NEW: Casey’s NBA all-star predictions

photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

By Sean Casey 

The NBA all-star game voting is coming to a close, and the game is set to take place on March 7.

The all-star game usually entails an accompanying weekend, but this year, all the events will be happening on one night. There will be no rising stars game or celebrity game like usual, but the league’s best players will still be competing in the skills challenge and 3-point contest, which is set to take place before the game, and the dunk contest, which will be the halftime entertainment.  

The all-star game itself is usually highly anticipated and looked forward too, but this year with limited fans and the risk of having all the NBA’s star players in one place at the same time, there is more concern than hype for some people. 

Although I believe the game will still be entertaining, a lot of the excitement for the game from myself and many other fans is the anticipation of which players are selected to play. Being an all-star is a great honor, and something that players can keep on their career resumes forever. However, there could only be 12 from each conference, so this sparks much debate on who should be on, and who should be left off. There are so many talented players in the league right now, and it is hard to choose just 12 from each conference. As of today, an astounding 42 players are averaging more than twenty points per game. That is a remarkable number and really displays the amount of talent in the NBA. 

The picks I will give are not so much my predictions. I would consider it more of my ballot on who I think deserves to be in there. I will leave off some people who are deserving of an all-star nod, but I’ll say it again, there are only 12 spots in each conference, so there is a chance I snub your favorite player. Each conference gets a starting five with two guards and three forwards, another five off the bench with the same criteria, and then two wild cards with no position limitations. Without further delay, let’s get into the all-stars. 

Eastern Conference 

Starters 

G: Bradley Beal– Beal is leading the league in points per game with 32.8 and is the only reason why the Wizards are not in last place in the east right now. 

G: James Harden- It’s hard not to account for those five games in Houston where Harden did not exert any effort, but since arriving in Brooklyn, Harden has been very good. Leading the league in assists per game and playing well when Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are not on the floor, I think Harden has earned his right to be a starter. 

F: Kevin Durant- Durant has had a tough go this year with COVID-19 protocols and nagging injuries, but when he has been on the court, you would never guess he is coming off a ruptured achilles. Durant looks like himself, getting buckets wherever and whenever he wants, and will most likely be the captain for the Eastern Conference. 

F: Giannis Antetokounmpo- Giannis has taken a slight step back this year coming off of back-to-back MVP’s, but he is still playing great basketball is on one of the best teams in the East, and still one of the best defenders.  

F: Joel Embiid- Embiid is playing like a man on a mission after coming off of a first-round playoff sweep by the Celtics last season. Embiid has arguably been the most impactful player is the league this year, having the 76ers hold first place in the East with a 19-10 record. When Embiid has not played, the 76ers are 1-5 and when he does play, they are 18-5. The Joel Embiid for MVP hype train is real, and the 76ers are rolling. 

Bench 

B: Jaylen Brown- Jaylen Brown has taken a huge leap offensively this season, averaging nearly 26 points per game compared to his 20 points per game last season. His defense has been great too, and although the Celtics are in a slight slump right now, that shouldn’t take anything away from how great on both offense and defense Jaylen Brown has been. 

B: Ben Simmons- The criticism for Ben Simmons has been loud this season, but I really do not get why. We understand he can’t shoot, but look at the other parts of his game. He is one of the league’s best defenders and probably the best defenders out of the guards, playmaking is great, and he is on the one seed in the east. The Simmons slander is too much, and he is an all-star in my eyes. 

B: Khris Middleton– Middleton is quietly becoming a perennial all-star and people don’t seem to realize. He is not the most electric player, but his defense and scoring have both been tremendous this year and he deserves more recognition. 

B: Jayson Tatum– Tatum’s defense has not been amazing this year, but offensively he is so great you cannot leave him off the all-star team. His scoring is obviously his best attribute, but he has been a great playmaker this year creating open shots for his teammates. 

B: Bam Adebayo– Bam has been the steady force on a dysfunctional Miami Heat team that is struggling with injuries and Covid issues greatly. Bam has had to be the teams number one guy with Butler missing time, and he has not disappointed and has been great on both sides of the ball, and a great rebounder. 

WC: Kyrie Irving- It’s hard for me to put three Brooklyn Nets on my ballot, but I have to include Kyrie. If he continues to play how he is now, Kyrie is set to join the 50-40-90 club on 28 points per game. His three-point shooting has been unreal. He had a little stint where he missed some games for reasons we still don’t know, but when kyrie plays he is one of the most fun players in the league and a deserving all-star. 

WC: Julius Randle– The last wild card spot was tough, but I had to go with Julius Randle. Randle has been better than anyone could have imagined and is a huge reason why the Knicks are in the playoff picture as of now. He is averaging a double-double with 23 points and 11 rebounds, and is among the league leaders in minutes per game. There are a bunch more guys in the east that deserve an all star nod, but I couldn’t give it to anyone other than Randle himself. 

Western Conference 

Starters 

G: Stephen Curry- Curry has not been in many people’s MVP discussions, but what he is doing on this Golden State team is remarkable. Curry is putting up identical numbers from his 2015-16 unanimous MVP season, and has been must-watch television on a nightly basis. He is reminding everyone that wrote him off that he is still the best point guard in the NBA right now. 

G: Damian Lillard- Lillard is carrying an injury-ridden Portland team, putting up nearly 30 points per night. With no C.J McCollum or Jusuf Nurkic for a long stretch of games, Lillard has the Trailblazers remaining in playoff contention as a top five seed in the west. Lillard has been the most clutch player in the league this year statistically and is the reason why the Trailblazers have been winning their games when it comes down to the wire. I am writing this after Lillard scored 43 points and had 16 assists in a game they won by 2 against the Pelicans thanks to Dame hitting the game winning free throws. 

F: Kawhi Leonard- Kawhi is being Kawhi, quietly averaging 26 points per game, and has the Clippers at the third seed in a very tough Western Conference. This is some of the best regular season basketball Kawhi Leonard has played, and he should definitely be awarded with an all-star start. 

F: Lebron James– Somehow in year 18, we are still talking about Lebron for MVP. Many people thought that Lebron would take a back seat during the regular season and let Anthony Davis take control, but it seems the opposite is happening. Lebron is playing hard night in and night out, and the Lakers have a target on their back every night they go out and get every teams best shot, but they still have the second best record in the league and the best defense. 

F: Nikola Jokic– Jokic is having his best season to date and is asserting himself as a top ten player in the league. He dropped a career high 47 points, and then a week later set a new career high with 50. His playmaking as always has been phenomenal, and he seems to be in better shape not looking sluggish at all when closing out games like he would in seasons past. 

Bench 

B: Luka Doncic- It’s hard not to put Luka as a starter for the year that he is having, almost averaging a triple double, but I think Lillard has done more with less around him and Lillard’s team has the better record.

B: Donavon Mitchell– Mitchell is the best player on the best team in the league. The jazz are putting the league on notice, and with Mitchell averaging 24 points per game, the Jazz are a legit threat at keeping the one seed in the west. 

B: Paul George– Paul George is having an unbelievable bounce back year after a bad showing in the bubble and is showing that he is one of the best two-way players in the league. 

B: Anthony Davis– Anthony Davis may be injured for the all-star game, but if he is healthy than he definitely deserves to play in it. He is not having one of his best season’s offensively, but defensively he is fantastic. He is the defensive anchor on the best defensive team in the league.  

B: Rudy Gobert– Right now Gobert is on pace to earn his 3rd defensive player of the year award after placing top 3 but not winning it last year. Gobert is obviously the best rim protector in the league, but when he is switched onto guards, he makes it very tough for them, and offensively his rolling off of pick and rolls is a big reason why the Jazz get so many open threes. 

WC: Chris Paul- It seems that wherever Chris Paul goes, he makes everyone on his team better. His impact is enormous on this young Suns team, and right now he is scoring 17 points per night. More importantly, he is making everyone around him better and has the Suns sitting at the fifth seed in the West after missing the playoffs last year. 

WC: Devin Booker- This last wild-card spot in the West was a tough decision between Zion Williamson, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Booker. Obviously, I ended up going with Booker. As much as Chris Paul helps the Suns win games, Booker adds a lot as well. He is averaging 24 points per game on great efficiency and has been one of the best scorers in the league this year. 

Staff Picks: NBA Finals

photo: Getty Images

By: The Intrepid Staff

The 2020 NBA Finals begin Wednesday night, as the Los Angeles Lakers take on the Miami Heat.

With the Lakers heavily favored in the series, we polled our staff to find out who they think will be crowned the next NBA champion.

Sean Casey, staff writer: Lakers in 7

Series MVP: LeBron James

Keys for Lakers: Must shoot well from 3-point range to open things up for Lebron and Anthony Davis, need to play fast and get points in transition, figure out Miami’s 2-3 zone early in the series, and Anthony Davis needs to outplay Bam Adebeyo 

Keys for Heat: Use their depth to their advantage and get solid contributions from their bench and role players, slow the Lakers down in transition, Bam needs to be best player in this series for them to win, and finally, find the player to take on the assignment of attempting to lock up Lebron. 

Nic Gelyon, staff writer: Heat in 6

The Miami Heat have, on a really good night, five decent mid-range shooters in Tyler Herro, Jae Crowder, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic. If you add Duncan Robinson and Kelly Olynyk, the Heat have four very good three-point shooters as well. And yeah, their defense is pretty good too.

The Lakers have been missing their best defenders throughout their time in the bubble, and its showed. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are the only ones on their team who can get a rebound, or an assist, or a block, or just points in general. The Heat will outscore the Lakers, and it’ll seem a lot closer than it actually is.

Jonny Walker, staff writer: Lakers in 5

Series MVP: LeBron James

The Heat are a nice story, but the Lakers are simply on another level. The NBA is a star-driven league. Anytime you have the two best players (LeBron James and Anthony Davis) in the series playing for the same team, it’s hard to imagine them not dominating.

Plus, I’m not convinced that Jimmy Butler is good enough to be the best player on a championship team. The lack of a true superstar on this squad feels reminiscent of those early 2000s Pistons teams, just significantly less talented.

Ryan Surmay, staff writer: Lakers in 5

While Miami is one of the hottest teams in the league right now, LeBron and Anthony Davis will put the heat out and win in five games. Miami can steal a game and catch the Lakers off guard with their 3-point shooting, but they have no answer to the Lakers’ dynamic duo.

Peter Byrne, staff writer: Lakers in 6

The Heat have been fantastic throughout the entire playoffs. They’re carried an underdog mentality into every series, and have come away with win after win, as well as a gained sense of confidence. This will be their toughest test yet, and while Milwaukee had the best record in the NBA this season, the Lakers have more star power and playoff experience.

If all goes right, Miami can win this series. However, I think the star power LA possesses, as well as its experience, will prove too much to handle for this young Miami team.

Jeff Uveino, Editor in Chief: Lakers in 6

Series MVP: Anthony Davis

How does the saying go? We all love a good underdog?

The Heat’s improbable run to the Finals has won the hearts of many fans, but the Lakers just have too much star power. Expect each game to be close.

Anthony Goss, staff writer: Lakers in 6

Mike Hogan, special contributor: Heat in 6

NBA Finals preview: No. 1 Lakers take on No. 5 Heat

photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

By Ryan Surmay and Peter Byrne

The 2020 NBA Finals begin Wednesday evening, with the Western Conference’s Los Angeles Lakers taking on the Eastern Conference’s Miami Heat.

Here are some notes on each team, things to watch for, and predictions for series.

Los Angeles Lakers 

How they got here: 

After finishing 52-19 in the shortened regular season, the Lakers had a 3.5 game lead over their cross-town rival the Los Angeles Clippers to secure the West’s top seed.

LeBron James turned in one of his most impressive seasons yet, this being his 17th year. He rebounded off of an injury plagued 2018-2019 season, eliminating any talk that he was washed up. 

James averaged 25.3 points, 7.8 rebounds and a league leading 10.2 assists. The team was lead in scoring by first year Laker, Anthony Davis, averaging 26.3 points per game. He came over after a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans.

One of the key factors for this team’s success was the team chemistry as they stayed together through the tragic loss of Laker legend Kobe Bryant in January. They beat the Trail Blazers, Rockets and Nuggets, all four games to one, to advance through the playoffs. 

X- Factor Player: Rajon Rondo 

“Playoff” Rondo has been in full effect this postseason, averaging 9.1 points and 7.2 assists per game. Rondo has led the Lakers’ second unit all season.

Rondo’s championship experience will be the difference maker to help aid the Lakers’ championship aspirations. He fills the void they have as they are missing a third true star player. 

While he missed the first playoff series against the Portland Trail Blazers, he came back and was a critical part of their series victories over the Rockets and Nuggets. 

Rondo is not going to play the minutes he used to with the Celtics, now that he is 34 years old, but he will provide leadership and veteran experience off the bench when LeBron James needs a breather.  

Player to watch: Anthony Davis 

While everyone knows LeBron James is accustom to the spotlight due to his nine finals appearances in the last 10 years, this is Davis’ first time playing in the finals.

His matchup against Miami’s Bam Adebayo will be one that all basketball fans are looking forward to as he is a young upcoming star. Davis already proved he can dominate as provided to be no match for the arguably best center in the league Nikola Jokic.

Everyone can expect this to continue, as Davis has a favorable matchup.  

Keys to the series 

Defense 

The Lakers had the third best defense this regular season but now will be faced with a scorching hot Heat team stacked with shooters. Wings Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will have their hands full with rookie Tyler Herro and former two-way player Duncan Robinson, along with balanced scorers Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic.  

Three-point Shooting 

Shooting has been the one aspect the Lakers have lacked this season. They were in the bottom third of the league with an average of 35%. It’s going to be interesting to see how they matchup up with the heat because most of their scoring has been from inside the arc, the opposite of the Heat.  

Experience  

The Lakers have significant more championship experience on their roster with the likes of LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, Danny Green, Dwight Howard, JR Smith, Quinn Cook, and JaVale McGee all having championship compared to a young Heat team with only having Udonis Haslem and Andre Iguodala making it before. The story of the Heats playoff run so far has been all of the youth on their side but they cannot match up with all of the Lakers experience. They understand the necessary preparation in order to get the four crucial wins.

  

Miami Heat  

How they got here: After finishing 44-29 in the regular season, the Heat emerged as the No. 5 seed in the East. They swept the Indiana Pacers in the first found before beating the Milwaukee Bucks four games to one, then knocking off the Boston Celtics, 4-2.

X-Factor Player:  

Tyler Herro. The 20-year-old has done a phenomenal job so far in the playoffs, as he is averaging 13.5 points and 4 rebounds per game.

One key stat for Herro is that the Heat are 6-1 in games where he scores 15 or points in the playoffs. If they can get the rookie involved in his first finals appearance, it may lead to a few wins against a Laker team that struggles to contain scoring guards. 

Player to watch: 

The player to watch must be Jimmy Butler. So far these playoffs he’s averaged 20.7 points, 5.7 boards, and 4.5 assists per game.

However, it’s not all about stats with Butler. People rave about his ability to lead and get his teammates involved. However, I think Butler is going to have to take more control of this series if the Heat want a chance to win it all.

When Butler has scored 20 or more points in these playoffs, Miami is 7-0. The Heat might need 20 from him every night this series. 

Keys to the series

Three-point shooting

In the regular season, the Heat shot 37.9% from beyond the arc, which was second in the league. If they want any chance in this series, they’re going to need threes to fall. 

Containing Anthony Davis

The Heat have an elite defender in Bam Adebayo, who was voted second-team all-defense this past season. However, Davis destroyed the Heat in two matchups this season, dropping 26 points, 8 boards, and 7 assists in the first game and 33 points and 10 rebounds in the ladder. They won’t be able to completely stop AD, but if the Heat can contain them, they have a shot. 

The Zone Defense

One way the Heat stifled Boston and Milwaukee in the last couple series was their zone defense. The Lakers aren’t necessarily known as a shooting team, typically they depend on LeBron and Anthony Davis to put their head down and get to the basket. Now, if the Heat can take the ball out of their hands and force guys like Danny Green and Kyle Kuzma to consistently make threes, I think they will be happy.  

Head to head matchup:  

In the regular season, LA took both games. On November 8th they won easily, taking down Miami 95-80. On December 13th it was much more competitive, as the Lakers edged out a 113-110 victory. In both games, Bam Adebayo failed to score over 12 points, something that will not lead to success if that were to happen in the finals. Miami will need guys other than Butler to produce 15-20 points a night. 

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is scheduled to tip off at 9 p.m. on Wednesday.

 

Opinion: Top-10 NBA rivalries

By Jordon Hall

1. Heat vs. Bulls:

The rivalry goes back to the 1990s when Pat Riley defected from the New York Knicks and joined Alonzo Mourning in Miami to take on the dynasty of Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. Fast-forward about 15-years later and it’s maybe the most heated rivalry in the NBA today. Both teams have arguably the two best players in the NBA; LeBron James and Derrick Rose. The two-time NBA and Finals MVP against the only player not named James to win an NBA MVP since 2008. Both are without a doubt two of the most explosive players in the NBA today.

Dwyane Wade, the Chicago native, is not afraid to get rough with the Bulls. Joakim Noah has stated many times he hates the Heat more than any one man on the planet. Carlos Boozer, Chris “Birdman” Andersen, Luol Deng, Nazr Mohammed and Chris Bosh have all gotten physical in the rivalry since it started three years ago when “ The Big 3” came together. These teams play four times and then more in the playoffs.

2. Heat vs. Nets

When Miami’s “Big 3” started, it ticked off the Celtics’ “Big 3” because Boston coined the term first and also never liked James and Wade.

Continue reading “Opinion: Top-10 NBA rivalries”

NBA: Posey Discusses Career

[Photo courtesy of sportsofboston.com]

By Aime Mukendi, staff writer, @sir_aimezing 

James Posey is an NBA veteran who has had success at all stops during his career, but as the season comes to an end, he is still without a team.

He played a major role in helping the Memphis Grizzlies make their first postseason appearance in 2004, stood by the Big three in Boston as they won the 2008 NBA championship and contributed to the Miami Heat’s first NBA championship run in 2006. 

A 12-year veteran, his most recent employment came with the Indiana Pacers.

Posey was drafted in 1999 by the Denver Nuggets and avoided the only lockout in NBA history until this season.

One of the additions to the Collective Bargaining Agreement which helped end the lockout was the new Amnesty Clause. This clause allows for a team to release a player and not have his contract count towards their cap space while still paying the player. 

The Indiana Pacers used this clause on James Posey during the shortened offseason making him a free agent.

“Money wise it was a blessing,” Posey said. “Right now I’ve just been working out. I can get a call any day.”

Posey explained he had to acclimate himself to a lesser role with the Pacers.

“In Indiana it was a tough situation,” he said. “They wanted to go young. It was tough but I understood, I wouldn’t want to be in that situation again.”

Teams have made no offers to Posey but he has received a few calls.

“I have gotten phone calls but at the end of the day with anything you hear it’s all talk until things actually happen,” he said on his free agent status.

As a former NBA Champion, Posey says he would prefer a chance at another ring rather then being a mentor on a young team.

“At the end of the day I still want to play,” he said. ” At this point of my career I would like to be on a more veteran orientated team, [where] it’s all about winning.”

During the interview Posey reminisced about his career. He talked about the best teams he played for. 

He mentioned the 2004 Memphis Grizzlies that was coached by Hubie Brown, where he played with Pau Gasol, Shane Battier, Mike Miller, Bo Outlaw, Earl Watson and Jayson Williams and the 2006 Miami Heat team coached by Pat Riley, where he played with veterans Shaquille O’Neal, Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker and star Dwayne Wade. 

He also made sure to mention his time spent with the Big Three of the Boston Celtics.

“Those three teams were special in different ways,” he said.

He shared how each team had different expectations and had different ways of accomplishing their goals. In Memphis it was the hard work in practice, Miami had to meet expectations due to all the big name players, and in Boston it was hard work and camaraderie.

Posey also spoke about how players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen asked him what they needed to do to be like the 2006 Miami Heat team or even be better than that team.

“Those guys with all the accolades to actually listen to me with some of the things I had to say regarding practice or just how we played went a long away,” he said of his time in Boston.

Posey also praised the intensity that Kevin Garnett brought to each practice, which transferred to the games, and helped bring a championship to Boston for the first time since Larry Bird’s Celtics won in 1986. 

“He’s paid $100 million and when I say he’s hard in practice like it’s a game that’s what he does. He don’t slack off.” Posey said about Garnett’s competitiveness.

Posey also shared the methods that Pat Riley often used to win in Miami. 

” For me it was a great experience. There was no bad blood or beef between me and Pat Riley it was all about winning,” he said. “When I had to miss those games it was a tough pill to swallow. So it was like now I’m the skape goat, blame me for this and that. That’s just another one of his tactics. He’s known to have guys walking on egg-shells. He’s like God walking around there.” 

Posey weighed in on the ultimate question as well — who is better LeBron or Kobe? 

“I wouldn’t mind playing with LeBron James. He plays the game the right way. He’s very unselfish as a star player like KG. As far as skill set I gotta go with Kobe he’s more polished as a player. He [Kobe} is the more complete player,” was his answer.

Posey said he was able to sustain his career by working hard, something others could learn from.

” I been blessed injury-wise I didn’t have any major injuries. I took care of my body [and] prepared for the season. I accepted [my] role and did it the best I could,” Posey said.

mukendas11@bonaventure.edu