Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Detroit Pistons trade for Brandon Jennings

“Deeeeeetroooiiiit baaaaasketbaaaaall.”  There’s a phrase we can be excited about using again.  The Detroit Pistons made a huge blockbuster deal on Tuesday that will send Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and Vlacheslav Kravtsov to the Milwaukee Bucks for Brandon Jennings.  The Pistons meant business this offseason.  When Dumars and the organization said that there were big moves to be made, they were not lying.
Before I give you my take on the trade and new Piston roster, I’d just like to point out an interesting fact: the Pistons now have three lefties in their starting lineup (Jennings, Smith, Monroe).  I’m not sure if that has ever happened on a team before, but all three of these lefties are legit players.  Smith and Jennings are both all-star caliber players and Monroe is almost at that level.
Now, on to the trade: honestly, I don’t think Dumars had much thinking to do about this deal.  The Pistons, 100%, got an amazing deal that could change their whole future.  Forget about taking that next step from being a lottery team to a lower-seeded playoff team.  Detroit is sick and tired of playing games.  They’re ready to start embracing the culture of winning basketball again.
Zach Tennen on Brandon Jennings
Courtesy of solecollector.com
Brandon Knight brought a nice amount of potential to the table and the Pistons were likely willing to be patient with him.  However, Dumars and the front office came across an opportunity they simply could not pass on.  Jennings is a point guard and a point guard’s main job is to control the floor and make their teammates better.  Although Jennings still has to work on his decision-making as a point guard, he can consistently score 20 points per game.  That is something this team has not had for a few years, probably since Rip Hamilton was slowed down by the departure of Chauncey.
Jennings gives Detroit a bonafide scorer who is willing to do a lot, from taking game-winning shots to being the point guard of the future.  Put him with Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.  Now, this squad has a lot to work with.  The addition of Jennings and Smith adds much more funk and excitement to the offense.  Although both have trouble taking good shots at times, there is an upside to that: the previous team Detroit had was made up of players who were hesitant to shoot the ball.  Jennings and Smith sure aren’t shy when it comes to that department.
Now, let’s throw Smith aside and look at the trio of Jennings, Monroe, and Drummond.  Talented big men greatly benefit off good point guards and vice-versa.  As Drummond continues to develop his offensive game, he and Jennings have the potential to be the best point guard-center combo in the league, someday.  Jennings and Drummond may not click right away because it’s going to take some time.  But both are young players with very promising futures.  Because of that, don’t be surprised if we see Detroit back in the Conference Finals a couple years from now.
Now that the Pistons have a squad of a few young all-stars, I think quite a few fans will come back to support them.  Of course, the real fans such as myself, bear with them through their ups-and-downs.  We must understand that the NBA is a business.  Teams have times where they’re dominant, when they’re just average, and when they’re going through a period of struggle.  When the opening game of Detroit’s season kicks off, make sure to flip on those television sets and stay tuned.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fantasy Football Rankings: Quarterback (UPDATED)

1. Drew Brees (NOR)
2. Aaron Rodgers (GNB)
3. Peyton Manning (DEN)
4. Tom Brady (NWE)
5. Matt Ryan (ATL)
6. Cam Newton (CAR)
7. Robert Griffin (WSH)
8. Matt Stafford (DET)
9. Tony Romo (DAL)
10. Colin Kaepernick (SFR)
11. Eli Manning (NYG)
12. Andrew Luck (IND)
13. Russell Wilson (SEA)
14. Matt Schaub (HOU)
15. Ben Roethlisberger (PIT)
16. Joe Flacco (BAL)
17. Philip Rivers (SDG)
18. Andy Dalton (CIN)
19. Josh Freeman (TAM)
20. Michael Vick (PHI)
21. Carson Palmer (ARZ)
22. Jay Cutler (CHI)
23. Sam Bradford (STL)
24. Ryan Tannehill (MIA)
25. Jake Locker (TEN)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The well-balanced point guard

Evolution is a concept that many use to explain how we developed as human-beings.  Evolution is also very much alive in the game of basketball and is a process that takes place over the years.  There are different forms of evolution and, obviously, the players determine them.  There are certain shots that become more popular such as the Tony Parker floater.  There are also certain roles that diminish in the league such as the Shaq-esque post game.  But in this article, I’m going to talk about the evolution of the NBA point guard.
One of the oldest all-time great point guards is Bob Cousy, a 13-time All-Star and six-time NBA Champion.  Cousy’s career high in points per game was just about 21 along with 9.5 assists at best.  Although Cousy was a very poor percentage shooter, he played a significant role in the development of the NBA point guard as he started playing in the early 1950s.  Cousy helped bring alive the concept of being a playmaker first for your team.
Zach Tennen on Oscar Robertson
Although Oscar Robertson (A.K.A the “Big O”) wasn’t the prototypical point guard and didn’t play with the flash and speed of other greats, he deserves to be brought up in this conversation.  Oscar Robertson was most definitely the LeBron James of the 1960s as he was able to play at least three positions.  Despite the weaker athleticism and competition in the 60s, the “Big O” posted extremely similar numbers to James with career averages of over 25.7 points, 9.5 assists, and 7.5 rebounds.  Although neither James or the “Big O” were strictly point guards, both had the complete package that allowed them to manage the game like a point guard.
Walt Frazier, two-time NBA Champion, was the point guard that headlined the 1970s.  Although he did not have the outstanding playmaking ability of Cousy or the “Big O,” Frazier got the job done with his amazing all-around play.  Frazier shot a fantastic percentage for a point guard at 49 percent along with career averages of about 19, six, and six.  Those aren’t the type of numbers that will blow you away, but Frazier brought irreplaceable leadership to the table for the New York Knicks.
Everyone knows the 1980s had Earvin “Magic” Johnson written all over it.  The 80s was the era where competition really held a grudge against each other.  Isiah Thomas was an unforgettable great that’s also most definitely in this conversation.  Magic had the honor of playing with some of the greatest (Laker) teams of all-time that included Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy.  Both champions and maybe the two most talented point guards of all-time, they had different playing styles.  Magic’s career averages weren’t too bad: 19.5 points, 11 assists, and seven rebounds.  Isiah’s were pretty impressive too: 19 points and nine assists as he averaged double-digit assists four times in his career.
Size combined with his unbelievable court vision and IQ was the biggest reason Magic was able to stand out as the greatest point guard of all-time.  His 6-9 frame gave him the ability to see the whole court and hit his teammates in spots you wouldn’t think possible.  Magic was a God and a turning point in the game of basketball.  He truly exhibited everything an exemplary point guard could have: talent, athleticism, leadership, court vision, IQ, scoring ability.  You name it.  Even though Johnson’s Laker teams certainly helped him win five championships and three Finals MVPs, he helped LA just as much as they helped him.
The 6-1 standing Isiah Thomas was much shorter than Magic Johnson.  However, he found a way to give Johnson excellent competition with his skill, speed, and drive to be better than Magic.  Just as Magic was asked to carry a talented Laker team, Isiah Thomas was the floor general that the “Bad Boys” couldn’t live without.  ”Zeke” was entertaining with the ball but also was a great decision maker.  He provided the Pistons with enough scoring as well as hit his teammates (Dumars, etc.) in the right spots and it was almost impossible for any defender to stay with him.
Zach Tennen on Magic Johnson
John Stockton played a very long time (19 years) and it is rare for any player to stay conditioned and healthy for that long (Kidd/Nash did it too).  Stockton may have never been the most gifted scorer on his team but he is remembered as one of the most amazing passers of all-time.  Although Stockton did average 17 points per game at best, he really didn’t need to score that much to make a true MVP-like impact on the game.  Stockton averaged an incredible 14-plus assists a couple years including nine straight seasons over 11 assists per game.  Stockton wasn’t extraordinarily athletic and he had a pretty small frame at about 6-1 and 170 lbs.  Stockton was the definition of a true, regular-sized point guard because he didn’t have the body or athleticism of other greats but he strived off his remarkable ability to set up his teammates.
Both Jason Kidd and Steve Nash emerged as the frontrunner point guards of the 1990s and 2000s.  Kidd didn’t only have unbelievable court vision like Magic and Stockton, but he was a great defender and rebounder.  J-Kidd averaged a career five rebounds per game which is invaluable as a point guard.  Kidd was probably the most inefficient scorer out of all the great point guards but it didn’t affect his game in the least bit.  Passing wasn’t the only way that Kidd improved the players around him.  Kidd had a brilliant basketball IQ.  He provided intangibles in his game that greatly benefitted the team and the locker room.
The list of great point guards is endless (Gary Payton, Tiny Archibald, etc.)  As you can see, basketball starts with the leadership and skill-set of the team’s point guard.  With no point guard (or LeBron/Robertson) to run the show, plays are tough to execute and it is extremely difficult to find longterm success.  The talk about all-time great point guards isn’t over, though.  It will continue as long as the game of basketball is around.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Brooklyn Nets expect nothing less than NBA Championship

In a highly competitive 30-team association that is famous for making memories, a championship is a lot to ask for.  You can ask for any other Christmas present (league MVP, scoring title, etc.) but compared to an NBA Championship, it means nothing.  Before the 2010-2011 season, new owner Mikhail Prokhorov made a very bold statement regarding his expectations of his newly-invested Brooklyn (New Jersey at the time) Nets franchise: “I expect us to win a championship in the next five years.”
Zach Tennen: Nets Owner Mikhail Prokhorov
Courtesy of www.newsday.com
Three years have gone by and the Nets have taken the necessary steps to improve their team year-by-year.  At the trade deadline in the 2010-11 season, they swapped some very promising young assets for superstar point guard Deron Williams.  The Utah Jazz got young big man Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, and two first-round picks in return (one of whom ended up being Enes Kanter).  Based on that risky trade, it was clear that Prokhorov and the Nets wanted to start developing a ‘win now’ mentality.
During the 2011-12 campaign, the Nets made a trade for Gerald Wallace.  Unfortunately for Brooklyn, Wallace wasn’t able to produce at his highest level in which he did for the Bobcats.  ’Crash’ struggled through injury problems in his time with the Nets and found his place as just a role player.
Previous to the 2012-13 season, the Nets made a deal to send away a few expiring contracts to the Atlanta Hawks for Joe Johnson’s oversized contract.  The possible dynamic duo of Deron Williams and Johnson warned the rest of the Eastern Conference.  However, the two were not able to play up to their potential together despite Joe Johnson being one of the most clutch players in the NBA last season.  Brooklyn will continue to depend on this All-Star back court to bring them as far as they can get.
Finally, we get to the last step of the Brooklyn Nets’ attempt to build a championship-caliber team.  Recently, the organization made a huge offseason splash in trading first-round picks and expiring contracts for three players with a championship on their resume – Jason Terry, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.  That gives the new-look Brooklyn Nets probably the most talented starting lineup in the league: D-Will, Joe Johnson, Pierce, KG, and Brook Lopez.
Zach Tennen: Nets - Pierce, Garnett, Terry
Courtesy of www.ctpost.com
Every single part of this organization knows darn well that there is no time left to waste.  The Brooklyn Nets must treat this like the only chance they have because that very well could be true.  While Pierce (35) and Garnett (37) say they still have a lot left in the tank, there is no denying the fact that they’re considered ‘old players’.  We saw it in the first round of the 2013 playoffs: Pierce and Garnett no longer had the young legs and high energy to take down the fairly beatable New York Knicks.  Therefore, there was no use for them to stay in Boston.  That trade benefitted both the Celtics, who needed to call for a rebuilding period, as well as Pierce and KG.
Despite their age and the fact that they’re at the end of the careers, Pierce and Garnett do bring a lot to the table.  That includes experience, leadership, killer mentality, stability, and much more.  Inserting the two multi-time All-Stars in the forward spots gives the Nets an outstanding starting lineup on paper.  However, we should look much deeper into the possible success of this team than just the starting lineup.  Brooklyn has also put together a very respectable bench including Jason Terry, Andrei Kirilenko, and Andray Blatche.  That eight-man rotation can most definitely compete with any other roster in the league but they obviously have to prove that.
Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov came up with a five-year plan and is about to be in the fourth year of executing it.  But considering the situation Brooklyn is in now, this could end up being considered as a four-year plan.  Now is the time for the Nets to go for all the marbles and they won’t be satisfied if they’re short just one.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Will Greg Oden make a healthy return?

In the 2007 NBA Draft, little did the Portland Trail Blazers know that they would make one of the biggest mistakes in NBA Draft history.  They chose Greg Oden, the muscular, seven-foot center over the three-time NBA scoring champion, Kevin Durant.  Durant has already made his mark as one of the best players of this generation.  On the other hand, Oden has played a total of 82 games over six years.
Oden had to have microfracture surgery on his right knee just a couple months after the Blazers drafted him, forcing him to miss the entire 2007-08 season.  He had a promising season the next year in which he averaged nine points, seven rebounds, and a block in 61 games until missing the remainder of the season due to injury.  Ever since then, Oden just has not been able to stay on the court.  Since the ’07 draft, he’s had to undergo five major surgeries and, evidently, he hasn’t been able to recover from any of them.  After putting up with over four years of Oden’s absences, the Blazers finally decided to part ways with him in 2012.
Zach Tennen on Gren Oden/Kevin Durant Draft
Courtesy of www.tumblr.com
After being released by the Blazers, Oden had to step away from basketball and take the time to try and prove he could step on the court ever again.  It’s been about 17 months since Oden had his last major surgery and there are, indeed, a list of suitors willing to give him another shot.  Some of those teams include the Mavericks, the Heat, the Pelicans, the Spurs, as well as a few more.  Ironically, Oden has made pretty good money while not even playing.  On the other hand, as he hopes to return to the court injury-free, Oden likely won’t make more than $3 million in the first year of his contract.
My theory about the amount of big men on a roster is that you can never have too many of them.  Oden can start as a backup center and eventually try to settle into a bigger role with the franchise that signs him.  Any team would take a healthy Greg Oden who reaches his maximum potential.  However, at the moment, he could greatly benefit teams in certain situations:
1. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat who have found a way to succeed without a true starting center.  Oden would make the job that much easier for them especially considering they’ll be a year older and slower.
2. A team that is looking for new future pieces such as the Mavericks.  It certainly would be a risk but it might be worth it for a Mavericks team who desperately needs to rejuvenate their roster.
3. A young team that wants to add depth such as the Pelicans.  New Orleans has reportedly offered him a deal recently.  A future duo of Anthony Davis and Greg Oden could really open some eyes.
4. Anyone who wants to sign him.  Although the Blazers made a historical mistake in picking the seven-foot beast over Kevin Durant, he was no mistake as a center coming out of Ohio State.  We know the damage he’s capable of doing when he’s fully healthy.
We can continue to discuss Greg Oden and his possible return as much as we want.  However, it all comes down to this one question: Will Greg Oden be healthy enough to contribute to an NBA team in the future?

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Detroit Pistons: Chauncey Billups back where he belongs

Chauncey Billups never should have been traded in the first place.  In 2008, Billups, along with Antonio McDyess, was traded for Allen Iverson.  However, Dumars was most definitely premature on pulling the trigger.  Billups went to Denver and continued to play excellent basketball (2008-2011) as he arguably benefitted their team more than Iverson had.
Five years later, the beloved Chauncey Billups is returning to play at the Palace of Auburn Hills, where he commonly was referred to as “Mr. Bigshot.”  When Billups got traded to Denver, he expressed a strong interest in finishing his career in the mile-high city.  However, the five-time NBA All-Star’s wish was not granted as he later bounced around to the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Clippers.  Most of Billups’ tenure with the Clipps (2011-13) was plagued by injuries forcing him to miss months at a time.
You could not ask for much more out of Chauncey Billups in terms of both, individual accomplishments and the impact he’s had on his teams, throughout his outstanding career.  Mr. Bigshot has won his fair share of awards including Finals MVP in 2004.  But Billups has been a very unique player throughout his career.  Although he is a five-time All-Star, Billups was never the most talented point guard in the league, but Chauncey never feared any of his competition.
Zach Tennen on Pistons' Chauncey Billups
Courtesy of realclearsports.com
In Chauncey’s best years with Detroit, he was the ultimate teammate and one of the main reasons the Pistons were successful for so long.  If it weren’t for his exemplary leadership, the team never would have glued together like it did.  Billups made sure everyone was comfortable and playing their role, not only on the court, but in the locker room.  Billups was a class act and a role model for the city.  Other than coming through in the clutch and nailing huge shots, that is why the fans of Detroit love him.
Focusing more on Billups’ style of play with the Pistons, Chauncey has always been known as a shoot-first point guard.  But at the same time, Chauncey still knows how to be one of the most unselfish players in the league.  Billups had the skill-set as well as personality to always keep his teammates satisfied.
Not to mention, CB’s return to Motor City is going to sell a few extra tickets this season.  Chauncey Billups’ comeback story to the Detroit Pistons is a thing of beauty.  I think just about everyone in town is thrilled to have him back where he belongs.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Miami Heat: How much is left in the tank?

Almost three weeks removed from the NBA Finals, everybody is caught up in the hype of free agency. Dwight Howard is now a Rocket and looking ahead to next offseason, where LeBron James is thought to opt out and become a free agent.  But I’m back to talk about NBA championships, and specifically, how many the Miami Heat can win.  To make that statement clear: no, I don’t have the answer for you.  All I can do is speculate on what could happen.
LeBron James and the Miami Heat set sky-high expectations for the new squad in the 2010 offseason.  By now, we should all be familiar with the famous words that came out of his mouth (it may have been Wade or Bosh, but they all speak as one): “not three, not four, not five…”  The Miami Heat have won back-to-back championships, whoop-dee-doo.  I’ve got news for you guys, though.  According to them and according to basically every fan and critic, stopping there isn’t going to cut it.
Stopping after two rings is kind of like a tease.  We could look back and say: “okay, you guys won two championships but that’s it.  It’s not like you were the Chicago Bulls of 1991-1998 or any of those remarkable Boston Celtic teams.  You won two championships but then you disappeared and let other teams takeover the league”
Zach Tennen on LeBron & Heat Championships
Courtesy of sportsillustrated.cnn.com
Miami would be damned if they “let other teams takeover the league” from here on out.  LeBron James would get some props but everyone would remember him as not being able to win with Dwyane Wade in All-Star form.  James’ legacy can’t really afford that, unless he chooses to take his talents to another city, bring along another star, and eventually win a championship there (possibly L.A.?).
Coming off two well-deserved titles, next season is absolutely huge for Miami.  There were times when Dwyane Wade looked to be getting old and sluggish in the 2013 playoffs.  On top of that, Chris Bosh turned more into a solid starter rather than a borderline all-star.  James may have to carry this team more and more as we get further into time.  Even during the 2013 playoffs, James compared his situation to his Cavalier days, where he was expected to carry the bulk of the work.  Only, in 2013, he had transformed as a player and a person.
Because of the money that Mickey Arison had to dedicate to the “big three,” they don’t have any money to spend in offseasons.  However, that was a choice that the organization made, knowing that they’d have to ride a core of James, Wade, and Bosh for as long as they could.  While other teams, such as the Pacers, Rockets, and Clippers, are making significant roster changes to become championship-caliber teams, Miami just awaits the team that’s talented and energetic enough to take them down.
As of 2013, the LeBron James-led Miami Heat sit atop the mountain.  But as time goes on and circumstances change, their position at the top may not be as secure.  Back-to-back championships are impressive but, in the NBA, they are somewhat commonplace.  The 2013-14 Miami Heat are going to have to push even harder to do it again, but it’s unclear how much is left in the tank.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Detroit Pistons land Josh Smith in hopes of better days

There are a LOT of mixed feelings about Josh Smith.  There are some Piston fans that are hopeful after this acquisition and there are others who may be disgusted.  Smith has been a controversial locker room-guy throughout much of his career but he has been pushing for a change of scenery the last couple years in Atlana.  My verdict: if the Pistons are trying to win now (and they are), signing 27-year-old Josh Smith is a very good move for them.
I love the potential of this future front-court: Josh Smith, Greg Monroe, and Andre Drummond.  That’s not just because it sounds good.  Let me give you a few reasons why this could give the Pistons a promising starting lineup:
Size, size, and more size: Do not ever over-think size.  Even through the rough few years this organization has had, the Pistons have tried hard to keep their physical defensive identity.  Monroe and Drummond are both very good at rebounding the ball and Josh Smith makes that front court even more intimidating.  Smith and Monroe both strive off of contact and they are not afraid to take a hit.  Just as you want big linebackers and linemen in football, you want big, powerful guys in basketball because they win games and, ultimately, championships.
Zach Tennen on Pistons' Josh Smith
Courtesy of zimbio.com
Smith brings leadership to a young squad: Smith definitely makes some questionable decisions here and there.  A lot of those decisions happen to be ill-advised shots.  But hey, at least he isn’t afraid to shoot the ball.  The Pistons haven’t had anyone in the past few years who was willing to take 15-20 shots a game.  Although Smith is a veteran, he is still only 27 years old and just starting the prime of his career.  Also, Smith is probably the best basketball brain on the team, now.  If you have watched his game closely over the years, you can see that he really knows the X’s and O’s of basketball.
Proven talent: Josh Smith may have never made the all-star team, but make no mistake: Josh Smith is a borderline all-star caliber player.  The 6-9 combo forward can do just about everything; although he isn’t a particularly efficient shooter, he finds many ways to score.  He is also an athletic freak and he uses that ability to block shots, play the passing lanes, and finish strong at the basket.  He has been an effective player long enough to know that he does bring a lot of value to a team in need of it.
There are plenty of fans that have been so disgruntled that they’ve turned their back on the team and stopped watching games.  Yes, Joe Dumars has made some very questionable decisions and he may have struck out on a few players he thought would succeed with the team.  Some of that may have been a result of him rushing and being so eager to make this team viable again.  However, it sure isn’t easy to run an NBA franchise considering how competitive the NBA is.  But I truly believe this move will put Detroit back on the map.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Friday, July 5, 2013

Dwight Howard and Houston Rockets look forward to bright future

Dwight Howard has reportedly chosen to team up with James Harden and join the Houston Rockets.  This move makes Houston a legitimate threat in the Western Conference.  Howard now gets a fresh start and hopes to make this a new phase in his career.  We all have reason to believe the future in Houston is very, very bright.
The Rockets are not done making moves, though.  Omer Asik is now likely to be traded and Houston is also targeting a sign-and-trade for Josh Smith.  Houston is also rumored to have a mutual interest with Jose Calderon, who is also a free agent.  Whatever else happens with Houston, we know that Howard and Harden are two incredible building blocks.
I’m sure Dwight Howard had to thoroughly think this decision through, but Howard has been leaning toward joining the Rockets for at least couple months now.  Kobe Bryant is probably the greatest player of the last 15 years but his old age was a huge factor in Dwight not wanting to return to L.A.  Let’s be honest: the Lakers just didn’t have much to offer to Dwight.  Bryant said that he would “teach him how to be a champion.”  However, words only mean so much because the Lakers just didn’t have an appealing enough product in place to attract Howard back.
Zach Tennen on Rockets' Dwight Howard
On the other hand, the Houston Rockets have a lot for Dwight Howard to be excited about.  James Harden is one of the NBA’s newest, proven superstars.  Here’s an interesting statistic: Harden and Howard were the first and third best in the league at getting to the free-throw line.  Both of these superstars welcome contact and make a living off being extremely physical on the court.
The Lakers clearly were not working out for Dwight Howard.  They just didn’t have a group that was youthful and energetic enough.  Think of the Orlando Magic when they got to the Finals in 2009: they were a young, athletic, and very talented team.  Howard had great shooters around him and was amazing at opening up the court for them.  While Houston does not have the shooting that Orlando had, they do have another fantastic player in James Harden, who is sure to tremendously benefit Howard’s game.
The Golden State Warriors gave Dwight another option that he strongly considered.  But Houston’s financial situation was much more favorable and it was as though they were right there, waiting for Howard enter their arena.  The Warriors signed Andre Iguodala to a four-year deal earlier today to strengthen their roster.  While they made a great pitch to land Howard, they just missed but they can’t be too disappointed.
Houston may land Josh Smith in a sign-and-trade, who knows?  However, if they don’t, then they need to turn their attention toward possibly trading for Calderon.  As I said before, both of these players are rumored to have free agency ties with the Rockets.  All that said, Houston does need to try and add a few more long range shooters to their squad.  Chandler Parsons is their strongest spot-up shooter and they need to find a way to reel in someone else with a similar shooting ability.
The emergence of Dwight Howard in Houston certainly makes a gigantic splash in the NBA this offseason.  I have a strange feeling that Houston Rocket season ticket prices are going to slowly increase.  What you pay is what you’re expected to get and H-town is expecting an enchilada for the future.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Dwight Howard has career-changing decision to make

I’m going to try to say this so it makes sense:  This is about Dwight Howard but it’s not just about Dwight Howard.  ”Dwight Howard this, Dwight Howard that.  Dwight Howard needs to do this.  Dwight Howard needs to do that.  Dwight Howard needs to stop doing so-and-so.”  Quiet down and let the man make his decision.  He needed to go to another state, for god’s sake, just to have breathing room to make his decision.
Here’s what I mean when I say it’s not just about Dwight Howard:  Yes, Dwight Howard is the topic of conversation and all eyes are on “Superman.”  However, this is more than a superstar drawing a ton of public attention.  I cannot stress enough how big this decision is for Dwight Howard.  The words that come out of Howard’s mouth could be a significant turning point in the 27-year-old’s valuable career.
Zach Tennen on Dwight Howard
If you’re reading this, you are probably aware of the so-called “Dwight-mare” that happened with Orlando in the 2011-12 season.  That was the start of all the negativity coming Howard’s way.  Now, he has a chance to fix that by making the right decision.  Most of America hated LeBron James’ guts when he fled Cleveland for Miami but now people just focus on the rings he is winning.
Dwight Howard needs to try and take the same path that LeBron took.  He needs to put everything else aside and do what is best for him and him only.  I can’t imagine how stressful it must be for Dwight right now with teams and players swarming him.  I’m sure both Kobe Bryant and the Houston Rockets have brought up important points to Dwight that have really gotten him thinking hard.  However, he can’t let another team or person control his mind and convince him that they know what’s ultimately best for him.
Now, let’s briefly take a look at each potential (and realistic) scenario for Dwight Howard:
Re-signing with the Lakers: After that big mess in Orlando, Dwight Howard was finally traded and Orlando decided to part ways with their old GM.  The Lakers were highly regarded as a pre-season favorite in the Western Conference.  Obviously, that didn’t work out too well.  Age is a huge problem for this team;: Kobe will be 35 by the time the next season starts and he is likely to miss a couple months.  39-year-old Steve Nash finally lost some gas last season and sat out through a few injuries.  Pau Gasol is turning 33 years old in just a couple days and he is definitely past his best days.  Dwight Howard would be the man of the Lakers’ franchise for years to come.  But I’m not sure that Dwight has the patience to wait for a younger and more competitive team to be built around him.  I don’t blame him either; Howard is at the stage of his career where his legacy would really benefit from being on a legitimate contender.
Joining James Harden and the Houston Rockets: The possibility of joining forces with James Harden, one of the NBA’s newest superstars, has sounded appealing to Dwight for some time.  If Dwight does decide to bolt for Houston, good for him.  He would be leaving one of the most powerful markets in all of sports and he probably wouldn’t get as many endorsements, but here’s the twist: that Texas tax law would still put him in a great position, financially.  I don’t know where exactly he would be earning the most money after taxes, endorsements, and whatever else there is but that probably isn’t a huge concern to him.  Wherever Dwight goes, he’s earning a ton of money.  Howard on Houston would make them a great team out West, assuming he can stay healthy and play his role.
Signing with Dallas, Atlanta, or sign-and-trade to Golden State: If I had to guess, I think Dwight will end up narrowing down his choice to the Lakers or Rockets, if he hasn’t already.  But I guess there’s always a rare possibility of one of these teams make something crazy happen, prompting Howard to join their team.
Now, we must eagerly await Dwight Howard’s monstrous decision.  My final input is: wherever Dwight Howard decides to go, respect it.  He’s only doing what’s best for himself and his career.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11

Monday, July 1, 2013

NBA Draft Day Grades: Sixers, Kings, Pistons, Jazz, Blazers

Every team was aware that Ben McLemore was the most talented player in the draft but somehow, someway, he slid all the way down to number seven.  The players picked six through ten could very easily make a better team than the first five picks when we compare them three years from now.  Not only did the most talented player slip to seven, but the favorite to be picked first for most of the time heading up to the draft went number six.  Goodness gracious.
Zach Tennen on Nerlens Noel

Philadelphia 76ers:
Pick #6. 6-11 C Nerlens Noel (as well as Hornets 2014 first round pick in exchange for Jrue Holiday)
Ceiling: Dikembe Mutombo
Floor: Stromile Swift
I certainly did not see this coming.  The Sixers decided to wipe the whole slate clean as they gave up all-star point guard Jrue Holiday.  Noel could be the second coming of Andrew Bynum for the Sixers.  That’s the problem with big guys that have a history of a severe injury or more than one.  However, Noel has the potential to be a stand-out center, athletically and defensively.  All we can do now is wait and see how this trade turns out.
Pick #11. 6-5 PG Michael Carter-Williams Zach Tennen on Michael Carter-Williams
Ceiling: Andre Miller
Floor: Shaun Livingston
Carter-Williams is a rare type of point guard that a lot of teams were actually high on.  His very good court vision as well as size gives him the potential to be a solid starter.  Nowadays, most point guards look to score more often than they used to.  Carter-Williams brings back the concept of the traditional point guard but he’ll eventually need pieces around him in order to succeed.
Pick #54. 6-7 PF Arsalam Kazemi
Grade: A-

Sacramento Kings: 
Zach Tennen on Ben McLemore
Courtesy of usatoday.com
Pick #7. 6-5 SG Ben McLemore
Ceiling: Ray Allen
Floor: Doug Christie
McLemore will likely be looked at as a steal in this draft.  Sacramento felt they absolutely had to pull the trigger on him.  The Kings have drafted young, promising players in the last few years in hopes of revitalizing this franchise.  No improvements have been shown since the great squad of Bibby, Stojakavic, and Webber.  For the Kings, McLemore was simply too extraordinary a talent to pass on.
Pick #36. 6-2 PG Ray McCallum
Grade: A

Detroit Pistons: Zach Tennen on Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Pick #8. 6-5 SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Ceiling: Joe Johnson
Floor: Rashad McCants
Depending on how large of an immediate impact this highly praised scorer can bring to Detroit, I think people will understand why they passed Trey Burke for him.  Although Burke had much more hype coming into the draft, K.C.P didn’t have the spotlight that Burke had in college.  He played for a cruddy Georgia team that relied on him to do everything.  Both are very talented scorers, but Caldwell-Pope fit their need better.
Pick #37. 6-8 PF Tony Mitchell
Mitchell is arguably a first round talent that was completely worth the risk for Detroit.  Although he doesn’t understand the game well enough yet and was somewhat disappointing at North Texas, Mitchell is being put into a good situation.  He just has to bring energy off the bench and provide the team with about 10 quality minutes a game.
Pick #56. 6-1 PG Peyton Siva
Grade: B+

Utah Jazz: Zach Tennen on Trey Burke
Pick #9. 6-1 PG Trey Burke (traded for picks 14 and 21 – Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng)
Ceiling: Chris Paul
Floor: Bobby Jackson
In my opinion, the Jazz made a very clever move by sending picks 14 and 21 to Minnesota for pick nine.  With enough talent to build off in the front court, Utah’s mind was set on getting a future point guard.  Burke was a picture perfect choice for them as he will greatly benefit from Utah’s core of young big men.
Pick #27: 7-1 C Rudy Gobert
This dude has a 9-7 standing reach.  That’s all I’m going to say about him for now.
Grade: A-

Portland Trail Blazers: Zach Tennen on C.J. McCollum
Pick #10. 6-3 G C.J. McCollum
Ceiling: Jason Terry
Floor: Janerro Pargo
Some consider McCollum to be the purest shooter in this draft class.  Whether he is or not, it’s a well-known fact that he’s a sharpshooter.  I’m not quite sure if McCollum will start this season.  My guess is that they’ll keep Wes Matthews at the 2-spot and bring McCollum off the bench as a combo guard, similar to how Jason Terry found success.
Pick #31. 6-6 SG Allen Crabbe
This pick has great potential to be one of the biggest steals in the draft.  Portland sure isn’t being shy recruiting talented guards.  It’ll be interesting to see how they can balance out their roster.
Pick #39. 7-0 C Jeff Withey
Another potential steal.  It’s not like the last two prospects were unknown.  In fact, they were actually “safe steals,” meaning that there was no downside to picking them.
Pick #45. 6-11 Marko Todorovic
Grade: A

That’s where I wrap this section up.  Oh, and just in case you haven’t noticed, I never give out an A+.  Here’s why: nothing is for certain in this world except, of course, death and taxes.

Follow me on Twitter @ZJTbasketball11