Why Kevin Durant Is The MVP: By @ProfessorCorria

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How can we describe value? What’s valuable to one individual might hold no significance to another party. However, value theory encompasses a range of approaches to understanding how, why and to what degree people value things; whether the thing is a person, idea, object, or anything else. Everyone with two eyes can discern that LeBron James is the best and most complete basketball player in the world, he’s earned that distinction. Does this make him the MVP? Paul George and LaMarcus Aldridge have put together fine seasons thus far, but team success is only one variable to the MVP quotient. Nevertheless using the eye-test and melding it with advanced statistics, Kevin Durant has risen to the top of the sport for the season thus far. Shouldering a huge load with his running mate Russell Westbrook having missed 16 games, Durant has pushed his game to another level, culminating with a cruelly efficient 54-point demolition of the Golden State Warriors. His transformation from wide-eyed, sweet humble kid into a sneering, brutally efficient scoring machine has been a joy to watch.

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                Kevin Durant has been extraordinary this season, and although I feel that LeBron James is the best player on the planet, but Durant has been the most valuable to his team. Is he the most valuable player in the NBA in relation to his team? That’s very hard to quantify, but Durant is on an elite team, so he gets that distinction as being the MVP of the league. Kevin Durant’s “traditional” stats are very good, averages of 30.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 5.1 APG. Durant is shooting 50.2% from the field, 41.1% on 3’s and 88.1% from the charity stripe.  Something that amazed me is that a player who is 6-11 is the most efficient player in the league at scoring on the pick & roll(Per Synergy Sports), where he is used as the primary ball handler. If you take a look at Durant’s “advanced” statistics you can really start to get a closer look at the monster season that Durant is having. Durant is leading the league in Player Efficiency Rating, Win Shares, 3rd in offensive Win Shares, 7th in Defensive Win Shares, and win shares Per 48 minutes(Per Basketball-Reference).

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                KD is the MVP and as he keeps ascending, his game keeps on expanding, he is slowly going to morph in the best player in the league and carry that mantle of “standard bearer” for the NBA. It won’t happen this year but it is coming in the near future and it isn’t a veiled shot at LeBron James, but KD is on the come up. Durant has shown up and shown out this year, while LeBron has sort of coasted, averaging the same name number of blocks per game as Stephen Curry and giving up 46% shooting when isolated on defense which is a great deal higher than anyone on his team and way above the league average(Per Hoop Data). Durant has been incredible this season and I think he will win the MVP trophy, which might be accompanied by another big trophy in June….

Images Courtesy SB Nation and Bleacher report

Flashback Friday: Kobe Bryant AND LeBron James Highlights from the 2008 Olympics

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With the “Summer of LeBron” looming large in the minds of all Basketball fans, Kobe Bryant has let it be known that his first choice of teammates would be non other than LeBron James. Here is a flashback to the 2008 “Redeem Team” in which the United States were led by non other than LeBron James and a “prime” Kobe Bryant. Imagine what could have been?  Here are some videos for your viewing pleasure.

Kobe’s Clutch moments from the 2008 Olympic Championship Game Vs. Spain

LeBron James highlights from the Beijing 2008 Olympics

Why Do You Hate LeBron? BY @ProfessorCorria

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“They fear what they don’t understand, hate what they can’t conquer….I guess it’s just that inferior man became a monster”- Nasir Jones

 

Potential; as opposed to the actual, also capable of being or becoming. We’re all born with potential, an impending promise of what we could become if we live up to expectations and explore all the possibilities which are presented by our God given abilities. So what do you do with an individual who has lived up to their perceived potential? Do you celebrate them for achieving all of what society had projected that they would become or do you move the metaphorical goalposts? Do you crown the conquering young man who you’ve watched develop since he was a fledgling novice or do you skewer him for any slight misstep on his path to glory? What do you do when you accomplish your ultimate goal and it’s still not enough? When an individual ascends to the top of the mountain in sports, one of the last few true meritocracies still left in our society, how can you deny them? We fans, the crowd at the Roman Coliseum, project our value system onto our modern day gladiators and get upset if they cannot live up to the ideals that we ourselves couldn’t aspire to. We never respect the gentle or moderate king, we want our athletes and coaches to act like people that we ourselves would never want to be around or work for. We romanticize the Apex predator, glamorize the cutthroat assassin, and celebrate the leaders who act like dictators or tyrants. Pusha- T was correct when he surmised that “being humble gets no respect.”

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            LeBron James time is now. He’s fulfilled the promise of that first Sports Illustrated cover at age 16, and done it all with a smile on his face. Sure it was fun to poke fun at LeBron James and the Miami Heat when they were struggling in their first season with the “big 3”. Of course it was amusing to snicker at LeBron as he writhed and came up small in the 2011 NBA Finals. However, isn’t it just as enthralling and refreshing to watch him blossom into the complete player and leader that we always thought he could be? Something that was very illuminating was an interview with a James contemporary Kevin Durant after his team was eliminated in the 2nd round of the 2013 Western Conference Playoffs. Durant stated, “Of course, the ultimate goal in this league is to win a championship. But I’m never going to say I wasted a year. I’m blessed to even wake up and do something I love every day. So it’s never wasted.” He continued, “I don’t give a damn, I’m going to be who I’m going to be. I’m not Kobe Bryant. I’m not Michael Jordan. I’m not LeBron James. I’m not Magic Johnson. I’m me. I’m not going to ever compromise myself, my integrity and what I believe in for winning some basketball games and winning a championship. That’s just not how I was brought up.” This statement gave me real pause because the words were so powerful and against the grain. Instantly the thought of James crossed my mind, because he had been hinting around these very same sentiments his entire career. He’s not Jordan, he’s not Magic, he’s not Kobe, he’s LeBron James, in the same way that all those players weren’t like those that came before them.

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            Chew on this bit of data for a moment Oscar Robertson averaged a triple-double during the 1962 season, 30.8 PPG, 12.5 RPG and 11.4 APG, on 48% shooting. However in 1962 the average NBA team totaled an average of 152 possessions per game. In comparison, LeBron James 2013 averages of 26.8 PPG, 8 RPG and 7.3 APG on 57% percent shooting have come on 93 possessions per game. When you turn the TV and listen to commentators, some of which are former players, yes we see you “Tragic” Johnson and we didn’t forget the 1984 Finals that you singlehandedly choked away in 3 separate games vs. your biggest rival, cast aspersions on James depending on the half. People act as if they’ve never stumbled, had a setback or fallen short of their goal and they won’t allow the modern day athlete any room to grow. Where is the perspective, where is the fairness, and why are we always in such a rush to judgment. Remember when Kobe couldn’t win a ring without Shaq? Not far enough back for you? How about when Michael Jordan was a selfish gunner who didn’t make his teammates better and would never win a championship being the leading scorer in the league or be as good as his predecessors Larry, Magic and Dr. J? Why must we always do this obstinate dance? We build up the young talent, crush them when they don’t meet our criterions and then sidle up next to them like fawning romantics once they have their breakthrough? Why do we have to constantly crush our emerging Phenom’s with the weight of the successes that their predecessors enjoyed?

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            LeBron James gets it done, just not in the way that you’re used to and it makes you uncomfortable. One game it might be 35, 10 and 12. The very next it might be 24,18, and 7. He might have 20, 8 and 5 the next night, but hound a top 5 player into a 3-19 shooting night. He’s not like a Kobe or Jordan who’s going to come out and drop 55 on you and call you everything but a child of God while doing it. It’s not him. It’s not in his DNA. Like Dan LeBatard say, “He’s a 6-9, 275 pound basketball calculator, making high efficiency decisions in midair.” His role on the court changes game to game, quarter by quarter, minute by minute and sometimes even possession by possession. LeBron’s athletic ability and size alone generate such a seismic disturbance on the court that his mere presence creates a vacuum that his opponents are constantly trying to avoid him. He always makes the right basketball play. Isn’t that what fans of the game always say they want from NBA players, instead of being a self-interested, callus gunner? It seems as though a great deal of young players like Durant, Paul George, Derek Rose, Kyrie Irving and a myriad of others are following his lead and not trying to be like Kobe’s, Jordan’s and Allen Iverson’s of the world. Is there anything wrong with seeing more efficient team basketball? NO?  Then why the strong outpouring of criticism and dare I say “hate” when he struggles through a half? Do you really hate LeBron or is the reflection in the mirror showing you a portrait of your own missed potential.

D-Wade Is Gone….And He’s Not Coming Back: By @ProfessorCorria

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“This isn’t a diss song, it’s just a real song.”- Sean Carter

Success is fleeting. It’s never meant to be permanent or everlasting. All things eventually come to an end. Empires are created only to one day crumble into the rock of which they were first formed, and even we humans with our grand design, all must return to the primordial soup of which we were created. No living organism, creation or enterprise will ever stand the test of time. The only things that live forever cannot be touched or seen, your reputation, your legend, your impact, these are the only things that can truly last forever. This brings us to Dwayne Wade, the other members of the big three and the Miami Heat. When Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade and LeBron James rose from the stage 1 day after all signing 6 year contracts with the Miami Heat and said they would win 6 or 7 championships the reaction was rapid, but splintered. All of the LeBron James Sycophants and worshipers really believed that this newly formed trio would go on to win a fist full of rings easily, but most people knew better. The fate of this Heat team wouldn’t rest on the greatest physical specimen in the history of sports, rather it would rest on an injury prone 6’4 two guard who had convinced the best player in the NBA to leave the only home he’s ever known and join him in South Beach. Dwayne Wade, James and Chris Bosh were never a seamless fit like the big 3 in Boston, but their talent has overwhelmed their competition to the tune of 3 straight NBA finals appearances. But, for those expecting 3 more consecutive finals appearances with this group should put the Molly Water down and realize that 2013 might be their last Finals trip. Not only have the Heat had the good fortune to see their biggest threat in the west prematurely break their team up, but their conference semi-finals and finals opponents were also decimated by an innumerable amount of injuries. But the biggest reason for skepticism going forward is the unhappiness of Chris Bosh and the physical decline of Dwayne Wade.

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            Dwayne Wade used to be THAT dude. He was a beast going to the rim and you knew he was going to get to the free throw line at least ten times a game as well. In 2006, Wade led the heat to their first ever championship averaging about 35 points a game. Look at him now; does he even resemble that guy anymore? Granted he went to the free throw line a TON in that series in 2006 and Mark Cuban will tell you how the refs gave Miami that series, Wade still turned in an otherworldly performance. After that great 2006 run Wade had two straight years where he missed 31 games each year and you could start to see a little of the tread coming of the tire. To his credit, Wade  did rebound and have his best all-around season, averaging 30.2 points, 7.5 assists, 5 rebounds and a Player Efficiency Rating of 30.4(Career High). But since that season his scoring has dipped year by year 26.6 PPG in 2010, 25.5 PPG in 2011, 22.1 PPG in 2012 and 21.2 PPG in 2013. Do you see where this is going? On a team built around 3 Max-level and 9 mid-level to minimum salaried players the onus falls on the 3 superstars to carry the load. Wasn’t that the entire reason they all “joined forces” in the first place?  In the 2013 playoffs the Heat have been looking like the Miami Cavaliers because of how LeBron has to carry the team on his shoulders. You think he’s sticking around after 2014 to see what the twilight of Wade’s career is going to be like, if were not already watching it?

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            There is a large group of sports fans who see telling the truth as “hate”. If you say something negative about their favorite player then you’re dubbed a “hater”. So it’s someone else’s fault that Wade can’t elevate and finish in traffic anymore? It’s our fault that Wade can beat his man off the dribble or turn the corner anymore? It’s our fault that he hasn’t really added anything new to his game since 2005 and doesn’t have a jumper or post game to fall back on? Dwayne Wade is averaging 14.3 PPG during the playoffs because “he’s just picking his spots?” It’s not that Dwayne Wade is a bad guy or people just hate him, he’s been AWFUL in the playoffs and it’s taking a toll on LeBron James, who looks worn down from carrying the Heat on his back. I’m sure Dwayne Wade is hurt and will need some sort of procedure(s) on his knee once the season ends, and you can turn on First Take and listen to Stephen A. and the Skeletor rant about how now that he’s healthy it will be “Wade’s team” again. So let me get this straight, a 32 year old shooting guard with chronic knee problems is going to come back as good as new? If I wanted to read fairy tales I would crack open a children’s book. The numbers back it up and so does the “eye test”, Dwayne Wade is over the hill, it’s almost time to send him the Glue Factory. This is why people always say enjoy the moment while it lasts, because you never know when your time is up.

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         I’m sure Dwayne Wade will average around 18-20 PPG next year, not hard to do when you have the scariest creature on the planet balling right next to you, and his fans will say “He’s Back!!!” But come playoff time, when he has to deal with the Chicago’s and Indiana’s of the world, he will struggle to score. What Wade is going through happens to all great players at some point or another, whether it happens precipitously or incrementally. The individual that should be paying close attention to this is LeBron James, because he has the chance to opt out of his current deal in 2014 and sign a Max contract with another team, most likely the Cavs or Lakers. But he doesn’t want to stick around in Miami if they’re going to be structured as they are currently constituted, he already said that he is going to where the best Roster can be assembled. Plus, do you think he’s going to want to be carrying around Dwayne wade into his 30’s? SO all you Miami “Fans” should get ready to buy some new hats around July 2014, don’t say the professor didn’t warn you.

NBA Finals Preview by @yeahflanny and @ProfessorCorria

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We here at, The Triangle Offense have been dialed in for the entire NBA Playoffs and today begins the final chapter of the battle for Larry O’Brien trophy. The 2013 NBA Playoffs had a new, fresher look compared to recent years. Perennial powerhouse teams such as the Lakers and Celtics made early exits, while teams like Memphis and Indiana surprised many with their runs to the conference finals. In the end though, the cream rose to the top as arguably the leagues two best teams during the regular season have secured their respective conferences, and will battle for league supremacy.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies

The Spurs, who have enjoyed nearly two weeks of rest after sweeping the Grizzlies will travel to Miami to kick off the 2013 Finals. The Heat, coming off a brutal seven game heavyweight fight with the gritty Pacers seem eager to get right back at it and pick up where they left off in game seven against Indiana. Both teams come in playing their best basketball of the postseason, and as a fan of the game, I cannot wait for this series to kick off. Below, both @professorcorria and I give our insight into the series, some story-lines to look for, match-ups we’re salivating over, and our prediction as to who will be raising a banner this fall.

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Tiago Splitter. I’ve thought about who would be the x-factor in this series, and the usual suspects came to mind, Parker, LeBron, Duncan, but I gotta go with Spurs Center, Tiago Splitter. While his stats don’t jump off the paper (10ppg,7rpg,2apg) he is a huge component of the Spurs success this post-season. He has eased the load on Duncan and his presence down low has allowed Duncan to step away from the basket a bit, and play more of a two man game with Parker. Splitter has converted on 58% of his shots from the field this post season, and is a very good passer for a big man. He even scored 18 against the Heat in the regular season. He’ll be matched up against Unonis Haslem, and this match-up should be fun to watch. Haslem has had some huge scoring games this post season and is the enforcer down low for the Heat. This will be finesse vs strength all series, and the man who prevails will give his team a huge edge. Hey Kawhi, it’s OK, nobody can stop that man, and nobody is expecting you too either. LeBron will have his way with Leonard all series, or any Spur for that matter, but if Leonard can somehow give James fits like Paul George did, it could really throw a wrench in this series. I wouldn’t count on it though, LeBron WILL get off. Now, on the other end of the floor I am very intrigued as to who LeBron will primarily guard. After game seven he said that he expects to spend some time on Tony Parker, much like he’s done with elite PG’s in the past. LeBron at the top of the key wreaking havoc and getting out in transition could really hurt San Antonio. Now, could we possibly see LeBron guarding Duncan? Barring a switch on a screen, it’s very unlikely, but man would that be fun. The big fundamental going at the most athletic and intimidating player in the league. Please someone, anyone make that happen. What Wade and Bosh will we see in the Finals? Well, Bosh will be pitted up against the greatest power forward of all time, so I’m not expecting much from him, especially since he hasn’t really been able to put it together all postseason. Wade on the other hand has had some severe lows and some “highs” throughout the playoffs, but overall it’s been tough to even watch. Game seven against Indiana aside, Wade has been downright atrocious, considering what we and even LeBron came to expect from him. If Wade can get to the rim, get out and transition, and make those plays that we cam to expect from “Flash” then I would give the Heat a big advantage. I just don’t see THAT Wade showing up, as I’m just about convinced THAT Dwayne Wade no longer exists.

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I cannot stress enough how excited I am for this series. In the east I never once doubted that Miami would reach the Finals, as LeBron James is the baddest man on the planet. While D Wade is now a shell of his old self, and Bosh looks severely out of sync out there, LeBron is just THAT good, and can will nearly anyone to the Finals as we seen in 2007, when he wasn’t nearly half the player he is today. On the contrary, I actually felt the Memphis Grizzles would not only show up, but beat the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Memphis was extremely hot after beating OKC, and I thought they’d give the “seasoned” Spurs fits with their youthful exuberance, boy was I wrong. Timmy D, who surely discovered the fountain of youth this season and his running mate Tony Parker took budding stars Marc Gasol and Mike Conley to school all series long. With those two playing up to their Finals MVP level of the past, and with the mastermind that is “Pop” on the bench, beating the Spurs will be a formidable task, and a task that I don’t believe the Heat will be able to complete. While the Heat have both home court and the best player in the world on their side, I cannot bet against this Spurs team, and their brain-trust, again. I bet against the Spurs last round, and I won’t make that mistake again. This well oiled machine doesn’t look like it’ll breakdown anytime soon, certainly not over the next six or seven games. So, there is it, as much as it hurts me to bet against “The King”, something I rarely do, I’m having a hard time envisioning him beating the Spurs will the little amount of help I expect he’ll get. This series can easily go either way, and many have pegged the Heat as the favorites, and understandably so, but Flanny’s on record as saying, Spurs in 6.

@ProfessorCorria :

OK, now that you’ve read Flanny’s analysis let me tie this in a neat bow. The Miami Heat have the best player in this series, which means that if Dwayne Wade is done point shaving and Chris Bosh decides it’s safe to come outside and play the Heat will win. Although the Spurs are a much better and the more well-rounded team than the Indiana Pacers, they are a much easier matchup for the Heat than the Pacers. The spurs have a very nice inside game with Duncan and Splitter, but they won’t be pushing around the Miami Heat like neighborhood bullies like Indiana did. You can be sure that the Miami Heat bigs are very happy that they don’t have to see David West and Roy Hibbert anymore. The key for the Spurs will be trying to corral Miami’s perimeter attack, which will prove much more difficult than containing the Memphis Grizzlies anemic wings and guards. Eric Spolestra is a very good coach but Greg Popavich “does this” and will have his team prepared and in position to win. If Miami does win, they’ll have to work, because the Spurs coaching staff will make it difficult for them to do what they want to do.

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I’m going with Miami in 6, even though conventional wisdom would tell you that the Spurs are going to win, especially because Dwayne Wade has been playing like a young John Bagley during the playoffs. LeBron James came to Miami so he wouldn’t have to carry his team anymore and during most of the playoffs he had to be looking at Dwayne Wade and thinking to himself, “Hmmmm.. I wonder what Mo Williams is doing right now.” They are in the finals, but the Heat are walking a slippery slope, because if they aren’t on point every game, the Spurs will out execute them into the ground. LeBron James has reached the level where I simply don’t bet against him. He truly is the best player we’ve seen since Michael Jordan and he is at the peak of his powers. But, one thing that rings true above all else is that the NBA is a make or miss league. Either you make shots or you don’t and I think the Miami Heat will make a few more corner threes then the Spurs. But I could be wrong, enjoy the finals!