Kamenetzky Bros. Power Rankings: The Sad Case of Larry Sanders

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marijuanaIt’s been a brutal season for the Milwaukee Bucks. As of this writing, they’re sitting on 14 wins and 63 losses, a league-worst clip despite the Sixers’ recent 26-game losing streak.

But unlike Philadelphia, which began this season with a nakedly obvious quest to bottom out, Milwaukee actually chased the playoffs. They (rather questionably) signed O.J. Mayo and Zaza Pachulia and traded for Wisconsin native Caron Butler, who is the only player in NBA history ever excited about getting shipped to the Bucks.

Safe to say, these moves bore precious little fruit.

More significantly, they also signed center Larry Sanders, who finished third in 2013’s Most Improved Player voting and 7th for Defensive Player of the Year, to a four-year, $44 million extension. The young, ridiculously athletic, often charismatic big man-made major strides on both sides of the ball last season, and seemed like a natural candidate to peg as the franchise face.

The ensuing results have been nothing short of disastrous.

Larry Sanders BucksA November bar brawl resulting in a torn thumb ligament and several weeks missed. (Sanders in the police blotter also raised awareness of an otherwise largely unknown animal cruelty charge.) Heads butted with new coach Larry Drew and teammates. Subpar play. A February orbital fracture that cost the remainder of his season.

As a cherry on the poop sundae, Sanders was hit Friday with a five-game drug suspension for using marijuana. And because Y.O.L.O., he used the banishment as an opportunity to stump for marijuana legalization.

Per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“It’s something I feel strongly about, just to let you know something personal about me. I will deal with the consequences from it. It’s a banned substance in my league. But I believe in marijuana and the medical side of it. I know what it is if I’m going to use it. I study it and I know the benefits it has. In a lot of ways we’ve been deprived. You can’t really label it with so many other drugs that people can be addicted to and have so many negative effects on your body and your family and your relationships and impairment. This is not the same thing. The stigma is that it’s illegal. I hate that. Once this becomes legal, this all will go away. But I understand for my work it’s a banned substance. I will deal with the consequences and I apologize again to my fans for that.”

On one hand, the suspension remains five games whether Sanders speaks out or shuts up, so he might as well double down. And I happen to agree with Sanders from a political/worldview sense.

spicoli1Full disclosure, I don’t use marijuana. (I have on many occasions eons ago, but ultimately decided I don’t like the effect.) I don’t like to be around marijuana. (I hate the smell and potential contact high.) I often find stoned people annoying and stupid. (Do I really need to explain this one?) But I also think the drug isn’t nearly dangerous enough to justify the energy, financial resources, and prison cells devoted its criminalization. There are also legitimate healing benefits from marijuana for those suffering from cancer or other diseases, and athletes besides Sanders have spoken about marijuana alleviating aches and pain from the rigors of professional sports. Even if you’re skeptical Sanders was partaking for that honorable reason, the point isn’t any less potentially valid.

America is collectively shifting toward the legalization of marijuana, and I suspect that will eventually be the case in all 50 states.

However, the fact remains Sanders is an athlete who draws a salary from a private business that prohibits marijuana use, which makes him less than ideal as a grassroots (pun intended) spokesperson for this fight. Particularly when you consider how Sanders has fallen apart on and off the court immediately upon receiving long-term security. Like, the minute after. I imagine Milwaukee’s front office has already lost sleep over Sanders this season. This incident will only result in more Ambien. (Purchased legally, with a prescription, of course.)

Sanders can obviously rebound next season, and has all the motivation in the world to get back on track. But again, he’s the Bucks’ face and for the time being, the embodiment of everything gone wrong for Milwaukee this season.

Onto the rankings.

RANK TEAM THE RUNDOWN LAST
1 SPURS
(60-17)
The streak is over, but the Spurs can cruise through April and still easily hold the overall #1 seed. Not that they were pushing players with heavy minutes, anyway. 1
2 THUNDER(54-19) Thursday’s win over San Antonio likely means more to them than it did the Spurs. Meanwhile, KD’s 25+ streak (41 and counting) seems like the final piece of his MVP resume. 3
3 CLIPPERS
(55-23)
Wednesday’s game vs. OKC might (might) have some implications, but the LAC’s biggest need is to keep Griffin, Redick, and Co. healthy. 2
4 HEAT
(53-23)
Blew a chance to create space on Indiana, and de-emphasize their game on April 11. Bad for the Heat, good for viewers at home. 7
5 ROCKETS
(51-25)
Dwight’s ankle is a concern, but good security in the 4th seed and relatively soft (though road heavy) finish means they can play it safe down the stretch. 4
6 BLAZERS
(50-28)
Among the more surprising 50-win teams of recent memory. Can they advance, given their defensive issues? Probably not, but in Oct. nobody thought they’d have the opportunity. 14
7 WARRIORS
(45-28)
Looking more and more like they’ll finish sixth, hooking up with the Clips in the first round. Be sure to make your thank you offering to the Basketball Gods. 7
8 MAVERICKS
(47-31)
The NBA’s fifth-best offense over the last month still drags along an average D, but they shape up as a major pain for any top-3 squad in the West. 10
9 SUNS
(46-31)
Had a huge week, with wins in Portland and over OKC. Finish with four of five on the road, including Saturday in Dallas. 8
10 GRIZZLIES(45-32) Begin the week on the outside looking in, but finish the season at Phoenix and hosting Dallas. 9
11 PACERS
(53-25)
Among the teams with better efficiency differentials since the All-Star Game: Cleveland, New York, Washington, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Toronto, and Charlotte. 5
12 NETS
(42-34)
The Nets went 14-5 without K.G., and now get him back just in time for the playoffs. Otherwise known as “The Part of the Year Where You Really Want K.G..” 13
13 BULLS
(45-32)
The league’s third-worst offense before the break has been the ninth worst after, paired with the NBA’s most stifling D. Is that enough scoring for the Bulls to advance? 12
14 RAPTORS
(45-32)
They’ve won six of seven, and finish with the Sixers, Pistons, Bucks, and two against New York. Shouldn’t be too hard to tune up for the postseason. 11
15 WIZARDS
(38-35)
Six weeks ago, the idea of dropping into a first-round matchup with Indiana seemed like suicide. Now, if it happens, Washington could be better off. 16
16 BOBCATS
(39-38)
Seven wins two seasons ago. This year, over .500 and in the playoffs for the second time in franchise history. Gotta get Steve Clifford in the COY chatter. 17
17 WOLVES
(36-36)
It’s a shame the computers don’t dictate playoff seeding, since the Wolves have the 10th best expected W/L record as calculated by Basketball Reference (45-30). 16
18 KNICKS
(31-43)
J.R. Smith is finally making himself useful (beyond volume 3-pt. shooting). 24.4/4.8/3.2 over his last five, and 44 percent from the floor since the break. 19
19 HAWKS
(34-42)
Sure, it’s a mid-pack offense, but it’s an egalitarian mid-pack offense. No squad in the league generates more buckets off assists. 21
20 NUGGETS
(33-44)
Aaron Brooks is averaging over 30 minutes a night over Denver’s last six. Tells you all you need to know about how things have played out from October to now. 20
21 PELICANS
(32-45)
Anthony Morrow over his last five games: 18.4 points on 60 percent from the floor, 63 percent from downtown, and 89 percent from the line. 18
22 CAVALIERS
(31-47)
Kyrie says the media have treated him unfairly, constantly questioning whether he wants out or not. Totally get that. But seriously, are you staying or going? 23
24 KINGS
(27-50)
Sure. they’re 23rd, but honestly it’s hard to differentiate between the last eight teams on most days. 22
24 PISTONS
(28-49)
Shouldn’t Pistons fans be the most annoyed? This team is expensive, has talent, was trying to be good, and still hasn’t defeated a +.500 team in nearly two months. 30
25 LAKERS
(25-52)
Whispers Mike D’Antoni might return next season have fans sharpening their pitchforks. Jim Buss explores building a moat around his office. 23
26 JAZZ
(24-53)
Friday’s victory over the Pelicans notwithstanding, the Jazz have quietly been on the NBA’s biggest disasters of late. Only three wins since March 1. 26
27 CELTICS
(23-54)
Jeff Green hasn’t had a month shooting over 40 percent from the floor since December. 31% from 3-point range since the break, taking over five a game. Crikey. 25
28 MAGIC
(22-55)
It took a while, but Tobias Harris has come around. 16.9/6.8 on 51 percent from the floor since the All Star break. 27
29 SIXERS
(17-60)
You know, take away the 26-game losing streak, and they’re 17-34! 29
30 BUCKS
(14-63)
Faced with the threat of losing their prime ping-pong ball status, the Bucks are finishing strong. Kudos. 28

OTHER RANKINGS: MVP | Rookies | Most Improved Sixth Man

Andy Kamenetzky is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. Follow him and his brother, Brian, on Twitter.

Sixth Man Rankings: The Knicks’ current win streak should be taken with skepticism

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knicksThe Knicks have won five straight games and now sit just 3.5 games from the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The fans of Gotham are finally excited about the Knicks for the first time this season. The Bucks come to New York on Saturday, and if the Knicks can pull out an expected victory, they’ll close the gap between them and the Hawks even further.

Right now, ESPN.com has the Knicks’ playoff odds at 15%. With the Knicks having five very winnable games over their next six, I’d spot their chances at about 33% today.

Moreover, on a larger level, with Phil Jackson reportedly close to signing on with the team this week, there’s a sense of relief among the fans that the team may finally have a realistic plan in place to build a roster for the future.

Unfortunately for Knicks fans, the temporary excitement in the Knicks’ hot streak is slightly misguided. As analytic-guru and writer Dean Oliver calculated in his book Basketball on Paper, winning streaks of five or six games are actually quite common in the NBA — even for underachieving teams.

The Knicks are currently 26-40, good for a winning percentage of .394.

As Oliver discovered after extensive research of historical NBA seasons, teams with winning percentages of .400 or better have a 55% chance of winning five games in a row over an 82 game schedule.

Even if the Knicks defeat Milwaukee on Saturday (not a given, considering they dropped their last matchup to Milwaukee in February), a six-game win streak for a mediocre team is still quite common in today’s NBA. According to Oliver, a .400 team has a 27% chance of winning six games in a row over the course of a season. Just last month, the Cavaliers won six games in a row and proceeded to lose seven of their next nine. Winning a string of games is not indicative of a team turning their season around.

Furthermore, out of the teams New York has beaten recently on this little streak, only the Timberwolves own a winning record (32-31). This win streak is more a reflection of the poor competition the Knicks have faced rather than the Knicks having magically figured things out. Head coach Mike Woodson still doesn’t seem to grasp who can (and can’t) play well together:

On a more positive note for Knicks fans, one thing they can be happy about is J.R. Smith’s sudden positive turnaround. Over the Knicks’ five game streak, Smith has averaged 16.6 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds. As his production’s increased, his efficiency has improved as well. He’s shooting 43% from deep over the streak and hasn’t committed a turnover in four of the team’s five wins.

Considering he has been averaging just 13.3 points and shooting under 40% from the entire field for the season, the Knicks must be relieved to see their longterm investment starting to look adequate again.

On to the rankings…

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Bernucca: Among the Elite, Thunder the Team to Beat

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Kawhi Leonard A look at the overall NBA standings shows four teams at the top – Indiana, Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Miami – separated by one game in the loss column. In fact, they were dead even until three of them lost Sunday. 

Just a notch below them are three more teams – Houston, the Los Angeles Clippers and Portland – separated by two games in the loss column. They also would have been dead even had the Blazers held on Sunday against the Rockets.

Let’s call these teams the Magnificent Seven, because your NBA champion is somewhere among them. Dismiss any of them at your own peril; these are the only teams who, at the season’s three-quarter pole, have won at least two-third of their games.

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Mayo suspended one game for striking Steimsma

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131002_roster_mayo_400NEW YORK – Milwaukee Bucks guard O.J. Mayo has been suspended one game without pay for forcibly striking New Orleans Pelicans center Greg Stiemsma in the throat, it was announced today by Rod Thorn, the NBA’s president of basketball operations.

The incident, for which Mayo was assessed a Flagrant Foul 2 and ejected occurred with 1:52 remaining in the first quarter of Milwaukee’s 112-104 loss to the Pelicans on Friday, March 7, at Smoothie King Center.

Mayo will serve his suspension tonight when the Bucks host the Washington Wizards.

To view the play, click on this link:

More from Brett Martel of the Associated Press: “Mayo had taken only one missed shot when he was ejected after less than three minutes on the court. Mayo collided with Pelicans center Greg Stiemsma, who was setting a screen, then appeared to shove Stiemsma with a flailing arm to the chest. Pelicans coach Monty Williams rushed in to pull Stiemsma away. Officials initially called a flagrant foul, but upgraded the severity to a flagrant-2 after video review. ”I reacted the wrong way and handled it for sure the wrong way,” Mayo said. “I want to apologize to the Bucks fan base, the city of Milwaukee and obviously New Orleans and the (fans) who came out and watched the game. It’s definitely the wrong way to conduct yourself. I’ve got to be better and I will.”

 

 

UPDATE – Buyout Bonanzas: Granger, Butler, Fredette Could Help Playoff Teams; Udrih claimed by Grizz

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danny grangerDoes anyone want Danny Granger?

How about Jimmer Fredette?

Perhaps Caron Butler?

And how about this: Someone — the Memphis Grizzlies — wanted Beno Udrih so badly they claimed him off waivers.

This is the last week for contenders to shore up their playoff  rosters with NBA players for a run they hope will last into June. It is becoming known as February Free Agency.

The official NBA rule is that teams have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, March 1 to waive a player so he can be used on a postseason roster this season. So over the next few days, there will be a barrage of rumors, buyouts and transactions and we will keep you abreast of all the latest information here at SheridanHoops.

The Los Angeles Clippers already made a big splash this week by signing Glen “Big Baby” Davis, who had the final two years of his contract bought out by Orlando.

It’s a good fit. The Clippers desperately needed a backup big who warrants defensive attention, and Davis helped current Clippers coach Doc Rivers win one championship and almost a second in Boston.

But the big name that will be on the free agent market over the next few days is Granger.

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