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.

LeBron James and Tracy McGrady combo in New York?

Ryan Ward - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

No team this summer will get more attention for having the most money to wheel and deal with in the free agent market then the New York Knicks. All season long all the attention that the Knicks have been getting hasn’t been about how horrible this season has been, but the prospects of what could happen this summer and if they can convince LeBron James to sign with them.

Even though it might be somewhat of a stretch to believe that LeBron James would leave the best team in the NBA for arguably one of the worst in the New York Knicks, money does talk in the mix will have plenty of it as they will be able to afford to pay LeBron James and another big name free agent like Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire or Joe Johnson.

Despite getting questions constantly about his future, LeBron has been very tightlipped about what his plans are which leads many people to believe that arguably the best player in the NBA could end up anywhere.

The most likely destination for LeBron James is simply staying put the Cleveland Cavaliers as they have brought in the pieces to become legitimate title contenders for the least the next few years like Antawn Jamison and Shaquille O’Neal. Even though the Cavs will most likely convince LeBron to sign a contract extension, the Los Angeles Clippers and the New York Knicks would do everything within their power to bring LeBron to their team and a much bigger market.

One interesting thing about the New York Knicks is that they will have the most money to spend on free agents this summer which means they will be able to bring in another big name free agent and a few other players at a lesser price like Allen Iverson or Tracy McGrady.

As of right now, Allen Iverson has a stretch because of all his off the court troubles and obviously the ego to boot, but with Tracy McGrady currently being on the team in already getting his feet wet New York, there is a good possibility that we could see LeBron James and Tracy McGrady combination on the Knicks.

So the potential of having LeBron James, Tracy McGrady and another big name free agent like Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire is a strong possibility. Just those three players or combination of three players would turn the New York Knicks into one of the best teams in the league instantly somewhat similar to the Boston Celtics and they brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to play alongside Paul Pierce.

Obviously something big is can happen this summer with many teams doing all they can to upgrade, but the New York Knicks are definitely a team to keep your eye on as they will almost certainly convince one of the big names this summer to come to the Big Apple and put on the Knicks jersey.

Who? Remains to be seen.

Is Carlos Boozer headed to New York?

Staff Writer for Basketball Betting - A true Lakers Fan

Staff Writer:  Ryan Ward

The NBA regular season is almost in the books with eight teams from each conference gearing up for a run at the NBA title, but a lot of teams will be going home early and doing everything they can do to make huge splash in the extremely talented free agent market this summer.

When free agency begins this summer, all eyes will be on LeBron James and whether or not he will re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers or go for the big market with the New York Knicks or the Los Angeles Clippers.

At this point time, LeBron will most likely end up staying with the Cavs, but he has left little indication on his plans and a lot speculation heading into the postseason.

Even though King James will get most of the attention this summer with a media circus in both New York and Cleveland, there are still a lot of big names that will become available for the highest. The three other names that are getting mentioned as game changing free agents this summer are Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire.

Much like LeBron, these three players could help turn around an NBA franchise instantly will their arrival to a new team in the league, but there are also a few other players that could become available this summer that aren’t getting the attention they deserve.

The two players that come to mind are the San Antonio Spurs scoring machine Manu Ginobili and the Utah Jazz All-Star caliber big man Carlos Boozer.

These two players will be unrestricted free agents this offseason and will almost certainly get an offer from their current team, but neither the Spurs or the Jazz have reached out to their All-Star caliber players in order to sign them to a contract extension.

The Utah Jazz and the San Antonio Spurs would be foolish to let either one of these players go elsewhere, but Carlos Boozer would arguably be the one of the two players that has a bit more value at the time being due to his age.

Obviously the Utah Jazz will most likely do all they can do to sign their power forward in an effort to keep the lethal combination of Boozer and Williams intact, but one team that could show some serious interest in signing Carlos Boozer in the offseason is the New York Knicks.

This summer the New York Knicks will have the most money to wheel and deal with and they will have their sights set on some big name free agents like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire.

If the Knicks can’t sign LeBron, who they seem extremely interested in, New York will most likely go after two big name players like Joe Johnson of the Atlanta Hawks and Carlos Boozer of the Utah Jazz.

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.