Author: Jared Hughes

Why the Cleveland Cavaliers will win the 2015-2016 NBA Finals

When LeBron James left the Miami Heat for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he promised one thing… to bring a championship back to the city of Cleveland.

And while those aspirations resulted in an upset in last year’s NBA Finals against a sharpshooting Golden State Warriors squad, nothing is stopping James and the Cavaliers in their second attempt at bringing home the gold.

Here are a few reasons why the Cavaliers title hopes are higher than ever.

They’re finally Healthy

During the postseason, the Cavaliers lost two superstars due to injury. Kevin Love’s injury happened in a first round matchup against the Boston Celtics and Kyrie Irving’s knee injury happened in the moment it mattered most — the NBA Finals.

While Irving’s backup, Matthew Dellavedova, was able to step right in and provide a spark on both ends of the court, Stephen Curry was just too much for the second unit guard. If Irving was able to at least stay on the floor during the Finals, the result might not have been the same. Both Irving and Love would have given James the assistance needed to power past the Warriors for the trophy. Although both superstars aren’t fully healthy yet, once they are, the Cavaliers will become favorites instantly.

It’s difficult to replace two stars capable of scoring 20 or more on any given night. If health isn’t an issue, be aware…very aware.

Tristan Thompson

As the two stars were ailing, the team looked for others to step up alongside King James. While everyone did enough to get them to the Finals, It was Tristan Thompson who really fulfilled the part. He grabbed boards, finished around the basket but more importantly; he protected the paint with a vengeance. Unfortunately, Thompson and the Cavaliers haven’t been able to agree on the right contraction extension. According to several reports, Thompson desires a contract worth up to $94 million and the Cavaliers are supposedly only offering $80 million through five years.

Even though the situation exists, Thompson will remain apart of the Cavaliers this season and that’s always a plus. He is a bonafide game changer and will help the Cavaliers this season whether he’s apart of the future beyond this season or not.

LeBron James is Hungry

Who the hell wants to go against a hungry King James? We’ve all seen him angry and the extremes his game goes to in order to accomplish something. Triple doubles, 50-point games, tenacious defense, phenomenal playmaking — all things James presents when hungry.

There is no cruise control this season; it’s only full throttle until the championship trophy is safely secured in the Quicken Loans Arena. James seems to be hungry and while he doesn’t expect to do everything for the Cavaliers this season, when the postseason comes, expect to experience James hungrier than ever. He’s already mentioned having nightmares of losing and defeat is something he doesn’t want to be involved with.

The Eastern Conference is not

Even if no one thinks the Cavaliers can necessarily “win” the NBA Championship, it doesn’t stop them from competing for it — after all, they are an Eastern Conference team.

Each year, both conferences become more competitive but inevitably the East is still weak. There isn’t an opposing team that can stop the Cavaliers from going on the Finals. As it looks this season, the best teams in the East are the Chicago Bulls, Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, and Washington Wizards. Although those teams are improving rapidly and worthy of at least competing, all of them fear a matchup against LeBron James and the Cavaliers. The yellow brick road to the NBA Finals should be a breeze.

There’s more than enough experience

Although the Cavaliers’ superstars were elite in talent, as a whole unit, they heavily lacked experience. Before James arrived, the Cavaliers failed to reach the playoffs since the last time James was in Cleveland.

Kevin Love played with the Minnesota Timberwolves for several seasons but never reached the postseason. Irving also played for the Cavaliers for a few years and never competed in the playoffs — well last season was more than enough experience. As a unit the team understands each other’s strengths and weaknesses and things will likely flow smoother than last season. Experience is a hell of a thing to have and each member of the Cavaliers has it.

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Atlanta Hawks: Real or not?

Last season the Atlanta Hawks took the league by storm with a regular season record of 60-22 and a healthy playoff run that ended against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Hawks seemed like a team that could grow upon their sudden success but unfortunately they won’t be as successful. 

Teams Have Figured Them Out

Once in a while comes a team or player can’t seem to be figured out; that team was the Atlanta Hawks. They hide their true colors well last season, confusing teams with spreading the wealth amongst all players on offense and playing help defense on the other end. When the postseason came, teams quickly discovered plenty of holes in the Hawks’ philosophy.

Even though they won their first and second round matchups against the Brooklyn Nets and Washington Wizards, both teams were able to attach the Hawks’ weaknesses and win a few games. The Hawks aren’t the biggest team down low, they don’t have a frightening backcourt and they don’t defend small ball very well. The Cleveland Cavaliers definitely capitalized on the Hawks deficiencies. Expect teams to be ready for the their schemes come regular season.

No DeMarre Carroll

No one expected DeMarre Carroll to be as good as he was for the Hawks last season. He went from being a role player to being a budding star on the rise. In return, he received a big pay from the Toronto Raptors for $60 million along with a starting wingman position. His presence will be missed in ATL. They no longer have a legit scoring wingman with lockdown defense. They attempted to replace him with Tim Hardaway Jr., but its unlikely that he will come in and contribute in the specific ways that Carroll did. Even though Carroll wasn’t one of the four players to make the Eastern Conference All-Star Team, once the season ended, he was viewed as one of and sometimes thee best player on last year’s roster.

Still No Superstars

Exactly how long can the Hawks maintain success without a legit superstar leading the way? Although teamwork and unselfish play are key elements in basketball, there must be a player on the court to rise in certain occasions.  History says each team capable of winning a championship has at 1-2 superstars, an all-star caliber player, veterans and specialists. The Hawks are filled with all of the listed but they lack a superstar that can carry them through games.

Last season, at times that guy was Jeff Teague, sometimes it was Al Horford and a hand full of times it was DeMarre Carroll. So who is the real go to guy here?

No guy on their current roster is capable of scoring in bunches, controlling the pace of the game, or even making others around him better. If there is one weakness in the Hawks’ locker room, it’s someone with the superstar label.

The final word

There’s no doubt that the Hawks will be an exciting team and very well a playoff team, but a repeated season like last year isn’t expected. They may have some additional tricks up their sleeve but given the improved landscape of the Eastern Conference, their expectations will definitely take a dip.

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Should the Knicks rebuild around Carmelo Anthony or start over?

Do you know what the New York Knicks have that most teams don’t? A superstar in Carmelo Anthony with the ability to lead the league in scoring and a track record of taking over games and a never disappointing in the clutch.

In the debate to either build around Anthony or rebuild completely, there is only response: If that doesn’t sound like a player to build your team around then who is?

Since Anthony signed with the Knicks, they have been unable to accomplish the one goal in mind: winning a championship – or at least remaining a winning franchise making noise in the playoffs. Instead, the Knicks have been a for certain first round exit or like last season, a team that couldn’t even make the playoffs, making themselves eligible for a lottery pick.

Time to rebuild again? The Knicks don’t actually have to go into a full rebuilding phase; they just need to recognize the best way to build around their designated franchise player.

The most obvious way is to actually put some talent around him. As you can see from Anthony’s previous seasons, he excels best when he’s actually playing with a good point guard, as all teams and good players do. The 2008-2009 Denver Nuggets team made it to the conference finals with their 1-2 punch in Anthony and champion point guard, Chauncey Billups. Jose Calderon is currently the Knicks starting point guard and although he is a crafty veteran that can pass and shoot, he doesn’t pose a threat to the leagues young, athletic point guards. It comes as a surprise that the Knicks didn’t use their fourth-round draft pick on a floor general.

Speaking of the draft, the Knicks did draft a stretch forward in Kristaps Porzingas that indeed has potential and gives the Knicks youth and possibly an additional scoring punch. However, Phil Jackson’s comments that Porzingas may be “too tall for the game” and the dreadful comparison to Shawn Bradley, shoots an arrow right into the hearts of Knicks’ fan. That isn’t the type of player to put around Anthony if this is true. Bradley wasn’t quite the desired player, so hopefully Porzingas’ body develops properly for the NBA.

Lastly, if the Knicks really want to accelerate their chances and return to being a relevant team, they need to consider bringing in another superstar to play alongside Anthony. Madison Square Garden is the mecca of basketball, who wouldn’t want to play in New York?

Well, there’s been a current trend of players ditching the big market teams for smaller markets but all it takes is some recruitment from Anthony. Not much faith is being put into Phil Jackson and the front office, so if they want other stars in the mecca, it may take Anthony becoming more proactive with recruiting for it to actually happen. He should be searching for a star capable of helping him win now as well as someone young enough to lead the Knicks when Anthony is no longer able to be the main guy.

Although much needs to be considered for the Knicks, they did at least use the offseason to better their direction. Proven vets in Aaron Affalo, Robin Lopez and Kevin Seraphin will serve as complimentary players for the Knicks and Anthony in hopes for the playoffs.

Outside of additions, the Knicks should further consider new offensive sets. As we saw last season, the Triangle Offense doesn’t work for Knicks basketball. It may be time for head coach, Derek Fisher to take more direction in the on court schemes for the Knicks instead of front office honcho, Jackson. It may be the only way for Anthony to succeed properly with the Knicks.

The Knicks organization has a lot of work to do but one thing they do have going for them is a superstar player in Anthony. With Anthony’s ability to score, he can play another 10 years but only five of that counts as elite years.

If the Knicks want to win with Anthony as the franchise guy, they have to make changes now. Let’s see what the Knicks can do this season with a healthy Anthony, new acquisitions, a bunch of question marks and yet another big free agency period looming.

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Which teams can sneak into the NBA playoffs this year?

One thing is for certain in the NBA, there aren’t many Cinderella stories. For the most part, picking the eight teams for each conference to make the playoffs isn’t difficult. However, teams look to improve every offseason and with players signing with new teams and players becoming better players each year, some teams may surprise us this season by sneaking into the 2015-2016 NBA playoffs.

MIAMI HEAT

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(via foxsports.com)

The Miami Heat and not making the playoffs don’t seem to go together. Their historical franchise almost always seem like a given when it comes playoff time. However, due to injuries, they missed the playoffs and landed in 10th place. Healthy again, the Heat will look to regain supremacy in the Eastern Conference. Their resigning of Goran Dragic and Dwayne Wade, getting a healthy Chris Bosh back in the lineup, and adding depth such as Amare Stoudemire and rookie Justice Winslow will give them the punch they searched for last season.

Indiana Pacers

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(via bleacherreport.com)

The Indiana Pacers are another team, especially as of recent, that always seems to be there for the playoffs. Oddly enough, the Heat and Pacers played each other in the conference finals a few times. Although they lost their front court in Roy Hibbert and David West (which, honestly, wasn’t the most productive) they regained Paul George, added dynamic scorer Monta Ellis and drafted high potential center, Myles Turner. While they may search for answers in the post, small ball is the new trend in the NBA and the Pacers could possibly pull it off.

Phoenix Suns

Flanked by Phoenix Suns head coach, Jeff Hornacek, right, general manager Ryan McDonough, left, and senior adviser Lon Babby, second from left, Suns' Tyson Chandler, the newly signed free agent, holds up his new uniform after being introduced to the media during a news conference Thursday, July 9, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(via dallasnews.com)

Each and every season, the Suns are trying to edge their way into the playoffs for the last spot but it never happens. This year, they could be one of the teams set in stone. The one thing the Suns were always missing was defense particularly rim protection. This offseason, they acquired one of the league’s best rim protectors and rebounders in Tyson Chandler. While their defensive standpoint will stand anew to many, they will try to continue their fast pace scoring by playing two point guards in Eric Bledsoe and Brandan Knight.

Sacramento Kings

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(via theepochtimes.com)

So many questionable things happened with the Kings this summer. The one thing standing out is the relationship between their head coach, George Karl and their best player, DeMarcus Cousins. While there have been mixed reviews on their association, the Kings also went out and signed guard, Rajon Rondo. Even though all of the noise about the Kings doesn’t sound good, there is no doubt that they are talented. The Kings finally got a point guard who knows how to run a team and will get Cousins and Gay the ball more than they usually would request. This could turn out to be a good scenario and the Kings could squeeze into the playoffs for their first appearance in a while.

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