Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 Portland Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers will look to build upon last year’s run to the second round of the postseason and compete deep into the Western Conference playoffs this season. Can Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge help the Blazers take the next step?

Jay Allen of Fox Sports Radio 620 joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the upcoming season in Rip City in the video above.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad & the Ugly for the 2014-15 Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers could be in for a long season, but hope that some of their young pieces can develop and begin to build towards the future. What can we expect out of Philly this year?

Marcus Hayes joins tortured Sixers fan Adam Lefkoe to predict the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the upcoming year in the video above.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 New York Knicks

The New York Knicks enter this season with hopes of returning to the playoffs under first-year head coach Derek Fisher. Can Carmelo Anthony and his squad fight their way back into contention?

Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the upcoming Knicks season in the video above.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs will be looking to repeat for the first time in franchise history, as they’re hoping that Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich have another title run in them. Can the Spurs go back-to-back and cement their place in NBA history?

Geoff Sheen of 760 The Ticket joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the upcoming Spurs season in the video above.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics hope a full year of Rajon Rondo can see them get back to the playoffs under second-year coach Brad Stevens in a weak Eastern Conference. Can Rondo and the C’s young squad make waves in the East?

Brian Robb joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the Celtics’ season in the video above.

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Predicting the Good, the Bad and the Ugly for the 2014-15 Los Angeles Lakers

The Los Angeles Lakers will begin anew this season, with Kobe Bryant‘s return offering a glimmer of hope after an abysmal 2013-14 campaign. Can Kobe lift the Lakers back to the playoffs?

Kevin Ding joins Stephen Nelson to predict the good, the bad and the ugly for the 2014-15 Lakers in the video above.

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New York Knicks Should End Andrea Bargnani Experiment for Good

Andrea Bargnani has turned eight years of untapped potential and Teflon-thick expectations into an NBA career flush with constant reminders that, despite an infinite supply of mulligans, his star won’t ever reach its projected ceiling.

With that in mind and Bargnani’s plunge through the ranks being painfully obvious, the New York Knicks would be wise to abandon an experiment they never should have financed in the first place.

 

Regrettable Tenure

It’s cruel practice to write obituaries for 28-year-old prodigies who once drew frequent comparisons to the Hall of Fame-bound Dirk Nowitzki

Seven-footers typically cannot put the ball on the floor like Bargnani can. They don’t have the offensive range Bargnani does. Most aren’t as versatile as Bargnani, who is tall enough to jump at center and offensively rounded enough to play small forward or even shooting guard.

Some version of this rust-rotted ode to Bargnani’s skill set has been used leading up to and in each of his first eight seasons. You would think after all that time and all that money—more than $60 million to date—no team would need a crash course in the perils of using Bargnani.

Apparently the Knicks—specifically new head coach Derek Fisher—do.

“Andrea’s activity was good,” Fisher said following the Knicks’ first preseason game, a loss to the Boston Celtics, of Bargnani, per ESPN New York’s Ian Begley. “He was versatile, just like I’d always observed from a distance. He can shoot the basketball, he can put it down; he’s a matchup problem for other teams when he’s playing in the frontcourt at the 4, the 5.”

Sound familiar? Because it should. It’s the same old song for a ninth consecutive year. 

But here’s the thing: It’s time for a different tune.

One year into Bargnani’s Big Apple tenure it’s clear the plug needs to be pulled. There is no evidence to suggest that he can help this team, other than that timeworn song. The numbers actually argue the contrary.

Last season the Knicks offense was 6.8 points per 100 possessions better without Bargnani on the floor, according to NBA.com. Their overall field-goal percentage climbed, their three-point efficiency soared, their switch-tastic—and therefore incompetent—defense was a little less atrocious.

Forget defense, though. Just for a minute.

Offense is supposed to be Bargnani’s area of expertise. His team shouldn’t be that much better when he’s on the sidelines.

When the Knicks began their unsuccessful playoff chase, it was without Bargnani. Prior to him injuring his elbow against the Philadelphia 76ers, they ranked 19th in offensive efficiency. Through the 40 games following his absence, they ranked fourth.

Fourth. Their offense was statistically more efficient than the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s, Miami Heat‘s and San Antonio Spurs‘ during that time, all three of whom ranked in the top seven of this exact category for the entire season.

Coincidence?

Only if longstanding and legitimate trends can be classified as unhappy accidents.

 

Broken Record

None of this is new. Or news. Bargnani’s profoundly destructive transgressions aren’t unique to his time in New York. The Toronto Raptors are well-aware of how damaging his prolonged presence can be.

Look at how his teams have fared with him on and off the floor per 100 possessions since 2007:

Only twice in the last seven years have Bargnani’s teams posted better point differentials with him on the floor. Those Raptors teams were an average of 3.5 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench. Throw in last season with the Knicks, and Bargs’ teams have fared an average of 4.0 points better per 100 possessions without him since 2007.

And yet Bargnani is still given second and third and fourth chances. Coaches and executives see his lifetime average of 15 points per game. They see the lone season he pumped in 21.4 points a night (2010-11), which came on a 22-win Raptors team. They see all these things and are compelled—or obligated—to tout the bright side.

There is no bright side anymore. Not for the Knicks.

Playing Bargs puts an already infirm defensive structure at risk. Imagine fielding him beside Amar’e Stoudemire at all. It would be a disaster, just like it was last season. The Knicks were outscored by an average of 15.3 points per 100 possessions with both in the game.

That isn’t going to suddenly change. Bargnani has never once proved he can help the team while playing alongside another big name. The Knicks were a minus-3.9 per 100 possessions with Carmelo Anthony and Bargnani last year, and the Raptors were a minus-2.2 with both him and Chris Bosh in their last season together (2009-10).

Not even Jose Calderon, one of Bargnani’s greatest proponents, has found success next to him. The last time they were both (semi-)healthy in Toronto (2010-11), the Raptors were a minus-5.2.

“Hopefully, I can help him again,” Calderon said of Bargnani, via Newsday‘s Al Iannazzone. ”I know it was tough for him with the injuries last year and never getting into a rhythm. Hopefully this year he’s back. He’s a great, talented player who can help us a lot for sure.”

Somehow, given all we know, excuses are still made and hope still held when both coaches and teammates should know better.

Mike Woodson is the most recent head honcho to ride the Bargnani excuse train aground. He closed out last season’s dumpster fire fixedly—and stubbornly—playing what-if cards that had long expired:

Different as in worse, maybe.

Never better.

This year brings nothing new. Bargnani isn’t going to suddenly be free of past stereotypes. The Knicks can only play him as a floor-spacing forward who doesn’t actually space the floor. He hasn’t converted more than 34.5 percent of his threes since 2010-11, and his mid-range touch is grossly exaggerated. Not even Jackson’s famed triangle offense can save him, as Bleacher Report’s Fred Katz explains:

No scheme is going to prefer a big man who hesitates before every pass and posted a 51.0 true shooting percentage against a 22.4 percent usage rate. He doesn’t like the corners, a place he may have to venture in the new offense.

It especially won’t help the slow-footed Bargnani that he’ll be expected to post up and rapidly switch from one side of the court to another if he’s going to be a go-to post option (hardly a guarantee with a new regime in New York).

At this point Bargnani isn’t even a one-way player. He has the same number of career offensive win shares as defensive (8.9), according to Basketball-Reference.com.

What he does—score inefficiently—won’t help the Knicks.

 

Final Farewell

Riddle me this:

“If a man labeled as a bad defender and three-point gunner is arguably worse at his proposed best skill than his biggest weakness,” wrote SB Nation’s Kevin Zimmerman in April of Bargnani, “what does that make him?”

Detrimental. That’s all Bargnani can be to the Knicks. It’s all he’s ever been and all he continues to be. It’s no surprise the Knicks looked awful in one preseason game with him then transformative without him while he nursed a sore hamstring.

Pushing this experiment any further offers no upside. Bargnani doesn’t fit into the triangle, and he most definitely doesn’t fit into the team’s long-term plans. He should be viewed as an expiring contract, as a misperceived player Jackson and Fisher inherited and nothing more.

Resurrecting his career—which was never truly alive in the first place—doesn’t promise anything other than worthless bragging rights. Once 2014-15 is over, Bargnani is gone. The Knicks can only succeed in making him a more expensive free-agency acquisition for another team.

Rather than give him valuable minutes in hopes that he experiences an unlikely turnaround, the Knicks should play those who may actually have a future in New York.

Run smaller lineups that give Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. an opportunity to play together. Slide Anthony to power forward and see how he performs alongside Cleanthony Early.

Do something, do anything, else.

Let last year’s downturn and the baseless offseason and preseason optimism be the merciful ending to something that never, ever should have been started.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com unless otherwise cited.

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Mike Dunleavy Starting for the Chicago Bulls is a Good Thing

After Derrick Rose went down on November 22, 2013, the Chicago Bulls playoff hopes were in question. DJ Augustin and Joakim Noah stepped up, providing flashes of dominance during the season. The player that brought the most balance to the hardwood was Mike Dunleavy Jr., though.
Stability
Dunleavy started 61 games for the Chicago Bulls last season, racking up the third most minutes with 2,584 behind Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. Dunleavy also had the fourth most points on the team, despite only averaging 11.3 PPG. Now, Dunleavy will enter his 13th NBA season and has EARNED a starting spot in this league.
The thing that makes Dunleavy valuable despite his consistency is his defense and impact while on the floor. For as much as people want Jimmy Butler to be the next Bruce Bowen, Dunleavy matches Butler in every defensive category. This number may be a bit skewed due to who the two players are guarding night in and night out, but Dunleavy had more blocks and rebounds than Butler in 2013-14. MDJ also had a DRtg o

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Jackson has good preseason start for Tar Heels

Freshman Jackson leads way as Tar Heels kick off preseason drills with ‘Late Night’ show

      
 

 

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Jackson has good preseason start for Tar Heels (Yahoo Sports)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Freshman Justin Jackson scored 17 points in North Carolina’s intrasquad scrimmage to kick off preseason practices Friday night.

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