Steph Curry signs well-deserved mammoth contract with Warriors

The NBA’s free agency period officially began Friday night at 12:01 a.m. and the Warriors instantly made headlines by signing their star player to the largest contract in NBA history.

After playing with a very franchise-friendly four-year, $44 million contract, point guard and 3-pointer machine Steph Curry signing a deal Friday which will net him $201 million over the next five years.

These totals make him the highest paid athlete per year in North America right now in addition to being the highest paid player in the NBA, beating out LeBron James by about $7 million in that department.

It should come as no surprise that the Warriors were willing to give Curry the money considering the tear he has been on for the past three years.

Curry has become one of the most dominant offensive weapons in basketball, hitting an astonishing 1,012 3-pointer since 2014 and leading the Warriors to two NBA championships in the last three years.

Curry also garnered two MVPs in that time including becoming the first-ever unanimous MVP in 2016.

Granted, Curry is not the only one who deserves credit for the Warriors’ success. Klay Thompson has been almost as proficient from behind the arc, Draymond Green has become a defensive force who can also punish people inside and players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston have provided valuable veteran experience on the court.

The addition of Kevin Durant during the 2016 offseason transformed the Warriors from one of the top teams in the league to a dominant team which ran over everyone en route to the 2017 NBA championship.

However, Curry is the man through which the offense runs through and it is his combination of deadliness from long-range and dangerous passing acumen which has helped turn the Warriors into one of the best teams in basketball for the past three years.

Now the Warriors still have some decisions to make in free agency with the next focus likely on Durant, who declined his player option for next season to structure a favorable deal which will benefit the Warriors in free agency.

Iguodala also sits on the free agency bubble as another member of the Warriors core, but it is hard to see him going anywhere else and he will likely take a veteran discount to stay with the Warriors.

Livingston was another question mark for the Warriors going into free agency, but a three-year, $24 million deal was reported Friday which will keep him around as another versatile option for them.

Assuming these deals go through, the Warriors will return to the court in 2017 with all of their pieces intact and seemingly set for a third title in four years unless another team finds a way to match them from a pure talent perspective.

Curry’s payday is well-deserved given what he has done for the Warriors during his career and it sets up the Warriors to continue their stay at the top of the NBA pecking order.

Kevin Durant joins Warriors to form latest super-team

After weeks of speculation and rumors about where he would play in 2016, Kevin Durant announced Monday he would be signing with the Golden State Warriors.

The contract, which is reportedly for 2 years and $54.5 million, is not the largest one of this year’s free agency period. That honor goes to Mike Conley who rode 13 points and five assists per game to a five-year, $153 million contract with the Grizzlies.

However, it may be the most important contract of the offseason as it brings Durant onto a Warriors team which won 73 games in the regular season before losing to the Cavaliers in seven games in the NBA Finals.

The Warriors only real free agency loss this season will likely be Harrison Barnes, who is rumored for a max contract with the Dallas Mavericks, and the addition of Durant makes the Warriors a super-team.

Durant has been an offensive force since joining the NBA as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, averaging 27 points and four assists per game while also throwing in seven rebounds per appearance.

The Warriors starting five will be hard to top as it will likely now have two-time MVP Steph Curry, three-point sharpshooter Klay Thompson, the aforementioned Durant, all-around player Draymond Green and the underrated Andrew Bogut.

Super-teams have become a more common occurrence over the last ten years or so, but few have been as stacked from top-to-bottom.

The Celtics built one around Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett and rode them to two finals appearance in 2008 and 2010 with an NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Miami Heat created their own Big Three when they signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh to play alongside Dwayne Wade. The Heat took advantage of James in his prime to make four consecutive finals from 2011 to 2014 including two championships in 2012 and 2013.

LeBron was part of another Big Three, and one which is still going, when he returned to Cleveland in 2014 and was joined by Kyrie Irving and a traded-for Kevin Love.  The Cavaliers have made finals appearance the last two years and are the current NBA champions.

However, what the Warriors have now assembled has the potential to top them all because the other recent super-teams have been defined by a Big Three, but the Warriors arguably now what can be described as a Big Four with Curry, Thompson, Green and Durant.

Time will tell if this new version of the Warriors can co-exist and function at a same or higher level as the Warriors of last season did. History shows us that super-teams usually take at least one year of working together before they bring home a championship.

Regardless of how the Durant deal works out down the line, for now the Warriors are the clear favorite for the NBA championship in the 2016-2017 season.

Bold Predictions for the NBA Conference Finals

The 2016 NBA playoffs have begun to reach their peak as four teams remain in the hunt for the title.

The Warriors are looking to win a second consecutive title while cementing a legacy as one of the best teams in NBA history. The Thunder hope to win their first NBA championship with their star player potentially out the door in the offseason.

The Cavaliers are also looking for their first NBA championship and LeBron James is looking to make the NBA Finals for the sixth consecutive season. Then, you have the Toronto Raptors who have never even been to the conference finals before this season and are the clear underdog in this whole situation.

There are lots of things which could happen in the conference final, but here are my five predictions on what will happen.

The Thunder will push the Warriors farther than any team thus far in the postseason

The Warriors played the Thunder three times in the regular season and won all three games. However, the games were very close including an instant-classic overtime game in which the Warriors needed a half-court make by Stephen Curry at the buzzer to win.

I expect we will see some similarly close games in this series as Curry and Klay Thompson will be matched by the equally capable duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

The Cavaliers will not sweep the Raptors

It’s been a pretty easy postseason for the Cavaliers so far. They swept the Detroit Pistons in the first round and followed it up with a sweep against the Hawks in the conference semifinals.

While the Raptors are definitely underdogs in this series, they have shown with tough Game 7 wins in the first two rounds that they can compete and I think they will take some games.

Also, the Raptors won two of their three games in the regular season against the Cavaliers and Kyle Lowry could have a big series matched up against Kyrie Irving.

Russell Westbrook and Draymond Green will both get at least one triple-double in this round

In the regular season, Westbrook led the NBA with 18 triple-doubles and Green was second behind him with 13.

I think these two dynamic playmakers will both step up in this round and deliver at least one triple-double performance apiece.

It might even happen in the same game. Who knows?

The Cavaliers three-point barrage will continue

The Cavaliers have been on a three-point tear over the last couple weeks and seem more adept at it than even the Warriors.

The team has plenty of players who shoot the ball well from long-range and it has paid dividends in the postseason. I think their hot streak will continue and they will try to beat the Raptors with attacks from beyond the arc.

The NBA Finals will be a rematch of last year’s finals

The Thunder are an interesting matchup for the Warriors, but I think the trio of Curry, Thompson and Green will outlast the duo of Westbrook and Durant to get the Warriors into the finals in six games.

While the Raptors have a great Cinderella story in the making, the Cavaliers are the best team in the conference and will overwhelm the Toronto team. This especially holds true with center Jonas Valanciunas missing in action for Toronto. Cavaliers will win in five games.

This sets up a rematch of last year’s finals where the Warriors won the championship in six games. I will save my prediction of how things will go this year for when the NBA Finals roll around.

Steph Curry continues incredible season with a historic playoff performance

If there was any doubt about Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry being worthy of a second straight MVP award, those doubts were put to rest Monday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

In front of a hostile Portland crowd, Curry made his return to the court after missing four games with a sprained right knee and made history yet again. The point guard scored an NBA-record 17 points in the overtime period alone to lead his team to a crucial victory in Game 4 of the series.

Curry actually came off the bench to start the game as he continued to nurse his still-recovering knee. However, Warriors guard Shaun Livingston was ejected in the second quarter for arguing with the officials, forcing Curry to play more time than expected.

Given Curry was listed as doubtful to even play in the game as late as Monday morning, it was questionable how much of an impact Curry would make, but he did well enough to give his team the 3-1 series lead as the teams head back to Oakland for Game 5.

The 40-point, nine-rebound, eight-assist performance by Curry was only the latest in the laundry list of historic accomplishments by him this season.

Curry shattered his own record for 3-pointers in a season by hitting 402 this season. Incredibly, Curry broke the record by 116 3-pointers, becoming the first player to hit 300 in a season and then the first to hit 400 in a season.

For historical perspective, Curry’s 688 three-point makes over the past two seasons are more than Larry Bird, 649, or Michael Jordan, 581, had in their entire careers.

Curry also had more games with double-digit 3-pointers made this season, 4, than any other player has had had in their career.

He didn’t just get the job done behind the arc either. Curry also led the NBA in layup shooting percentage as he went 68.7 percent from the field on such shots during the regular season.

Curry’s scoring pace was also historic as he became the first player in NBA history to average more than 30 points per game while also playing less than 35 minutes per game.

Curry also joined an elite club by shooting over 50 percent from the field, over 45 percent from three-point range and over 90 percent from the foul line. The only two other players to accomplish this in a season were Steve Nash in the 2007-2008 season and Curry’s current coach Steve Kerr during the 1995-1996 season.

On top of everything else he did, Curry was also a major factor for the Warriors as they set the NBA-record for wins in a season with 73.

All of this adds up to one of the most impressive seasons in recent memory as Curry has established himself as a true and unquestioned star in the sport.

Curry was rewarded for his accomplishments this season by becoming the first player in NBA history to win the MVP award unanimously. Curry is the 11th player to win consecutive MVP awards and the third point guard to do it after Nash and Magic Johnson.

The Warriors still have a ways to go in the playoffs; needing one more win against Portland with a showdown against the Thunder or Spurs looming in the Western Conference finals.

For now, all eyes are on Curry as he continues to set new standards for performance in the NBA.

The case against Thon Maker in the NBA

Top basketball recruit Thon Maker announced Sunday his intentions to enter the NBA draft straight out of high school.

The 7-foot Maker is considered one of the top college basketball recruits this offseason, but it appears the lure of a lottery pick and the money it entails was too much for the 19-year-old who was brought to the U.S. from Australia in eighth grade.

However, there is one thing which might keep Maker from being on team’s lists when the draft rolls around in June. The big problem is there’s no way he should be considered eligible for the draft under NBA regulations.

There are two basic requirements for NBA draft eligibility. The player must be at least 19 years of age and must be at least one year out of high school.

As previously mentioned, Maker is 19 as of this writing. However, he is also in his senior year at Orangeville Prep, a high school in Canada. Boom, request for eligibility denied, right?

Well, Maker’s camp is going to argue he could have graduated last year, but wanted to stay a year and play with his brother. As noble as that is, the fact remains he is not a high school graduate yet and I feel it should be counted against him.

If Maker is allowed to become eligible, it will set a dangerous precedent for future recruits who want to forego a year of college and could potentially lead to players bending the rules in any way possible to prove they graduated high school a year before they actually did.

More importantly, it might be better for Maker to spend a year in the NCAAs at a quality college basketball program.

I can’t speak for the quality of Canadian high school basketball, but I imagine it would be a massive jump in difficulty level if he were to go straight to the NBA. A year in college would allow him to adapt to the rigors of higher level basketball at a better pace without him being thrown to the wolves and burdened with the expectations of a top pick right away.

If for whatever reason he doesn’t want a full ride at a college, he also has the options of travelling overseas and playing in Europe for a year. He wouldn’t be the first player to do that either.

Brandon Jennings is the most recent example as he played for a team in Italy for one season before returning to the U.S. Jennings was the ninth overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft and has gone on to have a solid career as a guard for the Bucks and Pistons.

Maker has the potential to use the same formula for even more success given his height and his perceived value coming out of high school.

In the end, the decision is up to the NBA as Maker wants to start getting paid now. Here’s hoping the NBA asks him to wait for a year.

It might be the best thing for Maker in the long run.

Can the Warriors break the NBA single-season wins record?

By Sam Cowan

Entering a Wednesday night showdown against the Dallas Mavericks on ESPN, the Golden State Warriors are on pace for an unprecedented number of wins.

The Warriors enter the game with a 41-4 record which puts them on pace for a 74-win season. The NBA record for most wins in a season was set at 72 by Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls during the 1995-1996 season.

Those Bulls actually also entered their 46th game of the season with a record of 41-4 which only intensifies the comparisons between the two teams.

It shouldn’t be a surprise the Warriors are on a record-setting pace considering their record-breaking start to the season. The Warriors won their first 24 games to start the season which set a new NBA record by a wide margin.

In comparison, the Bulls started a somewhat modest 10-2 before winning 31 out of 32 games to put themselves at the top of the league.

Both teams are also led by star players with Stephen Curry dominating the current NBA and Michael Jordan being arguably the greatest player of all-time playing at his physical peak. Jordan’s 30 points, six rebounds and four assists per game through the first 45 games of the season is virtually identical to Curry’s 30 points, five rebounds and six assists per game.

The difference between styles of play is evident when looking at the possessions per 48 minutes for each team. The Bulls averaged 91 possessions per 48 minutes which was good for 20th in the NBA during the season while the Warriors are second in the NBA this season with 99 possessions per 48 minutes.

However, despite these differences in possession numbers, the teams are nearly identical in terms of points scored and points allowed per possession. The Bulls have the advantage in points scored and the Warriors have the edge in points allowed per possession, but these are differences by less than one point each.

No matter how you look at it, the Warriors of this season and the Bulls of 1996 are on equal ground in nearly every statistical category.

Perhaps the biggest point of concern for Warriors fans should be the big games still to come. Through 45 games, the Warriors have played just 20 games against teams at or above .500. For comparison, the Bulls played 25 games against above .500 teams in the same stretch.

Big games in the remainder of the season for the Warriors include three against the Oklahoma City Thunder and two more against the San Antonio Spurs, who still trail the Warriors by three games in the Western Conference.

The game Wednesday against the Mavericks is also important because it could put the Warriors one-up on the Bulls. The Bulls lost their 46th game of the 1995-1996 season.

The last time the Warriors and Mavericks met, the Mavericks won by 23 in a game Curry missed due to injury. This time, Curry will play and the Warriors will have a chance to get revenge and continue their record-breaking pace.

Whether the Warriors will catch or surpass the Bulls of 1996 has yet to be seen, but the game on Wednesday could be a good indication of their chances.

Becky Hammon’s performance opens door for future head coaching job

By Sam Cowan

Becky Hammon’s recent stint as head coach of the San Antonio Spurs during the NBA’s annual Las Vegas Summer League might mean bright things for her future in the NBA.

The Spurs went 6-1 to win the Las Vegas Summer League championship and Hammon was front and center as the team’s head coach for the offseason event.

On Aug 5, 2014 Hammon was hired as an assistant coach by the Spurs, becoming the first woman to be hired as a full-time employee on an NBA coaching staff.

In the announcement of her hiring back in 2014, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was very complementary of Hammon’s abilities.

“I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff,” said Popovich. “Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”

Hammon is no stranger to the game of basketball as she was a six-time All-Star in the WNBA and was also a member of the Russian national team that won a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics.

After her work in the Summer League, the question now becomes if the Spurs or maybe another team will take a chance on Hammon and make her the first female head coach in NBA history.

It would be a risky and controversial move in what has historically been a male-dominated industry, but Hammon has thus far shown that she can hang with the other coaches.

Popovich’s contract runs through the end of the 2018-2019 season and it is likely the 66-year-old will retire once his contract expires. Until then, Hammon will likely remain as a Spurs assistant coach, learning under the veteran Popovich.

If she ends up getting a head coaching job in the NBA down the line, it would be a huge step forward for equality in sports and could open up the door for more female coaches and managers across all professional sports.