LeBron James’ ‘The Decision’ costing him the 2017 NBA Finals

Photo via Tony Dejak/AP Photo

LeBron James’ The Decision is coming up on its seven-year anniversary. On July 8, 2010, James changed the landscape of the NBA. He went on to win two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat, but that decision to head to South Beach might cost him any realistic chance of winning the 2017 NBA Finals or any in the future.

Ever since his move, super teams have become the norm. Despite what people might say, the 2010-11 Heat team was the first super team of this era. The Boston Celtics team in 2008 doesn’t count because each player was well past their prime. In Miami, Bosh and James were entering their prime. Wade would have been in the same boat, but had some unfortunate injuries to quicken the aging process.

Since James’ move, we have seen the Los Angeles Lakers try to build a super team, but the only thing super about Dwight Howard and those Lakers was Howards’ Superman nickname.

The Lakers team did not work out, however, it was another team following in James’ footsteps and perpetuating the new precedent set by James.

In 2012, the Los Angeles Clippers set out to trade for New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul. To this point their super team has not worked, yet, it still maintained the new norm.

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Durant and the Golden State Warriors (Photo via Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images)

In 2016, Golden State blew their 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers en route to the city of Cleveland’s first championship in 52 years. This loss gave the Warriors an excuse to build a super team. The following offseason, they replaced forward Harrison Barnes with MVP forward Kevin Durant.

Thus, building what might go down as the greatest NBA team in history (pending the conclusion of the 2017 NBA Finals).

Currently, there are just two teams in the NBA who have any realistic shot of winning a title, maybe just one after watching the first two final games. Consequently, the NBA might possess four super teams in 2018 instead of the two this season.

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Isaiah Thomas’ Celtics will try to take James’ thrown in the east (Photo via Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports)

The Boston Celtics are looking into acquiring Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward to reunite with his former college coach Brad Stevens. Jimmy Butler and even Paul George have been thrown around, for Boston knows it is imperative to sign another star to just have the smallest chance at piercing James’ thrown in the east.

In the west, the San Antonio Spurs are interested in Chris Paul. His addition would make the Spurs into another super team further toppling any dream of parity in the league.

It is unclear on whether those alleged rumors will become true, but it speaks to where the NBA is heading. The trend is to tank until a super team can be assembled. Thanks to The Decision, it is widely accepted.

This new era will stunt James from ever winning another title. The Warriors look like they will be playing in the finals until 2020 and seem to be much better than the Cleveland team now. If James tries to improve the roster, he could go after George to add talent, however, it is unclear how much that move would actually close the gap between the two teams.

In addition, other teams in the eastern conference are going to start building their own super teams. It is to be seen whether or not one could be built before father time beats James, even so, it is hard seeing James beating Golden State unless the drastic occurs.

The eastern conference is only going to get harder to make it thru with James aging, super teams on the come-up, and it just can’t be any worse than it is now.

James had an incredible run and legacy, but it seems The Decision that helped him finally win his first title is going to stop him from progressing his legacy. One can never say never, but another LeBron title seems unlikely at this point.

Guess the NBA gods can now call it even after James ditched Cleveland for the super team in South Beach.

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Paul, Griffin, Jordan are not what’s wrong with the Los Angeles Clippers

Written by Ethan Feldman
Photo via Getty Images

On December 8th, 2011, NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed a multi-team trade between the L.A Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Hornets that would have dispatched Chris Paul to Los Angeles, sent Pau Gasol to Houston and delivered Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Louis Scola and a first-round pick to New Orleans.

As a result of Stern’s unprecedented intervention, on December 14th, 2011, The Los Angeles Clippers and the New Orleans Hornets agreed upon a trade that sent Chris Paul and two first round picks to Los Angeles while simultaneously sending Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and a future draft pick in the 2012 NBA Draft to the New Orleans.

Clippers fans relished the arrival of a bonafide superstar, as well the complete overhaul of a rag-tag group of perennial losers, which fostered an optimistic aura that surrounded the team. The organization had recently experienced a fortuitous draft that saw them acquire two burgeoning high-flyers in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Chris Paul’s virtuosic ability to cast lobs into the air, coupled with the prodigious explosiveness of Griffin and Jordan led to the coinage of “Lob City.”

It didn’t take long for the newly formed trinity to monopolize NBA highlights as the power forward and center combination feasted on a myriad of bounce, no-look and lob passes courtesy of Cliff Paul’s twin brother.

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Photo via Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

However, if we fast-forward five seasons to the Clippers’ game 7 loss to the Utah Jazz in the second round, this Clippers team has yet to reach the conference finals and has been universally deemed a failure.

Some critics point to Chris Paul who has yet to reach the Western Conference Finals, others point to Blake Griffin and question his leadership abilities as well his toughness and durability. However, both of these players are elite at their respective positions as Paul and Griffin have both been in the top 20 for Box Plus Minus since the 2011-2012 season and Chris Paul ranks third all-time in Box Plus Minus second to only Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

This individual success of the Clippers’ two all-stars begs the question: Why have the Clippers failed to make the Western Conference Finals?

Since the inception of their “Big 3”, the two most glaring liabilities for the Clippers have been their lack of an offensively talented small forward and the lack of a formidable bench.

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Photo via Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press

Since the Paul trade, the Clippers have deployed an elderly Caron Butler, a geriatric Paul Pierce, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Wesley Johnson and Luc Mbah A Moute as their veritable revolving door of small forwards. While some these players provided a level of toughness, only Dudley and Butler were reliable shooter’s and both players struggled to create their own shots.

Although the instability at the small-forward position has been troublesome for the Clippers, the most glaring problem for the clippers has been their abysmal bench. Spearheaded by Jamal Crawford, an inefficient ISO player who is incapable of playing defense, the Clips’ bench has annually underperformed. J-Crossover joined the ‘Clips’ the year after the Chris Paul trade, and ever since his arrival it seems as though the ostentatious sixth man is more interested in accruing four-point-plays than contributing to winning basketball.

This bench conundrum has persisted since Chris Paul arrived, but was notoriously concerning this year. During the 2016-2017, the Clipper’s starting unit of Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Luc Mbah a Moute, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan ranked second in Points Minus Opponents Points, trailing only the Golden State Warriors’ star-studded five. Additionally, the trio of Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul are the only set of teammates that rank in the top 35 in John Hollinger’s Value Added statistic.

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Photo via Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

However, before we examine the Clippers bench this past season, it’s imperative that we understand what decisions the Clippers front office has made over the past several seasons.

The Good: 

  • Trading for J.J. Redick
  • Trading for Austin Rivers, a young lottery pick who did not fit well in New Orleans.
  • Re-signing Chris Paul
  • Re-signing Blake Griffin
  • Re-signing DeAndre Jordan
  • Signing Luc Mbah a Moute to a multi-year contract

The Bad: 

  • Orchestrating a trade would send future 20 PPG scorer Eric Bledsoe to the Phoenix Suns in exchange for Jared Dudley
  • Signing C Byron Mullens to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year.)
  • Signing Glen Davis to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA following Davis’ second year with the Clippers)
  • Signing Danny Granger to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year)
  • Signing Jordan Farmar to a multi-year contract (out of the NBA within a year)
  • Signing, and then giving up on SF Joe Ingles who would go on to be an above average player.
  • Signing C Spencer Hawes to the mid-level exception only to trade him the following year
  • Signing Paul Pierce to a multi-year contract
  • Signing Austin Rivers to a three-year 35 million dollar contract
  • Re-signing Jamal Crawford to a multi-year contract
  • Opting not to protect their future 2011 lottery pick in the trade that sent Baron Davis to Cleveland ( The Cavs’ ended up drafting Kyrie Irving).
  • Signing Marreese Speights to a multi-year contract

The aforementioned “good” signings secured a fantastic nucleus for the Clippers, but the “bad” signings contributed to years of post-season failure and have led to a perpetually poor bench.

This Clippers team did not have a good bench going into the 2016-2017 season, but this season was thought to be the year where that all would change. With the continued growth of Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson, the addition of a proven point guard in Raymond Felton, instant offense in Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass who was coming off of the most efficient year of career with the Lakers, the Clippers bench appeared to be poised to be serviceable.

Unfortunately, The bench has not lived up to its expectations. The Clippers tended to play four guys off of the bench and none of their bench players provided a positive impact on their team, barring Marreese Speights who was only marginally a plus.

Box Plus Minus’ For The Clippers Bench: 

Austin Rivers: -1.6

Raymond Felton: -0.9

Wesley Johnson: -1.8

Marreese Speights: 0.7

Brandon Bass: -0.7

Paul Pierce: -4.4

Alan Andersen: -4.9

Five of The Most Used Four-Man Bench Units For The Clippers Bench: 

Bass, Crawford, Felton, Speights: -11.4 points per 48 minutes

Crawford, Rivers, Speights Felton: -3.2 points per 48 minutes

Felton, Johnson, Rivers, Speights: -2.9 points per 48 minutes

Crawford, Felton, Johnson,Rivers: -2.8 points per 48 minutes

Bass, Crawford, Rivers, Speights: -1.6 points per 48 minutes

This is not a formula for a deep postseason run. Paul, Griffin and Jordan routinely perform at an elite level, but it takes more than a prolific starting five to go far in the NBA playoffs.

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Photo via Larry W. Smith / EPA

Overall, when healthy, the starting five for the Los Angeles Clippers shows up, but is indubitably hindered by a lackluster bench. The narrative that Griffin and CP3 are “chokers” is as far from the truth as possible. Paul’s playoff PPG(18.7 vs. 21.2) and BPM(7.6 vs. 8.5) are higher in the playoffs than they are in the regular season and Griffin’s PPG (21.5 vs. 21.0) and BPM(4.1 vs. 3.7) are almost identical to his regular season statistics.

The Clippers front office must keep the “Big 3” intact this summer, while also beginning to construct a formidable bench if they want to have any legitimate chance at postseason success.

Misconception: Warriors and Cavs make NBA playoffs less exciting

 

Written by Rob Werner
Photo via ESPN Images

There has been a steady dose of complaining about the 2017 NBA Playoffs. Many are saying the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers are making the playoffs too predictable.

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith along with many fans and sports reporters have complained that the success of Golden State and Cleveland have made it a forgone conclusion that those two teams are headed to the NBA Finals for the third season in a row making the playoffs less exciting.

However, that is false.

The Warriors and Cavaliers are making the Playoffs more exciting, not less. The idea that two amazingly well-built teams with some of the NBA’s best players could meet for a third straight year on basketball’s biggest stage should have everyone salivating in excitement.

First off, there were some great series in the Playoffs starting in the first round.

The two biggest MVP candidates, James Harden and Russell Westbrook squared off in a thrilling series in which the Beard took the glory, helping the Rockets beat down the Thunder in five games.

The Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers met up in the first round and had a hard-fought series that went to a full seven games. The Jazz led by Gordon Hayward won a game seven on the road stunning Los Angeles.

The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs slugged it out in a series that featured fantastic defense by Tony Allen and Kawhi Leonard. It also produced exciting front court matchups with LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol battling against Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

In the East, the Boston Celtics and the Chicago Bulls played a physical first-round series that resulted in the Celtics winning four straight games after losing the first two.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors series was highly-competitive with Toronto winning in six games.

The Atlanta Hawks gave John Wall and the Wizards a tough first test in the first round.

Even the Pacers gave LeBron James a few tough games as the seven seed in Round 1 of the Playoffs.

The first round of the Playoffs was exciting series by series.

The Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards just wrapped up a fantastic seven-game series that looked like it could go either way.

Within the series fans saw two of the NBA’s best point guards face off as John Wall and Isaiah Thomas played some great basketball in the seven-game series.

John Wall saved the Wizards from elimination in Game 6 with a clutch go-ahead three-pointer to give his team a chance to win a Game 7 in Boston at the TD Garden.

Game 7 was a thriller coming down to the final minutes as Kelly Olynyk was the hero for the Celtics scoring 12 points in a three and a half-minute period of the fourth quarter to finish with 26 overall in the game.

While the Rockets and James Harden looked horrible in Game 6 against the San Antonio Spurs, the series was competitive with the Rockets forcing the Spurs to play some great basketball to advance to the Western Conference Finals.

The Spurs and Warriors will be an entertaining matchup as long as Greg Popovich is the head coach of San Antonio because he has had the Warriors number over the majority of his career.

Yes, losing Kawhi in Game 1 over a questionable foul by Zaza Pachulia is not what the NBA fans wanted, but the highly intelligent and defensive-minded Spurs against the offensive juggernaut that is the Warriors should entertain any NBA fan.

The Celtics and the Cavs will be exciting. Watching Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics use the grit that has gotten them to this point will at least force LeBron James and the rest of Cavaliers to play a very high level of basketball.

So, yes, it looks like it will most likely be Golden State and Cleveland facing off with a chance to win the Larry O’Brien trophy for the third time in as many years, but what’s wrong with that?

NBA fans are saying that there is no point of watching the other series when it’s so obvious that the Dubs and Cavs are on a collision-course that will see them meet in a third straight NBA Finals.

What is possibly boring about seeing a trilogy of two all-time great teams battling for a second title in three seasons?

NBA fans should want to see history unfold in the shape of two all-time great teams battling yet again, driving this rivalry further.

The discussion about if LeBron James is the greatest player in the history of the NBA is rising and rising and if he could take down a superteam like Golden State, it seems that many people would crown the King and say he has passed Michael Jordan as the greatest of all-time.

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Photo via The Australian

 

Stephen Curry and Co. are looking for redemption after failing to win last year’s championship after having the greatest regular season in NBA history.

Kevin Durant would get to face off against the King! KD, who it seems like everyone called out for trying to chase a ring and hopping on the Golden State bandwagon, would get to try to win the title that has long eluded him.

Kyrie against Steph another time would be about as exciting a point guard matchup as any in the NBA today.

Listen to Fox Sport’s Colin Cowherd talk about why the Warriors and Cavs would not be bad for the NBA at all, but rather very good.

If the Warriors and Cavaliers meet in the NBA Finals for a third straight year, it will be history.

NBA fans shouldn’t be unhappy or be complaining about the predictable NBA Finals matchup. It will be the most exciting and anticipated basketball played this whole season and there isn’t anyone who should be complaining that it will be the Warriors and Cavs once again.

 

Rob Werner is a contributing writer for The JR Report. For more news follow him on twitter @robwerner28. Continue reading “Misconception: Warriors and Cavs make NBA playoffs less exciting”

Saying Goodbye To An All-Time Great

 

Photo via Charles Krupa/AP Photo

Yesterday, the career of an NBA great came to a close when forward Paul Pierce and the Los Angeles Clippers lost Game 7, 104-91 to the Utah Jazz.

However, what Pierce will be remembered for is his time spent wearing green. The Kansas product was selected No. 10 overall in 1998 by the Boston Celtics and would go on to play 15 seasons in Boston.

Aside from a 2002 playoff run, Pierce was surrounded by marginal talent for much of the first half of his career. 10 years into his career Pierce was a perennial All-Star, however, being a member of the winningest franchise in the NBA, Pierce was viewed through a different lense. Being quartered in a city renown for athletic success, Pierce was seen as perhaps the best Celtic without a ring.

At this point in his career, Pierce had noticeably less bounce, more weight, and less quickness. However, Pierce still withheld deceptive speed and enjoyed an arsenal of potent old-man scoring moves. Every step Pierce took was calculated; using his strength and wits to get to where he needed to on the floor. 

On the other end of the floor, Pierce was quick enough to guard shooting guards like Dwayne Wade and Kobe Bryant and also strong enough to cover small forwards like LeBron James.

Pierce was never considered one of the top 3 individual players in the league, but, he was consistently a top-10 player. One of Pierce’s defining features was his ability to take over in big games. It was visible when Pierce was on his game, it was all in his body, as after a made basket he would leisurely bound down the court, his head slightly tilted upwards and a half grin shining across his face.

When he had it going, Pierce’s success seemed to bother his defenders an exceptional amount. Pierce’s game and swagger will forever cement him as one of the NBA’s most unique talents.

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Photo via the NBA’s official website

Fortunately, in the summer of 2007, general manager Danny Ainge engineered a number of moves to lure superstars Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston.

Pierce and the “Big 3” were coupled with a young pass-first point guard, Rajon Rondo, along with defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins. Off the bench, the 2008 Celtics featured a high sock wearing spark plug-in Eddie House, lockdown defender Tony Allen and reliable, modest forward, Leon Powe.

Unlike many teams experiencing significant roster turnover, the Celtics suffered no “growing pains” and cruised to the number 1 seed, winning 66 games along the way.

Nonetheless, one thing was apparent, this was Pierce’s team. When they desperately needed a bucket, the ball went to Pierce, when the game was on the line, the ball went to Pierce and when they finally won the championship, Pierce was the first to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy.

Winning the championship was a defining moment for both Pierce and the city of Boston. For many of the younger Celtics fans, Pierce was the “Larry Bird” of our generation. His win solidified him as a Celtic great and united him with all of the Celtics who won a championship in green before him.

Time for the Clippers to blow it up

Photo via Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Clippers have blown a series lead in five straight NBA playoffs. Their most recent, today’s loss against the Utah Jazz in Game 7 at Staples Center.

For whatever reason, the Clippers can’t get over the hump. It isn’t the championship hump, but a hump to just win enough playoff series to make at least to the Western Conference Finals.

Nonetheless, it is time for this team to be broken up. They are a good team, who will win 50 plus games in the regular season, but they won’t ever win an NBA championship.

They can’t get by teams in the first few rounds, so there is no chance they would ever get by a San Antonio or a Golden State.

Los Angeles would forever be stuck in purgatory. Not good enough to win a championship, but not bad enough to get a meaningful draft pick.

The Clippers should immediately re-sign guard Chris Paul. He is the identity and the makeup of the team. He provides immense toughness and is still one of the best players in all of the NBA. There is not much of a question here.

In addition, they should keep DeAndre Jordan. He is a game-changing center with immense talent on the defensive end. There are still many issues on offense, like free throws, but he and CP3 have great chemistry that shouldn’t be broken up.

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Photo via USA Today Sports Images

Nevertheless, they should look to get rid of forward Blake Griffin. Yes, he improved this year shooting the basketball and had better assist numbers, but the man has not helped them win basketball games. Whenever he gets hurt the team doesn’t lose any more games, but the same can’t be said for when Paul gets hurt.

They shouldn’t let him walk in free agency, but they should look to trade him. Trade him for some high draft picks and then use the money that would have gone to Griffin to attract another free agent.

The team would get better by using Griffin’s max contract on someone else. In 2018, there are many big name free agents. Therefore, they should re-sign Griffin, but look to trade him over next season to then cash in big time on the 2018 free agent class.

Maybe, things will work out next season and magically get better. If they do, then keep Griffin, but if they don’t, as expected, it will be time to trade Griffin.

With the trade, they can bring in a talented draft pick and another max player. The team will automatically be better. If the draft pick becomes a star, then they can compete with the Warriors and Spurs come June.

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Photo via USA Today Sports Images

In addition, coach Doc Rivers has to be on his last legs. If not this season, but definitely by next season, it will be time to move on from Rivers. He was overrated during his time in Boston because he got lucky to coach three future Hall of Famers.

Now with the talent of the Clippers, he can’t even get by the Utah Jazz.

Los Angeles should also take a look at getting rid of guard Jamal Crawford. He provides a nice spark on offense, but his defensive production is lacking, which shows itself during the playoffs.

As far as guard JJ Reddick is concerned, LAC should look to keep him. He fills a nice role for the Clippers and is a solid player. Every team needs their knock down three-point shooter to advance in the playoffs.

Ultimately, it is time for the Clippers to think hard about Doc Rivers and Blake Griffin. It might not be the time to get rid of them, yet, but the window is closing. Remember, the Warriors seemed to make a crazy move to fire Mark Jackson and hire Steve Kerr, but look at them now.

The well-calculated risk can not be overlooked.