The news came by halftime of Sunday's game between the Celtics and Heat and Celtics fans had to think the season was over. Rajon Rondo the team's most important player has a torn ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. The one player that Celtics could not afford to lose they lost and now they must put that behind them and finish out the year.
Right now they currently hold the 8th spot in the playoffs thanks to a 6 game losing streak. I still expect them to make the playoffs and still expect them to win a few games maybe even a series but Celtics fans must tamper expectations now. What was thought to be 1 last title run (I know you hear it every year with this group) might have to wait another year or is it really over. I am going to disect the currrent Celtics team and what they could do to make a trade and still compete for an NBA title.
Untouchables: Obviously Rondo is untouchable at this point but I also would like to think that Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are untoucable here as well. I heard there are rumors going around about Pierce for Rudy Gay but that just doesn't make sense. Pierce is the heart and soul of this franchise and has been loyal to the Celtics throughout his career and has choosen to stay with the Celtics when he could have left. Kevin Garnett will not be traded so I am not going to get into that.
Assets: Jeff Green, Jared Sullinger, Courtney Lee, Fab Melo, Avrey Bradley, Chris Wilcox
Jeff Green - I like Green's ability especially when he asserts himself and looks to score. He still has a world of potential but has 2 years remaining and then a player option.
Avrey Bradley - Bradley is probably their best trade chip but I dont know how likely they will be to trade him especially being down a man in the backcourt. Bradley is an elite on ball defender and has a very reasonable contract if they did look to trade him.
Jared Sullinger - This year's first round pick Sullinger slipped because of potential back injuries but has been great. He is a great rebounder but needs to stay out of foul trouble because he has fouled out of 6 games already.
Fab Melo - Celtics fans have not seen him for the Celtics this year but he is drawing rave reviews from his time with the Maine Red Claws. He is rebounding and blocking shots at a high rate but is still a project. He would probably need to be included in a deal for a legit point guard.
Courtney Lee - Lee is an intriguing but he is signed for four years. He is a good defender and pretty good shooter but not sure if teams looking to shed cap space will have the room for him.
Chris Wilcox - Wilcox is on the last year of his contract which makes him intriging for teams. He is one of the few healthy big guys for the Celtics right now so it would have to take a good offer to give him up.
Potential Targets - Jose Calderon, Kyle Lowry
These two I keep hearing about are on a bad team (Toronto) that might be willing to part with them for the right combination of draft picks and prospects. If I had to pick I'd take Lowry as he is more atheltic and is a better scorer than Calderon. Calderon is more of a traditional point guard who gets his teamates involved and doens't shoot much. I think it would take more to get Lowry.
Trade Idea - Celtics give Tornoto Fab Melo and a First Round Pick for Kyle Lowry.
Conference play is in full swing and the #1 team in the country has lost two Saturday's in a row. This is going to be a wide open tournament and I cannot wait for March. Here are my top 10 teams right now but let me tell you that while the top ten teams have the best chance to cut the nets down this is a wide open race. Here is my top 10 as of right now.
1. Michigan 17-1 - I like Michigan as my top team because of their backcourt. I really am a firm believer that guards get you deep into March and Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are two of the premier guards in the country. Their lone loss was at a tough place in Ohio State. The will be battle tested playing in the Big 10 and that will only help them in March.
2. Kansas 16-1 - I am really impressed with the job Bill Self has done the past few seasons in Kansas. Taking a team to the National Championship game last season when they didn't star the season ranked in the top 15 and now after losing their All American Thomas Robinson to the NBA and starting point guard Tyshawn Taylor they are poised to make another run to the Final Four thanks in part to Ben Maclemore who has been the Big 12 players of the year to date.
3. Duke 16-1 - The Dukies are currently ranked number 1 in the country but I have them 3. Ryan Kelly is still sidelined and he is very important to them as a stretch 4. Mason Plumlee is a favorite to win player of the year and the Dukies shoot the 3 ball as well as anyone. Duke really guards their oppoents and have the inside outside game that should suit them well come tournament time.
4. Syracuse 17-1 - Syracuse picked up a huge road win at Louisville last weekend and followed it up with a come from behind home win over a ranked Cincinnati team. This team gets productions from a number of players and are led by senior guard Brandon Triche. Michael Carter-Williams has elevated himself as an elite guard and the Cuse are looking to make a run to the Final Four.
5. Arizona 16-1 - The Wildcats in my opinion have flown under the radar this season. The only loss on their record is a road game at Oregon which is a very tough venue to play in. Mark Lyons and Soloman Hill are the veterans of this squad which gets contributions from 4 freshman. They haven't been battle tested yet but the Pac-12 is better than most thought and they have a big test coming up with UCLA. I think this team has a lot of room for improvement.
6. Indiana 16-2 - The preseson number 1 has slipped a few times but are still a real threat come March. They have all of the pieces to win it all led by Cody Zeller who can dominate games at time. Yogi Farrell sometimes looks like a freshman point guard but he is lighting quick and creates opportunities on the court. I'm excited to see Indiana take on the likes of Michigan and Michigan St as this big 10 season progresses.
7. Florida 14-2 - The Gators appear to be the class of the SEC and I don't see them losing much in conference play. They should be able to postion themselves to get a #1 or #2 seed come tournament time and that will help them greatly. This team was a win away from the Final Four last year. Kenny Boynton can score is huge waves and he is the key to this team and how far they go.
8. Louisville 16-3 - Louisville has lost two straight including a road loss to Villanova last night. This team is one of the best in the country but they have been battling injuries and sometimes trouble to score the basektball. When fully healthy you can't deny their ability. I still like them to be the only team standing when it's all said and done.
9. Butler 16-2 - Butler is one of my favorite teams to watch. They are well coaches and every play they give it 100 percent. With wins over Indiana, North Carolina and Gonazaga already this year you can bet that this team will be ready to make another deep run in March.
10. Gonzaga 17-2 - Another well coached team the Bulldogs don't have been big time wins but that has never stopped them from winning game in March. Kelly Olynyk is a big time player averaging 18 a game. They lost a heartbreaker at the buzzer at Butler last Saturday night but I think that will make this team hungrier.
Tonight it’s time to take a look at the Western Conference power rankings.The West is clearly the better conference which currently holds the top 3 records in the NBA. This race should be exciting as we head towards June and the playoffs.
Oklahoma City (32-9) – The only team in the NBA with single digits losses the Thunder come in at #1 but have plenty of competition for the top spot.They have the leagues best scorer in Kevin Durant and plenty of other weapons that make this team dangerous and ready to get back to the NBA finals.Serge Ibaka has a much improved offensive game and that may be the difference this year.
LA Clippers (32-10) – The Clippers are the team to beat in LA and have proven that through the first half of the NBA season.Chris Paul is playing at an MVP level and Jamal Crawford has brought scoring to a team that wasn’t very deep a season ago.Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan boasts one of the most athletic frontcourts and both are a real threat to block shots.They got much needed playoff experience last year and that should suit them well as they plan to go on a deep playoff run.
San Antonio (33-11) – The Spurs are always one of the best coached teams and aren’t ready to end this great run they have been on over the years.Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli may be getting older but they still have what it takes to win in the NBA.This team will be a factor in June as long as they can stay healthy and are able to remain fresh.
Golden State (25-15) – The Warriors have to be one of the surprise teams in the NBA as they currently are ten games over .500.Steph Curry and David Lee are having all star seasons and have really energized the Warriors fan base.Mark Jackson is doing a great job coaching this young team as they look to make a rare playoff appearance.
Memphis (26-14) – The Grizzlies get it done playing defense as they are only 1 of two teams giving up less than 90 points a game.They are very athletic but are not very deep and they do have trouble scoring at times.Not having a great shooter also hurts them as defenses tend to pack it in to contain Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.Their defense will keep them in games and will make them a tough out come playoff time.
Utah (22-19) – The Jazz are a team who I think has the potential to be a very difficult team to matchup with come playoff time.Al Jefferson is one of the top big men in the NBA and Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter ooze with potential that is still untapped.Mo Williams being healthy is crucial as he has been out the past few weeks but is expected to make a full recovery and give this team an offensive lift when he returns. The Jazz are very tough at home so if they can get themselves into a position where they have home court advantage in the first round they will be very dangerous.
Denver (25-18) – Denver is a team that is day and night different at home and on the road.A 14-2 home record is among the best in the NBA but a dreadful 9-14 record on the road will eventually be their downfall.They have good players but I worry that they don’t have that star player who can take over a game come playoff time.They will be a tough out with the way they play at home but to be taken seriously they need to get their road woes addressed.
Houston (22-21) – The highest scoring team in the NBA currently sits in the 8th spot in the west.They score the most but also give up the most so that won’t do you much good especially in the west.It looks like they will be battling for that last spot as there are a few teams in the west that remain within striking distance.They have some pieces to potentially make a move but I don’t know if anyone out there will make them that much better.
Minnesota (17-21) – The Timberwolves have managed to stay in contention despite all of the injuries including Kevin Love their franchise player.They have plenty of talent but I don’t think they will be able to keep up with all of the injuries they are sustaining to key players.I see them dropping off as the season progresses.
Portland (20-21) – Portland is a team in the midst of a 6 game losing streak and stuck looking for answers.A very thin team that see’s their starters all playing heavy minutes might ultimately wear on them.Damian Lillard is the leading candidate for rookie of the year right now and Nicolas Batum is among those vying for the most improved player award.Developing some kind of bench is what Portland needs to do if they want to contend in the west.
Dallas (18-24) – Dallas has welcome Dirk back from injury but unfortunately they aren’t seeing great results in the win column.A team that is talented enough to figure it out and go on a run still has a shot to make the playoffs but fans can’t expect anything other than a first round exit.You have to wonder if it’s time to make a deal to set them up for the future.
LA Lakers (17-24) – It’s hard to see the Lakers this low in the rankings but a disastrous season has led them here.The team many expected to give the Heat a star laden NBA finals is now in jeopardy of missing the playoffs.Steve Nash and Pau Gasol have been in and out of the lineup. Dwight Howard hasn’t been the dominating figure everyone thought and the team just doesn’t have god chemistry.All of this while Kobe Bryant is having one of his most efficient seasons.They have the talent to put together a run but it might be too late in Laker land.
Sacramento (16-26) – The Kings are on the move to Seattle next season and DeMarcus Cousins may or may not go with them.A player who has a world of potential cant stay out of the news but for all of the bad reasons.A couple of suspensions have really sunk this team who doesn’t appear to be improving despite having a roster of talented players.
New Orleans (14-27) – The Hornets are a team on the rise and they have some very good players that they can build around led by Anthony Davis.Grievis Vasquez is having a coming out party this year and Ryan Anderson has proved to be a threat off the bench and a leading candidate for 6th man of the year.Eric Gordon is finally healthy and this team has reasons to be optimistic.
Phoenix (13-28) – Phoenix struggles to score and doesn’t have that go to scorer which makes life in the NBA tough.Alvin Gentry was just fired and you can’t think that this team is going to improve at all as the season progresses.Jared Dudley has really improved this year and Gorin Dragic has been decent but they don’t really have any skilled big guys. I see them finishing last in the west.
We are right in the thick of things in the NBA. It’s time to take a look at the Eastern and Western Conference power rankings as teams position themselves for a playoff spot.First let’s start with the East
Miami (26-12) – The Heat struggled a bit on their recent 6 game west coast trip but ended on a high note beating the Lakers at Staples Center.The Heat are the clear favorites in the east but it appears they sleep walk at times.Despite their recent struggles they are still the top team in the east and should hold onto that title as long as they play Miami Heat basketball.
New York (25-13) – The Knicks have slowed down a bit since their red hot start but will still be a top contender to the Miami Heat.Carmelo Anthony is having a career year and they are getting big time production out of guys like Tyson Chandler, Jr. Smith and Jason Kidd.Amare Stoudemire returned to the lineup and has been a bright spot off of the bench.
Brooklyn (24-16) – The Nets have been on fire since firing Avery Johnson.The Nets are winners in 8 out of their last 10 games and are moving right up the east standings.The talent is there for them to be a top contender and maybe it just took this team a little while to gel together and put together a run like they have been enjoying.They need their starts to stay healthy though because they don’t have a very deep bench.The health of Brooke Lopez may determine how far they advance.
Chicago (23-16) – An amazing story here with the Bulls having the record they have without league MVP Derrick Rose.They have won 7 out of 10 and are getting it done with defense.They are second in the east only giving up 91.7 points per game and are getting great production out of Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng.Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson have been solid in their attempts to replace the MVP.Rose is expected to be back sometime after the all star break and that will make this team that much more dangerous if he can round himself into form by playoff time.
Indiana (25-16) – The Pacers are another team who is hot right now and who are playing without their best player Danny Granger.They are at an NBA best 89.3 point allowed per game which is why they are winning.Roy Hibbert hasn’t been great this year but the emergence of Paul George has them excited for the future.
Boston (20-20) – The Celtics looked like they had turned the corner winning 7 straight games but have followed that up with a 3 game losing streak against the likes of Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago.The bench has been playing better which energized that win streak.The Celtics may be in the market for a shooter as Jason Terry and Courtney Lee haven’t lived up to expectations.They currently occupy the 8th seed in the east but I expect them to climb up a bit before the season is over.
Milwaukee (21-18) – The Bucks appear poised for a playoff appearance this year and have gotten a lot of production out of their high scoring backcourt Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.They also have a premier shot blocker in Larry Sanders who leads the league with 3.5 blocks per night.If Sanders can learn to stay out of foul trouble he can be a real threat for this Bucks team and has come as a pleasant surprise.
Atlanta (22-18) – The Hawks just got some tough news as they learned Lou Williams is out for the season due to injury.Josh Smith has been the subject of trade rumors as he was recently suspended for a game for conduct detrimental to the team.He will have to step up and become a leader as this team is heading in the wrong direction.Jeff Teague and Al Horford have been playing well but aren’t always consistent which is what this team needs.I don’t see them moving Smith but I don’t see them making it past the first round without a big time scorer and the loss of Williams really hurts them.
Philadelphia (17-23) – The 76ers have yet to see their big acquisition Andrew Bynum in action yet.He has the potential to be a game changer but his constant injury woes really hurt his value.Jru Holiday has taken the next step in his development and is a star in the making but I don’t think he has enough around him for them to be a serious threat.They might be able to challenge for the 7th or 8th playoff spot but they need to start putting wins together.
Detroit (15-25) – The Pistons are playing well as of late and have proven to be a formidable home team going 11-11.The big problem is their record away from home (4-14).They won’t challenge for a playoff spot but are getting their 19 year old first round pick Andre Drummond valuable playing time.He looks to be like a real player and they have a solid young nucleus with Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Brandon Knight.They lack a long ranger shooter but this team has some promise.
Toronto (15-26) – The Raptors are a team that I believe has no identity.They don’t have a superstar on their roster and they have a bunch of good players.I don’t see any of their players ever being good enough to be a star which will make things tough for them.They have been on of the most talked about teams in the trade rumors so I would be shocked if they didn’t make move before the deadline.
Orlando (14-26) – The Magic are not as bad as most though when they lost Dwight Howard.Playing without a true superstar guys like Jameer Nelson, Aaron Aflallo and Glen Davis have stepped up.Big Baby just returned from an injury so this team has the ability to improve upon their record before the season is through.A guy like JJ Reddick will be coveted by contenders so they might be able to acquire some pieces at the deadline.
Charlotte (10-30) – The Bobcats have really struggled this year but are gaining valuable experience to their young guys. Kemba Walker is a scoring threat and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will eventually be a go to player.They need an identity on the defensive side of the ball because they can’t stop anyone right now.
Cleveland (10-32) – The Cavs got some bad news when Anderson Varejao was ruled out for the year due to a blood clot in his lungs.He was the leading rebounder in the NBA before he went down and would have been a big trade chip as they look to acquire some more talent.Kyrie Irving is a franchise type player and has proved that this year and Tristan Thompson is a double double machine.
Washington (8-30) – The Wizards recently got John Wall back and that has been the only positive for this team all year.They own the NBA’s worst record and will probably own it all year.Bradley Beal looks like a player and Jordan Crawford stepped up while Wall was out.They need to develop a big man down the road.
After an amazing weekend of NFL playoff action it will be hard for the conference championships to live up to last weeks games but I think we have the matchups that can attempt to.4 elite teams, 3 of which were in the conference championship game a year ago and a hungry team that is making their first deep playoff run in years.AFC – Ravens at Patriots: We have a rematch of last years epic AFC championship game where a Billy Cundiff missed field goal sent the Patriots to the Super Bowl. A year later it was ironically the foot of the Ravens kicker (rookie Justin Tucker) that sent the Ravens back to New England where they will look to avenge that defeat.The Ravens won their week 3 matchup 31-30 but that was so long ago it will be hard to take anything from that game other than the fact that these two teams play close games when they meet up. Just look back to last years conference championship game where the Pats won 23-20.The Ravens somehow found a way to win in Denver despite giving up a punt return and kickoff return for touchdowns and connected on what was a 70 yard touchdown strike to Jacoby Jones in what was just terrible defensive placement.The safety took a bad angle on a deep pass and the corner just let Jacoby Jones run right by them expecting the safety help. The problem was the safety was not deep enough and tried to recover late but jumped too early giving Jones an easy catch and run for the score.The game was sent to overtime where the Ravens defense intercepted Peyton Manning and a few plays later kicked the game winning field goal.Ray Lewis has 1 more game at least in his storied career but will it end in Foxboro?The Patriots took care of the Texans but lost star Tight End Rob Gronkowski for the season after he broke his forearm once again.This is the same arm that sidelined him for a bunch of weeks in the regular season.Luckily for Brady he still has Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and the duo of Steven Ridley and Shane Vreen on the ground.The Patriots defense has also been playing well as of late forcing turnovers and not giving up big plays which has haunted them in the past.I think this is going to be a real physical game as the Ravens will look to give Ray Rice 25 + touches and really limit the time of possession of the Patriots.The best defense is a good offense and if the Ravens can keep Tom Brady off the field I think their chances of winning will improve.The Patriots know they can score against any defense in the National Football League and they get a chance to avenge one of their regular season defeats.They pose problems for defenses because of their hurry up offense and the ability to use a number of weapons on the offensive side of the ball.Losing Gronk hurts for sure but having another premier Tight End stops the bleeding a little bit.If this game gets into a passing matchup the Patriots will win going away, I just think the Ravens are a team of destiny right now trying to let Ray Lewis go out on top.This game has me excited for Sunday and I am going to stick with the team I projected to win the Super Bowl in AugustWinner – Baltimore RavensNFC: 49ers at Falcons – The top two seeds in the NFL meet in Atlanta for a chance to go to New Orleans .The Falcons finally broke through on Sunday and won a playoff game (the first of Matt Ryan’s career). The 49ers also had a quarterback pick up his first career postseason victory.Kolin Kaepernick who replaced Alex Smith a little past the midway point of the season was spectacular in his first playoff start.Kaepernick threw a pick 6 giving the Packers the early lead but after that controlled the game with both his arm and his feet. Kaepernick was 17 for 31 throwing for 263 yards and 2 touchdowns.He also rushed 16 times for a playoff record 181 yards and 2 touchdowns.The Packers had no answer for him all night and the performance validated coach John Harbough’s decision to stick with the young quarterback.You can guarantee had they lose he would have been questioned benching the very quarterback who led them to within a game of the Super Bowl last season.The Falcons game was very odd and one of the best endings of the season.The Falcons took a 20-0 lead into halftime.The Seahawks answered with a touchdown but the Falcons answered right back making it 27-7 heading into the 4th quarter.Nobody in their right mine thought the Seahawks could mount this historic comeback especially on the road.The Seahawks answered with 14 unanswered points both within the first 5 minutes of the 4thquarter all of the sudden making this a game again.Down 27-20 Marshawn Lynch crossed the goal line giving the Seahawks the improbable lead with just 31 seconds.The Falcons and their fans were stunned.The Falcons started the drive on their own 28 and completed a 22 yard pass to Harry Douglas. The very next play Ryan completed a 19 yard pass to Tony Gonzalez putting them to the Seattle 31 yard line. With no timeouts remaining the Falcons had to attempt the kick with 13 seconds left.The Seahawks tried to freeze the kicker and Matt Bryant missed the field goal attempt. Unfortunately for them the play was ruled dead. Bryant did not miss the second attempt and the Falcons came right back and stunned the Seahawks.This is going to be a fantastic game.The 49ers are led by their defense which will have to stop Julio Jones and Roddy White and now young Kaepernick will make his first playoff road start in Atlanta where it is very difficult to beat the Falcons.I feel like a huge monkey has been lifted off of the Falcons back now that they have a playoff win under their belts.I just think that the duel threat ability of Kaepernick and the physicality of the 49ers defense will be too much for the Falcons to overcome despite being home.I think the 49ers win this game and head to New Orleans .Winner – San Francisco 49ers