Thursday, 29 November 2012

Week 13 in the weird world of the NFL

The world of NFL tipping is horrible sometimes.

I (and you, if you're following along) have recorded six straight weeks of over .500 tipping, and who do I go in the heaviest on? The Packers. Bye bye loose change. That's what I'd like to stress - pinpointing the best tips is hard. Just look at the last few weeks, and some of the teams I have collected on.

Week 12:

Kansas City
Saint Louis
Carolina

Week 11:

Buffalo
Arizona
Jacksonville

Obviously, it sucks sometimes to take these awful teams. But often they collect, double digit underdogs have a good record. In fact, the pick I've liked the least each week has come through for me. So, if you believe in my picks, and you have spare change, go all in. Back every single one. If you'd done that from the start you'd be in profit, as I'm now 51-31-1 on the year. It'll be hard to keep up that pace, but let me refresh - being over .500 at the end of the year is the main goal. So accept a few down weeks here and there, I'm not going to come through every week, and most importantly, enjoy following the games!

Onto week 13, starting with tomorrow's game in Atlanta.

New Orleans (+4.5) over Atlanta

As you're probably aware, I've been ranting and raving about how Atlanta have been undervalued all year. In my week 10 picks Atlanta were taken at -1 to beat the Saints. They lost, and haven't won a game by more than four points since. Not really sure why the Saints are suddenly greater underdogs, San Francisco is a tough team to face so I'm not reading too much into that result. No matter what side of this line you take, the match should be a cracker. 

Jacksonville (+6) over Buffalo

I was always in the Chad Henne camp, and now he's taken over from Blaine Gabbert the Jaguars have stopped being a complete laughingstock. And only a complete laughingstock should be getting six points from the Bills, who's defence is improving as their offence is regressing. I made the mistake of not taking the Jaguars last week, and six points is too much here.

Chicago (-4) over Seattle

Ahh Chicago. Unsure if Jay Cutler was playing, I took Minnesota last week, only for Cutler to turn up and destroy the flailing Vikes. So, why are they only giving four points to the awful-on-the-road Seahawks? Matt Forte is in doubt but he's been rubbish all year (must have been my Fantasy curse), so don't read too much into that. The Seahawks are 1-5 on the road this year, only beating Carolina, so back Chicago.

Detroit (-4.5) over Indianapolis

This really is just a stay-away game for me. It's hard to trust either team, with Detroit being incredibly inconsistent and Indy being poor on the road (only wins coming against Jacksonville and Tennessee). 

It shows how stupid the NFL is sometimes that a 7-4 team is getting nearly five points from a 4-7 team and yet I'm taking the 4-7 team. Detroit get the edge here due to added rest and Indy's bad road form, but it's not a confident play.

Minnesota (+9.5) over Green Bay

Sorry Green Bay. I know you could go out and score 50, but that sham of an offensive line means I'm not backing you as nine point favourites.

Sincerely, angry tipster.

Houston (-5.5) over Tennessee

Too small this line is. The Texans are a far better team than the Titans, full stop. Their defence has been shaky in recent weeks but cornerback Jonathan Joseph is returning which should provide a boost, while Tennessee have had an offensive coach change, which may limit their potential for points come game-time.

To be honest, all these reasons above should be irrelevant, because the gap between the two teams is so wide.

Carolina (-2.5) over Kansas City

Unfortunately I was too late to prosper on when this line was a pick'em, as clearly all people with a brain realised that Kansas City shouldn't be at a pick'em with any team in the league. And 2.5 points isn't enough to make me change my pick, Carolina are travelling on a short week, but that doesn't change the fact that the Chiefs QB is still Brady Quinn.

San Francisco (-7) over Saint Louis

Another re-match from a few weeks ago, this time I got the pick right, taking Saint Louis as double digit underdogs in the infamous tie game. This time, I think San Francisco will get it done in a semi-revenge game.

My concerns with the 49ers and their ability to score enough points has gone with the installation of Colin Kaepernick as quarterback, and they should score enough here to cover. Or, conversely, he could have his coming back to earth game which I predicted last week. Let's hope not.

New England (-7.5) over Miami

I guessed this line right on, which is always annoying when you're trying to pick a side with value. As uber-Pats fan Bill Simmons said, the Pats will either win by 30 or it'll come down to the last play. I'll err on the side of Tom Brady and hope for a repeat of the Thanksgiving game.

New York Jets (-4.5) over Arizona

Don't you hate it when two teams you successfully picked against last week play each other? This is definitely the "Awful Game of the Week", but the Cardinals have been dreadful with Ryan Lindley under centre, while the Jets are good basically half the time, this should be one of those occasions.

Tampa Bay (+8) over Denver

If anyone knows what the line setters are doing here with these two teams please leave me a note. Tampa were seriously underrated until being overrated last week, as were Denver. Now it seems like it's back to normal, after Tampa played hard against Atlanta and Denver looked dodgy against KC. Eight points seems like a lot for a quality side like Tampa who can move the ball, I'm taking the Bucs once again. 

Cincinnati (+2) over San Diego

Why are San Diego continually favoured to beat average teams? San Diego are clearly worse than average, as the hilarious Ray Rice 4th and 29 conversion (aka the greatest play in history) showed. Cincinnati are just a better team, as much as I think they're overrated.

Baltimore (wait) v Pittsburgh

Another dreaded game I'm forced to wait on, with it unknown as to whether Big Ben will suit up. I'm probably taking the underdog either way, as these awesome rival games are always close, but I'll post out my tip before the game after we have some clarity - follow me on twitter @NiallGunner if you want the tip. 

Oakland (-1.5) over Cleveland

Wait, this might actually be the "Awful Game of the Week", as well as the "Stay-away of the week". This was the only line I could find on this game, but Brandon Weeden or Colt McCoy, it doesn't really matter. Oakland are really bad but Cleveland struggled to beat an awful Steeler team who coughed up the ball eight times. I don't feel confident at all either way on this one.

Philadelphia (+10.5) over Dallas

WOW! Finally, the line setters have finally come to their senses on the Eagles. Except they've gone too far, as Dallas shouldn't be double digit favourites against anyone, especially not against a division rival. And remember, double digit underdogs come in more times than not, so even this dismal Eagles outfit has a chance to cover for once.

New York Giants (-2) over Washington

I hate the Giants. And nobody wants to hear the rant behind this, so just know that when I take the Giants it's never fun. But I think it has to be done here, after being three point favourites against Green Bay this line makes no sense. But then again, the Giants make no sense, and I'm never wasting my money on a game they're involved in again.

There you are, these posts are getting longer and longer with the bye weeks all done, hopefully I'm not wasting my time and it'll be a seventh straight week over .500, good luck!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Edge sacked as Waikato FC look for change

Editor's Note: All readers from the UK/US/anywhere bar New Zealand, feel free to skip this post related to New Zealand football, I'll be back with my week 13 picks most likely tomorrow. For now, here's a piece I made last night when the news of Declan Edge's firing broke.

Declan Edge has been sacked by Waikato FC following a dire start to the season for the Hamilton-based franchise, with assistant Mark Cossey being promoted in his place.

Waikato FC sit bottom of the ASB Premiership ladder with zero points, having only mustered one goal in their four matches, while conceding at a rate of three a game. Waikato FC chairman Brendon Coker admits that “there was a realisation that things would not get any better until there was a strategic change, and introduction of a game plan more suited to the abilities of the players”.

Edge took over Waikato FC at short notice in 2011, after an earlier spell as co-coach from 2004 to 2006, but his reign only produced two wins from 18 matches, with his sides often showing potential but lacking product. The possession based football he preached produced occasional moments of brilliance, but often lacked goals, with Waikato FC averaging a measly one goal per game under his tenure. Cossey, who is the long serving coach of Hamilton Wanderers, is keen to change that.

“Deep down Declan’s philosophy and work with younger players was very good, but I hope to bring a bit more directness to Waikato’s play, because at the end of the day it is all about goals – that is how we keep score,” Cossey said.

Waikato’s poor start to the season has been compounded by several factors – largely the knee injury to star player Adam Thomas which has seen him miss three straight games. Edge’s side also had several key decisions go against them, and endured a tough opening schedule having played the top three sides in the standings.

Despite this, Waikato have failed to create clear goal-scoring opportunities under Edge’s tutelage, with opposition sides dominating territory and creating far more chances.

Squad personal is unlikely to change under Cossey’s watch, but the Hamilton Wanderers coach may be keen to give more game time to his club players, with only Jordan Shaw managing to get on the pitch under Edge.

Cossey mentions that “There are a couple of players I would like to talk to, but nothing has changed in terms of club finances. There is no money, so all I can sell to players is the idea that we need a strong franchise here in the Waikato.”

It is understood that Edge will take up a coaching position at Wellington’s Ole Academy, while Cossey will be left with the task of getting Waikato’s first points of the season against Manawatu this weekend.


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Week 12: Taking Terrible Teams

Welcome to From The Carpark, where I am thankful for the incompetency of: Jim Schwartz, Jason Hanson, Tony Romo for half the game, Felix Jones, and the whole New York Jets. Because of these wonderful people, I went 2-0-1 on the Thanksgiving picks.

One thing I am not thankful for however, is this week's NFL schedule, which is filled with a bunch of rubbish match-ups, meaning I'm taking a lot of terrible teams. I'm now 45-24-1 on the year, not bad!

Week 12 Picks:

Oakland (+10) over Cincinnati

That's right, I'm taking possibly the worst defensive team in the league, a team which has given up 136 points in its last three games. The reason? I don't believe in Cincinnati, and I don't think Andy Dalton deserves a double digit spread against any team.

And remember, in the past few weeks 75% of the teams who were double digit underdogs covered, it's just the way to go sometimes even with terrible teams. Just wait and see...

Pittsburgh (pick) over Cleveland

Terrible game no.2! Should Cleveland be in a pick'em with any team in the league? Even a team with Charlie Batch under centre? Either way, the awfulness of this match-up is great for the Ravens, hopefully the Browns can sneak a win but I wouldn't count on it.

Indy (-2.5) over Buffalo

A would-be terrible game saved by the fact that it'll be a shoot-out (like all Bills games really). Andrew Luck is good at home, better than Ryan Fitzpatrick away, and better than the Bills D anywhere. That's all there is to this one.

Kansas City (+11.5) over Denver

Kansas City have won two of their last three games versus Denver.

That's all I've got. I've got a strategy that's worked, I'm sticking to it, no matter how bad Kansas City is. Can you tell this is my most hated pick of the week?

If I pull this one off I'll be shocked, but stranger things have happened. Give the ball to Jamaal.

Seattle (-2.5) over Miami

Seattle are obviously a much better home team than on the road, but Miami just aren't good. I believe Pete Carroll knows how important a game this is for their playoff aspirations, and I think the Seahawks will get up on the road

Minnesota (+6.5) over Chicago

A few lines have been posted for this game, with Jay Cutler not confirmed as being healthy to start yet. I'll update this post if anything is confirmed but the Bears have just been so dodgy recently that I'll take the Vikes

Atlanta (pick'em) over Tampa Bay

I've been riding Tampa for ages now, and even I don't get this line, not one bit. It seems like a massive overcorrection from the line-makers in favour of the Bucs, and given they BARELY escaped against the Panthers last week I think the Falcons are value here.

Matt Ryan won't throw five picks again (probably in his career), and Atlanta are just better than the Bucs. It'll be down to earth for Tampa followers this week.

Saint Louis (+1.5) over Arizona

Am I concerned that Saint Louis were so terrible against the Jets? Yes. Does that concern leave me when I go back and look at Arizona's performance last week? Hell yes.

There were incredible scenes from the Cardinals last week, where they became the first team since 1967 to lose when the opposing QB threw 5 picks with no TD's. They benched John Skelton after 3 possessions, replacing him with Ryan Lindley. I did a whole piece on back-up quarterbacks and even I didn't know who he was.

Turns out he's just a bad QB, going 9 of 20 for 64 yards. Hard to back as a favourite.

Tennessee (-4) over Jacksonville

Went back and forth on this one. I think four points is probably a little too much, but I'm going to class the Jags performance against the Texans in the "fluke" category, and hope that Tennessee's weapons are enough to cover the spread.

Baltimore (pick'em) over San Diego

I know my Ravens are overrated, but we deserve more respect than this! The great thing about pick'ems is that you, well, pick em! And heads up I reckon that the Ravens are in slightly less disarray than the Chargers.

New Orleans (+1) over San Francisco

This is a total gut call, I'm predicting a heavy grounding for Colin Kaepernick after his very impressive performances in the past two weeks. Plus, New Orleans have turned themselves into a very good team, and their offensive juggernaut might be enough to get them across the line. Game of the week.

Green Bay (+3) over New York Giants

I hate the Giants. This year they've had losses to the Cowboys, Eagles, Steelers, and Bengals (by 18), have benefited hugely from an easy schedule, and have only really had one statement win (over the 49ers) which would qualify them to be three point favourites over a really good team.

Of course, they could very easily pull a typical Giant-like win out of the bag, but that doesn't mean they should be favoured to do so.

Carolina (+2.5) over Philadelphia

I have successfully picked against Philly for several weeks now, and there's no way I'm changing after what was possibly their worst performance of the year against the Redskins.

Meanwhile, Carolina have been competitive and unlucky, and probably have a much higher Pythagorean expectation than their total wins. (I have no idea how to look this up, save me Bill Barnwell!).

So why are Philly, losers of six straight (and the last four by 13 points or more) favoured? Beats me. Find me a man whose backing them this week and I'll show you a mammoth risk-taker.

So that's that, a crazy week in NFL, with far too many back-up quarterbacks and bad teams playing each other for my liking, but let's hope for a sixth straight over .500 week.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Thanksgiving Picks

Welcome back everyone to the picks column, a 8-6 week last time out which could have been so much better, at one stage I was 7-2. But I can't complain too much about the annoying late covers as I scored two myself - Green Bay and Tampa getting it inexplicably done late. Still, another week over .500, I'm now 43-24 on the year.

Let's get onto the three Thanksgiving games, last time I did picks separately it backfired (thanks Jason Campbell...), and I'm not feeling too confident about two of these. Let's start with...

Houston (-3) over Detroit

Sometimes, the line is pretty spot on, so you just have to take the better side. Houston are clearly the better side in this match-up, despite their performance against Jacksonville last week. 

Talk of Houston being tired, although true, is largely irrelevant - they only played a few extra minutes than the Lions. Detroit do have the potential to go off, and I'm slightly scared of the Thanksgiving potential here, but as a Matt Stafford fantasy owner I can tell you that it's hopeless trying to predict when he'll play well.

Take Houston here and hope Detroit don't finally fire.

Washington (+3.5) over Dallas

Stay away. Stay well away. But since I pick every game, I have to make a play on this, so here goes:

Out of Dallas's last six games, only one has been decided by more than six points. Even though Dallas are surprisingly proficient in November, they don't thrash teams, last week's game being an accurate reflection. Washington are an absolute crapshoot, so really anything can happen in this game, that's why I'm taking the points.

New England (-7) over New York

And here we have the final tough-to-predict Thanksgiving game. Every week I seem to be going the opposite way with the Patriots, who are annoyingly inconsistent. Thought they could cover double digits against Buffalo and they look dreadful, back Indianapolis against them and they fire on all cylinders and win by 35.

The main reason I'm backing them here is because the Jets (who hindered a multi last weekend), still aren't very good. I know they kept it close last time, but surely two good offensive performances in a row won't happen, even against the Patriots awful secondary.

So there's the three picks, back them if you're confident (stay clear of Washington and Dallas though), and I'll be back on the weekend with the rest of the week's picks, hopefully with some clarity on the many quarterback injuries in the league at the moment. Until then.

Monday, 19 November 2012

The MNF Pick: Chicago at San Francisco

Back-up Quarterbacks.

They strike fear into everyone except opponents. Killer of seasons, they also make tipping very very hard (As shown by Byron Leftwich trying to crush my Ravens cover right at this moment).

But occasionally, just sometimes, they can hold their own. Think Matt Moore, Matt Hasselbeck, Matt (seems to be a trend here...) Flynn, Chad Henne, Joe Webb and of course Tim Tebow.

I think Jason Campbell is as good as all of them. 

This may not seem shocking to you, but the hate directed at him after the Texans game was very puzzling to me. In atrocious conditions, Campbell put up 94 yards on 11/19 passing. Compare that to Jay Cutler, who put up 40 yards with 2 picks. Shouldn't it have been Cutler who got the blame? Surprisingly, for once it wasn't. 

Is Jason Campbell better than Cutler? No. Is he capable of keeping the Bears in the game against the 49ers? Yes. People are forgetting how competent he was for Oakland before the Raiders decided to give up that awful bounty for Carson Palmer. Let me run through some stats:

Career completion percentage: 61%
Yards per pass: 6.7
TD to INT ratio: 74:50

Add in 1,000 career rushing yards and you have a quarterback who should be a starter in this league, and it's not even arguable given some of the atrocious QB situations held by some teams. So that is why...

Chicago (+7.5) over San Francisco

As a side note, Alex Smith isn't even confirmed as starter yet, having to pass some tests the day of the game, and I'm not a massive fan of taking San Francisco to cover large spreads, especially with their run defence regressing recently.

Of course, I'm scared of the bounce-back factor after the tie (loss) with Saint Louis, and I'm not 100% certain that Chicago have the firepower to win. But I have faith in you Jason Campbell!

Don't let me down.....

Thursday, 15 November 2012

NFL Picks - Week 11: How Much Is Too Much?

The streak continues!

Without wanting to blow my own trumpet, this run of spread picking is the most incredible thing to happen, since, well, ever. (You don't agree?) A quality 8-6 week last week puts me now 35-18 for the year, and (this time in all seriousness), I'm pretty stoked with how things are going. If only people would stop asking me about the worst tip to make in the world, multi's.... This week there are a few lines I love, and a few on which I am truly stuck on.

Let's start Week 11 with the Friday night game here in New Zealand.

Buffalo (-1) over Miami

This is a terrible, terrible game, possible worse than the Indianapolis v Jacksonville game last week (way to go NFL!). After Miami's implosion against a previously-terrible Tennessee team they might now be as bad as the Bills, who at least have some offensive weapons. It'd be nicer if Fred Jackson was certain to play, but even still I'm taking the Bills at home.

Arizona (+10.5) over Atlanta

The battle of the birds, and I do not like this line at all, it's spot on in my estimation. But after last week's double-digit spread covers, I'm not that keen to take any teams on such large covers, especially a Falcons side that hasn't blown many teams out. I know the Cardinals are rather bad, but so are the Chiefs and the Bills and the Jags and the endless number of teams who've covered the big spreads. Cardinals it is.

Dallas (-7.5) over Cleveland

I know the Browns tend to keep things close, but this is Dallas in November we're talking about! I would also point out that this is a must-win game, but that doesn't really make any difference to the Cowboys' play, if anything it might make them worse. Stay away from this one if you can.

Green Bay (-3.5) over Detroit

This line is too small. Detroit have predictably regressed this season, while Green Bay are a much better football team. Green Bay are coming off four straight nine-point wins, while Detroit were easily disposed of by Minnesota. What am I missing here? Seems like another road favourite who is priced too low. Just like.....

Cincinnati (-3) over Kansas City

Yes, Kansas City put up a good performance against the Steelers last week. They're still 1-8. I'm not sold on the Bengals but they were far more impressive last week against the Giants, and with the Chiefs on a short week, and you know, being 1-8, they should be favoured by more here.

Saint Louis (-3) over New York Jets

The Jets just aren't very good. It's true that they don't have an above average player at any position, and while I think this line is a little over-reactionary to the Rams fascinating tied game last weekend, I'm not picking the Jets after they've been blown out by 20 in their last two games.

Washington (-1.5) over Philadelphia

*Sigh*. Is this really what it has come to Philly? I knew you were bad, but taking points against the Redskins, and me agreeing with the line? This is a new level of sadness I'm afraid. The Eagles really could be 1-8 right now, and have lost their last five. I know Washington are a bit rubbish too, but Philly could legitimately be one of the worst five teams in the league right now. Oh, and I'm benching RG3 in fantasy, so he's going to come up with a big game. That much is sure.

Tampa Bay (Pick'em) over Carolina

This line starting at one and a half, and for some reason has come all the way in to be at even, and I really don't know why. Sure, the Panthers are better than their record suggests, but the Josh Freeman, Doug Martin and the Jackson/Williams receiver combo have been playing far better this year than the Newton/awful running back carousel/Steve Smith combination.

I've been riding the Bucs for some time now, and I think there's a least another week left in them before I buck the trend (sorry).

Jacksonville (+16.5) over Houston

This is a greater extreme of what I said for the Cardinals game earlier. If I'm correct this is the biggest line since the Patriots Colts farce last season, in which the line reached the 20's. Again, the Jags could easily be the worst team in the league, but the NFL is so competitive, anything can happen on a given day, and with a long break the Jags will be fully rested. Chad Henne, who I believe is an upgrade over Blaine Gabbert, might also get some game time. (I'm searching here for justifications). Simply put, I can't take a team giving nearly two touchdowns and a field goal. Let's cross our fingers for horrible weather.

New Orleans (-4.5) over Oakland

This line makes so little sense that I'm scared. Oakland were getting seven and half points against my Ravens, who then crushed them by 30. Oakland can't stop anyone, what luck do they have stopping what is possibly the best offence in the league, and why are they only getting four and a half points? 

Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal called this the trap games of all trap games on their fantastic Guessing The Lines podcast, but if it's a trap game, that means the line is weird. And sometimes, the line is weird because it's wrong. And I believe this one is wrong. One things for sure, nobody can be taking Oakland here.

Denver (-7.5) over San Diego

Yeah.... the Chargers aren't good. I don't particularly like the line, but when San Diego are losing by double digits to the Bucs I'm not sure you can back them to beat a far better team in the Broncos, who have won their last four games by eight or more points.

Indianapolis (+10) over New England

I could very easily be totally wrong on this one. Every week, I pick the Patriots to break out of their slump and crush someone, and although I got it right against the Rams, I was wrong last week against the Bills. The Colts are a better team than the Bills, they've have a few extra days rest, and there's no way the Patriots' atrocious secondary will be stopping Andrew Luck and the Colts' passing game. I see the Colts scoring at least 20 points here, it'll just come down to whether the Pats can get ten more.

Baltimore (-3.5) over Pittsburgh

Even without Big Ben, this game will be close. I originally had the Steelers pegged in here, but with the mammoth line change as everyone scrambles to back against Byron Leftwich I think I have to take my beloved Ravens here too. I predict we'll attempt to shut down the run, and let Leftwich attempt to beat us in the air. If good Joe Flacco turns up it should be a win for Baltimore, in a hugely important game for both teams. And I'll be stuck in a maths exam calculating rates of change when integrating. Let's say that's not the most popular exam on the list.....

Chicago (wait) at San Francisco

A special treat for my five readers, due to the uncertainty around both Alex Smith and Jay Cutler, I'm holding this pick back for a separate post after either all is certain or just before the game. By then we should be able to see whether my above .500 streak holds, or whether I've crashed and burned.

Looking forward to this packed NFL weekend, back these plays and hope for best! 


Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Breaking down NBA Clutchness: Position by Position

Clutch is a word tossed around far too often. I'm dubious such a word even exists in the non-car related term. But so many great NBA arguments revolve around the debate of "Who is Clutch?". Thanks to 82games, we have definitive stats. But one thing which isn't provided is position by position analysis. Which small forward shoots the best in clutch situations? How many shooting guards shoot higher percentages than the supposedly clutch Kobe Bryant? From The Carpark is here to help you find out. All lists are limited to players averaging above 10FGA per 48 in clutch scenarios.

Let's start with the players who have the highest chance of shooting high percentages, the big men:

Centres:

Andrew Bynum (82%)
Tim Duncan (57%)
Nene (56%)
Dwight Howard (54%)
Greg Monroe (53%)
Drew Gooden (46%)
Roy Hibbert (45%)
Channing Frye (44%)
Marc Gasol (43%)
Al Jefferson (42%)
Marcin Gortat (41%)
DeMarcus Cousins (31%)
Chris Kaman (30%)

Obviously centres are the players who are least involved during clutch time play, as most centres aren't elite scorers for their respective teams, thus the rather small portion of centres who qualify. Despite this, Andrew Bynum percentages are phenomenal. Even his free-throw percentage, which sits at 67% for this career, shoots up to 86% in the clutch. Not many surprises here other than DeMarcus Cousins' dreadful stats, and the random appearance from Drew Gooden. Yes, I include Duncan as a centre, as he plays most of his minutes there these days, and Al Jefferson should receive a 20% boost for his crazy three yesterday, but unfortunately that'd be biased. Onto a group with a large sample size:

Power Forwards:

Gustavo Ayon (67%)
Patrick Patterson (65%)
Chris Bosh (57%)
Ersan Ilyasova (50%)
Kris Humphries (48%)
Al Harrington (48%)
Pau Gasol (47%)
Brandon Bass (45%)
Kevin Love (44%)
David Lee (44%)
Josh Smith (43%)
Blake Griffin (43%)
Trevor Booker (42%)
LaMarcus Aldridge (41%)
Paul Millsap (40%)
David West (39%)
Dirk Nowitzki (39%)
Ryan Anderson (39%)
Luis Scola (38%)
Kevin Garnett (38%)
Amare Stoudemire (33%)
Antawn Jamison (28%)

Gustavo Ayon and Patrick Patterson???? I'm shocked that they even qualified for this list. Bosh's clutch numbers have improved on Miami, as opposing teams being forced to guard (and often double) LeBron and D-Wade is giving him a lot of open shots.

One of the sad things of lists like these is having your opinions shot down. I've always loved watching David West in the clutch. Turns out he's worse than Trevor Booker.

Small Forwards: 

Paul Pierce (55%)
Rudy Gay (51%)
Chandler Parsons (50%)
Hedo Turkoglu (50%)
Danny Granger (48%)
Grant Hill (44%)
Shawn Marion (42%)
Kevin Durant (41%)
LeBron James (39%)
Marvin Williams (37%)
Carmelo Anthony (35%)
Trevor Ariza (35%)
Jared Dudley (33%)
Caron Butler (29%)
Mike Dunleavy (29%)
Carlos Delfino (27%)
Tayshaun Prince (27%)
CJ Miles (24%)
Danilo Gallinari (24%)
Andre Iguodala (24%)

Some very odd stuff in this list, first of all the small forward pool is slightly depleted due to me putting a lot of 2/3 players into the shooting guard category, but secondly because of the low percentages shot. Danilo Gallinari and Andre Igoudala both hit under a quarter of their shots in clutch time last year, but of course both hit huge threes to beat the Warriors. Curse it all!

In yesterday's Rockets Heat game I made several jokes, the gist of them being that "I can't believe how fortunate I am to see two of the league's greatest players go at it down the stretch here". The first player was obviously LeBron, the second? Chandler Parsons. Seems like I shouldn't have been joking about it, superb clutch numbers from the underrated Rocket.

Shooting Guards:

Tony Allen (80%)
John Salmons (53%)
Marco Belinelli (52%)
Anthony Morrow (50%)
JJ Redick (50%)
Gary Neal (50%)
Monta Ellis (47%)
Joe Johnson (47%)
Jason Terry (45%)
Ray Allen (44%)
Tyreke Evans (40%)
Gordon Hayward (40%)
Marcus Thornton (39%)
Jordan Crawford (39%)
Dwyane Wade (38%)
Wes Matthews (37%)
Randy Foye (35%)
Kobe Bryant (33%)
Arron Afflalo (32%)
DeMar DeRozan (32%)
Paul George (27%)
Klay Thompson (27%)
OJ Mayo (26%)
Danny Green (25%)
Kevin Martin (19%)

That's right, Tony Allen, the man who sets the yearly record for "Most Missed Layups", shoots 80% in the clutch. No, I have no idea either. The next two players on the list are just as confusing, how exactly were Salmons and Belinelli on the floor in any clutch situations? You got me. No surprise to see a lot of high-volume shooters near the bottom of this list, and everyone should have fully debunked the "Kobe is clutch" myth even before these numbers came out.
James Harden didn't make the cut for the list, surprisingly he didn't have enough shots in the clutch, but for those interested, he sits at 30%. 

Point Guards:

Goran Dragic (70%)
Jrue Holiday (65%)
Kyrie Irving (54%)
Rodney Stuckey (52%)
Jose Calderon (50%)
Russell Westbrook (49%)
Isaiah Thomas (48%)
Tony Parker (46%)
Steve Nash (44%)
Jarrett Jack (43%)
Brandon Knight (43%)
Chris Paul (42%)
Ricky Rubio (42%)
Jeff Teague (41%)
Raymond Felton (41%)
Mario Chalmers (41%)
Deron Williams (41%)
Mo Williams (41%)
Devin Harris (41%)
Ty Lawson (40%)
DJ Augustin (40%)
Andre Miller (38%)
Kyle Lowry (36%)
Derek Fisher (35%)
Lou Williams (35%)
Luke Ridnour (33%)
Jameer Nelson (33%)
Darren Collison (31%)
Mike Conley (29%)
Jamal Crawford (27%)
Rajon Rondo (26%)
Brandon Jennings (25%)
Jason Kidd (19%)
John Wall (17%)
Greivis Vasquez (14%)

As you can tell by the long list, point guards are ball hogs when it comes to the end of close games, and the vast majority of them shouldn't be. Ball-handlers, get it inside to your bigs!

It's amazing how much a game-winner can do for a player's clutch reputation. When Vasquez, for instance, hit a game-winner earlier this year, commentators claimed he had "ice water running through his veins". Simply, one massive shot rids memories of 25 missed shots.

So next time you get into a debate with someone over "clutchness", throw these stats at them, and see how they respond to being told that Gustavo Ayon and Tony Allen are clutcher than their favourite players. It's bound to be hilarious.


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The Stiem Machine

Editor's Note: This is the (long-awaited?) second part of From The Carpark's NBA Player Profiles. This time, I profile the great white shot-blocking phenomonon that is Greg Stiemsma. Enjoy.

There is a road well-travelled by promising basketball players. A highway stretch of local stardom, scholarships and success, with the ultimate destination being the NBA, home of the greatest basketballers in the world. Greg Stiemsma veered off the highway long ago, taking an off-road path filled with roadblocks, potholes and wrong turns, before finally turning up where h wanted to be.

This is a story unlike any other, where unwanted records were broken, racial stereotypes were encountered bad experiences were learnt from.

Greg Stiemsma's road started in Randolph, Wisconsin, a small, sterile, white middle-class town. Tall for his age, Stiemsma showed promise at basketball throughout high school, carrying his Randolph High team to three consecutive Division 4 state titles. He stood well above the pack, literally and figuratively. With a graduation class of only 46 students, Stiemsma earned the type of small-town fame that many dream of, and earned a college scholarship to Wisconsin.

Going from a town where "one night me and my buddies named every street in town" to a massive campus with 42,000 students came as a massive culture shock.

"Coming from a town of 1,500 people, it was huge. So there were a lot of people looking up to me and still now. At times it got overwhelming".

Once his college career began, the once dominant behemoth gathered splinters on the bench, and struggled to come to terms with it. A foot fracture further compounded his misery, and led to a more derailing problem.

Unknown to most, Stiemsma was struggling to meet the academic levels required and was becoming more withdrawn from his teammates. Less structure in his life meant Stiemsma was skipping schoolwork; a problem which he says "got to the point of no return where it ended up not being able to be fixed"

It got worse - because of Stiemsma's poor grades, he ended up being declared academically ineligible for the final 15 games of his junior season. Stiemsma admits "Some tears were shed [when I found out]. I was just thinking of all the people I had let down, the whole town, my coaching staff, my teammates".

Forced to face his problems, Stiemsma visited a therpaist, and after many sessions was diagnosed with depression. Coming out and admitting his problems worked wonders, he admits. "I learned it is a grind at times, but you’ve got to keep your eye on the bigger prize, a longer way down the road”.
The little things began to positively snowball, and with tutoring being maximised, Stiemsma gained confidence. His grades moved back up and his effort on the court improved, admitting that it was ““a culmination of ‘Yeah, you messed up but you can’t let that be your defining moment’.

After his final year at Wisconsin, playing any form of professional basketball looked like a pipe dream. Stiemsma’s college stats (3 points per game, 11 minutes per game and 7 starts in his 4-year spell) certainly weren’t a calling card for overseas teams to flood to his door with contract offers.  But, surprisingly to Stiemsma, who says “there was definitely some doubt”, someone did come knocking.

Oyak Renault, a Turkish team, was looking for a young American big man. Stiemsma fitted the bill, and, thrilled to be getting paid to do what he loved, set off to earn his reps. “It was quite an experience”, he laughed.  “The weeks can get kinda long”.

A trip to basketball lightweights South Korea followed, where more strange experiences were endured.  The South Korean rules limited Stiemsma’s influence, as “only one American was allowed on the floor at the same time, and they could only play in the second and third quarter”.

After picking up experience overseas, a trip back to America was in order, where time was spent playing in the Development League, in Sioux. Stiemsma impressed, and was awarded with the Defensive Player of the Year trophy. It wasn’t just the D-League coaches who were impressed however, as the Boston Celtics, winner of 17 NBA championships, offered Stiemsma a minimum contract for the 2012 season.

Incredibly, Stiemsma became a vital cog of the Celtics team, stepping in after injuries decimated the Celtics centres, with Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Wilcox both suffering early season-ending injuries. His NBA stats eclipsed his performances for Wisconsin, racking up six blocks in his debut, and finishing the year second in blocks per 48 minutes. Stiemsma stepped up admirably in the playoffs also, as the Celtics just fell short of defeating the eventual champions the Miami Heat, while also earning outlandish comparisons to NBA great Bill Russell from prominent commentator Tommy Heinsohn.

His teammates valued his contributions immensely, with Celtics team leader Kevin Garnett saying of the man he affectionately calls “Steamboat” that “I truly hope that Danny (Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations) rewards him at the end, if not us, somebody at the end of the year, gives him something long term to where he can build off of, substantially.” Garnett’s thoughts were acted upon by the Minnesota Timberwolves, guaranteeing Stiemsma’s long-term future with a two-year contract worth $2.6 million dollars a year.

From sitting on the bench in Wisconsin, playing in the backwaters of Busan and Ankara, to playing in an iconic stadium alongside four future Hall of Fame players, it has been a wild rise up the ranks for Stiemsma. With his future set, Stiemsma can revel in the fact that the next time he’s overseas will be on vacation.

As spoken by somebody who knows how lucky he is, Stiemsma remarked that "Hopefully, I'll keep sticking around for as long as I can"

Sunday, 11 November 2012

NBA Notes: Rejecting Arguments

It has been a busy few days in the NBA, with some high-profile match-ups and decisions being made. With this has come some vast overreactions, and I'm here to reject these, and hopefully provide some common sense. Let's start with the big talking point in NBA circles, as always - the Lakers.

It was a colossal overreaction to fire Mike Brown

I think we should start with what is obvious. The Lakers will win 50 games no matter who their coach is. Although starting 1-4 (and 0-8 in the preseason) is shaky and hilarious, people are forgetting that this is what newly put together teams do (Remember the Heat struggling to break .500 in their first year?) Going out and blaming the Princeton offence was also funny, as it really has been the defence which has been the problem for the Lakers so far, which is always going to happen when you make your roster full of defensive liabilities right? Losing Steve Nash also hurt the system.

So why fire Brown, a good defensive coach with two years left on his contract? Because, as usual, a scapegoat was needed. Mitch Kupchak was hardly going to put his hand up and admit to the many weaknesses acquired in his purchases, nor was he to claim that the team just needed time to bond, even though that's the truth. The impatient Lakers fans wanted Brown out, and that's what they got. Let's see if Phil Jackson can teach the likes of Nash and Jamison to defend their men....

Onto the arena-sharing little siblings of the Lakers.

The Clippers are not title contenders

You would think this is obvious right? Apparently not. Gushing about the Clippers has been rife in the media recently, after a good start to the season. Despite this, I can't see them even getting close.

Sure, they have CP3, the best point guard in the league. Yes, they have Blake Griffin in the front-court, along with the admittedly improving DeAndre Jordan. Then there's the role players. The 12 role players who make up the rest of the roster. You heard me.

Chauncey Billups became overrated in his absence from the team, while Grant Hill is now simply a one-way player. Caron Butler, Matt Barnes, and Willie Green are below league-average in their positions, while Jamal Crawford and Eric Bledsoe provide energy but are extremely erratic.

The worst part of the Clippers however is their big man depth. After Blake and DeAndre (two terrible players to have on the court late by the way), there is a massive drop off. Lamar Odom isn't even trying out on the court, and if he did he still wouldn't offer much, while there's a reason Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf can't stay with a team for more than a year or two. Add to that the inept coaching of Vinny Del Negro and I see a team who won't be progressing past the second round of the playoffs.

Speaking of teams with awful bench units...

Portland won't make the playoffs

I have to play the devil's advocate here after the recent pro-Portland article posted here.

I'm unsure that Terry Stotts' men have enough depth to make a run at the two playoff spots available in the West. After their admittedly impressive starting five, there's very little impact players stashed on the bench of the Trail Blazers. Meyers Leonard is very raw, and........ that's about all they have really. Ronnie Price is the sixth man on this team, which just about says it all.

I expect Dallas, Utah and Minnesota all to have better records than Portland come the end of the year.

Finally, a thought on the rookies so far: 

For such a hyped draft class, the rookies have been underwhelming early into their careers. As expected, Anthony Davis is a stud, and while Damian Lillard has looked good in his first few games, he was a four year college graduate so it's not as surprising as people have made out. After these two however, it's a bit of a drop-off.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bradley Beal have started their NBA careers slowly but steadily, while Thomas Robinson has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Dion Waiters has been surprisingly decent in an exciting back-court, and Andre Drummond has been predictably up and down in Detroit.

The big disappointment so far has to be Harrison Barnes. Given a starter's role in Golden State, he's yet to find his feet, shooting 30% on threes and only averaging eight points and two rebounds per game. Hopefully, given time, he will improve those percentages and get more involved defensively.

One thing making this draft class underwhelming so far has been very few non-lottery selections making noise. Usually early in the season a few players pop up with some eye-catching performances, such as Kenneth Faried and Iman Shumpert last season.

That's not to say it won't happen, and I'd advise keeping an eye out for Tyler Zeller, Andrew Nicholson, Jae Crowder, Tyshawn Taylor and Jared Sullinger, all who have the right mix of talent and opportunity to make a difference for their respective teams.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Warlow's Wisdom: Portland Trail Blazers


Editors' Note: Welcome again to Warlow's Wisdom, where I hand over duties to the capable deputy Sam Warlow to hear his recap and predictions on his beloved Portland Trail Blazers. Missed the start of their season? All you need to know is here. Enjoy.

Just one week into the 2012-2013 NBA season, the Portland Trail Blazers are sitting at .500 with a 2-2 record. The Trail Blazers got off to a blazing (hah) start in their season opener at the Rose Garden against the new-look Los Angeles Lakers, beating them out 116-106, with sixth overall pick Damian Lillard recording 23 points and 11 assists in his debut, a feat only ever accomplished by the likes of Hall Of Famers Isiah Thomas and Oscar Robertson, and he is also the first rookie to score 21 or more points and record nine or more assists in his first game since LeBron James in 2003.
A highlight from this game was 7 straight points from one of Portland’s offseason acquisitions, none other than Serbia’s favourite Sasha Pavlovic! Although they were his only points of the night, he provided the spark for a run that would take the game out of reach for the Lakers, and Portland were able to put a strike in the win column to start the year.
Despite Portland being lead by Lillard’s historical performance, as well as a good scoring game from Wes Matthews, Dwight Howard still managed to have a massive night with 33 points, 14 rebounds,  five assists, a steal and a block in his debut wearing purple and gold.

Portland would lose their next game against division rivals and defending conference champs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, behind Russell Westbrook’s 32 points, with Durant also scoring 23 and nabbing 17 rebounds and newly acquired Kevin Martin pouring in 19 points in his second game for Oklahoma City. An All-Star last season, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge got right back in to it for Portland, scoring 22 points and pulling down 15 boards, and Lillard continued his impressive form with 21 points and seven assists in the 92-106 road loss. Portland’s undersized centre with the athleticism to make up for it, J.J. Hickson, had a big double-double in just 26 minutes with 12 boards and 14 points. Nicolas Batum was a non-factor (after top scoring for Portland against Los Angeles the previous game) as he struggled to a quiet three points, shooting an awful 1-11 from the field (in 37 minutes of play!) against the Thunder.

The very next night, Portland would have to go up against 2-0 Houston and their hot recently acquired guard James Harden, who was coming off a pair of spectacular games scoring 37 and 45 points against Detroit and Atlanta respectively. This challenge was met with open arms, and with neither Portland nor Houston shooting the ball very well (42% and 35% from the field respectively) Portland was trailing 78-81 with under a minute remaining. Wesley Matthews came up big hitting a huge 3-ball to tie the game at 81, and Harden had the ball taken away from him during Houston’s chance to win the game. Blazers won the game in overtime outscoring Houston by 10 in the overtime period and “holding” Harden to 24 points while forcing him to commit five turnovers, proving that they don’t fear the beard. LaMarcus Aldridge had a big game, dominating offensively with 27 points, and he also recorded 11 rebounds, six assists and two blocks in 45 minutes. Lillard was once again impressive, scoring 20 points and dishing out nine assists to go with six rebounds to continue making his early season case for Rookie of the Year.

The Trail Blazers were looking to go to 3-1 against the Dallas Mavericks to finish off their three game road trip, but things did not go quite as planned. With the Mavericks leading from their first possession all the way to the middle of the second quarter, Portland hung with Dallas and took a one point lead (48-47) with under four minutes remaining to give the game its first lead change. The Blazers lost the lead the very next possession, and they would never gain the lead back. Portland kept it close all the way to the fourth quarter, but behind O.J. Mayo’s spectacular birthday game, the Mavericks lead continued to grow as Dallas seemingly cruised to a 114-91 victory, outscoring the Blazers 31 to 12 in the 4th quarter.

Lillard cooled off in this one, coming back down to earth with just 13 points on 2-13 shooting, including 1-8 from deep (although he was a perfect 8-8 from the charity stripe!), and he recorded a season low five assists in 33 minutes of play. Portland’s star Aldridge still had a nice game, scoring 20 points to go with seven rebounds, two assists and a block. Mayo set the American Airlines Center on fire with 32 points, including six threes, although (as usual) scoring was all he provided. The story of this game is told by the fact that Portland wasn’t sharing the ball, with the entire team combining for just 13 assists (a feat that Darren Collison accomplished by himself this game) compared to the Mavericks’ 29. Portland dominated the offensive glass pulling down 23 rebounds compared to the Mavericks’ two, which is expected as Dallas were shooting the lights out (62% FG, 50% from three) and there were no offensive boards to grab, compared to Portland shooting a fairly poor 39% for the game and just 22% from beyond the arc. 

The stats really tell the story for this game as Portland struggled shooting the ball, particularly in the 4th quarter where they let inconsistent play turn a two point deficit in the fourth become a 23 point loss within 10 minutes. In the end, the Dirk-less Mavericks got the easy win at home, mainly due to Portland’s woeful shooting and O.J. Mayo’s birthday celebrations.

So that is a wrap on Portland’s season so far. Tonight they face a tough game against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the fact that the game is in the Rose Garden should help out the Blazers a huge amount.


Now to a preview of what we can expect from the Blazers this season:

    1. We can expect lot of pick and roll/pick and pop plays between Lillard and Aldridge. Aldridge’s unblockable 20 foot jumper will allow Lillard and Aldridge to create a vast array of plays.
    2. We can expect Damian Lillard to finish at least 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting (bar injuries).
    3. We can expect LaMarcus Aldridge to have another All-Star season.
    4. We can expect (hope) that Nicolas Batum will show up and play like he deserves his contract.

Positional breakdowns:

Point Guards:

With rookie Damian Lillard showing great potential early, the future at point guard for Portland is bright. Lillard has been compared to Chauncey Billups because of his outstanding awareness, and has also been called a fat Russell Westbrook, due to his looks and scoring prowess, although I believe that Lillard is more traditional and better at playing point guard than Westbrook, where his dazzling scoring moves complement his passing abilities, whereas Westbrook is a pure scorer, a shooting guard in a point guard’s body.

Nolan Smith is a great first option off the bench for Portland, and as he continues to grow, if Lillard goes down I feel that he is talented and mature enough to take the reins.

Ronnie Price has been an okay bench guy his whole career and I don’t think that is going to change in Portland.

Shooting Guards:

Incumbent starter Wesley Matthews is a great scoring option with the size and weight to guard at small forward. Wes has been solid for Portland for the last two years, filling the gap left by Brandon Roy. Wes has a solid three point shot, shooting at around 40% for his career, which means defenders are unable to sag off to compensate for a drive where he could throw his weight around and get to the hoop. Expect Wes to score in bunches this year, especially with Lillard always being on the lookout for the open man and a lot of double teams going towards Aldridge in the post.

Portland’s second option at shooting guard is Sasha Pavlovic. This is often not a good thing. Sasha has the tendency to catch fire but is really only good to hype up the crowd.

Portland’s third shooting guard Elliot Williams has struggled to find his feet in the NBA, the former first-round pick missing his entire first season with a knee injury. Williams will also miss the entire season this year due to an Achilles injury. So in three seasons he has appeared in just 24 games, averaging less than four points. It seems doubtful that he will ever be able to come back and contribute to this Blazers team.

Small Forwards:

France’s Nicolas Batum is still very young after four seasons in the NBA and is still tagged as having a lot of potential. The 23 year old has an excellent scoring ability, being able to knock down threes and light up the scoreboard. Batum’s presence on defence is also felt, as he is able to use his long arms to steal the ball and pull off spectacular chase down blocks. Should Batum finally develop into the scorer he is believed to be and play to the standards set by his massive contract, the small forward position is locked down for years to come in Portland.

Portland’s backup small forward is 2009 first round draft pick Victor Claver, who is coming over with Joel Freeland from Europe to play his first NBA season. Not much has been seen of Claver, so we will have to wait until later in the season to find out what he can do.

Luke Babbitt has been a fan favourite since he came to Portland with the 16th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, but he has struggled to make noise on the stat sheet, save for last years' tank job. Averaging just 10 minutes per game for his career, we can still hope Babbitt develops, but it doesn’t look good.

Then there’s Will Barton. The rookie swingman was Portland’s second round pick, and he has struggled in his limited minutes thus far. With six minutes per game, Barton is yet to have an opportunity to showcase his skills.

Power Forwards:

LaMarcus Aldridge is the team’s star. Coming off an All-Star season, Aldridge is expected to put up big numbers scoring the basketball, as well as grab a few rebounds and block a few shots. Regarded as one of the best power forwards in the league, Aldridge is the leader and franchise player in Portland, and he should help out young players like rookies Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard a lot this season. Aldridge will excel in the pick and roll and pick and pop with Lillard running the point this year. Expect Aldridge to be an All Star again this year (bar injuries) and make a strong case for the second best power forward in the league if he continues to expand his game and get better.

Portland’s backup power forward is Jared Jeffries, a journeyman who can cover multiple positions (the 6’11” 240lb forward started at shooting guard for Washington many times). He is a good player to come in for eight minute spells and get a few points and a few boards. Don’t expect him to have a huge impact this year.

Centres:

6’9” J.J. Hickson is the man in the middle for Portland, which may seem “short” but the kid can jump. Hickson can sky for a ton of boards and second chance points, and on any given night can explode for 15+ points and 15 rebounds. He is naturally an athletic power forward so he runs the floor well and provides great energy and hustle.

Meyers Leonard is a giant. The 7’1” rookie is very raw, but has a lot of potential at center to develop like Indiana’s Roy Hibbert has in the last few years. Leonard’s size allows for a bunch of different line ups for Portland, and his natural skill and size should be enough to carry him through his first season as he continues to refine his skills.

Joel Freeland has finally come over from England after being a late first round draft pick in 2006. Coming off an impressive Olympic campaign, Freeland has been able to come into Portland and provide quality minutes at the five spot, with nice touch from outside and the ability to pull down boards. Freeland can easily switch between power forward and centre as well.

Coaching:

After firing arguably the best coach in basketball, Nate McMillan, Kaleb Canales stepped in as interim Head Coach. Once the season ended, Portland hired former NBA forward Terry Stotts as head coach, and Canales stepped down to assistant. Stotts has experience coaching four other NBA teams as well as a couple in Canada. He won a ring as assistant coach in Dallas in 2011, which shows that he has the experience and knows what it takes to bring a team to the top.


What we can expect in terms of season outcomes:

There are two scenarios that are possible for this Portland team in my opinion.

Scenario 1: Portland sneak in to the 8 seed of the West, manage to win a couple of games, make some noise and maybe pull off a first round upset (bit of a reach but hey, this team is unpredictable, and it happens (think 2011 Grizzlies/Spurs series)). That'd be as far as they'd go however, second round exit for Terry Stotts' men.

Scenario 2: Same as last year, season derailed by injuries, Batum doesn’t play anywhere near his contract’s value and Portland secure another lottery pick.

Ideal Scenario: Portland sweep the entire playoffs and win the championship, after having somehow traded with Charlotte to acquire the 1st overall pick and enter the next season as defending champs with a starting line-up of Lillard, Matthews, Shabazz Muhammad, Batum (whatever, he’s tall), Aldridge and Brian Scalabrine coming out of retirement to be 6th man.

Well, we can dream, right?