Tag Archives: 2012 NBA Draft

We Still Talking Playoffs

With just a few weeks left in the regular season, our three (wait for it) favorite squads have divergent playoffs hopes. East of the St. Croix, the Bucks are in full Fear the Deer mode, battling hard for the 8th and final playoff spot. West of the St. Croix, the Wolves are battling injuries and riding the back of K. Love to a fighter’s chance at the playoffs. And, the third favorite team has nothing to do with a shared border; rather, our third favorite team has everything to do with our interest in the Utah Jazz making the playoffs, and thus, shipping over its first-round draft pick to the Wolves in what is shaping up to be a deep and talented draft.

Milwaukee Bucks –

Bucks fans rejoice... #85 Baron Davis is leading the Knicks now.

The Bucks are currently 9th in the Eastern Conference, 2.5 games behind the Knickerbockers. Although the Knicks’ season has been uglier than that (Here)WeGo dog from the Bud Light commercials, the Knicks have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and have somehow come together under Mike Woodson after Mike D’Antoni resigned on March 14. But, news broke this weekend that Jeremy Lin (you may have heard of him) is out for the rest of the regular season with a knee injury. Out goes Lin, incomes B-Diddy… yup, #85 Baron Davis (anytime your point guards number is 85, you know your in trouble and that this guy must be a mental midget.) This is a severe blow to the Knicks and one the Bucks should be able to capitalize on.

The Bucks announced their intention to make a run at the playoffs this season on March 13 when they dealt the oft-injured Andrew Bogut and black-hole Steven Jackson for Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame “Worst Player in the History of the NBA” Brown. Since that trade, the Bucks have sported a 5-4 record. Unlike his jumper, Ellis’ transition to the Bucks has been anything but smooth. Ellis is a volume scorer – i.e. he takes a ton of shots to get a ton of points. He was supposed to form a fearsome backcourt with Jennings. But, Ellis appeared to be hesitant with his new squad – almost as if he wanted to please his new teammates by not taking the majority of shots. Despite the nearly .500 record, there are some encouraging signs the deal has improved the Bucks: they average 8 more points per game, shoot 4.5% better from the field, and have seen their opponents shoot just over 2% worse from the field.

The Bucks have 14 games remaining to make up the 2.5 games and claim that 8th spot from the Knicks. Working in their favor, the Bucks play 9 of those 14 games at home, while the Knicks play only 5 of their 13 remaining games at home. This last part is huge for the Bucks because the Knicks are terrific at home, winning 9 of their last 10 at the fabled MSG. The Bucks next three games are all winnable: @ Washington, vs. Cleveland, and vs. Charlotte. Meanwhile, the Knicks face (sans Lin remember): @ Indiana, @ Orlando, vs. Chicago, and @ Orlando. Needless to say, the 2.5 margin can be made up quickly. And, by the time the Bucks host the Knicks on April 11, the 8th spot could be on the line.

The Bucks season can be summed up as follows: they are the best of the worst and worst of the best. They have thrived off beating teams under .500 and been equally ineffective (6-21) against teams above .500. With 7 games apiece against teams above or below .500, the Bucks have a chance to finish the season strong and grab that 8th spot in the playoffs.

Minnesota Timberwolves –

The moment the Wolves' playoff run ended. Damn you, Black Mamba!

Meanwhile, the Wolves’ playoffs hopes are currently recovering from ACL surgery. The Wolves currently sit in 11th place in the conference, 3 games back of the 8th spot. That may not sound like a lot to make up. But, when players are more fragile than Al Czervik, the playoff run will have to wait for another year. With the likes of El Pistola, Nikola “The Godfather” Pekovic (can anyone explain where that nickname came from??), J.J., and even SuperCool Beas sidelined with injuries, its pretty much over. The Wolves’ 3-7 record the past 10 games bears this out.

In what’s becoming a nasty trend in the Twin Cities, injuries are rampant (deep breath now: Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Denard Span, Scott Baker, Adrian Peterson, Antoine Winfield, Pierre Marc-Brouchard, Mikko Koivu…) and have derailed the season. Right after the all-star break, the Wolves were flying high and closing in on the 8th playoff spot. But, with the bench players now assuming starting roles, the Wolves only shot at making the playoffs is riding the back of Kevin Love and hoping his insane March numbers (30 ppg, 14 rbg, 46% shooting, and 3 treys per game) continue during the home stretch. Even with Love’s MVP type effort, the Wolves simply do not have enough fire-power to fight for that final playoff spot. The four teams ahead of them vying for the 8th spot – Houston, Utah, Phoenix, and Portland – have all been playing .500 ball or better the last 10 games. Which leads me to what should be Wolves fans second favorite team: Utah Jazz.

Utah Jazz –

To explain why we care about Al Jefferson again, back in 2009 there was a trade involving Darius Songalia, Bobby Brown (not that one), and Antonio Daniels. As part of that deal, somehow the Wolves ended up with the Jazz’s first-round draft pick this year – lottery protected. Needless to say, I like that deal right now from the Wolves perspective. So, if the Jazz makes the playoffs, the Wolves get their first-round pick (likely late teens b/c there is not a chance in hell the Jazz knock off the OKC Thunder). If the Jazz miss the playoffs, the Wolves get their pick in 2013 provided the Jazz don’t get a pick higher than the 12th. So Wolves fans, let’s take a look at how our second-favorite squad is looking coming down the home-stretch.

The Jazz are currently 9th in the conference, only 1.5 games back of Houston. With three of their last four at home, Utah is positioned well to make a run at Houston and the Stork (if there is any Karma in basketball, it requires the Jazz surpass the Stork, thereby making him miss the playoffs and ensuring the Wolves have a nice pick in a deep and talented draft!). Both teams have 13 games remaining. Utah has the extra game at home, while Houston goes on the road. Houston has a few games remaining against Chicago, LAL, and The LeBrons. Utah, on the other hand, plays a majority of their remaining games against the likes of Portland and Phoenix, with a crucial matchup at Houston on April 11. As Lloyd Christmas would say, “So you saying there’s a chance!”

Jazz playoffs = Terrance Ross at shooting guard for the 2012-2013 Timberwolves. Terrance Ross at shooting guard for the 2012-2013 Timberwolves = Playoffs. So, Let’s Go Jazz! Let’s Go Jazz! Let’s Go Jazz!

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Your Final Four Preview: NIT Style

If you had said two weeks ago that the Minnesota Golden Gophers men’s basketball team would be in the Final Four, any Final Four, NIT or MSHL, there is  a decent chance you would have been fitted for a Houdini extra long.  That is right.  In the home that Dolan has nearly destroyed, historic Madison Square Garden, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will face off against the Washington Huskies.

Against all odds (not really), Tubby’s boys came together and have brought the show on the road like they rarely did all season.  Prior to the Big 10 tournament, the Gophers lone signature road win came against the eventually Sweet 16 bound, Indiana Hoosiers.  In that game, the Gophers displayed a toughness (particularly on the defensive end) that was only seen sporadically throughout the season.

The Big 10 tournament seemed to mark a turning point for this relatively young team.  An “injury” to Captain Fadeaway, Ralph the 3rd, meant significantly increased minutes for improving freshman E2, Elliot Eliason.  Eliason has shown a bit of a mean streak for a down home country boy from Nebraska.  He goes after rebounds like he AND his family AND his priest AND some local orphans have been infected with malaria and those loose basketballs contain the antidote.  He also has displayed a decent array of post moves on the offensive end.  Tomorrow night, he is definitely going to have his hands full with 7′ Junior C, Aziz N’Diaye.  N’Biaye leads the 5th best rebounding attack in the country. The Huskies get after it. E2’s ability to clean the glass is going to be a critical component to any Gophers victory.

Fellow freshman PG, Dre Hollins, has also stepped up his game lately.  He has finally started looking like the answer to the question that has plagued the Gophers since the Bobby Jackson era: who is going to run the offense? When Dre is on the floor, everything runs more smoothly.  That is truly the mark of a good PG.  The spacing is strategic, the timing is more precise, and the overall results are just plain better.  If he continues to dictate the pace, like he did in the three games leading up to this semifinal, Washington’s Abdul Gaddy is going to have HIS hands full.

If E2 and Dre are the youth movement in this recent string of successes, Rodney Williams has been the veteran who may finally be taking THE LEAP.  He has scored 20+ points in every tournament game.  But, even more importantly than that. There have been times when it has actually looked like he might justify the label of being a potential NBA prospect.  It was that label, one he obtained before the season started from local sportswriters, that seemed to have Rod thinking he might be a little better than he was.  There seemed to be an aura of entitlement surrounding him earlier in the season. But, Entitlement Rod appears to have gone the way of the Dodo and VHS tapes. The current version looks hungry.  Like Tibetan UN protestor hungry. If he can continue to produce at the level he has thus far, there is no one in this tournament who can slow him down.

Unlike this example of Darwinian consequence, Rodney Williams has returned from the brink with a vengeance.

With all of that in mind, ultimately, the Gophers success against the Huskies may fall on the elder Hollins. You see, the Huskies best player, SG Terrance Ross, is likely a lottery pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.  Side note, he would actually be a great fit for the Pups, so, here is hoping Utah gets the 8th spot in the playoffs (if the Pups cannot get it), thus giving the Pups the 2012 draft pick they would need to get Ross. If Hollins D’s Ross up and makes it difficult for him to score, this is a Huskie offense that can (and will) stall out.  In all of Washington’s losses, Ross has scored less than 20 points and it is only volume (Kobe-like) shooting that has gotten him into double digits in those games.  That is the kind of game Hollins needs to force Ross into.  Make him uncomfortable.

Based on their performance thus far, this Gophers team seems primed for a little longer run.  Tubby may have finally earned that extension that the administration has been rumored to be working on. The “dream” run has a 5th and final act:

                           Gophers 76  Washington 63