against Portland the other night, and that is why Isaiah struggled so mightily because Alan Crabbe had set help behind him and high, active hands all game. However, Stevens has done a great job game-planning so that IT gets switches in the high Pick and Roll and gets the ball out and back quickly so that he catches with a live dribble attacking a secondary defender at a downhill angle. Portland’s secondary defenders were much better on Thomas than Golden State’s were last night, but when Isaiah gets hot, it really does not matter who is guarding him.  The Celtics’ strategy is so simple, but it’s everything to their offense, and in that 3rd quarter last night Isaiah dominated the game more effectively than Curry’s long distance dance. Isaiah should be an All-NBA candidate this season, probably 3rd team, but he deserves it.

 

Quick side bar. Here are my choices for All-NBA (hopefully breaking this down later this season).

First team: Curry, Westbrook, Leonard, Durant, James

Second Team: Lillard Paul, Thompson,  Green, Jordan

Third Team: Thomas, Lowry, Harden, George , Aldridge

Apologies to Demar Derozan, Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, and Dirk Nowtizki

 

 

Local media will tell you that Isaiah is not a “Go-to guy,” but I’m not sure this is entirely true.  This is Thomas’ first year as a starter in his age 27 season, often considered the first year of a player’s prime.  Yes, he does have his weaknesses, but what player doesn’t? Maybe it is time we start appreciating Isaiah for what he can do instead of focusing on the obvious fact that he is short.  Maybe it’s time to start kicking around the possibility that he can win games with the current pieces surrounding him and the best coach in the league.  This is the same thing that happened to Russell Westbrook as he was trying to figure out how to close games.  Critics complained that Russ had tunnel vision and needed to pass the ball to Durant.  Well, he is starting to figure it out and has learned how to highlight his strengths and minimize his liabilities. He is now a triple-double machine and a perennial MVP candidate.  Back to IT. Okay he’s diminutive, but he’s stronger than half the guys in the league.  He gets into the body of bigger defenders and forces contact through which he can finish, or he can draw fouls.  Unlike the Celtics’ previous PG, Isaiah shoots 90% from the line, so he loves driving the ball to the basket, and with the pressure this puts on defenses, the rest of the roster becomes that much more of a threat.

Most recently, we’ve seen Evan Turner benefit from sharing the floor with IT down the stretch.  Defenses are so focused on IT and weak-side action Stevens’  offense creates, Turner is often left to go one-on-one with the other team’s second-best defender.  And this allows him to thrive in crunch time because Turner can get to his sweet spots on the elbow and right baseline shooting his patented mid-range jimmy.  Turner will never be a number one option on a championship team, but with the other team’s best defender often on IT, Turner can exploit smaller defenders with his size and bigger defenders with his crafty ball-handling in a PnR situation that those defenders are not used to defending.  Turner is also a great passer, so when he is entrusted with crunch time play-making, he can use his size to see over the defense to find spot-up shooters on the perimeter or sneaky back-cuts along the baseline as the defense gets caught ball-watching.  It’s titillating to watch. (I haven’t written an article in almost two years, excuse the adjectives)

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Coming into last season it did not appear as if the Celtics had any shooters on their roster.  However, we’ve seen that this team (except Marcus Smart…please Marcus, please find your shot!) can shoot the ball and shoot it very well.  Crowder, Bradley, Jerebko, and Olynick are all reliable 3-point threats spotting up around the arc, while players like Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller can knock down the open 18-footer.  This affords Thomas and Turner the space they need to operate in the paint, and has made for some effective fourth-quarter offense.  Mix all of this in with Brad Stevens’ ATO plays, and you can see why the Celtics are 12 games over .500.  More importantly, what it’s done has given the critics less ammunition.  The Celtics are winning close games and doing it without “a superstar.”  They are looking like they could make some serious noise in these playoffs, and are setting themselves up to be an attractive spot for Free Agents over the summer.  This would mean they could keep our current roster, draft picks, and merely add a superstar rather than trade for one (Ask the Knicks how that worked out for them).  They could draft the most NBA-ready prospect (Buddy Hield), or they could take a chance on a high-ceiling prospect like Brandon Ingram, depending upon where they draft.  But free agency and the draft are in the summer.  What we should be focusing on are their chances looking like in this year’s playoffs? These players deserve our attention in the current moment.  They play too hard and with too much pride for us not to root for them with as much fire as we rooted for the KG era Celtics.

Well, it is going to be tough no matter who they play because the East, while lacking in upper-echelon teams, is stacked with parity.  Cleveland is far and away the best team, but they are mired in internal conflict.  Toronto has not proven they can win in the playoffs but boasts the East’s best backcourt.  Atlanta’s defense is tops in the league.  Miami has the talent to beat anyone.  Charlotte is winning.  Detroit is unique. And Indiana has the second best player in the conference.  They will avoid Cleveland until the semis or conference finals, so maybe the Cs can catch a break and see someone else shock them so they won’t have to.  But if they do face them again, Brad Stevens and his menacing group of defenders will be ready to show them what they learned from last year’s sweep.  They will be ready to prove that what happened in Oakland was no fluke.  They will be ready to show the world that Isaiah Thomas is for real and that defense and chemistry can take you a long way. They will be ready.  Will you?

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The First Annual Maneikis Awards: Part 1(NBA 2012-2013)

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my beautiful mom and dad

Here are my own personal superlatives for the 2012-2013 season.  There is no rhyme or reason to the ordering of the awards. I started writing and then stopped writing.  At the end of that process here is what I created.  The plan is to update these awards with a sequel in the upcoming days.  Enjoy.

Biggest Surprise: Los Angeles Lakers make the playoffs

Granted the Lakers should have made the playoffs, but everyone wrote them off after their epically bad first half of the year.  Every pundit said there would be no way we would see them in the postseason, yet here they are looking at a favorable opening round match up with the struggling San Antonio Spurs.  Although they lack scoring now that Kobe is gone and lost forever, the way Gasol and Howard played last night was nothing short of dominant.   Dwight is playing defense at his DPOY-level and Gasol has accepted the challenge of having the offense go through him.  Now that they have avoided OKC, the Lakers have legitimate shot at upsetting a Spurs team that is banged up and apparently relying on T-Mac to be good again.

Worst Coaching Move (possibly ever): Mike D’Antoni’s Kobe48 Decision

Kobe Bryant won’t be in the playoffs and may never be the same again; and Mike D’Antoni has to assume most of the culpability.  How on earth do you decide that it is okay for a man in his 17th season to play the entire game on consecutive nights?  You are the head coach so even if Kobe asked to play the full 48, you have to say something like, “Um. No. I’m going to sit you for five minutes a half around the quarters and play through Gasol during those stretches. We’ll be okay Kobe.”  But no, D’Antoni once again proved incompetent and has robbed the world of witnessing Kobe Bryant playing like Kobe Bryant.  No one has ever returned to form after this injury and Mike D’Antoni should be fired regardless of how the Lakers fare this postseason.

Biggest Disappointment: Injuries

Kobe Bryant. Rajon Rondo. Derrick Rose. Kevin Love. Andrew Bynum. Danilo Gallinari. Those are big names and we didn’t get to see, or won’ t get to see, these players this season/postseason.  I am still holding onto the smaller sliver of hope the Rose plays at some point, but that’s a pipe dream.  Love was the best big man on Team USA and I thought he would help the T-Wolves contend for the playoffs. I already touched on Kobe’s injury.  The worst part about Rondo/Rose is that Lebron James has a clear path to the Finals once again (he is good enough already, somebody needs to make him earn his trip back).   Bynum’s injury single-handedly destroyed Philadelphia’s present and future.  Gallinari’s injury hurts the Nuggets’ chances of upsetting the Thunder in the WCF. Maybe one day we will get a season in which no star is injured, but until then, we must accept that this is an unfortunate part of the game.

The “Some Things Never Change” Award: Demarcus Cousins’ Terrible Attitude:

Will this guy ever grow up? You look at his numbers and you say, “wow. He is special.”  Then you look at him as a person and say, “wow. He is a train-wreck.” He led the league in technical fouls, was suspended from his team on multiple occasions, and just looks plain uninterested playing professional basketball at times.  He is the craziest guy in a league full of crazy guys. He is Rasheed Wallace’s illegitimate son.  He needs a Cuss D’Amato to his Mike Tyson or else he’s going to end up like prison Mike.  Having said all that, I would love the Celtics to trade for him because maybe Kevin Garnett is that guy who can save Cousins’ career.

The “Remember Me?” Award: Brook Lopez

Lopez lost last season to injury and people seemed to write him off as a top 5 center in this league.  When healthy, he is perhaps the best post player in the league, and this year Lopez was just that.  Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, Anderson Varejao, and Andrew Bynum all were injured this year, so Lopez was able to dominate more consistently with the dearth of healthy bigs.  The Nets may be overpaying more a majority of their roster, but Lopez has proved worthy of the max money he was given prior to this year as he posted a career high PER of 24.81.  He still needs to improve his rebounding and defensive effort on a nightly basis, but he looks like he will be one of the league’s best for years to come.

Most Exciting Team: Denver Nuggets

George Karl deserves COY consideration. Andre Iguodala deserves DPOY consideration. Ty Lawson is a future star. Javale McGee didn’t do anything too stupid.  Kenneth Faried might actually believe he is a manimal.  And Andre Miller still looks like Richard Pryor. This team is just fun to watch. They run teams into the ground with their seemingly unsustainable pace, have freak athletes like McGee, Iguodala, and Faried, and are nearly unbeatable at home.  If Gallinari hadn’t torn his ACL I was going to pick them to make the NBA Finals.  Now I see them losing in the WCF.  Be prepared for the craziest opening round series as the Nuggets take on my runner-up for this award – the Golden State Warriors.

Best Game: Miami at Chicago

 Bill Simmons called this game the best regular season game in the history of the league! Although I’m not ready to go that far, especially since I haven’t done the amount of extensive research necessary to make such a claim, I will say it is the most memorable game I have seen in my life.  The Celtics/Heat game the previous week was up there, but this Chicago game was on another level.  Chicago was playing for pride and to end the streak, and Miami was playing for a shot at history. They were playing for a shot at immortality.  There were hard fouls, big plays, Lebron and Boozer colliding with the force just this side of Clowney’s epic hit against Michigan (okay not really, I just wanted to watch that clip again), and the Heat never gave up even when it was obvious they were going to lose.   The Bulls deserved this win since their fans lost Derrick Rose for the season, and although Miami will beat them in the playoffs, the Bulls will forever be known as the team that ended the Heat’s streak.

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All NBA Teams

1st Team All-NBA 

G Chris Paul: What else can you say about Chris Paul?  Without him the Clippers are a possible lottery team because the rest of the team is not ready and Vinny Del Negro doesn’t run an offense.  He is an All-NBA defender, orchestrates the best pick-and-roll in all of basketball, and is clutch at the free-throw line in late game situations. As a result, he is fearless and dangerous during crunch time because he isn’t afraid to take the ball to the cup (unlike a Lebron James who would rather not shoot late-game free throws).  Tony Parker played better during stretches this season, but overall CP3 has a firm grip on his “best in the league” moniker.

G Kobe Bryant: I was actually going to leave Kobe off of the first team in favor of Russell Westbrook, but then Kobe tore his Achilles and I got sentimental with this pick.  I know Kobe is a Laker, but he is my favorite player to watch – I just don’t want him to win any more championships (Michael Jordan was better and that’s that).  Say what you want about him and his past transgressions, but it seemed to me that Kobe has grown far more popular with today’s fan base.  People just appreciate him more.  He plays through injuries others would complain about, hits ridiculous “only Kobe could hit that” shots, and willed a trainwreck of a team towards the brink of the playoffs.  It’s a shame that we may never see Kobe at this elite level again because this injury is no joke.  Ask Elton Brand.

F Kevin Durant: Ah let the love-fest begin.  Durant was forced to grow up this year after last season’s failure in the NBA Finals and the preseason A-bomb that saw James Harden inexplicably shipped out to Houston (Thunder management could have found a way to keep him). Durant needed to become an ultra-efficient scoring machine, increase his willingness to distribute the rock, and improve his defense and rebounding.  He did all four things and led the Thunder to the best record in the Mariana Trench.  The only thing KD didn’t do was win another scoring title, but Carmelo Anthony deserves some sort of accolade for this season because he won’t get the MVP, 1st-Team All-NBA, and may not get out of the first round (check out Friday Fives for why not).  Durant was the second best player this season and should take the Thunder back to the WCF at the very least.

F Lebron James: Lebron only posted the second highest PER ever and led the Heat to the ridiculous 27 game winning streak during a time in the season when nothing really mattered for them.  They were cruising to the top seed regardless of the streak, but I guess Lebron is all in on this being his “legacy year,” and needed something new with which he could challenge himself.  Lebron is the best player on the planet, has been for a while, and will be for the next two to three years.  Four MVPs in five years is ludicrous, but six in seven years is unparalleled.  Lebron has a legitimate shot at making history and carving out his place on basketball’s Mount Rushmore.

C Marc Gasol: Duncan got the nod on my 1st Team Defense, but Gasol played nearly 700 more minutes than Timmy and deserves the credit for this feat.  Gasol is such a smart, efficient player, but not many people realize it due to the Grizzlies’ lack of national exposure.  There is a slight chance that he is now overrated because he has been underrated for so long, but when Dwight Howard misses significant time being his usual self and Andrew Bynum decided to do whatever the hell he did this year, there is an opening on the 1st Team All-NBA for a player like Gasol.  I hope he brings it in the playoffs because he will get slapped with the “soft” label quicker than older brother, Pau.

2nd Team

G Russell Westbrook: He is the most athletic player in the league and the second best player on the second best team.  Sure he takes bad shots and isn’t much of a point guard, but without James Harden the Thunder need Westbrook to be this aggressive.  Oh yeah, he never misses games and plays harder than everyone on the court at all times.  I would not hesitate to start my franchise with Young Russ.

G James Harden: Harden has been dubbed a DH by Grantland’s Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe, but when your team plays at such a frenetic pace and demands you to be an all-world offensive force, I can overlook some defensive lapses. If the Rockets lose to the Lakers tonight then Harden gets to square off against his old buddies in OKC. Boy, wouldn’t that be fun.

F  Carmelo Anthony: Melo had his best season is years and led the league in scoring all while carrying the Knicks to its first Atlantic Division title in years. Melo needs to get the Celtics off his back and get out of the first round if he wants legitimize the MVP talk surrounding this season, but if he does the Heat better watch out.

F Blake Griffin: Blake has made a step forward but did not make the leap many expected.  Nevertheless he is a 2nd teamer and one of the winners of the genetic lottery.  His free throw shooting still needs work and there is no good reason for why he didn’t average a double-double, but Blake Griffin is Blake Griffin is Blake Griffin.  He is one of a kind.

C Tim Duncan: Tim Duncan had a remarkable season despite playing a limited number of minutes. He has turned back the clock on both ends of the floor and could very easily be the best player on the floor on any given night.  Can he play 35-40 minutes a night in the playoffs and be just as effective?  If the answer is no, then the Spurs won’t make the WCF.

3rd Team

 

G Stephen Curry: Finally healthy, Steph gets the nod here after being an All-Star snub.

G Dwyane Wade: Early rumors of rapid decline proved false because if he is healthy he is a top 5 talent.

F Paul George:  The new face of the Pacers’ franchise is on the verge of becoming an All-NBA fixture.

F Paul Pierce: The Truth carried the Celtics when Rondo went down by doing a little bit of everything. Love you.

C Brook Lopez: Lopez kept the Nets afloat early when Deron Williams struggled and gets the nod over Howard and Bosh.

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