Five Things We Learned This Pre-Season

Kyle Lowry Is Looking Lean and Mean

If you’ve been keeping tabs on the players looking trim this pre-season, and I really hope you haven’t, you would have seen Kyle Lowry killing it.

The Raptors Point Guard looks noticeably slimmer and has featured in more than a few filler headlines this off-season.

But not only does skinny Lowry look good, he plays good.

Young Majestic has been on a tear in the pre-season and is leading the way for not only Toronto, but the league.

Dude dropped 40 on the T-Wolves in just 13 shots.

 

Otto Porter Jr is Still Alive

When one door closes, another opens.

Yeah, Paul Pierce might be living easy in LA, sipping on pineapple spritzers, but that doesn’t spell doom for Washington.

The veteran’s departure has left a lanky string bean shaped hole in the middle of the line-up, and going into his third year, it’s now or never for young Otto Porter Jr.

It’s time for the 22 year old to step up, adjust the specs and get nasty.

And so far in the Pre-season, he’s been fairly respectable – translation: if he can keep this up, he’s a starting 3 in the L.

Please keep it up Otto.

Paul George is Back

Seeing PG rack again is a thing of beauty.

There’s a soft spot in my heart for dunkers who rock the two-foot gather, bending their bodies to the side for slow-mo slams.

But what I love even more is to see someone comeback, unaffected by the most horrific of injuries, looking confident and collected.

George had the luxury of stretching his legs in the garbage time of last season and has been unafraid this pre-season.

The new look Pacers face some uncertainty early on, including whether George should start at the 4, but one thing they can count on is Young Trece, back putting in work.

Emmanuel Mudiay is NBA Ready

Look it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the newest Nugget, but potential is supposed to be raw, and baby there’s truckloads of it.

There’s no doubt Mudiay is leading the rookies going into the 2015-16 season with averages of 15 points and 5.4 assists in 29.2 minutes of game time.

The turnovers are a bad smell, but transition to the pros isn’t without its hiccups.

The physique on the 19 year old already looks NBA ready, no doubt a product of his time overseas, but his patience with the ball is what’s most promising.

Provocative Prediction/Way Too Earlier To Call/Big Call: Mudiay for Rookie of the Year.

Westbrook and KD Haven’t Missed a Beat

Surely they’d be rust, right?

Flashback to last season: The brother Durant goes down with a screw loose, Westbrook steps up. Becomes the undisputed heavyweight champion of his team and basically the league for a brief stretch.

OKC miss the playoffs, Westbrook shows MVP potential.

Now we’re starting a fresh season and the old Alpha is back on the court, so whose team is it? Well if the pre-season is anything to go by, we’re asking the wrong question.

KD and Westbrook have looked slick both individually and as a duo. The Thunder’s one-two punch looks straight deadly with a determined Durant making up for lost time and an angry Westbrook looking for any reason to obliterate someone on the break.

Let’s be real though, this instant chemistry shouldn’t come as a surprise, the boys have been kicking it for seven years now.

By Oliver Dunn

The Ultimate Starting Five

We’ve all done it. We’ve all been guilty of talking smack about who the best players of all-time are, and everyone’s got an opinion.

Take for example that one mate who plays it by the books, picking the classics like Kareem and Bird, or that one wildcard that still thinks about Gilbert Arenas when he’s eating breakfast. And we all know that one buster who just started playing 2K and thinks he knows wassup: “James Harden bruh.”

No matter the group of friends, picking an all-time squad of five is always a hot topic of discussion, but what about the NBA players themselves? What do they think?

Well ponder no more my curious hoop head, for all will be revealed amongst the doldrums (cc: Zach Lowe’s favourtie word) of the offseason.

Recently, during a sneaker tour of Spain, Kevin Durant sat down with ‘NBA Maniacs’ to answer a few Q’s and cheese up some soundbites. During the interview Durantula was asked about his all-time starting five.

Starting with the point KD listed the following basketball Gods: Magic Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tim Duncan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Now we could waste the rest of the offseason arguing back and forth about who does and doesn’t deserve a spot, but let’s just remember, this is KD’s list. So rather than just talk about the selections, I feel as though we can take it a step further. Everyone’s heard about Durant’s top five, but what about his top five’s top five?

Stay with me here.

I have tried my very best to uncover the ultimate team by using each of the players above and seeing what their own all-time starting five is.

To help improve the sample size I have also included the opinions of various other elite players and who they believe deserve a spot.

By cross referencing all the line-ups chosen, I have come up with the unofficial all-time starting five’s all-time starting five.

Point Guard: Magic Johnson (4 selections)

Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during a game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California - Photo Courtesy of The Sports Post
Guard Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers stands on the court during a game at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California – Photo Courtesy of The Sports Post

Bench: John Stockton (2 selections)

No one had ever seen a point guard like Magic Johnson before.

He was a 6’9” magician who commanded the fast break with such flash and charisma, splitting one-handed bounce passes through legs and egos. His no look dimes were so accurate he could’ve been rocking a blindfold out there (or at the very least an eyepatch). All this and he could still cover any position on the floor. It should be no surprise that Magic commands the point guard position in this list.

Kobe, MJ, LeBron and The Glove all had Magic at their point, paying homage to the level of talent ripe in the NBA during the 80’s.

The guy did everything well. His career averages of 19.5 points, 7.2 rebounds and 11.2 assists speak for themselves. An incredible player on and off the court.

Shooting Guard: Michael Jordan (6 selections)

Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers - Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)
Michael Jordan #23 of the Chicago Bulls looks on against the Los Angeles Lakers – Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Bench: Kobe Bryant (2 selections)

Let’s talk about who didn’t pick Jordan rather than who did because come on now, he’s the GOAT.

For those of you who don’t know what that means, I’m not talking about a hairy Bovidae munching on some overgrown grass. I’m talking about a marble statue floating through the air. A logo who crippled defences and dismantled opponents. A tongue wagging, red mesh rippling basketball genius known as the Greatest Of All Time.

Dr. J, Karl Malone and Gary Payton are the only players to leave MJ off their all-time greatest list. Julius defends his selection by saying he’s had the same five ever since he was 15 years old.

Karl Malone picked MJ’s old teammate Scottie Pippen instead of Jordan, saying the reason was because Scottie led the team in every statistical category while Mike was gone.

Karl just seems a little Ready Salted if you ask me.

Small Forward: Larry Bird/Scottie Pippen (tied at 3 selections each)

Larry Bird with Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler - Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein
Larry Bird with Scottie Pippen and Clyde Drexler – Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein

Bench: Dr. J (2 selections)

Easily the most divided position of the lot, an underrated Scottie Pippen shares the 3 with Celtic legend Larry Bird.

Unsurprisingly Scottie was mentioned in MJ’s line-up. His former teammate and fellow all-time starter having his back much like he did in Chicago. He also got the nod from Jason Kidd, and interestingly was chosen by old rival Karl Malone who picked Scottie over Jordan.

Larry Legend features as a starter thanks to his arch rivals the Lakers. Both Magic and Kobe chose Bird as their starting small forward, showing respect to the clutchest moustache the game has ever seen. He can also be found atop LeBron’s Mount Rushmore (his top four players of all-time), which gave Bird the narrow advantage over Dr. J.

With career averages of 24.3 points, 6.3 assists and 10 rebounds, Bird has the advantage when it comes to the numbers, but don’t feel bad for Scottie. With six championship rings won with the Bulls he doubles that of Bird’s. Either way you slice it, that’s a lot guac for a lot of chips.

Power Forward: Tim Duncan (3 selections)

Spurs Forward Tim Duncan during a game earlier this year - Photo By Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports
Spurs Forward Tim Duncan during a game earlier this year – Photo By Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Bench: Kevin McHale (2 selections)

He’s still tip-toeing up and down the pine like there’s a broom handle up his booty, but already people are ready to crown Big Timmy D the greatest 4 to play the game. With a ridiculous career double-double to the tune of 19.5 points and 11 rebounds, it’s kinda hard to argue with them.

He’s living proof that consistency both individually and as a core is a winning formula in the NBA.

He’s proven he’s clutch, increasing his averages in the playoffs and he’s won both early and late in his career. Since 1999 Duncan has won 5 chips with the Spurs and proven every single year that he’s not too old to bang with the best of them.

The guy refuses to go away. Maybe that’s why he’s a perfect fit in the all-time best of the best.

Centre:  Bill Russell (5 selections)

The Celtics legend Bill Russell putting on a block party - Photo Courtesy of 15 Minutes With...
The Celtics legend Bill Russell putting on a block party – Photo Courtesy of 15 Minutes With…

Bench: Wilt Chamberlain (4 selections)

As time goes by people tend to forget even the greatest of legacies and Russell is no exception to this. He seems to have slowly faded from people’s minds as one of the greatest. Kids just aren’t picking him on 2K these days. But his NBA peers haven’t forgotten how dominant the Celtic legend was.

The five-time MVP was such a shot-blocking force that he changed the way defence was played. Complete and utter dominance in the 60’s earned him 11 championships with the Celtics and could very well be the reason he narrowly edged out Wilt for the starting job.

Much in the way he ripped down 51 boards in a game, Russell snatched the centre position from Wilt in this all-time starting five.

It’s safe to say that opinion will always be split on which players were the best ever. People’s definition of what it takes to be great will always vary, which is why there are so many different all-time starting fives out there. This is simply a list of players who earned the respect of their peers and proved to be the most consistent among popular opinion.

Additional players randomly included: Jason Kidd, Karl Malone, Julius Erving, Kevin Garnett, Gary Payton, Scottie Pippen and LeBron James.

*each player wins their traditional position based on the number of selections they receive in other player’s line-ups.

*some players (Tim Duncan) have yet to talk about their all-time starting five or have an incomplete list (Shaquille O’Neal, LeBron James)

By Oliver Dunn

NBA Changes Playoff Seeding for 2015-16 Season

The suits who chill behind the scenes at the NBA have made a refreshing change to its playoff format.

NBA.com released today that the NBA Board of Governors have approved changes to the way teams are seeded after 82 games, which will start this coming season.

The voting followed recommendation from the NBA’s Competition Committee.

The board’s unanimous decision means the eight playoff teams from each conference will be seeded in order of their regular-season record. A format that makes a lot more sense than the old one.

In previous seasons each division winner was awarded a top four seed in their conference regardless of record.

The changes have also trickled down to home-court advantage in the playoffs regarding who wins a tiebreak. Where home-court advantage would have previously been awarded to the division winner, now the seed goes to the team who won in head-to-head results.

A logical move by the league that’s been long overdue.

By Oliver Dunn

Top 5 Sneaky NBA Off-Season Moves

With the NBA regular season peeking over the October horizon, player movement has slowed to a Kendrick Perkin’s pace. I’m talking size 18 sneakers, slogging up and down the court, not even an A4 could slide under those hogs mid-run. You get it, it’s slow.

The only real headline left is whether Tristan Thompson will get that max contract his agent really, really wants.

And I’m sure you’ve heard all about the big wig moves: the redistribution of wealth in Portland, Munroe’s new home in Milwaukee, even the big wig moves that didn’t happen: DeAndre hates drama.

But what about the teams that moved in the shadows, quietly making their squad better with an offseason pick-up? Well for those who are curious and have ninja like reflexes, here are the top five sneaky good offseason moves.

*It should be noted that the sneakiness of a move is rated by the price a team got for said player verses their value, as well as lack of media hype and confetti.

But mostly it’s just based on a player’s ability to throw or catch alley-oops.

  • 5. Thomas Robinson – Brooklyn Nets

I’m not ready to give up on the big guy just yet, not when he’s capable of this http://y2u.be/JhdYpW2ocso

In only three years the former number five overall pick has bounced around the league playing for the likes of Sacramento, Portland and most recently Philly. With career averages sitting around 5.1 ppg with 4.8 rebounds, some might overlook the 24 year old.

However these stats come from limited minutes and after a noticeable increase in production with the 76ers last year, Robinson is a steal.

Especially for $2.2 million on a two year deal.

Even with an incredibly tight budget, the Brooklyn Nets have pulled off a bargain back-up for Thaddeus Young and his newly inked contract. Here’s hoping T-Rob still has some ‘SportsCenter Top Ten’ left in him.

Sneaky good rating: 5/10 (bargain bin)

  • 4. Jared Dudley – Washington Wizards

What do you do when you lose Paul Pierce? Simple. You get the poor man’s Paul Pierce (even though he’s a little more expensive).

Jared Dudley doesn’t exactly look like an NBA player, in fact seeing Kobe Bryant having fun at practice is more likely than Dudley going up for a two-hand jam. But there is nothing more underrated than a ‘Glue Guy’.

The veteran’s best years are behind him, there’s no arguing that, but having someone to take care of team chemistry, stirring the beaker from the bench, is huge. He fit in perfectly with a young Bucks squad and looks to do the same in Washington.

For $4.25 million in the last year of his contract he’s a nice addition to a team with dreams of a deep playoff push.

Sneaky good rating: 5.5/10 (half-used tube of super glue)

  • 3. Josh Smith – LA Clippers

He’s a gamble, I know, but what I admire about Smith to LA is that the Clippers were man enough to sign a guy who killed them last year. J Smooth was a big part of Houston’s comeback in the Western Semi-finals last season that resulted in that LA train wreck (you know the one that was super painful that you couldn’t take your eyes off).

We’ve seen proof that Josh Smith off the bench can work well, and for a $1.5 million contract, why not roll the dice? Smith gives the Clippers versatility, able to cover multiple positions and fill much needed holes within their second unit.

Besides, if Smith’s alley-oop chemistry with Blake and DJ is half as good as it was with Dwight, his signing will be worth it for the acrobatics alone.

Sneaky good rating: 6.5/10 (lucky dip)

  • 2. Gerald Green – Miami Heat

The revival of Gerald Green’s career has to be the best feel good story the NBA has seen in recent years. The dude’s vertical is so nasty it even makes Shannon Brown screw up his face and say, “good show old boy”. But Green has worked hard to prove that he’s not just a pogo stick with a goatee.

His 2013-14 campaign showed he still has a place in the league and despite a drop-off from last season with less minutes, he’s still an excellent swingman off the bench.

For $1.35 million, the Heat have secured quality depth behind both Wade and Deng, but more importantly, Wade has someone he can throw ridiculous lobs to again.

Sneaky good rating: 8/10 (cheap airfare)

  • 1. David West – San Antonio Spurs

No doubt you’ve heard of the new cowboy in town out in Texas, but LaMarcus Aldridge isn’t the only forward the Spurs added this offseason. After a glorious public break-up with the Pacers, David West has signed a Veteran’s minimum contract ($3 million for two years) to come kick it with Timmy and the boys.

In all honesty this has more to do with West valuing championships over money than it is the Spurs pulling off a sneaky good pick-up. West took a whopping $11 million pay cut to sign with San Antonio who have added a gritty vet for dirt cheap. A vet unafraid to bump chests with the likes of Matt Barnes or flick Blake Griffin in the earlobe if need be.

But the sneaky good meter loves what he brings to San Antonio. His toughness is invaluable and he gives the Spurs true frontcourt depth. A legit starter, West can come off the bench for ‘Old Bones Duncan’ and contribute meaningful minutes.

Sneaky good rating: 9/10 (hired muscle)

Josh Smith might implode and David West might not fit in. Gerald Green might windmill so hard he snaps his wrists clean off. But maybe one or two of these players prove to be that key cog within a team’s identity. All we can go on is a player’s shown potential and all we can hope for is that they contribute and play the best they can. I for one am excited to see what these cats can bring to the table, and prove to the rest of the league why you should never sleep on sneaky good ballers.

By Oliver Dunn