The end of 2014 is here and it’s time to reflect on the year that was. This is a list of things we enjoyed about the beginning of the 2014-15 season, what we thought were the best moments, plays, players, coaches, and everything in between. This list includes everything starting with 2014’s NBA Draft and ending with New Year’s Eve.
Ben Bornstein: The Warriors getting out to a 16 game win streak. I knew they were going to be good and possibly even better than they were under Mark Jackson, but this was insane. They beat the likes of OKC, Dallas, and New Orleans twice. Steve Kerr is a better coach than most thought he might turn out to be and this season isn’t even halfway over.
Joe Mags: The Cavaliers are boring. After The Decision: Part II and the Kevin Love trade, the feeling around Cleveland was that this team might set a record for offensive efficiency. Instead, head coach David Blatt and his fast paced motion offense have been largely ignored; Love is shooting 43 percent from the field; LeBron is not playing like a 4-time MVP winner; and the Cavaliers are a bad joke defensively — a problem that grew more dire with the season-ending injury to Anderson Varejao.
Jon Wolf: The New York Knicks are TERRIBLE! I thought after 2014 there was no way the Knicks could get worse. Well, I was wrong. Phil Jackson and his puppet Derek Fisher are putting on a prime example of how the triangle offense doesn’t work with the proper personnel. A team with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony should not be the second worst team in the east.
Most disappointing moment:
Ben Bornstein: Mike Malone being fired by the Sacramento Kings. The second year coach was given his pink slip way too early into the season after the team had a losing stretch in seven of nine games. But that was due to DeMarcus Cousins coming down with a case of viral meningitis. The Kings didn’t give Malone a true chance to turn this team around and I think they’ll pay for it this year by losing some more.
Joe Mags: Jabari Parker and Julius Randle losing most of their rookie seasons to injury. Randle went down in the first game of the season, a let down for a player I was anxious to see get revenge on teams that passed him up in June. As I wrote about earlier this month, the NBA injury culture has mostly become melodramatic, but when young men like Randle and Parker suffer these setbacks, it is disappointing.
Jon Wolf: The worst moment was coming to the realization that the Knicks, Lakers, and Celtics won’t be making the playoffs. It’s terrible for the NBA that those teams, which are regarded as the three best franchises in the NBA have all hit rock bottom.
Matt Bonner open court dunk. Red Mamba. Red Rocket. We have liftoff.
Joe Mags: One team will win an NBA championship in June, and 29 others will hit the summer looking to regroup. Whether or not the Sacramento Kings even make the playoffs, they’ll always have the greatest assist of the season.
Take that, State Farm.
Jon Wolf: The last time LeBron was dunked on this bad the tapes were all burned. Hopefully Victor Oladipo autographed the poster before he gave it to LeBron.
Yup. Tyson Chandler blocked a shoe. He was so bored during a game with the Warriors he decided to block a shoe exchange after Marreese Speights lost his during a play.
Joe Mags: Unfortunately for the Kings, there may not be a more one dimensional team in the Association. When Boogie Cousins is on the floor, the Kings are outscoring opponents by more than 11 points per 100 possessions. That number free falls to a minus 10.7 when Cousins is on the bench, per NBA.com, and when Boogie missed a stretch of games with viral meningitis, the Kings devolved into one of the weakest defensive outfits in the league. This is Sacramento falling victim to a Joakim Noah fastbreak, surrendering a wide open layup to Nikola Mirotic.
Jon Wolf: The epitome of the Piston’s season: make the game of basketball way harder than it needs to be. For those that may be confused by this, let Brandon Jennings show you how much harder he likes to make basketball for himself.
Trending downward: Ben Bornstein: The lack of travel calls this season. There have been several no calls on easily identifiable travels and it’s not just the stars getting away with it. It’s damn near everybody! They let Corey Brewer get away with one!
This has got to stop. The league needs to get the basic rules back under control to make this game enjoyable for the average fan. Joe Mags: How likely are the Clippers to make it out of the West? They have elite top-end talent, that much is undeniable. But are we convinced their fastball on offense is enough to make up for a flat breaking ball on defense and sloppy changeup off the bench? I mean, pitching metaphors aside, the Clippers are giving Big Baby Davis and Hedo Türkoğlu minutes — that’s not good! Jon Wolf: The Brooklyn Nets and their chances of being a legitimate contender in the playoffs. With the recent benching of Deron Williams and the Nets looking to build around Joe Johnson, the city of Brooklyn looks to be pathetic for years to come.
Ben Bornstein: Adam Silver’s credibility. He not only did away with Donald Sterling, but he “drafted” Isaiah Austin and gave him an ambassador job with the league. He’s got some interesting ideas — even if people don’t like them — about legalizing gambling outside of Nevada, changing the age limit, and he even talked about one day potentially changing the dimensions of the court. Silver is a bright guy and he’s only going to get savvier as his tenure progresses.
Jon Wolf: The Portland Trail Blazers are the real deal. They don’t get the exposure they need on national television but I expect that to change because they have this guy Damian Lillard who’s pretty good.
MVP: Ben Bornstein: Stephen Curry without question. Dude has lit up everyone guarding him and is genuinely enjoying himself out there. Steve Kerr has this team and Curry firing on all cylinders. Curry is averaging 23 points, almost eight assists, 2.1 steals, and 5.2 boards a game. He’s also shooting 92% from the charity stripe, 38.2% from downtown, and 48.8% from the field and if you weren’t sure, those numbers are incredible. Joe Mags: I’m not the world’s biggest Houston Rockets fan, if for no other reason that I have a medical condition where I can’t watch 45 free-throw attempts in one sitting without my face exploding. But, what Harden has been doing is ridiculous. He is posting counting stats rivaled only by LeBron James and Michael Jordan, and he has also greatly improved his individual defense, around the Top 10 for DefRtg all year. Harden also led Houston to an 8-3 record without Dwight Howard while he missed time with a knee injury, no small accomplishment considering how far in the standings they could have fallen. Jon Wolf: The least talked about player in the NBA is my favorite to win the MVP. His name is Damian Lillard. He can do everything. Putting up a stat line of 21.8 points, 6.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.5 steals, shooting 46.2% from the field, how can this guy not lead the discussion of best point guards? Without Damian Lillard the Trail Blazers are a fringe playoff team. With Lillard they’re currently the second best team in the best conference in the NBA.
Ben Bornstein: Raymond Felton without a doubt in my mind. He is so bad that the Mavericks haven’t played him a single minute this season and it’s not because of an ankle sprain. He is genuinely bad and has been out of shape since last year in New York.
Joe Mags: A lot of rumours have suggested Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov may pursue selling his stake in the team. Part of that is because he would likely make an insane profit selling an NBA franchise in the greatest city in the world. The other side of the coin, however, is that Prokhorov has had an ugly tenure with the Nets — a team hemorrhaging money due to Snorlax-size salary tax penalties. With no championship coming now or anytime soon, Prokhorov is going to have to consider abandoning the ship he poked a Joe Johnson-sized hole in.
Jon Wolf: Kendrick Perkins does nothing for the Thunder except clog up the middle of the floor and collect fouls. He’s not reliable on offense, and quickly becoming immobile and a risk on the defensive end as well. Good thing the Thunder have started to utilize Steven Adams because Kendrick Perkins is doing a whole lot of nothing.
Most under appreciated player:
Ben Bornstein: Marreese Speights. He has stepped in admirably for David Lee while he’s been out and has been able to help in spacing the floor for the shooters on the team like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. He’s had a couple big games already this year on his way to averaging 12 points and 5 boards a game in a little less than 18 minutes a game. He’s a super sub that could be a starter on some teams in the league.
Joe Mags: Everybody recognizes Kyle Korver as the league’s premier non-Steph Curry shooter, but even saying it like that is insulting to a guy whose three-point attempts are worth something like a wide-open layup. The Atlanta Hawks are No. 2 in the East, and rewarding Mike Budenholzer’s squad with two All-Stars has to be on the table. I’m all for Paul Millsap getting his second All-Star nod, but Korver is the most important piece to their puzzle — an unstoppable offense unto himself.
Jon Wolf: Draymond Green’s contributions to the Warriors have been innumerable. He’s only 6-foot-7 but has no problems bodying up big men on defense. Green has an innate knack for hunting down loose balls and rebounds which give the Warriors extra possessions. Green has almost doubled his points and rebounds with 12.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, and he now shoots a respectable 33.9% from 3-point land making him a legitimate threat on offense.
Most overrated player:
Ben Bornstein: Lance Stephenson. He’s been absolutely abysmal in Charlotte and the team has looked like a hot pile of month-old garbage and that’s being generous. Sir Lance-a-lot is shooting under 39%, averaging only 11 points per game, and has been nothing but bad news in the locker room. There’s a reason he’s being involved in trade talks despite it being his first year with the organization.
Joe Mags: Brandan Wright is a talented young player, with his role in Dallas this season as a blueprint for how to use him — he’s Tyson Chandler-light. Rajon Rondo isn’t exactly the same guy he was during the height of his powers in Boston, but he is a tremendous addition for Dallas, and a necessary upgrade at point guard on both ends. The fact that the Mavericks got Rondo in exchange for a late-first round pick, Jae Crowder and Wright is unbelievable value. Anyone who thinks Wright should have been a deal breaker should take a good hard look at what Wright, who is already 27, has done to this point in his career. How does it compare to Rondo’s lengthy list of accomplishments?
Jon Wolf: I think Chris Paul is quickly becoming overrated. Hear me out. This season he has not delivered like past years, especially in clutch moments. The most recent example was from the Clippers vs the Hawks. On a last second inbounds play Chris Paul delivered a terrible pass to Blake Griffin which was deflected, Paul hustled to get the loose ball, threw it to Griffin, but the Clippers lost the game. Paul has delivered many of these head scratching moments that leave you wondering if he really is the best point guard in the NBA.