Monday, April 14, 2014

Best in the West

With the NBA regular season coming to a close, it’s time to gear up for an exciting playoff battle in the Western Conference. The superiority of the west is obvious, considering that 10 of its teams have at least a .500 record as opposed to the Eastern Conference’s seven. However, being the better conference doesn’t mean that you will get more teams in the NBA Finals. Only one squad will come out of the daunting Western Conference, but which one? With the front-runner for MVP, last year’s conference champs and a couple of flashy teams, deciphering who the best is will be no easy task.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs just never seem to get older. With the brilliance of Gregg Popovich, the familiar trio of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan have led the Spurs to the best record in the NBA once again. In classic Spurs form, this year’s team has appeared to hit its stride at the correct time. Although it was just broken, San Antonio’s 19-game winning streak surely makes the Spurs the hottest team in the league. Tim Duncan has found a way to consistently play at a high level, though his Hall of Fame-caliber years are behind him. Young talent, like Kawhi Leonard, and the amazing point guard-play of Tony Parker make the Spurs dangerous. And with a mixture of experience and skill, the Spurs have to be considered slight favorites in the Western Conference playoffs.
Oklahoma City Thunder
If Russell Westbrook didn’t suffer a season-ending injury in last year’s playoffs, we may be talking about the Thunder as the reigning Western Conference champs. Either way, Oklahoma City is a big-time contender. In fact, Oklahoma City is the team that ended the Spurs’ winning streak. Oklahoma City is currently the 2-seed with a record of 55-20. They have the current favorite to win the MVP award in Kevin Durant and another top-ten talent in Westbrook. The Thunder can outscore anyone in the NBA and have the ability to come back from nearly any deficit. Although each round of the playoffs is going to hold a legitimate challenge in the west, the Thunder will be expected to get to the conference finals with the second-best player in the NBA.
Houston Rockets
As the NBA’s newest powerhouse, the Rockets have plenty of talent. Offensively, James Harden is one of the best scorers in the entire league, scoring an average of 25.3 points per game. On the defensive end, Dwight Howard guards the paint like electronic repellent, with an average of nearly two blocks per game and 12 rebounds per game. Barring a late-season collapse, the 50-25 Rockets will be the 4-seed in the playoffs with a chance to make some noise.
LA Clippers
Although there are other teams, such as Portland and Golden State, that can do some damage in the playoffs, the Clippers have earned the right to be called one of the best in the west ahead of them. The Clippers have a rising star in Blake Griffin, who has grown exponentially this year, and Chris Paul, who is widely-considered to be the best point guard in the NBA. With a 54-23 record, the Clippers are another offensive juggernaut with high-flying ability that makes them dangerous when the playoffs come around.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Money of the NBA

Although David Stern may not be the most popular guy to basketball fans, he is certainly leaving the NBA in pretty good shape. Since falling into the hands of Stern in 1984, the NBA has done a lot of growing, both domestically and internationally. In fact, the playoffs are now broadcast live in 215 countries around the world. So, while NBA teams begin to look toward the quickly-approaching playoffs, we can look at the money behind the NBA.

Revenue and Worth

The NBA’s revenues are no longer counted in millions of dollars, like they were when Stern took over. Instead, the revenues totaled $4.6 billion for the 30 teams last year. Altogether, the 30 franchises of the league are worth $19 billion, compared to $400 million for the 23 franchises in 1984. Last season’s gate receipts totaled $1.3 billion around the league and the salary cap has reached the $58 million mark for teams.

As far as operating income goes, which is the amount of profit gained after subtracting operation costs, the NBA saw the highest amount ever last year with an average of $23.7 million. The league’s NBA China venture, which began in 2008 with the help of $253 million in investments from the likes of the Walt Disney Co. and ESPN, is estimated to be worth approximately $1.5 billion.

The CBA and Television

The recent collective bargaining agreement between the NBA owners and players has had a huge impact on where the money of the NBA goes. According to that CBA, the amount of revenue to go to the players decreased from 57 percent to 50 percent. The CBA also had an emphasis on revenue sharing, meaning that the lower revenue teams would be supplemented by the higher revenue ones. There will be an estimated $200 million changing hands this year based on the revenue sharing rules.

With so many experts in fields such as negotiations and business acquisition financing, the NBA is making plenty of money through TV contracts as well. The current set of contracts with TNT and ABC are set to expire after the 2015-2016 season. Those contracts are worth an annual average of $930 million. In local TV, the Lakers are showing that there is money to be made. The Lakers’ deal with Time Warner Cable earned the franchise $122 million last season as the first year of the 20-year, $3.6 billion deal.

Most Valuable Franchises

For the second-straight year, the New York Knicks are the NBA’s most valuable franchise. Up 27 percent from last year, the Knicks are worth $1.4 billion. The $1 billion renovation of Madison Square Garden and longest playoff run in over a dozen years pushed revenue to $287 million. The franchise’ operating income of $96 million last year is a record for an NBA franchise.

The second-highest valued franchise in the NBA is the Los Angeles Lakers, according to Forbes. The current value of the franchise is $1.35 billion with last year’s revenue totaling $295 million for the Lakers. However, the Lakers were charged the highest luxury tax-- $29.3 million—due to a payroll of $100 million last season. The Lakers also turned an operating profit of $66 million last season.

The NBA’s final billion-dollar franchise is the Chicago Bulls with a worth of exactly $1 billion. Thanks to four-straight years of leading the NBA in attendance, the Bulls always turn one of the highest revenues. Last year’s revenue for the Bulls totaled $195 million with an operating profit of $52 million. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Chicago Could Land the Next Big 3

Since the “Big 3” of Boston made the Celtics instant contenders, every city seems to be looking for the next trio of all-stars to take them to the NBA Finals. And according to rumors around the league, it looks like the Bulls could put together the next Big 3 as soon as next year. With plenty left to happen in the NBA between the end of this season and the beginning of the next one, there is no certainty that Chicago can woo the likes of Carmelo Anthony, but they are certainly trying and the move could make perfect sense.

Potential Bulls Big 3

The whole idea behind making moves for the New York Knicks’ star, is to pair him with Chicago’s current stars — Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. So far this season, Noah has been one of the most impressive big men in the NBA. Some experts are even calling him the best. What we know for sure is that Noah is the best perimeter-defending center. He always plays with great passion. For the potential Big 3 in Chicago, Noah would be the emotional leader, and the big man to match what was Boston’s Kevin Garnett and what is Miami’s Chris Bosh.

As for Rose, the trio of all stars would only be a trio if Rose can come back healthy and still be close to the superstar that he was when he won the MVP trophy. But, with back-to-back major knee injuries, we won’t know how good Rose will be until he starts playing again. The explosive point guard would be the biggest question mark for the new Bulls squad. The uncertainty around his ability to come back strong may prove to be too big of a gamble for Anthony to pledge his future to Chicago.

The biggest moving part in Chicago’s quest to obtain a Big 3 is Anthony. Should they entice him to Chicago, the Bulls would be getting a proven star and one of the NBA’s best scorers. Although he is often accompanied by criticisms that he is a selfish player and doesn’t play defense, Anthony would definitely become an offensive threat that the Bulls desperately need. And with Chicago’s great defense that seems to almost put security gates around their basket. Anthony’s lack of defensive effort may be compensated for by the rest of the squad.

What Needs to Happen

In order to get Anthony to Chicago, a host of actions need to be taken. First of all, Anthony would have to leave money on the table. He could make approximately $33 million more in free agency if he stays with the Knicks instead of going to another team. Additionally, Chicago would have to persuade Anthony away from the bright lights of Los Angeles should he choose to leave New York. If all of that happens, then the Bulls would have to make room for the max-level contract that Anthony would want. To do so, the Bulls could amnesty Carlos Boozer to save $16.8 million, and let Kirk Hinrich leave in free agency to clear up some cap room. The Bulls may also be forced to lose another piece should Anthony join the team, meaning that a player like Taj Gibson could very well be living in a city other than Chicago next year. The move for Anthony would come at a great price, but if it makes the Bulls legitimate title contender to match the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers, how do you say no to that?

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Rockets Bench is Their Achilles Heel

The Houston Rockets have had a great year. At 41-19, they've put themselves in a position to be successful in the playoffs. What's their achilles heel?

The up and down play of their bench. They've got some solid bench players, such as Omer Asik, Jeremy Lin and newly acquired Jordan Hamilton (Asik would start on most teams). The offensive firepower is lacking with this group.

When James Harden's out and these guys hit the floor, the ball stops and the shot clock just twinkles down. Coach Kevin McHale is fully aware of this and that's why Harden plays 38.5 minutes per game.

What can they do about this? Jeremy Lin needs to be more aggressive. He's not confident on offense right now and he needs to hit threes. If Lin can get going and put points on the board consistently, that'll set the tone and raise the confidence of the whole bench.

Whether Lin can consistently hit shots is to be determined, but the bench is the biggest x-factor going forward. If they can give them a lift, that's huge and unexpected. What do you think of the Rockets bench play this year?

LeBron James Hits a Three at the Buzzer (That Doesn't Count)

LeBron James hit an incredibly tough three to end the third quarter against the Rockets. James Harden smothered LBJ. LeBron faked, paused and eventually banked in the triple.

Too bad it was waived off! If he'd launched the shot just a split second earlier, it would've been cash money. How about that shot though?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Reebok Classic Episode 3

Reebok came out with a funny ad. It features Allen Iverson, Shawn Kemp and more. Dig it!

My favorite part is Allen Iversons bit at the end. What's your favorite part?

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Three Surprising All-Star Game Absentees

The NBA All-Star game is a chance for fans to see basketball’s best players from each conference square off against one another. This televised event creates interesting story lines and great action as adversaries become teammates and offense is favored over defense.

While this concept sounds great in theory, a problem arises in that only a limited number of players can be selected each year. For many fans this means seeing their favorite team’s star player miss out on a chance to join in the fun. The 2014 All-Star game will be no different in this regard as many of the game’s best players were snubbed in the voting process. Below is a discussion of three notable players who weren’t selected for this year’s game.

Anthony Davis

For hometown fans the most disappointing absence from this year’s all-star game will surely be the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. In just his second season, Davis is putting up numbers that warrant his consideration as one of the best players at his position. Davis is currently averaging 20.4 points and 10.5 rebounds per game and his average of 3.4 blocks leads all NBA players.

Issues that likely hurt Davis’ chances during all-star voting are his teams poor performances this season and his injuries. Davis has played in just 39 games this season and his Pelicans are sitting in the 12 spot in the Western Conference standings.

It’s a shame that these factors tend to impact player selection as they often lead to deserving players being left on the shelf. When you purchase items such as garden products or home cleaning solvents you are generally unbiased and only interested in performance. Sadly, despite the fact that Davis is one of the best performers in the league, he will be missing out this year.

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry stands as one of the biggest letdowns in terms of All-Star voting. Statistically Lowry is one of the top players at his position as he is averaging 16.5 points, 7.5 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game. Not only has Lowry greatly surpassed his career averages in all of these categories, but his average is currently 6th in PER out of all NBA point guards. In combination with Toronto’s excellent performances this season, these statistics more than warrant a reserved role in the all-star game.

Al Jefferson

“Big Al” is in the midst of one of the best seasons in his 10 year NBA career. The Charlotte Bobcats’ big man is averaging nearly 20 points and 11 rebounds a game so far during the 2013-2014 season, as cited by ESPN. This exceeds his prior career averages and marks the fourth season in which he has averaged a double-double.

With a thin roster and Kemba Walker sidelined with an injury, Jefferson’s stellar play has Charlotte currently sitting in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This would mark just the second time in franchise history that the Bobcats have earned a playoff birth. Charlotte’s small market is likely a factor in Jefferson’s snub as only one other Bobcats player has been selected as an All-Star.

The aforementioned players represent three of the highest-caliber snubs for this year’s all-star game. These players will likely feel that their exclusion was unfair given the performances that they have submitted this season.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Michael Jordan Versus LeBron James

No matter what the sport, fans and analysts alike will attempt to compare players from different generations. In baseball, you’ll see comparisons between players like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mayes and Ted Williams, while hockey will always have comparisons between talents like Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Sidney Crosby. Football is a tougher sport to compare, since players have different roles, but you have probably heard numerous debates about the talent levels of running backs like Jim Brown, Walter Payton and Barry Sanders, in addition to quarterbacks like John Elway, Dan Marino and Joe Montana.

In basketball, the conversation usually centers on Michael Jordan, as he is recognized as the greatest to ever play the game. He has been compared to other all-time greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell. Today, however, the debate has switched to one about LeBron James and Jordan, which is a conversation worth having because of their extremely high levels of talent.

The Case for James
LeBron James is only 29 years old, but has already won two NBA championships, is a two-time NBA finals MVP, is a four-time NBA most valuable player, has one scoring title, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and has been selected to nine all-star teams. Over the course of his career, James has averaged nearly 27.5 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, 6.9 assists per game and 1.7 steals per game. When you factor in James' physical qualities, as he is 6’8” and weighs 250 pounds, it is easy to see why he has been so dominant over the course of his career.

Of course, much of the criticism that James encounters revolves around his clutch performances. Teammate Chris Bosh noted in 2011 that he would rather have Dwyane Wade take a last second shot to win a game than James. He has also faced criticism for passing when the game is on the line and allowing someone else to take the shot. While clutch is not a quantifiable aspect of the game, it is a prevalent idea in sports and the consensus is that James is not a clutch player. Much like you wouldn’t trust just anyone to give you fast unsecured business loans, you would have second thoughts about James trying to make a game-winning shot.

The Case for Jordan
Michael Jordan was not as physically dominant as LeBron James, standing at 6'6" and weighing 215 pounds. He is, however, a five-time MVP, a 14-time all-star, a six-time finals MVP, and a 10-time first team All-NBA player, which is why he is considered the greatest of all time. He also holds the highest points per game average in league history, at 30.1, and in playoff history, at 33.4. Jordan also averaged 4.7 rebounds per game, 4.2 assists per game and 2.3 steals per game. In 1999, he was named the greatest North American athlete of the century by ESPN and was inducted into the basketball hall of fame in 2009.

To nitpick, there are a couple of blemishes on Jordan's historical career. For starters, he left basketball for two seasons to play professional baseball. While he did not make the major leagues, he did play some AA ball in the Chicago White Sox organization. His career numbers would be even more impressive if he did not leave for these seasons. Additionally, Jordan returned to the NBA with the Washington Wizards between 2001 and 2003 after announcing his retirement in 1998. He was a shell of his former self, although this should not tarnish his legacy too greatly.

The Verdict
Since the players are from different generations, all we can look at are career success and the marks that the two players have left on the game. Physically, it is possible to argue that James is the superior athlete. His size and athleticism put him in a league of his own and not even Jordan can match him. As an all-around player, however, Jordan is far ahead of James because of his ability to elevate his game at the right time. Watching Jordan in the playoffs, you knew that he would find a way to win. You cannot say the same about James, despite his recent playoff success. There are still plenty more years for James to prove himself, but right now my vote is for Jordan.

Scott Huntington is a sports writer and blogger. When he’s not watching
sports, he’s doing research for
Archmetal Roofs or spending time with his family. Follow
Scott at 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The NBA’s Top Earners in 2013-2014

It should come as no surprise that salaries in the NBA are extremely high. Given that the salary cap currently sits at $58.679 million and each team only carries 15 players on its roster, the highest paid players in the league are sure to many some serious money. Currently, the average salary in the NBA is $4,212,062, but players in the upper-echelon make much more money than this annually.

Kobe Bryant

The Los Angeles Lakers have made Kobe Bryant the highest paid player in the league. He is due to make $30,453,805 in the 2013-2014 season, which is nearly $8 million more per season than the second most lucrative contract. Unfortunately for the Lakers, Bryant has spent much of the season out of the lineup after tearing his Achilles tendon at the end of the 2012-2013 season and then fracturing his kneecap after he returned to action. It remains to be seen if Kobe will rebound from his injury troubles and live up to his contract.

Dirk Nowitzki

As one of the best-shooting big men in the NBA, Dirk Nowitzki is owed $22,721,381 by the Dallas Mavericks this season. This is another contract that will be extremely difficult to live up to, especially since Nowitzki currently sits below his career averages in points and rebounds. Much like a car owner would look for Mustang upgrades when his vehicle gets old, it might be time for the Mavericks to move on from Nowitzki when his contract expires after the season. While Nowitzki is still a very good player, his days as a dominant force could be behind him.

Amar'e Stoudemire

Perhaps the worst contract in the top five is that of Amar'e Stoudemire, who will receive $21,679,893 from the New York Knicks this season. Stoudemire is only averaging about 19 minutes of play per game. He's also averaging under nine points per game during that time, which really makes him largely ineffective for the season. To make matter worse, Stoudemire has never been regarded as a top defensive player, so his lack of production at the offensive end of the court means that he provides very little value for his team.

Joe Johnson

You might not expect to see Joe Johnson on this list, but the Brooklyn Nets' shooting guard will make $21,466,718 this year, according to ESPN. Despite the fact that Johnson sits slightly below his career points per game average, you could make the argument that he is playing about as well as could be expected. The problem is that Johnson has never been one of the top five players in the league; therefore, he would be overpaid no matter how well he produced.

Carmelo Anthony

Another New York Knick on the top of the pay scale is Carmelo Anthony, who will make $21,388,953 playing basketball this season. The good news for Knicks fans is that Anthony is an elite scorer in the league and is actually scoring more than his career average this season. He is also rebounding well, making him the top player on the team. The problem for the Knicks is that no one else is scoring at a high level, as the team sits near the bottom of the league in most offensive categories.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Three Players Who Have Disappointed Their New Teams in 2013

2013 saw a number of NBA teams make moves to improve their rosters. Whether they made a
large-scale trade or took a gamble in the NBA Draft, these organizations hoped to add personnel
who would help take their team to the playoffs.

While some teams found players who immediately came in and made an impact, some coaches
and general managers have been disappointed with the performance of their acquisitions.
Some of them are just so happy with having so much money they could even go to private and
exclusive rehab if they needed to. Below is a list of three players who have disappointed their
new teams so far this season.

1. Anthony Bennett

One of the most high-profile disappointments of the season has been the play of Anthony
Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers took Bennett
with the hopes of inserting the forward into their starting lineup alongside Kyrie Irving and Dion
Waiters. Offering great size and athleticism, Bennett seemed like an excellent boost to the Cavs lineup.

Sadly for Cavs fans, this has not been the case, as Bennett’s transition to the NBA has been
anything but smooth. So far this season, Bennett is averaging just 2.4 points, 2.0 rebounds
and 0.3 assists per game, according to ESPN. This abysmal stat line is subpar compared to
many of the other rookies who were drafted behind Bennett during the first round. Reduced to
just 10 minutes of play per game for the Cavs, Bennett certainly represents one of the biggest
disappointments of the season.

2. Andrew Bynum

Another name that has been in the news for the wrong reasons is Andrew Bynum. Once again,
the Cavs are the team that’s suffering as they took a risk on Bynum this offseason. Cleveland
agreed to a two-year, $24 million deal for the 7-foot center in what stands as a risky move that
has yet to pan out. Bynum came to the Cavs after sitting out the entire previous season due to
injury and was by no means a guarantee in terms of returning to playing form.

Despite Bynum’s progressing recovery, the center’s health issues are no longer the Cavs’ main
concern. This past week the Cavs organization suspended Bynum indefinitely for conduct that is
detrimental to the locker room, as cited by ESPN. It was later revealed that the conduct referred
to involved Bynum’s lack of motivation and lack of interest in playing. While Bynum’s averages
of 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds aren’t terrible, they are far below expectations for the former
all-star. Also, the limited number of games he has played this season is a big blow to the Cavs
financially considering the large nature of his contract.

3. O.J. Mayo

The Milwaukee Bucks acquired Mayo after trading away star players Monte Ellis and Brandon
Jennings during the offseason. The Bucks were looking for Mayo to offer consistent backcourt
scoring and to alleviate the imbalance that their previous backcourt offered, as discussed by
Bleacher Report. This appeared to be a positive move from Mayo’s perspective as he would be
able to serve as the top option in the Buck’s rotation.

So far this match hasn’t panned out for either party as the Bucks are currently 6-24 while Mayo
is averaging just 14.0 points per game on 40 percent shooting. This is a far cry from what was
expected given Mayo’s previous season and new $8 million contract.

Given the resources that the aforementioned teams have invested in these players, it is no
surprise that frustration is abundant in each organization. Cavaliers and Bucks fans will hope that
these players will turn it around in the second half of the season and reward their team’s trust in
their capability.

Scott Huntington is a writer, blogger, and long-time sports fan. When he’s not watching
sports, he’s doing research for Maxwell Systems or spending time outside with his family. Follow
Scott at @SMHuntington or check out his blog,