Tag Archives: NBA All- Star Game

Small Forward is the New Center-piece Position 

Kevin Durant & LeBron James have revolutionized the game from the small forward position. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

In the NFL the saying goes, “If you don’t have an elite QB, you won’t be an elite team.” Which basically means you can forget about winning the Super Bowl. In the NBA, many have compared the point guard position to the single caller on the gridiron and used that as an indicator of a team’s chance at success.

Right now the NBA is the golden age of point guards. Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Dame Lillard, Tony Parker and John Wall to name a few.

While many may say if you don’t have an elite PG you don’t have a chance at winning a title, I can argue that if you don’t have an elite small forward, you can give up any chance of holding Larry O’Brien.

To me, top elite small forwards have become as scarce as elite centers in the days of Kareem, Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, up to Shaq. In the 1980s and 90s, general managers built their teams around the big man.

In this age of position-less basketball, we are actually moving into the era of the multi-skilled small forward and GMs will do whatever it takes to acquire one. The mantra of “its a guard league”, is soon to end.

First-time NBA All-Star The Greek Freak’s potential is as wide as his wingspan. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

Look at these names; LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kwahi Leonard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Then there are those coming up in Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Andrew Wiggins, and Giannis Antetokoumnpo. These hybrids have point guard playmaking skills, as well as the elite scoring ability on the perimeter and in the post are hard to come by.

The last five NBA Finals MVP’s have been LeBron James (2012, 2013, 2016), Kawhi Leonard (2014) and Andre Iguodala (2015). All three are multiple time all-stars, who are versatile on both the offense and defense ends of the court.

If that doesn’t wet your beak, check out these numbers from the 2016-17 John Hollinger’s NBA Player Stats. Yes it’s analytics that so many old school players and fans hate.

At the time of this post (2/17/17), two of the top five players and 5 of the 12 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) are small forwards, the most of any position.

  • #2 Kawhi Leonard 28.23
  • #5 Kevin Durant 27.62
  • #8 Giannis Antetokoumnpo 26.71

Just barely outside the top ten at #11 and #12, LeBron James at 26.34 and Jimmy Butler 25.51, respectively.

Four of the previous mentioned are also in the top ten in Estimated Wins Added (EWA) which measures the estimated number of wins a player adds to its teams season total above what a “replacement player” would produce.

  • #3 Kevin Durant, 16.3
  • #4 Giannis Antetokoumnpo, 15.4
  • #4 LeBron James, 15.4
  • #7 Kawhi Leonard, 15.1

Just outside the top 10 in the number 11 spot is Jimmy Butler at 13.6

The Chicago Bulls are down right now, but their climb back will be headed by Jimmy Butler. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

Take a look at ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus. Once again five of the top ten are small forwards, if you count Draymond Green, who at 6’7″ is more of a small forward with his swiss-arm knife playmaking ability even though he’s listed as Golden State’s power forward. That playmaking was on full display on February 10th when Green became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double without double-digit points (12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals, 4 points).

  • #2 Draymond Green, 6.90
  • #3 Jimmy Butler, 6.41
  • #5 Kevin Durant, 6.21
  • #7 LeBron James, 6.00
  • #9 Kawhi Leonard, 5.89

Also on ESPN’s real-plus minus, in the wins categories these small forwards hold 6 of the top 12 spots.

  • #2 Kevin Durant, 11.52
  • #5 Draymond Green, 11.38
  • #7 LeBron James, 10.94
  • #8 Jimmy Butler, 10.83
  • #10 Kawhi Leonard, 9.29
  • #12 Giannis Antetokounmpo, 9.14

These five guys make up half 2017 All-Star starters. It’s no wonder their teams have three of the best overall records in the NBA.

In the coming seasons, you’ll start to see the teams who are talented in every area but the 3-spot not being able to stay with the teams who are blessed to have a future Hall of Famer, perennial All-Star or future superstar in tow.

Take the Los Angeles Clippers for example. While the Clippers have their own all-star big three of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, their glaring hole at the 3-spot has been their downfall in the past three or four seasons. They’ve tried Matt Barnes, Caron Butler, Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green. With the exception of Barnes and Butler, all those acquisitions flamed out.

It’s why the Golden State Warriors passed them up when they acquired Iguodala and the emergence of Green, who as I mentioned early is effectively their other playmaking small forward, especially in crunch time.

As the Association continues to trend toward making post play obsolete, big men will have to improve their perimeter skills to keep up and stay on the court. That means more players coming into the draft with the body types of Antetokoumnpo, Durant, James and throw Kristaps Porzingis into that mix as well, that will also attempt to emulate their those guys style of play.

Like the old days when teams built around rare dominant 7-foot big men who patrolled the paint, teams will now scourer for the next great versatile, athletic, Swiss Army knife wingman to build their championship dreams. The present and future is in the three spot, no matter how littered the Association is with all-star PG’s.

NBA Should Drop the Age Limit, Send Prep Prospects to The D-League

It's time for the NBA to make the D-League a more useful farm system.

It’s time for the NBA to make the D-League a more useful farm system.

2016 number one overall NBA draft pick Ben Simmons said in his Showtime documentary One & Done, “I’m here to play…. I’m not here to go to school” when speaking about his one year in Baton Rouge at LSU.

That sentiment is one that many Division I freshman college basketball players from Lexington Kentucky, to Durham North Carolina, all the way to Los Angeles California share. Simmons went on to say “he felt like he was wasting his time.” It was clear to anyone with any basketball knowledge that he was going forego his college illegibility to enter the NBA draft immediately following his freshman season, seeing how he was projected to be the number one overall pick back when he was playing prep ball at Montverde Academy in Florida.

He is the first one and done player to openly defy the rule implemented in the collective bargaining agreement in 2005.

The NBA age limit, where a player must be one year removed from graduating high school or 19 years old before being allowed to enter the NBA draft, has been under attack since its inception.  It’s a joke, and needs to be abolished. It clearly isn’t good for the players, Association or college basketball.

My suggestion to fix all three, the NBA should let high school seniors enter the draft, but the teams that draft them have to send them to their D-League affiliate. But if prospects do go to college, they should have to stay for at least two years.

Commissioner Adam Silver and the 30 NBA owners have recently showed they’re serious about making their Minor League a more valuable asset. On Valentine’s Day, the NBA and Gatorade announced their multi-million dollar union with Gatorade.

The popular sports drink will now sponsor the league and rename it the G-League. Their logo will be on everything from the jerseys, the court and to the game ball. That should boost some revenue for teams to use to sign players.

Some D-League salaries will double thanks to the new NBA collective bargaining agreement. Two players per team will make $50,000 to $75,000. The rest of the players in the minor league get paid between $19,500 and $26,000. Hopefully with the influx of money coming from the new sponsor, salaries will raise even more, making playing in the G-League more attractive to young prospects who usually bolt overseas for higher pay checks, and create a more competitive environment for players to get accustomed to the professional game.

But those are just the start of the benefits for the players, NBA, D-League, and even NCAA basketball. Here’s how sending top draft picks to the developmental league will benefit all parties involved.

  • Helps grow interest in the minor League system, better marketing of players, attendance boost and media coverage would sky rocket.

Sending top prospects to the D-League increases the visibility of the minor league. Now that each NBA franchise is making moves towards owning their own minor league franchise, currently 25 teams are single affiliated, this would give them the opportunity to market their “junior varsity” squad by getting fans in those mini-markets to support the future stars of tomorrow.

Fans currently aren’t attending or watching development league games because they don’t like basketball, they aren’t paying attention because they don’t want to invest their time and money-watching players they suspect they’ll never hear from or see again in two to three years.

If the NBA used their D-League teams like Major League Baseball teams use their farm system, fans would go watch. You can’t tell me that if Ben Simmons was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers straight out of high school and had to play a year for the Delaware 87ers, that fans wouldn’t pack the Bob Carpenter Center on the campus of the University of Delaware nightly to watch him play. Ben Simmons merchandise would be flying off the shelves upon his arrival as well.

This would also help with television deals. Currently NBA TV and ESPN air a couple D-League games a week on tape delay. Much like the NBA was back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. But only hardcore hoop fans – this author raises his hand – and scouts watch those games. I believe it would be as popular as the broadcast of NBA Summer Leagues have become in the last five years or so. Those games have to be drawing good enough ratings since they keep airing them each off-season. The D-League broadcasts would be more meaningful with many of the same players.

  • Better in helping players adjusting to the pro style on and off the court, and create an opportunity to better educate players on the importance of finances.

On the court players would immediately learn the rules of the pro game, which are drastically different from the college game. Prospects will also benefit from learning on the job in the system of their pro team. Development of top talent will likely be expedited since they’ll be taught by the best of the best.

Look at how effective the San Antonio Spurs use the Austin Toro’s to implement their sets and strategies. Greg Popovich and his staff have perfectly used to system to groom Jonathan Simmons, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson before getting their chance to make a championship impact on the big stage in San Antonio.

Off the court, the league can provide players with financial literacy courses and seminars to help them learn things like how to balance a checkbook, pay utility bills, and how to properly invest the millions of dollars they’ll eventually be earning. That may sound silly to some, but remember, we are talking about teenagers and early twenty-something’s. It also would be beneficial to help them learn the other perils of being a professional athlete like celebrity, drugs and alcohol.

Former players who have successfully navigated their careers and retired in great shape could construct the curriculum. You could also invite some who have failed to share their tales of mistakes not to make. The rookie symposium attempts to do this, but if we’re being honest, doing this type of stuff for a week in the summer isn’t going to really help. If you were able to make this a program they could go through over the course of their first season of professional ball, it would likely have more benefit.

  • College game improves because players will make the conscious decision to commit to being student-athletes.

There’s a lot that needs to be fixed in the college game that has nothing to do with players leaving early for the pro ranks. But one of the reasons fans don’t invest in the “amateur” game is because teams don’t stay together long enough to build on school tradition.

Before, players saw college basketball as a means to an end; they took pride in playing for their school and having success on the college level.

If prospects are allowed to enter the NBA via the D-league immediately after graduating high school, the players that do decide to attend college will be more likely to care about building something at their institution instead of having one eye on getting to the next level.

College coaches will be able to better recruit “their players” and put the best teams together because they’ll know the players they have WANT to be there, not FORCED to be there for one season. You could even make the age limit where if you choose college you’re choosing to be there at least three years like NCAA football.

I’m a die-hard basketball fan of all levels. I’d like to see all succeed. Something has to be done with this age limit because it’s hurting everyone. Even those collecting million dollar pay days.

 

NBA Should Consider These Cities For Future All-Star Games

The 2016 NBA All-Star weekend is under way in Toronto. The 6, as it’s known, is the first city outside the continental United States to host the Association’s annual mid-season event. Canada’s most vibrant city is sure to show hoop fans a great time on and off the court.

The 2017 event is already booked for Charlotte. It will be the first time since 1991 Buzz City has hosted the game. With MJ as the host, who wouldn’t want to go to a party hosted by his Airness?
It’s great to finally see the NBA taking the greatest All-Star experience among the major professional sports leagues to new and different places. Locations like Los Angeles (2004 & 2011), Houston (2006 & 2013), New York (1998 & 2015), New Orleans (2008 & 2014) and Phoenix (1995 & 2009) have more than their share in the past 20 seasons, while other great basketball cities have yet host the event or have it return in over a generation. It’s time to go new places.
Not to get to far ahead of myself before the headline events of the 2016 weekend have even tipped off, but I have a list of paces the NBA should visit in the near future and why they’d best for the league.

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Cleveland hosted the ’97 All-Star weekend during the NBA at 50 celebration. Photo Credit: Peggy Turbett/The Plain Dealer

Cleveland – While Cleveland isn’t necessarily the place you want to be in the middle of winter (average temperatures in February are a high of 40 and a low of 20 degrees), it is a great sports city and with the return of the NBA’s best player in LeBron James, that will be on full display as he continues in the prime of his career there.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert was actively attempting to lure the NBA to Cleveland for the 2017 All-Star weekend which would’ve been the 20 year anniversary of the NBA at 50 celebration. NBA commissioner Adam Silver visited Cleveland to explore the feasibility of bringing the All-Star Game back to Northeast Ohio. “We had a great experience when we were there in ’97,” Silver told the Beacon Journal. “We would love to return to Cleveland” he went on to say.

The city has grown significantly since the NBA’s last visit and has the venues to host such a highly attended event. With LeBron James entering the backend of his career, it be great to see him get the opportunity to be the unofficial host to the game’s greatest players before he rides off into the sunset.

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Chicago hasn’t hosted the All-Star weekend since 1988. Photo Credit: AP Photos

Chicago, 2018 – This will mark 30 years since the weekend of MJ. In February 1988, Michael Jordan was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons of all time when he averaged 35 ppg, 5.9 apg , 5.5 rpg, 3.2 spg on his way to winning the league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

While his Airness was already being regarded as a Top 5 player at the time, this one weekend can be viewed as when he ascended to a global icon. He won the dunk contest–albeit controversial–while breaking out his iconic Air Jordan III sneaker, and he took home the game’s MVP award after posting 40 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 blocks and 3 assists in only 29 minutes.

What better way to once again honor the greatest player ever, by recognizing this moment. Plus, the Windy City hasn’t hosted the event since 1988, which is odd considering it’s one of the top 3 markets in America and rich in basketball history on all levels.

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South Florida has successfully hosted several major sporting events, but only one NBA All-Star Weekend. 

Miami 2019 – South Beach in February. Let me say that again, South Beach in February.  The ultimate party town, hosting the NBA’s ultimate party event. Nothing else really has to be said.

I am surprised it hasn’t been back since 1990 when the Heat weren’t even relevant. At that time you had to think former Commissioner David Stern selected South Florida to showcase one of his newest franchises as the Heat were only in its first season. But now after being in five NBA Finals in a span of eight years, Miami is a perfect match for the league. Even though they have fans more fickle than the weather down there during tropical storm season.

The city boast an extremely upscale arena, venues and plenty of hotels accommodations and more than adequate means to travel across town. Seems like a slam dunk or a Ray Allen corner three in game six of the 2013 NBA Finals.

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OKC has been a premier franchise and the fans have created a vibrant college atmosphere.

Oklahoma City 2020 – Assuming the Thunder keep both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the fold, OKC will still be an attractive draw. The Heartland doesn’t get much respect from basketball purist. But this is a chance for the NBA to reward this city for how it not only has received the Thunder and made it a great atmosphere for basketball fans, but also for how the community received the New Orleans Hornets—now Pelicans—when they took refuge after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the “Crescent City.”

Also with the NBA cares events done during the weekend, this will be a great opportunity for the league and its partners to help continue to rebuild this area that’s still reeling after the tragic tornado that struck in the spring of 2013.

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Memphis is rich in Civil Rights and hoops history, and what better way to celebrate both than during Black History Month.

Memphis 2020 – If you’ve never been, you don’t know what your are missing. From the barbecue to the nightlife, music and tourist attractions such as the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated, to Graceland the home of Elvis Presley; Memphis would be a great host for All-Star weekend. By the way, “The River City” is also a hot bed rich in hoops history at the high school, collegiate and professional levels.

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Seattle is eager for the NBA to return.

Seattle – Depending on who you are, this may seem like trolling, but let me explain why this would be a win-win for the league and Seattle hoop fans.

The League needs to make a true showing that they really want to bring a team back to Seattle. Since the Sonics were hijacked and taken to Oklahoma City, Seattle has been mentioned as a possible destination for owners looking to scare their current cities into upgrading or building new arenas. Commissioner Silver has said he’d like to bring a team back to the city by expansion or an existing franchise. This will go a long way in proving he’s serious.

For the fans and city leaders, this will be their opportunity to show that their love for NBA basketball has not dissipated in the absence of their beloved Sonics. Players will get a chance to see what NBA life in the “Emerald City” has to offer.

It shouldn’t matter that Seattle doesn’t currently have a team, that precedent was already set when the NBA took the All-Star festivities to Las Vegas in 2007.

The NBA Should Consider These Cities for Future All-Star Games

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Friday night the 2015 NBA All-Star weekend tips off in the NYC/Brooklyn area. The League’s midseason celebration is by far the best All-Star showcase of the major four American pro sports leagues. The 2016 All-Star weekend is already set for Toronto—for the first time outside of the continental U.S.—which I’m all for. But, I am tired of the league’s premier event being hosted in the same select cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix and New Orleans multiple times in a short span. So I decided to look at cities where the mid-season classic could visit in the near future and why they’d best for the league.

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Cleveland hosted the 1997 NBA All-Star weekend celebrating the NBA at 50. Photo Courtesy: Peggy Turbett/The Plain Dealer.

Cleveland 2017 – While Cleveland isn’t necessarily the place you want to be in the middle of winter, it is a great sports city and with the return of the NBA’s best player in LeBron James, that will be on full display as he continues in the prime of his career there.

According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is actively attempting to lure the NBA to Cleveland for the 2017 All-Star weekend. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has recently visited Cleveland to explore the feasibility of bringing the All-Star Game back to Northeast Ohio. “We had a great experience when we were there in ’97,” Silver told the Beacon Journal. “We would love to return to Cleveland.”

As mentioned, Cleveland hosted the All Star Festivities in 1997, which was the 50th Anniversary of the league. The city has grown much since then and has the venues to host such a highly attended event.

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Chicago hasn’t hosted the All-Star Weekend since 1988 when MJ won the Dunk Contest and the game’s MVP. Photo Courtesy: The Associated Press.

Chicago 2018 – This will mark 30 years since the weekend of MJ. In February 1988, Michael Jordan was in the midst of one of the greatest seasons of all time when he averaged 35 ppg, 5.9 apg , 5.5 rpg, 3.2 spg on his way to winning the league MVP and Defensive Player of the Year.

While his Airness was already being regarded as a Top 5 player, this one weekend in February can be viewed as when he ascended to a global icon. He won the dunk contest (albeit controversial) while breaking out his iconic Air Jordan III sneaker and he took home the Mid season classic’s MVP award after posting 40 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 blocks and 3 assists in only 29 minutes.

What better way to once again honor the greatest player ever, by recognizing this moment. Plus, the Windy City hasn’t hosted the event since 1988, which is odd considering it’s one of the top 3 markets in America and is rich in basketball history on all levels.

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South Florida has hosted several major sporting events, but only once has it has the NBA All-Star Weekend.

Miami 2019 – South Beach in February. Let me say that again, South Beach in February. The ultimate party town, hosting the NBA’s ultimate party event.

I am surprised it hasn’t been back since 1990 when the Heat weren’t even relevant. At that time you had to think former Commissioner David Stern selected South Florida to showcase one of his newest franchises as the Heat were only in its first season. But now after being in five NBA Finals in a span of eight years, Miami is a perfect match for the league. Even though they have fans more fickle than the weather down there during tropical storm season.

The city boast an extremely upscale arena, venues and plenty of hotels accommodations and more than adequate means to travel across town. Seems like a slam dunk or a Ray Allen corner three in game six of the 2013 NBA Finals.

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OKC has premier franchise and the city has embraced the NBA wholeheartedly.

Oklahoma City 2020 – Assuming the Thunder keep both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in the fold, OKC will still be an attractive draw. The Heartland doesn’t get much respect from basketball purist and OKC is always disrespected—isn’t that right Sir Charles Barkley? But this is a chance for the NBA to reward this city for how it not only has received the Thunder and made it a great atmosphere for basketball, but also for how the community received the New Orleans Hornets—now Pelicans—when they took refuge after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the “Crescent City.”

Also with the NBA cares events done during the weekend, this will be a great opportunity for the league and its partners to help continue to rebuild this area that’s still reeling after the tragic tornado that struck in the spring of 2013.

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Who wouldn’t want to go to a party hosted by MJ?

Charlotte 2021 – The Hornets are back home where they belong and so should the game for the first time since 1991. MJ would be the host and who wouldn’t want to go to a party hosted by his Airness? Nothing else needs to be said.

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Memphis is rich in Civil Rights and hoops history that would be on full display during NBA All-Star history.

Memphis 2020 – If you’ve never been, you don’t know what your missing. From the barbecue to the nightlife, music and tourist attractions such as the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated, to Graceland the home of Elvis Presley; Memphis would be a great host for All-Star weekend. By the way, “The River City” is also a hot bed for hoops.

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Seattle is eager for the NBA to return.

Seattle, WA – Depending on who you are this may seem like trolling, but let me explain why this would be a win-win for the league and Seattle hoop fans.

The League needs to make a true showing that they really want to bring a team back to Seattle. Since the Sonics were hijacked and taken to Oklahoma City, Seattle has been mentioned as a possible destination for owners looking to scare their current cities into upgrading or building new arenas. Commissioner Silver has said he’d like to bring a team back to the city by expansion or an existing franchise. This will go a long way in proving he’s serious.

For the fans and city leaders, this will be their opportunity to show that their love for NBA basketball has not dissipated in the absence of their beloved Sonics. Players will get a chance to see what NBA life in the “Emerald City” will be like.

It shouldn’t matter that Seattle doesn’t currently have a team, that precedent was already set when the NBA took the All-Star festivities to Las Vegas in 2007.