Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Day Two - Change of year, change of pace.

For two straight years now, I've written only one entry. At the start of each year, about my predictions. And I haven't even had the time or decency to write a follow-up both times. To be honest, I've watched less NBA those past two years than at any point over the last decade. For tons of reasons I won't get into here.

Anyway, I've decided, for this season, that I wouldn't aim for lofty goals. One of the reasons I didn't write anything was because I felt like I had to write long articles à la Bill Simmons for my blog to be worthwhile. Now though, I want to use it for a more fun - and a tad more selfish - goal. I will attempt to guess the outcome of each game in regards to the Vegas lines (who is the favourite for each game, and by how many points). Why? Because I always was tempted by the idea of sports betting, and I always wanted to see exactly how good I would be. But I'm firmly against betting money on sports, unless it's a very friendly wager with friends so close I consider them family.

I don't know what percentage of games I have to guess right to be considered good at betting, but let's hope for 60%. (Is that too high? I don't know and I truly don't give a crap).

I'll also do a over/under for the win totals very soon (I did them before the season, just have to find the paper...).

Without further explanation, let's get to yerterday's games.

Magic (84) @ Pelicans (101)
Pick : Pelicans (-9) (WON)

Mavericks (100) @ Spurs (101)
Pick : Spurs (-3.5) (LOST)

Rockets (108) @ Lakers (90)
Pick : Lakers (+7) (LOST)

Record after Day One : 1-2

Now for today.

Bucks @ Hornets 
Pick : Hornets (-8)

76ers @ Pacers
Pick : Pacers (-7)

Nets @ Celtics
Pick : Nets (pick'em)

Hawks @ Raptors
Pick : Raptors (-4.5)

Wizards @ Heat
Pick : Wizards (+4)


Bulls @ Knicks
Pick : Bulls (-4.5)



Wolves @ Grizzlies
Pick : Grizzlies (-8)

Pistons @ Nuggets
Pick : Denver (-6)

Rockets @ Jazz
Pick : Rockets (-3.5)

Lakers @ Suns
Pick : Lakers (+12.5)


Warriors @ Kings
Pick : Warriors (-4.5)

Thunder @ Trail Blazers
Pick : Thunder (+8.5)

Monday, October 28, 2013

2013-14 NBA season predictions

Last post I wrote, I said that the next time I'd write on this blog, I'd do some predictions. In a way, that's entirely true, since this post will be dedicated to predictions about the upcoming NBA season. But last post was 362 days ago, which means it was written before LAST season. I didn't write anything for a whole season. To be honest, it was not because I didn't watch basketball (I did. A lot) and not because I didn't had anything to say about it (Same). I just didn't have time to do it. Whatever the reasons are why I didn't have the time, I just didn't. So this year I'll make an extra effort to write regularly on this blog. I swear.

Anyway, these predictions will be all over the place. I'll do some awards, league-leaders, win totals, playoffs qualifiers, eventual deceptions, comeback years and other random stuff.
The Los Angeles Clippers will have the best record in the West (60+ wins), but won't make the NBA Finals. 
They won 56 games last year with Vinny Del Negro as a coach. I think this speaks to the talent level on this team. However, this is a team built for the regular season and I honestly don't trust their bigs to perform in high-stakes games when the playoffs come around. Teams like OKC and San Antonio will give them a lot of trouble even if they might have "less" talent overall. They will be fun to watch though.

Stephen Curry will make the West All-Star Team and will probably start. At the same time, John Wall will do the same out East (but will not start).
Look, it's a travesty he didn't make it last season, and he made it clear after the mid-season break. He averaged 26 points on 48% shooting, including 46% from 3-point land (and more than 4 makes per game...), 7.4 assists in 39 minutes per game. And he had a postseason for the ages, even his team didn't make it past the second round. The absence of Kobe might make room for him and enable him to be voted on by fans. As for John Wall, he was very good when he came back last season. Now that he has a whole season and he's getting older - at his age, older is better - I expect him to flirt with Chris Paul-like numbers of 20-10 (let's say 18-8 to be realistic) and make the All-Star Game 10% more entertaining by himself.

Kevin Durant will average (at least) 32 points per game and win the MVP award.
Westbrook will miss the first few weeks of the season, which might force KD to take over more often than he would do usually. I wouldn't go as far as Jalen Rose did when he said he would average 38, but he certainly is capable of it. He's the "easiest" scorer in the league (more than Carmelo, I'd argue), averaging massive percentages (the famous 50-40-90 club) and has virtually no weakness on offense. And everything I read and watch lately speaks of how much he's focused and "angrier" coming into this season. I wouldn't be surprised if his average jumped to 34-35. As far as his case for MVP is concerned, I think voters are getting tired of voting for LeBron, like they were in the 90's when Barkley and Malone both won MVPs in seasons where Jordan was clearly the best player in the league. This will come into play.

Brooklyn won't get past the second round of the playoffs.
I think the Nets will finish fourth or higher in the Eastern Conference, but I don't see them beating Chicago, Indiana or Miami in any 7-game-series anytime soon and they will have to face one of these to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. Not only that, I think they might blow it up after this season if they don't make it to the ECF, considering they're waaay over the salary cap and that Garnett/Pierce duo might not last very long.

The New York Knicks will implode.
I've said for more than a year that this Knicks team was doomed to implode at some point. They don't have a "true" leader in Carmelo Anthony, they have maybe the two worst defensive forwards in the history, their owner doesn't look overly competent (that's an understatement), they're paying 16 millions in luxury tax, they're wildly inconsistent, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if they fell to the 7th spot and get blown out by Chicago 4-0.

Stephen Curry will try 650 3-pointers.
The current record is 678 by George McCloud. Steph tried exactly 600 last season, but shot close to 9 trifectas per game after the All-Star Break. I think this continues and he shoots a lot more, and still hits a very high percentage, and maybe, just maybe, drill 300 of them and shatter his own record set this past season.

JaVale McGee will be a serious contender for the MIP. 
I don't know why, but I feel like McGee has massive potential in this league, even if he's a very strange man with a very peculiar history of doing weird s*** on the court. So we've got a slightly mad, über-athletic big man with massive potential. I like this combination.

The Thunder will acquire a "real" third option.
They just have to.The lack of Harden showed too much last season for them not to act. They need someone else than Durant or Westbrook to produce something on offense. Who? I don't know, but they will act.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will make the playoffs.
They just have to. I don't know what else to tell you. If they don't make the playoffs with a healthy squad I think my brain might explode.

Luol Deng won't lead the league in minutes played per game. 
I know Thibs tends to overplay his core players, but the rise of Jimmy Butler will allow Deng to sit a few more minutes per game on the bench and take a breather. This may not look like a bold statement, but Deng led the leagues in minutes per game for two straight seasons.

The Mavericks will miss the playoffs again.
I was very tempted by Bill Simmons' idea that Dirk is poised for a big year. That may be so, but the man is 35 and the other components on the team haven't really improved if you ask me. Monta Ellis will be taking shots away from Dirk (bad idea) and I somehow trust him even less than OJ Mayo. José Calderon is a competent leader, but that's about all you can say about him. Samuel Dalembert is a decent shotblocker, but can't really help them elsewhere. The Mavericks will be a non-factor once again.

Two 2013 All-Stars will be traded during this season.
My guesses would be Rajon Rondo and LaMarcus Aldridge, but David Lee might not be part of the Warriors' future either.

Frank Vogel will win Coach of the Year.
Up until midway through the ECF, Frank Vogel was still a very underrated NBA coach. Considering how impressive the Pacers were last year and the fact that they added bench support this off-season, I'm expecting a 55+ wins season from the Pacers and accolades for this young coach.

The Miami Heat will not threepeat as NBA Champions. 
I cannot tell you who I think will win the 2014 NBA championship, because I have no clue (There are 4, and maybe 5, real contenders for me). But everything tells me Miami, who barely got past Indiana and San Antonio last playoffs, won't repeat, and here's why :

- I will not go as far as calling their triumph of last season's championship "luck", because that would be disrespectful to what this team has accomplished since they won fair and square, but let's just say the odds for the circumstances surrounding the Heat's triumph last season would be 10 000 to 1.

- This year will be a lot harder. History taught us that the third year after back-to-back titles is exponentially tougher than the two others. With that much success, motivation will be an issue. I don't think it will be an issue at the top (Pat Riley and LeBron James, mainly), but for the supporting cast, it definitely can be.

- Wade is clearly on the way down and their old supporting cast is getting even older. And this is a case where older is clearly "smarter", but not necessarily "better".

- I would not be surprised if they win, because they do have a 4-time MVP at his peak on their squad, but I would put their chances at 30-35% amongst all NBA teams. Which would be higher than any other team, obviously, but this is the first year since the Three Amigos joined forces that the Heat are not favorite against the "field", at least for me.

Please don't take this like a personal attack on LeBron James. Yes, I never was a big LeBron fan, but anyone with a working pair of eyeballs can see he's the best overall basketball player on the planet. I think he alone makes them a threat to win it all each and every year. But the rest of the Heat concerns me. And I think this might play against him wanting to stay in Miami when his contract expires after this season. I think there's more than a 50% chance he'll stay there, but that's about as high as I'm willing to go. As great a player as he is, he still needs 11 other men around him to make it to the top again. He said it himself, the 2013 Championship run was a lot harder than in 2012. And 2014 looks to be even harder.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

New season, new beginnings!

It's been a while... for more than 5 months I haven't written a single thing on One Handed Bounce Pass. And it's not like there has been nothing to write about, with all those trades and free agents signings in the off-season, the genuinely intriguing draft class and the start of a new, potentially historic, season. In fact, the past few weeks have been filled with podcasts-listening, previews-reading and solid arguments with my friends (two of my best friends are mad NBA fans as well, one is a Lakers fanatic and the other loves LeBron and the Heat) about this upcoming season.

This year I've decided to buy NBA League Pass Broadband. Why? First : so I wouldn't have to browse around for a decent streaming link on some illegal website for games I wanted to watch. Second : to "force" myself to actually watch more basketball (since I cancelled my cable subscription, I haven't been tempted to watch as much basketball as I used to) and stop being lazy playing videogames (for more on that, see gerudofortress.blogspot.com).

Anyway, I'll try and write each week, if not more often, about what's happening around the league, which games I watch (Tonight I'll focus on Denver-Philly) and my predictions (always fun to do, always useless in the end... ^_^).

Next post will be about season predictions!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How I stopped hating the San Antonio Spurs

Back when I was in high school (1999-2004), I hated the Spurs. I hated Tim Duncan. I hated Manu Ginobili, even if some people compared my recklessness on the court to his. I called them boring every other sentence. I thought they were overrated. I thought they were lucky to have won in 1999 (lockout), 2003 (Lakers started imploding), 2005 (Big Shot Bob going crazy and being outscored by Detroit in the Finals) and even 2007 (Amar'e and Diaw getting suspended). They were easily my most hated team in the league. Even two years ago, when I made a most-loved and most-hated teams "rankings" (not on this blog though), they were still third in the most-hated list after Dallas at #1 and Miami at #2. It was - somewhat - an improvement, but it tells you how little I appreciated what the franchise has accomplished in the past 15 years.

(Truth be told, I still think about that 2007 title when Phoenix really could have (and likely should have) advanced to the Finals... Though that's not especially against the Spurs, but against the way the league handled the whole thing. Let's just stop talking about that.)

Being older and having a better understanding of how things work (at least on the surface) inside a NBA team, I started to appreciate, in the past year, how astonishing San Antonio's run in the NBA elite has been. The numbers (Yes I usually dislike numbers, but here we're talking the only number that matters in sports : Wins) speak for themselves. In the past 15 years - or since Tim Duncan has joined the team - the Spurs have maintained a winning percentage higher than any other professional team in North America over the same stretch: over .700. Unlike many, many organizations, the Spurs haven't been attracted by major trades or free agents signing (unless you count Richard Jefferson as "major"). They obviously never had the chance to get a lottery pick in 15 years, so they drafted role players who complemented Duncan's Hall of Fame abilities perfectly.

In other words they went a direction with Tim Duncan and Popovich and never wavered from it. That's both incredible and admirable.

Sure, they might not have as many titles as the Lakers over that same stretch or their high-profile players. And they certainly haven't got the rock-band-on-tour feel that the Heat has. And they might not have all the drama the Knicks have year after year or their star-studded crowd.

But they win. And keep on winning. No GQ cover. No national headlines. No SportsCenter segment. No controversies (except in 2007, if that's a controversy). They just win.

And for that, I stopped hating the Spurs and started to have an enormous amount of respect for what they achieved since 1997.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NBA Finals predictions

This is not a Finals predictions like most of what you and I read weekly, if not daily, over the Internet. I'm not going to predict WHO will make the Finals, but simply how each potential match-up would end. To do that, I'll take each of the 4 remaining Western Conference teams and match them up against each of the 4 remaining Eastern Conference teams. Simple, no?

*Note : I consider, for these match-ups, that all teams are perfectly healthy when the Finals comes.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Miami Heat
Result : Miami in 6
I think Miami's perimeter defense will erase the Spurs advantage beyond the 3-point line, and that there just aren't enough good defensive players on the Spurs to effectively guard LeBron, Wade AND Bosh.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Boston Celtics
Result : Spurs in 7
This could very well break the record for the oldest teams to meet in a NBA Finals, and we would get to see an epic duel between very old foes, most notably Duncan vs. Garnett (it's 2003 all over again!). The Spurs depth and shooting ability will give them the edge.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Result : Spurs in 6
I do think the 76ers would match up fairly well to the Spurs but, inevitably, experience and execution will outlast youth and athleticism. Also, no one would watch this.

San Antonio Spurs vs. Indiana Pacers
Result : Spurs in 6
Almost the exact same thing as the 76ers'. And no one would watch either.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Miami Heat
Result : OKC in 6
OKC's dynamic duo would basically cancel Wade/LeBron and Bosh won't stand the physicality and depth of the Perkins/Ibaka/Mohamed/Collison monster frontline. That, AND James Harden.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Boston Celtics
Result : OKC in 6
Boston will give OKC a rough test, expect hard fouls in the lane and many, many flagrants by both frontlines. However, OKC's sheer athleticism will get the best of the old Celtics.

Oklahoma City vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Result : OKC in 5
Philly won't die easily, but there's no way it can match against that multi-talented Thunder squad. It could very well be a sweep, but I love Philly so I'll give them one game.

Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Indiana Pacers
Result : OKC in 5

Indiana would give OKC a test, but nothing more. Enough said.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat
Result : ???? in 7
This is it. The one I really can't decide. Will L.A.'s frontline show up and destroy Anthony, Turiaf and whoever comes at them? Or will the über combo Wade/LeBron disrupt the Lakers offense and punish the old team by running he fast-break like hell? And there's the never-ending Kobe vs. LeBron debate... Really, I can't decide. I'm sorry. But it will go 7 and will break TV ratings record.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics
Result : LAL in 6
This one could also set a TV ratings record, and will make every NBA history fanatic delighted, me included. The Lakers's frontline will not be stopped by anyone on the Celtics roster.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Result : LAL in 5
The 76ers lack in size, that's no secret. And even if they defend really, really well on the perimeter, they won't stop the size of L.A.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Indiana Pacers
Result : LAL in 5
Size. That is all.
In all seriousness, Hibbert is a big guy, but he's not as dominant as Bynum (when he's not a knucklehead) or a talented as Pau.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Miami Heat
Result : Miami in 5
The Clips aren't good enough on defense to even slow LeBron/Wade and their offense is lacking in every department if not for the brilliance of Chris Paul, who will win a game by himself.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Boston Celtics
Result : Boston in 6
Boston has 2 enormous advantages over the Clips : coaching and experience. Streaky shooters like Young, Foye or Mo will help make this a more competitive series than it really should be.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Philadelphia 76ers
Result : LAC in 6
This is a tighter match-up than anyone would think, since Philly defends better and is better coached, but in the end, 4th quarter execution will kill the 76ers, who don't have Chris Paul.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Indiana Pacers
Result : Indy in 7
This was a harder call than I ever thought it would be. But in the end, hustle and coaching will get the Pacers the tiniest of advantages in the long series. And no one would watch or care.