Monthly Archives: February 2015

D’Angelo Russell: The 1st Overall Pick in the Draft?

On June 25th, 2015, the first name commissioner Adam Silver should announce is Ohio State’s D’Angelo Russell. Russell is currently a top five pick in the many mock drafts floating around the internet, with most have him being the third or fourth selection before the draft lottery slots teams in mid May. 

(Update: The Minnesota Timberwolves won the Draft lottery and will select first followed by the Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, New York Knicks and the Orlando Magic at number five.)

I know it defies conventional wisdom to draft Russell over big men Jalil Okafor of Duke and Karl Anthony-Towns from Kentucky, but this isn’t the 1980s when dominant bigs controlled the balance of power in the NBA.

We are in the era of the playmaking guard. It’s like quarterback in the NFL, if you don’t have one, you’re probably not a good team. 

Russell is a 6’5″ guard in the mold of Houston Rockets MVP candidate James Harden; not simply because they’re both smooth lefties, but because they can efficiently get buckets for themselves and their teammates seemingly at ease. Russell also has superior court vision and passing ability that has many NBA executives and Analysts comparing him to future Hall of Famer Jason Kidd.

Russell averages 18.7 ppg while shooting 46 percent from two, 43 percent from three. He’s a stat sheet stuffer grabbing 5.7 rebounds and dishing out 5.4 assist in 33 minutes of play. He already has a triple double to his credit and had been close in a handful of other games. 

New York Knicks President Phil Jackson had a front row seat to Russell’s exploits Thursday night in Columbus. While Russell left the game with an injury, he showed flashes of what has helped him earn Big Ten freshman of the week six times and Player of the week twice and a spot on the Wooden Award list, the basketball version of the Heisman trophy. 

If you’re one of the teams with the best chances at landing the number one pick (Knicks, Lakers, Sixers) what good is it to have a big in Okafor or Towns if you don’t have any one to get him the ball? 

(UPDATE: Even with Ricky Rubio on the roster the T-Wolves should still consider drafting Russell. Rubio has been often injured—he has only played a full season in his career once—and when he has played he’s been very inconsistent. If Rubio were still to flourish, he along with Russell and Wiggins could provide the T-Wolves with a formidable trio.)

You need Russell to play against Westbrook, CP3, Harden, Wall, Lilliard, Parker, Irving, Teague and the list goes on. If you want to turn around your teams fortunes, Russell is a great start. That is assuming he enters the draft. (UPDATE: Russell declared for the draft in late April foregoing his final three years of NCAA eligibility.)

 

Magic Need to Start Hanging Banners

Look into the rafters of the beautiful almost 5-year-old Amway Center and you’ll see beautiful steel beams and only handful of banners celebrating a couple of Eastern Conference championships (1995, 2009) a five Division Championships, a few Orlando Predators Arena Football Championships and a jersey number six retired for the Magic fans. 

It’s time for them to hang more and I’m not just insinuating the kind celebrating team achievements, but the individuals who’ve made this franchise relevant. Central Florida has a decent hoops history and as the Hall of Fame in the concourse of the Amway Center displays, it is one to be proud of, but that can only be seen when you visit the arena. 

Large retired numbers on banners hanging from the rafters can be seen on camera when a videographer shooting the game for broadcast gets a shot of them when returning to the game from a commercial break or during other stoppages of play. Wouldn’t the Magic organization want the rest of the NBA fans base catching a game on League Pass to see such a display? I’ll answer for them, yes.

While there is only one player in the Magic’s history that is a sure-fire Hall of Famer—more on him later—there are some others who are very significant to Orlando basketball and they should be honored.

Anderson finished his career as the Magic’s top scoring leader. Photo Courtesy: Orlando Sentinel

The team could start with honoring the first draft pick in the organization’s history and current community ambassador Nick Anderson. Number 25 was drafted with the 11th pick in 1989 and spent 10 years on the court in the blue and white and helped Orlando to the 1995 NBA Finals. When he finished his career he was the Magic’s franchise scoring leader with 10,650 points—he’s since been passed by Dwight Howard—and he’s still the leader in a few other categories including games played (692), steals (1,004) and field goals made (4,075). 

Anderson is the epitome of what the standard should be for Magic players on and off the court, this would be a great way to make that statement strong.

Shaq put Magic basketball on the national map. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Number 32 deserves to be in the rafters for Shaquille O’Neal. The “Diesel” only spent 4 seasons in central Florida wearing the blue and white with pinstripes, and his time ended tumultuous, but he is the guy who made Orlando Magic basketball relevant.

He is the organizations first ever NBA All-Star (1993-1996), he led them to their first ever playoff appearance (1994) and NBA Finals (1995). Shaq’s name is still prominent in the Magic record books. If it weren’t for him, who knows if there would still be a team in central Florida. Shaq became a global superstar in Orlando staring in movies and putting out platinum rap albums. O’Neal proved that you could become a Superstar in a “small market.”

Even though he never won a World Championship with the Magic, that hasn’t kept most fans from associating him with the Magic.
 
The team is inducting him into its Hall of Fame on March 27th, but a jersey retirement would be better. Most NBA fans still associate that number in those colors with him. It’s not like, say number one which had a few greats wear it in Magic colors.
 

Penny kept Orlando relevant after Shaq left. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Speaking of #1, it should be retired for Penny Hardaway. Tracy McGrady had a good run in that jersey, but in most fans mind, that jersey conjures up images of Mister 1Cent. In his prime, before the mountain of injuries, Penny was a perennial All-Star (94-98) and without Shaq kept the Magic in the playoffs.

Hardaway played six seasons with the Magic and in those years he averaged 19 points, 6.3 assist, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game. When he retired he was third on the Magic career list in (2,343)—now fourth, third in steals (718), and fourth in points (7,018)—now seventh.

Penny’s impact on the Magic’s history is very similar to his running mate Shaq. Together they led the Magic to their first playoff appearance (1994) and NBA Finals (1995). He also drew his share of the national spotlight with his Nike commercials starring Chris Rock as “Lil’ Penny”, Hardaway’s alter ego to promote his signature shoes which are still widely popular and sought after decades years after he retired.  

D12 is the most accomplished player in Magic history. Photo Courtesy: Sun Sentinel

This one is obviously a ways off in terms of years, but in the future the team should honor Dwight Howard by raising his number 12 to the roof at Amway. 

His tenure ended muddier then Shaq’s, but he holds several of the most meaningful franchise records including points (11,435), rebounds (8,073) and blocks (1,344).

D12 led the Magic to their second NBA Finals appearance as well as winning three Defensive Player of the Year awards (2008-2011). He’s probably a borderline Hall of Famer in the minds of most voters, but if he does get selected, he will be remembered most for the part of his resume built wearing blue and white. That would make him Orlando’s first and only Hall of Famer. But what about Shaq? He will be known more for his time in Los Angeles and maybe even Miami.

Even though Shaq, Penny and Dwight left on bad terms, in the case of the first two the 25th Anniversary celebration proved time has healed old wounds. Hopefully by the time Dwight is finished his relationship with central Florida will be better.
The organization did a great job of honoring its past during last season 25th anniversary season and has a great Hall of Fame exhibit on display in the Amway concourse, this would be just another great way to show off the Magic’s great history.

Steelers Need to Use First Round Pick on a Defensive Back

The last time the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted a defensive back in the first round was 2003. That choice was future Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. That’s the good news. The bad news is, he’s closer to retirement than the All-Pro, former Defensive Player of the Year he’s been throughout his career. 

Pittsburgh currently holds the 22nd pick and it’s time for general manager Kevin Colbert, head coach Mike Tomlin and newly promoted defensive coordinator Keith Butler to upgrade the secondary. 

Polamalu and fellow veteran defensive back Ike Taylor are hanging on by the gray hairs in their beards. It is time to select their replacements while they can still tutor them on how to be a Steeler.

The Steelers had the 6th ranked defense in the NFL in 2014 against the pass, but they gave up a NFL second worse fifteen pass plays over 40 yards and a 14th league worse fifty pass plays over 20 yards. 

The thirty passing touchdowns given up was tied for 4th worst in the NFL. The Black and Gold were also 6th worse in total passing yards 4,049 and gave up a 5th worse 98.3 rating to opposing quarterbacks. The numbers don’t lie, it’s time to invest in some defensive backs. 

If you go to NFL.com and look at the mock drafts from their four draft analysts, they are split as to what the Steelers should do. Daniel Jeremiah and Charles Davis have Pittsburgh going defensive back with Jeremaih suggesting P.J. Williams from Florida State and Davis suggesting Kevin Johnson from Wake Forest. The other two analysts, Lance Zierlein and Bucky Brooks suggest Pittsburgh should select outside linebacker Vic Beasley from Clemson and defensive tackle Malcolm Brown from Texas respectively.

In recent drafts the Steelers have looked to fortify their front seven hoping to get pressure on the elite passers in this league. That’s all well and good, but if the back-end of the defense is below average, it won’t matter if the front seven is the best in the league, as the stats show, they’ll still get torched.

Steeler Nation is hoping the Pittsburgh brass will make the correct selection to avoid that from continuing to be a weakness. They’ll have several options  as their are several talented defensive backs in this 2015 Class. Good thing too, because they should be looking to add another with their second round pick as well. 


NBA Trade Deadline: Winners & Losers

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The 2015 NBA trade deadline will be remembered for years to come.

The second half of the NBA season started with a monsoon, hurricane and thunder snow storm all mixed together. While there weren’t any big name all-stars on the move at the trade deadline, there were plenty of surprises that heated up the NBA on this biter cold February day.

It was a memorable race against the clock, one unlike any seen in the history of the league. Many of the moves will dramatically impact the race to the playoffs and championship. But there were a few trades that left me highly confused.

Here are the biggest trade deadline winners and losers.

WINNERS

Oklahoma City Thunder: General manger Sam Presti just rebuilt his entire bench with a slew of highly proven veterans and a star on the rise in getting Enes Kanter and Steve Novak from the Utah Jazz, as well as D.J. Augustine and Kyle Singler from Detroit. The most impressive part is he did it all with one trade.

Enes Kanter provides the inside scoring (13.8 ppg & 7.8 reb) the Thunder have NEVER had, even when they made it all the way to the 2012 NBA Finals, and he is only 22. Augustine has proven over the course of his career he is the dependable backup point guard that Reggie Jackson no longer wanted to be, while Singler and Novak are a pair of sharp shooters that will help space the floor even more for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to slice up defenses.

As Mike Dunleavy said on NBA TV’s trade deadline special, “they went from dangerous to lethal.”

The best part of the deal is that the Thunder traded away a guy in Reggie Jackson they knew they weren’t going to be able to resign in free agency, while also getting rid of Kendrick Perkins’ contract that handcuffed them the last three seasons.

No one in the West wanted to see OKC in the playoffs to begin with, now let’s see who starts actively jockeying for position to avoid them.

This also was Sam Presti’s checkmate move to let Kevin Durant see why he should stick around with in OKC when his free agency comes up.
Milwaukee Bucks: Michael Carter Williams, the reigning Rookie of the Year is more of the true point guard then the guy he’s replacing in Brandon Knight. MWC is the kind of talent future Hall of Fame point guard and Bucks coach Jason Kidd can mold into an elite PG, much like he was in his playing days.

At 6’6, you add MCW’s length to forwards Giannis Antetokounpo, John Henson, Jared Dudley and next season put them with Jabari Parker when he returns from his knee injury, the Bucks will be a team that will make an Atlanta Hawks like rise in the Eastern conference. Defensively their length will be a hassle for whoever they face in this coming playoffs as they currently sit in the six seed. They will be a tough out even with their inexperience.

Miami Heat: Let’s be real, when LeBron left the Heat, nobody thought they could find a way to put a strong playoff team on the court. In the wake of the “Decision Part II”, team President Pat Riley pieced together a roster that was barely holding on to the eighth seed in the East.

Now by getting Goran Dragic from Phoenix to pair with Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Loul Deng, Miami is a team that whoever they face in the first round of playoffs will lose a little sleep thinking about. I qualify that statement with, if they’re healthy.

Dragic is the reigning NBA Most Improved Player and 2013-14 third team all NBA member. That means he was a top 15 player when utilized properly. He’s a major upgrade over Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole–who was traded to New Orleans–neither of which has fulfilled their potential. Point guard was the biggest weakness on the Heat Big 3 championship teams and in the current albeit short LeBron-less era. Not anymore!

Kevin Garnett/Minnesota Timberwolves: Who says you can’t go home again? The Kid is now the Man, and if he is ready to call it a career, this is the best way to end it by bringing it full circle.

KG spent the first twelve years of his career in Minneapolis with the T-Wolves and has express interest in becoming apart of ownership with the team that selected him with the fifth pick in the 1995 Draft when his career is over. Now that he’s closer to that point, this move makes huge sense for him personally, but also the franchise.

The T-Wolves weren’t going anywhere this year or even next season for that matter, this is a strategic business/PR move.  After having their hand forced to move on from Kevin Love, bringing back the best player in franchise history in this manner, will show future players the class organization they have and why a guy like Andrew Wiggins and other rising young talent should want to be a part of it long term. Unlike Love.

Giving up a great young talent in Thaddeus Young will hurt in the short term, but a parting with him seemed to be inevitable. This move was a legacy move and should pay off huge in years to come.

LOSERS

Washington Wizards: The Wiz have quickly built a contender by blending a nice mix of accomplished veterans and young potential superstars. Why destroy that?

Trading away a key veteran in Andre Miller to the Sacramento Kings for Ramon Sessions threatens to ruin the chemistry that has them in the mix to possibly make an NBA finals run. I worry how this will affect the mind state of their young guns John Wall and Bradley Beal who are still very raw about the business side.

Detroit Pistons: After releasing Josh Smith and going on a nice winning streak before losing Brandon Jennings to an Achilles injury, D.J. Augustine filled in more than admirable. Augustine is a pros-pros who has done well in the emergency roles before, which he did for the Chicago Bulls when Derrick Rose went down last season. The Pistons were steadily moving closer to grabbing a playoff spot against all odds. Bringing in Reggie Jackson alone from OKC is not going to stabilize those efforts.

There’s no guarantee Jackson is going to re-sign with the Pistons when he hits free agency this summer, which is why OKC shipped him off. Looks like Detroit is trending down, just like they were when they had Josh Smith.

Utah Jazz: Giving up Enes Kanter, a 22 year old post player with double double potential to a conference foe is all ways a bad decision. Especially when you think about how hard it is to get any big men to play in the post these days. I understand they’re thrilled with center Rudy Gobert, and forward Derrick Favors has turned out to be a good player, but you NEVER trade a talent in conference.

Getting Kendrick Perkins isn’t so bad when you consider the plan is to buy him out, but that cap space isn’t worth the player Kanter can be.

Phoenix Suns: What are the Suns doing? First you trade away the 2013-2014 Most Improved Player of the Year and Third Team All-NBA member in Goran Dragic because he was unhappy playing in the log jam at point guard in the “Valley of the Sun.” Then you trade your 2014 first round pick, point guard Tyler Ennis to Milwaukee and Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics, who you just signed last summer creating the situation that made Dragic want out. What was once an embarrassment of riches at the point guard position, now is a weakness.

Just as baffling is what you got in return. Brandon Knight is an All-Star caliber player, but he is a restricted free agent this summer which puts you in the same bind you had last summer with Eric Bledsoe that essential helped create the problem you’re trying to eradicate. Receiving inconsistent forwards Shawne Williams, Danny Granger and little used center Justin Hamilton from Miami isn’t going to help them hold off OKC or New Orleans for the eight seed in the West.

The Suns were in good position to hold on to a playoff spot after coming surprisingly close last season. You’ve now risked ruining the chemistry and momentum you worked so hard to build over the last two seasons.

The only saving grace is that they picked up two first round picks in 2017 and 2019 from Miami. So instead of a potential first round exit, it appears they’re ready to blow it up and rebuild again.

Philadelphia 76ers: It’s not even worth going in depth on this organization. Michael Carter Williams is the reason anyone had hope that the tanking for top picks method was working. They just gave up their reigning rookie of the year with all-star potential and all they got were more unknowns in the form of draft picks and NBA on TNT’s “Shaqtin’ A Fool” star Javele McGee.

Trading a young piece with potential in K.J. McDaniels to Houston before really evaluating what he could become is just as bad as moving on from MCW. At this point the 76ers are like a farm team for the rest of the league. They keep drafting young talent and then send them to “real” NBA teams just as they’re ready to blossom into stars.

From the Hardwood to the Gridiron: Scouting NBA Players for the NFL

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I miss football. I’m in major withdrawal like a drug addict or alcoholic giving up their vice cold turkey. The best it’s going to get is this week’s NFL combine, but in my opinion, it’s the greatest waste of a showcase of athleticism in sports. The best name I’ve heard it called is the “Underwear Olympics.”

It’s just a bunch of future millionaire athletes performing test and drills that don’t really equate to on field success. Seriously, how many wide receivers are going to be able to run 40 yards in a straight line down field without being touched? None! That’s why the 40 yard dash, as well as the vertical leap and shuttle drills are so over-rated to me.

Anyway, as I prepare to watch—because again, it’s the closest thing we will get to talking football until the May draft—I can’t help but to think of how athletes in others sports would fair if they participated in the “Underwear Olympics” and performed well enough to be drafted into the NFL. Specifically NBA players, who are some of the greatest athletes on Earth.

I watch a lot of pro basketball and marvel at the athleticism of the players. The constant running, jumping, wrestling for position on the post, the agility to defend sliding sideline to sideline and keep a guy just as athletic in front of you without using your hands clearly shows it is the one sport where your entire body is pushed to its max.

The ability basketball players display night after night makes me wonder who could’ve been as great or more if they took their talents to another sport, specifically the gridiron. Some of them may be better than they are in their current profession.

So, here’s my list of guys I would’ve love to see strap on helmets and shoulder pads.

Los Angeles Lakers v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Two

Westbrook is a ferocious, exceptional athlete with a mean streak. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Russell Westbrook (DB) 6’3″ 200. Westbrook is a blur with the ball in his hands on the court, but instead of using that ability to catch passes at wideout, he’d probably be best used in the defensive secondary.

http://youtu.be/6QX59NsUnmY 

 Russ could cover a lot of ground on the field a la Troy Polumalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He’s also very physical and has mean streak. I imagine him having more success covering the larger athletic tight ends that are currently changing the game.

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LBJ is 6’8″ 250 lbs, Offensive coordinator would love to make a game plan with him in them. Photo Courtesy: NBA

LeBron James (TE) 6’8″ 250. Everyone knows by now that LBJ was an All-State wide receiver in Ohio at St. Vincent St. Mary High School, when he was a lot skinnier.

Arguably the best tight end in NFL History, Tony Gonzales, was a star basketball player at the University of Cal Berkley before joining the NFL. A few of the top TEs currently playing in the NFL, Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas of Denver were also standout hoopers.

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James was an All-Ohio football star at St. Vincent St. Mary’s. Photo Courtesy: ESPN.com

LBJ could be similar to those three guys and Rob Gronkowski. He’d be a huge security blanket for any QB with the wide catch radius he’d have in the middle of the field.

Los Angeles Clippers vs Oklahoma City Thunder

Ibaka has the size and athleticism that could make him a premier pass rusher. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images

Serge Ibaka (DE) 6’10” 244. Ibaka is one of the best defensive players in the NBA. Why? He has superior leaping ability, agile and quick footwork, not just for a guy his size, but that you’ll ever see. Now put those tools on a football field and tell him to go sack the quarterback.

He’d be like JJ Watt, batting down passes, while keeping mobile QBs like Russell Wilson, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick trapped in the pocket.

Of all the guys on this list, Serge would be my pick to have the greatest success. They say in the NFL you better either have someone elite to pass the ball, elite to protect the passer and elite at getting to the passer to win championships. I’d take my chances on Serge being able to fulfill the third variable in the equation.

Miami Heat v Oklahoma City Thunder – Game Two

Perkins seems to enjoy doing the dirty work and has a nasty mean streak that is necessary to play in the trenches. Photo Courtesy: Getty Images.

Kendrick Perkins (LT) 6’10” 270. This is the guy I truly believe would have a better football career than he’s having in basketball. Not because he’s bad on the court—he was a key contributor on a NBA Championship team—but because his skill set is desirable and off the charts for the NFL.

Perkins is a nasty enforcer, and does all the dirty work without any desire to have the limelight for his NBA employer the Oklahoma City Thunder. That’s exactly what you want from the guy protecting your franchise player in the trenches.

Perkins’ wingspan and athleticism for his size would be a nightmare for defensive ends. I’d imagine him in the mold of Hall of Famer Super Bowl Champion Johnathan Ogden.

With the way Perkins career on the court has been going lately, he may want to seriously consider such a change.

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Paul is known as pound for pound, the toughest player in the NBA.

Chris Paul (QB) 6’1″ 200. Many NBA executives believe CP3 has the best court vision, passing ability and IQ of all the top point guards in the league. He’s extremely tough as well having played through several nagging injuries during his career that would’ve kept others on the sidelines. He adds a fiery competitive spirit with exceptional leadership, qualities you want in your offensive signal caller.

Even though he is shorter than the current prototypical NBA point guard, he’s built like a tree stump and he’s still taller than Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Drew Brees and Russell Wilson.

You have to give him credit also for having super quickness and agility that would go a long way in helping him maneuver in and out of the pocket.

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Even coming off of a couple of injury plagued seasons, Rose’s athleticism is elite. Photo Courtesy: NBA

Derrick Rose (WR) 6’3″ 195. I hear you snickering. You’re thinking this guy misses more games to injuries in a low contact sport, how would he stay on the field in a high contact sport like football. D-Rose’s injuries to his knees and ankles were of the freakish type and not a true test of ones toughness. There’s a difference between being injured and hurt. Rose has played hurt and is very tough.

Now his athletic skill set is off the charts. It’s between him and Westbrook for who is the fastest in the NBA baseline to baseline. Rose’s agility and breakaway speed would lead to many yards after the catch and the way he weaves through defenders with a basketball, just imagine how he’d be not having to worry about dribbling and just dodging opponents.

So there you have it, my list of NBA players I wish could’ve played football. Tell me what you think? Is there anyone I left off the list you think could be a good football player? Let me know.

Blow up the NBA Playoffs: What if the NBA Went With the Best 16 Teams?

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Commissioner Adam Silver needs to use his executive powers to fix the NBA Playoff format.

The NBA is considering revising the Playoffs to include the 16 teams with the best record regardless of conference affiliation. This isn’t a new thought process, but it’s gaining more steam in the past couple of years due to the outcry that teams with losing records are getting into the playoffs in the Eastern conference bracket and a couple teams above .500 being eliminated from the playoffs on the Western conference side.

Commissioner Adam Silver has said he’s open to the idea of revamping the current playoff structure. Last Wednesday night speaking on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area during the Dallas Mavericks and Golden State Warriors game, the Commissioner said “we want to see our best teams in the playoffs.” That doesn’t always happen under the current format.

Since 2010 5 teams missed the playoffs even though they won more than .500 games, all in the Western conference. Meanwhile 3 teams made the playoffs in the East with losing records, the worse with only 37 wins out of 82.

I’ll add to the Commissioner’s comments, we the fans, also want to see the best players compete in the playoffs. Under the current format, three high profile All-NBA players in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans would be watching the chase for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Durant and Davis are in many people’s opinions 2a and 2b on the list of best player in the League, while Westbrook is in the discussion for best point guard. Would we really want to see a playoffs missing those three?

The cons to this format change is the construction of the current schedule. Right now, Western and Eastern conference teams play 2 games against the opposite conference and sometimes 4 games within conference. Many have said a balanced schedule where every team plays each other the same amount of times is needed to make the re-seeding format fair.

The current format has been in use since 1984 when the NBA expanded to 16 teams. Maybe now is the time for a change. Change is good and this would be a VERY good change.

So just for fun, if the new formatted playoffs started today here’s the 16 teams that would be in and how they would be seeded with 1 matching up with 16, 2 against 15 and so on.

1. Golden State Warriors (42-9/.824) vs. 16. New Orleans Pelicans (27-26/.509)

2. Atlanta Hawks (43-11/.796) vs. 15. Oklahoma City Thunder (28-25/.528)

3. Memphis Grizzlies (39-14/.736) vs. 14. Phoenix Suns (29-25/.537)

4. Toronto Raptors (36-17/.679) vs. 13. Milwaukee Bucks (30-23/.566)
* The Raptors, Portland Trailblazers and Houston Rockets have identical records, but Toronto gets higher seed for having a better Conference Record.*

5. Portland Trailblazers (36-17/.679) vs. 12. Cleveland Cavaliers (33-22/.600)
*The Trailblazers get the tie breaker and higher seed over the Rockets for being the Northwest division leader. The Rockets are second in the Southwest division.*

6. Houston Rockets (36-17/.679) vs. 11. Washington Wizards (33-21/.611)

7. Dallas Mavericks (36-19/.642) vs. 10. Chicago Bulls (34-20/.630)

8. Los Angeles Clippers (35-19/.648) vs. 9. San Antonio Spurs (34-19/.642)

That would leave the Miami Heat (22-30/.423) and Charlotte Hornets (22-30/.423), the current seventh and eighth seeds in the East out of the playoffs.

By taking the best 16 teams, I believe you’ll create better evenly matched series’ with more unpredictable results. In the 2014 Playoffs there was only one sweep, but four series that ended after only five games.

But most importantly with re-seeding, in a star driven league, the game’s biggest stars will be on the biggest stage. Only 2 of the 2015 NBA All-Stars would miss the playoffs, Camelo Anthony of the New York Knicks and DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. But, both are on teams that are terrible and in the case of the Knicks, historically bad.

Former commissioner David Stern used his executive power in 2003 to extend the first round series from a best of five to a best of seven in an attempt to make the playoffs more exciting and unpredictable. Silver should exercise his power and adapt the re-seeding format to do the same.

Atlanta Should be the Favorites to Win the NBA Title

Don’t laugh, I’m being serious.

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The Hawks starting five is the first in NBA history to win players of the month. Courtesy: Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

I understand the skepticism. The same franchise that has gone 219-175 (.556) in the last 5 years and was an eight seed just last season is the best in the NBA? I hear you, “this isn’t the NFL, teams don’t go from worse to first overnight in the NBA.”

But here we sit at the All-Star break and the Atlanta Hawks have the most wins in the NBA at 43-11 (.811). Even with four players—Al Horford, Paul Milsap, Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver replacing Dwayne Wade—competing in this weekend’s All-Star game, still no one will call them the best team in basketball or favor them to win the NBA Title, but they should.

After starting the season at 7-6, they ran off 35 wins in 38 games, which included a franchise record and league high 19 game win streak. Oh, and a NBA record 17-0 in the month of January.

Don’t think they’re just feasting on the weaker Eastern Conference either. Atlanta is 14-4 against Western teams—9-3 against the top 8 teams in the West; 14-5 against the top 8 teams in the East.

If you need analytics or others stats to prove the Hawks are for real, here you go. According to ESPN’s Hollinger Stats, Atlanta leads the NBA in assist ratio at 19.7. They’re 2nd in effective field goal percentage (54.1) and true shooting percentage (57.2) only to the Golden State Warriors, the team with the best record in the Western Conference, who the Hawks have already beaten. The Hawks are also 2nd in assists to turnover ratio (1.95) , assists per game (25.8), point differential (+6.7) and tied for 3rd in points per game (96.8).

15 of their remaining 28 games are against team currently in the playoffs. So we will learn if they have the killer instinct needed to not only lock up home court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs, but can they continue to handle their own against the league’s best.

The “experts” say they’re a nice regular season team that will lose in the second round because they have no go-to-guy for the clutch moments. I say they have at least four. That means they have legit options that their opponents have to worry about. As some say, you’re only as good as your options, and they have some real good ones.