May 29, 2014

2014 NBA Playoffs: Paul George steps up, keeps Pacers season alive

(1) Indiana Pacers 93, (2) Miami Heat 90
Paul George: 37 points (15-28 FG,) 6 rebounds, 6 steals, 2 assists
Dwyane Wade: 18 points (7-14 FG,) 8 rebounds, 7 assists

With his team down 3-1 in the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals, and his season on the brink, Paul George took full responsibility in extending Indiana's season and forcing a Game 6 against the Miami Heat.

George registered one of the most stellar Pacer playoff performances in recent memory, as his 37 points (31 in the 2nd half,) 6 rebounds and 6 steals propelled Indy to a season salvaging victory.

21 of his 31 2nd half points came in the all important fourth quarter, where some legacies are molded or simply erode away.

Miami Heat superstar LeBron James was parked on the bench for majority of the game, as some iffy foul calls forced him to the sideline. James played only 24 minutes, scored only 7 points (2-10 FG) and had 4 assists and 2 rebounds.

James' 7 points is the fewest he's ever had in a playoff game.

With LeBron being strapped to the bench for the bulk of the game, Paul George drew the assignment of stopping the league's best shooting guard in Dwyane Wade. This task proved to be less tedious and strenuous on George, who looked fresh and engaged in the final period of the contest.

In the fourth, George had his legs and wasn't experiencing that crippling exhaustion that usually stems from having to contain LeBron James over the 48 minutes in a professional basketball game.

From 6:22 on in the 4th quarter, George had 4 of Indiana's 5 field goals and 13 of their final 17 points. This includes Paul nailing a huge three pointer with 46 seconds left after Heat big man Chris Bosh nailed a three the prior possession to cut it to a one point Pacer lead.

It was my belief, that if this game came down to big shot making and taking, Miami would march away victorious. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade would be too much to overcome, and the threats multiply as Chris Bosh, Mario Chalmers and Ray Allen all have the capability of making the dagger shot.

Usually, Indiana tends to cower away in the big moments, plagued by uncertainty and stagnation on the offensive end. Many become unsure of who will take and make the big shot, but Paul George put a stern dismissal to these notions tonight.

George was focused, fearless and fiery, countering every big Miami play with a dazzling maneuver of his own. George's dominance was not restricted to the offensive end, as his elite defense was in full throttle during tonight's contest.

George and Lance Stephenson refused to rest on their laurels, picking up Wade, Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole at almost full court, forcing them to squander away the rhythm Miami had for the entire first half.

George's game was a blend of activity, assertiveness and bounciness. He imposed his will all over the court, borrowing some of that aggression and energy Lance Stephenson seems to have such a high dosage of.

Many fans question if Paul George has entered the realm of superstardom that LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul dwell in. George is one of the most debated figures when it comes to discussing top ten NBA players, and Wednesday night he showcased to the entire world that he's worthy of being mentioned amongst the NBA's elite.

For some eerie reason, their seems to be an unwritten rule that Paul George must accomplish what it takes some stars ten plus years to accomplish in the beginning stages of his career. George is only 24, his best days are ahead of him and he shouldn't be faulted for Indiana falling victim to an all-time great Miami Heat team.

Miami boasts championship experience, deep, poised veteran talent, an extremely skilled forward in Chris Bosh, the league's best shooting guard in Dwyane Wade and the world's best player in LeBron James.

Miami never seems panicked when Indiana starts to rally, or muster up a great deal of momentum. They remain unfazed, with their mind fixated on victory. Indiana eventually wants to mimic this strong mental makeup, the makeup that is usually associated with a championship caliber team.

As each grueling game unfolds, it's illustrated to George and these Pacers what's needed to have their name spewed out when mentioning the league's top tier teams. They want to abandon the inconsistencies that have hampered them for the entire second half of the season, for more gritty and brute play.

They want to develop that sense of calmness that Miami firmly grasps onto even in the most chaotic of situations. Showings such as this simply paint George as the reliable figure who can deliver a victory even when the odds seem to be stacked against you.
With every attack of the basket, George pushed Miami back on their heels. With each flick of the wrist, Paul George gave the Indiana faithful a reason to leap out of their chair and cheer. Each and every one of George's basket restored the faith that Miami had done an excellent job of stripping away in Games 2, 3 and 4.

Now, Indiana must venture into Miami, and face an eager and angered Heat team who lost the opportunity to close this Indiana team out in Game 5. Despite LeBron James not leaving his usually massive imprint on this game, the Heat still had the opportunity to emerge victorious.

They only lost by three points, and will look to bury this Indy team once and for all on Friday in front of their sure to be hysterical home crowd.

But for tonight, the exciting Pacer play was led by Paul George who pushed himself one step closer into the elite player conversation with this performance. George is in the intermediate stages of shaping his legacy, and this game tonight was a mesmerizing start.

Does Indiana have a chance in Game 6? Will this series go to a Game 7? Share thoughts and opinions on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and continue to support The Basketball Society.

May 20, 2014

The Future of Philadelphia 76ers Basketball

The Philadelphia 76ers will be title contenders in five years or less. Yes, reading that may have left you puzzled, but Philadelphia will be reigning supreme in the Eastern Conference fairly soon as they've positioned themselves perfectly to usher in a new dominant era of Philadelphia basketball.

Although I feel a pinch of uneasiness writing about the Sixers (my heart belongs to Lakers Nation,) I am extremely intrigued about their rebuilding process and what procedures will be deployed to finally distance themselves from their mediocre ways and familiarize themselves with triumph.

Living in West Chester (a suburb of Philadelphia,) I keep a close pulse on the Sixers, often attending their games and watching them on TV. I converse regularly with Philly fans, debating and lobbing ideas between each other like a casual Sunday afternoon football catch.

I have a deep admiration and respect for the Sixers and their rich franchise history that includes 3 world championships, and claiming players such as Moses Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Charles Barkley, Doug Collins, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Hal Greer and Billy Cunningham as their own.

The 2001 Sixers led by Allen Iverson, prevented my Lakers from claiming a perfect 16-0 postseason record, as Allen torched LA with an unforgettable 48 point performance in Game 1 on the road.
The Philadelphia fans are starved, with a hunger that even the beefiest cheesesteak couldn't fill. The Sixers have only made the playoffs twice in the past five seasons, luckily marching past the Chicago Bulls when star point guard Derrick Rose went down with his notorious ACL injury.

They haven't finished higher than 7th in the conference since 2010, and even throughout that period they were a fringe team that put a marginal scare in the top Eastern Conference teams.

How will Philadelphia return to the glorious days that stemmed from Allen Iverson's stunning play? When will Philadelphia again become a fixture in the playoff scene? Let's get the ball rolling here.

First and foremost, let's confront the current abysmal state of this Sixers franchise. Their year was an intense tussle with infamy, as they finished with their third worst record in franchise history (19-63,) were dead last in attendance, lost 26 games in a row and had 23 different players suit up for their team.

Philly was 29th in offensive field goal percentage, 30th in offensive three point field goal percentage, 28th in defensive field goal percentage, 25th in defensive three point field goal percentage, 29th in opponent rebounds per game and didn't have a player average more than 18 points per game.

How could a basketball team with this many difficulties ever emerge to become a formidable force in the NBA landscape? Well first, let's take a glance at the opposition.

Bypassing the inevitable injuries or trades that are bound to occur, the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference doesn't seem to be in for such a fantastic future. The Indiana Pacers only have George Hill, Paul George and Solomon Hill (team option) locked in past 2016, with Lance Stephenson becoming a free agent this summer and David West and Roy Hibbert becoming free agents in the summer of 2016 if choosing to do so (both have player options.)

West is more likely to exercise his player option than Hibbert, as he'd be making $12,600,000 at 35 years old. Hibbert will be just 29 years old, and possibly entering the prime of his career, so he could go big bucks hunting elsewhere and look for a team to overpay for his erratic services.

The defending champion Miami Heat are an older bunch, as their "Big Three" will all be in their thirties before 2014 concludes. Bosh is 30, Wade is 32, and LeBron will be 30 in December. Current rotation players include Ray Allen (38,) James Jones (33,) Udonis Haslem (33,) Chris "Birdman" Andersen (35,) and Rashard Lewis (34.) None of these players (with the exception of Andersen and Haslem) are under contract past this season.

LeBron, Bosh and Wade could become free agents this summer as they all wield a player option, but the latter won't likely budge from their comfort perch in Miami if the former opts back in looking to lengthen the legacy of South Beach's finest.

In the summer of 2015-16 when their contracts are officially up if they do happen to opt in, an already laboring Dwyane Wade will be 34, LeBron will be 31 years old and Chris Bosh will be 32. James may still be wrecking havoc on the league from an individual standpoint, but his teams success may not be resemblant of Miami's current prosperous ways.

Obviously, LeBron's mere presence in South Beach will entice many high caliber players to gallop straight to Miami, binding forces with one of the games greatest to commence yet another championship pursuit. Pat Riley is a fantastic general manager, and the roster will be filled out accordingly to keep the "contender" status latched onto Miami's name.

Is it out of the realm of possibility for Wade or Bosh to be traded for young, promising assets or draft picks? The Heat may need an infusion of youthful, upstart talent, and the demand for it may make anyone not named LeBron James on the Heat roster expendable. The probability of Wade getting traded I would have to imagine is slim, as him and James have a bond that a grizzly bear would have issues tearing apart.

The Brooklyn Nets are in a fragile state, as their unofficial one year title plan failed miserably as they fell victim to the Miami Heat in this years postseason.

Paul Pierce may blitz out to beautiful and blissful surroundings of Los Angeles to pair up with Doc Rivers, hoping to recapture the magic of the Boston Celtics 2008 NBA title run. Kevin Garnett may retire, hoping to purge each and every basketball fans mind of the horrendous season he had in 2013-14.

Brooklyn will be paying a 34 year old Joe Johnson and a 31 year old Deron Williams a combined $45 million dollars in 2016 as well. They don't have a draft pick in 2014, 2016 or 2018 after trading them to the Celtics, putting them in a crippled state as they will be shelling out big dollars to two sporadic guards to continue to register playoff disappointment.

The Knicks are in a wretched state, as the franchise is clueless when it comes to Carmelo Anthony's free agent status, in addition to being financially strapped with the mammoth contracts of Amar'e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani.

Atlanta is in a topsy-turvy manner, as one of the league's most unheralded players in Al Horford continues to wrestle with health issues, only playing in 114 games in the last 3 seasons.

Kyle Korver is 33 years old, and won't become a free agent until the summer of 2017. His fairly cheap contract (due $6 million dollars next year, $5 million the following two) makes him an interesting trading chip, as teams looking to reach contender status will come calling about Korver and his sweet three point stroke.

The direction Atlanta wants to go in is unclear, but their scheme to claw their way to the top will unfold in front of our very eyes via trades and or free agent signings.

The Chicago Bulls could emerge as an extremely dangerous team in the near future, but that's reliant on Derrick Rose maintaing a high level of health, and some tweaking of the roster (Boozer being amnestied, signing Melo or trading for Kevin Love are all possibilities.)

Chicago always finds a way to maximize their talent level, as they play with a ferociousness that many don't come close to mimicking. That ferociousness could be scaled back in a major manner, as age starts to become a factor for Chicago.

Joakim Noah is already 29, Kirk Hinrich is 33 and Mike Dunleavy Jr. is also 33.

Washington will eventually morph into a team that will be clashing with whomever for a top spot in the Eastern Conference. John Wall has seen a maturation in his game that played a major part in Washington landing squarely in the playoff picture, and even winning a series against the heavily favorited Bulls.

They have an extremely young and talented backcourt with John Wall and Bradley Beal at the helm, having their first playoff experience which will deepen their bond and strengthen their trust.

Another team with a dynamic one-two punch is the Toronto Raptors, as they assault their opponents with the underrated talents of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

Charlotte is a wing scorer and some bench pieces away from truly frightening their opponents, but Al Jefferson is already 29, and Charlotte isn't the most appealing destination, especially with LeBron James and Miami garnering most of the attention in the South.

Milwaukee, Cleveland and Detroit can all be grouped in the same dreadful bin, as they've all combined for one postseason appearance since 2011.

Kyrie Irving's level of commitment to Cleveland is questionable, Milwaukee is in the midst of a major rebuilding phase and Detroit is extremely disadvantaged in terms of finances, greatly overpaying for Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings.

Cleveland and Detroit go through head coaches with a recklessness that makes many fans inquire if they could do a better job than recent hirees.

Philadelphia, Boston and Orlando are the teams of the future, and Sixers fans got their first full glimpse of the future with their amazing rookie point guard's superb play.

In the 2013 NBA Draft, the Sixers swiped away Michael Carter-Williams from the competition, and he completely justified his 11th overall pick.

Carter-Williams left the basketball world fascinated in his first ever NBA game, drilling the defending NBA champion Miami Heat with a 22 point, 12 assist, 9 steal, 7 rebound performance. He went onto average 16.7 PPG, 6.2 REB, 6.3 APG and 1.9 SPG which was 6th in the league.

MCW joined Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average at least 16 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in their rookie season. He's the third player since 1950-51 to lead rooks in scoring, rebounding and assists.

In addition to those three, he led all rookies in steals and double-doubles, and notched 2 triple-doubles. This type of statistical superiority led to Carter-Williams being named the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year, becoming the second Sixer in franchise history to win the award.

Philadelphia has been blessed with a extravagant player in Michael Carter-Williams, his size (6'6 at the point guard position) makes him a very troubling cover for opposing point guards, and his confidence and fearlessness contributes to his ability to single handily take over a game.

He must continue to hone his skills, and sharpen his jumper, but with the proper coaching and work ethic, greatness is attainable for MCW.

Factor in the freakishly athletic and defensive stalwart Nerlens Noel, and the Sixers have addressed arguably the two biggest needs on a basketball team; the point guard and center position.

Although Noel didn't participate in a single contest in the 2013-14 regular season due to recovery from an ACL tear, he worked diligently on his road to recovery. Noel added 21 pounds of muscle to his frame, hoping this to provide him with the durability that is imperative to having a successful NBA career.

He has fantastic length and mobility, enabling him to turn scoring into a treacherous task for other teams.

His offensive game is spotty, but he has zeroed in on improving his jump shooting ability, looking to squirm away from the "defensive specialist" label and simply be recognized as an all around player.

Noel will have plenty of opportunity to refine his offensive game, as the Sixers will rely heavily on him to produce for a roster that as of right now is underwhelming from a talent standpoint. Also, catching passes from the mesmerizing Michael Carter-Williams makes the transition from commanding the paint in college to the pros a tad bit easier, as he's sure to provide Noel with some easy buckets.

These two young studs aren't the only things at the Sixers disposal, as veteran forward Thaddeus Young still provides Philly with his solid services. Young averaged 17.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 2.1 SPG. Although he was the focal point of this ghastly 76ers team, Thad was still a stellar and reliable performer, giving Philly his all through possibly the roughest patch of his career.

Many general managers and organizations rant and rave about Thad's professionalism, and believe his talent could greatly alter a basketball team's status. Young is only 25 years old, and his contract isn't too frightful as he's due $9 million next year and $9 million the next.

For a team looking for an immediate boost in their front court, Young could be a reasonable answer. If the Sixers in fact look to ship Thad out of Philly, many suitors will come calling, with several being of the "playoff team" variety.

Young could be traded for additional draft picks, cheap, expiring contracts, or veteran players that could provide Carter-Williams, Noel and the Sixers future rookies with a deep and extensive knowledge of the NBA and what steps needed to be taken to make that leap from good to great.

Or, the 76ers could simply hold onto Thaddeus Young, which isn't a bad alternative by any means. He's a talented player who can help keep the youthful Sixers locker room focused and cohesive in addition to his contributions on the court.

Now, it's time to account for what most 76ers fans have been salivating over; the opportunity to acquire the services of Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

The Sixers are *projected to pick 2nd in the 2014 NBA Draft, presenting them with the opportunity to draft either Wiggins or Parker if both are still available.

A lot of Sixers fans I've spoken to, have verbalized their fantasies of Wiggins dawning the white, red and blue of the Philadelphia 76ers. Wiggins is a 6'8 small forward, with the explosiveness of the world's largest stick of dynamite.

Wiggins averaged 17.1 PPG and 5.9 RPG in his one year tenure as a Kansas Jayhawk. Although some exclaimed he needed to show a higher level of aggression and intensity, Wiggins displayed a great deal of promise, showcasing why he could be a franchise altering figure.

Andrew has been dawned as the greatest prospect since LeBron James or Kevin Durant, who are currently the league's two best players.

Many ridiculed Wiggins for his porous performance in the NCAA Tournament, as he only poured in 4 points on 1-6 shooting in a loss to 10th seeded Stanford in Kansas' second round contest. Some started giving rise to the notion that Wiggins is "overrated" or simply not a marquee player.

We can't fault Wiggins for having a poor game, it's bound to happen throughout a players career, it's just unfortunate that it came on such a colossal stage. Those type of disappointing performances, serve as learning experiences that play a huge part in molding a player into a star.

If I was a Sixers fan, I wouldn't be concerned about Wiggins struggling to puncture a 1-3-1 or 2-3 zone that he will rarely (if ever,) see in the professional ranks. My worry about him being "overrated" would be slight, as people have walked away from the Andrew Wiggins Kansas basketball experience dissatisfied because his play failed to match that of someone who's talent level resembles a LeBron James or Kevin Durant.

People fail to realize that LeBron James is one of the greatest players of all time, and Kevin Durant could very well join that discussion. It's very difficult to emulate LBJ or KD and be constantly successful, and having players of that caliber in the NBA isn't a commonality, that's why their games are consistently celebrated.

It's alright for Wiggins to do things in his own manner. It's alright for Wiggins not to be the next LeBron James or Kevin Durant, as most 76ers fans hope he's simply just the next Andrew Wiggins. Watching is career transpire in Philly is a very exciting idea, but at the same time leave some petrified as they wonder if Wiggins could be a bust.

That's when discussions of Jabari Parker becoming a Philadelphia 76er begin.

Jabari Parker is a 6'8 forward from Duke University, that has a knack for scoring the ball and a very diverse offensive arsenal. Parker averaged 19.1 PPG on 47% shooting and corralled 8.7 RPG. He was named an All-American, and his offensive versatility drew him comparisons to Carmelo Anthony.

Parker's game features a high dosage of silky smoothness that would immediately translate to the NBA level, making him a solid rotation player for any lottery team. His well rounded offensive attack sliced up the toughest of college defenses, forcing them to make adjustments to cease his onslaught from every area of the court.

In addition to the possibility of picking 1st, 2nd or 3rd, Philadelphia is also staring down the barrel of another top 10 pick, as they acquired the New Orleans Pelicans pick (top-five protected) from the Jrue Holiday deal last summer.

If the Pelicans are to finish the draft lottery in the top 5, they would get to keep the pick, and Philadelphia would be left in utter shock and awe, with only one top 10 pick in this years draft. The probability of this occurring is slim to none, as the Pelicans only have a 4% chance of creeping into the top 5.

So if the odds pan out accordingly, Philly is looking at two top ten players in this draft, two players that could steer the direction of the franchise in a new, encouraging route.

Philadelphia could simply horde their young talent, or choose to make some moves to give their  roster a healthy balance of youth and experience. They could dangle their prospects in front of rival GM's, gauge their interest and see what they could possibly get in return for these thought to be future studs.

If they choose to hold onto these rookies and second year players, they would be in extremely promising hands, dueling other NBA teams with a starting five that includes Michael-Carter Williams, James Anderson, Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Nerlens Noel.

If each and every one of these players can maintain health and live up to or possibly even exceed the lofty expectations that are sure to follow them, the Sixers scrapping for a playoff spot isn't the most unfeasible thing in the universe.

The Eastern Conference as currently constructed is weak, and the Sixers would only be getting better via the draft. Of course, skeptics will point out that the 76ers will again want to "tank" to further strengthen their roster with top college talent in the 2015 NBA Draft.

Philadelphia also has a boatload of cap space, giving them the ability to actively pursue some quality free agents. The 76ers currently have 9 players under contract for the 2014-15 season, getting paid a combined $26,893,499. Compare that to the likes of Indiana and Miami, who are paying their players a combined $65,708,778 and $69,446,678 respectively.

Obviously Miami and Indiana are paying players who are some of the finest this league has to offer, but even the Milwaukee Bucks (a team that finished with a lower record than Philly) is paying it's players a combined $42,960,121 in 2014-15.

The Sixers are situated comfortably, as they can try and sway a big named free agent to join Philly having the ability to convince them with big bucks and the idea of future star power in the 76ers organization.

Some unrestricted free agents this summer include Loul Deng, Pau Gasol, Lance Stephenson, Paul Pierce, Marcin Gortat, Trevor Ariza, Shaun Livingston and Carmelo Anthony when he opts out of his contract.

Some restricted free agents include Avery Bradley, Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe, and Eric Bledsoe.

If LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Tim Duncan, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay exercise their player options, they too will become free agents, fortifying the free agent field.

Free agents in 2015 include Paul Millsap, Brook Lopez (player option,) Kyrie Irving (restricted,) Klay Thompson (restricted,) Kevin Love (player option,) Goran Dragic (player option,) Wes Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Sixers could try and snag one of these players away from their ball clubs, as the "big dollars attract big names" tactic has worked way more than once in this league.

Pair the huge amount of money that can be tossed at a FA the passionate fan base that Philly sports seems to specialize in, and some young talent and a free agent may seriously ponder signing with Philadelphia in free agency.
The future is brighter than ever in Philadelphia and fans should be ecstatic. Gloomy clouds currently glide across the sky in Philadelphia, but powerful and blinding rays of light could be on the way in the form of Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker.

The Sixers have some impressive young players, a splendid coach in Brett Brown who is a strong branch from the Gregg Popovich coaching tree (Brown worked for San Antonio from 1998-99, then again from 2002-13 and also won a ring with the team in 2007.) 

The Draft Lottery today is a gigantic deal in the city of Philly and rightfully so. Many fans eagerly await their fate, wanting to know which player will be recognized as a future Sixer, and potentially the franchise's savior. 

If the outcome is a favorable one, the Sixers strut back towards contention will be one that's fast paced and filled to the brim with aggression and excitement. 

Will the 76ers be title contenders in 5 years or less? Which other teams are teams of the future? Share thoughts and opinions with me on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and continue to support The Basketball Society. 

*Draft projections from 
Philadelphia ended up with the 3rd and 10th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. 

May 18, 2014

Kevin Love: "I want to become a free agent"

According to sources, Timberwolves superstar power forward Kevin Love has indicated to Minnesota  that he wants to become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. Love has minimal interest in signing an extension, as he's fed up with the losing ways that have become synonymous with Timberwolves basketball according to sources with knowledge of Love's thinking.

Kevin Love is thought to be a top ten player in the league today, but has yet to showcase his talents in a playoff series, missing the postseason in each of his six seasons in a T-Wolves uniform.

Love has not formally demanded a trade, but his desire to test the free agent market could push the Timberwolves to ship him out, as it would be a devastating blow to lose a primer player without receiving anything in return.

Sources also indicated that Love is interested in the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls as possible suitors, but the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks also grasp his attention as well. Chicago and Golden State are more desirable destinations, as the Knicks and the Lakers lack the stability and talent level of the Bulls or Warriors.

The big market's of New York and Los Angeles are enticing to Love, but the uncertainty surrounding two of the league's marquee franchises is not.
Before any team engages in trade talks with the T-Wolves, they will need to be assured that Kevin Love will be locked in for the long term, ensuring that he's simply not just a rental.

One team that hopes Love has a high level of interest in signing with them is the Phoenix Suns. Phoenix is said to be interested in Kevin according to sources, and that interest would be heightened if Love will seriously consider resigning with the Suns.

Phoenix has a plethora of young assets and draft picks to throw at Minnesota, having the ability to  assemble a very attractive package that could aid them in their attempt to snag Kevin Love via a trade.

Kevin Love averaged 26.1 PPG (career high,) 12.5 RPG, 4.4 APG and shot 37% from three in the 2013-14 regular season. He was 4th in scoring lead wide, and 3rd in rebounds.

UPDATE: May 18th, 5:30 PM ET

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Boston Celtics have emerged as an "intriguing destination" for Kevin Love. The likelihood of a trade is dependent upon the draft position the Celtics are granted during Tuesday night's NBA Draft Lottery.

Due to their 25-57 regular season record, Boston would pick 5th in this year's draft, a pick they'd be willing to ship over to Minnesota for a player of Kevin Love's caliber. If the unpredictability of the draft lottery strikes again and the Celtics are presented with a top 3 pick, Danny Ainge would have to mull over his options and deeply consider the direction of the franchise going forward.

The Houston Rockets also play to aggressively pursue Kevin Love, as his close relationship with Rockets head coach Kevin McHale could be a major component in Love's probability of resigning with Houston. McHale traded for Love on draft night in 2008, and also coached the former UCLA Bruin.

You can read Wojnarowski's piece here.

UPDATE: May 20th, 10:30 PM ET

After being awarded the 6th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Boston Celtics will give their most valiant effort to try and turn their draft pick into Kevin Love.

Boston will try and ship their 6th overall pick to Minnesota, hoping to receive the superstar power forward from the Timberwolves.

Minnesota's stance is currently unknown, as it is unclear if they truly covet the 6th overall pick in this draft.

This past weekend, Love expressed his refusal to sign a contract extension with the T-Wolves, hoping to explore the world of free agency.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor stated that the franchise does not intend to trade Kevin Love, but may be forced to if Love plans to leave Minny via free agency.

It has been reported that Love is open to playing for Boston and would be interested in signing an extension with the historic franchise.

Which team would be the best fit for Kevin Love? Hit me with thoughts and opinions on Twitter (@wcboyer24) and continue to support The Basketball Society. 

The Basketball Society's 2013-14 NBA Playoff Picks: Conference Finals

(Find past predictions here: Round 1 / Round 2)

Welcome to the real NBA Playoffs. In the first two rounds, all but the number 1 and 2 seeds were defeated, some in exciting fashion, others in series that weren't as captivating. Now, the real playoff intrigue begins. The Pacers were all along the Eastern team with the best shot of taking down the Heat; can they end the Heat dynasty or will Miami become the fourth team ever to make 4 or more consecutive NBA Finals after the '57-'66 Celtics (no, really- they won nine out of those ten years), '82-'85 Lakers, and '84-87 Celtics? Could losing Serge Ibaka actually help Oklahoma City be less hesitant to unleash the beast known as Power Forward Kevin Durant on San Antonio? Will we see a rematch of last year's legendary finals? Very soon, we'll have answers to these questions and more. The Basketball Society panel has once again gotten together to discuss the Conference Finals. Here are the panel members:

John Lava (Twitter: @JGBHoops)

BJ Boyer (Twitter: @wcboyer24)
Alex Fischbein (Twitter: @Sixers_RunWitUs)
Cyril Mpacko (Twitter: @Cee_Armel)
Martin Soaries (Twitter: @marley_mcfly)



Lava: Heat in 6

Analysis: One of my closest friends has been telling me for the past two years, over and over and over again, "The only team that can beat the Heat is the Pacers." Now I don't know if I believe that seeing as Miami was six seconds away from losing to the Spurs last year, but there is some truth to the idea that the Pacers have the Heat's number. Despite the Heat being the superior team in this matchup, they came one bad Game 1 coaching decision away from losing to the Pacers in six in last year's series between these two. Now, if this series has as much intrigue as that one we could be in for a surprisingly good Eastern Conference Finals. Roy Hibbert, the man who was subbed out in last year's Game 1 fiasco, looked at least close to his old self in the last series, proving that I prematurely wrote him off in the Round 2 preview. But although the Pacers are finally trending upward after this disastrous season, they've run into the brick wall known as the Miami Heat. According to a great Jalen Rose joke, Dwyane Wade's mid-2000s nickname "Flash" fits well now because he only shows flashes of his old self. But despite Wade playing like a shell of himself, Chris Bosh has stepped it up, the supporting hast has performed as well as ever and LeBron has a chip on his shoulder after losing the MVP, lust like Jordan did when he lost that award in 1992-'93 and 1997-'98, the last years of his respective threepeats. So if you see James playing for the Florida Marlins' minor league affiliate next year, don't be surprised.

X-Factor: Roy Hibbert. I know, I know, shocking choice. Really had to think out of the box on that one. But I honestly don't know who else it would be. The Pacers' upset chances come down to Hibbert being the difference maker and providing the interior defense Miami just can't match. In this way, Hibbert's defense is really the key to the series. If Hibbert isn't the defensive force of nature we've seen him be, or at least what he was for the last three Washington games, the Pacers will get swept, and you can quote me on that. But if Roy's on top of his game? Then, the sky's the limit for the Pacers.

Boyer: Heat in 7 

Analysis: During certain junctures of the season, this Eastern Conference Finals matchup seemed to be highly unlikely, as both Indiana and Miami came across some unexpected challenges throughout the months. Indiana has been in a wild tailspin, somedays resembling a intimidating championship contender who's linchpin is stopping the opposition with suffocating defense, and other days mimicking a mediocre and woeful ball club that's clinging onto hope for dear life. Miami at times appeared lackadaisical, bored of the pedestrian task of winning regular season games. Miami's stupor has concluded, as they've dashed out to an 8-1 start this postseason. On the other hand, Indiana still appears to be wobbling on the road to success, being pushed to the brink by an under .500 Atlanta Hawks team, and a youthful Washington Wizards team. Since Indiana's funk, I've clung to the notion that a matchup with the Miami Heat would finally shake them forcefully, awakening the beast that many have assumed is Pacer basketball. Indiana has what they want in home court advantage, after getting ousted in last year's ECF Game 7 vs Miami. Now the real question is, can the overall balance and depth of the Pacers overcome the supreme championship talent Miami possesses? Can Indiana effectively utilize the home court advantage they've worked so hard for? Buckle up, this series is going to be a wild ride.

X-Factor: Chris Bosh. In the four regular season contests against Indiana, Bosh was sluggish, only averaging 11.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG and shooting 43% from the field and 21.4% from downtown. Bosh must register stellar performances consistently this series, to combat the solidarity and physicality of Indiana's "rock" David West. He must be ready to command the paint with a ferocity that wasn't present during the regular season, all while maintaing accuracy on his newest weapon; the three pointer. Wade will be dueling with the feral Lance Stephenson, and LeBron will be challenged by skilled swingman Paul George. Chris Bosh must win his matchup with West and or Hibbert to alleviate some pressure off of Miami and their greatest weakness; the interior.

Fischbein: Heat in 7

Analysis: Indiana has finally started looking like the team we saw in the beginning of the season.  Hibbert has actually started scoring and grabbing some rebounds.  Paul George, with the exception of game 6 against Washington, has been having himself a solid postseason.  However, the Heat are rolling through yet another postseason.  Miami is looking like a well oiled machine right now and it doesn't look like they'll be stopped on their way to the finals.  The Indiana defense might be a better matchup and be able to give the Heat a game, but in the end LeBron and company will be too much just like last year.  Indiana may have been able to take a couple games in convincing fashion this regular season and last postseason, but the Heat are a completely different monster in the playoffs

X-Factor: Chris Bosh will be the x-factor for this series.  Bosh has been quite lack luster during the regular season series against Indiana.  It has seemed like he has been more concerned with trying to contain David West and Roy Hibbert.  If the Heat want to win this series, Bosh is going to have to play defense and offense.  Bosh needs to extend the floor and keep hitting that corner three that we've seen him hit time and time again.  Then, if he can also limit West or Hibbert to just an ok game then they'll take this series easily.

Mpacko: Heat in 5

Analysis: Indiana promised us all year that they would be in this very position come Playoff time. It might’ve been ugly at times, and seemingly impossible but all in all the Pacers have earned the right to be back in the Conference Finals with another crack at Miami. However, this is a different Heat team than the one we’ve seen all season as well as the ones we’ve seen in previous Playoff runs. The Heat haven’t looked stellar, yet they’ve dispatched the Bobcats and Nets without much help from Wade. We all know how much Indiana seems to get up for Miami; we know there’s bad blood etc. etc. But the Pacers post season struggles against inexperienced teams lead me to believe that this Pacer team will be no match for the Heat. 

X-Factor: None other than Dwyane Wade. This is about the time of year that a healthier Wade comes alive. He showed flashes of his brilliance in the closer against Brooklyn, therefore I expect him to open up his whole catalog for the Pacers. Specifically for Lance Stephenson who has opened his mouth once again with his “I want to make his knees flare up” comments. Hasn’t he learned from the Lebron choking incident not to incite the Heat? Expect DWade and company to come out with an undeterred focus and earn themselves some rest before the Finals.

Soaries: Heat in 6

Analysis: I really hope we’re not in for any shocking turn of events in this series, because it almost feels like something strange is brewing with all the tension now massed up between these two teams. No one is even giving Indiana the slightest hope, except maybe Pacers fans, which makes the no. 1 seed the proverbial underdog in this match up. We know that Indiana has consistently struggled in these playoffs, losing four home games to the likes of Atlanta and Washington. We also know that Indiana has the formula to hurt Miami where they hurt most, inside. We know that Indiana has been the only real team in the Eastern Conference that at least knows from experience that they can compete with the defending champs. Ultimately this song ends the same way: simply too much talent and offense on one side and just not enough on the other.

X-Factors: Dwayne Wade/Shane Battier and Paul George/Lance Stephenson/David West – If the Pacers make these games anything like they want them to be (low scoring) the Heat will need Dwayne Wade to be Dwayne Wade at some point. Battier will have to assist LeBron James with Paul George at times, assuming James’ services might have to be used temporarily on David West. Paul George has to be in rhythm every single game, Lance Stephenson has to put pressure on Wade and Miami offensively, and David West has to be a consistent and thorough offensive threat.



Lava: Thunder in 7

Analysis: Serge is gone, and that could be the story of this series for Oklahoma City. But, as much as I like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and the Spurs, OK City has been my pick to lose to Miami in the finals this whole time. I didn't abandon them when they were headed to Memphis down 3-2, or when the Clippers seemed poised to take the pivotal Game 5 from them, and I'm not going to abandon them even with everyone counting them out. Like I said in the introduction, Kevin Durant as a PF could be deadly for OKC. And if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have figured out their chemistry, Pop and Co. need to watch out.

X-Factor: Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi is going to be spending a lot of time guarding the MVP this series. He has to play the same caliber of defense he showed against LeBron in last year's finals if the Spurs want to take the series. Leonard has already been having a great season, leading the Spurs defensively and generally making the leap to become one of the league's premier defenders. If he can stop Durant in this series and help the Spurs advance, he should gain national recognition for the level he's been at this year.

Boyer: Spurs in 6

Analysis: Serge Ibaka may be shelved for the remainder of the postseason, but Oklahoma City still possesses an abundance of talent, including the MVP Kevin Durant and a top ten player in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder are determined to return the NBA Finals, as are the Spurs, who suffered their first Finals defeat in the Tim Duncan era last year against Miami. Oklahoma City will have to find a way to effectively replace Ibaka. Will that include KD at the 4? More Adams? More Collison? I am truly interested to see their solution to this issue, as is the rest of the basketball world. 

X-Factor: Kawhi Leonard. Throughout the season thus far, Kawhi Leonard has shown a perfect blend of confidence, aggression and smarts that only the league's biggest superstars are endowed with. These qualities must be on full display, as Leonard attempts to slow the deadliest offensive force in the game today; Kevin Durant. For the opposition, attempting to stop the league's MVP has been futile, as he's wowed millions of fans on a consistent basis with his diverse and dominant offensive repertoire. If Leonard's impressive growth isn't stunted by Durant's brilliance this series, Leonard will be in the advanced stages of becoming a household name, as last year's NBA Finals served as the introductory phase. 

Fischbein: Spurs in 7

Analysis: The Western Conference final matchup that everyone was waiting for is finally here.  The news about Serge Ibaka is upsetting because it would be a lot better of a game with him in the lineup.  That being said, not having Ibaka is a big deal for the Thunder.  Now, they have to rely on Perkins, Collison and Steven Adams to cover Duncan, Splitter, and company.  Throw in the fact that San Antonio has one of the best bench squads in the league and it spells trouble for Oklahoma City.  The Westbrook and Parker matchup will be a fun one to watch.  This will be another series where the technique and fundamentals of the Spurs will prove to be better than the Thunder's youth and athleticism.  It's been proven throughout history that team basketball trumps a one or two man game.  In the end, the Spurs cohesion and old school style of play will triumph in this one.

X-Factor: Kawhi Leonard.  Leonard has been picking his game up recently.  He has stepped up when called upon by the Spurs.  Being a great two way player is going to help San Antonio greatly.  The matchup between him and Durant is going to be the predictor for the outcome of this series.  If Leonard can at least just limit KD to less than his MVP-like numbers like Tony Allen and put up the offensive numbers that he has been lately, then that will be worlds of help for the Spurs.  If Leonard can play the type of defense he played on LeBron last year in the finals, then the Spurs will be looking at another trip to the finals in back-to-back years.

Mpacko: Spurs in 7

Analysis: A rematch of that classic conference finals in 2012. This time around however there is no James Harden, no Serge Ibaka for Oklahoma City; no Gary Neal, no Dejuan Blair and no Stephen Jackson for San Antonio. Oklahoma City’s absences hurt them more obviously, but there is something about this new crop of Thunder that speaks volumes. No matter the storm, Scott Brooks and his troops have rallied in resilient fashion. Down 3-2 against Memphis, they turned it around. After a Game 1 Blowout and several double digit deficits late in Game’s 5 and 6 against the Clippers, the switched was flipped and here they are now before us with a chance to return to the NBA’s promised land. On the other side awaits a more focused, serious San Antonio Spurs team who feels that it should be they sitting atop the summit of NBA lore. A heartbreaking 7-game loss to the Heat has the Spurs accepting of nothing less but a return trip to avenge their loss. A matchup with the Thunder is added fuel to avenge another loss as the Thunder were the last team before Miami to end San Antonio’s season on a sour note. The MVP and his right-hand assassin have been nothing short of amazing this post season. Those wily old Spurs have been nothing short of supremely efficient. How much will Okc’s losses affect them in the long run? And is Tony Parker’s hamstring something to be worried about? Game on…

X-Factor: None other than Russell Westbrook. Earlier this post season he seemed to have turned the corner for better. The result, his Thunder are back where they felt they belonged after his injury at the knees of Patrick Beverley cost them  chance to dispatch Memphis and set up a date with San Antonio at this stage last year. Westbrook has been a Point Assassin these playoffs; racking up triple doubles and leading his team with a very steady hand. No test will be bigger than the one that looms in the horizon. San Antonio is a model of efficiency and near perfect play. Westbrook and Durant can’t afford any of those double digit deficits because the Spurs will punish them in ways neither Memphis nor LAC could. I believe Westbrook understands the magnitude of the moment and I am a firm believer he will seize it. But he alone isn’t enough to beat the Spurs. No Harden, No Ibaka… Ouch

Soaries: Thunder in 7

Analysis: There’s plenty of ways to look at this match up and how it could pan out. Without Serge Ibaka the Thunder are vulnerably faced with the challenge of compensating for Ibaka’s 12+ points per game in the playoffs and the presence he brings defensively. We’ll see more of Kevin Durant at the 4, which will make San Antonio have to adjust to them and will have to be a major factor in this series for Oklahoma City to advance. The individual match ups still heavily favor the Thunder, except now at the power forward position. I think the rest of the OKC bigs can still be physical and frustrating for Duncan and Splitter, their biggest challenge will be defending the pick-and-roll and limiting foul trouble. Nevertheless, I’m sticking with my endurance theme with this Oklahoma City Thunder team.

X-factors: Russell Westbrook/Thabo Sefolosha/OKC bench and Kawhi Leonard/Manu Ginobili/Marco Belinelli – Westbrook has the best advantage individually in this series and is still the almighty be-all-end-all for Oklahoma City. When he plays with pace and poise the Thunder are unstoppable, even against the Spurs and even without Serge Ibaka. Thabo Sefolosha is especially crucial for containing the Spurs’ bench leader Manu Ginobili and making the few shots he needs to make. The Thunder bench is competing against the best bench in the NBA (this means you, Reggie Jackson, Caron Butler). Kawhi Leonard has to guard Kevin Durant, Manu Ginobili will have to be dominant at times, and Belinelli has to be a shot maker.