Aaron Brooks: NBA’s Most Improved Player

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan
Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

Last season the Houston Rockets exceeded expectations as they were able to finally advance past the first round of the playoffs and give the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers a run for their money. Even though Yao Ming and company weren’t able to finish off Phil Jackson’s Lakers in game seven, the future looked bright for Houston as they would almost certainly take this momentum into the following season.

Unfortunately, this season the Houston Rockets chose to clean house and aren’t really the same team that almost made it to the Western Conference finals in the previous year. Ron Artest ended up signing a free agent contract with the defending NBA champion Lakers, Yao Ming didn’t play a single game this season with a foot injury and Tracy McGrady was finally sent packing. Needless to say, this season the Rockets looked like a completely different team.

Despite the absence of Ron Artest, Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming this season, the Houston Rockets still had a relatively successful year and witnessed a new team leader emerge in point guard Aaron Brooks.

Obviously the loss of arguably the team’s best players was a huge blow to the Houston Rockets, but despite having to go on without their superstars they fared quite well and were able to see what players they can count on in the future.

Just before the NBA trade deadline this season on February 18th, the Houston Rockets decided to make huge move that would drastically change the franchise for the foreseeable future. It is no secret that Tracy McGrady is an injury prone superstar that rarely can stay healthy enough to help contribute. Coming into this season, McGrady was hoping of resurrecting his career as he was finally healthy, but the Rockets had made moves in the offseason to plan for the future like signing free agent Trevor Ariza.

With Ariza taking McGrady’s place, and number for that matter, the Rockets seemed ready to move and part ways with their former face of the franchise. As a result, the Rockets and McGrady came to an agreement to part ways and ultimately traded him to the New York Knicks. The trade involved three teams and in exchange the Rockets received a dominant scorer Kevin Martin from the Sacramento Kings in the three way deal.

Now the Houston Rockets look noticeably different and the future is uncertain, but one of the most promising players on the squad right now is point guard Aaron Brooks who has only gotten better with more time on the floor.

At season’s end, there were a few players around the league that drastically improved their game like Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, but the consensus was that the Aaron Brooks was the most improved of any player in the league and as a result has become the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

With Brooks running the point and promising young players like Trevor Ariza, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola on the squad, the Houston Rockets could be a force to be reckoned next season and if they dip into free agency they could be even better moving forward.

What’s the key to the Thunder’s sudden resurgence?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer: Ryan Ward

The Thunder will make their first playoff appearance in its young existence. Oklahoma City is currently the sixth seed in the west but are locked in a three-way battle with the Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. Well, it doesn’t really matter what seed they will end up in because the Thunder are young, athletic and skilled, which makes them a very dangerous first-round opponent.

Obviously, their success can be attributed by the sudden explosion of Kevin Durant. Durant went from rising star last season to an MVP candidate. He will likely win his first scoring title this season. Forward Jeff Green is averaging 15 points a ball game and Russell Westbrook is having a career year. These three young guns are a big reason why the Thunder find themselves in the playoffs.

It’s their offense that gets a lot of recognition, but its actually the Thunder’s defense which makes them dangerous. The Thunder allows only 97.6 points a game, which is good enough for 11th in the league. There’s not one individual on Oklahoma City that is a great defender. But as a team the Thunder are a cohesive, effective defensive unit.

Against the highest scoring team in the league, the Phoenix Suns, the Thunder held them to their lowest scoring output in the second half – the Suns scored only 34 points. The young Oklahoma City Thunder also held the Suns under 100 points. Two-time MVP Steve Nash and All-star Amar’e Stoudemire were forced into committing five combined turnovers.

All you need to know about what the Thunder defense did to the Suns offense is this: the Suns shot 58 percent in first and second quarters. After that, Phoenix shot only 31 percent. Durant and Green had seven steals – amazing considering they are both forwards.

This years Thunder reminds us much of last seasons Portland Trail Blazers. Exciting crowd, budding superstar in Durant (in the Blazers case Brandon Roy), and a core group of young talented guys. All of this resulted in first-round fodder.

Durant, in particular, had no turnovers on his way to scoring 35 points. It’s been a joy to watch Durant this season. There are already talks that is he the second best player in the league – yes, in front of Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard. This statement might be a reach considering Durant has played at this level for only one season. Plus, greatness can’t be measured during the season, it is seen where it counts – in the playoffs.

Durant and the Thunder will get the opportunity to prove exactly that as they make their first playoff appearance in history.

Can the Rockets or the Grizzlies clinch the eight spot in the West?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

Every single season in the NBA Western Conference proves to be the most competitive, at least as of late, with plenty of teams that are legitimate playoff teams throughout the entire season. This year is no different as 11 teams in the conference could quite possibly battling it out or playoff spot in the second half of the season.

At this point in time no ways going to touch the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers as a the best record in the conference and are at least three games ahead of anybody behind them. Along with the Lakers the Dallas Mavericks and the Denver Nuggets also look like teams in the untouchable category as they have also shown the dominant this season and look to be battling it out between each other for the number two and number three spots in the West.

Other than that, all the other spots in the Western Conference from 4 to 8 seem to be up for grabs and will be moving back and forth until the 82nd game of the season has been played teams in the West.

Just below the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference is the Utah Jazz who have played extremely well this season and prove that they haven’t lost a step with All-Star point guard Deron Williams and forward Carlos Boozer leading the way. Despite playing brilliant basketball this season, Williams and company will have their work cut out for them second half of the season as Kevin Durant and his boys are slowly but surely working up the standings and threatening to take over the four spot.

The five through eight spots in the Western Conference are as competitive as can be as all four of these teams can easily go up or down in the seeding come playoff time. As of right now the Oklahoma City thunder on the five spot being almost dead even Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns as they are both seven games back from the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.

After Phoenix there are the San Antonio Spurs and the Portland Trail Blazers that round of the pack in the West at seven and eight. Much like the seeds for them, the Blazers and the Spurs are only a few games apart and could very well eventually get knocked out of the playoffs if they struggle late in the season and let teams like the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets take their place.

On the outside looking in you have the Grizzlies, Rockets and the New Orleans Hornets who are on the verge of dropping below .500 and being completely out of contention, but these teams have played very well in stretches despite being extremely streaky at times.

The Portland Trail Blazers are a good team this season, but they have once again struggled with injuries to players like Greg Oden and their superstar guard Brandon Roy. With that being said I believe that the Grizzlies or the Rockets could very well get their chance to clinch the eight spot if they continue to play well in the second half of the season while the Blazers continue to struggle with nagging injuries to key players like Brandon Roy.

If these two teams do get a chance to knock off the Blazers were the Spurs if they fall to the eighth spot, I believe it will be the Memphis Grizzlies who are able to do it as they look like a team just rejuvenated this season with Zach Randolph leading the way in the paint arguably his best season as a Pro.

Can the Houston Rockets knock off the Portland Trail Blazers for the eighth spot in the West?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

Ever since Hakeem Olajuwon retired from the Houston Rockets back in the 90s, the team that dominated while Michael Jordan was taking a break to play baseball by winning two straight titles, has been trying to get back to title contender status in the NBA.

Unfortunately, even though the Houston Rockets had big name players like Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, they have been unable to do anything, but lose in the early in the playoffs.

Before last season, the Houston Rockets had lost in consecutive years in the first round of the playoffs a lot of the blame went directly to Tracy McGrady as everyone looked at him like the leader. Well, the injuries though it up a McGrady’s body and the Rockets decided it was time to move on and traded him to the New York Knicks this season before the NBA trade deadline on February 18th.

This trade in the works or at least a trade involving Tracy McGrady ever since the NBA season have started this year, but Houston have been unable to find a team willing to take on McGrady’s $23 million dollar expiring contract. Fortunately, the Knicks were willing to do such a thing pulled the trigger of a trade which ultimately brought Kevin Martin from the Sacramento Kings to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Carl Landry and Tracy McGrady.

Since the trade the Houston Rockets have looked pretty impressive, but they are still the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. As always in the Western Conference is a competitive race come playoff time as are so many good teams and only eight spots for the postseason.

At the bottom half you have the Portland Trail Blazers at the eighth spot and the Memphis Grizzlies and the Houston Rockets fighting to knock off Brandon Roy and company before the end of the NBA regular season.

As of right now, the Houston Rockets have gone ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies in the race for the final spot in the Western Conference, but are still five games behind the Portland Trail Blazers.

Their only 14 games left in the NBA regular season for the Houston Rockets which is a much to make up five games and clinch the final spot in the Western Conference, but they have won seven of their last 10 games and it could be possible to catch up to the Portland Trail Blazers if they keep playing solid basketball.

Realistically though, I can’t see the Portland Trail Blazers struggling enough to where they would give the Houston Rockets a chance to close the gap before the 14 games is over.

The Blazers may have been dealing with injuries all season long to Greg Oden, Brandon Roy and a few other key players, but they are a five-game winning streak right now and looking pretty good heading into the end of the NBA regular season which leads me to believe that no intentions of giving up that eighth spot and will most likely head into the playoffs to face the defending NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

NBA Trade Rundown

Staff Writer: Jeremiah Ira Yap

Three team trade involving the Knicks, Kings and Rockets

The New York Knicks get: Tracy McGrady and Segio Rodriguez

McGrady will get the opportunity to showcase his skills for a new team in the summer. He does not fit in the future plans of the Knicks and his $23 million-plus contract will come off the shelf after the season. McGrady’s arrival in New York works both ways.

The Knicks will save enough money in the summer to sign two high-priced free agents to max contracts. Let me drop a hint: one of them wears no. 23 for the Cavaliers. The Knicks are so far under the salary cap that they can wave huge loads of cash in the face of Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudamire. Whoever they plan to pair with LeBron James, the Knicks will be contenders. That’s if they coax James into signing with them.

Sergio Rodriguez is a slight upgrade over Chris Duhon. He has better court vision and a consistent shooter. Rodriguez rarely makes mistakes. He is a great addition to the Knicks.

The Sacramento Kings get: Carl Landry, Larry Hughes and Joey Dorsey

Carl Landry is a more than capable basketball player that can play above average defense and has nifty moves around the basket. He is averaging a career-high 16 points a game. Landry can play the third or fourth spot, but can’t really be used as a full time starter for either position because he is too short to play the power forward and too slow to play the small forward position. Other than that, Landry is a great role-player coming of the bench.

Larry Hughes belongs at the end of the bench. He is a streaky shooter and an overrated defender. Kings’ head coach Paul Westphal has to limit his minutes to the point that he doesn’t sulk and destroy the young chemistry in Sacramento.

Dorsey may contribute to the team but will be buried under Donte Greene and Jason Thompson’s minutes.

The Houston Rockets get: Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, Hilton Armstrong, Jared Jeffries and draft picks

Kevin Martin is a young scorer that needs the ball in his hands to be effective in the half-court. Imagine the trouble the backcourt of Martin and point guard Aaron Brooks will cause against opponents. Both guards have superior speed and quickness but their smallish frames can be a problem on the defensive end. He is a young version of Tracy McGrady – great scorer but injury prone.

Jordan Hill is a rookie that does not fit his 8th pick draft status.

Jared Jeffries is a role-player that can occasionally hit 15 footers and can play above-average defense.

Trade between the Mavericks and Wizards

The Dallas Mavericks get: Caron Butler, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood

Butler is virtually the same player Josh Howard is without the attitude. Butler is a professional and Dallas hopes that the move will re-energize him. He will take the scoring load of Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. Jason Kidd will provide him with plenty of scoring opportunities.

Haywood is a tad better than Erick Dampier. He plays hard, rebounds well and can get you around two blocks a game.

The Washington Wizards get: Josh Howard, Drew Gooden (sent to the Clippers for Al Thornton), Quinton Ross and James Singleton

The Wizards are hoping that the change of scenery will also change Howard’s attitude. Howard is a versatile player that can slash and shoot when motivated. Although his last two seasons with the Mavericks have been marred with injury.

Gooden is an average defender and passable scorer. He demands the ball more then he really needs to.

Quinton Ross and James Singleton are bench players that were added to clear salary cap.

Trade between the Clippers and Trail Blazers

The Los Angeles Clippers get: Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw

Steve Blake will be a great back up to Baron Davis. Blake is a great shooter, but lacks the speed to play up-tempo.

Outlaw will provide another clutch scorer besides Baron Davis. He has been injured for most of the season, but is one of the most athletic players in the league when healthy.

The Portland Trail Blazers get: Marcus Camby

Great. The Blazers lose two injury prone centers early in the season only to acquire another injury prone center. When healthy, Camby can intimidate and block shots. But he is not a great positional defender and can get burned on single coverage. His thin frame will not help him against the likes of Pau Gasol and Nene in the Western conference.

Trade between the Timberwolves and Knicks

The Minnesota Timberwolves get: Darko Milicic

The Wolves get one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Milicic can’t wait for his contract to expire so he can return to Europe and never come back.

The New York Knicks get: Brian Cardinal

Traded to clear cap room.

Trade between the Cavaliers and Wizards

The Cleveland Cavaliers get: Antawn Jamison

Jamison is a much better fit for the Cavs than if they acquired Amar’e Stoudemire. His debut for the Cavs was a dud; he went 0 for 12 and failed to make any significant impact.

He will improve the Cavs once he gets to know his teammates and plays better. His shooting will take loads of LeBron James and Mo Williams. Jamison is comfortable with being the third option.

The Washington Wizards get: Zydrunas Ilgauskus

It will only be a matter of time before Ilgauskus will find himself in the Cavs roster before the playoffs starts. Cleveland needs Ilgauskus as insurance just in case Shaq gets injured – or decides to take the playoffs off.

Trade between the Wizards and Clippers

The Washington Wizards get: Al Thornton

Thornton showed a lot of promise during his stay with the Clippers. In his first game in a Wizards jersey, Thornton scored 21 points in a win over the Denver Nuggets.

The Cleveland Cavaliers acquired Sebastian Telfair from the Clippers for nothing

Telfair will be buried on the bench. The Cavs don’t need his services.

Trade between the Bobcats and Bulls

The Charlotte Bobcats get: Tyrus Thomas

Thomas is an underachiever. If Bobcats’ head coach Larry Brown can inject any sort of motivation in him, then Charlotte can finally move Gerald Wallace to his more natural small-forward position.

The Chicago Bulls get: Acie Law and Flip Murray

Acie Law is destined to be a bench player. He has had opportunities to show his talent but failed to display any sort of usefulness on the court. Murray will provide the Bulls with instant offense off the bench. But Bulls’ head coach Vinny Del Negro needs to limit his minutes to minimize his mistakes.

Trade between the Bulls and Bucks
The Milwaukee Bucks get: John Salmons
Salmons is a temporary replacement for sharpshooter Michael Redd. He will be given the license to shoot at all times since opposing defenses have zoned in on rookie Brandon Jennings. He scored 18 points in his debut for the Bucks.

The Chicago Bulls get: Joe Alexander and Hakim Warrick

The Bucks have given up on Joe Aelxander and his potential. In his limited minutes, he wasn’t able to show any sign of being able to play at the NBA level –great NBDL player though.

Hakim Warrick is an athletic player that can occasionally shoot and can rarely play defense. He is a slight upgrade over Tyrus Thomas.

The Charlotte Bobcats acquired Theo Ratliff from the Spurs for a second-round draft pick

Ratliff will provide veteran leadership but his minutes will be limited. If he plays around 10-15 solid minutes a game, then the Bobcats are winners of this exchange.

The Memphis Grizzlies acquired Ronnie Brewer from the Jazz for a draft pick

Brewer will help take minutes off Rudy Gay. His athleticism is welcome but his lack of skills will keep him from playing big minutes.

Trade between the Knicks and Celtics

The Boston Celtics get: Nate Robinson and Marcus Landry

Robinson is an explosive scorer but it’s his ball handling that the Celtics need. Eddie House doesn’t know how to set up an offense. Robinson is definitely an upgrade over House.

The New York Knicks get: Eddie House, J.R. Giddens and Bill Walker

The Knicks will add another shooter in House. JR Giddens and Bill walker are destined to finish their NBA careers on the bench.