If you were picking in a head-to-head league and had a late first round pick, how could you build a perfect fantasy team? It’s pretty simple actually. You need to win 5 categories strongly in fantasy to be successful. So pick Dwight Howard first and then steve nash and rajon rondo with the next picks. Pair them with Blake Griffin or Josh Smith and guys you can take later such as Mike Conley and Jose Calderon and you will dominate some form of FG%, 3s, rebounds, assists and steals while totally punting FT%, points and TOs. Remember it never matters how much you lose a category by but only how many you win in the playoffs when it counts.
As usual, this depends on the strength of your team – Rose has had an MVP-type season, but if you focus on FT %, 3s, points and steals, Curry may be the better man to have. Rose has a slight advantage in assists and rebounds and has had better health, but a straight up trade for the probable league MVP may not be a wise move in this case.
Last time I gave you 5 reasons the Lakers WOULD win the 2009 NBA Championship, and this time I will give you my top 5 reasons why they may fall short.
The Lakers will NOT win the 2009 NBA Championship because:
- Andrew Bynum will overexert himself in the summer and reaggravate his knee injury.
In Bynum’s exit interview with the media he said he would be ready to begin running in early July and from that point on he hopes to work with the same personal trainer that he did last summer (READ: the guy who helped Bynum bulk up and become the up-and-coming superstar center that we witnessed early last season). The first thing that comes to mind for me is whether he will be cautious enough to take the appropriate precautions so that he does not reaggrevate his serious injuries from last year. If he doesn’t the Lakers may have to make due with what they had last season.
- Mitch Kupchak does not make any strategic veteran acquisitions.
One of the greatest changes Kupchak made in the last couple of seasons outside (1) the acquisition of Pau Gasol and (2) not trading away Andrew Bynum was signing Derek Fisher. Fisher brought veteran leadership to one of the league’s youngest teams and acted as a mentor for some of the Lakers’ young guards (Sasha and Jordan). If the Lakers are to win the championship next year, they very well may need to take a page out of the Celtics’ book and sign a strong, savvy veteran PF or SF to handle the physical attacks that opponents will bring at them. The league knows now that strong, tough, physical defense can slow down the Lakers, so LA will have to preempt these new schemes my getting bigger, more aggressive veteran players that can play big in the middle.
- Kobe Bryant doesn’t have enough in the tank/can’t recover from pinkie injury.
Lets face it. Kobe Bryant has probably played more regular season, postseason and USA team games the last 10 years than any player in the NBA. He’s also a ferocious gym rat when he’s not “in season” (if you can ever say that). One might wonder how long Bryant can keep up such a torrid pace amid his increasing age and his minor injuries. If Bryant comes out sluggish in 2009 due to fatigue or he cannot sufficiently recover from an inevitable pinkie operation after the Olympics, the Lakers may have to begin the season without their superstar MVP, perhaps hampering their ability to win a championship.
- The West becomes too competitive.
The Lakers may improve 10 fold and still not win the 2009 NBA Championship if they simply cannot get out of their uber-competitive conference. At least 5 teams that I can think of in the West could have been in the Finals this year (and might have even matched up better against the C’s) and if the competition increases, it just may be too difficult for the Lakers to get back to the Finals.
- Their team defense/physical toughness does not improve.
Phil Jackson probably realizes that team defense is probably the single most important thing he needs to teach to his young team this summer. The Lakers also need to improve their toughness around the basket, which I believe can only happen if Pau Gasol is “broken down” and rebuilt as a physical interior defender and post player (no more facing the basket).
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The Lakers WILL win the NBA Championship NEXT year because:
- Andrew Bynum will be healthy (at least we hope).
Bynum averaged 13 points, 10 boards and 2 blocks a game in only 28 minutes a contest last season. He shot 64% from the field and was a steady big man in the middle for the Lakers not only on the offensive side, but on the otherwise weak Lakers defensive interior. He provided many of the Lakers defenders a last resort in the paint if their man got by them. He’s young, he’s tough and he’s shown he can bulk up and be the player that Kobe Bryant wants to play alongside of—as evidenced by his emergence early on this season.
- Kobe Bryant will be hungrier than ever to win another NBA Championship.
Not many players can say they have won three world championships. At the same time, not many can say they’ve lost 2 in a row, either. Kobe Bryant is the utmost competitor and you can be sure that he will be working hard all summer to make it back to the Finals. It’ll start with the Olympics, and I’m sure it will end with countless hours spent in the gym pumping iron while his pinky recovers from an inevitable surgery that will need to be performed. Jackson will continue to harp to Kobe the importance of team basketball (which evaporated from his mind during the Finals) and the need to develop young players. Expect Kobe to take fewer shots next season in favor of more assists, more rebounds and better defense. He’s won the scoring title with out Shaq, the MVP of the regular season without Shaq, and will be wholeheartedly determined to win that elusive Title without Shaq next season.
- Pau Ga-soft and Lamar O-Dumb will come into the season BIGGER and MORE FOCUSED.
There’s no doubt in any of our minds that these two players have the talent and the potential to be superstars in this league. In Pau’s case, he rolled through the playoffs in the West without many roadblocks, but encountered a much too physical, energetic and determined Kevin Garnett in the Finals. In the early stages of Game 6, Pau’s main drawback was brought front-and-center when he was nonchalantly tossed to the ground by a quick, physical move by Kevin Garnett. If the Lakers are going to win a championship against a team like the Celtics next season, Pau Gasol will need to hit the gym harder than he ever has this summer (and this will be hard because he will be playing for Spain in the Olympics), work with Kareem (Lakers Special Assistant Coach for big men) on his positioning and toughness on the block, and improve his soft defense. In Lamar’s case, the man just needs to be more focused and keep his head in the game for 48 minutes. Stupid fouls on the defensive side, overambitious drives to the hoop that result in offensive fouls on the offensive side, and just the general stupor that he usually finds himself in during big games HURTS the Lakers. Lamar needs to mature (and something tells me after this year’s Finals he will) and needs to understand exactly what the Lakers need from him—a focused intensity mirroring that of Kevin Garnett’s.
- The Lakers bench will improve with this experience.
Without the emergence of Sasha, Jordan and Ronnie during different parts of the season AND playoffs for the Lakers, LA probably wouldn’t have earned the Number 1 seed in the West and home court for that duration. The Lakers bench was completely unknown to the league before this year and going forward I believe the confidence and experience that many of the young players on the bench have collected will help them going into next season. Sasha should continue to improve his defense so that he can stay with the leagues premier SGs (Allen just clowned him last game). Jordan should look to put a little muscle on and improve his jump shot (especially his three). And Ronnie should continue working on his low-post defense and mid-range jump shot.
- The Lakers will improve their defense.
Lets be honest, the Lakers had no real trouble scoring against any team this year outside of the Boston Celtics. What they did have trouble with at times was TEAM DEFENSE. We all know Kobe has been All-NBA First Team Defense and that Lamar is a crafty defender as well, but the Lakers have really struggled with their spacing on defense. Routinely during the Finals, a player would get beat and nobody would be at home in the middle to help. I think Jackson and his entire coaching staff will begin to preach defense more and more this summer to the team. It will help enormously if Bynum can come back from his knee injuries and solidify the center of the defense like he did early on in the 07-08 season.
Check back in next time for the five reasons the Lakers will NOT win the NBA Championship next year.
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I think we are in store for one of the best NBA Playoffs ever. The stories, the rivalries and the level of competition are all as strong as ever. The Western Conference will be hotly contested and the Eastern Conference will provide some great games as well. So in honor of what will be a fun next couple of months, here are my playoff predictions, round by round. For an empty NBA Playoffs bracket, click here.
First Round: Eastern Conference
(1) Boston defeats (8) Atlanta: 4-0
Boston’s defense suffocates the Hawks on offense.
(5) Washington defeats (4) Cleveland: 4-3
With an injured back, Lebron won’t have enough in the tank. Should be the best series in the East.
(3) Orlando defeats (6) Toronto: 4-2
Bosh will have a spectacular series, but the Raptors will be just short.
(2) Detroit defeats (7) Philadelphia: 4-1
The Pistons will nonchalantly roll into the 2nd round with only one bump along the way
Quarter Finals: Eastern Conference
(1) Boston defeats (4) Washington: 4-1
The Wizards will put up a valiant effort, but they will be exhausted from a tough first round series. Defense again will win this series for the C’s.
(2) Detroit defeats (2) Orlando: 4-2
I just can’t see the Magic matching Detroit’s experience in this series. Look for Chauncey to take over (20 and 10 a game).
Semifinals: Eastern Conference
(1) Boston defeats (2) Detroit: 4-2
I think both teams will surprise each other on the road, but in the end the Celtics will pull this one out. Both teams have strong benches, veteran leadership and lockdown defense, but I give the edge to KG and company for being more rested in the first two rounds.
First Round: Western Conference
(1) Los Angeles defeats (8) Denver: 4-2
I actually A.I. and Melo’ will single handily win a couple games for the Nuggets at home, but win it’s all said and done, Kobe and Pau will take care of business at home.
(4) Utah defeats (5) Houston: 4-2
Should be a low scoring series. I don’t think McGrady alone can will the Rockets to a victory. Expect the tandem of Williams and Boozer to once again emerge as superstars in the playoffs.
(6) Phoenix defeats (3) San Antonio: 4-3
This will be the best series of the first round. Defending champs against Shaq, Amare and Nash. What more could you ask for? (Yeah I guess I want Robert Horry to be healthy enough to play in this series, too) I give the edge to the Suns because the Spurs have been banged up all year and Amare and Shaq look hungrier than ever.
(2) New Orleans defeats (7) Dallas: 4-3
Dallas has shown they can beat New Orleans, so I think this series will be a lot closer than most think. I give it to CP3 though, with homecourt and ‘something to prove’. Expect JKidd to play strongly in this series, and for Mark Cuban to threaten Avery Johnson with his job if he doesn’t make it out of the first round.
Quarter Finals: Western Conference
(1) Los Angeles defeats (4) Utah: 4-2
Remember when Kobe went absolutely off on the Jazz after the Utah fans booed Derek Fisher for no apparent reason? Well I think the anger in Kobe and his teammates will carry on to this series as the Lakers narrowly defeat the Jazz.
(6) Phoenix defeats (2) New Orleans: 4-2
This will be a phenomenal series. Expect New Orleans to come out strong out of the gate, but for the veteran Suns to take care of business by the end. Shaq will play a huge role in this series.
Semifinals: Western Conference
(1) Los Angeles defeats (6) Phoenix: 4-3
Where amazing happens. The NBA will be thoroughly excited if this matchup occurs, as it would pit the four-time champion Shaquille O’Neal against his soon-to-be-named-MVP ex-teammate Kobe Bryant. I have no doubt in my mind that a series like this should go seven games and I only give the Lakers the margin because of their stronger team defense and bench. Lakers won’t be able to contain Amare, but nor will the Suns Kobe.
(1) Los Angeles defeats (1) Boston: 4-3
Game 1 (in Boston): Lakers win 88-81
Game 2 (in Boston): Celtics win 95-74
Game 3 (in LA): Lakers win 96-94
Game 4 (in LA): Lakers win 94-87
Game 5 (in LA): Celtics win 91-77
Game 6 (in Boston): Celtics win 103-94
Game 7 (in Boston): Lakers win 94-93
Kobe Bryant drills a dead on three with 2 seconds remaining to give the Lakers the lead. KG takes a turn around 18 footer at the buzzer that just rims out. Lakers are the 2007-2008 NBA Champs.
So there you have it, I have the Lakers over the Celtics in a return to one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports. I give a push to the matchup between Kobe/Pau/Odom vs. KG/Pierce/Allen and predict that it will be the lesser known players that will determine this series. I think both teams have excellent second units, but that the Lakers will be able to put it together a little bit more. Expect Farmar, Sasha and Radmanovic to have a strong series. Powe, Allen and House will struggle.
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Now that this fantasy season is finished, it is never too early to look ahead to next year. If you were in a championship matchup this week in a H-2-H league, hope you won!
- Lebron James – He may not have finished even close to #1 in Yahoo Rankings, but I still think he is the most complete player. He put up 30/8/7 with almost 2 steals and a block per game with absolutely nothing around him. Everyone knows Cleveland needs to get him help this summer or else King James might leave.
- Chris Paul – I think he should win the MVP. Shoots a great percentage and will lead the league in assists and steals. That’s a damn good year. And he should only continue to get better when that Hornets core plays more together.
- Kobe Bryant – Is there any doubt that Kobe is the best all-around player in the game right now? His fantasy numbers went down some this year so that the Lakers’ win percentage could go up. With a healthy Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for an entire year, Kobe should only continue to produce great stats.
- Amare Stoudamire – He looked amazing once Shaq came in, and now he will get an entire season with the Big Diesel next year. He is a truly great fantasy player, who will get you a ton of stats (but not too much actual +/- value). He and Nash have perfected the pick-and-roll just like Malone and Stockton.
- Kevin Garnett – He has so much value beyond the box score and thus falls this far down the list. His numbers were down this year, but he is now the main reason for the greatest turnaround in the history of the NBA. That being said, he should still be good for about 20/10 and some great percentages and defense next year.
- Dirk Nowitzki – Had a bit of a down year but has bounced back with a vengeance since his injury. He should improve on his scoring and rebounding from this year and continue to shoot pretty well. As much as I hated taking him over Lebron this year, I have to say he should be a darkhorse pick in the first round next year.
- Shawn Marion – This will be the true darkhorse in the first round next year. With his injury, Marion fell off the map, but he should still be one of the top producers next year. He gives you every category and is a poor man’s version of Lebron.
- Marcus Camby – I think I may have this defensive master a bit too high, but with the advantage he gives on blocks and rebounds, he should be a first round pick next year. He finally proved he could stay healthy for a full year.
- Allen Iverson – He really jumped back into the superstar picture. Without Chris Paul, we would be talking about this guy as the best point guard. His assists are up, and he is a steals machine. And playing in that Nuggets tempo only helps his value.
- Steve Nash – He really disappointed some this year, but he should still be good for percentages, threes, and assists. Has not played too well in terms of fantasy stats recently, but is still a top point guard.
Enjoy the playoffs everyone! We will be posting anything interesting during that run even though there may not be too much fantasy-related.
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There are 3 more days of NBA regular season basketball to be played. This means leagues are coming to an end. If you are close in a H2H league playoff game or in a roto league, employ these tips!
- Grab a Memphis Grizzlies player TODAY. The Griz play games the last 2 days of the regular season (Tue, Wed) against Portland and Denver on the road. I don’t have to tell you how many points the Nuggets give up a game, do I?
Consider these guys: Andre Brown (13 pts, 18 boards in his last game), Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, Navarro (if available)
- OR, Grab a Portland Trailblazer player TODAY. Like the Griz, the Blazers play on the last 2 days of the regular season, squaring off against Memphis and Phoenix. Both teams will give up a LOT of points. No brainer.
Consider these guys: Channing Frye, Steve Blake, Jarret Jack
- Drop your Sac-town players TOMORROW. Sacramento plays its final game on Tuesday, so if you’re in need of statistics on Wednesday and you’re lineup isn’t already filled, be sure to drop a Kings player tomorrow.
Congrats to all for making it this far. I am in a H2H league finals match right now and it’ll probably come down to the wire–wish me luck!
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