The Solution to Superteams

Ask any fan what the two most exciting words in sports are.  You’ll probably get some answers that vary by person and allegiance – “Jets win!”, “Krzyzewski retired!”, and so on – but at a certain point, they’ll say “Game 7”.  This year, the NBA playoffs featured two game sevens:  Jazz vs. Clippers in the Western Conference first round and Wizards vs. Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  But unless you are a fan of one of these four teams, these game sevens weren’t all that exciting.  They were formalities to see who would be slaughtered by the Warriors and Cavs.

The main storyline of these playoffs was not about who would be in the Finals, a foregone conclusion.  The storyline became “are super teams good for the NBA?”  One popular narrative is that super teams aren’t new, that the league has always been top heavy.  While it’s true that the NBA has traditionally had less parity than football and baseball, the outcome has never seemed more inevitable than it was this year.

Some argue that super teams have been around much longer than when The Big 3 formed in Miami

Look back at some of the legendary dynasties.  During the Bulls’ first three-peat, they beat the Lakers in what was considered a coin flip series in the 1991 Finals, needed 7 games to beat the Knicks in the 1992 Eastern Semifinals, and were down by 4 points to the Suns, without the ball, with one minute left in game 6 of the 1993 Finals.  Without a miracle comeback they would have faced a game seven in Phoenix.  The 1996 Bulls were head and shoulders better than the rest of the league – but to win their 1997 title, they broke a 2-2 series tie with the Jazz with a 2 point win in the “Flu Game.” They then won game 6 by just four points.  In 1998, game 6 versus the Jazz was eerily similar to game 6 five years earlier versus the Suns. Bulls down three with less than a minute left, they came back and avoided having to win a game 7 on the road.  Out of their six titles, only the 1996 one could be considered inevitable, and it still took six games for the Bulls to top the SuperSonics.

The Lakers and Celtics combined for eight titles during the 1980s, but they always had each other to ensure that there was some suspense throughout the year and the playoffs.  Usually, the Rockets, 76ers, or Pistons kept things interesting as well.  Out of those eight championships, all of the Finals’ went at least six games.  The “Heatles” dynasty of the 2010s never materialized.  Each time a LeBron James team has won a title, they needed to win a game 7 at some point to do so: 2012 vs the Celtics, 2013 vs the Spurs, and 2016 vs the Warriors.  Besides the 1996 Bulls, the 2001 Lakers are the only other team that was truly untouchable by the rest of the league.

As good as Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics were this season, no one considered them serious contenders for a 2017 NBA Championship

Last year, the moment Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors, objective observers knew it was much more probable than not that the Finals would end with the Warriors beating the Cavs, most likely in 5 games.  During the season, there were other compelling stories. Russell Westbrook’s quest to average a triple double, the 5’9” Isiah Thomas leading the Celtics to the one seed in the east, and the development of budding superstars such as Giannis Antetokounmpo, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Nikola Jokic.

But the inevitable Finals match-up loomed over these stories.  They were interesting, but they ultimately didn’t matter when in the back of my mind, I knew that these teams and players had no chance of making real noise in the playoffs.  This is a problem.  Maybe the NBA feels differently, as the ratings for these Finals were sky high.  But with Warriors vs Cavs Part III in the books, with no end in sight, people will start to tune out from the regular season and the early rounds of the playoffs.  No matter how many people watch the finals, this isn’t a good model for the NBA.  The salary cap is supposed to promote competitive balance, but obviously the current system doesn’t work.  The good news is that there is a simple solution to prevent these type of super teams from forming: increase the maximum contract.

Many say that the only reason the Warriors had the cap space to sign Durant is because Steph Curry was on the books for just $12 million.  This is partially true, but the real culprit, if you agree that super teams are bad for the NBA, is the maximum salary.  Coming off of his 9th year in the league, Durant was only able to make up to 30% of the salary cap, or approximately $28 million.  In order to afford that, the Warriors had to trade Andrew Bogut.  But if Durant was able to make anything close to what he is actually worth – in the $55 million ballpark with a salary cap of $94 million – the Warriors would never have had a chance to sign him.

Take a look at the other two All-Stars on Golden State.  When Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were eligible for extensions, they were only eligible to make 25% of the salary cap.  Thompson is locked up through 2019 on a team friendly contract averaging about $17 million per year, while Green is on a practically identical contract through 2020.  It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that with maximum salaries at 25, 30, and 35 percent of the cap, teams will continue to be able to afford 3 or 4 stars.

The max contract also makes it easier for stars to accept even less than their max.  Assume LeBron would be worth about $70 million if there was no max contract.  It would be extremely difficult for him to take, say, $35 million so that his team could sign other stars.  It’s much easier to take a few less million when his contract is artificially capped around $30 million than it would be to leave tens of millions on the table.

The salary cap is supposed to promote competitive balance, but the max contract actively detracts from this attempt at parity.  The Players Association is very much in favor of the max contract, as it creates a much higher median salary.  But if the NBA is serious about having more teams in the championship mix, they need to look at either eliminating or increasing the max salary.

Warriors Ink Nick Young to One Year Deal

It’s Golden State’s world and everybody else is just living in it. Just days after resigning Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala and extending Steph Curry, the Golden State Warriors came to terms with Nick Young. The one year deal gives the Warriors more fire power off the bench. A lifetime 38% three-point shooter, Young should have no problems joining Steve Kerr’s run and gun offense.

At 31 years old, Young averaged 13 points per game, in 60 games, for the Lakers last season. His 40% from behind the arc was good for second best of his career, just tenths of a percentage point off his best. There is no doubt Young still has production in him.

The one year signing works for both sides. It givers Young a chance to thrive in a offense that fits his style, setting him up for a possible pay day after a year. For Golden State, the move bolsters an already strong bench. It gives them yet another floor spacer capable of getting hot quickly. One thing’s for sure, if Golden State can repeat, Swaggy P’s parade celebration may top J.R. Smith’s from two years ago.

P.S. Kevin Durant has no chill…

Finals Rematch Completely Different Than a Year Ago

image

For the second straight year the NBA Finals will feature the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers,  and the NBA’s MVP. As the 2016 NBA Finals tips off tonight in the San Francisco bay area, many of the stories leading up to the series surrounded a number of the same names as last year. However, these are not the same two teams we saw a year ago, let alone four months ago, when Golden State blew out Cleveland on their home court.

The Warriors, while compromised of the same core group of players from last season, have seemingly found a new level of play this year. Their record setting regular season and improbable series comeback against Oklahoma City prove that. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson continue to amaze viewers on a nightly basis with unreal three-point barrages, Draymond Green continues to be an x-factor in Golden State’s success, and every one else seems to contribute at just the right time.

The Cavaliers on the other hand, will (hopefully) be a much different team this time around. With a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving playing at high level, Lebron James will have the sidekick power he lacked for much of the series last year. The biggest difference in Cleveland from this year to last is the man standing on the sidelines.

Tyronn Lue took over as head coach mid season, after Cleveland’s embarrassing midseason loss to Golden State. In the January 18th meeting, the Cavs failed to contain Curry, who went off for 35 points in just 28 minutes of play. Last year’s Finals MVP Andre Iguodala added 20 off the bench, thanks to 4-5 shooting from behind the arc.

It was all smiles for Curry, who sat the whole 4th quarter, and the Warriors on their January 18th win over Cleveland

It was all fund and games for Curry, who sat the whole 4th quarter, and the Warriors on their January 18th win over Cleveland

The issues for the Cavs following that game are the same question marks heading into this series. Can any Cleveland guard, whether it be Irving, Iman Shumpert, JR Smith, or even Matthew Dellavedova contain the Splash Brothers? And how effective can Love be against the smaller, faster line up of Golden State? In their two losses to Golden State this season, Love struggled to get into any rhythm offensively. He tallied a mere thirteen points combined points off 6-21 shooting, though he did haul in 18 rebounds on their Christmas Day matchup. In the January 18th blowout, Love also struggled defensively and let Draymond Green blow past him and pick apart the rest of the Cavalier defense en route to 16 points and 10 assists.

Kyrie Irving has provided the support King James lacked in last year's NBA Finals

Kyrie Irving has provided the support King James lacked in last year’s NBA Finals. Will his support be enough this time around?

The addition of Channing Frye should help Cleveland stretch the floor on both ends of the floor. After coming over from Orlando, Frye really found came into own in the Eastern Conference semifinals, providing efficient minutes off the bench and shooting 58% from three-point range. Last season the Cavs went big with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov anchoring the paint down low. With Mozgov seemingly buried on Lue’s bench, Frye could be the answer for Cleveland’s match up struggles.

Yes, the names on the front are the same as last year. And yes, a majority of the names on the back are the same. But these are not the same two teams we saw a year ago; they are better. Can the Cavs match up with the small and quick line up of Golden State? How will Golden State handle a hot Kyrie Irving? Is Anderson Varejao guaranteed a ring now matter who wins? One thing is for sure, we cannot wait to find out.

2016 NBA Finals Series

Game 1 – Thursday, Cavaliers at Warriors, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 2 – Sunday, Cavaliers at Warriors, 8 p.m. on ABC

Game 3 – June 8, Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 4 – June 10, Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 5* – June 13, Cavaliers at Warriors, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 6* – June 16, Warriors at Cavaliers, 9 p.m. on ABC

Game 7* – June 19, Cavaliers at Warriors, 8 p.m. on ABC

*if necessary

4 Basketball Shooting Drills To Do During Every Workout

Basketball Shooting Drills

The recent success of the Golden State Warriors has spotlighted how vital outside shooting can be to a team’s success. The NBA’s reigning MVP, Steph Curry, alone has made 245 three-point field goals this season, 84 more than teammate Klay Thompson, who sits at second. As a result of this trend, we decided to provide players with four key basketball shooting drills that will help them become better shooters.

Form Shooting

Form shooting should be the first thing a player does when he or she steps out onto the floor. Form Shooting helps develop muscle memory and promote good shooting technique.

  • Start 3 feet from the basket
  • Shooting with your dominant hand, focus on lifting the ball over the rim
  • Focus on B.E.E.F (Balance, Eyes, Elbow, Follow-through)
  • You can rotate from center of the rim to both right and left sides as well as step back. Do not exceed your comfort zone, it will often result in poor shooting form – which is what you are trying to build!

Around The World 

Around the World shooting helps players get ‘catch and shoot’ shots up from all areas of the floor.

  • Start in one corner, shoot from that spot until you MAKE 10 shots
  • Once you make 10 shots, move to the next spot and repeat
  • Spots are baseline, wing, top of the key, opposite wing, opposite baseline
  • Toss the ball out to yourself to practice catching and squaring up to the hoop

Looking to become a better shooter? 2016 Hoop Group Skills Shooting Camp

Elbow to Elbow 

Mid range shooting has been called by some as a lost art. Elbow to Elbow jumpers help you master this lost art, and also can simulate game like shots.

  • Start on either elbow
  • Toss the ball out to the opposite elbow, with back spin so it returns to you
  • Work on catching, turning and squaring your body to the rim before shooting
  • Alternate elbow to elbow – this can also be done elbow to baseline

Distance Shooting

Distance shooting does exactly as it sounds: helps increase your shooting range. This should take one just outside one’s comfort zone and progressively extend their range.

  • Start at the foul line, make 2 shots in a row
  • Once you make 2 in a row, take a step back, make another 2
  • Continue to move back until you struggle to make 2 in a row while maintaining proper shooting form
  • You can do this drill on any area of the floor, as well as increase the number of shots needed to make in a row

One important thing to note for all these drills is that players must focus on maintaining proper shooting form. The goal is to get better shooting THE RIGHT WAY! These four drills will help players develop better form, increase their range and emulate game like shots. Keep Shooting!