__MAIN_TEXT__
feature-image

Page 1

E ST.

2010

SEASON GUIDE

October 2013 / Early forecast : lots of Heat with some Thunder / All 30 Teams Previewed / Draft Matrix, pg 21

BUCKETSMAG.BIGCARTEL.com

REGULAR SEASON EDITION / FREE e-Mag

THE ONLY THING ON LeBRON’S MIND IN 2014 PG 6

KEVIN DURANT

MASTER OF THE ELEMENTS

THAT’S WHY THEY ARE

CLEVELAND EXCLUSIVE REPORT

Grandmaster Pop and His Furious Five


3 5 X 3 5 X 3 5 CAMPAIGN TAKES FLIGHT

NOV. 27

Donate via KickStarter


EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Brian Duff

briancduff@gmail.com

Creative DIRECTOR

Brad Graham

brad.graham.creative@gmail.com

GUEST CONTRIBUTORS:

Anupam Rama, Sandy Dover

INTRO 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE Copyright 2013, BUCKETS Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including by photocopying, electronically, storing in any medium, transmitting, recording or otherwise, whether or not transiently or incidentally to some other use without the prior written consent of the publisher.

If you like what you read and see, hire our editorial and creative services to produce your next project or zine. Quotes available upon request.

issuu.com/bucketsmagazine Online store:

bucketsmag.bigcartel.com

Print editions available on demand. RRP: $20.00. Please allow up to 21 days for the deliver y.

Not an actual STATS SportVU player tracking camera (but the new STATS system does have the potential to reshape the way we see the game).

In early September 2013, the NBA announced that it was expanding its partnership with STATS LLC (jointly owned by the Associated Press and 21st Century Fox) to become the first major league to incorporate STATS’ SportVU Player Tracking systems in every arena. SportVU consists of six cameras and a patented, proprietary software that calibrates and measures the movements of each player, the referees and the basketball itself. This unprecedented torrent of in game information will push the NBA even more so into becoming what Executive Vice President Steve Hellmuth described as “a league driven by data.” Expanding this tracking service – first used during the 2009 Finals, by six teams in 2010-11, and by 15 last season – will allow greater scrutiny of the league’s players and coaches and will bring, in the words of The New York Times’ Howard Beck, “an unprecedented treasure trove of data about virtually every wrinkle of the game [as] every step, every dribble, every pass, every shot, every rebound – really, every movement – will be recorded, coded and categorized.” A numbers game now more than ever, the NBA over the past decade has seen advanced statistics well and truly enter the lexicon of casual fans as data driven front offices have become the norm and and online NBA information portals have proliferated. The new tracking system may not immediately alter the way the game is played, after all, many teams have had access to this information for years. It will, however, instantaneously effect the manner in which fans and commentators debate the efficacy of individual players, game play strategies and coaching decisions. In short, from October 31st 2013, everyone is naked, all of the time: nagging injuries will show up on film, defensive blind spots will be exposed and we’ll finally get some hard data on what separates a previously objectively identical glue guy from a clubhouse cancer. Basketball will not and can not be understood via data in the same manner as baseball. Major League Baseball watchers have nearly one million pitches per year to analyze, each effected only minorly by factors outside of who is on the mound and who is in the batter’s box. Basketball, by contrast, is a freer flowing contest with multifarious moving parts. Still, SportsVU will change the way talent is understood, assessed and especially taught. The system does not provide complete coverage, unfortunately – players’ vertical leaps will not be tracked, and neither will the directions they are facing – but by seeing all players at all times, efficiency can be optimized, percentages improved and ruinous circumstances mitigated. There are some who see this innovation as the death knell of fun. At BUCKETS, we couldn’t disagree more. When coaches and players better understand movement and spacing, the game becomes cleaner and faster, with all of the flow on effects that entails. There’ll be more open threes, more breakaway dunks and more scoring generally – which will lead to happier fans. What this new tracking system doesn’t do is make staff or players smarter, it just allows them the tools to learn from their mistakes. Intuition is a human quality that will not be replicated here, just measured. And sports are not alone in confronting a new information age. As New York Times columnist David Brooks remarks, “We now have the ability to gather huge amounts of data. This ability seems to carry with it certain cultural assumptions – that everything that can be measured should be measured.” However, as he wrote, data does really only two things very well: “exposing when our intuitive view of reality is wrong [and illuminating] patterns of behavior we haven’t yet noticed.” In other words, having this data and even understanding what it can do is one thing, but, in the words of Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe, “implementing it is another matter”.

- BUCKETS.


TRIBUTE

The Answer

FIRE / ICE

Complementary opposites, Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady were many things – scoring champs, game changing forces, natural wonders – but it was the way they showed off as often as they showed up that made them fan favorites all over the world. By Brad Graham

T HE arSON IST Any expert’s record of the five greatest little men in the NBA history will include Bob Cousy, Tiny Archibald, Isiah Thomas, Allen Iverson and Steve Nash (with Chris Paul as the alternate). Iverson’s ironclad place on that shortlist speaks volumes about his enduring place in basketball history, but for many, this giant slayer still carries a demonic reputation. So overwhelmingly dominant on the court was AI that his strength doubled as a weakness; while capable of driving the early 2000s Sixers’ engine single handedly – including especially during his immaculate 2000-01 campaign – his teams’ glories were by their nature short lived. Off the court, Iverson was iconoclastic, custom built to defy the establishment and unapologetic to a fault. “Practice” became his de facto middle name and though his ego was legitimately massive, his heart was even bigger, and his infectious desire, uncompromising demeanor and, yes, diminutive stature forever endeared him to a legion of fans.    ESPN’s Marc Stein loved AI’s soul baring interviews and believes that “Iverson has to be one of the three or four most beloved players I’ve covered in my two decades on press row”. Stein’s colleague Amin Elhassan described him as “a rebellious outsider who wouldn’t conform”. Any way you slice it, Iverson was one of the top five shooting guards of all time – sitting just behind Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Jerry West and Dwyane Wade – with his 29.73 postseason points per game average, second highest of all time, perhaps his most telling achievement.  The Answer lived to play and played like his life depended on it, and his  2000-01 odyssey remains his signature campaign. After being crowned MVP, Iverson went on to drop 44 points against Milwaukee in game seven of the 2001 Eastern Conference Finals, and then tallied 48 in the overtime NBA Finals opener in Los Angeles against Shaquille O’Neal and his mighty Lakers.  The most popular and influential player between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Iverson – as menace and as messiah – stands above Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, Bryant, O’Neal, Wade and everyone else as a generational force who changed the way the NBA assesses talent and assigns positional standards. For as long as Iverson was conscious, and his shooting unconscious, the opposing team was always vulnerable. He made the impossible look routine and in turn, made us think we could replace the irreplaceable. Tim Hardaway’s killer crossover was a weapon, Iverson’s was an act of defiance. His crossover on The Greatest was the greatest and with that single play, The Answer guided us all into the great unknown. 

Other noteworthy retirees... Co-Rookie of the Year in 1995, Jason Kidd was a nine time All-Defensive teamer with five NBA assist titles. His 108 career triple doubles is third all time behind only Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson. And to think, he couldn’t shoot. 

The third pick in the 1994 NBA Draft, Grant Hill built on his dual national titles at Duke by claiming co-Rookie of Year honors and then being named to five straight All-NBA teams. A three time winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award, he was a true do it all forward.

To Adam Morrison, we miss you already, ‘Stache. At least we’ll always have Gonzaga.


TRIBUTE The Ten Best Players of the Decade: 2000 - 2009 (By Position). First Team: Shaquille O’Neal. Tim Duncan. Tracy McGrady. Kobe Bryant. Steve Nash Second Team: Ben Wallace. Kevin Garnett. LeBron James. Allen Iverson. Jason Kidd

T-Ma c

FIRE / ICE

the big chill With his true basketball exceptionalism always countered by shallow postseason successes and a string of injuries, Tracy McGrady’s career, for many, will be frozen in time as a “detailed sketch” rather than “finished work”. Yet, those who faced T-Mac at the height of his powers knew they were staring into near basketball perfection.  In his prime, McGrady was a sight to behold. His jumper was butter, his handles flowed like spring waters and, for a man of his size, he had a hitherto unseen combination of grace, flair and precision. Like Iverson’s 2000-01, T-Mac’s signature season, 2002-03, left people wondering what else was possible on the basketball court. He was the Scottie Pippen of offense that year, recording 32.1 points, 6.5 boards and 5.5 assists per game, racking up his third of seven All-NBA selections in eight years and his second straight scoring title. In 2004, he dropped four three pointers in 35 seconds – including an unconscious pull up for the win with seconds left – to drag the Rockets back from the dead against San Antonio. The showing forever elevating him to Jubei Kibagami status of the NBA.   A permanent MVP candidate, T-Mac was to perimeter play what Tim Duncan was in the post. His self alleys off the backboard made the All-Star experience all that much more enjoyable and, in truth, he was at his best when his creativity flourished – he was your favorite player’s favorite player. A truly gifted set up artist who made it appear effortless, McGrady was a Swiss army knife masquerading as a scalpel. Like Iverson, he was loved by the people and hated by haters, and his floundering Hall of Fame candidacy is evidence of the ambivalence in which he is held.   McGrady’s back and knee injuries rightfully group him with other unfinished projects in greatness, such as Grant Hill and Amar’e Stoudemire, but there is other company he keeps: Only Kobe Bryant (with 81, 65 and 62 point outings to his name), David Robinson (71) and Michael Jordan (69, 64) have scored more in a single NBA contest since 1984; His best single season stats, coming in 2002-03, are roughly equal to those of the finest perimeter players since the merger, including Jordan in 1989, LeBron James in 2013, Magic Johnson in 1987, Larry Bird in 1987, Bryant in 2006, Dwyane Wade in 2009, Isiah Thomas in 1985, Kevin Durant in 2013, Iverson in 2001 and Steve Nash in 2006.   The ninth pick in the 1997 NBA Draft out of North Carolina’s Mount Zion Christian Academy, T-Mac remains one of the few front office decisions Isiah Thomas got right. From the moment he stepped onto the NBA stage dressed in flashy pinstripes, McGrady was both substance and style. A signature sneaker athlete who is viewed as something of a demigod in China, his macro impact heavily outweighs any micro imperfections.   McGrady’s dunk on Shawn Bradley still haunts the big man’s family, his 22 straight victories with Houston is third all time, and though his personality never commanded the room, his fingerprints are still all over the game. Bill Simmons believes that, “had he come along 10 years earlier, or 10 years later, we’d be remembering him differently”.


CONTENTS 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE

All the 2013 NBA Draft caps pictured below are available at the

Grab yours today.

44.

06.

12.

18.

26.

32.

38.

10.

16.

24.

30.

36.

42.

45.

47.

50.

52.

54.


Make no mistake about it,

LeBron James James’ chase for A third title is the primary headline for THE 2013-14 SEASON -- and the attention only intensifies from here. (BUT JUST FOR FUN, WE’VE INCLUDED LOOKS AT THE OTHER 29 TEAMS AS WELL) = Projected Division Finish = Projected Conference Finish = Preseason Power Ranking Sports Illustrated’s Top 100 Player Rankings in brackets (following each athletes name)


SOUTHEAST (2x) DEFENDING CHAMPS By Brad Graham

T P T E

R L H A

06.

I E R T


M i A mi h e at

While Derrick Rose’s return in Chicago, Dwight Howard’s Houston redemption, the brooding in Indiana, frustrations of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook in OKC, the Pacific Division’s restructure or even the ongoing engineering superiority in San Antonio will take turns ruling at the water cooler, the focus will, ultimately, remain on LeBron’s world.

After forming the greatest trio ever known to basketball (with three top 20 players joining forces), the Miami Heat turned the NBA world against themselves by parading around in a WWE style get together. Nine months, 100 games and a ghostly impersonation of LeBron James later and we all cheered as Dirk Nowitzki raised the Larry O’Brien trophy, leaving the Heat to wonder what they’d become and, more importantly, what they’d lost. With his legacy on the line, King James walked all over Boston in the 2012 Playoffs before denying Kevin Durant his chance at immortality. His relief and reward set the stage for the 2012-13 campaign, and the champs didn’t disappoint. After 66 regular season victories, the second longest winning streak in league history, video game stats and that classic seven game epic against the San Antonio Spurs, James doubled up his chips, and collected a fourth MVP along the way. Widely considered the best player in 20 years, the Heat’s superstar now has the punishing task of providing an encore to one of the best individual showings ever seen, and he’ll need to either take things to another level or suffer the same fate of all but two repeat champs. Even if Durant, Rose, Chris Paul or the field is able to pilfer the regular season MVP, their conquest won’t be complete until they breach the NBA Finals gates and topple King James’ rule. That’s the beauty of a repeat champ – 29 teams are solely concerned with tearing down what Pat Riley has built. Although a number of other teams have added new catapults to their already commanding arsenals – including the rival New York City armies who fight through the night over the East River – the Heat have the NBA’s only dragon. The last team to win back to back titles without an All-Star center was Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls in the late ‘90s. In each those teams’ NBA Finals matchups (1996, 1997, 1998), they did not face any top level pivots, as both Seattle (with Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton) and Utah (Karl Malone, John Stockton) featured timeless PF+PG combos. History has gifted James’ Heat with similar matchups, as neither San Antonio (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker), Oklahoma City (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook) or the LA Clippers (Blake Griffin, Chris Paul) – the West’s top three contenders in 2013-14 – operate with a traditional All-Star center capable of forcing Miami to alter its style of play and tactics. Instead of sitting 1-3 all time in championship rounds, James, thanks to a miraculous Chris Bosh rebound and that Ray Allen triple, is back to scratch. That’s the beauty of team sports. Heroes are found in unlikely places and in game seven, when it mattered most, the King stood tall and his 2012-13 season ended with champagne. Now he’s expected to deliver what only Shaquille O’Neal and Michael Jordan could: the three-peat. Still, his back to back triumphs are in the record books and for the first time in his still young career, LeBron James’ legacy is assured. As ESPN scribes JA Adande and Israel Gutierrez noted when debating the challengers to James’ throne in mid-September, “LeBron already has more championships before his 29th birthday than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal or Isiah Thomas.” The pressure on James and the boys from South Beach to win a third consecutive banner will be equal to the challenges faced en route to their second chip. This story is yet unwritten, and so much is unclear: can Ray Allen once again save the day; can Shane Battier rise from the dead (again); how much will Mike Miller be missed; what does Greg Oden have to give; how long before time bomb Mario Chalmers ditches the script; what’s going on with Dwyane Wade’s knee; and can Chris Bosh again find that perfect balance between interior strength and perimeter finesse?

07.

In the modern era, only one team has achieved the impossible: Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Not only are they the first, last and only squad (to date) able to win three consecutive titles without a dominate center, but they did it twice. With that in mind, lets examine how the back to back trophy holders post the 1976 NBAABA merger fared in their respective attempts at the illusive three peat…


How the back to back champs performed in their third attempt...

Larry O’Brien

The Finals

Head Coach

Phil Jackson

Best Player

Magic Johnson

1991 Detroit Pistons. Lost ECF (0-4, Chicago)

Phil Jackson

Head Coach

Age

Chuck Daly

MVP

Best Player

29

Yes Starters.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar AC Green James Worthy Byron Scott Magic Johnson Reserves.

Mychal Thompson Mark McNamara Orlando Woolridge Tony Campbell Jeff Lamp Michael Cooper David Rivers After the banner raising years of 1987 and 1988, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers swept their first three postseason opponents in 1989, recording 11 straight wins against Portland, Seattle and Phoenix before running into Chuck Daly’s bruising Bad Boys of Detroit. A powerhouse featuring three future Hall of Famers who had just unseated Boston, Milwaukee and Michael Jordan’s Chicago in 13 games, the Pistons were to be the undoing of LA, suddenly without its starting backcourt of Byron Scott and 1989 MVP Magic Johnson, both lost for the series with injuries. Let’s hope the 2014 Heat don’t suffer a similar fate.

Best Player

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan

Age

Age

29

33

MVP

Isiah Thomas Age

Missed Playoffs

Won NBA title (4-2, Utah)

Best Player

Pat Riley

First Round

Won NBA title (4-2, Phoenix)

Lost Finals (0-4, Detroit) Head Coach

Second Round

1998 Chicago Bulls.

Head Coach

1989 Los Angeles Lakers. Conf. Finals

1993 Chicago Bulls.

29

MVP

No Starters.

Bill Laimbeer John Salley Dennis Rodman Joe Dumars Isiah Thomas

No Starters.

Bill Cartwright Horace Grant Scottie Pippen Michael Jordan John Paxson Reserves.

BJ Armstrong Will Perdue Stacey King Rodney McCray Trent Tucker Darrell Walker Scott Williams

Reserves.

Vinnie Johnson Tree Rollins James Edwards Mark Aguirre Lance Blanks Gerald Henderson William Bedford By defeating the Showtime Lakers in 1989 and the excellent Trail Blazers the following year, the Bad Boy Pistons had established themselves as a brutish force for the ages by the time they met Jordan’s Chicago mob in the postseason for the fourth straight time in 1991 Still stinging from three consecutive eliminations, the Bulls finally overcame their fiercest rivals to advance to their first ever NBA Finals. Remembered for their unsportsmanlike behavior (the Motown crew cleared the court without acknowledging the Bulls’ triumph), these Pistons should serve as cautionary tale for LeBron and company: Win or lose, don’t act like spoiled brats.

After clearing all hurdles with a 4-1 statement in 1991, Chicago again took the golden round in 1992, topping Portland 4-2... but saved their best for Barkley’s Suns. After withstanding Phoenix in six, including the classic triple overtime game three, Michael did what no-one else had been able to do for decades: three peat. Chicago’s showing is a textbook example of how to win: let the greatest player of all time go to work in a transcendent manner. Barkley, who won the 1993 MVP over Jordan, was never quite the same, and MJ retired for the first time after the season. Lets hope LeBron sticks around if he can make it that far.

08.

MVP

1996 Houston Rockets. Lost Semifinals (0-4, Seattle) Head Coach

Rudy Tomjanovich Best Player

Hakeem Olajuwon Age

33

MVP

No Starters.

Hakeem Olajuwon Chucky Brown Robert Horry Clyde Drexler Kenny Smith Reserves.

Mario Ellie Mark Bryant Pete Chilcutt Sam Mack Eldridge Recasner Sam Cassell Tim Breaux No one enjoyed more success during Michael Jordan’s baseball sabbatical than the Houston Rockets. Powered by Hakeem Olajuwon, they won it all in 1994 against the Knicks and miraculously claimed a back to back chip in 1995 despite having no home court advantage as the six seed. The Rockets then swapped out their logo and classic uniforms, and not coincidentally fell to the Sonics in a surprisingly competitive second round sweep. Thankfully Miami is sticking to its home Whites, away Blacks and Red alternates. Love them or loathe them, LeBron James has made the Heat’s kit one to remember.

Yes Starters.

Luc Longley Dennis Rodman Scottie Pippen Michael Jordan Ron Harper Reserves.

Toni Kukoc Bill Wennington Jason Caffey Jud Buechler Steve Kerr Randy Brown Scott Burrell The 1997-98 Bulls started sluggishly (8-7) but ended the season at 62-20. Plagued by Scottie Pippen’s back injury – which mirrors the Heat’s current difficulties with Dwyane Wade’s knee – the top seeded Bulls dismissed the Nets in three and the Hornets in five before facing the returned Michael Jordan’s toughest yet opponent in Reggie Miller’s Pacers. The older and wiser GOAT closed out that series at home, setting up a rematch with the StocktonMalone Jazz. LBJ has every chance to replicate MJ’s famous 1998 showing in his own rematch against the Parker-Duncan Spurs... should San Antonio survive the wild west.


? 2002 Los Angeles Lakers.

2014 Miami Heat.

Won NBA title (4-0, New Jersey)

Stay tuned

Head Coach

Head Coach

Phil Jackson

Erik Spoelstra

Best Player

LeBron James

Age

Age

29

Starters.

Reserves.

Devean George Stanislav Medvedenko Samaki Walker Mark Madsen Brian Shaw Lindsay Hunter Mitch Richmond The Lakers escaped Sacramento in a thrilling game seven in the 2002 Conference Finals to earn the right to face the overmatched New Jersey Nets. Down 3-2 to the Kings, LA rode Shaquille O’Neal’s monster 41-17 game six and then slipped past the shocked Chris Webber and co. by six points in the overtime decider. When it mattered most, O’Neal and Kobe Bryant stood up. Can James and Wade do the same? History suggests they can, after gut check wins against Indy and Boston in 2012 and San Antonio last year, but the Heat would be wise to dominate from the jump.

1

29

MVP

Shaquille O’Neal Robert Horry Rick Fox Kobe Bryant Derek Fisher

1

Best Player

Shaquille O’Neal

No

MIA 2014

MVP

2011 Los Angeles Lakers. Lost Semifinals (0-4, Dallas) Head Coach

Rudy Tomjanovich Best Player

Kobe Bryant Age

32

MVP

No Starters.

Andrew Bynum Pau Gasol Ron Artest Kobe Bryant Derek Fisher Reserves.

Lamar Odom Theo Ratliff Joe Smith Matt Barnes Shannon Brown Steve Blake Luke Walton In the Lakers’ opener against New Orleans, Chris Paul kicked their collective butts before LA bounced back to take the series 4-2. In the semis vs. Dirk Nowitzki’s Dallas Mavericks, Pau Gasol was a shell of his former All-NBA self which allowed the German to slam the three peat door shut in four. Magic Johnson called the decider “the worst I’ve ever seen”. Take note, Miami, postseason dominoes fall fast.

TBA

1

Starters.

Chris Bosh Udonis Haslem LeBron James Dwyane Wade Mario Chalmers

OWNER

Reserves.

Micky Arison

Shane Battier Greg Oden Chris Andersen Michael Beasley Ray Allen Norris Cole Rashard Lewis Of all the teams who have managed to climb Mount Everest in back to back seasons (since the 1976 merger), only the Michael Jordan powered Bulls and the Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant led LA Lakers have stood at the summit three consecutive years... and each of those three instances saw Phil Jackson leading the charge. Working in LeBron’s favor: both Shaq and MJ were 29 when claiming their third straight banner.

09.

GENERAL MANAGER

Pat Riley Head Coach Still, as the best player since MJ and the most commanding talent since O’Neal, it’s fitting that LeBron James should be the next in line to join those monoliths. If he can carry the Heat back to the apex, James will rise without question into the pantheon of top 10 players of all time. Many believe he’s already worthy of a stained glass window, but a third title – coming in his fifth NBA Finals in 11 seasons – would cement his basketball canonization. Joining King James this season is former top overall draft pick Greg Oden and former Heat talent turned lost soul, Michael Beasley. Should these two remain healthy and out of trouble, Miami has the potential to renew its standing as the best team in basketball for another year. Are the odds stacked against LeBron James? You bet. But there’s no one better equipped to scare off all challengers, whether or not he’s breathing fire.

Erik Spoelstra Starting Five

Chris Bosh(17) Udonis Haslem F. LeBron James(1) G. Dwyane Wade(8) G. Mario Chalmers C.

F.

HIGHEST PAID

Chris Bosh, LeBron James ($19,500,000) TOP ADDITION

Michael Beasley BIGGEST LOSS

Mike Miller ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

25


SOUTHEAST 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE By Brian Duff

ATL 2014 OWNER

Michael Gearon Jr. GENERAL MANAGER

Danny Ferry Head Coach

Mike Budenholzer Starting Five

2

5

15

CHA 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Paul Millsap will earn just two-thirds of Josh Smith’s new Detroit salary over the next two years, but Hawks GM Danny Ferry, who spent the past year building a high character, lunch pail squad around All-Star Al Horford, will expect more than two-thirds of J-Smoove’s production.

Michael Jordan GENERAL MANAGER

Rich Cho Head Coach

Steve Clifford Starting Five

C.

Al Horford(22)

C.

Brandon Haywood*

F.

Paul Millsap(38)

F.

Kyle Korver(98)

F.

Al Jefferson*(44)

F.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

G.

Louis Williams*(80)

G.

Gerald Henderson

G.

Jeff Teague(78)

G.

Kemba Walker

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Al Horford ($12,000,000)

Al Jefferson ($13,500,000)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Paul Millsap

Al Jefferson

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Josh Smith

Missing the deadline to relocate to Seattle.

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

89

104

10.

4

13

26

Person of Interest Thanks to the arrival of Big Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker is, for the first time in his short career, the Bobcats’ second best player. But even with legit talent at each (starting) position, Charlotte will need Walker to access every ounce of that top dog experience to be competitive.


ORL 2014 OWNER

Rich DeVos GENERAL MANAGER

Rob Hannigan Head Coach

Jacque Vaughn Starting Five C.

Nikola Vucevic(100)

F.

Glen Davis

F.

Tobias Harris

G. G.

5

14

28

WAS 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Tobias Harris will have his revenge on Milwaukee after being unnecessarily and unceremoniously flipped for (the already departed) JJ Redick at last year’s trade deadline. The 21 year old swingman increased his per-36 points average 13 percent, rebounds, 37 percent, and assists, 35 percent, upon arrival in the Magic Kingdom.

Ted Leonsis GENERAL MANAGER

Ernie Grunfeld Head Coach

Randy Wittman Starting Five C.

Emeka Okafor*

F.

Nenê(58)

F.

Trevor Ariza

Victor Oladipo

G.

Bradley Beal

Jameer Nelson

G.

John Wall(40)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Hedo Turkolgu ($12,000,000)

Emeka Okafor ($14,487,500)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Victor Oladipo

Otto Porter

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Anonymity

Okafor’s C4 disk

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

74

113

11.

3

9

19

Person of Interest In John Wall’s 49 games last season, the Wizards went 24-25; without him, 5-28. Rookie Bradley Beal averaged 13.3 points on .361 / .265 / .790 shootings splits in 31 games sans Wall. With Wall for 25 games, Beal recorded 15 points per while shooting .446 / .421 / .748.


ATLANTIC HEY BIG SPENDOR! By Brad Graham

BAN K S HOT BROOKLYN PAYROLL: $102,211,009

12.


In the NBA, you either want to be really good or really bad (with no in-between). You don’t want to finish 42-40 and lose in Round 1 every year. Basically, you don’t want to be the Bucks.

– Bill Simmons, Grantland.com, 2013.

After losing their first round series in 2013 in an ugly seven games to the beat up Bulls in spite of their home court advantage and superior roster, the recently relocated Brooklyn Nets found themselves in “Bucks” territory. While simply pairing Brook Lopez and Deron Williams will win you 35 game, that combination is not sufficient to topple the Heat, the Pacers, the Bulls or even those most treasured of scalps, the New York Knicks. After Brooklyn gave away home court advantage and found itself in a 3-1 hole, the Nets rallied in games five and six to force a decide at the Barclays Center. Without Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Derrick Rose, the Bulls should never have made it back to Brooklyn, but All-Star center Joakim Noah stepped up, providing his team with some much needed life support. Scoring 24 points, grabbing 14 rebounds and blocking six shots, Noah’s stampeded halted the Nets advance, 99 – 93, and interim coach PJ Carlesimo found his head on the chopping block. Solid but not spectacular, the Nets’ debut in Brooklyn necessitated reevaluation. The fans knew what the front office did: A dramatic move was required to elevate the hipster franchise. Brooklyn had three choices.

1.

Struggle to remain in touch with the established big dogs in Miami, Indy, Chicago and crosstown (Derrick Rose’s health is the only variable on that list);

2.

Do what the Philadelphia 76ers did and say, in the words of Bill Simmons, “Screw it, this is ridiculous, WE’RE NEVER GONNA HAVE A CHANCE until we find a franchise quarterback”, taking a calculated risk that management won’t be burnt in the uncertain waters of the lottery; or

3.

Never stop spending. Buy big. Buy in bulk. While this third approach didn’t go down too well last season for the Los Angeles Lakers, who compounded their alpha dog personality clash (clown prince, Dwight Howard versus too serious warlord, Kobe Bryant) by employing the wrong coach, running the wrong system and placing sky high expectations on the entire crew. The Lakers needed everything to go right for this experiment to work. Instead, nothing did. Now it’s Brooklyn turn to adopt that same Zapp Brannigan approach by sending wave after wave of men at the enemy and hoping to produce like the 2012 Heat instead of the 1999 Rockets, who added Scottie Pippen to a 41-41 roster but fell to the Lakers when it mattered.

13.


Coach Kidd. Year One

Kevin Garnett. $12,433,735

Brook Lopez. $14,693,906 Joe Johnson. $21,466,718

Deron Williams. $18,466,130

Not pictured Andray Blatche. $1,375,604 Mason Plumlee. $1,298,640 Reggie Evans. $1,695,635 Jason Terry. $5,625,313 Shaun Livingston. $884,293 Paul Pierce. $15,333,334

On July 12, 2013, the Nets officially secured the services of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. Jason Terry was also added to the blockbuster deal but few place him in the same category as the future Hall of Fame forwards. In a written statement, owner Mikhail Prokhorov said, “Today, the basketball gods smiled on the Nets.” The Russian billionaire also claims the Nets have “achieved a great balance on our roster” between “veteran stars and young talent” with the additions of Garnett, Pierce and Terry, adding that his team will “be dazzling to watch and tough to compete against.” About half of what was said by Prokhorov is true, the remaining balance is still to be determined (with conclusions already penciled in for early May). Further, Nets GM Billy King and Celtics’ power broker Danny Ainge completed the transaction by sending Gerald Wallace, MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Keith Bogans and Kris Joseph to Boston along with Brooklyn’s 2014, 2016 and 2018 draft picks and the right to swap in 2017. It was a bold move for both divisional rivals, with one clearly is willing to buy relevance and the other reshaping its long term future. In their individual attempts, neither Brooklyn nor Boston had what it takes to defeat Indiana, Chicago or New York, much less the champion Heat, but with their roster swap, Brooklyn is suddenly a true contender. According to reports, the Nets were interested in Paul Pierce initially but ballooned the package to swallow KG’s salary as well once he had waived his no trade clause. Now, with five All-Stars starting for the Black and White in Lopez, Garnett, Pierce, Williams and Joe Johnson, the Nets have the most

Alan Anderson. $947,907

top heavy team in the league. Their bench isn’t bad either, with former All-Star and Russia’s greatest ever basketball export Andrei Kirilenko leading the second unit and Reggie Evans, mobile pivot Andray Blatche and guards Terry and Shaun Livingston all capable of offering legitimate contributions. During Summer League, new coach Jason Kidd told reporters that competing with Miami comes down to having lots of “horses” and with KG and Pierce on side, he believes, “we have that.” Yet it remains unclear if Garnett, reunited with his Sydney Olympic teammate in Coach Kidd, will be able to perform, or capable of taking orders. If all goes pear shaped, KG may just retire mid season – a notion he’s entertained before. Prior to the arrival of Garnett and Pierce, Brooklyn had the league’s 17th best offensive (or 13th worst) output, scoring just 96.9 points per contest. Boston didn’t fare much better, so it’s not like Brooklyn is inheriting an extra 25 points per game marksman. Pierce, as every hoop fan knows, requires a fair amount of the ball, and most especially likes it in his hands when the clock is ticking down. Over the past five seasons, he has taken an average of 13.7 shots per game, scoring 19.1 points, and hasn’t seen much fall off in production or effectiveness, and despite his ever advancing age (he’s now 35). Kevin Garnett, meanwhile, has scored just 15.8 points per twice in the past five seasons (well down from his career mark), hitting 14.8 points per in 2012-13 but shooting a horrible, for him, .496, which marked his first dip below .500 since joining the C’s. Playing in 79 percent of Boston’s

14.

regular season matches, KG was a defensive anchor but has lost more to father time than P-Double over the past five seasons. But Brooklyn isn’t paying top dollar for MVP numbers, rather the team is looking for a general to lead its troops and an experienced iron man willing to fight and scrap, no questions asked. The Garnett addition makes most sense in light of the Nets 2013 postseason exit in which the Bulls’ rugged and rough style overpowered their finesse moves. In that first round defeat, Lopez posted 22.3 points with 7.4 rebounds and three blocks; Deron Williams managed 20.6 points and 8.4 assists; and fellow starters Joe Johnson (14.9 points), Gerald Wallace (12) and Reggie Evans (12.3) each added solid support numbers. Even reborn reserve Andray Blatche put up 10.3 per. Each player, with the exception of Johnson, lifted his numbers. Backpedal and little and you’ll find the 201213 Nets took an average of 79.8 shots per contest, a touch more than Boston. Of those, 22 were fired from beyond the arc and 43.8 were taken by Lopez (14.8), Johnson (14.6) or Williams (14.4). Once Rajon Rondo was sidelined for the duration of the 2012-13 season, Paul Pierce was given the green light to shoot more often, but that prescription didn’t really manifest until the playoffs, in which he increased his shots per game from 14.2 (18 percent of team shots) to 17.7 ( 26 percent). Kevin Garnett, meanwhile, accepted a reduced roll but still attempted 12.5 shots (or 16 percent) in his 30 minutes of action, lowering that volume to just 10 attempts per in the Cs’ six game series with the Knicks. Part of this was due to Jeff Green’s improvement; part of it was the result of


and then there’s... Andrei Kirilenko. $3,183,000

{

A former All-Star and one of the few legitimate five tool players, AK47 brings positional flexibility, tenacious defense and selfless play to Brooklyn, which will allow new coach Jason Kidd to gracefully garnish the minutes of aging stars (and fellow new arrivals) Pierce and KG.

the gaping chasm where Rondo should have been. If their 2012-13 trends were to continue, Brooklyn’s new starting five would be responsible for 89 percent of all shots taken, leaving just 11 percent of the pie for trigger happy reserves like Jason Terry. But as we all know, that’s not how basketball works. This can go one of two ways: 1) Problematic (see: the Knicks’ failed Carmelo Anthony – Amar’e Stoudemire – JR Smith experiment); or 2) Fruitful (see: the Miami Heat, 2011 - 2013). Chemistry, the right fits and the right positions can make all the difference. The good news for Nets fans is that Deron Williams, arguably the most important piece to making this expensive venture in Brooklyn function, knows a little about sacrifice and leaving the stat checker at home after his time with Team USA. At the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games, Williams accepted a reduced role in order to bring about riches in other forms. Johnson and Lopez have yet to demonstrate that type of selflessness. If Johnson, a superior scorer, can reinvent himself as a Ray Allen type assassin for hire, it would allow Williams to play pure point with Johnson keeping defenses honest at the margins. Alternatively, the Nets could slide their highest paid player ($21.5 million this season) to the second unit and remake him as a super-sub running his own offense in the mold of Manu Ginóbili. Of course, pitching a new role and having it accepted are two completely different things, and the “What to do with Johnson?” question will be one of first tasks for Jason Kidd, who as a player knew a few things about distribution and the value of role players. With Pierce and Garnett on the books for big money, the Nets now have a quintet of players collecting more than $12 million this season. There are 47 NBA players earning at least that amount this year, with Rajon Rondo and Andrea Bargnani just shy of that total. Six teams have no $12 million man – Denver, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento and Utah – and an additional six, all contenders, have at least three - Chicago, Golden State, Indiana, Miami, New York and Oklahoma City. As far as appearances go, you need to spend big to compete in 2013-14, regardless of the luxury tax. In that regard, Brooklyn has bought itself a real chip chaser. While Joe Johnson’s $21.5 million salary still has Brooklyn’s Chief Financial Officer shaking his head, the Nets only have themselves to blame for absorbing Garnett and Pierce ($12.4 and $15.3 million, respectively) and for inking Johnson, Williams ($18.5 million) and Lopez ($14.7 million)

BKN 2014

in the first place. As is the case with any outlandish spend, one expects a certain return, or, at the very least, a quality product that vaguely reflects its price tag. Time will tell if the Nets have made a made a wise investment, but there’s no doubting their brand and merchandizing have been boosted. Of course, owners like Prokhorov aren’t looking to flip a franchise with good governance and sound investment; they want chips, and quickly. The NBA salary cap is currently set at $58,679,000 annually with a $71,748,000 luxury tax threshold. The Nets will unashamedly start their 2013-14 campaign with players salaries totally more than $100,000,000 and will ultimately pay more about $83 million in tax – which is itself more than the total salary commitments of the number two most expensive team, the LA Lakers, who were made to look like fools last season for their proliferate ways. With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, it was assumed other owners would follow the lead of prudent, successful franchises – Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Memphis, Chicago, even Miami – but Brooklyn has tacked the other way with this supersized squad and will test the open question: can an NBA title be bought? On a perverse level, one has to admire the Nets’ willingness to go championship or bust. Everything fans despised about Sam Presti letting James Harden walk has been countered by everything Brooklyn’s “crazy” owner is doing. In the NBA, one team’s salary dump can often improve, directly or indirectly, its opposition’s chances; or, the Celtics’ trash is now Brooklyn’s treasure. Labeled basketball’s Yankees, and modeled on spendthrift owner George Steinbrenner big baller ways, the Nets now operates on a separate financial field to everyone else. Smaller market teams chafe at the idea of their bigger brothers in LA and New York buying the best players, but basketball is a team sport that must be played to be won, and the Nets enter this season with no guarantees that a rookie coach and a wildly expensive and seriously old roster will help raise a black and bossy banner into Barclays’ rafters. They’ll get their first chance to prove the haters wrong on October 30 in Cleveland against Kyrie Irving and the baby Cavaliers – who carry a salary of less than half of the Nets and will be receiving about $3.5 million from Prokhorov at tax time – before traveling on November 1 to Miami to take on the Heat. There, against LeBron James, the Black and White will show their true colors.

15.

1

4

6 OWNER

Mikhail Prokhorov GENERAL MANAGER

Billy King Head Coach

Jason Kidd Starting Five

Brook Lopez(30) Kevin Garnett(28) F. Paul Pierce(32) G. Joe Johnson(59) G. Deron Williams(24) C.

F.

HIGHEST PAID

Joe Johnson ($21,466,718) TOP ADDITION

Kevin Garnett BIGGEST LOSS

Cap flexibility ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

71


ATLANTIC 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE By Brian Duff

BOS 2014 OWNER

Irv Grousbeck GENERAL MANAGER

Danny Ainge Head Coach

Brad Stevens Starting Five C.

Kris Humphries

F.

Brandon Bass

F.

Jeff Green

G. G.

4

11

23

NYK 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Avery Bradley’s perimeter defense and general nastiness made Boston’s most valuable asset, Rajon Rondo, appear downright expendable for a time last season. Then Ray Felton and his wide body exposed Bradley in the playoffs and unsettled the Cs’ plans, especially with Rondo out until possibly December post-knee surgery.

Charles Dolan GENERAL MANAGER

Steve Mills Head Coach

Mike Woodson Starting Five C.

Tyson Chandler(27)

F.

Amar’e Stoudemire(83)

F.

Carmelo Anthony(10)

Jordan Crawford

G.

Iman Shumpert*

Rajon Rondo*(26)

G.

Raymond Felton

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Kris Humphries ($12,000,000)

Amar’e Stoudemire ($21,679,983)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Kelly Olynyk

Andrea Bargnani

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Paul Pierce

The Cult of Chris Copeland.

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

45

102

16.

2

6

9

Person of Interest The Knicks will need “good JR Smith” in 201314. How the reining Sixth Man of the Year shakes off his hazy offseason (and subsequent five game suspension), major knee surgery and a totally schizoid postseason run may well determine the aperture of New York’s rapidly shrinking title window.


PHI 2014 OWNER

Josh Harris GENERAL MANAGER

Sam Hinkie Head Coach

Brett Brown Starting Five C.

Spencer Hawes

F.

Thaddeus Young(62)

F.

Evan Turner

G. G.

5

15

30

TOR 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Entering his fourth season and now the de facto best player on this atrocious squad, former second overall pick Evan Turner has just one year to show new coach Brett Brown that he can help usher in the Nerlens Noel – Michael Carter-Williams – 2014 Draft lottery era in Philly.

Richard Peddie GENERAL MANAGER

Masai Ujiri Head Coach

Dwane Casey Starting Five C.

Jonas Valanciūnas

F.

Amir Johnson(84)

F.

Rudy Gay(64)

Jason Richardson*

G.

DeMar DeRozan

Michael Carter-Williams

G.

Kyle Lowry(81)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Thaddeus Young ($8,850,000)

Rudy Gay ($17,888,932)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Brett Brown’s honesty

Masai Ujiri’s brain

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS The chance to be bad enough to land Andrew Wiggins

Competitive hoops ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

94

108

17.

3

10

22

Person of Interest Still just 27 years old, Rudy Gay opens this season as the star of his own show for the first time in his career following a Sabermetrics-aided exile from Memphis. How he wields his Toronto captaincy will determine both the Raptors’ ceiling and the heft of his next contract.


CENTRAL CAVMATIC By Anupam Rama

That’s Why They ArE

C L E VE L AND

18.


Three years and four lottery choices on from “The Decision”, Cleveland Cavaliers fans are ready to leave the ping pong balls behind. Marion, Ohio native Anupam Rama reports on Cleveland’s unforgettable 2013 NBA Draft night, busy summer in the free agent market and early preseason performance.

On July 8th, 2010, when “The Decision” took place, it simultaneously altered the competitive landscape in the NBA and further damaged the already fragile sports psyche of Cleveland, Ohio. LeBron James, from nearby Akron, took his talents to Miami, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were left with a squad that lost an NBA record 26 straight games. Unlike other damaging moments in Cleveland sports history (eg, “The Drive”, “The Shot”), which were singular moments, LeBron James’ subsequent successes are constant reminders of the Cavaliers’ failures, and are only rivaled by the pair of Super Bowl Championships won by the Baltimore Ravens (or, the former Cleveland Browns). Looking forward to the upcoming 2013 NBA Draft 2013-14 season, it should be noted From the 2011 and 2012 NBA Drafts, Cavaliers’ GM Chris Grant added four Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan top 20 picks, including 2011 number one and now All-Star point guard Kyrie Gilbert has made it clear the NBA Irving. While no one can now question the selection of Irving, Grant has surprised over the past several years with the selections of power forward Draft Lottery is NOT an option. Tristan Thompson in 2011 and shooting guard Dion Waiters in 2012, both of So, are the Cavaliers in a better whom were considered stretches at number four. position to make a playoff run after The Cavaliers were increasingly competitive during the 2012-13 season. the spring and summer of 2013? Youth, injuries, and their previously mentioned defensive struggles, however, contributed to losses and the ping pong balls piling up. With a little luck and support from a strong Cleveland contingent at the lottery in May (which included Cleveland musician, Machine Gun Kelly), the Cavaliers landed the number one pick for a record tying fifth time (Austin Carr in 1971; Brad Daugherty in 1986; James in 2003; Irving in 2011). Going into the 2013 Draft, the Cavs also owned the 19th, 31st and 33rd picks. Draft night began with Commissioner David Stern, in the midst of boos and profanities raining down from the raucous Barclays Center crowd in Brooklyn, placing the Cleveland Cavaliers on the clock for number one. Fans waited for what many hoped would be last lottery pick for many years to come. While there was no consensus top choice, Cavaliers fans were cautiously optimistic that their team could land a key pieces in facilitating a playoff push. As the seconds ticked down, fans nervously debated various scenarios, including potential trades for high profile veterans such as now Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce. The clock struck zero and Commissioner Stern was not immediately on the podium to announce the pick, intensifying the anxiety of the Cavaliers’ faithful. Then, finally: “With the first pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select Anthony Bennett of Toronto, Canada and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas”, and the Barclays Center fell eerily silent, if only for a moment. A power forward, Bennett stands 6’7” and weighs 240 lbs and was rarely in the conversation among experts and fans for the top pick. Cavs fans were shown on the Jumbotron with their hands on their heads in midtransition from nervousness to shock. “The Cavaliers will be terrible for decades” read one text message. A fan highlighted that the experts were calling this pick “bizarre”. “That’s why they are Cleveland,” shouted someone in the upper deck, zinging not just the franchise but the entire city. Draft night went on, and the Cavaliers selected highly regarded 6’7” shooting guard / small forward Sergey Karasev out of Russia at 19, shooting guard Allen Crabbe from Cal at 31, who was subsequently traded to Portland for two future second round picks, and shooting guard Carrick Felix out of Arizona State at 33. As local New York Knicks fans erupted with in the loudest ovation of the night for the selection of Michigan shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. at 24, it was clear Cavs fans were still processing the their team’s number one selection. For Cleveland fans who were also Ohio State fans, the Hardaway ovation made the night appear a lost cause. Draft night ended in a haze for the Cavaliers’ faithful, who left needing a better understanding of what pieces had been added.

(Not So) New Head Coach Byron Scott was promptly fired after the 2012-13 season. Shortly after, rumors of a reunion with former head coach Mike Brown began to circulate. The Cavaliers’ faithful were initially skeptical, at best. Wasn’t it Mike Brown who could not lead the Cavaliers to an NBA Championship with arguably greatest athletic talent Cleveland, potentially the state of Ohio, had ever seen? Cavaliers’ General Manager Chris Grant has a history of making bold decisions, so fans could not completely rule out the speculation. In April, the Cavaliers officially announced the franchise had rehired the defensive minded coach and Ohio native for a second stint. The 2009 NBA Coach of the Year has a solid resume, including a NBA Finals trip with the Cavaliers in 2007, several excellent defensive teams, and overall, a very solid career winning percentage of 0.652, good for fourth best among all active coaches, behind only San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich (four Championships), Miami’s Erik Spoelstra (two Championships), and Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau (who as an assistant was widely credited for the 2008 NBA Champion Boston Celtics’ vaunted defense). It was clear from the introductory press conference Mike Brown wants to be in Cleveland and has a soft spot for the city. Indications from the Summer League and preseason practices thus far suggest a heightened focus on Brown’s defensive principles for the young Cavaliers. Diehard Cleveland fans undoubtedly remember the multitude of fourth quarter defensive breakdowns that led to too many losses in 2012-13 campaign. Whether they endorse the hiring of Brown, the consensus is that the problematic defensive struggles which plagued the 2012-13 season should improve in the coming years.

19.


2013 DRAFT STERN’S FINAL PODIUM

01. 02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08. 09. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

Anthony Bennett

PF, UNLV

SG, Indiana Victor Oladipo SF, Georgetown Otto Porter PF / C, Indiana Cody Zeller C, Maryland Alex Len PF / C, Kentucky Nerlens Noel SG, Kansas Ben McLemore Kentavious Caldwell-Pope SG, Georgia PG, Michigan Trey Burke PG, Lehigh CJ McCollum Michael Carter-Williams PG, Syracuse C, Pitt Steven Adams C, Gonzaga Kelly Olynyk G / F, UCLA Shabazz Muhammad Giannis Antetokounmpo G / F, Greece C, Spain Lucas Nogueira PG, Germany Dennis Schröder PG, Miami Shane Larkin G / F, Russia Sergey Karasev SF, New Mexico Tony Snell C, Louisville Gorgui Dieng C, Duke Mason Plumlee SF, Arizona Solomon Hill SG, Michigan Tim Hardaway, Jr. SF, UNC Reggie Bullock PF, Colorado André Roberson C, France Rudy Gobert SF, France Livio Jean-Charles SG, Kentucky Archie Goodwin PG, Lithuania Nemanja Nedovic

CLE ORL WAS

31.

Allen Crabbe

SG, Cal

CLE to POR

CHA

32.

Álex Abrines

G / F, Spain

OKC

PHX

33.

Carrick Felix

SG, Arizona State

CLE

PHI

34.

Isaiah Canaan

PG, Murray State

HOU

SAC

35.

Glen Rice, Jr.

SG, NBDL

PHI to WAS

DET

36.

Ray McCallum, Jr.

PG, Detroit

SAC

UTA

37.

Tony Mitchell

PF, North Texas

DET

POR

38.

Nate Wolters

PG, SD State

WAS to PHI to MIL

PHI

39.

Jeff Withey

C, Kansas

POR

OKC

40.

Grant Jerrett

PF, Arizona

POR to OKC

BOS

41.

Jamaal Franklin

SG, SD State

MEM

MIN

42.

Pierre Jackson

PG, Baylor

PHI to NOR

MIL

43.

Ricky Ledo

SG, Providence

MIL to PHI to DAL

ATL

44.

Mike Muscala

C, Bucknell

DAL to ATL

ATL

45.

Marko Todorovic

PF / C, Spain

POR

ATL to DAL

46.

Erick Green

PG, Virginia Tech

UTA to DEN

CLE

47.

Raulzinho Neto

PG, Spain

ATL

CHI

48.

Ryan Kelly

PF, Duke

LAL

UTA to MIN

49.

Erik Murphy

PF, Florida

CHI

BRK

50.

James Ennis

SF, LB State

ATL to MIA

IND

51.

Romero Osby

PF, Oklahoma

ORL

NYK

52.

Lorenzo Brown

PG, NC State

MIN

LAC

53.

Colton Iverson

C, Colorado State

IND to BOS

MIN to GSW to OKC

54.

Arsalan Kazemi

PF, Oregon

WAS to PHI

DEN to UTA

55.

Joffrey Lauvergne

C, Serbia

MEM to DEN

SAS

56.

Peyton Siva

PG, Louisville

DET

OKC to GSW to PHX

57.

Alex Oriakhi

C, Missouri

PHX

PHX to GSW

58.

Deshaun Thomas

SF, OSU

SAS

59.

Bojan Dubljevic

PF, Spain

MIN

60.

Jānis Timma

SF, Latvia

MEM

20.


THE MATRIX MAKING SENSE OF THE CHAOS

13 Stories from Draft Day* insane

Dallas Dives for Dwight Sliding down the Draft board, Dallas nabbed its tiny, spark plug point guard of the future in Shane Larkin at 18th, erroneously keeping its Dwight Howard options open.

The Cleve Trolls the Draft

Stern Feeds on Your Hate

Number one pick Anthony Bennett joins fellow surprise top four experiments Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson in General Manager Chris Grant’s increasingly inscrutable laboratory on Lake Erie.

Thirty years of boo-birds led to legendary Draft heel and departing Commissioner David Stern’s epic mic drop at Atlantic Yards.

Sixers Nix Jrue (and Drew) New Philly GM Sam Hinkie swapped 2013’s baby All-Star PG / injury wrecked C combo (Jrue Holiday - Andrew Bynum) for the 2017 model (Michael CarterWilliams - Nerlens Noel) and a shot at Andrew Wiggins.

Doc’s Desolatory Dash

Coach Doc Rivers’ fresh departure / betrayal and (soon to be confirmed) rumors of Boston’s Kevin Garnett - Paul Pierce shopping hung like a pall over the C’s number 13 pick, instant offense big Kelly Olynyk.

Bebe’s Sweet ‘Fro

Blazers Lined With Pride Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Steven Adams’ suit jacket liners were simultaneously frat friendly and fashion conscious – an apt description of the NBA Draft itself.

Charlotte’s Still Terrible at This The Bobcats took a decent talent (Cody Zeller) about three spots too high (at number four) again, but at least it wasn’t yet another undersized, positionless combo guard pick from MJ and company.

GAME WINNER

AIRBALL

The Hawks’ Euro stash pick Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira went 16th but had the Draft’s number one ‘do, hands down (and hair up).

Portland Builds America’s Backcourt With the number 10 pick, the plucky Blazers added Lehigh standout CJ McCollum to play alongside fellow NCAA midmajor superstar and crowd favorite Damian Lillard (of Weber State).

Z Teams Plug Some Holes

Minny Moves on from Kahn Freshly returned T-Wolves GM Flip Saunders declined to add another point guard to his stocked stables, flipping Michigan star Burke at number nine for intriguing Draft day tumblers Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng.

logical

*With apologies to New York magazine

21.

Textbook need based picks at numbers three (small forward Otto Porter to the Wiz) and nine (point guard Trey Burke to the Jazz) allowed those teams’ young stars to sleep easy this summer.

Brooklyn’s Got Big Ball(er)s Spendthrift Mikhail Prokhorov bought himself 26 All-Star appearances and three championships, doubling down on his Joe Johnson - Deron Williams bets with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Jason Terry and Andrei Kirilenko.

Sactown Catches a Break Finally secure in the River City, the Kings snagged Rookie of the Year favorite Ben McLemore at seven and added talents (Carl Landry, Luc Mbah a Moute, Greivis Vásquez) to complement his game.


What Did Cleveland Get on Draft Night?

Clearly, offense was a focus for the Cavaliers in the Draft, as well as having players that can play multiple positions. The scouting report on Bennett highlights an explosive offensive talent that can create mismatches for defenses. Bennett can score from the inside and long range, as well as throw down thunderous dunks in transition. Defense will be a key question as the season progresses for the rookie, who will have to commit to the that end of the floor in Mike Brown’s system. Like new teammate Dion Waiters in his rookie season last year, conditioning will be a major focus for the number one pick. Recovering from shoulder surgery, Bennett did not participate in the Summer League and suited up for short minutes in the preseason. At this point, the number one pick’s game is still a bit of an unknown. But why draft Bennett given the significant second year improvement of fellow undersized Canadian power forward Tristan Thompson, who averaged a near double-double in 2012-13? One possible explanation for drafting Bennett is that “small ball” is becoming increasing prevalent in the league; in the 2013 playoffs, the Miami Heat found great success in in sliding 6’8” LeBron James to power forward and Chris Bosh (6’11” but lighter than Bennett) to center and lining the perimeter with shooters like Mario Chalmers, Mike Miller, Ray Allen and Shane Battier. With that in mind, Bennett could potentially be paired with a number of the Cavaliers’ front court players depending on matchup. Of note, some claim Bennett could even play small forward at times. At the moment, it appears the 2013 number one pick is likely to come off the bench and hopefully provide a scoring punch that has been sorely lacking in the Cavaliers’ second unit for several years now. Indeed, Bennett’s ability to score was highlighted in only his second preseason game, in which

he scored 14 of his total 16 points in the fourth quarter to rally Cleveland to a come from behind victory against the Orlando Magic featuring six straight field goals, including two three point makes. The 19th pick, swingman Sergey Karasev, is known as a sharp shooter. While Karasev has played at a high level in Russia, there will likely be could be an adjustment period before a meaningful impact is seen. Still, Karasev was considered to be one of the top shooters in the draft and could provide the Cavaliers with a viable long distance threat. At 6’7” it is possible that Karasev could see minutes at small forward, as well as two guard. The 33rd pick, shooting guard Carrick Felix, had a solid summer league. Early indications are that Felix is likely to make the initial Cavaliers 15 man roster, though D-League stints throughout the season also seem possible. Felix has the ability to defend multiple positions on the floor and via hustle and tenacious defense could earn him minutes in Mike Brown’s rotation at both the two and the three. Players develop at varying rates in the NBA and contribute at different points. Recall, many Cavaliers fans had questions

about Kyrie Irving, due to his single, injury shortened season at Duke. Halfway through year two, Irving was an All-Star, a two time Rising Star Challenge player, and a Three Point Shootout champion. Cavs fans would also do well to keep in mind the story of longtime center Zydrunas “Big Z” Ilgauskas’ career. Now the team’s Assistant General Manager, the 20th pick in the 1996 Draft was injury plagued early in his career, but retired holding all time franchise records in games played, rebounds and blocks, and is second only to James in career points. It is unknown how much Bennett, Karasev, and Felix will contribute in the near- or long term. Still, all three picks appear have the upside potential that Cavs fans can get excited about.

Free Agency Coming out of the NBA Draft, the rhetoric from GM Chris Grant was notably different than in previous years regarding the looming free agency period. Indeed, it was clear that Grant was likely to be more aggressive during the summer of 2013. With the additions of former All-Star center Andrew Bynum, forward Earl Clark, and guard Jarrett Jack, the Cavaliers’ GM was true to his word, adding depth, playoff experience, and leadership. The headline signing was clearly Bynum, who only a few years ago nearly averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds a game, tellingly under Mike Brown in Los Angeles. After a year away from basketball due to knee injuries, however, it is unclear what the team is getting with the polarizing center. With only $6 million guaranteed in year one of an incentive laden two year, $24 million contract, the Cavaliers’ front office has massively de-risked the signing. Caution is needed, but Bynum was an elite big man before his injuries, and Cavs’ faithful have reacted to his addition with cautious optimism. The signing of Jack and Clark help fill major weaknesses at backup guard and small forward, respectively. Jack was part of a lethal trio of guards last year that also featured Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State, averaging 12.9 points and 5.5 assists game. Jack will likely play a similar role in Cleveland with Irving and Waiters, bringing leadership to another very young, very talented backcourt. With the signing of Clark, Cleveland gets a versatile player that can potentially guard both forward positions and a possible starter at small forward who averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in 2012-13 in Los Angeles.


Questions About the 2013-14 Season

CLE 2014

The 2013-14 Outlook

There are many questions heading into the upcoming season. How will Mike Brown 2.0 be different? Will the defense improve? Who will emerge as viable leaders for a still very young team? What will the rotation look like? Will the team maintain its health over the course of an 82 game season? Which Andrew Bynum is Cleveland getting? Will Thompson, Waiters, and Bennett live up to the expectations that come with being top five Draft picks? Which role players will become steady contributors? Most importantly, will the Cleveland Cavaliers finally return to the postseason in 2013-14?

The Cavaliers’ roster now comprises multiple players who can play multiple positions, which will allow Mike Brown to potentially exploit advantageous match ups. For the first time in a long time, Cleveland appears to have the pieces for a viable eight man rotation, even allowing for the injury history of the team’s three best players. Playoff expectations for the upcoming season have already been set by ownership. The Eastern Conference is stronger and lottery teams in Detroit and have also gotten better. The possibility of faltering for the Cavaliers is real, given outstanding questions and the unknowns of an 82 game season. Still, generally speaking, the outlook for Cleveland sports might be its brightest in years, with the Indians making the postseason and the Browns’ revitalized Dawg Pound cheering on an increasingly competitive team. This sentiment also holds true for the Cavaliers. Cleveland might still be known as the “Mistake by the Lake”, but make no mistake: the Cavaliers’ faithful have shown strong support during some very difficult seasons recently, and will stand firmly behind their young 2013-14 squad, with high hopes of a return to NBA Playoffs.

The Cavaliers’ Backcourt. Kyrie Irving has already entered the “elite point guard” conversation and dominated the US Olympic basketball scrimmage in July. Early indications are that the third year player is assuming a leadership role and is committed to improving on the defensive end of the floor – a current weakness for the All-Star guard. The only real question for the Cavaliers’ superstar will be maintaining his health over a grueling NBA season. Overall, Cleveland fans know what they are getting with a healthy “Uncle Drew”. A likely starter, Dion Waiters showed very encouraging flashes of potential in year one, joining Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard, Olympian Anthony Davis, and fellow up and comers Harrison Barnes and Bradley Beal on the 2012-13 First Team All-Rookie First Team. Coming into the 2013-14 season, Waiters appears to have meaningfully improved his physical fitness and the second year guard also benefited from Summer League play. After throwing down a vicious dunk in an inter-squad scrimmage, the confident, slightly grinning shooting guard noted to the media, “hops is back, as you can see”. Cleveland faithful are hoping for a more explosive Dion Waiters this year, and they just might get their wish. Jarrett Jack will provide a viable second team leader and likely play valuable minutes and multiple positions in every game. The aforementioned trio is likely to be joined in the backcourt by offensively minded CJ Miles, Felix, and swingman Alonzo Gee from time to time. The Cavaliers’ Frontcourt.

The front count is meaningfully deeper than in previous seasons. At center, Andrew Bynum and Anderson Varejão could make for a nightmare tandem for the opposition, if healthy. Varejão was having an All-Star level 14 point, 14 rebound 2012-13 before a season ending injury. The only player left from the LeBron James era, Cleveland fans have a soft spot for the hustling, defensively pesky Brazilian they call “Wild Thing”. Finally, Tyler Zeller, who made the 2012-13 All-Rookie Second Team, is a seven footer who can run the floor, regardless of his long term viability as a starter in the NBA. At worst, Zeller provides some insurance against the injury propensity of both Bynum and Varejão – the former who has yet to see the floor competitively for Cleveland. Tristan Thompson made major strides in year two and his work ethic has endeared him to coaches and fans. That said, there is speculation that Bennett will push him for meaningful minutes and that Varejão may even see time at power forward once Bynum is cleared to play in what would be an enormous and imposing lineup. Regardless, Thompson will either start or see significant minutes as a super-sub off the bench, and NBA watchers project another step forward for him in 2013-14. Small forward is the team’s most glaring weakness. Incumbent starter Gee is likely to be and should be pushed by Clark for the starting position. Both will likely to see meaningful minutes, with Brown experimenting with Bennett at the three, and Karasev and Miles challenging for playing time there.

Why? Because we have made “The Decision” that we are Cleveland Cavaliers fans: loyal and proud.

4

8

17 OWNER

Dan Gilbert GENERAL MANAGER

Chris Grant Head Coach

Mike Brown Starting Five

Andrew Bynum*(60) Tristan Thompson F. Alonzo Gee G. Dion Waiters G. Kyrie Irving(20) C. F.

HIGHEST PAID

Andrew Bynum ($12,250,000) TOP ADDITION

Anthony Bennett BIGGEST LOSS

Mo Speights ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

60

23.


CENTRAL 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE By Brian Duff

CHI 2014 OWNER

Jerry Reinsdorf GENERAL MANAGER

Gar Forman Head Coach

Tom Thibodeau Starting Five C.

Joakim Noah(21)

F.

Carlos Boozer(71)

F.

Luol Deng(55)

G. G.

2

3

5

DET 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Chicago’s dual All-NBAers and general tight budgeting all but requires young point guard Marquis Teague to follow -fellow late first rounders Jimmy “Buckets” Butler and Taj Gibson’s example and make the valuable but pricey vet Kirk Hinrich as expendable as Luol Deng and Carlos Boozer suddenly are.

Tom Gores GENERAL MANAGER

Joe Dumars Head Coach

Maurice Cheeks Starting Five C.

Andre Drummond(63)

F.

Greg Monroe(52)

F.

Josh Smith(34)

Jimmy Butler(90)

G.

Chauncey Billups

Derrick Rose(12)

G.

Brandon Jennings(91)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Derrick Rose ($17,632,688)

Josh Smith ($13,500,000)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Mike Dunleavy

Josh Smith

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Nate Robinson

Brandon Knight

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

42

84

24.

3

7

16

Person of Interest While Brandon Jennings’ shot selection is famously poor, he’s actually an accomplished ball handler whose steadily improving passing game could be the catalyst for growth by the Pistons’ young frontcourt. Any improvement up front would in turn carry this team back to the playoffs after five long lottery seasons.


IND 2014 OWNER

Herbert Simon GENERAL MANAGER

Kevin Pritchard Head Coach

Frank Vogel Starting Five C.

Roy Hibbert(23)

1

2

3

MIL 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Paul George, still on his rookie contract, blossomed into a legitimate star last season, earning the Most Improved trophy in addition to well deserved spots on the All-Star and All-NBA rosters. He also earned the right to supplant Paul Pierce as LeBron James’ Conference Finals foil for years to come.

Herb Kohl GENERAL MANAGER

John Hammond Head Coach

Larry Drew Starting Five C.

Larry Sanders(43)

F.

Ersan Ilyasova(61)

F.

Caron Butler

F.

David West(31)

F.

Danny Granger(72)

G.

Paul George(25)

G.

OJ Mayo(77)

G.

George Hill(79)

G.

Luke Ridnour

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Danny Granger ($14,021,788)

Caron Butler, OJ Mayo ($8,000,000)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Luis Scola

OJ Mayo, maybe

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

DJ Augustin

Fear the Deer legitimacy

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

3

114

25.

5

12

24

Person of Interest The Bucks completely dismantled an admittedly mediocre playoff team this off-season and handed the keys to the franchise to super raw big man Larry Sanders. If Sanders can develop enough of an offensive repertoire to play alongside fellow defensive project John Henson, Milwaukee will become a very painful road trip.


NORTHWEST THE VOYAGE CONTINUES By Brad Graham

MAN FOR ALL SEASONS No one takes his summer more seriously than Kevin Durant. How do we know? The Swoosh told us so. Now, as winter descends on the Western Conference – literally and metaphorically – the Vice President of Talent is back to chew bubble and kick some ass…

and he’s all out of bubblegum. 


With his all expenses paid NIKE promo tours of China and Western Europe bookending a summer full of parties with Jay Z, ProAm outings and wedding plans(!), the All-NBA staple is rarely afforded any time to himself. And as far as we can tell, he wouldn’t have it any other way. 
 
 26.


2013-14 NBA INFOGRAPHIC Circle A: LeBron James Circle B: Kevin Durant Circle C: The other 448. NOTE: Distance between circles should be measured in Light Years.

Throughout this past offseason, one could’ve been forgiven for thinking Durant’s named was prefixed with Ambassador. While Kobe rehabbed and LeBron rested his weary head on a pair of trophies, KD dominated from July to September like only he can. Since his scorching 2010 showing at the FIBA World Championships in Turkey, Durant hasn’t taken a summer off. In fact, he has only ramped up his appearances, proving once again that he’s impervious to fan fatigue. After announcing his engagement to WNBAer Monica Wright, the kid with five million Twitter followers bolted from Rob Pelinka’s Landmark Sports agency to sign with Jay Z’s shiny new RocNation Sports. As spokesperson Ron Berkowitz confirmed the news, an image of KD with Hova surfaced showing the pair inking papers in a luxurious Manhattan office. It was only natural that halfway through the God emcee’s latest offering, Magna Carta Holy Grail, Shawn Carter rapped, “It’s a new day, hit up KD.” Now Durant’s corporate partners, which include 2K Sports, BBVA Compass, Gatorade, NIKE, Panini America, Skullcandy and Sprint, are all going to be in the cool kids club. Jay Z’s stamp of approval notwithstanding, KD remains something of a vanilla celebrity who still somehow commands a growing legion of dedicate fans. Part of the adoration stems from his credit where credit is due policy: as he watched Jason Kidd and Grant Hill and then Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady retire this offseason, Durant repeatedly gave thanks to his former adversaries for their decorated careers of service.  On Kidd and Hill, Durant noted the honor that it was to compete against them when he came into the league (KD was just seven years old when they were named co-ROYs in 1995) and, after news broke in SLAM that Iverson was hanging them up, Durant sent out a thank you tweet, and then followed it up with another a few days later for McGrady, writing, “T-Mac the great!!! Thank you, just watching you as a kid helped me get to where I am today! Good luck in the future.” In 140 characters or less, Durant affirmed why we love both players, and even half jokingly ribbed the Spurs’ McGrady for his NBA Finals participation. After attending the annual NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Durant boarded a flight bound for China – his sixth tour of the People’s Republic – and hit Taiwan on his way back. On home soil, Durant spent time in LA before jetting back to Sin City for USA Basketball. As Kyrie

Irving, Paul George and company were trying to impress national team selectors, Durant was joined by Kevin Love to pledge their shared commitment to the Senior Men’s Program for the 2014 World Cup of Basketball, to be hosted by Spain. USA Hoops Director Jerry Colangelo also officially announced KD as “The face of USA Basketball going forward”. It was a no brainer. For those keeping record, Durant is now “the face” of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA, Team USA, NIKE Basketball and about half a dozen other major brands. RIP Greg Oden > Kevin Durant. Next, Durant traveled back to LA for more Summer is Serious campaigning before clocking time in the Drew League. After telling the world how much he misses Seattle, KD made it rain with 63 points (on 62 shots!) at Jamal Crawford’s Basketball ProAm. All conscious basketball fans saw NIKE’s Summer is Serious promotion this offseason as the Swoosh delivered a multiplatform social media movement to the masses that eventually culminated at August’s Tournament of Champions in Brooklyn. For the record,  Durant’s squad beat James Harden’s with a roster built from a field of 100 amateur players. While in the Big Apple, the reigning Summer MVP kept it cool and helped fans escape the heatwave by handing out ice cream from his very own truck. Between posting YouTube clips of himself Dikembe Mutombo-ing a bunch of little kids, working out for famed trainer Rob McClanaghan (with Love, Brandon Jennings, Chandler Parsons, Derrick Rose and John Wall) and battling second overall selection Victor Oladipo at the Goodman League Roundball Classic (Durant finished with a game high 40 points), dude juggled business with pleasure perfectly. The next installment of his whirlwind offseason saw Durant grab his passport for a nine day, four city European expedition, his first with The Swoosh. Powered by the NIKE x Foot Locker’s “Kevin Durant Investigates (KDI): New Season. Are you Ready?” program, the All-Star took in the Eiffel Tower, was speed boated down the Seine and later entertained Parisian ballers at Le Centquatre cultural center. In Milan, KD stopped by a radio station to promote his House of Hoops appearance, balled at Via Dezza and even visited the Giorgio Armani atelier. According to the press release, Durant concluded his day at Palazzo del Ghiaccio were his brother deejayed. His second day in Milan saw him drop by another famed gym before a visit

27.

to Ferrari’s Formula One Grand Prix test track in Monza. There, Durant met with the stallion president, Luca di Montezemolo. The following day, KD headed south to the capital and stood before the Colosseum for a photo op. On September 9th, Durant found himself in Barcelona where he met thousands of frenzied fans outside the NIKE store and hit the Valldonzella courts. Later, hundreds gathered at the Barceloneta to enjoy a final glimpse of the hoops icon alongside his host, Pau Gasol. With Spain in the rearview, Durant took the time to visit ESPN’s HQ, where he made an appearance on SportsCenter as well as other Worldwide Leader programs. During his stay, KD admitted he still has “a long 
ways to go” as a player. On one level, it’s an absurd comment. On another, he’s absolutely right, especially after the way his team was removed from the Larry O’Brien conversation. Although Russell Westbrook, who along with Durant, forms the best young tandem since Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal both wore gold and purple, is attacked by the media with the same ferocity he attacks the rim for taking shots away from KD, the triple scoring champ needs Russ more than ever this year. Indeed, Durant has never bought into the “Russell is only out for himself ” theory, and believes that Westbrook takes nothing away from him on the court (the fashion stakes arena is a different story). Westbrook’s wildfire is in fact the perfect counter to Durant’s chilling wind and their lack of chemistry can no longer be the scapegoat for the Thunder’s troubles. Oklahoma City’s fortunes now rest on: A) Scott Brooks’ abilities to lead without chief assistant Mo Cheeks to assist; B) Serge Ibaka’s offensive growth; and C) Its undercooked young bench. As long as KD and RW are healthy, the Thunder are virtually assured of 50 plus victories, but – and it’s a big but – ample ongoing support (C), a 17 points per game output from Ibaka (B) and Brooks’ ongoing evolution (A) could see another top seed in the West and a punched NBA Finals ticket. Not working in the team’s favor, as Grantland’s Andrew Sharp suggests, is the fact that “they lost Kevin Martin, missed on all the best replacements for him, and might head into the season pinning their hopes to Jeremy Lamb as a capable third scoring option...It’s a good thing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are aliens who will make this work regardless, because the Thunder have been flunking things for a while here.”


As this 2013-14 season approached, the Thunder vs. Heat plot thickened, with a minor Twitter feud erupting between Durant and Dwyane Wade over Sports Illustrated’s Top 10 listing of NBA players. Durant, it seems, was perturbed by the omission of his close friend and former running mate James Harden (listed 11th), and told CineSport’s Noah Coslov that Dwyane Wade (number eight in SI) would be the name he’d swap for Harden’s. The comment was content gold online, but it was also something of a realistic challenge for Wade and a repositioning of KD as a confident commander who believes his time is now. And if fans weren’t already clamoring for pro hoops about 30 days before opening tip, they certainly were after Wade posted a hand written Instagram response that read, “Note to self: Make him respect your place in history… again”

28.


Wade then received a, “Show me, don’t tweet me” response from Durant. Cute and clever back and forth aside, is KD correct that, as of 2012-13, Harden became the league’s prominent two guard? After all, Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney conducted what they term an “exhaustive exercise that sought to define who will be the best players” that was “based on a fluid combination of subjective assessment and objective data”. Basically, this: Age

PP G

RPG

11. James Harden

23

25.9 4.9

09. Kobe Bryant

34

27.3 5.6

08. Dwyane Wade

31

21.2 5.0

APG

SP G

FG%

PE R

Al l-NBA

5.8

1.8 .438

23

3rd

6.0

1.4 .463

23

1st

5.1

1.9 .521

24

3rd

Age aside, there really isn’t much at all separating Harden from Wade from Kobe Bryant. Whatever the outcome of the two games between Miami and Oklahoma City – which will be civil, surely, knowing KD and D-Wade – the fact that life has imitated art (or televisions commercials, at least) is a victory unto itself. Then on Media Day, KD calmed the waters, informing the microphone mob, “I just voiced my opinion. I love you D-Wade, man. It’s just competition.”

How close to extraterrestrial is KD? Last season, he shot .510 / .416 / .905 en route to 28.1 points, 7.9 boards, 4.6 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks a game. Only Larry Bird has chalked up similar accomplishments, and he was 29 years old before he hit those totals. Durant’s Win Share last year, was 18.9, a full five points head of third place Chris Paul, his Player Efficiency Rating was 28.3, second only to LeBron James’ 31.6, his True Shooting Percentage of .647 was second only to interior menace Tyson Chandler, and the Thunder’s +9.2 margin of victory is the NBA’s best since the 2008 Celtics tore up the league. In any other season, Durant would’ve been the clear cut MVP, but even with LeBron standing in his way, Durant’s season was historic. Second to one is the not the same as second to none, but if LeBron James is the league’s 1A, Durant is its 1B. As Grantland.com’s Kirk Goldsberry related, “If it weren’t for LeBron James, Durant would clearly be the best player in the league...offensively, Durant has become a once in a generation, pick your poison kind of foe.” More so, Durant is days ahead of Chris Paul – the consensus third best player in the league – or any other challenger, and it is patently unfair to simply lump him in with the other also rans. Durant remains the West’s top dog and is responsible for one of the greatest offensive season’s ever recorded, despite not even leading his own time in field goals per game. Like James (and, frankly, all the greats), Durant likes to open each new season with a brand new skill set, and in 2012-13 it was a renewed commitment on the defensive end of the court. The encore will be tougher: All-NBA First Team honors and a bunch of MVP votes no longer impress. For the past three seasons, experts from ESPN and other outlets have placed KD atop their MVP prediction lists, assuming that eventually James would falter or see at least a statistical dip due to his All-Star running mates. Durant will see those same blurbs again this year, as NBA watchers scrutinize Westbrook for signs of lingering injury – and circle the Thunder’s Miami matchups. In the two collisions between KD and LeBron last season, on Christmas Day in South Beach and Valentine’s Day in Tornado Alley, James (29-8-9; 39-12-7) got the better of Durant (33-7-3; 40-8-4-3), winning both. Thanks to their history and growing rivalry, their highly marketable duel will now surely serve as this season’s biggest subplot. For fans, the best part of Durant’s relentless quest to topple King James is that he only seems to make his foe better, which in turn re-motivates Durant, creating virtuous circles of dedication, sacrifice and excellence. It’s the greatest individual contest since Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain ruled the timber, the most gripping headline of the present and the NBA greatest gift to the future. Whatever you do, don’t miss it.

29.

OKC 2014 1

1

2 OWNER

Clayton Bennett GENERAL MANAGER

Sam Presti Head Coach

Scott Brooks Starting Five

Kendrick Perkins Serge Ibaka(29) F. Kevin Durant(2) G. Thabo Sefolosha G. Russell Westbrook*(5) C. F.

HIGHEST PAID

Kevin Durant ($17,832,627) TOP ADDITION

Humility BIGGEST LOSS

Kevin Martin ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

4


NORTHWEST 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE By Brad Graham

den 2014 OWNER

Stan Kroenke GENERAL MANAGER

Tom Connelly Head Coach

Brian Shaw Starting Five C.

JaVale McGee

F.

Kenneth Faried(75)

F.

Danilo Gallinari*(45)

G. G.

3

9

14

min 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

As long as JaVale McGee continues to do JaVale McGee things, the 2013-14 Nuggets will be highly enjoyable (and frustrating and exciting and dominating and disappointing) at least during professional hoops’ 20 most unpredictable minutes per game. We salute you, JaVale, for making the NBA a better, brighter place.

Glen Taylor GENERAL MANAGER

Flip Saunders Head Coach

Rick Adelman Starting Five C.

Nikola Pekovic(50)

F.

Kevin Love(13)

F.

Chase Budinger

Wilson Chandler

G.

Kevin Martin(73)

Ty Lawson(42)

G.

Ricky Rubio(93)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Ty Lawson ($10,786,517)

Kevin Love ($14,693,906)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

The irrational confidence of Nate Robinson

Kevin Martin

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Andre Iguodala

The excuse of injury

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

43

83

30.

2

8

13

Person of Interest If high current (Shabazz Muhammad) and former (Derrick Williams) draft choices can contribute in a major way -- and there’s a good chance they will under Rick Adelman -Minny might just be back in the postseason for the first time in a decade. A healthy Kevin Love doesn’t hurt either.


por 2014 OWNER

Paul Allen GENERAL MANAGER

Neil Olshey Head Coach

Terry Stotts Starting Five C.

Robin Lopez

F.

LaMarcus Aldridge(18)

F.

Nicolas Batum(51)

G. G.

4

10

18

uta 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Avoiding the sophomore slump once your secret is out is challenging – just ask former small market marvel and ROY Tyreke Evans. This year Damian Lillard must provide All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge with serious, sustained support. Otherwise, the big man may be gone... or steady hand Mo Williams may take Lillard’s job.

Greg Miller GENERAL MANAGER

Dennis Lindsey Head Coach

Tyrone Corbin Starting Five C.

Enes Kanter

F.

Derrick Favors(87)

F.

Gordon Hayward(67)

Wesley Matthews

G.

Alec Burks

Damian Lillard(47)

G.

Trey Burke*

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

LaMarcus Aldridge ($14,878,000)

Richard Jefferson ($11,046,000)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Thomas Robinson

Trey Burke

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Keeping Terry Stotts

Paul Millsap

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

57

53

31.

5

14

26

Person of Interest As the Trey Burke era commences, Jazz fans have promised to be patient. Utah offers an interesting mix of newly promoted bigs and very young if capable guards, but they’re pups in a league of big dogs. Which makes Salt Lake City the perfect place to lay a trap.


SOUTHWEST BLACK GOLD By Brian Duff

When ranking NBA franchises, everyone – from hardcore fans to legends of the game, from stats geeks to irredeemable homers – says “Celtics and Lakers, then everyone else” (or “LA and Boston, then everyone else”...). Some might also name check sometimes great teams like Chicago or Miami, or consistently excellent franchises like Phoenix or Seattle (and the very best remember to note the Spurs), but BUCKETS lives outside the box and would like to offer another way. Ranking teams in terms of “greatness” is inherently a fraught proposition, particularly when taking the long view – as opposed to ephemera (eg, weekly power rankings) or trivia (stadium amenities, uniform design, et al). This is in part because there are few disinterested parties. True fanatics, of course, cannot be expected to be dispassionate about anything, and the comentariat tends toward short sighted declarations (Google “Miami Heat” and “dynasty”) or counterfactual nonsense (Try “LeBron James” and “choke”) as a way of extending a narrative and producing exciting media.

While there is nothing wrong with good TV, some evidence is needed to get to the root of the issue, and here, as with all things, it is best to listen to the colorless math types who are singularly capable of blinkering themselves against teams’ idiosyncratic histories. In doing so, they place aside franchises’ creation myths, bildungsromans and all manner of prophets, fools and martyrs to view in the cold light of morning the true measure of each team.

MO D E L F RA NCH I S E

Even the nerds, however, are split on how best to measure NBA greatness, with traditionalists looking to championships and purists preferring winning percentages. Each approach has its advantages and its pitfalls, as explored below. There is also a prospective third way, a new view of basketball greatness that hews closer to the core of what the game is all about.

San Antonio

ED’s note 1: All data thanks to the stupendous basketball-reference.com. Ed’s note 2: Data on teams that have moved cities includes all previous franchise incarnations.

on the Cusp of Greatness

32.


{ MEASURING NBA GREATNESS }

1.

Chip Counting As championships are the ultimate goal of the sport and the favorite measuring stick of the players themselves, there is a beautiful simplicity in saying: “The 10 greatest NBA teams of all time are Boston (17 championships), the Los Angeles Lakers (16), Chicago (6), San Antonio (4), Miami, Philadelphia, Detroit and Golden State (3), and New York and Houston (2) – in that order.” Beautiful simplicity aside, however, there are several related problems with this approach. As demonstrated by Boston’s running up the score early (the Cs won more than half of all championships between 1957 and 1986) and the surprisingly high ranking of Golden State and New York (tied for fifth here even though neither has won a championships in nearly 40 years), it is clear that simply counting championships does not provide a complete understanding of NBA excellence. Rather, teams that played with lesser and fewer competitors are rewarded, and those who came late to the party are punished. While Miami is the clear exception to this rule, the Heat also demonstrate how razor thin the difference between excellence and mediocrity can be using this ranking structure. Orlando, for example, came into the league just a year after Miami, has put together a very similar overall record (.510

2.

versus .515) and has made the playoffs nearly as frequently (25 series played in 25 years, versus 31 in 26). The Magic, however sit 13 spots behind the Heat in franchise rankings based on championships. Similarly, Detroit and Chicago both have relied on brilliant periods to elevate their ranking, disguising the fact that the Pistons own a very dark 27 years from the late ‘50s to the early ‘80s in which they logged only three winning seasons, while the Bulls would be a mid level franchise save for one excellent stretch that included 14 straight playoff seasons and six championships in eight years. This is better known as the “Michael Jordan era”. These internal inconsistencies also plague teams at the bottom end of the championship spectrum. Utah and Phoenix for example are, on the whole, extremely successful basketball franchises; Charlotte and the Los Angeles Clippers are not. Those four teams, however, co-occupy the NBA championship basement with nine other active franchises, some quite good (Orlando, Indiana) and others nearly as bad as the ‘Cats and Clips (Memphis, Minnesota). This is not to say that championships do not matter, or are not an appropriate guide to which teams are good and which are bad. Just that this approach is overly simplistic and should be counterpointed by other relevant information.

2. 3. 4. 5.

9. 11.

18.

1.

Aggregate Record There is less glory and more math in this second approach to gauging NBA franchise greatness, which entails simply calculating each team’s aggregate record over its history. Here the Lakers have an edge over their hated rivals in Beantown, who in turn sit just a hair above San Antonio. Four through 10, however, are: Phoenix and Utah (zero championships), Oklahoma City (one, until Seattle takes it back), Philadelphia (3), Portland (1), Milwaukee (1) and finally Chicago (6). New York, Detroit and Golden State are notably far down this list (17, 19, 22). While this approach cleans up many of the weighting issues associated with measuring by championships alone, it too has a major problem: the sheer number of games played in NBA history make this structure hugely inflexible. Practically, this means that it would take decades of very good records for a historically bad franchise like Memphis (number 28 on this list) to dig out of its Vancouver hole, even given the team’s excellent run of late. Similarly, despite two separate eras of multiple playoff appearances over the past 25 years (call them the Mark Price / Terrell Brandon era and the LeBron

1.

2.

James era), Cleveland (23) would have to match its all time win record (66) for eight straight seasons just to get to .500 all time. At the other extremity, while the top ranked Lakers may well be bad this year, the team would have to play at a franchise low level (equivalent to Minneapolis’ .264 finish in 1958, or 22-60) for six straight years for number three San Antonio to catch up at its current pace, to say nothing of Boston’s chances with its ugly 2013-2014 roster. The reality is that this ranking is virtually static and, if one looks at it long enough, dispiriting. While no one will be catching the Lakers or the Celtics in championships anytime soon, fans of well built teams with lucky streaks – say, Memphis, Indiana, the Clippers or Brooklyn – can absolutely look forward to their franchises flying up the chip table over the course of one good, extended run. That’s exciting. The Clippers knowing they have to put together a franchise best seasons every year until 2044 just to reach .500? Depressing. We need a third way.

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 9. 10. 11. 12. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

33.

Franchise Championships (most recent)

W

L

Boston Celtics (2008) Los Angeles Lakers (2010) Chicago Bulls (1998) San Antonio Spurs (2007) Miami Heat (2013) - Philadelphia 76ers (1983) - Detroit Pistons (2004) - Golden State Warriors (1975) New York Knicks (1973) - Houston Rockets (1995) Washington Wizards (1978) - Atlanta Hawks (1958) - Oklahoma City Thunder (1979) - Portland Trail Blazers (1977) - Dallas Mavericks (2011) - Milwaukee Bucks (1971) - Sacramento Kings (1951) Brooklyn Nets - Orlando Magic - Phoenix Suns - Utah Jazz - Cleveland Cavaliers - Indiana Pacers - Charlotte Bobcats - Denver Nuggets - Los Angeles Clippers - Memphis Grizzlies - Minnesota Timberwolves - New Orleans Pelicans - Toronto Raptors

17 16 6 4 3 3 3 3 2 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

4 15 0 1 1 6 4 3 6 2 3 3 3 2 1 1 0 2 2 2 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Los Angeles Lakers Boston Celtics San Antonio Spurs Phoenix Suns Utah Jazz Oklahoma City Thunder Philadelphia 76ers - Portland Trail Blazers Milwaukee Bucks Chicago Bulls Miami Heat Houston Rockets - Orlando Magic Indiana Pacers Dallas Mavericks Denver Nuggets New York Knicks Atlanta Hawks Detroit Pistons New Orleans Pelicans Sacramento Kings Golden State Warriors Cleveland Cavaliers Washington Wizards Brooklyn Nets Toronto Raptors Minnesota Timberwolves Memphis Grizzlies Los Angeles Clippers Charlotte Bobcats

.619 .594 .590 .552 .543 .532 .530 .530 .520 .519 .515 .510 .510 .508 .505 .503 .500 .495 .490 .480 .463 .459 .456 .445 .437 .407 .397 .383 .375 .346


Given the structural difficulties outlined above, we’d like to nominate a third way of evaluating the relative greatness of NBA franchises: head to head comparison.

3. VS.

Head to Head ATL

BOS 88

BKN -23 -31

CHA -4 -14 -15

CHI 16 -21 15 12

CLE -16 -46 17 13 -31

DAL -2 -6 12 15 0 -5

-13 20 -3 -1 17 -44 24 -2 19 22 1 -5 -11 -11 -10 -21 8 3 -24 10 -29 14

DET GSW HOU -11 -3 4 -101 -70 -43 33 10 28 13 8 1 -18 -2 -2 38 35 3 8 -18 3 13 -20 3 4 -4 36 -4 -36 4 -7 15 2 33 30 47 -71 -98 -66 8 22 -3 -4 -3 -2 -17 -33 -15 10 21 -1 0 14 -5 -40 11 -7 -35 -1 -4 13 -12 -1 61 -25 -3 -48 -16 -5 -8 -29 19 0 30 2 -18 -45 -21 26 5 5 -42 -15 -22 31 22 -13

IND -15 -18 28 12 10 5 -11 1 -2 7 -15 19 -34 12 15 -15 14 13 -15 -13 0 -30 -9 -14 7 -19 17 -2 19

-90 1 -11 -17 -2 -16 -20 -56 -9 -16 -58 -71 -35 -85 -6 -33 -36

24

-28

-124

-454

78

-53

-872 1155 -334

1

-1

-5

-16

5

-1

-30

40

ATL BOS BKN CHA CHI CLE DAL DEN DET GSW HOU IND LAC LAL MEM MIA MIL MIN NOR NYK OKC ORL PHI PHX POR SAC SAS TOR UTA WAS

-88 23 4 -16 16 2 5 -11 3 -4 15 34 -48 12 -15 1 13 4 16 3 2 -14 -18 0 0 -9 11 -5 10

31 14 21 46 6 16 101 70 43 18 52 30 8 19 4 12 -4 101 13 8 62 13 22 63 63 -5 4 75

15 -15 -17 -12 -26 -33 -10 -28 -28 11 -39 1 -18 -19 -5 -3 -3 -22 -14 -30 -8 -32 -11 -43 1 -1 -4

-12 -13 -15 -7 -13 -1 -8 -12 -7 -1 -5 -15 -12 6 -8 -4 -7 -12 -4 -7 -7 1 -13 -2 -7 -4

31 0 -7 2 18 2 10 20 -28 3 10 14 11 21 16 3 4 -24 1 4 2 -19 6 4 19

5 -12 -38 -3 -35 -5 20 -18 9 -13 -33 11 4 -25 -17 -8 -12 -23 -13 -1 -25 7 -9 -11

7 -8 18 -3 11 36 -72 34 5 -11 16 21 2 -6 3 -3 -9 -12 22 -28 11 -27 3

Field

-53

944

-447

-222

145

-308

Mean

-2

31

-15

-8

5

-10

DEN -5 -16 26 7 7 12 -7

LAC -34 -52 -11 7 -20 -20 -36 -17 -33 -30 -47 -19

LAL MEM MIA 15 48 -12 -19 -30 -6 18 39 -1 15 1 5 28 -10 -3 13 18 9 72 -34 -5 44 -24 2 71 -8 4 98 3 3 66 -22 2 34 -12 -15 90 11 -1 -28 -10 28 5 10 -5 23 32 -1 8 -11 49 -14 31 -2 -15 51 -5 -10 -27 48 7 18 -1 -8 9 -1 -13 -29 39 -17 -15 28 17 121 -16 -17 -35 1 22 7 19 -27 -10 41 39 51 5

-12

MIL -1 -4 19 12 -14 33 11 -19 17 33 15 15 17 -32 1 -23

MIN -13 -12 5 -6 -11 -11 -16 -22 1 -10 -21 -14 2 -49 11 -8 8

-8 -17 1 3 0 -1 -4 19 26 -5 23 -5 32

-8 -8 -40 13 5 -29 -42 2 -44 -10 -36 -7

NOR NYK OKC -16 -4 -4 -101 -13 4 22 3 3 8 7 4 -16 -21 -3 25 17 -4 -21 6 -2 11 -1 5 0 40 1 -11 35 5 -14 7 4 -13 15 13 16 20 56 -31 -51 -48 14 27 5 15 10 2 17 -1 -3 8 8 40 10 12 -6 -10 -12 6 6 8 -2 14 -51 -5 -8 -24 2 -13 -11 8 -8 50 1 -27 -9 -19 8 9 3 -29 -19 -18 7 12 54

60

146

-396

-80

-75

6

5

-14

-3

-2

ORL -2 -8 14 12 -4 8 -3 11 -13 12 1 0 9 -18 1 -7 0 13 -6 2 -8

PHI 14 -62 30 4 24 12 3 10 61 25 3 30 16 -9 8 1 1 -5 -14 51 5 -35

35 -9 -5 -2 -19 4 -10 30

-9 7 38 -15 2 -5 65

189

38

256

7

1

9

> 100 51a100 26a50 11a25 6a10 1a5

Legend

0 -1a-5 -6a-10 -11a-25

-26a-50 -51a-100

< -100

This understanding of greatness combines the porosity and glory of the “Chip Counting” structure with the statistical soundness of the “Aggregate Record”concept. As a bonus, it also ensures that every franchise plays at least one meaningful series a year, regardless of relative team quality. Inspired by college football’s great rivalry games, this ranking of NBA franchises sees merit in those traditional series that remain nearly deadlocked after more than 100 games – including the Red River Rivalry (Texas versus Oklahoma; 107 total games; 16 win difference), The Game (Michigan v Ohio State; 109; 14), Civil War (Oregon v Oregon State; 116; 14), Big Game (Stanford v Cal; 115; 12) and the especially close Paul Bunyan’s Axe rivalry (Minnesota v Wisconsin; 122; 2) – recognizing that even in a rebuilding or

34.

off year, all of those teams will get up for their one big game. For an example, Philadelphia sits number seven all time in head to head matchups, leading their series against 21 teams and trailing again eight. Even though the Sixers are swinging for the dugout this year, if we used this ranking structure, they would have a distinct motivation to avoid sweeps to Charlotte and Toronto (totally doable), and to avoid losing their season series to Miami and Milwaukee (more difficult), as doing so could well drop them as many as eight spots in this ranking. On the other end of the spectrum, defending champion Miami could move up as many as five ranks – from 12 to seven – or could, alternatively, tumble as many as nine spots, depending on the results of its New Orleans, Philadelphia, Denver,


RANK

PHX 14 -13 8 7 -1 23 9 21 5 48 16 9 58 -39 29 13 4 29 8 -2 24 9 9

POR 0 -22 32 7 -4 13 12 8 8 29 -19 14 71 -28 15 17 -19 42 13 11 -8 5 -7 -22

SAC 0 -63 11 -1 -2 1 -22 -3 2 0 -30 -7 35 -121 16 -17 -26 -2 -1 8 -50 2 -38 -46 -43

SAS 9 5 43 13 19 25 28 24 18 45 21 19 85 -1 35 17 5 44 27 9 19 19 15 4 0 49

TOR -11 -15 -1 2 -6 -7 -11 -10 -26 -5 -5 -17 6 -19 -7 -22 -23 10 -8 -3 -9 -4 -2 -13 -13 -9 -16

UTA 5 -4 1 7 -4 9 27 29 22 42 15 2 33 -41 27 10 3 36 19 18 29 10 5 -12 21 16 -18 17

WAS -10 -75 4 4 -19 11 -3 -14 -31 -22 13 -19 36 -51 -5 -39 -32 7 -12 -54 -7 -30 -65 -1 -3 -16 -21 -1 -4

22 46 -4 13 12 1

43 0 13 -21 3

-49 9 -16 16

16 18 21

-17 1

4

382

206

-437

651

-260

328

-459

13

7

-16

23

-9

12

-16

Detroit and Houston series. Of note, the Sacramento Kings, number 21 here – leading in nine series, trailing in 18, and drawn in two – have a whooping nine series currently hanging in the balance, meaning the Kings have the potential to rise as high as number 10 if everything went their way, or could plummet as low as number 28 should things go sour. Cleveland, on the other hand, has only one series this season – against Sacramento, natch – in which it could affect its overall ranking. Most excitingly, after finishing fourth all time in championships and third in aggregate record, San Antonio sits second overall in head to head matchups with 27 leads, one deficit and one draw, and has every opportunity to make history this season. While Los Angeles leads this table with 28 series leads and just one deficit, the Lakers are 30

1. 2. 3. 4. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25. 26.

29.

FRANCHISE

LEAD

28 Los Angeles Lakers San Antonio Spurs 27 27 Boston Celtics 24 Phoenix Suns 24 - Utah Jazz 23 Chicago Bulls 21 Philadelphia 76ers Oklahoma City Thunder 19 18 Portland Trail Blazers 17 Atlanta Hawks 16 Milwaukee Bucks 16 Miami Heat 16 - New York Knicks 15 Dallas Mavericks 15 Houston Rockets 14 New Orleans Pelicans 13 Orlando Magic 13 Detroit Pistons 13 - Indiana Pacers 13 Denver Nuggets 9 Sacramento Kings 9 Golden State Warriors 8 Cleveland Cavaliers Minnesota Timberwolves 7 6 Washington Wizards 4 Brooklyn Nets 4 - Memphis Grizzlies 4 - Toronto Raptors 2 Charlotte Bobcats 2 - Los Angeles Clippers

DEFICIT

DRAW

1 1

1

2 5 5 5

1

8 10 9

2

10

2

12

1

13 13 13

1

14 14

1

14

2

15

1

15

1

16 18

2

19

1

21 22 23 25 25 25 27 27

SAS 2014

+/-

+0 +2 +0 +3 +0 +1 +0 +0 +2 +2 +4 +2 +3 +3 +4 +2 +4 +6 +2 +3 +7 +2 +1 +0 +2 +2 +4 +3 +7 +1

/ / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / / /

-2 -2 -1 -1 -2 -4 -4 -2 -2 -6 -3 -3 -2 -2 -1 -3 -5 -2 -2 -2 -5 -2 -0 -3 -1 -2 -1 -2 -1 -1

1

2

4 OWNER

Peter Holt GENERAL MANAGER

R.C Buford Head Coach

Gregg Popovich Starting Five

Tiago Splitter(74) Tim Duncan(6) F. Kwahi Leonard(37) G. Danny Green(96) G. Tony Parker(4)

C. F.

HIGHEST PAID

Tony Parker ($12,500,000) games behind the Celtics in their all time series of 257 regular season games. Meanwhile, Boston trails two teams – San Antonio by five games and New Orleans by four, neither of which they can make up this year – and the Spurs sit just one game behind the Lakers and are tied with Portland in that all time series. This means that San Antonio, simply by winning its series against LA and Portland (both likely, if not given) and avoiding a sweep at the hands of the Suns (extremely probable) would have series leads against all other teams in the league as early as Wednesday March 19th when the Spurs play the Lakers at Staples. This would be an absolutely historic accomplishment for Popovich and company, and one that would make San Antonio – in this matrix, anyway – the NBA’s very best franchise.

35.

TOP ADDITION

Marco Belinelli BIGGEST LOSS

Gary Neal ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

2


SouTHWEST 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE By Brad Graham

dal 2014 OWNER

Mark Cuban GENERAL MANAGER

Donnie Nelson Head Coach

Rick Carlisle Starting Five

4

7

12

hou 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Mark Cuban’s acquisition of Monta Ellis might look like a Band-Aid on a roster requiring surgery, but the 27 year old is as quick and athletic as anyone in the league and averages 19.4 points per. Does no one else remember the open looks Jason Terry got playing opposite Dirk?

Leslie Alexander GENERAL MANAGER

Daryl Morey Head Coach

Kevin McHale Starting Five

C.

Samuel Dalembert

C.

Ömer Asik(69)

F.

Dirk Nowitzki(16)

F.

Shawn Marion(92)

F.

Dwight Howard(7)

F.

Chandler Parsons (94)

G.

Monta Ellis(68)

G.

James Harden(11)

G.

Jose Calderon*(70)

G.

Jeremy Lin

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Dirk Nowitzki ($22,721,381)

Dwight Howard ($20,513,178)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Jose Calderon

Dwight Howard

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

OJ Mayo

Ömer Asik’s happiness

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

29

37

36.

2

4

8

Person of Interest Houston is attempting a Twin Towers Take 2 with Dwight Howard and Ömer Asik playing the Hakeem Olajuwon and Ralph Sampson parts. Could be fun, but if either one gets in the way of James Harden, it’ll all be for naught. The Bearded One is still the Rockets’ most deadly player and it’s time Dwight Howard accepts that his role is best served in support.


noR 2014 OWNER

Tom Benson GENERAL MANAGER

Dell Damps Head Coach

Monty Williams Starting Five C.

Anthony Davis(41)

F.

Ryan Anderson(57)

F.

Tyreke Evans(65)

G. G.

5

12

22

mem 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

The hungry young Pelicans are a heady mix of size and skill, with triple gunners Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday providing the thrill. The Pels’ competitiveness depends on Anthony Davis and Holiday developing pick and roll chemistry, but it’s Evans and Gordon’s onetwo potential that makes NOLA interesting.

Robert Pera GENERAL MANAGER

Chris Wallace Head Coach

David Joerger Starting Five C.

Marc Gasol(14)

F.

Zach Randolph(35)

F.

Tayshaun Prince

Eric Gordon*

G.

Tony Allen

Jrue Holiday(48)

G.

Mike Conley(39)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Eric Gordon ($14,283,844)

Zach Randolph ($18,238,333)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Jrue Holiday

Their 2013 experience

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

New uniform designs

Lionel Hollins

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

54

1

37.

3

5

10

Person of Interest Marc Gasol says the Blue Bears will run more this season, but with Memphis’ five player defense and big bad frontcourt, why? Mike Conley’s postseason showing (17-5-7) and the flattened West says the Grizz will be right in the thick of it alongside the Spurs, Thunder, Clips, Rockets and Warriors... but will they rally around their new head coach?


PACIFIC CHANGING OF THE GUARD By Brad Graham

R A F I

OY L AM L Y

MEET SACRAMENTO’S NEW BASKETBALL PRINCE

Ben McLemore

38.


Since moving west in 1985 following 13 years in Kansas City and Omaha, the Kings have been consistently inconsistent. One only needs to look at the recent revolving door of head coaches (five in six seasons), or the fact that the team went from 61 wins and a Conference Finals trip to five consecutive years in the lottery to understand the volatility, uncertainty and disappointment that has defined Sacramento’s recent tenure. Now, with a new owner who actually respects the team, city and fan base and a shiny new shooting guard named Ben McLemore to help light the way, the Kings are finally back on the horse and riding toward a town called relevance.

I. If you’ve followed this year’s draft class, you’ll already know all about Ben McLemore’s rags to riches story. For those slightly less obsessed, his journey is as follows: Born the second youngest of six to Sonya Reid, McLemore’s was a financially starved childhood in one of the poorest areas of Greater St. Louis. He grew up in a household that could hold as many as 15 people at times, and where regular meals, heat and electricity were often lacking. As a student, hunger pains were as common as homework, forcing Ben and his younger brother Kevin to work odd jobs around their rundown neighborhood to earn enough to buys some food to supplement what they could get from the school cafeteria. When the hot water was out, they heated bath water in the microwave. When a bill was due, they sold food stamps and stayed hungry. When the electricity was out they used candles. Make no mistake, Ben McLemore has lived in hard times. Yet through it all, he worked on his game. Often found hooping at The Spectrum – the nickname for a St. Louis community court where those in the know go to get recognized – McLemore developed his sweet jumpshot in hopes of following in the footsteps of fellow St. Louis native, Bradley Beal. In 2010, McLemore played for Jeff McCaw at Wellston High before the state of Missouri shut the school down. Forced to look elsewhere for his hoop tutelage, McLemore eventually landed at the prestigious hoop farm, Oak Hill Academy in Southwestern Virginia where Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Josh Smith and dozens of other future professional players once

suited up. Shortly thereafter, he was dismissed for violating an undisclosed team rule along with teammate, Sidiki Johnson, a onetime Arizona recruit, and found himself out in the cold again. Later, the silky shooter found himself in Humble, Texas outside Houston at DeAndre Jordan’s alma mater, Christian Life Center Academy, and from there committed to Kansas University and its beloved Jayhawks. Before McLemore could enjoy campus life, however, he had to visit his his 26 year old brother, Keith Scott, currently serving a 15 year prison sentence. In early 2008, Scott pleaded guilty for unlawfully entering the home of Hezekiah Smith, where a dispute led to Smith being shot. Charged with first degree burglary, first degree assault and armed criminal action, the incident, along with a second felony charge just weeks later, saw Scott incarcerated at the Potosi Correctional Center, south of St. Louis. For the then 15 year old McLemore, the event was searing, and he told ESPN’s Andy Katz, “Not having food for a couple days, no lights, no hot water, I knew we could always get that back. Taking my brother, I didn’t know when I could get that back..That was the worst feeling. And I am still feeling it.” Still, knowing his brother and knowing his neighborhood, McLemore reflected that while Scott was locked up “several people got killed in the neighborhood [so it] was a good thing he was not out there. It could have been worse.” The brothers now speak regularly on the telephone and correspond in letter, and McLemore visits when he is able.

39.

II. As a new high school graduate, neither Rivals nor Scout.com nor any other ranking saw him as a prospective NBA franchise cornerstone. After accepting an athletic scholarship to Kansas, McLemore sat out his freshman campaign due to “hazy” academic records. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the redshirt freshman used the extra time to hone his game. Early in his Jayhawks career, the 6’5” off guard hit 21 points on eight of 14 shooting in a 84 - 78 win over Oregon State, netted another 24 a week later blowing out the University of Colorado, tallied 22 in a 74 - 66 victory against number seven Ohio State and was instrumental in the 97 - 89 overtime home win versus Iowa State, scoring 33 and hitting all six of his attempts from deep. McLemore collected another 30 points and pulled down seven rebounds to help slay the Jayhawks’ rival Kansas State, then ranked 10th ranked, by 21 points, and got everybody talking with a 36 point run against West Virginia. But although McLemore guided Kansas to an impressive 18 game winning streak through February 2013 and helped coach Bill Self tally another 30 win season and a high ticket at the dance, the University of Michigan stopped the Jayhawks’ rise in the Sweet Sixteen with a heartbreaking 87 - 85 overtime decision. Initially projected as a late first round pick, McLemore earned an All-American nod and was shortlisted for the John Wooden Award on the back of his 16.4 points (the most ever by a Kansas freshman) and 5.3 rebounds per game and his beautiful 51 percent shooting. Suddenly, when the University of Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel suffered


the simple math of adding McLemore

+

a season ending knee injury, McLemore was in consideration for 2013’s top NBA Draft pick. Given his family’s financial situation, McLemore was never going to stay in school long, but in his one season in Lawrence, Kansas, he worked hard to extend the Jayhawks’ streak of consecutive NCAA tournaments to 24 and was an electrifying force at the packed Allen Fieldhouse. III. For those who like their NBA players free of controversy, read no further. McLemore’s dicey high school history and his brother’s incarceration aside, there is one off court ghost that haunts the his future, and it starts in middle school. In May it was revealed that AAU coach Darius Cobb, who had known McLemore since the guard was in sixth grade, had accepted as much as $10,000 from a man named Rodney Blackstock, the founder and CEO of Hooplife Academy, a North Carolina sports mentoring organization. McLemore, who says he was unaware of the money exchanged and that he never accepted gifts from Blackstock, befriended the man, gave him some game tickets, and took a trip him to Los Angeles, on which McLemore claims paid for his own flights and accommodation. As a middle man courting McLemore on behalf of a sports agency, Blackstock attended the Jayhawks’ games against Oklahoma State, Kansas State and Texas Tech as a guest of McLemore. As reported by USA Today’s Eric Prisbell and Hoopsworld’s Derek Page, Cobb also received multiple all expenses paid trips to Los Angeles and was accompanied McLemore’s cousin, Richard Boyd. In Prisbell’s June 21st article, Boyd denied going to Los Angeles, but Cobb provided the paper with travel receipts and photos. The school is currently being investigated

=

by the NCAA and could face hefty fines or be stripped of some wins due to a rule that states that student athletes are to become ineligible if they relatives or friends accept any benefit from an agent or representative of an agent. McLemore has since signed with Blackstock, now a certified NBA agent and told The Kansas City Star that he has not spoken to Cobb since the USA Today story was published, pushing the coach out of his “circle” for putting “me in jeopardy and my family in jeopardy”. Cobb later admitted that his personal financial difficulties motivated him to accept Blackstock’s money and to introduce Sonya Reid to the agent. IV. At the media availability day prior to the 2013 NBA Draft, a composed and shy McLemore took a seat at his table inside the Westin New York Grand Central’s fifth floor Majestic Ballroom. There, he endeavored to answer any and all queries, and fielded questions from journalists curious about his sketchy agent dealings and from others who wanted to keep it light and chat about jersey numbers and sneaker endorsements. Still others tried to hook a juicy quote from McLemore about his potential selection as number one overall pick. The guard would not bite. McLemore had gone from late first rounder to possible number one pick (and all the Ray Allen comparisons he could handle) to a flawed prospect dropping like a rock down the draft board. At the junket, when asked why his stock was falling, he said “I honestly don’t know – I thought my workouts went well.” USA Today, knowing McLemore better than most outlets, ran a draft capsule that read, “McLemore is the prospect who seems most likely to wind up an All-Star for years to come. He’s a smooth scorer who doesn’t force

40.

anything, an important factor for a guard playing next to Kyrie Irving” for the top picking Cavaliers, for whom the paper also nominated eventually number one pick Anthony Bennett, sixth pick Nerlens Noel and fourth pick Alex Len. Going into the Draft, many believed that the Kings, who haven’t seen a decent point guard in the 10 years since the scintillating Mike Bibby era, would select Michigan playmaker Trey Burke or Syracuse star Michael Carter-Williams. Instead, Sacramento opted for a kid with excellent shooting mechanics who will absolutely be able to produce points in the pros and chased its point guard in free agency, eventually netting New Orleans standout Greivis Vasquez in exchange for the man McLemore will be asked to replace on the Kings, former Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans. After hearing his named called, McLemore walked up onto the Barclays Center stage, shook Commissioner David Stern’s hand and smiled like a kid on Christmas. The draft meant so much to McLemore that he convinced his mother to allow his estranged father attend the ceremony, saying, “I feel like the only missing piece is not having my older brother there.” The most telling reveal, however, came when McLemore explained that his draft night walk was actually a bridge, saying, “when I walk across that stage, I know I can provide for my family.” V. McLemore’s goal for 2013-14 is to “Cleveland, Orlando, Washington, Charlotte, Phoenix and New Orleans regret not selecting me with their first picks.” To do so, he’ll have to buck recent Kings history. In 2012, GM Geoff Petrie selected Thomas Robinson fourth overall, but gave up on the forward halfway through his first year, shipping


him to Houston, who later sent him on to Portland. In 2011, Sacramento dealt its seventh pick, Bismack Biyombo, to the Bobcats for West Coast Conference superstar Jimmer Fredette, who has regressed in the NBA. In 2010, the Kings drafted talented headcase DeMarcus Cousins over the excellent Greg Monroe and the All-Star and playoff hero Paul George. While Sacramento’s pick in 2009, Tyreke Evans, won Rookie of the Year, he has since stagnated as a pro and was shipped to New Orleans in the offseason – and it’s notable that he was drafted ahead of Stephen Curry. Before that, Bobby Hurley was in a horrific car crash during his rookie year in 1993, Pervis Ellison was selected over Glen Rice, Shawn Kemp and Tim Hardaway in 1989, and Ricky Berry committed suicide that same year. On the surface, none of this bodes well for McLemore but he no longer has to worry about the Kings’ terrible former owners, the Maloof siblings. As Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver noted, “saving” the Kings involved “at least two phases”; the first step, was to “wrestle ownership control from the Maloofs while also ginning up the resources to build a new area”, which is now accomplished. Step two? “Doing everything possible, as quickly as possible, to make the Maloofs a distant memory.” With new owner Vivek Ranadivé, an India born graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who serves as CEO of the multibillion dollar computing software company TIBCO, the Kings’ future looks promising. In a curious bit of trivia, the Kings have been surprisingly good at shooting guard throughout their time in Kansas City and Sacramento. The squad had Mike Woodson in the mid 1980s, with Reggie Theus, Dennis Hopson and Šarūnas Marciulionis bridging the gap to six time All-Star Mitch Richmond. Tariq Abdul-Wahad, Jon Barry, Nick Anderson, Anthony Peeler, Bobby Jackson, Maurice Evans, John Salmons, Rashad McCants, Doug Christie, Bonzi Wells, Kevin Martin and Tyreke Evans have all filled in since, and while few of them are pure shooters or transcendent stars, they represent a lot of talent. Enter Ben McLemore: A true shooting guard in every sense of the word and the best pure positional player the Kings have seen since Richmond. His ball handling issues are somewhat insignificant and while he needs to learn how to create his own shot, he enters the league as well prepared as any rookie can be and has the added luxury of few serious expectations. From a team standpoint, the Kings are not supposed to be good in 2013-14. Last season, they had the league’s worst defense, giving up 105.1 point per game. They were selfish (25th in assists),

sac 2014

lazy (25th in rebounds) and unattractive to watch. Adding ball hawk Luc Mbah a Moute at small forward, however, will have an instantaneous effect on team defense, and new point guard, General Greivis Vaśquez, is as effective as a distributor as anyone in the league. Holdovers Travis Outlaw, John Salmons, Marcus Thornton and Jimmer Fredette like the ball in their hands, a lot, but none of them offers McLemore’s pedigree and pure shooting. VI. Over the past 15 years, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Manu Ginóbili, Joe Johnson and Richard Hamilton, among others, have jostled for shooting guard supremacy. Today, the youngest of them is 31, but beyond Houston’s baby assassin James Harden, there seems to be little competition up and coming. The obvious front-runners to play deputy once Bryant calls it quits and Harden takes over include 2009 draftees Tyreke Evans and DeMar DeRozan, 2008 gunners OJ Mayo and Eric Gordon, and a slew of players from the still relevant class of college skippers: Monta Ellis, JR Smith, Louis Williams, et al. None of those players, however, are even close to Harden – with the possible exception of Ellis, depending on how his year in the Big D goes. Additionally, with so many quality point guards arriving in all shapes and sizes, the traditional idea of a full time, off ball specialist is no longer mandatory. Chicago plays Jimmy Butler, Memphis, Tony Allen, and OKC, Thabo Sefolosha, none of whom will ever shoot like McLemore, or Monta Ellis, or Ray Allen. But where there’s change there’s opportunity. Run down the list of the shooting guards taken in the most recent lotteries and one will find Bradley Beal, Dion Waiters, Terrence Ross and Jeremy Lamb in 2012, Klay Thompson and Alec Burks in 2011, Evan Turner, Wesley Johnson and Xavier Henry in 2010. Other than a large growth season from Klay Thompson, there aren’t many players standing between McLemore and a future All-Star bid. If he can open his career right, McLemore will have every opportunity to be considered one of his generation’s top guns. Looking to restore faith in the Kings brand will take newly appointed GM Pete D’Alessandro time as he builds the roster around McLemore and Cousins. Head coach Michael Malone also needs time to learns his outfit’s strengths and weaknesses. And McLemore will need to go through the rookie wall. But if all comes together, Sactown will finally have an on court symbol to stand behind.

41.

4

14

25 OWNER

Vivek Ranadivé GENERAL MANAGER

Pete D’Alessandro Head Coach

Michael Malone Starting Five

DeMarcus Cousins(53) Jason Thompson G. Luc Mbah a Moute G. Ben McLemore G. Greivis Vasquez C. F.

HIGHEST PAID

Marcus Thornton ($8,050,000) TOP ADDITION

A real, caring owner BIGGEST LOSS

Seattle’s ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking: For those in the area, the Kings’ regular season opener (against Denver) on October 30th will be televised without commercials locally on News10.

122


Pacific 2013-14 SEASON GUIDE By Brad Graham

gsw 2014 OWNER

Peter Guber GENERAL MANAGER

Bob Myers Head Coach

Mark Jackson Starting Five C.

Andrew Bogut

F. F.

2

6

11

lac 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Andre Iguodala’s ability to run a team on both ends instantly elevates the Warriors into outsider title contenders. But, after driving with the top down in Denver, is anyone else concerned that Iguodala might tear up the clutch in his D-first identity for the family sedan Dubs?

Donald Sterling GENERAL MANAGER

Gary Sacks Head Coach

Doc Rivers Starting Five C.

DeAndre Jordan

David Lee(46)

F.

Blake Griffin(19)

Andre Iguodala(33)

F.

Matt Barnes (97)

G.

Klay Thompson(89)

G.

JJ Redick(82)

G.

Stephen Curry(15)

G.

Chris Paul(3)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Andrew Bogut ($14,000,000)

Chris Paul ($18,688,431)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Andre Iguodala

Coach Rivers

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Harrison Barnes’ PT

Lamar Odom

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

32

55

42.

1

3

7

Person of Interest Sure, the Clips are armed to the teeth – JJ Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Antawn Jamison, Darren Collison – and have the best on court manager in the league (CP3) but unless Blake Griffin morphs into Karl Malone 2.0, LAC isn’t leap-frogging Houston, much less OKC or San Antonio (when it comes to lining up for the WCF).


lal 2014 OWNER

Jim Buss GENERAL MANAGER

Mitch Kupchak Head Coach

Mike D’Antoni Starting Five C.

Chris Kaman

3

11

20

phX 2014 Person of Interest

OWNER

Unless Kobe Bryant returns from injury at full strength, and early, the Lakers will struggle. Chris Kaman will make up some of Dwight Howard’s production, but LA’s problems go deep. We’ll know by Christmas if it’s time to accept that the $30 million man is no longer this team’s everything.

Robert Sarver GENERAL MANAGER

Ryan McDonough Head Coach

Jeff Hornacek Starting Five C.

Marcin Gortat

F.

Marcus Morris

F.

Gerald Green

F.

Pau Gasol(36)

F.

Wesley Johnson

G.

Kobe Bryant*(9)

G.

Eric Bledsoe(95)

G.

Steve Nash*(54)

G.

Goran Dragic(88)

HIGHEST PAID

HIGHEST PAID

Kobe Bryant ($30,453,805)

Marcin Gortat ($7,727,280)

TOP ADDITION

TOP ADDITION

Chris Kaman

New uniforms!

BIGGEST LOSS

BIGGEST LOSS

Where to begin?

The 2013-14 season

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

ESPN The Magazine Ultimate Standings Franchise Ranking:

77

118

43.

5

15

29

Person of Interest Eric Bledsoe will be the focal point of an offense for the first time in his young career. That might not be great news for anyone. New coach Jeff Hornacek will have the kids playing hard, but the Sixers are the only thing separating Phoenix from Charlotte 2012 level ugliness. Enjoy, Suns fans. (See you at the lottery)


POWER UP RANKING THE TEAMS

Nets

Bulls

Clippers Rockets

Spurs

Knicks

Pacers

Grizzlies

Warriors

Thunder Mavs Wolves Nuggets Pistons

Hawks

EAST

WEST

By Brian Duff

By Brad Graham

Cavs Miami Indiana Chicago Brooklyn New York Atlanta Detroit Cleveland

Blazers Wizards Lakers

Pelicans Raptors

Celtics

Kings

Washington Toronto Boston Milwaukee Charlotte Orlando Philadelphia

Bucks

Jazz

Bobcats

Magic

Suns Sixers

44.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.

Oklahoma City San Antonio LA Clippers Houston Memphis Golden State Dallas Minnesota Denver Portland LA Lakers New Orleans Sacramento Utah Phoenix


countdown 25 Must-see Games. By Brad Graham

With the talent wide spread, the Western Conference totem pole undefined and everyone looking to knock King James off his throne, the 2013-14 NBA season has all the makings of a classic campaign.

25. Suns

Of the 1230 regular season contests that will consume the next six months of our lives, these 25 outings are the select few for which we’re most excited... ED’s note: Missing the cut: Toronto, Milwaukee, Charlotte, Orlando, Utah, Sacramento and Dallas. That’s not to say those seven teams won’t surprise (or produce must see TV), rather, they fall into the “curiosity” rather than the “cancel all plans” category.

@ Sixers. January 27th. Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia.

20 - 16.

Bulls @ Nets. Noon. Barclays Center, Brooklyn. Thunder @ Knicks. 2:30pm. Madison Square Garden, NYC. Heat @ Lakers. 5:00pm. Staples Center, Los Angeles. Rockets @ Spurs. 8:00pm. AT&T Center, San Antonio. Clippers @ Warriors. 10:30pm. Oracle Arena, Oakland.

This could’ve easily been Orlando at Utah, but we’ll go with Phoenix’s dead rubber duel with Philadelphia for our slow motion car crash pick. This race to the bottom for two of the league’s more committed tankers will be punishing and possibly pathetic.

24. Wizards

@ Wolves. December 27th. Target Center, Minneapolis.

If John Wall’s clash with Ricky Rubio wasn’t enough to get you going (Wall put up a 19-3-7-3 versus Rubio’s 15-7-11-6 here last season), then maybe the K-Mart vs. Brad Beal shoot out is more your cup of tea? Or Nenê’s solo duel against Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic with Emeka Okafor out with a neck injury? There’s something for everyone here.

23. Nets

Once again, Stern Claus has left everyone a gift under his or her NBA tree. In what has become a ratings bonanza for the Association, a heaping portion of the league’s major media market teams – plus too good to ignore San Antonio and Oklahoma City – will participate in the annual December 25th marathon. All times EST.

@ Celtics. January 26th. TD Garden, Boston.

15. Cavaliers

Paul Pierce returns to the place he spent 15 memorable years, only this time he’ll be rocking Brooklyn’s Darth Vader blacks alongside fellow new Nets Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. It will be fascinating to see what kind of reception The Truth receives. Likewise, it’ll be must see TV when Kevin Garnett goes through his pregame routine and commences beating up on the Celtics – and let us not forget the Rajon Rondo subplot!

22. Pistons

@ Hawks. November 20th. Philips Arena, Atlanta

14. Pelicans

Like Paul Pierce, Josh Smith will return to the only NBA nest he’s only known waving someone else’s flag. With Greg Monroe and Brandon Jennings completing this Southpaw posse, the Pistons could well leapfrog the Hawks as the sixth best back East. Although early in the season, this one will be a statement game for both sides.

21. Pacers

@ Blazers. January 15th. Moda Center, Portland.

Kyrie Irving vs. Damian Lillard. These two basketball wizards are fearless competitors and when they met last season, Irving tallied 31-3-5 against his ROY successor’s 17-7. When they met again back in Cleveland, Lillard exploited Irving’s absence and put together a double overtime line of 24-6-11. We’ll also be watching how number one overall pick Anthony Bennett stands up against LaMarcus Aldridge.

@ Nuggets. December 15th. Pepsi Center, Denver.

We like this matchup because Ty Lawson against Jrue Holiday can never be a let down. Tandem that with: a Unibrow versus Dreads hair / rebound battle between Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried; JaVale McGee’s ongoing assault against his own better nature; the rain dance Tyreke Evans, Anthony Morrow and Eric Gordon will attempting to complete before Nate Robinson, Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler do; and add in the fact that Mile High basketball is always a good time and you get a run and gun shootout par excellence.

@ Knicks. November 20th. Madison Square Garden, NYC.

This evergreen rivalry has only been enhanced by the two teams’ recently high levels of play (to say nothing of Reggie Miller’s second life in the commentary booth, which has seen his famous antics on continuous loop at each meeting). More to the point, Roy Hibbert banging against Tyson Chandler is almost as good as Paul George dueling Carmelo Anthony. The ‘90s versions of Indy and NYC didn’t like one another very much, and this modern take on Corn Dogs vs. Hot Dogs features double trouble in both JR Smith and Lance Stephenson. Intense.

13. Heat

@ Nets. November 1st. Barclays Center, Brooklyn.

Are the Men in Black contenders or pretenders? We’ll know at the jump of the 2013-14 campaign when Miami comes a’calling. Expect the NYC media to feast on this one for weeks. >>

45.


countdown 25 Must-see Games.

5. Thunder

12. Spurs

@ Rockets. April 14th. Toyota Center, Houston.

Fitting that this game should be played on the same day the Titanic sunk. But will it be age (San Antonio) or ego (Houston) playing the part of the iceberg? Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan might get higher billing, but our eyes will be – as always – on James Harden and Tony Parker.

11. Thunder

4. Rockets

@ Clippers. November 13th. Staples Center, L.A.

3. Heat

@ Knicks. January 9th. Madison Square Garden, New York.

2. Spurs

@ Heat. April 11th. American Airlines Arena, Miami.

1

@ Knicks. January 20th. Madison Square Garden, New York.

The Battle of the Boroughs got more interesting in the offseason with Pierce and Garnett looking to give Brooklyn the upper hand. With Andrei Kirilenko on board to tame whatever Melo has planned, the Blue and Orange’s face off against the Black and White will dominate the airwaves, no matter the standard of basketball on the court.

7. Rockets

@

February 20th.

@ Thunder. December 29th. Chesapeake Arena, OKC.

Chesapeake Arena, Oklahoma City.

Harden returns to his NBA birthplace, only this time he has Dwight Howard to help him crash the welcome back party. Meanwhile, Westbrook and Durant are as competitive as they come and will be looking to remind Houston that all roads to the 2014 Finals go through OKC. And don’t think that the NBA’s most fashion conscious player won’t have something special to show Patrick Beverly.

6. Spurs

@ Heat. January 26th. American Airlines Arena, Miami.

The rematch, sort of. Last time San Antonio traveled to South Beach, they were took an unhappy confetti shower. Will Gregg Popovich again sneer at the Commish and rest his stars, or will he be looking to claim the symbolic win? One thing is certain, this matchup will be hyped to the max.

On the verge of the 2014 Playoffs, these two titans will clash. With each expected to claim between 55 and 60 wins, it is not hyperbole to predict this game deciding the top seed in the East. It took Miami a full seven games to dispense the Danny Granger-less Pacers in last season’s Conference Finals. David West and friends are looking to change that math in 2014.

8. Nets

@ Bulls. March 9th. United Center, Chicago.

Don’t think the Heatles have forgotten who ended their incredible 27 game winning streak from last year. Throw in the expectations on Derrick Rose’s return, LeBron’s ongoing flirtation with history and the fact these two teams don’t like each other much – which is fueled by basically everything Joakim Noah does – and you have the makings of a true classic regular season battle.

LeBron and ‘Melo never let it get boring, but if the Knicks have any chance to take down the repeat champs, they’ll have to learn how to dismantle them at home and build from there. We note, LeBron always kills it in Madison Square Garden.

9. Pacers

@ Warriors. December 13th. Oracle Arena, Oakland.

With arguably the best NBA home crowd, Golden State’s vocal supporters should be rewarded with oodles of talent, and that’s just what they have in 2013-2014. Adding Andre Iguodala helps. Having a healthy Andrew Bogut makes a difference. And with Steph Curry gunning for an All-Star spot, the Dubs look to be an early favorite to win at home against each of their West playoff foes this season.

Back in 2011, Blake Griffin crushed Kendrick Perkins. In 2013, these two squads, each led by Olympic talent at PG, are on a collision course to becoming the best in the West. Last season, the best basketball player in the world not named LeBron James averaged 34-7-5 in three meetings with the Clips. Expect more of the same this year. Sorry ClipperNation.

10. Heat

@ Spurs. January 22nd. AT&T Center, San Antonio.

We never got to see them battle in 2013 over seven games for the right to challenge LeBron, so when the Thunder and the Spurs meet in San Antonio, you best believe Scott Brooks and Gregg Popovich will have their troops ready. This may turn out to be the game of the season, with Parker, Duncan, Leonard, Westbrook, Durant and Ibaka straining for greatness.

Kevin Durant doesn’t want your sympathy. He isn’t interested in being anyone’s second anything. In 2014, we’re going to see a new KD, so when Miami comes calling with King James wearing his two title belts – the first of which he took home after knocking out Durant in five – the 25 year old challenger from tornado alley will be waiting. It’s the NBA’s AliFrazier, Manning-Brady, MarioSonic and Tupac-Biggie all rolled into one. Basketball hasn’t had a one-two of this caliber since Magic-Larry, so take the time to enjoy it while it’s happening (‘cause there’s no telling how long it’ll last).

@ Grizzlies. November 22nd. FedEx Forum, Memphis.

Memphis still has a lot to prove, especially after many believed they were gift wrapped a place in the 2013 Conference Finals by the aforementioned Patrick Beverly. Regardless, with the Clippers adding more weapons and the Thunder hungry to right the wrongs of last May, Memphis has an imposing hill to climb. Waiting for them along the way will be the Spurs, who would like nothing more than to remind the Blue Bears that they’re only as good as Duncan and company allow them to be.

46.


listicles FORECASTING THE AWARD WINNERS By Brian Duff & Brad Graham

Inspired by the ludicrosity of 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol being left off the AllDefensive First Team (sports writers named him as the former, the coaches left him off the latter), BUCKETS has split the workload to project parallel NBA Awards for the 2013-14 season. Creative Director Brad Graham has taken on the coach’s vote – with all the prejudices against backchat and lackadaisical defense that such a role entails – and has begrudgingly named BUCKETS’ AllNBA teams. Meanwhile, hermetically sealed from Graham’s prognostications, Editorial Director Brian Duff, being congenitally swayed by narrative story lines, has abandoned rigorous analysis and gone with his gut while picking this year’s top 10 MVP and ROY candidates. As a bonus, he’s has thrown his gut behind top fives for MIP, 6MY, DPY, COY and EOY.

MVP 2014

(1A) The Incumbent If LeBron James turns in 2012-13 Part II, he wins again. Period. That was one of the greatest seasons ever seen, capped with both a Bill Russell Award and a Larry O’Brien Trophy. Any visible dip or any nagging excuse, however, and the writers will be more than willing to look elsewhere – as we learned the hard way following the The Decision’s fallout when an ascendent Derrick Rose stole the King’s lunch. If James, now an expert media figure, mucks it up? Then the list becomes:

(1B) The Understudy Kevin Durant is “due”. Also, is “awesome at basketball”. This award is essentially his to lose for the next five years should LBJ stumble. A totally possible hangover for Oklahoma City after a tough postseason would hurt his chances, as would a breakout recovery by Westbrook (also pretty likely). It should be noted, however, that the loss of score first Kevin Martin in free agency only gives Durant the chance to take more shots. That sentence should strike fear in the hearts of 29 teams.

(3-4) Legit Contenders A pissed off comeback from one of the league’s most dynamic talents still fuming from public doubting of his dedication would make Derrick Rose’s case for a second MVP. The Bulls should be very good again – they won five playoff games missing their three best players! – and Rose will go to war with a healthy Joakim Noah, breakout talent Jimmy Butler and a trio of contract year NBA survivors (Loul Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Carlos Boozer, assuming he is amnestied after the season). Like Rose’s Bulls, Chris Paul’s Clips could be special, and his numbers – especially increasingly important advanced statistics such as Player Efficiency, Assist Percentage and Win Shares – mean he cannot be left out of the conversation. Also, like Durant, Paul is “due” after years of dragging bad teams to the playoffs. He’ll play even more minutes with Eric Bledsoe moved on to Phoenix, and his assists should increase with hot shooting additions JJ Redick and Jared Dudley.

47.

(5 - 7) If the Stars Align... It seems unlikely that Carmelo Anthony will improve on last season’s third place MVP finish. After all, the Knicks are an ill-fitting collection of old dudes and headcases (including especially the dangerous JR Smith, who spent his offseason rehabbing and getting stoned). Iman Shumpert’s recovery and the signing of Metta World Peace, however, mean Anthony won’t have to chase anyone on the wing, and his new identity as a deep block banger makes him a serious contender. A hypothetically decreased role for Tim Duncan this year would allow perennial also ran Tony Parker a legitimate chance at earning his first MVP. The Spurs will be, as always, marvelous, regardless of Duncan’s role or whatever is going on with Manu Ginóbili. That is because this is no longer a “big three”, it is Parker’s team. Kawhi Leonard’s postseason coming out party complicates that arithmetic, as does Coach Gregg Popovich’s aversion to big time minutes. David Lee’s All-Star berth notwithstanding, Steph Curry is the ascendent, standout star of last season’s ascendent, standout team. Equipped with arguably the next best shooter on the planet (after himself) in Klay Thompson, two of the game’s


Think they’ll let my haircut play this season ?

best defenders in Andrew Bogut and the newly signed Andre Iguodola, and a coaching staff willing to build game plans around his particular skill sets, Curry could turn in a season for the ages featuring never before seen shooting splits.

(8-10) Stranger Things Have Happened. If Dwight Howard plays at anything approaching All-Star level, disregard the following. If, however, Howard is seriously injured or conspicuously ineffective (neither scenario would actually be hugely surprising), James Harden will be very much under consideration for this award. Backup center Ömer Asik is clearly capable of anchoring a playoff team and Houston’s 24 year old captain, surrounded by complementary talents, has yet to show signs of slowing. Already in his two year career, Kyrie Irving is a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star, a Three Point Shootout contest winner, and arguably the world’s best ball handler. He seems destined for great things – Team USA, surely; All-NBA First Team, only a matter of time – and Cleveland has him absolutely surrounded by young talent. If the Cavaliers can make The Leap like Rose’s Bulls did in 2011, Irving will be the reason why and will reap his rewards at the ballot box. The Washington Wizards were downright decent last season after John Wall returned from a knee cap injury, and should be better again this year – especially Wall, whose talents are hardly in question here. Rather, Wall’s chances to take home an MVP – like Irving’s – hinge entirely on the ability of the Wizards’ collection of wily vets (Nenê, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza) and exciting young talent (Brad Beal, Otto Porter, Jan Veselý) to grab a high playoff seed.

(1 - 3) The Favorites.

ROY 2014

(4 - 6) Good Talent, Better Fit. With a ready-made mentor in Big Al Jeff and only offensively challenged Bismack Biyombo and journeyman Josh McRoberts on hand to potentially garnish his minutes, the number four pick, Cody Zeller – like Oladipo, a Hoosier – will walk into a significant role this season with a terrible Southeast side. As a pick and popper, he’ll surely flourish, but until his body is as mean as his game, this Zeller (like two brothers before him) will get beat up by the game’s veteran bullies. In a storybook choice at number three, the Wizards asked 20 year old Georgetown star Otto Porter to move about three miles across town to become their small forward of the future. Filling Washington’s most pressing need, Porter will be a three and D guy and will grow up fast alongside young guard Brad Beal on a rapidly improving team built to complement star John Wall. Like Oladipo, his all-around game doesn’t favor big numbers, but his effort will help immediately. With the Sixers determined to be very, very bad, the long, athletic Syracuse guard Michael CarterWilliams, taken 11th, will get tons of burn. It is not yet clear if MCW can shoot at all, or guard anyone, or even what position he’ll eventually play, but the Sixers will give him a chance to figure it out while they bottom out and rebuild around fellow draftee Nerlens Noel (out until December) and whatever tasty talent they might be able to snag at the top of the 2014 Draft.

Sweet shooting Kansas star and number seven pick Ben McLemore will definitely get his spots with the lowly Kings this year. With a legitimate distributing point guard in Greivis Vásquez, a crew of talented young bigs headed by the inscrutable DeMarcus Cousins and a roster chock full of flawed and / or disappointing shooters and wings, McLemore will have every chance to shine as a starter for new Coach Mike Malone, and should shoot his way into consideration for this award. With Utah earmarking this season for development and evaluation, Michigan standout Trey Burke, a steal at the ninth pick, is virtually assured of a starting job in a town that very much loves its point guards -- assuming his broken finger really only keeps him out for 4-6 weeks. Better still, he’ll be part of a broader youth movement that will see the Jazz start five players aged 23 or younger (Burke, guard Alec Burks, swingman Gordon Hayward and bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter), thus allowing him that rarest of rookie gifts: the freedom to fail. Another team full of baby faced upstarts, Orlando sees Indiana University’s Victor Oladipo as the perfect compliment to young studs Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic and Andrew Nicholson, and the chosen successor to Arron Afflalo (and / or Jameer Nelson, if rumors are to be believed). A true all-arounder, the second pick may not put up the stats to rival other names on this list, but his preternaturally mature game makes him a contender for this and many future accolades.

(7 - 9) Don’t Sleep. Obscured by the crazed reactions to the Cavs’ surprise choice of UNLV force Anthony Bennett at number one is the fact that Bennett is actually a very talented basketball player. Singularly capable of scoring from anywhere on the court and both more athletic and more rugged than advertised, Bennett’s stats will suffer in a crowded frontcourt, but he’ll surely benefit from his many minutes on an excellent second unit alongside legit talents and true mentors Anderson Varejão and Jarrett Jack. While not planning for as deep a cellar dive as their Atlantic competitors, Boston, like Philly, will spend 2013-14 stinking for the future, and scoring big man Kelly Olynyk, taken 13th out of Gonzaga, will reap the benefits. Although a worrying defensive liability, Olynyk demonstrated this summer that he will be able to step into an immediate role as an accomplished pick and roll specialist and will provide a much needed scoring punch for the anemic Celtics. An athletic shooter who can

48.

play both wing positions, Detroit’s number eight choice out of Georgia, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, has the talent, opportunity and beautiful shot necessary to be the sleeper star of this draft. After Josh Smith, the only Pistons competing for time with KCP on the wings are Chauncey Billups (over the hill), Rodney Stuckey (hurt and seemingly stagnating), Kyle Singler (limited) and Luigi Datome (a yet unknown Euro small forward – see below).

(10) Left Field. Caldwell-Pope’s biggest threat to ROY consideration may be his fellow Piston, reining Italian League MVP Luigi “Gigi” Datome. Already experienced in playing with Brandon Jennings, the 25 year old dominated arguably the third best league in the world and took home a trophy previously earned by Manu Ginóbili and Danny Gallinari. Leading his Virtus Roma side to the finals, the ponytailed Datome recorded 16 points a game on ridiculous .517 / .394 / .922 shooting (so watch out).


MIP 2014

(1)

In a riveting second season, Kawhi Leonard demonstrated why notoriously taciturn Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said before last season, “We’d love for him to be a Spur for life”. With Manu Ginóbili in decline, Leonard can expect even more minutes and love this year.

(2)

Free from that most inglorious of duties – backing up an AllNBAer – Eric Bledsoe has flown Chris Paul’s nest and will be running the Suns show this year. While the team will surely be very bad, Bledsoe is an explosive talent who, at only 23 years old, hasn’t yet sniffed his potential.

(3)

A multiposition hustler and superior wing defender who owns this mag’s favorite NBA nickname, Jimmy “Buckets” Butler’s sophomore effort (and rookie scale salary) has effectively ended Chicago career of beloved Bull Luol Deng and cemented Butler’s place alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah for the foreseeable future.

(4)

Al Jefferson, who averaged nearly 19 and 10 for three years with the Jazz, said this offseason: “Utah would be a fool to bring me back, with Enes [Kanter] and Derrick [Favors]. Them boys are gonna be the truth!” While Kanter is a real talent, Favors’ ceiling is yet to be sighted.

(5)

Last season’s bronze medalist, Larry Sanders is the shot stopping heart and soul of the reconfigured Bucks. His improvement, especially on the offensive end, will be the quality that makes Milwaukee either a playoff fighter or a tanker.

6th 2014

(1)

After a terrific single season in Oakland, Jarrett Jack’s vagabond career has brought him to Cleveland to look after young guns Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters. If he can replicated the success he had behind Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, this award should be his.

dpy 2014

(1)

(2)

At this point, petulance is the only thing standing between LeBron James and the Defensive Player of the Year award. No player is more feared on the defensive end of the court or more legitimately capable of guarding anyone on the opposing side. Stop the madness.

(3)

Last season’s Defensive Player winner Marc Gasol, in a humorous twist of fate, didn’t make the All-Defensive First Team – which had six players due to a tie! Whatever that signifies, it has nothing to do with his role as the middle linebacker of the league’s very best defensive team.

(4)

Gasol’s running mate Tony Allen has been so successful as a defense first, perimeter ball hawk that he’s spawned an entire generation of young imitators (in Boston, in Chicago, in New York, in Oklahoma City...) – none of whom has yet to come close to matching him, however.

(5)

Joakim Noah and the ghost of Dwight Howard’s greatness were who kept Gasol from his rightful place on the AllDefensive First Team, but that’s not to discount Noah’s tremendous low down game, which has been half forgotten due to his steady improvement on the other end.

The Nets’ new everything man Andrei Kirilenko would be hilariously overqualified for this role were he not backing up Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. It’s not yet clear how much either player has left in the tank, but any caution by Coach Kidd will only increase AK47’s role in BK.

(2)

Harrison Barnes had an excellent rookie season and was an especially bright spot amongst many for the infectious Golden State Warriors. His ability to spell Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodola or David Lee makes him an early favorite for this award.

(3)

All hustle and hard nosed defense, Patrick Beverly was a happy surprise last season for Houston. Picked up on the cheap, he made an immediate impact on the second unit, and even saw some time alongside defensive matadors Jeremy Lin and James Harden, in a quick small ball lineup.

(4)

Two way threat Lance “Born Ready” Stephenson has a real chance to join fellow “former” bad attitude dudes (Gilbert Arenas, Zach Randolph, Monta Ellis, et al) as MIP. If so, he’d be the third oversized Indy wing awarded in six years. Blame Larry Bird.

(5)

49.

With his move to the offensively gifted Golden State Warriors, swingman Andre Iguodala will devote his energies to coanchoring what could quickly become an elite defense with Andrew Bogut.


TEAM 2014 COy 2014 With his Pacers seemingly assured of a top five record again in 2013-14, it is opportune to recognize the strides Frank Vogel, in just two and a half years, has made in Indianapolis with his roster of mid-level draft picks, judicious free agent signings and characteristic team first players. Beloved by his current charges and former colleagues alike, The Reverend Mark Jackson shocked the league with his ascendent Warriors last season. Instilling legit team defense and encouraging his players’ big shot confidence, he remade G-State into everybody’s second team. New Clippers skipper Doc Rivers is the hot choice to earn some mantelpiece company for his 2000 Coach of the Year trophy. Like that magic season in Orlando, Rivers has in LA a happy mix of veteran grit and young talent. Expectations, of course, are precipitously higher this time around. It is easy to forget that last year was only Kevin McHale’s second full season coaching. His young Rockets were terrific and hugely exciting, and should be world beaters with a pissed off Dwight Howard on board. Opinions about his game management gravitate to ludicrous extremes, but Erik Spoelstra has consistently and impressively utilized the undeniable talent afforded by his superstar Heat and has walked away with two chips to show for it. Ultimately, history will be kind to his stewardship.

EOy 2014 (1)

(2)

(3)

(4)

(5)

Long a joke for his statistical preoccupations and free agency strikeouts, Houston’s Daryl “Dork Elvis” Morey unearthed Chandlers Parsons, stole Jeremy Lin, Ömer Asik and James Harden and sweet-talked Dwight Howard to H-Town. That’s what an Executive of the Year looks like. This offseason, Golden State GM Bob Myers turned Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrinš into Andre Iguodola, Mo Speights and a tidy $11 million. When (if?) the Warriors win their division for the first time in a depressing 38 years, Myers will be the reason why. With Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter in hand, RC Buford has given Tony Parker all the future help he could ever want and the Spurs a chance to yet again recharge with substantially reduced roles for the ancient Tim Duncan and for the over the hill Manu Ginóbili.

1st

2nd

3rd

ALL-NBA C

F

F

G

G

ALL-DEFENSE

Some might call it tinkering but for former Portland maestro Kevin Pritchard’s second act, he has brought in real differencemakers Chris Copeland, Luis Scola and CJ Watson to an already deep Indy team.

IND

Roy Hibbert

C

Joakim Noah CHI

MIL

Larry Sanders

F

Serge Ibaka OKC

MIA

LeBron James

F

Kwahi Leonard SAS

Tony Allen

G

Andre Iguodala GSW

Avery Bradley

G

Mike Conley MEM

MEM BOS

Cleveland’s Chris Grant confounded conventional wisdom on three consecutive draft days and those gambles have, on second analysis, more than held up to scrutiny. His pièce de résistance, however, was netting Andrew Bynum for just $6 million guaranteed.

ALL-ROOKIE

50.

BOS

Kelly Olynyk

C

Alex Len PHX

CLE

Anthony Bennett

F

Cody Zeller CHA

WAS

Otto Porter

F

Tony Snell CHI

ORL

Victor Oladipo

G

Ben McLemore SAC

PHI

Michael Carter-Williams

G

Trey Burke UTA


MONEYBALL HIGHEST PAID PLAYERS By Brad Graham

Lets look at the top 30 salaries for 2013-14 season, shall we? In theory, there should be one, maximum two of these players on any given squad. To achieve any real parity, each NBA franchise would have at least one athlete worth $10 million per annum (or some collection of several $6,000,000 - $8,000,000 players to bring team into alignment. But the NBA is a relatively free market with a soft cap and rich owners, and in such a scenario, players are only as valuable as someone is willing to pay them. Point being, Mikhail Prokhorov is defying the system and lining the pockets of his competitors in the process, as numbers five, 12 and 21 can attest.

Kobe Bryant.

31

$30,453,805

30 29

01. 02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08. 08. 10.

28 27

25

(in Millions)

2013-14 Salary

26

24

Kobe Bryant. Lakers. $30,453,805 Dirk Nowitzki. Mavs.$22,721,381 Carmelo Anthony. Knicks. $22,407,474 Amar’e Stoudemire. Knicks. $21,679,893 Joe Johnson. Nets. $21,466,718 Dwight Howard. Rockets. $20,513,178 Pau Gasol. Lakers. $19,285,850 Chris Bosh. Heat. $19,067,500 LeBron James. Heat. $19,067,500 Dwyane Wade. Heat. $18,673,000

23

21 20 19 18 17

13

21. 21. 21. 24. 25. 26. 26. 28. 21. 30.

Kevin Love. Wolves. $14,693,906 Russell Westbrook. Thunder. $14,693,906 Brook Lopez. Nets. $14,693,906 LaMarcus Aldridge. Blazers. $14,628,000 Emeka Okafor. Wizards. $14,487,500 Roy Hibbert. Pacers. $14,283,844 Eric Gordon. Hornets. $14,283,844 Luol Deng. Bulls. $14,275,000 Tyson Chandler. Knicks. $14,100,538 Danny Granger. Pacers. $14,021,788

Blake Griffin. $16,441,500

16

14

Chris Paul. Clippers. $18,668,431 Deron Williams. Nets. $18,466,130 Rudy Gay. Raptors. $17,888,931 Kevin Durant. Thunder. $17,832,627 Zach Randolph. Grizz. $17,800,000 Derrick Rose. Bulls. $17,632,688 Blake Griffin. Clippers. $16,441,500 Paul Pierce. Nets. $15,333,334 Carlos Boozer. Bulls. $15,300,000 Marc Gasol. Grizz. $14,860,523

Dirk Nowitzki. $22,721,381 Carmelo Anthony. $22,407,474 Amar’e Stoudemire. $21,679,893 Joe Johnson. $21,466,718 Dwight Howard. $20,513,178 Chris Bosh. LeBron James. $19,067,500 Deron Williams. $18,466,130 Pau Gasol. $19,285,850 Dwyane Wade. $18,673,000 Kevin Durant. $17,832,627 Chris Paul. $18,668,431 Zach Randolph. $17,800,000 Derrick Rose. $17,632,688Rudy Gay. $17,888,931

22

15

11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.

Brook Lopez. Kevin Love. Russell Westbrook. $14,860,523 Paul Pierce. $15,333,334 Carlos Boozer. $15,300,000 Marc Gasol. $14,860,523 Emeka Okafor. $14,487,500 Eric Gordon. Roy Hibbert. Luol Deng. $14,275,000 Granny Danger. $14,021,788 Tyson Chandler. $14,275,000 $14,283,844 LaMarcus Aldridge. $14,628,000

12 11 10

1

2

3

Kobe rounds out this ranking simply by dint of how enormous his salary is – he’s just the second player after Michael Jordan to ever receive $30 million for one season and the truth of the matter is that his big money hurts the Lakers. With a soft team cap of $58,679,000, the combined salaries of Bryant and Pau Gasol’s ($19.3 million) make up about 85 percent of the entire cap. Plus, for $30 million, you’d want a player to be at least spearheading a contender and Kobe isn’t.

4

5

6

7

8 9 10 NBA EXPERIENCE

MOST OVERPaid

11

12

13

14

15

16

BEST VALUE (non-rookie contract)

Amar’e Stoudemire. Knicks. 1 Kevin Durant. Thunder. $21,679,893 (4th)

$17,832,627 (14th)

Joe Johnson. Nets. 2 Mike Conley. Grizzlies. $21,466,718 (5th)

$8,200,001 (79th)

Ben Gordon. Bobcats. 3 Andrei Kirilenko. Nets. $13,200,000 (26th)

$3,183,000 (202nd)

Richard Jefferson. Jazz. 4 Nick Collison. Thunder. $11,046,000 (52nd)

$2,585,668 (237th)

Kobe Bryant. Lakers. 5 Greg Oden. Heat. $30,453,805 (1st)

$884,293 (372nd)

(League rank in brackets)

51.

17

18

The second best player in basketball isn’t even receiving one of the top 12 pay days. How does that work? With no cap, he’d be on Dirk dollars ($20 million, minimum). Instead, because KD isn’t keen on being a tennis player, he happily accepts a reduced salary in exchange for a real chance to compete for the trophy. Shame Thunder owner Clay Bennett wouldn’t match his star player’s generosity by using what he should be paying / saving on KD to retain James Harden. Speaking of, The Beard is only taking home $13.7 million, or 33rd overall. Insane.


VITALS SNEAKER ROSTER By Sandy Dover + Brad Graham http://about.me/SandyDover

@San_Dova

STARTERS. CENTER

LeBRON XI When King James – owner of a pair of Olympic Gold Medals, back to back NBA championships and four MVP trophies – takes to the timber to defend his crowns, he’ll be lacing up the LeBron XI, a signature footwear model number sneakerheads are quite fond off. While the elephant print from the AJIII is the single most recognizable element from any Jordan release, the XI, specifically the Concord edition, sits atop the performance footwear pyramid. Thanks to Tinker Hatfield’s use of patent leather (a first for a performance sneaker), the shoe’s guest spot in the feature length film Space Jam (1996) and its association with the 72 win Bulls... and MJ’s triple MVP year (All-Star, Finals, regular season), the 11th Jordan remains highly coveted among collectors. That means LeBron James has some mighty large shoes to fill – at least in diehard collector circles – with his 11th edition. Adding weight to the LeBron XI is the fact the LeBron X was a worldwide smash. According to Forbes.com (via SportsOneSource), the aesthetically pleasing X earned NIKE $300 million in US retail sales alone, up 50 percent from 2011, and six times what Kobe Bryant’s made. The LeBron XI is James’ lightest signature shoe to date at about 14.5 ounces for a size nine and, according to NIKE press release, was “built from the inside out”. This latest offering from the Swoosh also includes numerous odes to the duality of James’, and the fact that the number 11 reads the same upside down. Lastly, NIKE announced there will be a King’s Pride colorway in addition to a stylish Terracotta Warrior make up and a T-Rex inspired model all landing with retailers before 2014.

NIKE Basketball LeBron 11 Worn by: LeBron James Release date: Oct 5, 2013.

FORWARDS Under Armour Anatomix Spawn

adidas D Rose 4

Worn by: Steph Curry

Worn by: Derrick Rose

Release date: Mid 2013.

Release date: Oct. 10, 2013.

Features

Interwoven layers of flexgear, mesh for superior breathability, full-length Micro G midsole, TPU shank, Molded Micro G sockliner and combined textured clear ice rubber and herringbone outsole

GUARDS NIKE Basketball Hyperdunk 2013

Jordan Brand Super.Fly 2

Worn by: Kyrie Irving

Worn by: Blake Griffin

Release date: July 20, 2013.

Release date: Aug. 1, 2013

52.


RESERVES. 6TH MAN

KD VI With Leo Chang at the helm, the KD series has gone from strength to strength. A drastic change from the much loved KD V, the VI, 18 months in the making, is a total rethink that has the potential to be Kevin Durant’s most successful signature sneaker yet. Featuring a dual layer upper with patent Flywire for lockdown support, a renovated tongue system, Hyperfuse construction, Zoom Air in the forefoot with Max Air in the heel and a data informed traction pattern, it’s not hard to understand why NIKE called this release “transformative”. The teal and yellow lead off colorway was inspired by the Seat Pleasant Activity Center, where KD honed his game as a young hooper. To help make its launch memorable, Durant accompanied a collection of domestic and international media over 48 hours in late June to all the places that had helped kickstart his fantastical basketball voyage. In the press notes, Durant said, “With the KD VI we wanted to start a new conversation around basketball shoes…We’re driven on the technical side, but also want to have some creative fun around hidden stories matching hot color combinations.” Headlining the “hot color combos” were the DC Preheat edition (June 29), Meteorology (August 3), NYC 66 (August 17), Bamboo (September 14), Texas (October 10), the aptly titled Peanut Butter & Jelly version (October 19), the 2013-2014 season opening Away edition, the Maryland Blue Crab (due November 29) and the limited edition, metallic palette KD VI Precision Timing colorway (December 7). Needless to say, sneakerheads are being kept busy, and their bank balances low.

KD Lifestyle

C.

F. Jordan Brand Air Jordan XX8 SE

Anta RR1

Worn by: R. Westbrook

Worn by: Rajon Rondo

Release date: Oct. 11, 2013

Release date: Late, 2013

G.

F. Li-Ning Way of Wade 2

Jordan Brand CP.VII

Worn by: Dwyane Wade

Worn by: Chris Paul

Release date: November, 2013

Release Oct. 5, 2013

12th man.

G. adidas Rose Englewood

NIKE Sportswear LeBron Lifestyle

Worn by: Derrick Rose

Worn by: The King

Release date: mid 2013

Release date: Oct. 12, 2013

53.


FINAL WORD MAPLE LEAF HOOPS By Brian Duff

ENTER THE

GTA The future is now

under great white northern lights

Who: Andrew

Wiggins SF, Kansas Jayhawks; 6’8”, 197 pounds, 18 years old

What: Arguably the most hyped prospect since LeBron James, Andrew Wiggins is 2013’s Mr Basketball, Gatorade National Player of the Year and Naismith Prep Player of the Year, and will suit up this season for Bill Self at Kansas. With an astonishing quick first step and tremendous leaping abilities, the 6’8” small forward is expected to enter the 2014 NBA Draft and headline a generational rookie class featuring Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Dante Exum and many others. The 2014 class is very deep and extraordinarily strong at the top, but Wiggins remains the franchise player about whom NBA GMs dream. Where: Grew up in Thornhill and attended Vaughan Secondary School for two years Why: 19 points in 24 minutes at the 2013 McDonald’s All-American Boys Game

54.


Who: Anthony

Bennett SF, Cleveland Cavaliers; 6’7”, 239 pound, 20 years old

What: A multipositional offensive threat with professional skill sets around the hoop and from distance, Anthony Bennett was a surprise number one selection for the Cavs this summer. A star at UNLV, the combo forward’s signature plays utilized his superior athleticism near the basket to slip past slower post players or barrel through slighter wings to finish with powerhouse dunks, gobble rebounds and draw fouls. For Cleveland, he will be used initially as a shooting stretch four, but should he improve his ball defense and midrange shooting, Bennett has the skill set to play as a bruising small forward as well. Where: Grew up in Jane and Finch before relocating to nearby Brampton where he attended Harold M Brathwaite Secondary School for two years Why: 7’2”wingspan, 34 inch vertical

The Greater Toronto Area does not have the instantly recognizable neighborhoods and schools that feature so prominently in the basketball mythology of South Central LA, Chicago’s South Side or Brooklyn, but after producing Canada’s first ever top NBA Draft pick in Anthony Bennett – and looking to go back to back next summer with top prospect Andrew Wiggins – the GTA has emerged as professional basketball’s newest, hottest talent incubator. While often labeled a small market, the City of Toronto is about the size of Chicago and some six million people live in the GTA generally. A golden generation has grown from this sprawling urban landscape since the Raptors arrived nearly 20 years ago, led by exciting young pros like Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson, Orlando’s Andrew Nicholson and San Antonio’s Cory Joseph, high draft picks Bennett and Boston’s Kelly Olynyk and, of course, Wiggins – the NBA’s next superstar. With Steve Nash’s retirement from international ball, Sam Dalembert’s feud with Team Canada selectors and Joel Anthony’s limitations, a new generation, based in Toronto, has taken over the Canadian national basketball scene -- with the notable exceptions of the Lakers’ back up big Robert Sacre. With Toronto set to host the 2016 NBA All-Star Game and the Raptors announcing native son Drake as the team’s new “Global Ambassador”, this BUCKETS exclusive primer to walk you through the who, what, where and why of the GTA.

55.


enter the gta Under Great White Northern Lights

Who: Tristan Thompson PF, Cleveland Cavaliers; 6’9”, 227 pounds, 22 years old

Who: Andrew Wiggins SF, Kansas Jayhawks; 6’7”, 197 pounds, 18 years old

What: The number four pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, Tristan Thompson started all 82 games for Cleveland last season, recording 11.7 points and 9.4 boards per. A very good shooter at the rim, the near ambidextrous power forward’s most glaring deficit has been his poor free throw shooting – and that may now be resolved. This season, he will shoot right handed from charity and (if he can maintain the 78 percentage he posted at the 2013 FIBA Americas Tournament) will pick up an easy half point per and make himself a much more dangerous weapon late in games.

Why: 306 total offensive rebounds in 2012-13, second only to Zach Randolph’s 310

What: The smooth shooting, high scoring Tyler Ennis replaces Michael Carter-Williams for the Orange and will run a deep offensive unit during Syracuse’s inaugural Atlantic Coast Conference season. A future NBA prospect, Ennis will get every chance to shine for Jim Boeheim, who has a history of letting his freshman call the shots. Where: Grew up in Brampton Why: Led all scorers (including Australia’s Dante Exum and McDonald’s game MVP Aaron Goodwin) at the 2013 FIBA U19 Championship with 20.9 ppg Who: Anthony Bennett SF, Cleveland Cavaliers; 6’7”, 239 pound, 20 years old

What: Being selected 29th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft out of Texas by the league’s best talent evaluators, the San Antonio Spurs, is perhaps the single greatest testament to Cory Joseph’s potential. Tony Parker’s current top understudy is a quick, smart, big game point guard who started nine games for the Western Conference champions and was rewarded by suiting up for nearly 200 minutes of playoff ball. If Joseph can eventually find his pro three point stroke (he shot 41.3 percent from deep in one year of college ball), he will become a truly lethal utility guard. Where: Grew up in Pickering and attended Pickering High School in nearby Ajax for two years alongside his brother, Euro pro Devoe Joseph

Where: Grew up in Brampton and attended St Marguerite d’Youville Secondary School for a year

Who: Tyler Ennis PG, Syracuse Orange; 6’2”, 180 pounds, 19 years old

Who: Cory Joseph PG, San Antonio Spurs; 6’3”, 186 pounds, 22 years old

Why: 16.1 point, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game for the sixth place Canadians at the 2013 FIBA Americas Championship Who: Kelly Olynyk C, Boston Celtics 7’0”, 234 pounds, 22 years old

Who: Sim Bhullar C, New Mexico State Aggies 7’5”, 360 pounds, 20 years old

Who: Myck Kabongo PG, San Antonio Spurs 6’3”, 180 pounds, 21 years old

What: A standout player in his final year at Gonzaga, Kelly Olynyk won 2013 West Coast Conference Player of the Year and led the ‘Zags to a top seed at the NCAA Tournament. The 13th overall pick by the Celtics this summer, he projects as a significant piece in their rebuilding effort.

What: An extraordinarily raw big man, Sim Bhullar has conditioning, defensive and touch issues. On the other hand, he is 7’5”, and he pounded the Western Athletic Conference last year, recording a block every 10 minutes and taking home the WAC Freshman of the Year trophy and All-WAC Third Team honors.

What: A close friend of Joseph and Thompson, Myck Kabongo followed them to the Texas, but played just 11 total college games due to an NCAA suspension. The pass first floor general was excellent when on the court, but he went undrafted and was picked up by the Spurs in free agency.

Where: Grew up in Toronto, raised by the University of Toronto’s coach and a Raptors’ employee Why: 18 points and 7.8 rebounds in just 24.2 minutes per game at the NBA Summer League

Who: Andrew Nicholson PF, Orlando Magic; 6’9”, 234 pounds, 23 years old What: A four year starter at St Bonaventure, Andrew Nicholson was a mid draft steal for the Magic last year. A surprisingly effective rookie, the 23 year old blossomed as a starter for 28 games without Big Baby Davis and put up an efficient 10 points per 21 minutes of action. Part of Orlando’s incredible youth movement featuring 10 recent draftees – new picks Victor Oladipo and Romero Osby; 2012 choices Moe Harkless, Kris Joseph, Kelly O’Quinn and Doron Lamb; and 2011 picks Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and E’Twaun Moore – Nicholson will have every opportunity to succeed under coach Jacque Vaughn.

Where: Grew up in North York Why: He’s 7’5”

Where: Grew up in Toronto and attended Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute Why: His 6.7 assists per 40 minutes pace adjusted was second in the NCAA last year

Who: Nik Stauskas SF, Michigan Wolverines; 6’6”, 205 pounds, 19 years old What: A surprise star of the Wolverine’s second place NCAA run last season, gun small forward Nik Stauskas was named to the South Regional All-Tournament team – a fitting capstone for a season in which the freshman recorded more than 10 points per game on an absolutely stacked Michigan starting unit.

Where: Grew up in Mississauga and attended Father Michael Goetz Secondary School

Where: Grew up in Mississauga and attended Loyola Catholic Secondary School for two years

Why: @ESPNNBA: #NBArank 197

Why: .461/.439/.843 career NCAA shooting split

56.


PROMOTION SUPPORT INDEPENDENT ZINES

PRINT EDITION AVAILABLE

bucketsmag.bigcartel.com GRAB YOURS TODAY!

<< PRINT ONLY

COLLECTOR’S EDITION

LeBron Cover

ON SALE FROM FRIDAY (OCTOBER 25, 2013) PRINTED ON DEMAND

<<


3 5 X 3 5 X 3 5

NOV. 27

Profile for BUCKETS Magazine

Season Guide: 2013-14  

The BUCKETS Magazine team -- Brad Graham (Publisher, Creative Director) and Brian Duff (Editorial Director) -- are proud to bring you a comp...

Season Guide: 2013-14  

The BUCKETS Magazine team -- Brad Graham (Publisher, Creative Director) and Brian Duff (Editorial Director) -- are proud to bring you a comp...

Advertisement

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded