Monday, December 15, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings Week 8

Since Kevin Durant made his season debut seven games ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder have won their past six games in a row.

All six of those wins have come against teams that missed the playoffs last year and although the Cleveland Cavaliers still remain the favorites (based on Vegas odds) to win it all, the Cavs were without LeBron James (knee) when they faced the Thunder last week.

That said, the Thunder have beaten the opponents on their schedule and are now just two games under .500 and only one-half game behind the Phoenix Suns, who currently occupy the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Their next game is against the Kings, who have been without DeMarcus Cousins for nine consecutive games and have lost eight of their past 10 games. Before his bout with viral meningitis, Cousins had seven consecutive double-doubles with at least 22 points and 10 rebounds.

Assuming the Thunder beat the DMC-less Kings, they will try to get back to .500 against the Golden State Warriors, who have now won 16 consecutive games.

Kobe Bryant moves into third all-time in scoring

While Magic Johnson would like the Lakers to lose all of their remaining games to get the highest 2015 NBA Draft pick as possible, it should come as no surprise that Kobe Bryant isn't on board with that philosophy.

Unfortunately for the Lakers, if their first-round pick is outside of the top-five selections, they will send that selection to Phoenix as part of the deal that led to the acquisition of Steve Nash.

That said, the Lakers have won three consecutive games and five of their past eight games.

Despite shooting a career-low 38.6 percent from the field in his 19th NBA season, Bryant is one of the all-time greatest scorers the game has ever seen. With 26 points last night against the Timberwolves, Bryant moved past Michael Jordan for third all-time in the career scoring list.

Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387) and Karl Malone (36,928) have more career points than Bryant (32,310). Meanwhile, Jordan (30.12) and Wilt Chamberlain (30.07) are the only two players that have averaged more than 30 points per game over their careers; Bryant is 10th on that list at 25.46 PPG.

It's unlikely that Bryant plays long enough to catch Malone.

Pau Gasol, the double-double machine

Bryant's ex-teammate Pau Gasol is currently tied with three others for the most double-doubles (14) this season.

Averaging 19.0 points and a career-high 11.9 rebounds per game, Gasol had just nine points and nine rebounds on Sunday, but he had double-doubles in all of his previous eight games. Of the six games in which he has not had a double-double this season, Gasol was short by one point and/or one rebound in four of those games.

In other words, Gasol has 18 games (out of his 20 games played) this season with nine-plus points and nine-plus rebounds.

Gasol had 30 double-doubles in 60 games last season and only 15 of them in 49 games in the 2012-13 season.

Here are my Week 8 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Golden State Warriors (Record 21-2, Last Week 1)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (Record 19-4, Last Week 2)
3. San Antonio Spurs (Record 17-7, Last Week 3)
4. Houston Rockets (Record 18-5, Last Week 5)
5. Portland Trail Blazers (Record 18-6, Last Week 4)
6. Toronto Raptors (Record 18-6, Last Week 6)
7. Washington Wizards (Record 17-6, Last Week 10)
8. Los Angeles Clippers (Record 16-7, Last Week 9)
9. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record 13-9, Last Week 7)
10. Dallas Mavericks (Record 17-8, Last Week 8)
11. Chicago Bulls (Record 15-8, Last Week 11)
12. Atlanta Hawks (Record 16-7, Last Week 12)
13. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record 11-13, Last Week 16)
14. Phoenix Suns (Record 12-13, Last Week 13)
15. Sacramento Kings (Record 11-13, Last Week 14)
16. Miami Heat (Record 11-13, Last Week 15)
17. New Orleans Pelicans (Record 11-12, Last Week 18)
18. Milwaukee Bucks (Record 12-12, Last Week 17)
19. Denver Nuggets (Record 10-14, Last Week 19)
20. Brooklyn Nets (Record 10-12, Last Week 20)
21. Los Angeles Lakers (Record 8-16, Last Week 24)
22. Orlando Magic (Record 10-16, Last Week 22)
23. Indiana Pacers (Record 7-17, Last Week 23)
24. Boston Celtics (Record 7-14, Last Week 21)
25. Charlotte Hornets (Record 6-17, Last Week 25)
26. Utah Jazz (Record 6-18, Last Week 26)
27. Detroit Pistons (Record 5-19, Last Week 29)
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record 5-18, Last Week 27)
29. New York Knicks (Record 5-21, Last Week 28)
30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record 2-21, Last Week 30)

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Monday, December 8, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings Week 7

The day was Tuesday, November 11th.

That was the last time that the Golden State Warriors lost a game. In fact, it was the second of back-to-back losses against the Suns and Spurs.

Other than those two games, however, they haven't lost another game this season and they carry a league-best 12-game winning streak and 17-2 record into this week.

From a team statistical standpoint, the Warriors lead the league in point differential (+10.9) while ranking third in scoring (107.1 points per game) and seventh in team defense (96.2 PPG).

In addition, they rank first in the league in assists (26.1/G), third in rebounding (45.6/G) and second in three-point shooting percentage (.384).

Point guard Stephen Curry is averaging 23.2 points, 7.7 assists and 1.9 steals per game in just 32.8 minutes per game. Curry played 38.2 and 36.5 minutes per game in each of the past two seasons so Curry's scoring and assists numbers are down slightly year over year.

On a per-36 basis, however, Curry is averaging a career-high 25.5 points, 8.5 assists and 2.1 steals. In addition, Curry is once again converting on more than 40 percent of his three-point attempts and is making at least two per game.

Assuming that Curry maintains that pace, it will mark the sixth consecutive season he has done so to start his career. To put that into perspective, only two other players in the history of the NBA have six such seasons: Ray Allen (seven) and Reggie Miller (six).

Pistons on 12-game losing streak, giving Sixers run for their money No. 1 pick

While the Pistons have won more recently (Friday, November 14th) than the Warriors last lost, Detroit is on a 12-game losing streak, the longest active losing streak.

One of their recent losses was to the Sixers in overtime on Saturday. In fact, the Sixers have now won two of their past three games and the Pistons now only have one more win than the Sixers.

Detroit has really struggled to score as they average just 93.1 points per game, third-worst in the league, and they rank last in the league in FG percentage (40.7 percent) and second worst in FT percentage (68.9 percent).

As bad as Detroit has been, there is a strong chance that they could lose their next six games as well.

The Pistons host the Blazers on Tuesday, then they head on the road to face the Suns, Kings and Clippers before returning home to host the Mavericks and Raptors. Perhaps the Kings still won't have DeMarcus Cousins back for their matchup on Saturday, but the Pistons should be underdogs in all six of those games.

Cavs turning things around

After a 5-7 start, the Cavaliers have won their past six games. Some of those matchups were against poor teams, but wins are wins and two of those wins were over the Wizards and Raptors.

During their six-game winning streak, the Cavs have scored 100-plus points in all but one game and held their opponents to less than 100 points in all but one game.

Meanwhile, LeBron James is averaging 24.3 points, 10.2 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game during that six-game span. James has double-digit assists in three consecutive games and in five of his past seven games.

With Kevin Durant returning last week, fans will get treated to a KD-versus-LeBron matchup later this week.

Here are my Week 7 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Golden State Warriors (Record 17-2, Last Week 2)
2. Memphis Grizzlies (Record 16-4, Last Week 1)
3. San Antonio Spurs (Record 15-5, Last Week 3)
4. Portland Trail Blazers (Record 16-4, Last Week 4)
5. Houston Rockets (Record 16-4, Last Week 5)
6. Toronto Raptors (Record 15-5, Last Week 6)
7. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record 11-7, Last Week 11)
8. Dallas Mavericks (Record 16-6, Last Week 7)
9. Los Angeles Clippers (Record 14-5, Last Week 9)
10. Washington Wizards (Record 13-6, Last Week 10)
11. Chicago Bulls (Record 12-8, Last Week 8)
12. Atlanta Hawks (Record 13-6, Last Week 15)
13. Phoenix Suns (Record 12-9, Last Week 12)
14. Sacramento Kings (Record 10-10, Last Week 13)
15. Miami Heat (Record 9-11, Last Week 14)
16. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record 7-13, Last Week 19)
17. Milwaukee Bucks (Record 11-11, Last Week 17)
18. New Orleans Pelicans (Record 9-10, Last Week 18)
19. Denver Nuggets (Record 9-11, Last Week 16)
20. Brooklyn Nets (Record 8-10, Last Week 21)
21. Boston Celtics (Record 7-11, Last Week 24)
22. Orlando Magic (Record 9-14, Last Week 22)
23. Indiana Pacers (Record 7-13, Last Week 20)
24. Los Angeles Lakers (Record 5-16, Last Week 28)
25. Charlotte Hornets (Record 5-15, Last Week 26)
26. Utah Jazz (Record 5-15, Last Week 23)
27. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record 4-15, Last Week 25)
28. New York Knicks (Record 4-18, Last Week 27)
29. Detroit Pistons (Record 3-18, Last Week 29)
30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record 2-18, Last Week 30)

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Kevin Durant to make season debut on Tuesday

One game after Russell Westbrook returned from his multi-week hand injury, the Oklahoma City Thunder will get back Kevin Durant for tonight's game against the New Orleans Pelicans.

The initial timetable for Durant was six to eight weeks and he's returning in the early part of that range so naturally he'll be on a minutes restriction in his debut -- and probably for his first few games.

Per Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman, Durant's minutes will be limited to "around 30 minutes" for tonight's game.

Winning the league's scoring title in four of the past five seasons, Durant averaged a career-high 32.0 points per game last season with 7.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. He was only the fourth player in league history to average 32/7/5 and the other three were Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor.

Durant should obviously be started in all seasonal leagues, but I'd probably fade him in daily fantasy leagues given the minutes restriction and expected rust and conditioning levels in his first game back.

Only LeBron James ($11,600) and Anthony Davis ($11,500) are priced higher than Durant ($11,400) on DraftKings. Davis ($11,600), James ($10,800) and DeMarcus Cousins ($10,400) are the only players priced higher on FanDuel than the Durant ($10,000).

With Westbrook and Durant back, the Thunder are currently 4.5 games behind the Phoenix Suns for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.

Monday, December 1, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: Week 6

When healthy, the Oklahoma City Thunder are one of the few elite teams in the NBA.

Although they are only 5-12 through the first 17 games after winning back-to-back games, they are getting healthy as Russell Westbrook returned from his multi-week hand injury to drop 32 points in just 24 minutes and he added eight assists, seven rebounds and a steal.

Not only has Westbrook returned, but Kevin Durant, the NBA's reigning MVP, is on the verge of returning from his foot injury. Durant is listed as questionable for Tuesday's game, but he's likely to return at some point within the next week if he doesn't return on Tuesday.

Based on odds from, only four teams have better odds to win the NBA Championship than the Thunder (12/1): Cavs (3/1), Spurs (9/2), Warriors (13/2) and Bulls (10/1).

Here are my Week 6 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 15-2, Last Week: 1): In the final year of his existing contract, Marc Gasol is having a career-best season (20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.5 blocks per game). Gasol is the only player in the league averaging a 20/8/3/1/1 line this season.

2. Golden State Warriors (Record: 14-2, Last Week: 2): The Warriors have the league's longest active winning streak (nine games).

3. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 12-4, Last Week: 5): The Spurs have won seven games in a row and that streak began against the Sixers, who is also their Monday night opponent. With games in back-to-back nights, we'll likely see a lot of Matt Bonner, who led them in scoring vs. Philly on Nov. 17th, and very little, if any, of Tim Duncan and usual starters tonight.

4. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 13-4, Last Week: 6): The Blazers currently rank in the top six in the NBA in scoring (104.2 PPG), rebounding (48.1 RPG), assists (24.0 APG) as well as defense (96.2 PPG allowed).

5. Houston Rockets (Record: 13-4, Last Week: 3): With Dwight Howard (and others) sidelined, James Harden continues to put up dominant stat-stuffing numbers. Harden is averaging 28.8 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.6 steals and 1.4 blocks over his past five games.

6. Toronto Raptors (Record: 13-4, Last Week: 4): After tearing his adductor longus tendon, DeMar DeRozan hopes to return in four weeks. Stepping into the starting lineup, Greivis Vasquez scored 19 points with five assists, but the Raptors have now lost back-to-back games.

7. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 13-5, Last Week: 9): Even though Dirk Nowitzki is playing just 28.6 minutes per game, the fewest since his rookie season, Nowitzki is averaging 24.4 points per 36 minutes, which is his most since the 2008-09 season (24.7).

8. Chicago Bulls (Record: 11-6, Last Week: 8): In the games that Derrick Rose has played at least 20 minutes, the Bulls are 7-1. In the games he hasn't, they are 4-5.

9. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 11-5, Last Week: 11): Even with DeAndre Jordan (11.6 RPG) and Blake Griffin (7.5 RPG), the Clippers have been one of the worst rebounding teams in the league this season. Only the Heat (36.9/G) average fewer rebounds per game than the Clippers (37.9/G). Only the Sixers (-5.7/G) and Heat (-3.7/G) are worse in terms of rebounding differential.

10. Washington Wizards (Record: 10-5, Last Week: 7): Marcin Gortat had his best game of the season against the Pelicans on Saturday night. The Polish Hammer finished with a season-high 24 points and 13 rebounds, which ties a season high. It was his third double-double in the past four games.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record: 8-7, Last Week: 14): Last year, Kevin Love led the NBA in 20/10 games (50). DeMarcus Cousins was second with 40 of them. While Love certainly won't get 50 of them this year, he did get his third 20/10 game of the season on Saturday with a season-high 28 points and 10 boards.

12. Phoenix Suns (Record: 10-8, Last Week: 10): In his four games last week, Markieff Morris averaged 14.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, but the Suns dropped three of those four games.

13. Sacramento Kings (Record: 9-8, Last Week: 12): DeMarcus Cousins has missed back-to-back games, but he has an active streak of five games with 22-plus points and 12-plus rebounds. Since the 2011-12 season, there have been only two longer streaks: Kevin Love (seven games) and LaMarcus Aldridge (six).

14. Miami Heat (Record: 9-7, Last Week: 13): After a seven-game absence, Dwyane Wade returned to score a season-high 27 points in the win over the Knicks. Wade now has scored 20-plus points in five consecutive games (that he has played), which ties his longest such streak of last season.

15. Atlanta Hawks (Record: 9-6, Last Week: 16): Paul Millsap is currently tied with John Wall for the league lead in steals per game (2.33) and only Anthony Davis has more games with at least 10 points, eight rebounds and two steals this season.

16. Denver Nuggets (Record: 8-8, Last Week: 18): Ty Lawson has seven double-doubles in his past nine games and he was just one assist shy of double-doubles in the other two games during that span.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (Record: 10-8, Last Week: 17): Rookie Jabari Parker had his best week of his young career. In his four games played last week, Parker averaged 13.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

18. New Orleans Pelicans (Record: 7-8, Last Week: 15): Getting more minutes (averaging 27/G over past four games), Austin Rivers has been really shooting the ball poorly since scoring 17 points on Nov. 17th. In his past seven games, Rivers has made just eight of 41 shot attempts (19.5 percent).

19. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record: 5-12, Last Week: 25): As noted above, the Thunder are finally getting (close to) healthy and while they may be fighting an uphill battle after their slow start, they are still one of the favorites to win it all.

20. Indiana Pacers (Record: 7-10, Last Week: 19): With the exception of perhaps the Thunder, no team has been as devastated by injuries as the Pacers, but they have at least one key player back. In his two games back, David West averaged 16.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in 24.0 minutes per game and should eventually see his minutes increase.

21. Brooklyn Nets (Record: 6-9, Last Week: 20): All six of Brooklyn's wins this season have come against teams with a losing record. Seven of their opponents thus far currently have a winning record and the Nets have lost all seven of those matchups.

22. Orlando Magic (Record: 7-12, Last Week: 22): Only the Kings have a worse turnover differential than the Magic and only the Rockets, Kings and Sixers have a lower assist-to-turnover ratio than Orlando. Rookie Elfrid Payton leads the team in assists with 4.9 per game.

23. Utah Jazz (Record: 5-12, Last Week: 21): One of the things the Jazz have done well is keep opponents off the free-throw line. Only the Hornets (.233) have a lower opponent's free-throw attempt rate than the Jazz (.236).

24. Boston Celtics (Record: 4-10, Last Week: 23): Since the 2010-11 season, no player has more triple-doubles than Rajon Rondo (16); LeBron James is second (nine). In his nine games since his triple-double this season, however, Rondo has only two double-doubles including none in the past five games.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 4-11, Last Week: 28): Mo Williams has three consecutive double-doubles and has averaged 19.0 points and 11.3 assists during that span.

26. Charlotte Hornets (Record: 4-14, Last Week: 24): With a winning record (.524) last year and only their second playoff appearance in the previous 10 seasons, expectations were high for the Hornets. Unfortunately, their 4-14 (.222) start is much more similar (at least so far) to the very lean years of 2011-12 (7-59, .106) and 2012-13 (21-61, .256).

27. New York Knicks (Record: 4-14, Last Week: 26): Missing two games, Carmelo Anthony returned to score 31 points (11-of-26 shooting) with eight rebounds, but the Knicks lost their fourth consecutive game and now 13th out of their past 15 games.

28. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 4-13, Last Week: 29): With his triple-double against the Raptors Sunday night, Kobe Bryant became the oldest player to ever record a 30/10/10 triple-double.

29. Detroit Pistons (Record: 3-14, Last Week: 27): The Pistons currently rank last in the NBA in points per shot (1.10) and only the Sixers (66.9 percent) are shooting worse at the free-throw line the Pistons (67.5 percent). No other team in the league is shooting below 70 percent from the line.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record: 0-16, Last Week: 30): Rookie K.J. McDaniels has played 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games and the extremely athletic rookie followed up a game of 18 points and six boards with a 21/13 double-double and nine of those boards were offensive rebounds.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: Week 5

Here are my Week 5 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 12-2, Last Week: 1): Grizzlies center Marc Gasol now has eight games of 20-plus points this season. Gasol had just eight 20-point games (out of 59) last season. Since Gasol returned from injury on Jan. 14, 2014, the Grizzlies have an NBA-best record (45-15, .750).

Surprisingly, the Grizzlies have just the sixth-lowest odds to win the Western Conference based on odds from

2. Golden State Warriors (Record: 10-2, Last Week: 3): Marreese Speights has played only 158 minutes in 11 games, but he leads the NBA in points per 36 minutes (29.5) and in points per 100 possessions (39.5).

3. Houston Rockets (Record: 10-3, Last Week: 2): James Harden is shooting a career-low 39.1 percent from the field, but he is shooting a career-high 89.5 percent from the line and making a league-high 9.2 free throws per game.

4. Toronto Raptors (Record: 11-2, Last Week: 6): The Raptors currently lead the NBA in point differential (+12.2). They rank second in the league in scoring offense (106.9 per game) and sixth in scoring defense (94.7 per game).

5. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 9-4, Last Week: 5): Tony Parker is a career 32.1-percent shooter from three-point range, but he has made 63.6 percent of his attempts this season. His career-best percentage is 39.5 percent (2006-07).

6. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 10-3, Last Week: 9): Since starting the season 3-3, the Blazers have won seven consecutive games, the longest active winning streak in the NBA, and will face the winless Sixers on Monday night.

7. Washington Wizards (Record: 9-3, Last Week: 8): In his three games since returning from injury, Bradley Beal is averaging 16.7 points, 4.7 points and 1.3 steals per game in 30.7 minutes per game off the bench.

8. Chicago Bulls (Record: 8-5, Last Week: 7): Derrick Rose, who has missed the past four games due to a hamstring injury, may or may not play Monday night. If he's unable to play tonight, however, he is confident that he'll return for Tuesday's matchup against the Nuggets.

9. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 10-4, Last Week: 11): Brandan Wright had his first double-double (14 points, 11 rebounds) on Saturday against the Rockets and has now scored in double digits in seven consecutive games. Wright has yet to shoot below .545 in any game this season and he leads the league with a .785 field goal percentage.

10. Phoenix Suns (Record: 9-5, Last Week: 16): Among players with no starts this season, Isaiah Thomas (15.4 PPG) and Gerald Green (14.2) rank second and fourth in the NBA in per-game scoring. In addition, Thomas is currently leading all Suns players in scoring.

11. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 7-5, Last Week: 10): Chris Paul continues to lead the NBA in assist/turnover ratio (6.33). If he continues to average 9.5-plus assists per game and 1.5 turnovers (or less) per game, CP3 will become the first player in league history to do so for a full season.

12. Sacramento Kings (Record: 8-5, Last Week: 13): The Kings lead the NBA in offensive rebound percentage (30.0) and rebound percentage (55.4).

13. Miami Heat (Record: 8-6, Last Week: 14): Over the past six games with Dwyane Wade sidelined, Mario Chalmers has averaged 20.0 points, 7.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game.

14. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record: 5-7, Last Week: 4): Four games last week. Four losses last week. With LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love & Co. are still adjusting to each other, the Cavs averaged just 89.5 points in those four losses.

15. New Orleans Pelicans (Record: 7-5, Last Week: 12): Anthony Davis is averaging 26.3 points, 11.4 rebounds, 3.5 blocks and 2.0 steals per game. The last player to average 26/11/3/2 is, well, nobody.

16. Atlanta Hawks (Record: 6-5, Last Week: 15): Fourteen different players have seen the court for the Hawks this season. All 14 of them are averaging double-digit minutes.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (Record: 7-7, Last Week: 17): The Bucks already have seven wins and compared to last season, it's more than a month earlier than they got their seventh win last year, which occurred on New Year's Eve against the Lakers. (And then they went 1-14 in January.)

18. Denver Nuggets (Record: 6-7, Last Week: 28): After a 1-6 start to the season, the Nuggets have won five of their past six games including the previous four games. Having another perfect week will be tough, however, as they face the Bulls on Tuesday and then have a home-and-home with the Suns this week.

19. Indiana Pacers (Record: 5-8, Last Week: 20): Although Roy Hibbert will miss Monday's game with an ankle injury, David West is close to returning and even Paul George has hopes (albeit unlikely ones) of returning this season.

20. Brooklyn Nets (Record: 5-8, Last Week: 18): Deron Williams currently ranks fifth in the league in minutes per game and Williams is one of three players with double-digit games of 15-plus points and five-plus assists this season. The other two are Stephen Curry and James Harden.

21. Utah Jazz (Record: 5-9, Last Week: 23): Only the Lakers (11) have allowed more 100-point games to their opponents than the Jazz (10) this season.

22. Orlando Magic (Record: 6-9, Last Week: 26): Nikola Vucevic currently leads the NBA in double-doubles with 11 of them in 15 games this season.

23. Boston Celtics (Record: 4-8, Last Week: 21): The Celtics rank last in the league in FTA Rate (.220), which measures how often a team gets to the free-throw line in relation to field-goal attempts.

24. Charlotte Hornets (Record: 4-10, Last Week: 19): Expectations were high for the Hornets entering the season, but they have now lost five games in a row and seven of their past eight games.

25. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record: 3-12, Last Week: 22): Although Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant will be back in the near future, Reggie Jackson is one of just two players in the league to currently average at least 20 points, seven assists and five boards per game. The other is Golden State's Stephen Curry.

26. New York Knicks (Record: 4-10, Last Week: 24): The Knicks currently lead the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (40.6 percent). The Knicks have eight players averaging at least one three-point shot per game and five of them are shooting at least 40 percent from behind the arc.

27. Detroit Pistons (Record: 3-10, Last Week: 25): After shooting 60.8 and 62.3 percent from the field in his first two seasons, respectively, Andre Drummond is shooting just 39.7 percent from the field this year although he's shooting a career-high 43.6 percent from the free-throw line.

28. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 3-9, Last Week: 27): The T'Wolves have managed to keep their opponents from scoring 100-plus points in three games. They are tied with the Celtics and Lakers to rank last in the league in that category.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 3-11, Last Week: 29): Jordan Hill has an active streak of six consecutive games with 10-plus points and 10-plus rebounds, which is tied with Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins for the longest such streak this season.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record: 0-13, Last Week: 30): This tweet says it all:

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Monday, November 17, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: Week 4

Here are my Week 4 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 9-1, Last Week: 1): Earlier in the week, the Grizz allowed the Kings to build a 26-point lead, but they came back to win the game by one point. That makes the team's largest come-from-behind win in franchise history.

2. Houston Rockets (Record: 9-1, Last Week: 3): The Rockets lead the NBA in Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions) at 91.5.

3. Golden State Warriors (Record: 8-2, Last Week: 2): Over past six games, Stephen Curry has four double-doubles (two with points and assists and two with points and rebounds). During that span, Curry is averaging 27.67 points, 6.33 rebounds and 7.16 assists per game.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record: 5-3, Last Week: 10): Aside from Anthony Morrow, who has played only three games this season, Kyrie Irving leads the league in fourth-quarter scoring (7.9 per game).

5. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 5-4, Last Week: 9): Tim Duncan has yet to score 20 points in a game this season, but he has six double-doubles in eight games.

6. Toronto Raptors (Record: 8-2, Last Week: 4): Jonas Valunciunas got a season-high 34 minutes in the team's last game and delivered a 17-point, 14-board double-double. It's his second double-double of the season.

7. Chicago Bulls (Record: 7-3, Last Week: 5): The Bulls are one of two teams that are perfect on the road, but they are only 2-3 at home this year.

8. Washington Wizards (Record: 7-2, Last Week: 7): Playing 36 minutes per game in the team's first five games, Marcin Gortat had three double-doubles and averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game. In his past four games, however, The Polish Hammer is averaging just 8.5 points and 7.75 rebounds.

9. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 7-3, Last Week: 14): Damian Lillard currently leads the league in three-pointers made (33) and he has connected on 14-of-20 three's in his past three games.

10. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 5-3, Last Week: 8): DeAndre Jordan has 31 rebounds and 10 blocked shots in his past two games.

11. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 7-3, Last Week: 13): The Mavericks currently lead the NBA in Offensive Rating (points per 100 possessions) at 115.0.

12. New Orleans Pelicans (Record: 5-3, Last Week: 11): The Pelicans currently lead the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio at 2.12.

13. Sacramento Kings (Record: 6-4, Last Week: 12): The Kings commit the second-most personal fouls, but they also make (28.5) and take (35.1) more free throw attempts than any other team.

14. Miami Heat (Record: 5-5, Last Week: 6): With Dwyane Wade sitting out on back-to-back games, the Heat have dropped three consecutive games to fall to .500. On Monday night, they will face the Nets, who have also lost three consecutive games.

15. Atlanta Hawks (Record: 5-4, Last Week: 20): The Hawks got throttled by the Cavs on Saturday (31-point loss). In their other three losses, the Hawks lost by a total of 12 points.

16. Phoenix Suns (Record: 5-5, Last Week: 16): Alex Len had his second double-double of the season in the team's last game with 17 points and 11 boards. In his seven games between double-doubles, Len is averaging 3.1 points and 3.4 rebounds per game.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (Record: 5-5, Last Week: 24): Only the Rockets have a better Defensive Rating than the Bucks (94.7) so far this season.

18. Brooklyn Nets (Record: 4-5, Last Week: 15): After making 12-of-25 three's in his first five games, Joe Johnson has made just 2-of-10 from behind the arc in the past four games.

19. Charlotte Bobcats (Record: 4-6, Last Week: 17): In his first nine games, Lance Stephenson was averaging 10.56 rebounds per game with at least seven in each game. In his most recent game, Stephenson had no rebounds.

20. Indiana Pacers (Record: 4-7, Last Week: 28): Despite their slew of injuries, the Pacers won three of four games last week.

21. Boston Celtics (Record: 3-5, Last Week: 19): Per 40 minutes, Rajon Rondo is nearly averaging a triple-double -- 12.2 points, 14.4 assists and 9.8 rebounds.

22. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record: 3-8, Last Week: 18): Reggie Jackson is averaging 21.5 points, 7.6 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game this season.

23. Utah Jazz (Record: 4-7, Last Week: 21): In his past four games, Gordon Hayward has alternated hot and cold shooting nights: 30 points (11 of 15 from field), 11 (five of 16), 33 (11 of 18) and 12 (three of 10).

24. New York Knicks (Record: 3-8, Last Week: 22): The Knicks have struggled defending the three-point line. They allow a league-high 42.0 percent from behind the arc and only the Mavs and Lakers allow more made three's than the Knicks.

25. Detroit Pistons (Record: 3-7, Last Week: 25): Only DeMarcus Cousins and Dwight Howard are averaging more personal fouls per game than Drummond, who is playing just 27.8 minutes per game. Drummond is averaging 8.4 points and 11.2 rebounds per game.

26. Orlando Magic (Record: 4-7, Last Week: 27): Nikola Vucevic is currently tied the league lead in double-doubles with seven and is averaging 18.2 points and 11.5 rebounds per game.

27. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 2-7, Last Week: 23): Andrew Wiggins is currently tied with Jabari Parker for the lead in scoring average (10.6 per game) among rookies.

28. Denver Nuggets (Record: 2-7, Last Week: 26): Since opening the season with a win, the Nuggets have lost seven of eight games.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 1-9, Last Week: 29): With Kobe Bryant shooting so much, one of the benefits is that the Lakers leads the league in offensive rebounding (13.2 per game) and Jordan Hill (4.8/G) leads the league.

30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record: 0-9, Last Week: 30): I'm not sure who would throw their money away, but the 76ers have 9,999/1 odds to win the NBA Championship based on odds from The Magic are second worst with 1,250/1 odds.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: Week 3

The NBA season is young and there are plenty of surprises. One example, the Kings have more wins than the Spurs and Cavs.


With that said, here are my Week 3 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 6-1, Last Week: 6): I tend to be higher on the Grizzlies than most, but they are often underrated and currently lead the NBA in scoring defense (87.6 PPG).

2. Golden State Warriors (Record: 5-1, Last Week: 1): Leading the NBA in scoring, Stephen Curry had a double-double (28 points, 10 assists) with five steals on Sunday, but he also had 10 turnovers as well. That is a league high in turnovers this season.

3. Houston Rockets (Record: 6-1, Last Week: 7): Averaging 25.4 points per game (like last year), James Harden is averaging career highs in boards (6.7/G) and assists (7.1/G) through seven games.

4. Toronto Raptors (Record: 6-1, Last Week: 12): The Raptors lead the NBA in scoring offense (107.4 PPG) and scoring differential (+11.5).

5. Chicago Bulls (Record: 5-2, Last Week: 5): After averaging a league-low 93.7 PPG last year, the Bulls are scoring 104.3 PPG (sixth in NBA) this season as Jimmy Butler leads the team with 19.6 PPG (13.1/G last year).

6. Miami Heat (Record: 5-2, Last Week: 9): Chris Bosh has scored 20-plus points in all seven games this season. In his previous four seasons with the Heat, Bosh never scored 20-plus in more than five games, which he did in 2010.

7. Washington Wizards (Record: 5-2, Last Week: 11): With a current W/L percentage of .714 early in the season, the Wizards are off to a great start. If they manage to win 60 percent (or more) of their games, it will be the first time the franchise has done so since the 1978-79 season.

8. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 4-2, Last Week: 8): The Clippers lead the league in turnover differential (-7.8) and A/TO ratio (2.13). Chris Paul has 63 assists and just five turnovers through six games.

9. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 2-3, Last Week: 2): Based on NBA futures from Vegas, the Spurs still have the best odds (6/1) among Western Conference teams to win it all ...

10. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record: 2-3, Last Week: 3): ... and while the Cavs are trying to build chemistry and play unselfishly, they are still the favorites to win it all (3/1).

11. New Orleans Pelicans (Record: 3-2, Last Week: 13): Among players getting 20-plus minutes per game, no player has a higher PER (Player Efficiency Rating) than Anthony Davis (34.89) — Golden State's Stephen Curry (29.89) is second.

12. Sacramento Kings (Record: 5-2, Last Week: 15): There are a number of reasons why the Kings are off to a strong (surprising) start. Through Sunday's games, they lead the NBA in rebounding (47.4/G) and get to and make more free throws than any other team (30.1 FTM/G, 37.3 FTA/G).

13. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 4-3, Last Week: 4): The Mavs currently lead the NBA in Offensive Rating (number of points scored per 100 possessions) with 112.0.

14. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 4-3, Last Week: 14): The starting lineup of LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum, Damian Lillard, Robin Lopez and Wesley Matthews is the league's highest-scoring quintet (46.9 PPG).

15. Brooklyn Nets (Record: 4-2, Last Week: 21): While the Mavs lead the league in Offensive Rating; the Nets are second at 109.5.

16. Phoenix Suns (Record: 4-3, Last Week: 10): Coming off a tough three-game schedule (Grizzlies, Kings and Warriors), the Suns face the Nets, Bobcats and Clippers this week, all quality opponents. Then the schedule gets a lot softer from 11/17-12/2 with only one of their nine opponents having a winning record. Excluding the Raptors, the other eight teams they will face during that stretch have a combined 11-41 record.

17. Charlotte Bobcats (Record: 3-4, Last Week: 19): Kemba Walker's win-loss splits: (Wins) 19.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 7.3 APG, 2.0 SPG and (Losses) 12.3 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG.

18. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record: 2-5, Last Week: 18): Mark Cuban wonders if the Thunder should shut down stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the rest of the season? Hmmm, what could he gain from that?

19. Boston Celtics (Record: 3-3, Last Week: 24): The Celtics (25.0/G) and Rajon Rondo (11.2/G) lead the NBA in assists per game.

20. Atlanta Hawks (Record: 2-3, Last Week: 20): Jeff Teague leads the NBA in drives per game (14.0), but he only has a 33.3 percent field-goal percentage on drives.

21. Utah Jazz (Record: 3-4, Last Week: 25): Among qualified rookies, Jazz point guard Dante Exum leads rookies in PER (15.14).

22. New York Knicks (Record: 2-5, Last Week: 16): Carmelo Anthony has failed to score more than 20 points in four consecutive games and is a combined 26-of-84 (30.95 percent) during that stretch.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 2-4, Last Week: 23): Not only did the team lose (trade) Kevin Love in the offseason, but now they will be without Ricky Rubio (ankle) for 6-8 weeks. Rubio was averaging a career-high 10.0 assists per game and shooting 42.6 percent from the field (previous career high is 38.1 percent).

24. Milwaukee Bucks (Record: 3-4, Last Week: 27): Brandon Knight is averaging 17.57 points, 6.43 rebounds and 7.29 assists per game. Only three players are averaging 17/6/7: Harden, Curry and Knight.

25. Detroit Pistons (Record: 2-4, Last Week: 26): The Pistons currently rank last in the league in points per shot (1.09).

26. Denver Nuggets (Record: 1-5, Last Week: 17): The Nuggets are 0-for November and The Manimal is averaging just 27 minutes per game this season.

27. Orlando Magic (Record: 2-5, Last Week: 28): One of the team's few bright spots, Nikola Vucevic is averaging career highs across the board: 18.6 PPG, 12.3 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.1 BPG.

28. Indiana Pacers (Record: 1-6, Last Week: 22): Four Pacers are averaging more than 12.0 PPG — Chris Copeland (16.7), Donald Sloan (15.1), Roy Hibbert (12.6) and Solomon Hill (12.0). Casual fans probably only recognize one name on that list, which shows how injuries have impacted this team.

29. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 1-5, Last Week: 29): This should come as no surprise, but Kobe Bryant has a league-high 37.7 usage rate aside from Russell Westbrook (42.9 percent).

30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record: 0-7, Last Week: 30): With few positives to the start of the season (successful tanking progress aside), Tony Wroten (23.4 PPG, 6.8 APG, 2.7 SPG) has been a fantasy must-start with Michael Carter-Williams out.

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Monday, November 3, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: Week 2

The post-LeBron James era in Miami has gotten off to an excellent start as the Heat have won their first three games of the season and average 109.3 points per game, which is second only to the Dallas Mavericks. Along with Golden State and Houston, they are the only three teams with an average point differential in double digits (+11.7).

Heat power forward Chris Bosh took a back seat to LeBron and Dwyane Wade over the past four seasons, but Bosh has stepped up his production big time with the LeBron's departure.

Bosh is averaging 25.7 points per game, seventh in the league, and 11.3 rebounds per game, eighth-best, through the first week of the season. Both of those averages would be career highs for Bosh, who is in his 12th NBA season. In addition, Bosh is averaging 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals per game, which would also be career highs as well.

With 0.7 win shares already through three games, Bosh is averaging .303 win shares per 48 minutes. His previous career high was .200 in 2007-08 with the Raptors.

The Heat have scored at least 107 points in each of their first three wins (over Wizards, Sixers and Raptors) and they will face Dwight Howard, James Harden and the 3-0 Rockets on Tuesday.

Some other notes:
  • With the pressure of returning home, LeBron and the Cavs stumbled in their opener against the Knicks. James had eight turnovers and converted on only five of his 15 field goal attempts, but they bounced back in the second game with an overtime win against the Bulls. James scored a game-high 36 points on 14-of-30 shooting and added eight rebounds, four assists and four steals with three turnovers.
  • It's been a dominant start to the 2014-15 season for Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis. Through Sunday's games, Davis ranks second in scoring (28.5 per game), first in rebounding (16.0) and first in blocks (6.0). Along with Omer Asik (13.5 PPG, 13.0 RPG, 2.5 BPG), the Pelicans have one of the league's best 1-2 tandems down low.
  • Golden State's Klay Thompson scored 19 points on 4-of-14 shooting on opening night, but he has 41 and 29 points in his other two games and shot a combined 25-of-40 in those two games. Early in the season, Thompson leads the league in scoring (29.7 PPG). The Warriors will host the Clippers in a Pacific division showdown on Wednesday.
  • Sacramento is off to a 2-1 start and Rudy Gay is coming off two big games in wins over the Blazers (40 points, eight rebounds) and Clippers (25 points, seven boards, six assists). In addition, DeMarcus Cousins had a relatively slow start in his first two games (18.5 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 33.3 FG%), but he had a massive 34/17 line against the Clips on Sunday.
  • The Lakers will give the Sixers a run for their money as the worst team in the league. Losing Julius Randle for the season was a tough blow in the opener, but Kobe Bryant could lead the league in scoring (and perhaps technical fouls). That said, they won't be able to stop anyone and are currently allowing a league-worst 118.0 PPG. (Brooklyn is second-worst in that category at 105.5.)
  • The Atlanta Hawks are shooting an incredible 47.6 percent from behind the arc through two games. Only seven teams (including the Hawks) have a better field goal percentage (for all field goals) so far this season. The other 23 teams all have a field-goal percentage lower than 47.6 percent and the Nuggets rank last in the league at 39.4 percent.
  • Not only will the Thunder have to deal with the injury to Kevin Durant (foot), but they will be without Russell Westbrook (hand) for roughly a month. Especially considering the talent of the Western Conference, it's another devastating blow.
Here are my Week 2 NBA Power Rankings:

1. Golden State Warriors (Record: 3-0, Last Week: 7)
2. San Antonio Spurs (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 2)
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 1)
4. Dallas Mavericks (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 6)
5. Chicago Bulls (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 3)
6. Memphis Grizzlies (Record: 3-0, Last Week: 8)
7. Houston Rockets (Record: 3-0, Last Week: 12)
8. Los Angeles Clippers (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 4)
9. Miami Heat (Record: 3-0, Last Week: 16)
10. Phoenix Suns (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 14)
11. Washington Wizards (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 10)
12. Toronto Raptors (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 11)
13. New Orleans Pelicans (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 13)
14. Portland Trail Blazers (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 9)
15. Sacramento Kings (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 23)
16. New York Knicks (Record: 2-1, Last Week: 24)
17. Denver Nuggets (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 17)
18. Oklahoma City Thunder (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 5)
19. Charlotte Bobcats (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 15)
20. Atlanta Hawks (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 19)
21. Brooklyn Nets (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 18)
22. Indiana Pacers (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 21)
23. Minnesota Timberwolves (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 25)
24. Boston Celtics (Record: 1-1, Last Week: 27)
25. Utah Jazz (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 26)
26. Detroit Pistons (Record: 0-3, Last Week: 20)
27. Milwaukee Bucks (Record: 1-2, Last Week: 28)
28. Orlando Magic (Record: 0-3, Last Week: 29)
29. Los Angeles Lakers (Record: 0-4, Last Week: 22)
30. Philadelphia 76ers (Record: 0-4, Last Week: 30)

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Monday, October 27, 2014

2014-15 NBA Power Rankings: Week 1

In less than 24 hours, the 2014-15 NBA season will get underway with three games including the Mavericks at Spurs.

Beginning with Gregg Popovitch's first full season as Spurs coach, the Spurs have won 50-plus games every season except 1998-99. Only 50 total games were played that season and the Spurs won 37 of them. In fact, that was the first year that the Spurs won the NBA Finals.

Entering the season as defending champions, the Spurs have won five titles during the Popovitch and Tim Duncan era. Duncan exercised his player option for this season, which could be the last of his Hall-of-Fame career.

With a career win share of 191.57, the only players in NBA history with a higher win share are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (273.41), Wilt Chamberlain (247.26), Karl Malone (234.63), Michael Jordan (214.02) and John Stockton (207.70). Mr. Fundamental ranks 19th all-time in scoring, 12th in rebounding and 15th in blocks.

Based on Vegas odds to win it all, the Spurs are a close second (+350) behind the Cavaliers (+280).

As LeBron James returns home to Cleveland, he leads a more talented trio with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love than the one he had in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

Considering the Heat made a trip to the NBA Finals in all four of LeBron's seasons in Miami and won two titles, it makes sense to install them as the preseason favorites even if it takes a bit of time for them to build chemistry.

Here are my Week 1 NBA Power Rankings (2013-14 record in parenthesis):

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (33-49)
2. San Antonio Spurs (62-20)
3. Chicago Bulls (48-34)
4. Los Angeles Clippers (57-25)
5. Oklahoma City Thunder (59-23)
6. Dallas Mavericks (49-33)
7. Golden State Warriors (51-31)
8. Memphis Grizzlies (50-32)
9. Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
10. Washington Wizards (44-38)
11. Toronto Raptors (48-34)
12. Houston Rockets (48-34)
13. New Orleans Pelicans (34-48)
14. Phoenix Suns (48-34)
15. Charlotte Hornets (43-39)
16. Miami Heat (54-28)
17. Denver Nuggets (36-46)
18. Brooklyn Nets (44-38)
19. Atlanta Hawks (38-44)
20. Detroit Pistons (29-53)
21. Indiana Pacers (56-26)
22. Los Angeles Lakers (27-55)
23. Sacramento Kings (28-54)
24. New York Knicks (37-45)
25. Minnesota Timberwolves (40-42)
26. Utah Jazz (25-57)
27. Boston Celtics (25-57)
28. Milwaukee Bucks (15-67)
29. Orlando Magic (23-59)
30. Philadelphia 76ers (19-63)

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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Report: Kevin Durant (foot) needs surgery and will miss next 6-8 weeks

Thunder forward Kevin Durant has missed only six games over the previous five NBA seasons, but he's going to miss more than that to begin the season.

Per Frank Isola of the NY Daily News, Durant needs surgery and will miss the next 6-8 weeks due to a Jones fracture in his foot.

Six weeks from today is Nov. 23rd and eight weeks from today is Dec. 7th. The Thunder have games on both of those days and they represent their 15th and 20th games of the season, respectively.

That said, general manager Sam Presti said that "all signs point" to Durant requiring surgery, but that decision won't be made until further consultation.

Obviously, this impacts Durant's fantasy value and I dropped him from No. 1 to No. 20 in my 2014-15 fantasy basketball rankings while moving teammate Russell Westbrook up a couple of spots to No. 6.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It's official - LeBron James is "coming home" to Cleveland

There was plenty of speculation, but now it's official: LeBron James is a Cleveland Cavalier.


Here is the essay from LeBron (via SI's Lee Jenkins) announcing his decision:
Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio. It’s where I walked. It’s where I ran. It’s where I cried. It’s where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I’m their son. Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.

Remember when I was sitting up there at the Boys & Girls Club in 2010? I was thinking, This is really tough. I could feel it. I was leaving something I had spent a long time creating. If I had to do it all over again, I’d obviously do things differently, but I’d still have left. Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am. I became a better player and a better man. I learned from a franchise that had been where I wanted to go. I will always think of Miami as my second home. Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.

I went to Miami because of D-Wade and CB. We made sacrifices to keep UD. I loved becoming a big bro to Rio. I believed we could do something magical if we came together. And that’s exactly what we did! The hardest thing to leave is what I built with those guys. I’ve talked to some of them and will talk to others. Nothing will ever change what we accomplished. We are brothers for life. I also want to thank Micky Arison and Pat Riley for giving me an amazing four years.

I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and Riles didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.

I’m not having a press conference or a party. After this, it’s time to get to work.

When I left Cleveland, I was on a mission. I was seeking championships, and we won two. But Miami already knew that feeling. Our city hasn’t had that feeling in a long, long, long time. My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

To make the move I needed the support of my wife and my mom, who can be very tough. The letter from Dan Gilbert, the booing of the Cleveland fans, the jerseys being burned -- seeing all that was hard for them. My emotions were more mixed. It was easy to say, “OK, I don’t want to deal with these people ever again.” But then you think about the other side. What if I were a kid who looked up to an athlete, and that athlete made me want to do better in my own life, and then he left? How would I react? I’ve met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We’ve talked it out. Everybody makes mistakes. I’ve made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that. I’m going into a situation with a young team and a new coach. I will be the old head. But I get a thrill out of bringing a group together and helping them reach a place they didn’t know they could go. I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys. I think I can help Kyrie Irving become one of the best point guards in our league. I think I can help elevate Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters. And I can’t wait to reunite with Anderson Varejao, one of my favorite teammates.

But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from. I want kids in Northeast Ohio, like the hundreds of Akron third-graders I sponsor through my foundation, to realize that there’s no better place to grow up. Maybe some of them will come home after college and start a family or open a business. That would make me smile. Our community, which has struggled so much, needs all the talent it can get.

In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned. You work for what you have.

I’m ready to accept the challenge. I’m coming home.
As James leaves Miami, that will lead Chris Bosh to return home, sort of, to the Houston Rockets to form a new Big Three with Dwight Howard and James Harden. (He is from Texas, however, he's from Dallas.)

The best player in the NBA, LeBron joins one of the best young point guards in the league, Kyrie Irving. While Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, could develop into one of the best players in the league, it's possible that he gets sent along with others and/or picks to Minnesota for Kevin Love, who has said that he would re-up with the Cavs. Love's existing contract expires after the 2014-15 season.

Based on odds from, Vegas has installed the Cavs (4/1) as the favorites to win the NBA Championship ahead of the Spurs and Thunder (both 6/1).  Miami now has 75/1 odds.  I'm guessing Riley is "pissed."

With the biggest free-agency domino falling, LeBron's official decision to return to Cleveland should now open the floodgates of free-agency deals getting done around the Association.