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The 2015 NBA All Ski-Mask Way Team

Who made the NBA's All Ski-Mask Way team this season? (photo courtesy of www.imgarcarde.com)

Who made the NBA’s All Ski-Mask Way team this season? (photo courtesy of http://www.imgarcarde.com)

The NBA season is almost to a close as the NBA Finals are upon us. We have had many exciting games, plays and individual performances along the way. Who can forget the reception when LeBron returned Opening Night to Cleveland or when Russell Westbrook was on his triple-double streak? While those moments stand out in the memory of a lot of people, there are also performances that many would love to forget. Some fans may want to even forget their teams even played this year. And even worse, there are some players that fans may want to forget were even on their roster this past season. The trouble is some of those players are hard to forget because of the huge pricetag they tote with them. Some fans may accuse them of stealing money from their organizations. These players have earned the ire of many fans across the board and have been taking their paychecks with a ski mask all season long. So to honor these players, The Everyday Man’s Sports Blog presents the NBA All-Ski Mask Way team, dedicated to recognizing the best of the best of stealing money from organizations in the NBA.

Lance Stephenson-Guard, Charlotte Hornets)

When Lance was given the opportunity in Indiana to replace Danny Granger, he took full advantage of his chance. He was putting up triple-doubles and making the winning plays for them. He also was the only one that played and showed up consistently when the Pacers played the Heat last season in the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. It was all set up for him to have a huge payday and take his career to the next level. Some thought he would stay in Indiana and continue his growth there, but he decided to take his game and go to Charlotte. His deal with the Hornets was for three years and $27 million (last year of the deal is a team option) and he was expected to be the number two option beside center Al Jefferson. Well, he did not quite exactly reach the level he thought. Lance averaged 8.7 points per game, even less than his average salary per year. And he shot below 40% from the field (37.6%) for the first time since 2011. And to top it all off, the youngster out of Cincinnati was relegated to the bench for most of the season. Not what you expected from him going there. He may rebound next year, but we know the Hornets are looking to get rid of him if they can. But for now, he is there little salary albatross they cannot ship out of town if they wanted.

Eric Gordon- Guard, New Orleans Pelicans

Who can remember in the summer of 2012 when Eric Gordon was a restricted free agent? At that time, he signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns and declared that he had found his home and did not want to go back to New Orleans. Well, the then Hornets signed matched the four-year, $58 million offer from the Phoenix Suns and ever since he has been disappointing the Hornets/Pelicans. This season he continued his downward fall in scoring from 15.4 points per game to 13.4 points per game. And he wasn’t even a dynamic player this past season either. It seems like he has been passed by on the team by the play of Tyreke Evans and if Jrue Holiday is healthy next season, he could be looking at a bench role or even (or should I say hopefully) someone will take his expiring contract off their hands. The Pelicans are probably very thankful that he is coming off the books after this year. But until then, that over $15 million salary for next season is a haunting upon the management there in New Orleans.

Deron Williams- Guard, Brooklyn Nets

Who can remember the time when Williams used to be in the argument about the best point guard in the NBA? The Nets were banking on Williams showing them that he was that guy when they signed him to a five-year, $98 million in the summer of 2012. To say the Nets have not got a good return on their investment is an understatement. The guard out of Illinois has been battling injuries during his entire time in Brooklyn and when he has been on the court, he has not been the same guy he once was. In fact, since he signed the big deal with the team, Williams’ points per game have declined each season, dropping to 13.0 points per game this season (his lowest since his rookie season in the NBA). People can say that it was because of his coach and the change of system, but good players get it done no matter what system they are in. As time goes on, it has become apparent that Williams was a star in Jerry Sloan’s system in Utah, but is an ordinary guard outside of it. He does have his moments, but he is not steady enough to be even considered a superstar point guard anymore. He does not perform like it and he likely never will again. He played good at the right time for the Nets and Brooklyn has been footing the bill for his declining performances ever since.

Channing Frye- Power Forward, Orlando Magic

Channing Frye was one that probably would not have made this list if it had not been for Orlando overpaying to obtain his services. Nevertheless, the rangy big man out of Arizona locks down the power forward spot on this team. Frye had the worst shooting year of his career (39.2%) after signing the four-year, $32 million deal. The Magic may not have expected Frye to be a superstar, but they certainly did not expect him to have his worst output since the 2009-2010 season. And to be someone that is 6’11”, you would think that he would average more than 4 rebounds a game despite averaging 25 minutes a game. But that is just the reality when you have a stretch four shooting three’s that does not do much else. Hopefully next season will be better for him, but that all depends on if his jump shot is falling. Because if it isn’t, then he will not have much more impact on anything else at all. Whatever the Magic saw in him as a prized free agent was an illusion.

JaVale McGee-Center, Denver Nuggets/Philadelphia 76ers

The JaVale McGee experience was limited this year due to injuries at the beginning of the year. But once McGee hit the court, the hilarity ensued. It just seems like McGee is not all there at times when he is on the court. And honestly, it seems like he is purposely trying to make us laugh and make Shaqtin-A-Fool each week. Tragic Bronson, as he is called by Shaq on his bloopers segment, is a very talented athlete. He is that rare combination of speed, agility and leaping ability. And that was on full display when he was under the tutelage of former Nuggets coach George Karl. But since he has been gone, he has been non-existent and not deserving of that contract that pays him $11 million a year. He may not have played but 23 games, but that was enough of a sample to let us know he was getting things done the Ski-Mask way and that he played good enough at the right time to fool the Nuggets to give him a deal. Great thing for the next team that signs him is that he has devalued himself enough where he does not come close to getting that amount of money. Philly bought him out once he was traded to them and he is out there for someone to grab.

All Ski-Mask Way MVP- Kendrick Perkins, Center, Oklahoma City Thunder/ Cleveland Cavaliers

The MVP had some stiff competition this year, but in the end, it could only be him. The big man was getting an average of $9 million a year from the Oklahoma City Thunder. When he was brought there, he was brought in for brute toughness, his defense and his locker room leadership. He definitely was not brought there for his scoring at all. But when his defense started to suffer and he was just a body out there that could not finish a layup consistently, then he became a liability. Honestly, his contract extension was not the smartest thing that Oklahoma City could have done because at the time, his deal knocked them out of contention to sign both Serge Ibaka and James Harden. And for what? 4 points per game. He was eventually traded to the Utah Jazz and bought out by them, only to join Cleveland on their championship run. But even though he is making a little less than $500,000 for the rest of the season, he still robbed the Thunder in broad daylight for a couple years. He is the true definition of doing things the Ski-Mask way.

Honorable Mention

Landry Fields-Guard, Toronto Raptors

Many have not heard this name in forever and that is because since he has been a member of the Toronto Raptors, he has entered the basketball equivalent of the Witness Protection Program aka the end of the bench. Not what many expected from a guy that made $8.5 million this season. The Raptors must be jumping for joy that he is not on their roster next season at that number. And with the exit of him, maybe they can use that money to bring in someone that can actually contribute in points per game and not claps per good plays by his teammates.

This is your 2015 NBA All Ski-Mask Way team! Hope you all enjoyed the team and enjoyed arguing about how bad they were this year.

The Choice Is Now In The Hands Of Anthony Davis

Anthony Davis has to be thinking about this big contract decision coming soon. (photo courtesy of www.thestate.com)

Anthony Davis has to be thinking about this big contract decision coming soon. (photo courtesy of http://www.thestate.com)

The growth of New Orleans big man Anthony Davis has been undeniable. He entered the league as a player with so much promise and not a lot of tape on what he could be offensively. Well, after three years in the NBA, he has shown that he was worth the number one pick, improving each and every season he has been in the NBA. And along with his improvement, the team has gotten better every year as well. This year, they even made the playoffs with a 45-37 record, although they lost in a sweep to the Golden State Warriors. Davis averaged 31.5 points and 11 rebounds or the series against the Warriors and he honestly could have done more if he was given the basketball even more than he was. The future seems bright for the Pelicans as they are a pretty young team and should learn from this experience. But before next season begins, the Pelicans are trying to lock up their most important piece. Reports are surfacing that Anthony Davis will be offered a max contract with the Pelicans that will pay him $140 million over 5 years. Of course that deal would be a no-brainer for anyone else on that team, but what does Anthony Davis want to do?

Davis is definitely still reaching his ceiling. At only 22 years old, he has become a matchup nightmare for many big men in the NBA. And the crazy part is he can still get better with his game. The thing that Davis has to look at before he signs this contract is the team that can be built around him. As the team currently stands, only have five players under contract for next season (Jrue Holiday, Ryan Anderson, Quincy Pondexter, Tyreke Evans and Anthony Davis) and the Pelicans hold a $15.5 million option for guard Eric Gordon that comes off the books. And going into the 2016-2017 season, currently there are only three players under contract (Holiday, Pondexter and Evans). With the salary cap rising in the next two seasons, the Pelicans have some work to do to build the team around Davis. There will be plenty of players that will be available this offseason and next offseason to help the team get better. The question will be are the Pelicans willing to spend money to get better? If history tells us anything, the Pelicans organization, which used to be nicknamed the Hornets, may be willing to stick their foot in the free agent waters a little bit, but they have not been willing to go all-in for the talents needed to take them to the next level.

Chris Paul was once the best player on this franchise. He would routinely make players around him better along with putting his own spin on the games. But over his tenure with the team, it seemed like the organization never brought in players that would complement his star power. The best player that he played with in his entire career with the franchise was David West. No slight to West, but the team needed more than him to make it happen. As a result, the team was never a serious threat in the Western Conference and eventually Paul left via trade for the Clippers. The organization seemed to want to spend money on players that could not make an impact that was needed to take them higher, instead spending money on role players hoping they would take it to another level with Paul as the point guard. Now the organization was under different ownership at that point and time, but there is no indication that this organization will make a good pickup in free agency. If Davis is paying attention to the history of the organization, he should hold off on signing that extension this summer. Of course there is always the possibility that he could get seriously injured next season. But what he should do is make the Hornets prove to him that they are serious about winning. The organization will truly be able to do so if they are serious about keeping Davis there. Then again, if they are not serious about winning, they may bring in some more role players that cannot make as much of a difference. The organization will have an additional $15 million freed up should they not pick up the option on Gordon and that could definitely make some things happen in terms of bringing a great player in to help take the Pelicans to the next level.

Should Davis not sign the contract extension with the Pelicans, there are plenty of options out there available to him. Anyone out there would gladly make room for Davis on their roster. A team like the Los Angeles Lakers would have the contract of Kobe Bryant falling off the books after the 2015-2016 season. Although they have Julius Randle there as their current power forward of the future, Los Angeles would gladly move him to get the next superstar in the NBA. This is just one scenario, but the point is that Davis could easily pick where he wants to play and although he would lose one year on a max contract leaving the Pelicans, he may gain a team that would be more competitive and bring a better situation to his talents. Only time will tell what Davis can and will do, but the smartest thing to do would be to play Poker with the Pelicans. He holds a lot of the cards with his star rising along with the salary cap as well. It should be interesting to see if he actually signs the deal, which he may do, or if he holds out until the following season like Portland Trailblazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge did. And we all see that Aldridge may be leaving the Trailblazers. Could this be the same path that Davis follows? We shall indeed see.

New Orleans Pelicans And Golden State Warriors: A Difference In Experience

Steph Curry with the three over the outstretched hands of Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis during Game 3 (photo courtesy of www.bigeasybeliever.com)

Steph Curry with the three over the outstretched hands of Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis during Game 3 (photo courtesy of http://www.bigeasybeliever.com)

The Golden State Warriors were the favorite by many to win the NBA title this season. Their combination of precision shooting, tough defense, depth and versatility can be an overwhelming thing to see every game. The Warriors used that combination to win 67 regular season and secure the number one seed this season in the tough Western Conference. Meanwhile, their first round opponent took a little bit different route to the playoffs. Fighting through injuries to key players, the New Orleans Pelicans fought their way into the playoffs. For most of the season, they were battling with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns for that eight seed in the West. It took the Pelicans until the last day of the regular season, but they were able to make it into the playoffs as the eight seed. Despite injuries to key players like big man Anthony Davis, the Pelicans were able to keep it together enough to make a run towards the playoffs. Through that experience, it seemed the Pelicans were trying to take that next step in developing. The team was able to make it to the playoffs and their prize for making it was the Golden State Warriors. And you could tell the difference in both teams on the court and not just by their records.

As you watched the series, it was evident who the more experienced team was. That was shown throughout the series when each team faced a little bit of adversity. In the first game of the series, the Warriors were dominating the game. They seemed to be comfortably pulling away from the Pelicans, when New Orleans made an improbable run in the fourth quarter. The game got tighter and tighter as the Warriors were missing shots and the Pelicans were working through Anthony Davis. Then, as the game got tighter, the Warriors did not panic and put the ball back in the hands of their best playmaker, Steph Curry. As a result, the Warriors were able to right the ship in that game and they ended up handing on the series-opening win versus New Orleans. The Pelicans were going to Davis for a while in that fourth quarter, but it seemed like when they got close, they decided to start going to other areas, mainly guard Eric Gordon. As a result, the momentum that was built was essentially ceased by a member of Anthony Davis’ own team. This shows you right there that the Warriors were sure who they were while the Pelicans are still trying to figure it out on the court.

Another example of New Orleans’ youth showing up for them was in Game 3. The New Orleans Hornets were on the opposite side of the coin when it came to 20 point leads this time. The Pelicans had been taking it to the Warriors all night long. It looked like they were going to win their first playoff game and then potentially get some momentum going. But the Warriors took the time to trust their defense, go back to basics offensively and they also hit the offensive boards. They began to chip at the lead of New Orleans Pelicans’ huge lead in the fourth and they eventually would tie the game on a spectacular three-point shot by Steph Curry and send the game to overtime. The Warriors would go on to win the basketball game in overtime. They did everything right in terms of stopping the opponents, knocking down shots and doing whatever was possible to get the win they needed. On the other hand, it seemed as if New Orleans was wilting on the court. The Pelicans got their by allowing forward Ryan Anderson to go to work in the post on whoever the Warriors decided to put on him. That was working well, but it just seemed like they wanted to go a different direction when it mattered the most and Golden State was making their run. Touches to Anthony Davis can always be great things, especially in the clutch. But instead of going to Davis and Anderson, the ball funneled through the hands of guard Eric Gordon. And it was in that last twelve minutes in Game 3 that Golden State won the series and New Orleans lost it.

The experience of losing this series will undoubtedly not feel good for the Pelicans. They played hard and tried to win a game or two while trying to make it competitive all the way through. But the inexperience of their team eventually cost them. They did not know how to close someone out or take it to another level of playoff intensity at all times. On the other hand, Golden State has been in the playoffs before. When tough situations come, they know how to handle those like that of a team that has experienced the playoffs together. And it is because of their collective experience along with excellent ability that they are headed into the next round while the Pelicans are headed home. The experience the Warriors had won out over the inexperience of New Orleans. Hopefully Anthony Davis and the Pelicans will take this as a learning lesson and not as a failure.

CP3 Is A Clipper: A Breakdown Of The Big Deal

He was traded to the Lakers. Then that was vetoed. Then the trade was off that was going to send him to the Clippers. Well, I guess the Clippers decided that what the Hornets wanted in return was enough to obtain Chris Paul’s services. The Clippers shipped C Chris Kaman, F Al-Farouq Aminu, G Eric Gordon and an unprotected 1st round pick the Clippers received from the Timberwolves to the New Orleans Hornets for Paul and two future second round draft picks. All Clipper fans are rejoicing. They feel their savior is here. But really is this move going to make the Clippers a team to beat?

Let’s examine what the Clippers look like now. In case no one was paying attention, the Clippers now have four PGs on their roster: Chauncey Billups, Eric Bledsoe, Chris Paul and Mo Williams. Plenty are probably wondering how all of them will fit on a roster and the perfect answer is they all won’t. I think the Clippers will likely waive Williams via the amnesty clause. With the other three PGs, I think they will rotate all three at PG and Billups could see a lot of time at the SG position. I know there are naysayers that say that will not work, but its worked before, even going back to the days of Walt Frazier and Pearl Washington.

An issue that could come from this trade will be depth. The starting five could be Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan. But after that, who do the Clippers have? Eric Bledsoe and possibly Ryan Gomes would be it. I think the Clippers should go out and try to acquire or sign a piece or two up front. With what the cap situation is going to look like, I expect that the signings that the Clippers make after this trade will be players that basically make the veteran minimum. A veteran combo guard and big man to come off the bench would be nice additions.

Now no trade is one-sided, so we have to look at the trade from the New Orleans perspective. In bringing Eric Gordon, who was the crown jewel for this trade for them, they now have a guy who could be the explosive scorer and personality that they need. Expect him to get as many opportunities as possible to fill it up as he will be the main weapon. Kaman will be a solid big man inside for the Hornets. He will provide some scoring punch inside as well as rebounding to match Emeka Okafor. The biggest wild card in this trade for me is Al-Farouq Aminu. Is he a SF or a PF is still a question a lot of people have. He can handle the basketball, but he cannot shoot consistently. He really isn’t physical enough at the PF spot to produce there. It should be interesting to see how he develops with increased playing time.

In the overall view of this trade, I believe the Hornets got the best deal that was on the table. They got a scorer, a rebounder, a first round pick and a guy that could potentially be a very good player. But for the Clippers, they got one of the best PGs in the game, if not the best. He and Blake should connect plenty of times for alley-oops that are sure to be on Sports Center. The Clippers had to make this move to make themselves relevant in L.A. for the first time since they went to the playoffs with Sam Cassell and crew. Only time will tell if their attempt at becoming a consistent competitor backfires because of the loss of young talent but we will see. But for now, Los Angeles is buzzing and it isn’t buzzing because of the Lakers.

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