Early Candidates for MVP

westbrook and durant
Russell Westbrook (left), Kevin Durant (right)

The NBA season has officially finished its first week, all teams having played 3 to 4 games. Now, obviously it is way too early to be considering the candidates for MVP at this point of the season, but there have been way too many great performances so far that cannot be ignored. In just the first week of action, 50+ points have been scored, triple doubles have occurred, and overtime madness including some amazing buzzer beaters.

A lot of things can happen during an 82-game season, from injuries to shooting slumps. As of right now though, these players in my candidacy list just seem unbeatable. There are 5 players in my list who should deserve some recognition for their performances this season:

  1. Stephen Curry
    1. 37.0 pts, 5.0 reb, 6.3 ast
  2. Russell Westbrook
    1. 30.3 pts, 7.5 reb, 9.3 ast
  3. Blake Griffin
    lebron griffin
    LeBron James (left), Blake Griffin (right)
    1. 29.5 pts, 9.3 reb, 3.5 ast
  4. LeBron James
    1. 22.0 pts, 7.8 reb, 6.3 ast
  5. Kevin Durant
    1. 29.8 pts, 6.0 reb, 1.8 ast

Now, obviously these monster numbers are not likely to hold up throughout the course of the entire season, but that does not mean they will stop playing at such a high level. These numbers, though very impressive, would not mean as much if their teams weren’t winning. They are my candidates for that exact reason, their teams are in the top 3 amongst their conferences, which means they are leading them to victories.

In my previous posts I mentioned that most of the league’s superstars were playing for something to prove. Some to get that ring at the end of the season, while others want to prove they are one of the greatest, and deserve recognition. Stephen Curry is playing to prove his steph curry slam coverdoubters wrong, that his team was not lucky, but rather extremely talented. Westbrook and Durant want to prove that this dynamic duo, when healthy, can take on whoever and come out on top. Blake Griffin is in his prime right now, and
seems to be willing to play his heart out every night alongside his talented teammates to prove he can carry them to the finals. And as for LeBron, he is always playing to prove he is the best in the world, and so far, though he has played better, is doing a great job. His mission is to take Cleveland to their first NBA title, and seems to be on the right track.

I know these incredible stat lines won’t last long, but while they do, I plan on enjoying them as much as possible.

***These stats were taken from: http://www.espn.com as of November 3rd, 2015.

***ALL IMAGES IN THIS POST CAME FROM: http://www.slamonline.com and http://www.fansided.com

Moneyball wins more championships

moneyball book coverIn the previous decades, we have seen teams like the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, spend millions of dollars to acquire the best players, in turn making them the best team. You’d think that being the best team gives the organization the best chance to win the titles. Maybe on paper, but in the previous decade it has not happened.

The New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Dodgers have the three highest payrolls in all of baseball. In the past decade these three teams have combined for just three titles out of a possible ten. Teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, and now the Kansas City Royals and New York Mets have proven that developing players is now more effective than buying them. In the past decade these teams that have developed their players have combined for 6 titles.

Granted there are more teams on that list, but that gives them at least one title each. Thus, proving that maybe buying all of your players is old fashioned. The Yankee Way may have died in 2000, when they dominated everyone. Grinding the season out with skilled players seems to be the way to go these days.

***ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST COME FROM: http://www.mathmirror.org

Boston Red Sox $$$

red sox cover yawkey
Hanley Ramirez (top left), Mike Napoli (top right), David Ortiz (center), Dustin Pedroia (bottom left), Pablo Sandoval (bottom right)

The past offseason (2014), the Boston Red Sox were supposed to be the #1 contender to win the World Series this year (2015) because of some trades and free agent signings. They spent a lot of money acquiring players like Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez. And made some trades that landed them some quality pitching.

After having won on 2013, but coming up way off in 2014, they were destined to win it all again in 2015. All those signings and trades, added to their talented roster that included David Ortiz a.k.a. Big Papi. This team was meant to be a run scoring machine. And that it was! They finished in 4th place overall in the entire league, per ESPN.com. So the offseason moves accomplished what it was meant to do; score.

Unfortunately they forgot that defense is also needed to win games. In this category they were ranked 25th out of 30 teams, in runs scored allowed. Obviously that defeats the purpose of scoring many runs if you allow the other team to do so as well.

Either more money will be spent by the front office acquiring good pitching, or maybe they’ll realize they should just trade some bats for better defense.

***ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST CAME FROM: http://www.yawkeystore.com

LeBron James, the man of the hour

lebron curry finals
Stephen Curry (left), LeBron James (right)

Once again, LeBron James came up short in the Finals for the 4th time in his career. That makes his all time record a putrid two out of four wins in the NBA Finals. People think he is unbeatable, the best to have ever laced them up, but the numbers say otherwise.

How can you call yourself the greatest player but keep losing when it matters most? By giving excuses, of course. “He had no help”; “His teammates were injured”; “He was too young”. These are some of the arguments LeBron fans will give you if you mention his finals record. It’s like they’re shooting themselves in the foot by trying to debate that he simply is not the best.

lebron david blatt
Head Coach David Blatt (left), LeBron James (right)

Obviously no player will win on his own in the NBA Finals, but that honestly has not been the case, except in his first time there in 2007 when the Cleveland Cavaliers were practically carried by LeBron. But he left that team to play alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and still lost twice. Then he decided to come back to Cleveland with two other superstars in Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, and lost yet again.

Yes, Irving and Love were out, but role players stepped in and gave great performances. There are no excuses to losing so many times. He simply does not deserve to be called the best.

***ALL IMAGES IN THIS POST COME FROM: http://www.slamonline.com

Will the Clippers Succeed Under Pressure?

clippers slam
Blake Griffin (left), DeAndre Jordan (center), Chris Paul (right)

Out of all of the teams contending for a championship this year, the Los Angeles Clippers are the ones with the most pressure. Mostly because they have brought it on themselves due to some offseason drama, but also because talent-wise their team is the best looking one on paper. Almost everyone is expecting them to at the very least get past the 2nd round of the playoffs, something they have never been able to do.

mark cuban slam mag
Mark Cuban

Offseason drama involving DeAndre Jordan and Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, has put the spotlight on DeAndre himself, and on his team. After agreeing to a verbal agreement with Cuban, Jordan backed out in the last minute and opted instead to remain a Clipper. Betrayal! Sports fans, and athletes themselves take loyalty very seriously.

This adds to the pressure Chris Paul and Blake Griffin already felt by not being able to get past the 2nd round, and having choked last year against the Rockets after having a 3-1 lead. Will they overcome all of this drama? Probably not, the spotlight will be too much for them, and they will come up short once again.

***ALL IMAGES IN THIS POST COME FROM: http://www.slamonline.com

Kevin Durant MVP

kevin durant slam coverKevin Durant is one of the players in a long list that is coming from a season ending injury. After having received an MVP Award, he broke his foot in the following season. With him out, Russell Westbrook could not carry the load by himself for the entire season, as he also had some nagging injuries of his own that caused him to miss some games.

After reaching the NBA finals in 2011, the Oklahoma City Thunder seem to have gone downward. Either because of injuries, or simply because they have not been able to take on the competitive Western Conference as well as in previous years. But this year is different, injuries aren’t an excuse anymore, and talent-wise they’re as good as ever.

Kevin Durant is back, and has shown it so far this season. But will it be enough to win it all? I believe so; he will redeem himself, and with the help of Russell Westbrook this dynamic duo have what it takes to lift the trophy at the end of this season.

***ALL IMAGES USED IN THIS POST COME FROM: http://www.slamonline.com

No more Donnie Baseball for Dodger Baseball

donnie baseball
Don Mattingly

After three consecutive years of coming up just short in the post season, Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly was fired. Three division titles, two NLCS (National League Championship Series) appearances, and one NLDS (National League Division Series) appearance, are the things that highlight Mattingly’s résumé as a skipper. Not bad huh? Unfortunately for him, this team has the highest salary cap in all of baseball, so finishing in anything that isn’t first place is not enough.

The team was built around players like Cy Young Award winners Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and batting superstars such as Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig, amongst others. Greatness was expected by everyone who watches baseball, but it was not achieved. Proving one of two things; money can no longer buy championships, or Mattingly just wasn’t the guy to lead the team to the promised land.

With arguably two of the best pitchers in baseball, and one hell of a batting lineup, you would assume they could at least beat their cross town rivals the San Francisco Giants. Wrong again. A team that spent considerably less money than the Dodgers have won 3 titles out of the last 5 years. Since 2010 the Dodgers have made trades, and signed players to multi million dollar contracts in an effort to beat their rivals and win the title. Since it has not happened, they finally decided that it was time to part ways with Donnie Baseball.

Some would say that it is unfair that managers are always blamed when the team doesn’t win. They’re not the ones pitching, allowing runs, or responsible for scoring them. But in a team with so much talent, and so many options, he did have control of who played, and things such as batting order and pitching matchups. But with so much talent, the most important thing this manager needed was respect. Respect from his players that is. In a team with so many talented players making so much money, keeping their egos in check is key. In the last game for the Dodgers against the Mets this year, Mattingly was seen in a heated argument with outfielder Andre Ethier, letting the viewers know that respect is the last thing he had from his players.

This upcoming 2016 season will prove who was right. Maybe there was no way to keep those egos in check, and Mattingly really did everything he could. Or he was the problem, and with a new manager maybe they’ll finally go all the way. Either way, I hope Donnie Baseball continues with another team, as I for one believe this current Dodgers team is simply uncoachable.

***ALL IMAGES IN THIS POST COME FROM: http://www.bleacherreport.com