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Feeling The Heat

The Miami Heat are currently the hottest team in the NBA, no pun intended. Winners of their last 11 games, the heat have burned multiple playoff teams in the stretch such as Oklahoma City, Houston, Chicago, and the Los Angeles Clippers and Lakers by an average of 10 points.

Leading the heat on their impressive run is LeBron James and his willingness to attack the basket. James is shooting an amazing 65% over the last 10 games averaging 29 pts and a near tripple double at 8 rebounds and 7 assist per game. Many have said for years if James would go to the basket or post up, he would be unguardable. This is starting to be the case.

The massive amount of Jordan debates don’t seem to be weighing on the “King” too much, however James is not winning all these games by himself. Fellow “Big 3” members Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade are also shooting over 51% in this winning streak. Wade himself is hitting a career best 51% is playing amazing as well despite his back role to king. Wade currently is recording a career high in steals as well at 1.6 per game. The 3 combine for 68% of shots taken by the team hitting over 57%. When the team is this hot, you can only sit back and watch.

With swarming defense and attacking the basket, the big 3 have allowed other older veterans on the roster to relax and enjoy the fun, giving sharp shooters Ray Allen, mike Miller, and Shane Battier plenty of time to save leg strength for the real run in the playoffs spreading any defense that tries to double and shut down “Batman and Robin.” The heat had this planned from the start of the season following their winning formula from last season’s playoffs however they had no idea LeBron and Wade could succeed this much in the offense.

So should the heat be considered the favorites to repeat as champions this year? I see no reason why not. With a relatively weak Eastern Conference the heat should face little opposition other than the Pacers into the NBA finals. The Knicks might be a problem, though it will be interesting to see if they can survive through 2 rounds. Carmelo Anthony has never taken his team farther than the 2nd round. Boston has been plagued by injuries and old age. Finally the Bulls will hope the addition of MVP point guard Derrick Rose will not crush team chemistry. Against the best of the Western Conference, being the Spurs, Thunder, Warriors, Grizzlies, and Clippers, Miami has torched the teams this season winning 5/7 of these matchups with the majority away.

With all of the success this team has had since its coming together in 2010, a return trip to the finals for a 3rd time in a row should be expected. If the “Big 3” can remain this hot, the rest of the NBA will be “feeling the Heat” for sure come July.

Showtime’s Over

The Los Angeles Lakers are one of two most premier franchises in the National Basketball Association, the other being the Boston Celtics. For years, The NBA was dominated by the two organizations.

In 1979, one of the greatest business men to have lived purchased the Lakers’ organization and seemingly took them to arguably the greatest time period of basketball, the “Showtime” era with stars such as Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar and highlight offense. On February 18th, 2013, Jerry Buss died of kidney failure and with his death. With his death, any chance the Lakers had of reclaiming those glory days has passed.

Jerry’s son, Jim Buss, now has control of the Lakers and essentially will ruin the franchise. With his stubbornness to higher the greatest coach in basketball, Phil Jackson, earlier this year, the first act was in place. Now with complete control of the organization, Jim’s refusal to trade Dwight Howard will put full control of the business to Howard, a player who has no idea what he wants as of right now. The current situation is no different than what Dwight did previously last offseason to the Orlando Magic organization.

The Orlando Magic essentially followed every whim this summer to try and convince Howard to stay, even firing their long standing coach Stan Van Gundy who Howard was not fond of from his system. Still without receiving a full commitment from Howard and needing to reestablish the team, the group finally was forced to trade him knowing he would leave in the offseason for bigger, brighter lights and money while the team would be left with nothing to rebuild with.

Jim Buss’ refusal to trade Howard puts the ball in Howard’s court essentially. Now, Howard will choose where he goes at the end of the season but, with his list of demands a higher priority of the Lakers if they choose to extend and offer and “woo” him. Howard passionately hates current head coach Mike DanToni, so to resign Howard to a contract, the Lakers will most likely have to fire him for a better system involving Howard. Howard also wants to be paid the Max Contract, which will drastically put the Lakers over the league cap room baring a huge penalty fee, all in order to keep an overrated star. Howard may be worth the money for the contract but, the 30 Million fee is hopefully not in the Lakers best plans.

Trading Dwight, even if you couldn’t get fair value, would have eliminated the money situation holding the team hostage as well as the requirement of a new coach. Finally, the Lakers could easily rebuild attracting new free agent players in the offseason to a historic franchise in Los Angeles!
If Jerry Buss were here, would he have traded Dwight? We will never know, however we do know this, by keeping Dwight, showtime is over in the city LA.

R.I.P Jerry Buss

What is in the water in Miami

With the month of March coming around quickly, the time for America’s favorite fantasy sport is coming quickly. The NCAA tournament starts about a month from now and picking this year’s bracket winners might be harder than normal with the amount of top 10 teams being beaten this year.

Teams such as Michigan, Duke, Louisville, Florida, Kansas, and Ohio State have all suffered massive upsets this year. Perennial power houses such as North Carolina and Kentucky are not even ranked currently this season. This season has undoubtedly been full of surprises and none more so than the hottest team in college basketball, the Miami Hurricanes.

If you don’t follow College Basketball then you might not know Miami is now currently 12-0 in arguably the best conference in college basketball, the ACC. Miami also currently is ranked 3rd in the nation with a 21-3 record and only 1 ranked team (Duke who they have previously beaten) left on the schedule going into tournament play. Their coach, Jim Larranaga, is also one of only three current head coaches in the ACC with final four experience, the other two being Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski.

Given all that, do I buy Miami as a legitimate contender to make it to the final four and win the NCAA tournament? The short answer is no.

While I do believe Miami is a good team with a great shot for the elite 8, Miami has been blown out of proportion recently the season. While being undefeated in the ACC is nothing to shrug off, the ACC is considerably weaker this year with only 1 other ranked team other than Miami. One can look at the Big 10 conference with 5 ranked teams and Minnesota who has been in and out of the rankings all season. The ACC is just weaker this year. Even though Michigan State lost to Miami in the first game of the year, I would still take them over Miami knowing that they are more battle tested, playing 7 ranked teams with 4 left on the schedule as opposed to 4 with 1 left in Hurricane’s case.

Miami also currently only has 3 wins over ranked teams, those being Duke, Michigan St, and North Carolina St while losing to ranked Arizona. While winning 3/4 against ranked teams is impressive, one should look at the conditions of these games. First Michigan St and Duke both being at Miami is a huge advantage. As for North Carolina St, while the game was away being a disadvantage, Miami only beat NCST off a tip in with .08 left in the game. Miami’s one ranked loss to Arizona was in Florida and was a beat down 69-50. If the game wasn’t earlier in the season, the team would be much lower in the standings.

The team also currently is not ranked in the top 50 in the country in the categories of rebounds per game, points per game, assists per game, or shooting percentage. Of the top 10 teams only Miami is not top 50 in at least 1 of these stats! 6 of the top 10 are top 50 in at least 3/4 of these with Indiana (the current #1 team) being top 50 in 4/4. With Miami not even being top 50 in any of these stats, don’t they seem a little overhyped?

Given all that info, I do not buy Miami to win the Big Tourny in March but, being ranked too high will give them nice seating to attempt an Elite 8 run.

The Luck of the Irish

The Boston Celtics franchise is one that has always been built on talent, superstition, and luck. Lately however, it appears two of those three have apparently run out. All Star Point Guard Rajon Rondo has partially torn his ACL and is expected to miss at least 6 months and talented rookie Jared Sullinger has received back surgery for lumbar discs and is also expected to miss the rest of the season. 2 players out for the season with injury is very high, however that is not the end to the celtics’ problems as back up point guard Leandro Barbosa is now out for the season with an ACL tear.

The Celtics are now in somewhat of a bind. Somehow the team has managed to flourish without their elite floor general winning 6/7 of their last games, however the injury bug is prompting general manager Danny Ainge to make some trade magic work before the February 21st deadline. With pressure from fans growing though, is it really the right idea to break this team up rather than just search for an answer out of free agency?

The answer is no, for multiple reasons with the first being the lack of trades. The Celtics have many “toys” that would like to acquire however, they have almost nothing valuable in return. Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, the 2 most valuable trade assets are not going anywhere. Garnett’s no trade clause allows him to chose his own faith in the league. Pierce, a lifetime Celtic and 15 year fan favorite, also shall not be leaving.

That leaves few options for Ainge to consider with only Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, and Jason Terry to deal, all on the first years of their new deals with the Cs other than Bradley. All of these players also have either been underperforming or coming of injury. Most of these players the Celtics will not be looking to ship, those being young but promising Bradley and super athletic Jeff Green. With Bass being overpaid in his new deal and Terry and Lee underperforming, the Celtics should not expect much in return for those two.

That leaves one option. Free Agency. At this point, the Celtics would be better of looking for key pieces on the waiver or their D league team in Maine. Multiple pieces can be found with the fist option being young point guard Shelvin Mack who is tearing apart the D league averaging 20 pts with 8 ast and 5 rebounds a game. Mack could come in and immediately receive 20 minutes easily.
Their is also former Celtic and fan favorite Delonte West. After his recent stint in Dallas, West has been on the free agent market waiting for the right team. West would know the current Celtic system well after being in Boston for two years.

Then their is one more option. THE Allen Iverson. Now before anyone decides to question this, let me explain. Iverson wants back into the league, not through the D league. Sound good so far? Iverson may have personality problems in the locker room. Well if that somehow shows with the presences of KG, Pierce, and Doc Rivers, then cut him. It won’t have cost anything and the celtics are back where they started. All the Celtics would have to do is call up AI and give him a workout. If he can play then great, of not, oh well.

Obviously the Celtics have run out of luck after their post season run to the eastern conference finals but, breaking this team up in the middle of the season is simply not the answer with the way the team is playing. In order to have ANY chance in the playoffs the Cs will need their current roster and more, not starting over and attempting to find more luck of the Irish.

“Oh Dwight”

Dwight Howard, possibly the most primma donna in the NBA. I mean let’s all be honest here. Everyone remembers what happened in Orlando with Stan Van Gundy. He single handily destroyed that franchise and left them with just about nothing. Thinking his problems would leave him in Los Angeles, he teamed up with Kobe Bryant for a dream team run at a title. How has that worked? Well now he might possibly obliterated the Lakers. Howard has become injury prone, and has spread that problem to Pau Gasol, who is no longer starting because of bad chemistry when Howard is on the court at the same time. The only thing Howard hasn’t killed is most likely your fantasy basketball team. Though your lineup might be next on his list.
Howard now is suffering from a nagging shoulder injury, which is not going to go away. Howard must deal with this injury and play through it. Even Kobe agrees being quoted as saying “there is no time to wait for Howard’s shoulder to heal. We need some urgency” (Jackie MacMullen). With Pau Gasol now out 6-8 weeks with a torn Plantar Fascia and Jordan Hill out the remainder of the season with a hip injury, the lakers only have two options left for big men. Yes two. Dwight Howard and then the one man that can save the Lakers and possibly your fantasy team if you own either. Two Words. EARL CLARK.

Earl Clark. Small Forward/Power Forward. Los Angeles Lakers. Owned in 68% of leagues
Earl Clark is the next big craze to hit the NBA. First gaining popularity by taking Gasol’s starting job, and now becoming the only reliable Forward on this desperate team. Clark could turn out to be the next big thing averaging 13 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes of play time. Not only though is he playing offense, he has helped this team step up on defense averaging 1.3 steals and 1.3 blocks over the last 3 games. Clark seems to be a favorite too of Dantoni. Expect his minutes to rise while Gasol is out and as this rises, so will his contribution to your fantasy team as well as the Los Angeles Lakers. He is only owned shockingly in only 68% of standard ESPN leagues making him easy to pick up. Also Clark can play the three and four position or fantasy terms Small Forward and Power Forward. This makes Clark even more accessible for your lineup.

At this point, Dwight Howard is no longer part of the solution to the Los Angeles Lakers or to your fantasy team either. Though it is not Pau Gasol’s fault, he no longer is the solution either. As the old saying goes, “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” As of now, neither can help you too much. Add Earl Clark and do yourself a favor.

Alright guys check out my twitter @THE_FUNDERBOLT make sure to tweet any questions you have. Make sure to hit that follow button. Have a good week!
All Stats are Credit to ESPN.

If you would like to see the Kobe Conversation With Jackie MacMullen, here you go http://espn.go.com/los-angeles/nba/story/_/id/8924249/kobe-bryant-challenges-dwight-howard-return-shoulder-injury-play-pain

Suddenly Sullinger Down

Celtics Rookie Power Foward Jared Sullinger has bulging disc, the same problem he suffered with in College that dropped him down to the 20th spot in the 2012 NBA draft. Sullinger has had surgery to repair the problem however he is now out for the rest of the season. Replacing his production (8 ppg and 7 rebounds in 24 minutes) for the Celtics could be trouble. Brandon Bass is now officially the go player to go pick up. Jeff Greeen could also be worth a pick up.
Bass has been a disappointment this seaosn after such a career year with the Celtics last year, leading to his new $20 million contract, only averaging 7ppg and 5 reb. For now, if you own Sullinger, drop him and seek help from Bass or Green.

Anything Could Happen

Anything can happen. 3 words that can be used anytime in sports, particularly with basketball. The NBA prides itself with this statement, while also featuring the slogan “where big things happen.” Well Wednesday night, something big did happen in the NBA. After much speculation, small forward Rudy Gay from Memphis was traded to the Toronto Raptors. This happened in a 3 way deal involving Toronto, the Detroit Pistons (Tayshaun Prince and Ed Davis to Memphis) and the Memphis Grizzlies (receiving Jose Calderon.) To the teams and organizations this trade makes perfect sense. Memphis unloads an overpaid player, Toronto loses an unnecessary older point guard, and Detroit frees cap space. As for fantasy value though, many players have been changed: some for better, some for worse.

Now let’s get to the fantasy stuff that we all came here for…
For Rudy Gay (value goes up)

Gay’s value is going to grow obviously. He has now landed on a crappy team with no superstars other than a young point guard who was limited by the veteran who has fled the coop as well after seeking a trade. Expect Gay’s 17 ppg to grow to maybe around 23 but field goal % to drop with the more shots he takes. Assists per game could also drop as well though 2.6 wasn’t exactly a lot to begin with. In short, Gay’s fantasy value grows somewhat.

For Kyle Lowry (value goes WAY UP)
This trade is GREAT for Kyle Lowry. He officially is the main point guard in Toronto and should be considered the 2nd scoring option behind Gay while big man Bargnani heals up from injury. Also without the need to split time with Calderon, all stats should go up including his 13 ppg, and 6 asst per game. Overall expect huge increase in fantasy production.

For Jose Calderon (value stays the same)
Do not expect Calderon to be in Detroit for very long unless he turns out to be too good to pass up. With Detroit looking to rebuild around Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, an overpaid veteran is the last thing they need taking up cap space. However he is better in production than the two (Prince, Davis) that Detroit traded away. Expect Calderon to move to the starting point guard spot and move Knight over to Shooting Guard. Calderon will must likely increase in points (currently only 11ppg) with more minutes but with no help around stay the same in every other stat. Basically fantasy value is neutral.

For Brandon Knight (value goes down)
Brandon Knight probably suffers the most out of anyone in this trade. Knight loses his point guard spot and is forced to move over to shooting guard. Knight already is bad at 3pt shooting, hitting a mere 1.7 per game. All of these extra shots will drop his field goal % and with Calderon at point, Assists will drop possibly from his 4 (terrible for a starting point) a game too. I wouldn’t drop him yet, because as stated earlier, anything can happen, however if I own him then I am checking for Return dates for Danny Granger and Andrew Bynum just incase.

Alright well that about does it guys. As always, for any questions tweet me @THE_FUNDERBOLT. I’ll answer anything you got guys so follow me and check it out!

All stats as well as %s are credited to ESPN.