Thursday, May 27, 2010

LeBron James Free Agency Pt. 2

This is the second post regarding the Lebron James free agency scramble. I graded the New York Knicks with a B- in Pt. 1. The best thing the Knicks have going for them is cap space, other than that it'll be tough to entice Lebron to pack up and move to NYC. In Pt. 2 I will cover the New Jersey Nets...

New Jersey Nets: 12-70
Finishing 49 games behind the league leading Cavaliers.

I think the Nets are the most interesting team with the hopes of landing Lebron. They were competing for the worst season in NBA history last season and they have a Billionaire owner. It's tough to put a finger on the Nets chances, but I will try.

The Nets have a very talented roster: Courtney Lee, Devin Harris and Yi JianLian are solid pieces and haven't even sniffed their ceiling yet. The Nets also have the best young big man in the league. Brook Lopez will have a hall of fame caliber career when it's said and done. What isn't there to like about this roster? You have a legitimate Point Guard in Devin Harris. An explosive Shooting Guard in Courtney Lee. A stretch four in Yi Jianlian and the next big thing at Center with Lopez. The only thing missing is that Small Forward who can take a game over... Enter Lebron James. This team would have the potential to flip that record around in three years. Oh, and they have the third pick in the NBA draft.

If the nets could shave $4 million dollars of cap space they could sign two max free agents. They trade Jianlian and the third pick to the Toronto Raptors for a sign and trade with Chris Bosh and this Nets team will be flirting with a 50 win season next year.

The Russian Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is willing to spend any money he can to make this team contenders. Expect him to throw the bank at any potential coach hoping to lure Lebron.

The Nets are expected to move out of New Jersey and into Brooklyn in a few years. So Lebron would get the New York appeal playing for a team that could actually be a contender.

One of Lebron's best friends, rapper Jay-Z, is a minority owner. I don't think Lebron will sign for this reason, they could just text to keep in touch. But, ESPN thinks there is no reason to play for the Nets if not for Jay-Z.

It is tough to find reasons for Lebron not to sign with the New Jersey Nets. Other than they are the Nets, of course. Their 12-70 record last season was a little misleading. This Nets team was competitive in most, if not all, of those 70 losses and adding a player of Lebron's caliber would have been the deciding factor in at least 25 of those defeats. This team only has 6 players on the roster next season. So they would have a bench comprised of NBA-DL players. But with a starting 5 that looks like Harris, Lee, James, Bosh/ JianLian, and Brook Lopez I could be their 6th man and the Nets would still win games. If they don't make a move for cap space to acquire another max, they could draft a player like DeMarcus Cousins or Even Turner to fill in for 6th man.
Even if the Nets can't get the cap space to sign another max contract this team, in my opinion, still has a realistic shot. They may have the best supporting cast of any team in the Lebron Sweepstakes.

Final Grade: B/A-
I give the Nets a B if they can't afford another max player.
But if they can finagle the cap space and acquire Chris Bosh it will bump their LBJ grade up to an A-.
If Lebron James makes a purely Basketball decision I would have to think the Nets are one of the most intriguing choices.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Elbow That Took Down the Cavaliers

During the Cleveland Cavaliers playoff run of 2010 we heard a lot about the elbow of Lebron James. He hurt it in the regular season and claimed it would cause his arm to numb periodically during games. We all remember Lebron steping to the free throw line against the Chicago Bulls and shooting the second shot left handed. He received two MRI's on the infamous elbow and both came back negative. It is rumored that it could have been elbow bursitis. I would just like to give some evidence to the effect that elbow had on LBJ's performance. I hope this will clear some of the allegations that he was "faking the injury" from some of the ESPN pundits, Skip Bayless mainly. I will post his stat lines from the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Boston Celtics.

Games 1 and 3 Both were played on three days rest. The Cavaliers won both of those games and LBJ was a huge factor in the victories.
In games 1 and 3 Lebron shot 56.5% from the floor hitting 55.5% of his three pointers and converting 80% of his free throws. He also averaged 36.5 points while grabbing 7.5 rebounds and dishing 7 assists during those two games.

Games 2,4,5 and 6
These four games were played on one day rest. The Cavaliers lost all of these games.
In these games LBJ hit 36.7% of his shots. He shot a pedestrian 11.7% from behind the arc and made 72% of his free throw shots. In those four games he averaged 22 points, 10.3 rebounds and 7.3 assists per game. Those numbers are inflated because of his game 6 performance where he grabbed 19 rebounds. Also game 6 was the only game, on one day rest, that LBJ hit a three pointer (making 2 of 4) the rest of the one day rest games he shot 0 of 13.

So, it's tough to blame a loss on an elbow. It even tougher trying to blame an elbow for a disappointing playoff run. But the numbers speak for themselves. The three days rest obviously helped Lebron and I just posted this curious as to why I was the only person who noticed this trend. I called both of the losses in games 5 and 6 because I noticed this trend. It's a shame I'm not on First Take with Skip Bayless so I can point this out to him.

LeBron James Free Agency Pt.1

Lebron James is the most coveted free agent in the history of professional sports, that comes to mind. He is a fierce defender, great teammate, big fan draw, and he's the two time reigning MVP. He has averaged 27.8 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game over his seven year career. So, it comes as no surprise that teams would be lining up years in advance just to get a sniff at Lebron James in their jersey. The New York Knicks (more on them later) have been trading quality players and draft picks for expiring contracts, expiring contracts for the summer of 2010. I plan on taking a look at each team that has Lebron on the top of their off-season wish list. I will take a look at the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Bulls, Heat, Wizards and finally the Cavaliers. I will also grade each team's chances of acquiring the King. They will be graded on a letter grade scale. There will be no curve. First on the list......

New York Knicks: 29-53

Finishing 32 games behind the league leading Cavaliers.

$34 million dollars of cap space. They could sign two max contracts. James and Bosh or James and Wade. Lebron James would be able to hand pick his Robin and that is something that has to intrigue the King.

It's New York City! New York is the mecca of basketball, or used to be. The Big Apple is the Capital of the world. So much history, entertainment, and status. Lebron could come into town and New Yorkers would say "Jeter Who?" It's a basketball town and Lebron is the best out there.

The Knicks have $34 million dollars of cap space because they have only four players on the payroll. Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Toney Douglas and Bill Walker. Each of those four players are a SG/SF hybrid. This team has no Point Guard or Center. You could expect Bosh to fill in at PF/C and a rotation of bigger SF's like LBJ and Gallinari to sub at PF.

They will use all of their cap space signing Lebron and Bosh and have to fill out the remaining 6 roster spots with free agents signing veteran league minimum deals. It's possible the Knicks could trade either Chandler or Gallinari for another puzzle piece.

It's New York City! The New York media is brutal. If Lebron plays like he did in games 2,4, and 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals the New York media will ask for his head. Here in Northeast Ohio we were upset with his play in those games. We were most upset about his effort in game 5. But Lebron is one of our own so we forgive and forget. Lebron has given us all enough enjoyment of the past 7 years to have an off night every couple of seasons. He won't have that kind of leniency in NYC.

Final Grade: B-

The Knicks are in a good position to land Lebron James. Receiving a B- is still a passing grade and that's something to be proud of. But I can't wait to see the look on those New Yorkers faces when LBJ decides not to join the Knicks squad comprised of shooting guards who refuse to play defense and a coach that doesn't mind skipping over the Defensive Fundamental tapes.