Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Changing of the Guard

My apologies to everyone for taking awhile since my last post.
If you haven’t been watching the NBA playoffs yet, WATCH! No seriously, WATCH! These games have been unbelievable. We are now just starting the conference finals, and for me, there has been one dominant theme: the changing of the guard.
Kobe and the Lakers? I don’t think so. They are more busy worrying about this. Shannon Brown is pulling a Delonte West. For those who don’t know, Delonte is widely rumored to have slept with Lebron’s MOM, thus causing a rift in the locker room that doomed the Cavaliers last season. What hilarity. Quick side note to all the people who have an opinion about why the Lakers lost: stop saying that they are too old. Get your facts right before you claim that. Dallas has the oldest starting lineup in the entire league. Hell, their youngest starter is older than OKC’s oldest starter. They just were beat by a better team. Or Pau’s wife realized that once you go black you never go back. Especially to a bushy Spanish-speaking bitch. Just saying.
Timmy D and the Spurs, the team that had the best record in the West? See you later. When you have a guy nicknamed the playing significant minutes, it better be in a porno, or this South Park Episode. The Big 3 and Boston? Enjoy the offseason. Hopefully the rest of the league learned from them that you can’t count on the oldest player in the league, even one who is one of the greatest players of all time, to play 30 minutes a game and replace Perkins’ death stare. Anyone notice how KG no longer was hollering and talkin’ trash to everyone within earshot? It’s because he no longer had his enforcer behind him. Nenad Krstic only has a hairline run away from him.

Matt Bonner isn't intimidating anyone
So who is left in the playoffs?
Miami, the juggernaut Big 3 with little help. It is 3 young stars (2 superstars) who are just entering the primes of their careers.
Chicago, led by the youngest MVP in league history, and joined by a group of young, energetic, unselfish players who have continued to improve.

Oklahoma City, that has a starting 5 (not to mention James Harden and his classic beard who are all ages 27 and under. They aren’t even supposed to be here yet.

Now this is the type of guy I want leading me into the future 

Dallas, the anomaly to this trend. They are the oldest team. So why are they here? OOOOOOO, I don’t know, maybe a German named Dirk. I briefly defended him before ripping his whining in my all-yelling team, but these playoffs have continued to justify my claim that he is a truly great player, regardless of if he ever wins a championship. The last two series he outplayed Lamarcus Aldridge (an All-NBA player this year) and then destroyed Gasol, Bynum, and Odom (supposedly the most formidable front line in basketball). He is a stud, and he is the reason why Dallas is here. His stats tonight: 12-15 from the field, 24-24 from the free throw line. It was his 6th 40 point game of his playoff career. I’d say that’s pretty clutch. Every commentator was granting him top 30 player of all-time status. To quote Coach Bayliss (my college tennis coach), “That’s pretty good!”
Ok, so what’s my point. I’ve already rambled on for several paragraphs without any coherent theme/point. Well, here it is. I am going to list my top ten teams that are in the best shape for the future. The criteria will be based on several things:
-Young talent: Is Kobe still one of the best players in the league? Yes. In an imaginary draft that starts the league over next year, do I want to pick him, or Kevin Love? I’m taking Kevin Love for the next 12 years over Kobe for the next 3.
-Salary cap space: This will be the one big negative for Miami. They have 2 of the top 5 players in the league, and 3 of the top 20(ish). But the rest of their team will have to be based on veterans who accept less money to try to win a championship, and younger guys who have yet to do well enough to earn any significant contract, either because they are still in their rookie contract, or because they suck. The end.
-Contracts: Essentially a combo of the two. Do I want to build around Dwight Howard or Derrick Rose? I might take Howard, simply because the difference between Howard and the 10th best center is far bigger than the difference between Rose and the 10th best point guard. Howard simply is tougher to replace. That all being said, do I want the position the Bulls have with Rose, or the position the Magic have with Howard? Obviously I want Rose. He is signed for several years, was born and raised in Chicago, and has given every indication he wants to play there for his entire career. Howard? He is considered to be all but gone from the Magic. Carmelo 2.0. Lebron 2.0 <-Embarrassing.
Now that the criteria have hopefully been laid clearly out,
here is the list.
The Changing of the Guard:
10.  Golden State  – The Warriors have a potentially very bright future. They have David Lee signed for 6 more years, albeit at a max contract. They have Monta Ellis signed for 4 more years, and they still have Stephen Curry signed to his rookie contract (cheap) for 3 more years. They also have a couple of their other young contributors, Epe Udoh and Dorell Wright, signed for several more years. I would have put them higher, but several issues could hold them back. The first and biggest concern is that their two best players, Curry and Ellis, are both undersized combo guards. While Curry has accepted the role of playing point guard and allowing Ellis to be the primary scorer, it sometimes inhibits their team by taking the ball out of Curry’s hands. As by far the best creator on the team, that is less than ideal. Thus, it has often been rumored that Ellis could get traded. While this would not be a disaster because he has plenty of value, it is no guarantee that they would get full value back for him. Additionally, once Curry’s rookie contract ends, a max contract will most likely be required to keep him, as he is desired by almost every team in the league. If this is done, they will have most of their money locked up in 3 players (Curry, Ellis, and Lee). Think of it similar to the Miami situation. Except that the talent of the two Big 3’s would be as follows: James, Wade, Curry, Bosh, Ellis, Lee). Being in a similar situation as Miami financially but with less talent is why they are only at 10.
9.      Philadelphia  – The 76ers still have Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner for multiple years on their rookie contracts. They also have their best player, Andrew Iguodala, signed for 4 more years. Jodie Meeks still has 2 years left. Thaddeus Young , who had a breakout postseason, only has one year left. Assuming he plays well next year, he will be commanding a premium in free agency, which could make him more difficult to re-sign. The 76ers, like the Warriors, are a middle of the road team as far as salary cap goes. They have more quality players that will probably be with them for multiple years, but less star power. While Holiday, and Turner certainly have bright futures, it is optimistic to count on them being nearly as good as Curry and Ellis. Their depth is what puts them above Golden State.
8.      Nuggets – Also known as the All-Tatted-Up Team, the Nuggets completely reinvented themselves this season following the trade of Carmelo Anthony. They have a young and talented core that consists of Danilo Gallinari, Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton, Wilson Chandler, Aaron Afflalo, and J.R. Smith, all of whom are ages 26 or under. They will most likely lose Kenyon Martin and Nene to free agency in the near future. Kenyon will probably be signed with a contending team for more than the Nuggets, building for the future, will want to take on. Nene had a great season and will probably get a significant bump in his contract. While Denver would like to keep him, it also might be too much for them to match. Plus, he isn’t as tatted up with the rest of the team. Chemistry. Chemistry. However, even without Martin and Nene, their young nucleus will continue to improve together over the next couple of years. Being in the bottom 3rd of the league in current salary, the team will have the option of signing some to bigger contracts, letting some walk that they feel are overpriced, or trading them for different pieces. No matter what, I see them being competitive in the future with their young nucleus. 
It's pretty clear why Nene wouldn't fit in here

7.      New Jersey – The Nets are probably the biggest unknown of the teams I have on this list. The current duo of Deron Williams and Brook Lopez is a great young tandem. Additionally, only 6 teams have spent less than them, so they have plenty of space to acquire helping pieces or a big star. Which, of course, brings me to the Dwight Howard topic again. The Nets have made it abundantly clear that they now want to go after Dwight Howard. The appeal of the tandem, plus playing in a big market (the Nets are moving to Newark), will certainly appeal to Howard. If they can get him, they probably should be ranked 4th on this list. If they don’t get him, Deron Williams will most likely opt out of his contract in a year, the team will be a bottom dweller, and they will drop to about as low as any team in the league in regards to this list. As we know, Dwight Howard isn’t exactly serious about winning, but he is serious about becoming a celebrity. So who knows.
6.      Los Angeles Clippers – Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon. The second smallest salary spending in the league. Those reasons alone put the Clippers here. Add in the fact that they have Al Fariq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe for at least a few more years to bolster their young nucleus, and it is quite clear why L.A. could become a Clipper town. Chris Kaman and Mo Williams are the only 2 players not named Blake who even make $5 million for them, and both will more likely than not be gone soon. So why aren’t they even higher? Donald Sterling, the notoriously cheap man who makes idiotic roster moves, is still in charge. It is not inconceivable that the Clippers would fail to re-sign Griffin for no other reason than it would cost a lot. He is also the only owner who publicly chastises his players from the sideline. On the other hand, when that same player’s highlight of the year is from a car, maybe he has a point. Do the right thing Donald. Spend some money. Make the Clip show good.
Maybe Sterling was right...

5.      New York– The Knicks have two superstars of their own in Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire. They also have some young supporting players in Landry Fields and Toney Douglas. If New York had been able to wait until this offseason to acquire Carmelo, they could have been at the top of this list. In addition to what they already have, they could have still had almost all of the players I talked about for Denver, the #8 team on this list. Unfortunately, ‘Melo had to get his money. Smart man.
Carmelo did mess up marrying this. You hate to see it.

4.      Memphis – Assuming the Grizzlies follow through on their promise to Zach Randolph to sign Marc Gasol to a long-term contract this offseason, the Grizz should have essentially the same team that took Thunder to 7 games a couple of days ago, minus Shane Battier. Additionally, they will have Rudy Gay, a 20 point scorer and their go-to player in crunch time over the last 2 years, back as well. If they can keep Z-Bo motivated (and that will be quite the task after they overpaid him this season), then they will be scary for years to come. In Zach’s defense, I guess he has to make plenty of money when he’s funding drug cars
3.      Miami – The Big 3. Enough said. Regardless of what happens this season, the Heat will be better going forward. Mike Miller will be healthy and not look like a cracked-out punk rocker, and Udonis Haslem will be back (which will honestly help a lot). Three stars and a couple decent players around them means that they always have a shot. And the Heat will have that for years to come.

2.      Chicago – Derrick Rose isn’t leaving. He adores Chicago, and the love is mutual. Additionally, the Bulls are 26th out of 30 in salary, meaning they will certainly have the flexibility to ensure that they have space to sign him to a max contract. This flexibility will also provide them the opportunity to upgrade at starting shooting guard, their one major weakness. Considering this along with the fact that Noah (6 years ), Boozer (5 years), and Deng (4 years) are all signed to long-term contracts, and the future is quite bright in Chicago. P.S.: If the Bulls win the NBA Title this year, I will be partying in the streets with more drugs than this woman. Note #1 – I don’t do drugs. It was a joke. Note #2 – This video has some nudity. My apologies. It was too funny not to include.

1.      Oklahoma City – As I already mentioned, the entire starting 5, along with James Harden off the Bench, are all 27 and under in age.  Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins are already signed to long-term deals. Westbrook, Harden, and Ibaka each have at least 2 years remaining, and the Thunder (25th out of 30 in salary) have the space to keep them. Furthermore, the team buys in to what it takes to win. Pulling the anti-Lebron/Wade/Bosh, Durant signed his contract extension in the small market of OKC, and did so not with a high-profile televised announcement, but rather with a simple Tweet. This is the kind of guy I want leading my team in the years to come.

Thanks for reading. Please keep following, and tell people who you think would be interested. Good night, and Go Bulls!

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