This season in the NBA there has been some unprecedented teams that have emerged as playoff contenders. At the top of the standings lies the teams that everyone expected to be there including; San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, and the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Western Conference is seemingly stacked and so much so the eighth seed in the West would be a third seed in the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. As you begin to look further down the standings teams will appear that were not expected to have as much success as they have on the course this season. Teams that were not expected to have a playoff caliber season are classified by many NBA writers as “under the radar teams”. With that being said, here is a list and breakdown of the most impressive “under the radar” teams this season:
Toronto Raptors (45-32) 3rd seed in the East
There has not been a more surprising team this season than the Toronto Raptors. With their stars being guard Kyle Lowry and guard DeMar DeRozan, expectations were not high by any means. To be 45-32 and currently hold the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference for this franchise is simply phenomenal. What makes the Raptors season so intriguing is that they seem to play so great as a team and their record surely shows that with a 58% as a team on the season. Currently on a 3-game winning streak and withhold a 7-3 record in their last 10 games it will be important for the Raptors to continue this level play in the post-season which officially starts in only two weeks.
At home this season, the Raptors are 24-14, and on the road they are 21-18. Head coach Dwayne Casey has these Raptors playing extremely well and are a lock to make the playoffs for the first time since the 2007-08 season. The Raptors franchise has never won more than 47 games in its team history and it is highly possible they can beat that record this season with 5 games in the season left to play. The pressure is on Lowry’s and DeRozan’s shoulders and they have to perform well in the playoffs in order for them to win their first playoff series since the 2000-01 season. The sky is the limit for this up-and-coming franchise and hopefully the years of rebuilding is paying off.
Washington Wizards (40-37) 6th seed in the East
The Washington Wizards much like the Toronto Raptors have finally found themselves as a playoff team once again. Led by first time all-star John Wall, the Wizards has officially punched in their ticket into the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The pieces are coming together in Washington with John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat. The Wizards’ playoff position has been relatively secure for a few weeks in a top-heavy Eastern Conference. The Wizards previous win totals since their last postseason appearance has been 19, 26, 23, 20 and 29.
The reason they have improved so much this season other than the breakout season by John Wall, but credit can also be given to Gortat, Beal, and of course head coach Randy Wittman. Gortat has expanded his game to a more all-around center who is capable of scoring and rebounding and that has played a huge role in the team’s success. Gortat is averaging 13 ppg, and 9.4 rpg nearly averaging a double-double. Beal has shown continuous improvement in his jump shot especially his three-point shooting. Wall is now the superstar as he has been expected to be and with his first all-star selection and also a dunk contest winner, Wall will be a candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. After a long absence from playoff contention the Wizards will return to the playoffs in hopes of pulling an upset in the first round.
Portland Trailblazers (49-28) 5th seed in the West
For a couple of months to begin the season, the Portland TrailBlazers held the best record in the entire NBA. It is unbelievable how far this team has come in just one season. The duo of forward LaMarcus Aldridge and guard Damian Lillard has provided the fans with one of the best duos we have in the league today. The role players such as Nicolas Batum and Thomas Robinson has also stepped up this season as big time role players which gives them more depth that some of the top teams in the West lack. Since the Blazers are indeed so balanced, late into games they will have more to work with and that could be a deciding factor for their success in the post-season. The biggest concern come playoff time will be Portland’s experience as they are a relatively young team with very little postseason play under their belts. There is no doubt that they have proven to the league they will be a tough team to beat in a 7-game series. Their youth may end up being an opportunity for them to upset a team in the West in the first round.
Chicago Bulls (45-32) 4th seed in the East
The Chicago Bulls once again lost their star Derrick Rose for the season due to another leg injury, but that didn’t crush their hopes of making the playoffs. Much like last season, the team has come together and has shown the importance of team work. Center Joakim Noah has expanded his already polished game into arguably the best center in all of basketball. Noah night-in and night-out puts up double-doubles and also triple-doubles which is almost unheard of for a center. Other players such as D.J. Augustin, and Mike Dunleavy Jr. has stepped up their game and has contributed clutch shots down the stretch for the Bulls. The way this team moves the ball around the floor, rotates quickly on defense, and consistently knocks down open shots is admirable based on the players on the roster. When Rose was officially sidelined for the rest of the regular season everyone said this team was finished. It is times like this where the head coach has to take his team and lead them to success which once again is exactly the case for the Chicago Bulls. One thing the Bulls have with their coaching is the ability to manage everyone’s minutes evenly. The Bulls also hope recent acquisition Jimmer Fredette can contribute as well with his lights out range in his jump shot. Head coach Tom Thibodeau has this team playing freakishly great team ball and once again looks like a tough team to beat come playoff time.
The 2014 NBA Playoffs are approaching rapidly and for the first time in a long time one of the most worshipped franchise’s the Los Angeles Lakers are scouting for the draft lottery instead of the playoffs. In fact, the Lakers will miss the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2005, for just the second time in the last 2 decades and for just the sixth time in franchise history. It is quite rare to see one of the most coveted franchises in all of sports in such peril.
Most of the struggling in Los Angeles is obviously because of Kobe Bryant’s ruptured left knee that sidelined him for the season. Even though, the team is currently 24-48, they still have a couple things to be positive about moving forward.
Keep in mind that the Lakers are going into this off-season which will be one of the best free agent classes in NBA history with a good amount of cap room. Not to mention, they will also have a lottery pick and of course there is the possibility of them receiving the number one overall pick in the draft lottery.
With Kobe coming back, the cap room, and the draft pick the Lakers are in great position to rebuild and this off-season is the best time to start. According to Bleacher Report writer J.M. Poulard, The Lakers have roughly $26 million in projected cap space this summer. With that space they could one possibility two big name free agents.
For the past few days there has been rumors surfacing that the Lakers would be more than willing to trade their lottery pick for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. Now, obviously the draft pick alone isn’t enough, but that doesn’t rule out a sign-and-trade deal involving Pau Gasol who likely will not return to the mess in Los Angeles since he has constantly expressed his distraught with head coach Mike D’Antoni.
Then, there is the slight chance that the Lakers could possibly land Carmelo Anthony in free agency. Much like LeBron’s “decision”, it still remains unknown what exactly Melo is going to do. Many reports indicate he will remain in New York, but his wife La La does live in Los Angeles so that may draw some interest. The thing that will be the deciding factor is can Melo take a backseat to Kobe. It is Kobe’s team until he retires and Melo may always want to be the guy. A lot of shots will be demanded between the two and that nat cause early problems.
With the thought of Love, Kobe, and Melo playing together think of another possibility. Rajon Rondo, is basically on the trade block and the Lakers could possibly use that lottery pick, plus Gasol, and Nash to make that happen. Rondo would be a safe route to take since Love gets injured quite often and the Celtics are currently in rebuilding mode and are in no position to make a playoff run anytime soon so they will be very attracted to the pick. If the Lakers could make that trade for Rondo, plus sign Melo then we have a team that can make some noise.
Imagine the excitement and buzz all across the NBA if those deals are done? This off-season is very important for the Lakers future as a franchise and must be taken seriously. With the high draft pick, cap room, and the location to attract players, the sky is the limit. Something needs to be done fast, because quite frankly the franchise right now is a complete mess, and it is time to prepare for life after Kobe.
As we approach closer to the 2014 NBA Playoffs there is no denying that the excitement is reaching it’s full potential for the post season. Everyone wants to see if the reigning back to back champion Miami Heat can three peat or if they will be dethroned. More than likely the teams to dethrone them are either the Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, or the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs of course battled the Heat last year in the NBA Finals and took them to a decisive game 7 that Miami won of course. The Spurs though look like they’re not done there.
In fact, one of the hottest teams in the NBA right now is the reigning Western Conference champion San Antonio Spurs. After defeating the Philadelphia 76ers Monday night 113-91, the Spurs extended their winning streak to 14 games. They currently hold not only the best record in the Western Conference, but also the the best record in the NBA with a 54-16 record.
The reason the Spurs are on this great run is because they are playing efficient “team” basketball. In the past couple games the Spurs head coach Greg Popovich rested both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili and the team still managed to come out with a win. Players like forward Austin Daye and guard Patrick Mills have been stepping as of late and the team looks nearly unbeatable. Arguably the Spurs have the most depth in the NBA and that is what makes them so scary. The system in San Antonio is set up for the team to have success and it is working more than it ever has this season. Everyone seems to try to count this team out because their too old but in reality they are still here and they want to win.
The Oklahoma City Thunder for much of the season had the best record in the West, but now are in second with a 52-18 record. The Thunder’s inconsistent play may cause them to lose the home court advantage in the West and they need any help they can get if they want to beat the Spurs.
The soaring Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets have been playing great as well, but the Spurs’ winning streak is coming almost in perfect timing for the playoffs. For the most part, the Spurs are healthy other than guard Tony Parker who is struggling with the sore Achilles. If the Spurs are healthy for the playoffs there is no doubt they are the team to beat in the Western Conference. Also, with the Eastern Conference power houses looking more vulnerable by the day, it is fair to say that the Spurs may indeed be the favorite to win the championship this season.
One of the most exciting elements of basketball is the jump shot. There is nothing better than seeing a player with a great “jumper”. The reason to not even just three point shooters, but great shooters in general are more exciting than an electrifying dunk is because in today’s game dynamic shooters are a lost cause. That is mainly because there are so many athletes and everyone wants to create highlight films. Players in the league today such as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Kevin Durant are great for the game because they bring back that “old school”, mentality.
When it comes to best three point shooters in the history of the NBA the first names that generally come up are Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Larry Bird, etc. Of course for the most part everyone considers Miami Heat guard Ray Allen as the best shooter ever especially with his record of 2,953 three pointers in his career and counting. Reggie Miller has the second most three point shots made in history with 2,560. Clearly, those are the two best long range shooters in NBA history.
Then, along came the 7th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors. They decided to select a small school scorer from the University of Davidson, Stephen Curry. Coming into the league, Curry was only known for his “lights out” jump shot. Fast forward from then to the present and at the age of 26, Curry sees himself in great position to possibly demolish Ray Allen’s three point record by the end of his career. On his birthday, NBA.com released a photo that compared Curry’s current three point numbers to both Ray Allen and Reggie Miller’s three pointers when they were 26:
As you look above at the picture, Curry at the age of 26 has 845 three point field goals made already. The current leader for all time three pointers, Ray Allen only had 699 when he was 26, and Reggie Miller only made 421 three point field goals. As you can see at this rate, Curry is on pace to destroy the record.
Some critics may say that Curry is only a shooter, but that’s the thing he has expanded his game to be much more of a versatile point guard who is capable of putting up more assists and rebounds than the normal point guard. He is now one of the best basketball players in the NBA today. If he does surpass Allen’s record at some point, does that make him the best three point shooter in history? It has to, especially since he may break it by the age of 30 which would be remarkable and more than likely would be a record that will never be broken. Currently, Curry has made 862 three pointers in his career thus far. If he can indeed beat the record which is definitely a possibility moving forward, he will go down as one of best shooters in the history of the NBA.
In this day and age, it is quite rare to see a center who is as dominant as Joakim Noah has been as of late. He has transformed his game into a more versatile center who is capable of recording a triple double any given night. Currently, Noah is averaging 12.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg, and 5 apg. That is an all around game that centers have been lacking for the past several years.
At the beginning of his career, scouts criticized him for not being a “true” center. They said he was too small and lacked in his post game. Also, many people felt his game was one-sided. A dominant force on defense and a liability at best on offense. He was proclaimed as a winner though since he won back to back national championships at the University of Florida. When it came to his talent translating to the NBA, scouts just generally did not feel he would be a star in the NBA as he seemed to be in college.
The doubts were surely there, but look at not only Noah but the entire Chicago Bulls team right now. For a team that has once again been playing without their franchise player in Derrick Rose for pretty much the entire season and still manage to withhold a number four seed in the Eastern Conference is quite impressive. How did they do it?
Majority of the praise for their continued success should be credited to both head coach Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah. With Rose out, Noah took his place as the team leader and star. Behind Noah the Bulls are 38-30 and have the fourth best record in the Eastern conference behind the Pacers, Heat, and the unprecedented Toronto Raptors.
The thing that makes Noah so dominance on the defensive end and his newly found versatile offense that many never knew he had. In fact, there has been some comparisons being drawn between him and all-time great Bill Russell. Although, it may be too soon for those sort of comparisons, but Noah is not far from it. Any given night, he can put a triple double that is quite a commodity in today’s game let alone in NBA history for that matter for a center.
The game that pretty much sealed his emergence, was against the Miami Heat on March 9th. At home the Chicago Bulls defeated the Miami Heat 95-89. Bulls star Joakim Noah scored 20 points and 12 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. To to go with those stats of course along came the MVP chants from the crowd.
Noah made it very clear that he did not enjoy the chants, which indeed shows his humble attitude that he definitely needs moving forward in his career. Since his stats haven’t progressed as much as other players this season, he still has to be a candidate for Most Improved Player of the Year. The way he has been playing this season needs to be rewarded in some way, because players with the talent that Noah provides is a huge need in today’s NBA.
This year’s Super Bowl contains two teams that have emerged onto the scene as the clear-cut two best teams in the NFL. Historically, both teams combined have not captured the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the past 16 years. The Broncos won their only two Super Bowls under the leadership of John Elway in 1997 and 1998, while the Seahawks are searching for their first title – their previous best was a defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006.
This year’s big game is arguably one of the best Super Bowl matchups we’ve had in a long time. The Broncos not only boast the No 1 ranked offense in the league, but possibly the best offense in the history of the game. Peyton Manning will lead the Broncos No 1 ranked offense on the back of breaking the single-season passing yardage (5,477) and passing touchdowns (55) record. The 16-year veteran quarterback helped lead Denver to a 13-3 record and is eager to add a second Super Bowl ring in his third appearance in the big game.
His supporting cast on offense has incredible depth, with wide receivers Demaryius Thomas (14), Wes Welker (10), Eric Decker (11) and tight end Julius Thomas (12) all reaching double-digit receiving touchdowns while running back Knowshon Moreno also had 13 rushing touchdowns to go with that already stacked offense.
Defensively, the franchise ranks 19th in overall defense, but do have some defensive firepower that can help them claim victory. With a player like Von Miller being out almost the entire season, it was hard to maintain consistency at that outside linebacker spot. Thus far this post-season, the Broncos’ defensive line and linebackers have been very stingy about giving up rushing yards— giving up only 107 yards in both games this post-season. Simply put the defense has really stepped up and if they can continue to impress the doubters they will be tough to beat.
On the other side of the ball lies the dominant Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks have the best defense in the league led by Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas. Pete Carroll and his No 1 ranked defense have the task of stopping the Broncos offensive juggernaut, and have all the defensive weapons to do so. The ‘Legion of Boom’ also known as the Seattle secondary of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Walter Thurmond and Byron Maxwell will be the key to victory.
Sherman led the league with eight interceptions this year, and has made a name for himself with his outburst after the franchises 23-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game. Obviously, he will be lining up in front of Bronco’s star receiver Demaryius Thomas which is one heck of a task. The rest of the secondary will have to provide help with the other wideouts in order to slow down the high-powered Denver offense.
What more could you ask for when it comes to the Super Bowl? The number one offense battling against the number one defense. Will Peyton Manning win his second Super Bowl? Will The Seahawks win their first championship? Whichever storyline gets you more pumped for the game use that and get ready for the show because it will definitely be just that.
There is a huge possibility of Carmelo Anthony departing New York as a free agent this summer. New York Knicks officials have discussed proposing a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers for Blake Griffin, according to league sources.
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, Sources say Clippers management also have had internal discussions about such a deal but that the clubs have not yet spoken to one another about a potential trade.
As of now, neither team is certain it would make an Anthony-for-Griffin trade, the sources said. Obviously, the Clippers may be holding out a bit more on the deal since Griffin is absolutely hooping averaging 26 points and nearly 11 rebounds in his past 10 games.
Anthony and Clippers star point guard Chris Paul have wanted to play together since 2010. That sentiment between the two players has not changed, according to sources. If they do end up playing together does that make them a better team than they are now? Those questions may be soon answered for all of the basketball fans around the world.
With tanking becoming such a big issue in the NBA, the league is considering a proposal to owners sometime in 2014 to eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a wheel system, according to Zach Lowe of Grantland.com. The proposal, which was submitted to the league by a team official, would give teams a set draft position every season. Teams would draft in the top-6 every five seasons and have at least one top-12 pick in every four-year span according to SI.com.
The reason for this possible change is because of players like Kwame Brown, Tyrus Thomas, Sam Bowie, Greg Oden, etc that were taken extremely high in their respected drafts and quite simply haven’t performed any where near they were supposed to. This is actually an on-going issue and many people believe it ia because of the fact that we have so many more one and done players coming out of college. If the NBA changes the rule that you have to be at least a junior in college or a redshirt sophomore to enter the draft that won’t be solving the continuing issue with “draft busts”.
For example, in last year’s draft the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to go against everyone’s projections and select UNLV’s Anthony Bennett with the first overall selection. As his name was called for the first pick the world just sat there in silence and amazement. The only excuse that can be given for the Cavaliers is that in reality let’s face it there was not a ton of talent to work with in this past year’s draft. Of course with the exceptions of Philadelphia’s point guard Michael Carter-Williams aka MCW, and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo who have been tearing it up so far this season. Although, is still early in the season, Bennett has been beyond disappointment to say the least averaging just 2.4 ppg and 2.1 rpg which is horrendous for a #1 overrall pick. With that pick though, the Cavs needed big men not guards since they already have Irving and Waiters so they went with Bennett not because they felt like he had the best talent he was the best player available for their team needs.
The point here is ladies and gentleman that changing the draft format will not diminish the amount of “bust” players, the NBA is a totally different game from the high school and college level and not everyone can make the transition to the big stage as quick as other players if they do at all.
History has been made today and by a man that has officially claimed the 2013 NFL Most Valuable Player Award and Offensive Player of the Year.
Peyton Manning let loose a perfect 25-yard pass to Julius Thomas to break Tom Brady’s single-season record of 50 passing touchdowns. He had tied the record just minutes earlier by hitting his favorite receiver from 20 yards out, right into Eric Decker’s waiting hands.
Manning is now up to 5,211 passing yards on the season, just 265 yards shy to Drew Brees’ single-season record. Denver also needs 18 points in the last game of the regular season to break the 2007 Patriots’ scoring record.
The Broncos wrapped up the AFC West and also clinched a first-round bye today. Unless the Patriots lose at Baltimore, however, they still will have to play to win at Oakland next week to lock up the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
The past couple weeks I have had the privilege to have a short interview with current NFL cornerback D.J. Moore. D.J. Moore was selected by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. On March 19, 2013, Moore signed a one-year contract with the Carolina Panthers. Then, Moore was released from the Panthers on October 21, 2013. Being curious to why he was cut from the team I asked him the following questions:
Me: What have you been most impressed about so far this season?
D.J.: “The Carolina Panthers. For them to go from one of the teams in the NFL that no one respected to right now being considered a top 5 team is amazing. They went through a 1-3 start and through the questions if whether their coach should be fired and they pushed through to be a game behind the New Orleans Saints in the division.”
Me: I seen you were released from Carolina back in October, why do you think they released you?
D.J.: ” I was hurt Week 2 and I was out with a MCL sprain for 6 weeks. When I was hurt young guys stepped up in the role I was playing so they had no need for my services.
Me: Is there anything you think you need to improve on?
D.J.: “I could improve on a lot of football, but I just need that great opportunity to show all I can offer and that opportunity has no warning or timetable.”
Me: Who is the hardest wide receiver you have guarded so far in the NFL?
D.J.:” Two types. Big guy like Calvin Johnson or others like him are hard to guard just based on size and speed.I don’t like guarding smaller guys like Steve Smith.He is real quick and absolutely tough. So I would have to go with Steve Smith.”
Me: If there was any team you could play for right now who would it be?
D.J.: “Honestly, that doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have any favorites.”
Me: In your opinion who is the MVP? Defensive Player of the Year? Rookie of the Year? And Super Bowl Champs?
D.J.: “Peyton Manning is the MVP. Robert Mathis is the Defensive Player of the Year. Keenan Allen is the Rookie of the Year. Super Bowl Champs will be whoever the Wild Card Winner from the NFC.
That in an egg shell wraps up our short and fun interview. Honestly,I had a lot of fun with this interview and appreciate the opportunity that was given to me.
D.J. Moore is one of the top free agents right now and it is highly likely that he could end up getting signed by a team in the playoff hunt. I hope D.J. uses this interview to motivate himself to reach his full potential.