Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Number One Pick, A Gift, or a Recipe for Disaster?

With the Raiders poised to release former number one overall NFL draft pick, JaMarcus Russell in a few days, I cant help but think back on how many of these first picks have turned out to be a disaster. This trend is not just in football either, the NBA has had it's fair share of duds chosen with the top pick in the draft. So let's take a look, and I will start with the NFL:

(In no particular order)

1. Jeff George, 1990 - Colts
Success can be measured in many different ways, but the stat synonymous with success is victories, something this former number one overall had trouble accomplishing. Although George had respectable passing statistics, his 14-35 record in four years with the Colts was not the record you expect to have from the prized possession of the 1990 NFL Draft. George went on to play starting roles for four more teams, Atlanta, Oakland, Minnesota and Washington. George led his team to the postseason just three times in his 12 year career, winning just one of those three games. His overall record as a quarterback in the NFL was a disappointing 46-78.

2. Ki-Jana Carter, 1995 - Bengals
It might be unfair to have Carter on this list because some of his lack of production can be attributed to injury, but a lot of NFL people questioned whether he would pan out as a feature pro back anyway. In his rookie campaign, Carter played in all 16 games and started four of them. He carried the ball 91 times for 264 yards and reached pay dirt 8 times. In his second year, Carter played in 15 games starting in ten of them. He carried the ball 128 times for 464 yards and scored 7 TD's. Carter's second season was his last "productive" one, as he suffered a major knee injury in his third year and was never the same again. He lost any and all explosion he might have had left and ended his career as a backup journeyman. Carter played in 59 career games, starting in only 14 of them. He compiled a grand total of 319 carries, 1,144 yards and 20 touchdowns, those are definitely not the career numbers one would desire for a tailback taken number one overall in the Draft.

3. Tim Couch, 1999 - Browns
When one thinks back to the best quarterbacks taken with the first pick within the last three decades, John Elway, Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning come to mind. Tim Couch on the other hand, does not. The first sign that deterred me from taking Couch, even in the first round, was the fact that he played his college ball at Kentucky. Only five QB's in that schools long history have played in the NFL and only one, George Blanda, had any type of success. However, I do see why the Browns took Couch with their pick, he had great size at 6'4" 220 lbs, he had a great arm and he was a very accurate college thrower. Unfortunately for the Browns, Tim Couch's college capabilities didn't translate to the NFL, but the Browns organization can also shoulder some of the blame for not fielding a decent team around Couch. In five seasons at the helm of Cleveland's offense, Couch threw 64 TD's and 67 interceptions and had a 59% completion percentage, his record was 22-37 with only one winning season.

4. David Carr, 2002 - Texans
When starting a new franchise, the last thing you want to happen is blowing you first number one overall pick, and that is exacty what the Texans did with theirs. David Carr was a great college QB, at Fresno State that is. The lack of competition he faced in college definitely showed at the pro level. Carr's career is very similar to Couch's, they both had great size, accuracy, arm strength and fundamentals, but both of them got pushed into very bad situations with their teams. David Carr ended his career with a record of 23-56, compiling 65 TD's while throwing 70 picks.

5. Alex Smith, 2005 - 49ers
Although Smith still has a very good chance of working himself off of this list, he still belongs here. The 49ers drafted Smith because they liked his intelligence, charisma, and overall intangibles, but everyone knows that none those are reasons to risk your future on. Smith's difficulty with understanding how to run an NFL offense has greatly diminished his chance to live up to the hype that surrounded him coming out of college. In his career so far, Smith's record is 16-24, he has thrown 37 TD's to 43 interceptions and has a dismal 56% completion percentage.

6. JaMarcus Russell, 2007 - Raiders
Russell wasn't a huge name in his first few seasons in college, but a fantastic showing at the Sugar Bowl at the end of his junior year shot him to the top of everyones draft boards. Russell picked apart Notre Dame's defense in that Sugar Bowl game to the tune of 332 yards on 21-34 passing with 2 TD's and one rushing TD; but what all NFL front office personnel didn't realize was that was one of the worst Notre Dame defenses the school had ever trotted onto the field. The Raiders held the first overall pick in 2007, and everyone knew they were going to pick Russell. Al Davis loved the long ball and Russell had a cannon of an arm, perfect fit, right? Wrong. JaMarcus came into his first training camp out of shape, and his work ethic showed that he wasn't looking to change that any time soon. Through Russell's first three seasons, he has started 31 games, thrown only 18 TD's to 23 interceptions and has a horrendous completion percentage of 52%.

7. Matthew Stafford, 2009 - Detroit Lions/ Sam Bradford, 2010 - St. Louis Rams

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Defensive State of Mind

The first thing I do when I wake up every morning is fire up my iPad and go directly to to read Henry Abbott's " Truehoop" blog. It's like clockwork. I find this blog so entertaining because the topics are different and off-the-wall. So, to my delight, on Monday I had my "First Cup" like I always do, but this one was a little different, like someone threw and extra shot of espresso in it for me. Mr. Abbott had posed what he called a "defensive writing challenge" open to any and all who dared, and I dare, so here is my attempt.

April 27, 2010 Los Angeles Lakers: 111 OKC Thunder: 87

The old adage says defense wins championships, but on Tuesday night at Staples Center, the Los Angeles Lakers showed that defense wins key first-round playoff games as well. After two embarrassing losses at the newly named "Loud" Center, the Lakers came home and clamped down the straps on the defensive end, and silenced the ever so booming Thunder.

There was something different at the start of game five though, reports had it that Kobe Bryant had gone to Phil Jackson and asked to cover Russell Westbrook, and Phil granted Kobe his wish. With Kobe checking Westbrook, Derek Fisher slid over to guard the more defensive minded Thabo Sefolosha. All other defensive assignments remained intact for the Lakers, and putting Kobe on Westbrook proved to be a beautifully Zen move.

Instead of using strength and force as Fisher so dreadfully tried against the much quicker Westbrook, Kobe deployed the same defense that he used on Boston point guard Rajon Rondo, containment. Kobe gave Westbrook about an arms length worth of space and dared the streaky shooter to beat him with the jump shot. Not allowing Westbrook to get any easy drives to the basket, lead to him having less confidence in his jumper.

While Kobe was containing Westbrook, Artest was doing his nightly tango with Kevin Durant. There is not much one can do when trying to contain the 21 year old scoring champion; but if there is anything that can frustrate him, it is physicality, and Ron Artest has plenty of it to dish out. Artest's constant contact, reaching and bumping seems to have Durant forcing his shot a bit in the three games at Staples Center.

The Lakers interior defense, meanwhile, stayed out of foul trouble and cleaned up the defensive glass better than a window washer on a LA high rise could ever dream of. The Lakers bettered the Thunder on the defensive glass by seven, 35 to 28, and also won the overall battle of the boards 45 to 42, which was something they didn't accomplish in either game in Oklahoma City.

The Thunder must have forgot their defense at the airport, because they didn't play any. Westbrook allowed Derek Fisher to penetrate at will, and Thabo Sefolosha gave Kobe the room to survey and orchestrate whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. With the lane so vastly open for the Laker guards, it was very difficult for the Thunder bigs to recover back to their original defensive assignments.

The defense of Oklahoma City just did not show any energy or desire. They got out hustled to every loose ball, they got beat to every long rebound and they got completely out defended by the "old" and "tired" Lakers.

I know it's a long shot, but we should change the old adage that defense wins championships to DEFENSE WINS, PERIOD.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Checking in on our Draft Experts

In my previous post, I questioned the expertise of ESPN's draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. So, let's see how they did.

Here is how the draft went:

1. Rams - Sam Bradford- Both
2. Lions - Ndamukong Suh - Both
3. Bucs - Gerald McCoy - Both
4. Redskins - Trent Williams - Both
5. Chiefs - Eric Berry - Both
6. Seahawks - Russell Okung - Both
7. Browns - Joe Haden - Neither
8. Raiders - Rolando McClain - Neither
9. Bills - C.J. Spiller - Neither
10. Jaguars - Tyson Alualu - Neither
11. 49ers - Anthony Davis - Neither
12. Chargers - Ryan Williams - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void.
13. Eagles - Brandon Graham - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void.
14. Seahawks - Earl Thomas - Both
15. NY Giants - Jason Pierre-Paul- McShay
16. Titans - Derrick Morgan - Neither
17. 49ers - Mike Iupati - Neither
18. Steelers Maurkice Pouncey - Both
19. Falcons - Sean Weatherspoon - Neither
20. Texans - Kareem Jackson - Neither
21. Bengals - Jermaine Gresham - Neither
22. Broncos - Demaryius Thomas - McShay, but pick was traded, therefore void for Kiper.
23. Packers - Bryan Bulaga - Neither
24. Cowboys - Dez Bryant - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void.
25. Broncos - Tim Tebow - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void.
26. Cardinals - Dan Williams - Kiper
27. Patriots - Devin McCourty - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void
28. Dolphins - Jared Odrick - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void.
29. Jets - Kyle Wilson - Neither
30. Lions - Jahvid Best - Neither, but pick was traded, therefore it is void
31. Colts - Jerry Hughes - Kiper
32. Saints - Patrick Robinson - Neither

Final Score: Kiper - 10 out of 24, McShay - 10 out of 24

After much consideration, I must recant a bit on my original statement and give these guys some much deserved credit. Kiper and McShay do a fantastic job at giving the fans at home a ballpark range on where these players will be drafted. Being a draft insider is a very difficult job to have, but Kiper and McShay have obviously proven that they deserve the title draft experts, almost.

The two draft insiders had an epic first round battle that ended in a draw at ten a piece. I must give the first annual Five Tool Sports " Draft Expert" award to Todd McShay for his extreme discontent with any team, and any person for that matter, who considered drafting Jimmy Clausen in the top half of the first round. As we all know, Clausen fell out of he first round, all the way down to 48th overall, much to the chagrin of Mel Kiper Jr.

So, congratulations to Todd McShay for all of his hard work and dedication to the art of NFL draft expertise.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Analyzing the Draft Experts

Every year when draft season comes around, the collective world turns to the "draft experts" for the best insight on who is picking who. With the NFL Draft just hours away, it is time to pick apart the NFL "draft experts" Mel Kiper Jr. And Todd McShay. Who coined these guys draft experts anyway? In last years first round alone, both Kiper and McShay were 5-32, that's 16%. If LeBron shot 5-32 from the field we would be calling for his head, if Albert Pujols went on a streak of 5-32 at the plate, he would be in the worst slump of his career. I understand that it is extremely difficult to project these picks, but they still shouldn't be called experts. All I am asking for is a name change, actors change their names all the time to sound better, even Lew Alcindor changed his name. So, if anyone out there is listening, let's not call them draft experts anymore, let's change their names to Draft Consultants.

Here is how Kiper and McShays first round Mocks look:

1. St. Louis Rams
Kiper: Sam Bradford, McShay: Sam Bradford

2. Detroit Lions
Kiper: Ndamukong Suh, McShay: Ndamukong Suh

3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kiper: Gerald McCoy, McShay: Gerald McCoy

4. Washington Redskins
Kiper: Trent Williams, McShay: Trent Williams

5. Kansas City Cheifs
Kiper:Eric Berry, McShay: Eric Berry

6. Seattle Seahawks
Kiper: Russell Okung, McShay: Russell Okung

7. Cleveland Browns
Kiper: Derrick Morgan, McShay: Derrick Morgan

8. Oakland Raiders
Kiper: Jimmy Clausen, McShay: Anthony Davis

9. Buffalo Bills
Kiper: Anthony Davis, McShay: Dan Williams

10. Jacksonville Jaguars
Kiper: C.J. spiller, McShay: C.J. Spiller

11. Denver Broncos
Kiper: Rolando McClain, McShay: Rolando McClain

12. Miami Dolphins
Kiper: Sergio Kindle, McShay: Sergio Kindle

13. San Francisco 49ers
Kiper: Bryan Bulaga, McShay: Joe Haden

14. Seattle Seahawks
Kiper: Earl Thomas, McShay: Earl Thomas

15. NY Giants
Kiper: Sean Weatherspoon, McShay: Jason Pierre-Paul

16. Tennessee Titans
Kiper: Jason Pierre-Paul, McShay: Kyle Wilson

17. San Francisco 49ers
Kiper: Joe Haden, McShay: Bryan Bulaga

18.Pittsburgh Steelers
Kiper: Maurkice Pouncey, McShay: Maurkice Pouncey

19. Atlanta Falcons
Kiper: Brandon Graham, McShay: Brandon Graham

20. Houston Texans
Kiper: Ryan Matthews, McShay: Ryan Matthews

21. Cincinnati Bengals
Kiper: Dez Bryant, McShay: Jermaine Gresham

22. New England Patriots
Kiper: Jermaine Gresham, McShay: Demaryius Thomas

23. Green Bay Packers
Kiper: Mike Iupati, McShay: Mike Iupati

24. Philadelphia Eagles
Kiper: Kyle Wilson, McShay: Devin McCourty

25. Baltimore Ravens
Kiper: Demaryius Thomas, McShay: Kareem Jackson

26. Arizona Cardinals
Kiper: Dan Williams, McShay: Jerry Hughes

27. Dallas Cowboys
Kiper: Rodger Saffold, McShay: Dez Bryant

28. San Diego Chargers
Kiper: Kareem Jackson, McShay: Linval Joseph

29. NY Jets
Kiper: Linval Joseph, McShay: Jared Odrick

30. Minnesota Vikings
Kiper: Tim Tebow, McShay: Jimmy Clausen

31. Indianapolis Colts
Kiper: Jerry Hughes, McShay: Rodger Saffold

32. New Orleans Saints
Kiper: Jared Odrick, McShay: Brian Price

This years NFL Draft should be very interesting, my next post will be updating the picks to see how our "experts" are doing.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Playoff Predictions

The match ups for the 2010 NBA Playoffs are set, and we have some very intriguing first round pairings. Unfortunately, the NBA is nowhere near college in the amount of upsets that can occur; with every round of the postseason being seven games, it is very rare to see a top team upended. The West is wild, and the East will run through LeBron and the Cavs, but with no further ado, here is how I see this years NBA Playoffs playing out.

Starting in the West, we have the 1 vs. 8 matchup:

Los Angeles Lakers vs.OKC Thunder

The Lakers hold the advantage in almost every category one can think of. They have better personnel, experience, coaching and they have number 24, the Mariano Rivera of the NBA. The Lakers, however, are literally limping into this years postseason, they have lost seven of their last eleven games and seem to have an endless list of players and ailments on their injury report. Andrew Bynum has missed the last 13 games with a strained achillies, Kobe Bryant has soreness in his knees and the fractured index finger on his shooting hand, Ron Artest and Shannon Brown both have thumb problems, Lamar Odom has been complaining of sorenesUs in his right shoulder for quite sometime, and to add insult to injury, the last two games have produced injuries to back up guards Jordan Farmar and Sasha Vujacic. Everybody is expecting the Lakers to just flip the switch and turn up the intensity and it will be interesting to see if they caIin actually do that.

The OKC Thunder are making their first playoff appearance in the franchises short history. Only a few players on the roster actually have playoff experience, those being: Thabo Sefolosha at nine games, rarely used Kevin Ollie at 41 games, Third string center Etan Thomas at 15 games, and Nick Collison at eleven games. The Thunder do have enough fire power, though, to strike fear in the hearts of the defending champs, hence Phil Jackson already playing mind games with Kevin Durant. OKC had a great season and should be a legitimate force in just a few years, but their reward this year is facing the Lakers in the first round.

Prediction: OKC gets one at home, but the Lakers take the series in five.

2. Dallas Mavericks vs. 7. San Antonio Spurs

The Mavs have been one of the hottest teams since the All-Star break. Their mid season acquisition of Caron Buter and Brendan Haywood was key to adding depth and fire power to their roster. The Mavs are loaded on offense, no doubt about it, the doubt lies in their desire to defend. They give up nearly 100 points per game to opposing teams, that is the third most among playoff teams ( Phoenix is first and Denver is second). Another startling statistic is opposing teams shoot 46% from the field against the Mavs, that is second worst among playoff teams behind only the Trailblazers. There is no question that Dallas can score the ball with the best of em, but can they tighten up their defense enough to keep Parker and Ginobili out of the lane? That will be the deciding factor.

Oh the Spurs! They never seem to go away. San Antonio reminds me of my grandfathers 1992 Toyota Corolla because neither of them ever seem to break down, no matter how old they get. The Spurs are a savvy bunch of veterans with a couple of dynamic rookies sprinkled in. They win games the ugly way, with hustle plays and defense. The key to the Spurs having success in this years playoffs is the health of both of their point guards, Tony Parker and George Hill. The contrasting styles of these teams will make for a very exciting series.

Prediction: I think this will be a home team series and Dallas will take it in seven.

3. Phoenix Suns vs. 6. Portland Trailblazers

Phoenix is by far the hottest team in the association going Into the postseason. Steve Nash is playing at the same level as his back to back MVP seasons and all the trade talk surrounding Amar'e Stoudemire seemed to have lit a fire underneath him. Since the All-Star break, Stoudemire has averaged nearly 25 points and nine rebounds per game. Unfortunately for Portland, the Suns love to play against them. In three games against the Blazers this year, Amar'e has put up 23 points and eleven boards per, and Nash posted 16 points and ten eleven assists per. Phoenix has a ton of depth and a ton of confidence, if they keep this momentum going, they will be a very tough out.

Portland could have been a very scary team to face in this years playoffs, but the injury to Brandon Roy will most likely cause them to be one and done. Even with Roy out, though, the Blazers are a very tough and gritty group. Andre Miller and Marcus Camby bring the veteran experience and LaMarcus Aldridge is very capable of carrying this team offensively, especially going up against the questionable defense of Amar'e Stoudemire. Portland's bench is also pretty deep despite all of the injuries, Martell Webster, Rudy Fernandez, and Jerryd Bayless are all capable of coming off the bench and putting up 20 points.

Prediction: too much fire power for the Blazers to handle, Suns in six

4. Denver Nuggets vs. 5 Utah Jazz

Up until a few months ago, Denver was considered the top candidate to dethrone the Lakers as the kings of the West, but with head coach George Karl away from the team due to illness, the Niggers have fallen apart at the seams. In their last 16 games, Denver is 8-8, with losses to both Houston and the Knicks. Even with these issues, the Nuggets are a very dangerous team. Carmelo Anthony is a bonafide NBA superstar, Chauncey Billups is one of the best Point guards in the league, J.R. Smith can change the game from three point range, and Kenyon Martin And Nene bring front court toughness that is greatly needed in the playoffs. Billups will need to do more, however, than just play his usual game. Interim head coach Adrian Dantley will need Billups to keep his teammates calm on the court. The Nuggets are notorious for making very questionable decisions at key times in games. If Chauncey can find his inner Karl, the Nuggets will be a tough out.

The Jazz are as solid of a team that one will find. Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer run the pick and roll just as beautifully as Stockton and Malone, Mehmet Okur spreads the floor with his soft touch from behind the arc, and Paul Millsap is a double double threat coming off the bench. People always say that teams take on the personality of their coach, and in this case, that is a perfect description for Utah. Jerry Sloan is a hardworking, get after it type of coach, and his team goes out and executes night in and night out.

Prediction: this series will come down to coaching, the Jazz and Jerry Sloan win in six

The East is not nearly as difficult as the West to analyze. A lot of the first round match ups are virtual locks, and it would take a miracle for any of the top three seeds to get knocked off in the first round. Let's start with the 1 vs. 8 match up.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Chicago Bulls

The Cavs have been considered the best team in the NBA all season and rightfully so. Cleveland finished the year with the best record in the league and showed no signs if slipping at any point during the season. The Cavs are led, of course, by LeBron James who is undoubtedly the best player in the association and the leagues MVP for many years to come. But James isn't the only weapon that Cleveland can deploy, Antwan Jamison, who was acquired mid season from The Wizards is a 20-10 threat on any given night, and JJ Hickson is a young, athletic big man who can run the floor and finish against anybody. The Cavs don't need much help in this first round tango with the Bulls, this will just be a tune up for Shaq to return to form.

The Bulls fought valiantly to make the playoffs this year, and their reward for all that hard work: a first round date with Cleveland. Chicago is a very young, but talented team; they feature one of the best young point guards in the league in Derrick Rose, and a high energy forward in Joakim Noah. What surprises most people when they look at the regular season between these two teams is that the four games were split 2-2. In order for the Bulls to have a chance in this series, someone has to step up and stop LeBron, but that is a beast that has yet to be conquered.

Prediction: too much LeBron, Cavs in five.

2. Orlando Magic vs. 7. Charlotte Bobcats

The Magic are really, really good. People forget that this same team, minus Hedo Turkoglu, and plus Vince Carter took it to Cleveland in the east finals last year, only to lose to the Lakers in the finals. Dwight Howard is a legitimate MVP candidate, and his presence in the paint and on the boards is so crucial to winning in the postseason. Orlando's key, though, is how well they shoot the three. Even with Howard on the inside, the Magic seem to always live or die by the long ball. Like the Cavs, it's a lock for the Magic to march on to the second round.

The Bobcats, like the Thunder, are making their first playoff appearance in franchise history. The Magic are considered the run away favorites in this series, but the Bobcats can match up quite well with the Magic, especially if Tyson Chandler is healthy. Stephen Jackson can score as well as anyone in the league and Gerald Wallace is capable of taking on the tough defensive assignment and can still do a ton of damage on the boards. The Bobcats need to let Dwight Howard get his, and stop everybody else in order to have a chance in this series.

Prediction: the Bobcats season comes to a quick end, Magic in five

3. Atlanta Hawks vs. 6. Milwakee Bucks

The Hawks are an extremely talented team, led by All-Star guard Joe Johnson. Atlanta has a plethora of players they can send out to score on any given night. The Hawks can also defend though, two of their forwards, Josh Smith and Al Horford are up for all-defensive team consideration. This high energy team can also get caught up in some bad habits throughout a game, and those things usually end up killing them at the end the day. They like to abandon their offense and take quick three's, and they also seem to turn the ball over a lot in crunch time. The key for this team is sixth man Jamal Crawford, and if he can stay hot going into the first round.

The Bucks are a surprising team this year, with rookie point guard Brandon Jennings leading the charge. Jennings has had a stellar rookie year, and he has shown that he can get hot in a hurry, with a 55 point outburst earlier in the season. It is surprising to see the Bucks in the playoffs because they lost their All-Star and best player, Michael Redd to a season ending knee injury earlier this year. But coach Scott Skiles rallied his troops and they have executed very well down the stretch. Many people thought the Bucks were the team to come into the playoffs and make some noise, until center Andrew Bogut went down with a freak arm injury just a few games before the end of the year. If "The Big Austrailian" was still in the lineup, I would give the Bucks a much better chance in this series.

Prediction: Jennings goes off in two games at home, Hawks win in six

4. Boston Celtics vs. 5. Miami Heat

The Celtics come into these playoffs as the biggest question mark. The "big three" have seemed to disappear as the season grew longer, and the rift that Rajon Rondo is causing in the locker room is cause for concern. With all of those questions, though, the Celtics have themselves in a good position. They match up very well with the Heat, sweeping the season series 3-0. Boston has the ability to make a deep playoff run with the amount of talent, depth and experience they bring to the table, but the question is, do the Celtics have enough in the tank to make another run for the title.

The Heat are extremely hot coming into the postseason, no pun intended. They have won 18 out of their last 22 games and are clicking as a team on all cylinders. Dwayne Wade is one of the brightest stars the game has ever seen, and he seems to always show up even bigger as the stage and spotlight are at its highest. The question for Miami, however, is not whether or not D-Wade will show up, but who else will step up to take some pressure of off the superstars back. The Heat drafted Michael Beasley two years ago to be the Robin to Wade's batman, but Beasley hasn't always shown up when the team needs him most. There is no question that he is blessed with a ton of talent, but in order for the heat to make some noise against the Celtics, Beasley needs to channel his inner Kansas State.

Prediction: Boston squeaks it out behind hot shooting from Ray Allen, Celtics in seven.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Awards Show

With the NBA regular season coming to an end, it's time to hand out all of the hardware.

MVP: LeBron James-The obvious choice here, LeBron's numbers are nothing short of legendary. We're talking about 30ppg, 7.3rpg, and 8.6apg. Not to mention he led his Cavalier squad to the best record in the NBA and that's a huge deal because the Cavs will now enjoy home court advantage throughout the playoffs.
2. Kobe Bryant - without Kobe's late game heroics, the Lakers would not be sitting atop the Western Conference.
3. Kevin Durant - Durant's scoring this year has been fantastic, he has carried the OKC Thunder to their first playoff birth in franchise history in the extremely competitive West.
4. Dwight Howard - his defense and rebounding have been huge as always, but this year we have seen a bit more offensive creativity from Dwight. He has worked on his post game and added a few more moves to his repertoire. His hard work has led the Magic to the second best record in the NBA and second in the East behind the Cavs.
5. Steve Nash - Nash is like wine, he just gets better with age. He is averaging 16.6ppg and 11apg and more importantly, he has taken a team of mismatched parts and put them together to form a well oiled machine clicking on all cylinders after the All-Star break.

Rookie of the Year: Tyreke Evans - Evans first season has been stellar, so stellar, in fact, it puts him in some very select company. Evans joins Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James as the only rookies to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists per game.
Honorable mention: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors; Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee Bucks.

Coach of the Year: Scott Brooks, OKC Thunder - The Thunder, with such a young nucleus of talent, weren't expected to compete in the west for a couple more years, but Scott Brooks was the perfect choice to lead this talented group of youngsters. Brooks fast paced, screen roll offense allowed Point Guard Russell Westbrook to spread his wings, and gave Durant the perfect opening to truly show how great of a scorer he is. OKC has a chance tom win 50 games for the first time in franchise history, they have also secured their first playoff birth in franchise history, and Scott Brooks deserves a ton of credit.
Honorable mention: Nate McMillan, Portland Trailblazers, Scott Skiles, Milwaukee Bucks

Most Improved: Aaron Brooks, Houston Rockets - Brooks broke out last year during Houston's surprising playoff success. He shredded the Lakers guards with lightning quickness and devastating three point shooting. Brooks carried that momentum into this season, and the Rockets are glad he did, when Yao Ming went out with year ending injury and Ron Artest went to the Lakers for a virtual swap with Trevor Ariza, Houston put a lot of the offensive load on young Brooks' shoulders. In his new role as the face of the Rockets, Brooks averaged 19.7ppg, 5.3apg and shot 40% from behind the arc, all of those being career highs.
Honorable mention: Carl Landry, Sacramento Kings; Kevin Durant, OKC Thunder.

Sixth man: Jamal Crawford, Atlanta Hawks - Crawford's production and impact of the bench has been huge for the Hawks. He requires an opposing team to have a completely separate game plan for when he enters the game, no other sixth man in the league can demand that other than maybe Manu Ginobili. Crawford's 18ppg this year is tops off the bench, and no other bench player provides the spark that he can ignite for the Hawks.
Honorable mention: Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks; J.R. Smith, Denver Nuggets

Defensive Player of the Year: Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic - Just like LeBron with the MVP, Dwight is a virtual lock to win this award for many years to come. No other player is as intimidating in the paint as Howard, his combination of size, agility and leaping ability is uncanny, and has not been seen since he early days of Shaq. He anchors the Magic defense and deters a lot of players from even challenging him in the paint. Howard leads the league in blocks at almost three per game, and rebounds at13 per game, 10 of those coming on the defensive glass.
Honorable mention: Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Eye of the Tiger

Were we really questioning Tiger Woods? Even with everything that has happened to him over the past few months, his competitiveness still continues to shine through. Golf is what Tiger needed. Forget "rehab", Tiger's entire life has been submerged in the game. His decision to come back for the Masters shocked almost everyone who follows sports, but I think it was the perfect choice. Tiger gave himself a little time to shore up his game to be competitive in the the most celebrated tournament golf has ever seen.

The expectations of the reception Tiger would receive on his arrival to the first tee were mixed. Some people expected a fee scattered boo's throughout the gallery, but as Tiger walked to the first tee, all one could hear were cheers and claps. The warm reception showed the world just how much the game of golf missed it's greatest player.

He blistered his first tee shot right down the fairway, and with a spin of the club, everyone knew Tiger was back.

So here we are on Sunday of the Masters with a familiar story line, Tiger Woods in striking distance of another Green Jacket. Nobody should be surprised, this is what he lives for. Forget all of his mistakes on this great Sunday and just watch, because we are watching the greatest golfer to ever walk the links, and there may be another chapter to be told in his story book career.