Sunday, April 13, 2014

Corey Rockafeler Presents NBA RAW 2013 -2014 Awards

Time for the games to begin. The second season is upon us. The 82-game mentally exacting, physically draining, emotionally grueling grind is over. It is now win or go home time.  With all but a few playoff spots solidified, its time for the annual NBA RAW  2013-2014 annual awards.


Its KD by a hair. Yes, you can make a case LeBron has posted better across the board numbers in everything from true shooting percentage, to rebound rate and should win an unprecedented five MVP's in six years, surpassing Bill Russell (as the only other player to win four MVP's in five years). But, after capturing his fifth straight NBA scoring title,this is Kevin Durant's year. He is leading the league in points per game at 31.9 and has scored more clutch points than any player in the NBA with 163. He is posting career highs in everything from 2-point field goal percentage (54.9%) ; 5.5 assists, 30.1 PER( player efficiency rating) wins shares per 48 minutes( .303); offensive rating ORtg of 123, and he has done all this with alpha dog # 2 Russell Westbrook missing over 35 games.  In addition, Durant has developed a better understanding of the game and is defending better. He is also excelling as a facilitator and creator, not just a scorer. So unlike the scoring-heavy iso-ways of Carmelo Anthony, Durant impacts a game even when he is not scoring. Kudos to KD for his first of many MVP Awards.

Defensive Player of the Year

The usual DPOY candidates Dwight Howard, Roy Hibbert, and Tyson Chandler are all having a significant defensive impacts for their teams this year, but few are doing as well as Joakim Noah  As we know emotions are contagious.  Noah has imbued an injury-depleted team  Chicago Bulls team with a will, tenacity, and resiliency few players in the NBA can mach. From his non-stop motor, excellent hoops IQ, to his leadership on both ends of the court, few players this year in the NBA can match what Noah brings defensively EVERY night. He is posting career highs in defensive win shares( 6.3) and win shares( 10.7), and is doing it without the teams top two players. Derrick Rose has been out all season and Luol Deng was traded . Despite this, the Noah led Bulls are the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference. Throw in Noah's an unheard of 5.4 dimes a game, and you can make a case the Noah is deserving in the MVP voting. Poppa Yannick is beaming somewhere in Paris.

Most Improved Player

Yes, I initially thought Anthony Davis would be the one to win our Most Improved Player. He is averaging 20 points, 10 boards while leading the NBA in blocked shots at 2.9 a game, and enjoying the fourth highest PER in the NBA at 26.54. You can also make cases for Toronto's DeMar Derozan and Indiana's Lance Stephenson. But, our pick is Goran Dragic running the uber-fast paced Phoenix Suns attack style offense . Not only is his Suns team the surprise squad of the year, but they are battling for the last playoff spot after being picked  in the preseason for this years lottery . One of the reasons is the stellar play of Dragic. He is posting career bests across the board: 20.4 points, 21.5 PER; win shares 10.3; OWS 8.5, DWS 1.9; TS% 60.6, all while shooting 50.1%. May I add ,he is doing all this  from the field with no interior presence. How to you spell PAID( which is what he will be in 2015 as an unrestricted free agent)

Sixth Man of the Year

For a former lottery pick burdened  by unmet expectation, this was  break out year for DJ Augustin. It is not easy playing for 4 teams in eight years, but Augstin has found a home with Bulls. He is a guy that has been on fire since the all start break. He has averaged 16.1 points, dished out 4.3 dimes, while shooting 42% from downtown, and playing tenacious perimeter D. Hard work does pay. Go DJ, its your birthday.....

Rookie of the Year

Sure the Sixers suck. Tell me something we don't know. But, MCW is special. Michael Carter Williams is leading all rookies averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 dimes, and 6.1 boards. I know its the Sixers. But this kid can ball.  Hmmmmm,......MCW sounds better than MWP( sorry Metta).

Most Disappointing Team

What do you get when you have the leagues most clueless owner, a GM who was previously fired (yeah the same guy who hired Isaiah Thomas), and a coach who treats strategy and adjustments with the same disdain as four day old liver salad? You get the Dolan-led  Knicks. As if the Dolan virus was not enough, now you don't make the payoffs( despite the second largest pay roll in the NBA), you don't have a  lottery pick( gave that away when you gutted the team for Melo), and your best player-Melo-is talking up the Bulls. The upside, you have Phil Jax and dreams of 2015 free agent bonanza. Sound familiar? I guess the Dolan 14-year plan didn't work out so well. Well JD you will always have your wing-man Zeke to watch the Brooklyn Nets excel in the playoffs

Coach Of The Year

There are many choices here. Dwayne Casey leading  the Raptors to a Atlantic title.  Thibs in Chi town, doing what he does-just win baby. Jeff Hornaceck and the over achieving Suns team transformed as D'Antoni  2.0. But, after a quick internal debate, the choice is simple. Gregg Popovich is the best coach in the NBA and the coach of the year. Not only do the Spurs have the best record in the NBA, but Pop has elevated pacing and strategy to a new level. very few coaches have such a layered and nuanced understanding of the game.
PS Pop, you can smile sometime, Stern is no longer commissioner.

Leagues Worst Owner

Dolan has become synonymous with utter managerial incompetence and perpetual cluelessness . Not to worry JD, Jim Buss from the Lakers is on his way to stealing your shine.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Corey Rockafeler NBA RAW: The legendary sublime iconoclast, Phil Jackson versus the L.W.O. Jim Dolan

Now what? After a decade and a half  dance with futility that would make Sisyphus wince, a ray of light has emerged. The newest merchant of  hope is the iconoclastic master of the sublime, adorned with enough championship hardware even  the most pessimistic Knick fans are rejoicing. Phil Jackson, a former New York Knick player, and the winningest NBA coach in history, could not have scripted this one any better. The 68 year old NBA oracle is set to sign a five year $ 60 million deal to become president of the New York Knicks. Jackson has won two rings as a Knick player( ironically  their only two championships) and a record 11 rings as coach of the Chicago Bulls and  Los Angeles Lakers. He will split time between New York and Los Angeles. That is the easy part. The hard part is insuring he has full autonomy over all basketball decisions and can purge the stench left by the Dolan virus. Jim Dolan, New York Knick owner, has long cemented his record  as L.W.O( leagues worst owner).  As president, Jackson will confront  deep and structural problems within the Knick organization . Jackson will have to counter the institutional dysfunction and ineptitude created by the clueless owner Jim Dolan. It's not just eight coaches since 2001, six GM's, two complete winning seasons, and only one playoff series victory, it  is the fatally flawed  Dolan philosophy and culture. Dolan has run the Knicks like a small time family business. From his paranoid management style, to the gulag type cold war media policy, Dolan  is the antithesis of smart management.  The stark contrasts between the sublime iconoclast Jackson, with the linear parochial incompetence of  Dolan seems to be a match made in the place that is really, really hot. But Dolan, who has defied the adage  even a broken clocks is right twice a day, may not have much of choice but to cede full control to Jackson. There is no basketball owner as reviled  as Jim Dolan is with Knick fans. Championship-famished fans are so livid at Dolan's chronic meddling and pathological incompetence they are staging a protest March 19 in front of the Garden.

Conversely, Jackson's appointment could not have come at a better time. Although, the Knicks are riding a six game winning streak, they have been a bust this season. Despite the leagues second highest payroll, they are close to failing to make the playoffs, but as only Jim Dolan can do,they will also have no draft picks. Those were lost in the trade for bust Andrea Bargnani( a number one pick in 2014 and two second round picks).

Jackson is also faced with rebuilding a roster he previously called clumsy. At the time, Jackson said: " Stoudemire does not fit well with Carmelo. Stoudemire's a really good player, but he has to play in a certain system and a certain way.Carmelo has to be a better passer. And the ball can't stop every time it hits his hands." Not only is that sentiment true , but is is reflective in the Knicks record with Melo and Stat . When they are on the court together, the have a defensive rating of over 112 and a offensive rating of only 102.

Moreover, the Zen master, Jackson favors control and his sui generis is the triangle offense. This is the inverse of the inert, unimaginative, and predictable iso-ball authored by current Knick coach Mike Woodson. The triangle offense is a free-flowing style of play driven by picks, cuts, spacing, ball and player movement. It is not a point guard driven system, and allows all five players to assume multiple positions on the court and keeps defenses  off balances because they can not key on just one player. In essence, it is the opposite  of Melo ball. The Knicks under Jackson will also face the decision of whether free agent o be Melo  is the kind of player Jackson will want to pay $ 22 million a year to at age 30. Then factor the salary asphyxiating contracts of Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler, and Bargnani. 2015 seems to be the focal point instead of next season. That is  due to the cap room coming from  the expiring contracts of Chandler, Stoudemire, and Bargnani.

At least Knock fans can dream again. Hopefully the Dolan nightmares are a thing of the past. But someone when it comes to wrong way Dolan, his virus is seldom benign.

Good night Red Holzman!  May your force be with us.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Corey Rockafeler and NBA RAW present: "The Existentialist"


Mix a dab of Kierkegaard, a sliver Sartre, a pinch of Camus, with a dash of Hollinger, and portion of Chappelle. What do you get? You get NBA RAW's " The Existentialist." Henry Thoreau once said, "it is not what you look at, but what you see." The truth is definitely stranger than fiction. Our new feature column, explores the surreal, the sublime, and the absurd goings-on in the NBA

~~ How bad do Knick fans feel? I heard  a fan  dare utter Isaiah Thomas would be an upgrade over One-Way-Woody. Please call a priest for an exorcism.

~~ I will say this when it comes to Woodson, a old Bavarian proverb comes to mind: " What is the use of running when we are on the wrong road?"

~~ Sorry, I am bottom feeding, last one on the Knicks. Hey Dolan how's that 14-year plan going? 477 wins, 593 loses, 7 head coaches, and 1 playoff series victory. Perhaps the old aphorism about a broken clock being right twice a day does not apply to you.

~~ Speaking on being wrong, is Joe Dumars in Detroit,  grandfathered in because of his ring in 2004 as a GM? Ok in 2008, he signs Ben Gordon to 5-year $ 55 million dollar deal. Then you sign Charlie Villaneuva to a 5-year $ 35 million deal. In 2012 you out do yourself by signing Josh Smith to a $ 54 million year deal, and Brandon Jennings to a 3-year $ 24 million deal. Firing coach coach Mo Cheeks does no solve the problems unless you follow him put the door?

~~ Josh Smith, every time you take another cringe-inducing 3-pointer, you make the fans in Atlanta very, very, very happy.

~~ Paul Milsap or Josh Smith? My point exactly.

~~ Saying J Kidd is not as bad as you thought, is sort of like saying your girlfriend is not that ugly. A championship payroll and 8th seed team is called under performance.

~~ Yes Raptor's GM Masai Ujiri took advantage of the team in New York City I said I would not mention anymore.

~~ No, the Milwaukee are worse than you though. Try barely watchable.

~~ The Pacers are not the hot blond, rather the woman you marry.

~~ Can someone  tell Rudy Gay to call Monta Ellis. There is hope for unrepentant, inefficient, ball-stopping gunner who see the light.

~~ For those less erudite NBA journalists( I use that term very loosely) , please stop using the Cavaliers to make your specious arguments  the NBA drafts are not a sure thing. Try mentioning s that little word called competence and then follow it up by referencing the Thunder and Spurs.

~~ Please do not take the Heat lightly. Yeah, that Heat team who I think won two straight rings


Monday, January 27, 2014

Corey Rockafeler NBA RAW: King of New York and the Melodrama Knicks fans need.

It was a fateful day in February 2011 when Carmelo Anthony finally bulldozed his way to the New York  Knicks in a trade that gutted their depth. Championship-famished fans had their newly anointed savior. Melo, local boy born in Newark, had come home  The first Edward O'Brien trophy since 1973 seemed preordained. On the way, fans had their share delicious Melo moments. On April 2, 2013, Melo tied he career high with 50 points in a 102 -90 win against the champion Miami Heat. He then followed that performance with consecutive 40 points games, becoming the first Knick since Bernard King to score 40+ points in three consecutive games. Let's not forget winning the 2013 NBA scoring crown with 28.7 ppg. Hope and optimism became kissing cousins  as the Knicks won their first Atlantic division crown since 1994. After beating their aged-depleted rivals in Boston, the Knicks ran into a tower of brute strength in the Indiana Pacers who crushed their title hopes in six games.

2014 was new season swollen with hope. This was supposed to be their year. Never mind a structurally flawed roster and a coach who seemingly missed the email about continuing to evolve. As in life,  fate hit a Cul-de-sac. A perfect storm of continued Dolanesque ineptness, a marginal front office, putrid coaching, and an injury-ravaged team submerged  deep post season aspirations under a blanket of  mediocrity. New conversations alternated between who may replace Coach Mike Woodson and which team  free-agent-to be Carmelo might be playing for next season. But on this frigid New York City night, January 24th history was made. The  long overdue "signature Melo New York" moment arrived.  Carmelo  Anthony channeled his inner Muhammad Ali and unleashed a one-man 62 point tsunami. Not only did Melo,eclipse the previous scoring held by his idol, Bernard King, he surpassed the Madison Square Garden record held by close buddy, Kobe Bryant. The performance was as efficient as it was prodigious. 20 for 25 from the field, 3 for 4 from downtown,10 for 10 from the charity stripe, and 13 boards. In a season flat-lining with disappointment,Melo revived hope. For one night all was right at the world's most famous arena. The garden was rocking with game 7 finals excitement. Melo allowed 19,364 screaming fans to dream again. For those who were there, you can nurture this historic moment for years to come.  Feel free to pay this story forward indefinitely. Superman was back in Gotham City. You can post to Face Book, Instagram it, Tweet it, or simply tell the grand kids. This super hero wore number 7 and had a blue headband draped around his head. Hope never felt so good.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Corey Rockafeler Editor of NBA RAW: Chicago Bulls. " Good is the enemy of great."

In his best selling book, " Good To Great," author and business consultant, Jim Collins extolled the many virtues of a great company. One common thread is vision. That rare ability to see what is not there. Many organizations succumb to the obvious or capitulate to Pyrrhic victories. But the companies "who get it, " are not afraid to think strategically. They will make  tough choices and focus on the proverbial bigger picture. Collins said it best: "good is the enemy of great."  Chicago Bulls emphatically enacted Collins' key tenets today with their blockbuster trade of all-star small forward , Luol Deng. Deng was shipped to the Cleveland Cavaliers for malcontent center, Andrew Bynum and multiple draft picks.

It is never easy to give up home grown talent and such a high character person like Deng.  He has been with Chicago nearly 10 years, and embodied the blue-collar, tough, but smart style of play fans appreciate(and coaches love).  But great organizations are not afraid to step out of the comfort zone and make difficult choices. It also does not hurt when you are owner Jerry Reinsdorf , with six NBA  championship rings, and a legacy of greatness and his own "big three": Jordan, Pippen, and Jackson.

At first glance the trade of Deng, 28, an all star and a superb two-way player in his prime, seems to be a salary cap purge. After all this is a new era of fiscal austerity and punitive luxury tax penalties. Deng is in the final year of a contract  paying him $ 14.3 million, and was seeking a multi-year contact that would exceed eight figures. But with star player, Derrick Rose, out again with another season ending injury, Chicago could ill afford to tie up big money with a very good, but not elite player. A player who can not create his own shot, be Robin to Rose's Batman, and would  financially restrict team from adding that potential game-changing talent needed to win a championship. In trading Deng, Chicago  gets key components needed to retool for a another championship run. The get the Kings 2014 first-round pick( top 12- protected), the Blazers 2015 and 2016 second-round picks, and the right to swap 2015 first-round picks with Cleveland( if the selection falls between 15-30). To sweeten the draft pie, the Bulls also gets the Charlotte Bobcats' 2014 first-round pick if it falls outside the top 10. Nod, if you see where I am going! The Bulls will immediately waive, Bynum and avoid paying $ 6.3 million of his 2013-14 salary, since it was only partially guaranteed. So faster than you can say,"holy Michael Jordan," the Bulls wills save nearly $ 20 million.

Now here is the secret sauce. All signs inexorably point to the Bulls releasing power forward  Carlos Boozer with the amnesty clause looping $ 16.8 million of their salary cap. Fuse that with their own tankapoolza  to secure a lottery pick in this years draft-deemed to be the deepest since 2003( yes, the draft  year of LeBron Wade, Carmelo, Bosch etc....) and you start to see this tabula rasa shapes up very nicely. They already have what every championship team craves- franchise talent with former NBA MVP Derrick Rose. Now add defensive center and rim protecting big, Joakim Noah. Throw in quality depth with athletic big man, Taj Gibson. Sprinkle that  with young deep shooting wing defender, Jimmy Butler. Sitting in the wings, is long, athletic swing man, rookie Tony Snell. I have not even mentioned great European talent Chicago has the rights to, Nikola Mirotic.He is a sweet-shooting stretch power forward currently playing Real Madrid .Now add another franchise cornerstone-who is about to become a free agent this summer and would be a great complementary scorer with Rose-Carmelo Anthony. I think you can see where this train is heading.

This trade was a master stroke by Chicago . It shows why some organizations get it and some do not( see the New York Knicks). If I am a New York Knick fan, it is somber assessment time. Carmelo Anthony takes on big step toward in his quest for his first ring along side D. Rose, and coach Tibs. t. It may be winter in Chi town, but the 2015 forecast us really sunny-as in championship sunny. In New York, get ready for a few very long winters.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Are the Portland Trailblazers for real?

OK, 15-3 does not a season make. But after a quarter of a season, Portland has shown they are a second tier contender- with a move or two away from real contention