Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Big Shaqtus to Join the Lebronnaires

The Big Diesel just could not let Kobe hold the limelight any longer...

The Phoenix Suns have agreed to send Shaq to Cleveland in exchange for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, a second-round draft pick, and cash.

On paper, this trade would seem to benefit both teams. The Shaq experiment in Phoenix resulted in missing the playoffs last season, and sending him to the Cavs allow them to save a ton of money (Shaq is on the books for 20 million next season). Shaq has always been somewhat of an awkward fit in the Sun's up-tempo offense. Now at an age when running the floor looks evermore burdensome, Shaq's diminishing athleticism has been highlighted that much more by the freakish play of the man across the paint, Amare Stoudemire. Though they're not back at square one, ridding themselves of O'neal was a necessary deal Phoenix needed to pull in order to move on. Nash isn't getting any younger; Amare isn't getting any happier. Steve Kerr and his buddies up top because the door of opportunity is almost completely closed.

Now in Cleveland, Shaq will settle more comfortably into Mike Brown's plethora of half-court sets. From the Cav's point of view, Shaq provides the muscle they didn't have to contend with Dwight Howard during this past conference finals. As if Lebron weren't enough, O'neal adds another dimension to the marketability of the team, and also gives Cleveland fans a new hope - a hope for a championship next season, and a hope that Lebron will stick around in 2010. With Shaq on board, I expect the Cavs' traveling camera show to only get kookier. I'm genuinely excited to see what sort of pre-game routines LBJ and the Diesel will pull out next year. But if all fails, this is only a one-year experiment. Nice move Danny Fe...

...wait. Let's be real; Lebron and Shaq holding the Larry O'Brien trophy together next June is far from a sure thing. There are plenty of potential negatives to this deal for Cleveland. Shaq's size and lack of speed might hinder Lebron's attack-the-basket game. If Brown positions Shaq low on block (and we expect him to), some of Lebron's cutting lanes and precious space are bound to be chocked up. As a result, Lebron defers to shooting jumpers. While his mid-range game isn't bad, 16 footers are not what you want LBJ throwing up. Defensively, Shaq can muscle people around in the paint, but will have trouble defending quick guards at the basket. Shaq's outgoing personality, while fun to be around, may end up distracting the rest of the scrubs in Cleveland from the one thing that matters - basketball. It'll be up to Lebron to keep his team in check, but we've still yet to see if Lebron can do that.

So let's say the Cav's make the playoffs again next season, but fall in the 1st or 2nd rounds. Lebron has the bitter taste of defeat once again, encouraging him to bolt during free agency. Shaq's contract is up, and upper management is sure not to sign him again. Where does that leave the Cav's? screwed. Acquiring Shaq is one of Danny Ferry's last attempt to persuade Lebron to stay in Cleveland. Miami didn't want him a couple of years back; Phoenix didn't want him after last year. Cavs fans, are you okay with tossing 20 million at a post-prime big man as your last move to keep one of history's best players?

Fantasy Implications

The Suns can now return to their running and gunning ways without the gigantic hole in the middle. I expect Nash's numbers to rebound a little, and more contributions from Barbosa, Hill, and Barnes. Amare put up some ridiculous numbers with Shaq on the court last season, and his production might dip a bit if he's forced to play the five. However, he's in his prime so I expect him to continue to put up fantasy monster stats.

The Cavs weren't abundant of fantasy-roster-worthy players beyond Lebron to begin with. Lebron will continue to be the stat beast he is, but everyone else will be a question mark. Shaq is simply too old and injury prone. I know he surprised many last season, but do you think he can do it again? Ilgauskus's role is also unknown. Is Cavs' Management planning to ship him out? Or have him come off the bench. Any fantasy relevance he once had is now gone.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

NBA Finals 2009: Game 5 Afterthoughts

Congratulations L.A. Lakers on becoming the 2009 NBA Champions!

Kobe's quest for his first post-Shaq championship and Phil Jackson's mission to put a ring on each one of his fingers - both were fulfilled in the Lakers' 99-86 dismantling of the Magic. The Magic fought admirably, and kept it up right until the closing minutes of the game, despite the double-digit hole they were in. But their fight was not enough, and the Lakers showed the world the difference between a good team and a great team...
  • Let's start from the top. Kobe Bryant played brilliantly tonight: 30pts, 6 rebs, 5 assists, 4 blocks, and 10-23 from the floor. From getting teammates involved and playing tough-nosed defense, to leading vocally and getting buckets, Kobe did everything the superstar/leader of a team is supposed to do...
  • ...including creating some SportsCenter highlights. That blow-by drive past Pietrus for the dunk in the first half was nice. And that falling-sideways-show-right-shoot-left shot on Howard was insane.
  • The rest of the Lake show wasn't too shaby either. Ariza hit a couple of momentum swinging threes to help the Lakers gain the lead in the first half, while also hounding Turkoglu for most of the night. Odom came off the bench for 17 and 10, plus a pretty cool reverse layup on a fast break opportunity with Gasol. Gasol chipped in with 14pts, 15 rebs, and 4 blks. Fisher had 13 of his own. Lakers came out with an all-team attack on both ends of the floor...simply too much for the Magic to handle.
  • And now onto the Magic...the experience and pressure of the moment caught up, and overwhelmed them tonight. They came out fast, and even had the lead in the 2nd quarter. But as things started to shift in the Lakers' favor, they got frustrated and ended up choking.
  • Dwight Howard - where were you this whole game? 11pts, 10 rebs, and 3 blks might be okay for any average center in the league, but it is NOT okay for the superstar/next-gen Shaq, ESPECIALLY not in the biggest game of your career. You played the entire second half like you were expecting to lose... simply not the mentality for the NBA Finals.
  • Rashard Lewis is another guy who did not step up to the plate. I know he loves that 3pt shot, but when you've missed more 3pt shots than you've shot from inside the arc, then you know something is wrong.
  • Hedo Turkoglu's stat line looks thin, but not horrendously ugly (8pts, 3 assists, 4-8 FG). However, Ariza made this guy's night a living hell. Hedo had trouble getting to the rim much of the night. When he did manage to get past Trevor, he couldn't get the ball past Gasol and Bynum. Tonight his average-athleticism was exposed and exploited - something I'm sure teams will consider when making offers for him this offseason.
  • Can you imagine how much better a player Rafer Alston would be if he could finish better around the rim? Skip-to-my-Lou does a decent job of getting past his man, but can't seem to get the ball to roll into the basket... reminds me of myself.
  • I love the energy and quickness that Jameer Nelson brings to the floor, but am I the only one who's holding my breath every time this guy makes a pass? I'm scared Van Gundy is going to have a heart-attack on the sidelines after watching one of those risky things.
  • Courtney Lee and J.J. Redick are going to have great careers. Okay maybe not Redick, although he's still got a beautiful jump-shot... but this trip through the playoffs has given Lee some amazing experience. He's had the chance to play under the brightest of lights, while guarding the greatest of players. I'm looking forward to seeing him mature in the league.
To be honest, this ending was expected. Up until this year, the Magic haven't made it past the first round of the playoffs in over a decade. If you're an Orlando fan, there's no reason to hang your heads low; your team is young, and I'm sure they'll be a goliath next year.

As for Lakers' fans, enjoy the moment and prepare for next year. LA has all the same pieces to go for a repeat.

Me? I'm ready to start reading all the Kobe vs. Jordan articles that are about to come out now that he's won his ring without Shaq.

And from Shaq to Kobe via Twitter:
"Congratualtions kobe, u deserve it. You played great . Enjoy it my man enjoy it. And I know what yur sayin rt now 'Shaq how my ass taste ' "

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lil Wayne - Kobe Bryant

The link between hip-hop/rap and the NBA is an intriguing one... but I'll leave that topic to another day.

I know I'm a bit late on posting on this, but in an attempt to take a discrete stab at Michael Jordan, my buddy led me to this song yesterday. Lil Wayne recently came out with a new track, which clearly shows which side of the Kobe vs. Lebron debate he's on. Take a listen:

My response?
Michael Jordan had his own song long before Kobe ever did... it just isn't as long.


Fantasy Radar: Chris Bosh Setting Up for Big Things

Image from

In an expected move, Chris Bosh - one of the NBA's elite power forwards - has decided against signing an extension with the Toronto Raptors, which in turn makes him a free agent in the summer of 2010.

Bosh has made it more than clear that he is expecting a max deal next summer from whichever teams decide to pursue him, including the Raptors. Being a contract year, we can expect Bosh to come out hard this next year. The Toronto Sun also reports that CB4 is bulking up this offseason. Bosh has started early on a training regiment with strength trainer Ken Roberson of Dallas, along with a strict diet that calls for more than the standard 3 meals a day.

From a fantasy basketball perspective, this news is music to an owner's ears. Bosh finished the 08-09 season ranked 13th in per game averages, and 15th in total stats on yahoo sports. Already an exceptionally well rounded fantasy player - he scores, rebounds, blocks shots, and shoots decent percentages for a big man - the added bulk and money motivator may just push Bosh to the next level, both skill-wise and statistically.

Normally a player drafted on the 1st/2nd round borderline, you may want to consider Bosh a little earlier this season. Guys like Garnett, Duncan, Camby, and Marion are playing out the latter phases of their career, and clearly are not capable of putting up stats like they did three years ago. Elton Brand (drafted 5 spots ahead of Bosh last season) has completely fallen off the map in Philadelphia, and goes into 09-10 as a question mark with his shoulder issues. With these guys shifting down, Bosh is now arguably one of fantasy basketball's top big men with Amare and Dirk.

Everyone knows that quality bigs are hard to come by in fantasy basketball. And everyone also knows how crucial quality bigs are to a strong fantasy title. If you find yourself drafting with picks 7-10 this coming Fall, do yourself a favor and at least strongly consider taking Chris Bosh.