NBA Finals Recap: The Series of the Century

NBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers

What. A. Series. This series was everything one could have hoped for and then some. Everything one could love about the game of basketball was perfectly exemplified in this series, bringing fans a constant flow of mixed emotions throughout. After the first four games it was widely believed that Golden State would manhandle Cleveland once again and win back-to-back championships, especially after they took a 3-1 series lead. Just when basically everyone gave up on Lebron and his Cavalier crew, they turned the tables completely and proved all the doubters wrong. With their season on the line and back against the wall, Cleveland went on to win their next two games to even it up at 3-3. Now we have ourselves a series. Cleveland regained their respect and put the Warriors in a position where they had their backs against the wall as well. Every basketball fan in America could only think of two words: Game 7. With the way the series was going this game seven should be the greatest game any of us have ever seen. And it most certainly was.

It was the perfect example of what a game seven should be: 48 minutes of nail-biting, down to the wire basketball that came down to a clutch shot to seal the championship. The Cavaliers’ big three came together beautifully in the final moments of the game to help their team win it all. It began with Kyrie Irving’s clutch three-point shot to put the Cavs up by three with 53 seconds left. As he did the entire night, Kyrie danced all over Stephen Curry and capped it off with the shot that won Cleveland the game. Then the attention turned to Kevin Love, who was pretty much a no-show throughout the entire Finals. Down by three with 45 seconds to go, the Warriors were looking to tie the game up, and since it was the Warriors who hit threes with their eyes closed, Cleveland knew they had to lock up the perimeter. Coming off a screen, Love was forced to guard Curry. Curry usually embarrassed Love with his quickness and ball skills, but not the time when it mattered most. Love did a great job of shuffling his feet and staying right by him as Curry tried everything he could to get enough separation so he could throw up a three. Curry was forced to put up a well-contested shot that bounced off the front rim. Then, to put the cherry on the ice cream sundae, Lebron, with 10 seconds left, got fouled hard as he was driving to the basket. As he fell to the ground he landed on his wrist and was clearly in a lot of pain. Nevertheless, Lebron being Lebron got up after a couple of minutes, shook off the pain, and hit the game-clinching free throw to ensure the Cleveland would be receiving their first professional sports trophy in 52 years.

When the final buzzer hit, it was touching to see all the Cavaliers players, staff, and fans run onto the court and just embrace each other in celebration. They have definitely earned the right to do so. Lebron was the most emotional of them all, kneeling on the ground as his face was completely covered in tears. Everyone was hugging, cheering, and going crazy. It was definitely a sight to enjoy. I was just sitting in front of my television, smiling and saying to my family and friends “They really do deserve this.”

When the time came to announce the Finals MVP, everybody knew who it would be instantly. Even though Kyrie deserved that award just as much as Lebron did for his absolutely stellar play, nobody was taking that MVP trophy away from King James. Lebron has worked too hard and put too much commitment to the ultimate goal he achieved last night: bring a title to his hometown. Him getting the trophy was basically a given. He is the leader, superstar, center, voice, and main presence of this team. I can almost guarantee that all of his teammates wouldn’t have wanted it any other way either.

With last year’s Finals not working out well for the Cavs mainly due to injuries, this series was ten times more important. With everybody at full health there was nothing stopping the Cavs, except the Warriors, the team that beat them last year. It was the perfect chance for this Cleveland team to rewrite the past and prove to everyone that they could win the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Centered by the superstar play from Lebron and Kyrie along with crucial contributions from guys like Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, Iman Shumpert, and Richard Jefferson, they did exactly that.

But this was more than just a regular series for Lebron. This was the most important series of his life. This was what he had dreamed about since he was a little kid, and with his team at full health this was the best chance to accomplish that dream. Now, of course I’m not Lebron, but this has to be the most special win of his career. The amount of emotion that spilled over him should be enough evidence to say so. This was everything for Lebron and this should by far be the most precious moment of not only his three Finals championships, but his 13-year NBA career as well.

Congratulations to Lebron on getting one for the land and to the Cleveland Cavaliers for proving all the doubters wrong and sticking together to win their first ever NBA championship. This was definitely the greatest series I’ve ever seen, and I’m pretty sure this goes down as one of the best, maybe the best, series there ever was. The Cavaliers and the city of Cleveland all definitely deserve this. The curse is over.

 

 

Simmons vs. Ingram: The Case for the #1 Pick

 

ben-simmons-brandon-ingram

When commissioner Adam Silver steps up to the podium and announces who the 76ers will be picking with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, there are two very intriguing prospects that both have an equal chance of hearing their name called. These two prospects, Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, both present elite talent and superstar potential. They excel both offensively and defensively, and are already drawing very flattering comparisons, with Simmons being labeled “the next Lebron James” and Ingram “the next Kevin Durant.” Philadelphia will definitely have a tough decision to make, so I’m going to try and make it for them by comparing the two and predicting who I would draft if I were 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo.

When it comes to pure talent, both of these prospects have loads of it bleeding through their veins. They are two of the most talented prospects in recent memory and both should have very successful NBA careers. With Simmons, the 6’10” forward from LSU, he first and foremost has an uncanny ability to make plays and become a prominent leader right off the bat. He has great strength for his position and uses that strength to win one-on-one battles and become the playmaker he is. Simmons is very explosive, especially when it comes to driving down the court. He uses his top-notch speed to get to the basket and find some form of success, whether it’s scoring, getting fouled, or finding an open teammate. When it comes to passing, he is also extraordinary. He has tremendous court vision and elite abilities as a passer, often slinging beautiful passes to open teammates. Simmons also has very nice body control which helps him on both phases of the game. On offense he uses his body control and creativity to finish around the rim and get good shots, while on defense his body control plays a huge part for getting rebounds and staying with opposing players. Simmons also was very successful in the post, where he was very crafty and could finish with either hand. He can do it all it seems, as Simmons generated 19.2 PPG, 11.8 RPG, and 4.8 APG, 0.8 BPG, and 2.0 SPG. This is a prospect who will amaze scouts with his talent, but he certainly has some glaring weaknesses that could become major red flags in the NBA.

The first weakness that stands out from Simmons’ play is his shooting ability. He is not a successful shooter, especially from behind the arc. He doesn’t trust his jump shot and is often reluctant to shoot the ball over the course of a game. Defenders see this and tend to play off a little with the intention to force him to shoot the ball. From behind the three-point line, which is widely regarded as his biggest weakness, Simmons is awful. He put up only three three-point shots while only making one of them. DraftExpress.com states that over the course of 74 games dating back to 2012, Simmons is 12/50 from the three-point line, or 24 percent. He also could improve his free throw shooting, as he often gets fouled a lot and only shot 67 percent from the line. Overall, Simmons needs to greatly improve his overall shooting if he wants to become a complete offensive player. Another glaring weakness is his intensity and attitude on the defensive side of the ball. Unlike offense, Simmons is very lazy when he is on defense and often shies away from contact with opposing players. His competitiveness as a whole gets called into question and he will definitely need to fix that when he reaches the NBA level. The good news is that he is capable of fixing these problems, the bad news is that if he doesn’t fix them and continues his lazy defensive play in the pros, he will not have nearly as much success and he is capable of having.

Brandon Ingram, the 6’9″ forward from Duke, in my opinion is the more complete prospect. He immediately catches the eyes of scouts with his remarkable length and jaw-dropping 7’3″ wingspan. Ingram’s length allows him to do things that other players simply just can’t do. He displays a great strides down the court and has an impressive display of moves he uses to make plays happen. He is very good at creating his own shot and getting to the basket, as he seems to have the ability to almost glide all throughout the court due to his long legs. He is a very good ball-handler for his size with great footwork and great control of his length when attacking opposing defenders. Unlike Simmons, Ingram is a great shooter from all levels. He has a beautiful jump shot, with a quick release and fluid mechanics. He was very consistent with it and he also displayed a very nice three-point shot, hitting 41 percent of his attempts. On defense, Ingram was a lot better than most people originally thought. He once again uses his length to his advantage in this phase of the game, contesting and blocking a good amount of shots. He was surprisingly effective when going up against guards, being able to stride with them and stay in front of them despite them being faster and quicker. Ingram is also the youngest prospect in this draft class at 18 years old, and he still is growing into his body which is a scary thing to think about. Ingram has a no-nonsense attitude and has been highly praised for his elite work ethic and competitiveness.

Ingram still has a few weaknesses, though. The most obvious one is his very skinny frame. He is very skinny and weighs only 196 lbs. He needs to work hard in the NBA to gain more weight so that he can be more effective and explosive against bigger competitors. His frame can cause him to struggle on offense when it comes to finishing around the basket and posting up, and also on defense when it comes to getting pushed around in the paint and grabbing rebounds. All of this should continue to improve as he gets stronger, and with his determination there should be no reason to worry. Like Simmons, Ingram can improve at free-throw shooting, as he converted only 68 percent of his free throws. Ingram also struggles on defense despite his decent play. He often gets caught up in screens and overall began to look lost sometimes, which resulted in foul trouble. The unique thing about Ingram is that basically all of his weaknesses can start to become less problematic as he gains more weight. He is extremely advanced for his age and very highly skilled.

When it comes to how each player would fit in Philadelphia, both players would fill a similar role. Simmons would become an instant leader of that young team, providing a offensive spark that they so desperately needed. He can provide that talented group of big men somebody to get them the ball and create plays for them. He also would be a guy that can quickly get double-teamed, providing them more opportunities to get the ball and receive some action. Simmons is the kind of player that can make up for the lack of a point guard and bring this team into the playoff conversation instantly. Ingram would be a similar type of player for them, providing an electrifying scorer and an intimidating mismatch due to his length. Ingram wouldn’t be as much of a vocal leader, but he would certainly be a guy the team gravitates to. He wouldn’t be as much of a defensive presence but he would definitely be an intimidating presence. Both of these players can be future superstars and would help this 76ers team immensely.

My selection: Brandon Ingram

No hard feelings to Ben Simmons, but I would draft Ingram if I were the 76ers. Ingram just has a better all around game and will get better and better as his career progresses. Yes Ingram is very skinny, so is Kevin Durant. I wouldn’t be worried about that at all and I wouldn’t make that a factor in my decision whatsoever. The negative reviews about Simmons competitiveness would worry me a lot more. His lack of shooting ability is also cause for major concern, especailly in today’s NBA where shooting is everything. The 76ers in my opinion can’t afford to take a player who struggles shooting the ball since they lack a pure scorer, and Ingram fits that bill. I also can’t see them taking a chance on a guy who might not give it his all 100 percent of the time, cause they can’t afford to take one of those guys either. You also have to think about how even with Simmons leading the pact at LSU, he wasn’t able to take them to the tournament even though it has to due in large part to the lack of talent around him. I mean even he is partly to blame for their below average season. Simmons may very well end up proving me wrong and being a top player in this league, and I wouldn’t be suprised. He has loads of talent and already is more physcially advanced than Ingram by a mile. But Ingram is just too special in my opinion to pass up. Combine his talent on both ends of the floor with his age, his length, and his work ethic, and there is no reason to believe he can’t eventually become the top player in this league. It will no doubt be a very tough decision come draft night, but I would go with Brandon Ingram as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.