All posts by kevinakumiah

Whether you Like it or Not: Kevin Durant will be your 2018 NBA MVP

Everyone knows the name Kevin Durant by now. He is the starting small forward for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, an eight-time NBA all-star, and a four-time NBA scoring champion. He won the 2013-2014 regular season MVP and the 2016-2017 NBA Finals MVP on the way to an NBA championship. And at the end of the 2017-2018 NBA season, he will be a two-time NBA regular season MVP.

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If Kevin Durant did not suffer a frightening knee sprain in February that caused him to miss 19 games, he would have given Russell Westbrook a serious run for the 2017 MVP. Here are the five reasons why Kevin Durant will complete the job in 2018:

LeBron James Fatigue

The primary argument many sports analysts give for why LeBron James does not win MVP every year even though he is clearly the best player in the world, is that voters are tired of giving him the award every year. At one point, that was true. From 2008-2013, LeBron James won the MVP award four out of five years, and the only year in which he lost the award (2010-2011 to PG Derrick Rose), was his first year with the Miami Heat in which he was adjusting to playing with new teammates.

But that was years ago. The voters have not given LeBron James the MVP award since 2013. It’s been four years since LeBron received an MVP award, so voters experiencing fatigue of giving LeBron the award every year is no longer a valid argument.

The kind of fatigue that will prevent LeBron from winning the 2018 MVP is the kind that affects 32-year-old basketball players who play nearly 100 games each year by virtue of advancing to seven straight NBA finals. In the past few years with Cleveland, LeBron has taken resting his body more seriously and frequently misses games during the regular season. That will continue in 2018 as LeBron is getting older and there’s nothing more left for him to accomplish in the regular season. And voters certainly count the number of games a player misses during MVP voting.

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Even if PG Isaiah Thomas’ hip acts up and LeBron is forced to carry the Cavaliers, the East has become so weak that the Cavs will easily still make the playoffs. And that’s all LeBron cares about at this point. The past two years, LeBron has shown his fatigue or even disdain for the MVP award. In 2016 when Curry won the award, LeBron congratulated Curry, but commented “most valuable” is different from “best” player. This year, LeBron was a little agitated at finishing fourth in MVP voting and commented that he does not care about who the media votes as the MVP because, “this league knows what I bring to the table.” LeBron knows that he’s the real MVP every single year and at this point, he’s done caring about who the voters choose.

For all of these reasons, LeBron James will not win the 2018 MVP.

Russell Westbrook will Struggle for an Encore

The main reason why it is so hard to win back to back MVP awards is that a player has to top what they did the last year to still impress voters. No one will have it harder in recent memory than Russell Westbrook because of just one number: 42. That is the number of triple doubles that Russell Westbrook amassed last season, beating Oscar Robertson’s 55-year-old record. That accomplishment on its own warrants an MVP and Westbrook certainly earned his award last season. But this year, voters will still be counting Westbrook’s triple doubles. And if he reaches anything short of 42, voters will easily be able to declare that Westbrook didn’t perform as well as his MVP season deny him a repeat.

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Westbrook is likely to struggle to repeat his stats from last season because of the addition of Paul George. George will make the Thunder a much better team, but he’ll take away touches and points from Westbrook, and the voters will take away his MVP award.

Chris Paul Arrives in Houston

In similar fashion, PG Chris Paul has arrived in Houston and he is bound to take away touches and points away from one of Kevin Durant’s main competitors, James Harden. Harden averaged 29.1 points a game last season and even scarier is that he has increased his average assists per game and points per game in each of the past three seasons. This streak will come to an end in 2018 due to the addition of PG Chris Paul taking away just enough of Harden’s touches and points. Harden will definitely still be a top MVP contender in 2018 because he’s just too good of a scorer to be fully slowed down. But sadly, Kevin Durant will keep James Harden waiting yet another year to receive his first NBA MVP award.

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Everyone will see Kevin Durant play . . . . Multiple Times

The 2017-2018 NBA schedule was unveiled on Monday and guess which team has the most nationally televised games? You guessed correctly, the Golden State Warriors. Golden State will be playing on national TV 31 times this year, the most of any NBA team, and will play in premiere matchups against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Christmas and Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Durant will be dominating on our televisions over and over again, and he will create a national story about his performance in 2018, giving the voters plenty of reasons to vote for Durant.

Best Player on the Best Team

Lastly, Kevin Durant will win the 2018 MVP because he will be the best player on the best team. Throughout the playoffs this spring and especially in the NBA finals, Durant proved that he’s the best player on the Golden State Warriors. He was the best player on the Warriors last season before his knee injury and his finals MVP trophy showed why he is Golden State’s top option.

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The rest of the NBA can do nothing to stop Durant. To start, there are few basketball players in the world who can even hope to defend a player with the size, speed and shooting range of Kevin Durant. And if you double him? Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson will make you pay with a wide open three-pointer.

Even though Durant accomplished his goal of winning an NBA championship, he clearly still has a chip on his shoulder. He has not at all acted content with his one championship; the man still has something to prove. Despite being a first-time NBA champion, Durant handled June’s accomplishments with a surprising amount of calm. His emotions never got too high after the NBA title win, and that shows you that he expected to win, and expects to win more. Durant has also had multiple twitter arguments with fans this summer and has taken offense to negative stories about him. He is clearly still motivated and out to prove his haters wrong.

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So whether you love KD, respect him after his title or still hate his guts, you will have to watch him raise the NBA MVP trophy in 2018. Hey, at least you will get to see him cry again as he gives another all-time great MVP speech.

The Edmonton Oilers are About to Make their Return to NHL Greatness

The Edmonton Oilers are recognized by most hockey fans as one of the greatest franchises in NHL history. How did a team from Edmonton, Canada, the NHL’s third smallest market, come to dominate hockey? The only possible answer is through winning championships and having one of the greatest – if not the greatest – players in NHL history. The Edmonton Oilers created one of the NHL’s most dominant dynasties of all time when they won five stanley cups from 1984 to 1990. The Oilers have won nine division championships in their history along with seven conference championships and seven appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals. That type of dominance in any professional sports league will never be forgotten, and it’s the reason that Edmonton maintains their place in NHL history.

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The other reason is, of course, Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time. In his nine seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, Gretzky achieved nine all-star appearances, eight NHL MVP awards, led the NHL in points seven times and won two Stanley Cup playoff MVP awards. He also set three incredible NHL records that may never be broken: 92 goals in a single season, 163 assists in a single season and 215 points in a single regular season. Gretzky’s greatness was the main reason that the Edmonton Oilers were able to dominate the NHL.

Despite their past success, as you’ve noticed, most of the accomplishments that make the Edmonton Oilers one of the NHL’s great historical franchises happened a long time ago. After the Oilers’ domination in the 1980s, they were able to maintain a solid playoff presence, making the playoffs five straight seasons from 1997-2001. Their most recent deep playoff run occurred in a loss to the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.

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After 2006 though, Edmonton experienced quite a downturn. The Oilers became one of the worst teams in the NHL and an annual laughingstock. The Oilers missed the playoffs for ten straight season from 2007 to 2016, never amassing more than 88 points in any of those seasons. Even worse is that the Oilers made no improvements despite having a top-ten draft pick for nine of those seasons in which they missed the playoffs. Most shockingly, Edmonton received the first overall draft selection for an unprecedented three straight seasons and still made no improvements.

That is, until now. The Edmonton Oilers finally ended their ten-year playoff drought this past spring and made an admirable run into game 7 of the second round despite all of their youth and inexperience. The Edmonton Oilers are about to make their return to greatness using the same formula that worked so well in the 1980’s: winning championships and having one of the greatest players in NHL history.

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In terms of potentially winning championships, the Oilers have a balanced and highly talented roster that will be among the best teams in the NHL for years to come. An offense led by Connor McDavid, Milan Lucic, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins gives Edmonton a unique blend of speed, scoring ability and toughness. Oscar Klefbom, Adam Larsson and Darnell Nurse form a tall, mobile and physically imposing defense. Finally, goalie Cam Talbot is quickly turning into one of the NHL’s best goaltenders. The Oilers’ best players are also very young, meaning this team will only get better.

The second part of the formula that will return the Edmonton Oilers’ to greatness is Connor McDavid. I know that it’s way too early to proclaim Connor McDavid as one of the greatest NHL players of all time, but just look at what he’s already accomplished. In just his second NHL season (after missing 37 games in his rookie season), McDavid tallied an NHL-leading 100 points, earning an all-star appearance, and an MVP selection, as voted by both the players and in official NHL MVP voting. And at only 20 years old, McDavid hasn’t even approached his full potential. His hockey smarts, passing ability and electrifying speed will make McDavid must-watch television and the face of hockey for years to come.

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The rest of the NHL should be extremely worried, because the Edmonton Oilers are coming, and they are ready to return to greatness.

How the Nashville Predators Became America’s Team and their Three Next Replacements

Seven of the eight NHL teams that had an average attendance of less than 80% of arena capacity this past NHL season were based in the United States. According to Forbes, the nine least valuable NHL teams call the United States home. eight of the last 10 NHL relocations have involved American NHL teams leaving their cities because of low attendance and financial problems. And as many hockey fans know, American television NHL ratings lag behind U.S. ratings for the NFL, NBA and MLB. Simply put, the NHL has often struggled in the United States compared to this nation’s other major sports leagues.

This past spring, one American NHL team defied all notions of hockey struggling in the United States: the Nashville Predators. The Predators’ playoff run to the Stanley Cup Finals showed just how successful hockey can be in America. For Nashville’s home games, fans were clad in gold jerseys and swarmed the streets outside the stadium. Nashville’s unique pre-game traditions included a car smashing event, where fans would donate money to charity for a chance to swing a sledgehammer at a car featuring the rival team’s logo. These pre-game festivities created a unique atmosphere that made Nashville Predators games a city-wide event.

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During the game, Nashville continued its traditions with famous national anthem singers, throwing catfish onto the ice and singing unique chants and taunts to let opposing teams know whose stadium they were in.  The Predators faithful create one of the loudest and toughest atmospheres for opponents to play in. Nashville had star players to further boost this hype, including G Pekka Rinne, LW James Neal and of course D P.K. Subban. Subban is a unique NHL player who has always grabbed the league’s attention in many ways. It starts with Subban being one of the few black superstars in the NHL, while also being one of the few NHL players to celebrate passionately.  Unlike most NHL players, Subban is extremely open with the media and active on social media.  He is not afraid to show how much fun he has while on the ice, making him a must-watch player that the fans truly love connecting with.

Commissioner Gary Bettman should be elated to see his southern NHL expansion pay off in such a huge way, and the excitement will only continue to grow. Nashville’s success will resonate across American NHL cities and create new great American NHL markets. These are the next three teams who will replicate the current hype and success of the Nashville Predators:

Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild were founded in 1997 and have only been in the league since 2000, but have a great chance at becoming the next great American hockey market. Minnesota has always been known as the “hockey state” in America due to their record numbers in high school hockey participation, college hockey success and production of American NHL players. But Minnesota’s thirst for hockey has never been put on a national stage. The Wild have reached the conference finals once in their history (2002-2003), meaning they have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals. And despite making the playoffs the past five seasons, Minnesota has won just two games in the second round.

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But this team is on the rise. In the past two seasons, the Wild have set franchise records for wins, points and goals.  Their deep and talented roster includes LW Zach Parise, C Eric Staal, D Ryan Suter and one of the best goalies in the NHL in G Devan Dubnyk. With a loyal and active fanbase that has ranked top nine in the NHL for the past three seasons along with how important hockey is in the state of Minnesota on all levels, it is easy to see why Minnesota is bound to rise up and become America’s best hockey market.

St. Louis Blues

Blues fans have always been loud and passionate, and as the team has improved recently with deeper playoff runs, the rest of the country is getting exposed to their fanbase. St.Louis ranked seventh in the NHL in average attendance this past season (fifth best among American NHL teams) and filled their arena at an outstanding rate of 104.6%. On the ice, the Blues are edging closer and closer to a Stanley Cup, as they advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2016 and and lost to the eventual Western Conference champion Predators in 2017 in the second round. With young rising superstars such as 27-year-old D Alex Pietrangelo, 26-year-old G Jake Allen and 25-year-old stud RW Vladimir Tarasenko, the Blues are likely to reach the Stanley Cup Finals in a few years. The rest of the nation will soon be further exposed to this dangerous team and fantastic hockey market.

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Philadelphia Flyers

It’s kind of sad to see the Flyers on a list of next great NHL markets, because they are already a very good one with plenty of history. Philadelphia ranked sixth in the NHL in average attendance this past season, making them the fourth-most watched American NHL team. Philadelphia ranked seventh in terms of stadium capacity filled with 100.5%, (fifth best among American NHL teams). Also, what if I told you that excluding this past season, Philadelphia has finished top five in NHL attendance for the past nine seasons? A little surprising, right?

And that’s the problem with Philadelphia. It is already one of the very best American hockey markets, but the Flyers’ lack of success on the ice has caused a lot of hockey fans around the country to lose sight of them. The Flyers have either missed the playoffs or lost in the first round for the past five seasons. That sort of stretch without a deep playoff run will render any team irrelevant to the national media and it’s part of the reason that Philadelphia doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

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Despite these past shortcomings, change is on the way in Philadelphia. While stars like C Claude Giroux, RW Wayne Simmonds and D Shayne Gostisbehere have been steadily carrying the Flyers, Philadelphia is about get an infusion of young superstar talent that will push the back to the top. First is smooth-skating 20-year-old defenseman Ivan Provorov, the 7th overall draft pick in 2015, who shined in his first full season this past year. And Philadelphia’s next rising star is 2017 second overall pick C Nolan Patrick, who has been pegged by scouts for years to be a top NHL player; many scouts predicted him to go first overall. When Patrick finally debuts for the Flyers, he will give them an exceptional player to build around. As the Flyers organization improves and rises back to national relevance, the city will finally gain its deserved recognition for being a top hockey market.

The NHL is entering a new era in the United States with increased competition for viewership time and with the expansion of the new Vegas Golden Knights. As great as the American dream story of the Nashville Predators seemed, do not get too comfortable. The Minnesota Wild, St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers are all on the clock to rise up and take Nashville’s spot as America’s team.

Golden State Warriors: The Savior of Small-Market NBA Teams

Winning 84% of their regular season games in the past three seasons, having been to three straight NBA finals and winning two of the last three NBA championships with four all-stars in their prime; it’s quite easy to see the Warriors winning multiple championships in the future and having very little competition standing in their way.

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That’s a very boring proposition to most NBA fans and team executives, but there is one group who should be elated at the dominance of the Golden State Warriors: small-market NBA teams. Why? Because the Warriors have created a desperate enough environment where playing for a small-market team may be the only option to get past the behemoth in Oakland. The biggest fears of executives in small-market NBA teams are being alleviated because of the dominance of Golden State.

What are the biggest fears of small-market NBA teams? It’s very simple: drafting a superstar player, having that superstar be the face of your small-market team for multiple years, attracting no free agents to help your superstar because of your franchise’s small-market status, and then having that superstar leave, often for nothing in return. What’s next? A long and painful rebuild. It’s a sad and devastating sequence of events that small-market team after small-market team has faced.

It happened to the Orlando Magic in 1996 with Shaquille O’Neal. It happened to the Denver Nuggets in 2010 with Carmelo Anthony. It happened again to the Orlando Magic in 2012 with Dwight Howard. The Portland Trailblazers suffered the pain in 2015 when LaMarcus Aldridge departed (but rebuilt quicker than most teams with Damian Lillard). And just when it seemed that NBA players were becoming more loyal and less eager to leave small-market teams, Kevin Durant left the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2016 and the franchise received nothing in return for the former MVP.

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For all of the small-market teams that saw their longtime drafted and developed superstars leave, there was one common trend: small-market teams could not convince other superstars to join. And it’s easy to see why. Why would an NBA star go to a small market and receive less recognition and fame when they could join a large-market team and be just as competitive for an NBA title? And that’s why these small-market teams struggled to get other superstars to join. Lillard missed out on an all-star appearance in the last two seasons despite turning in two seasons that far outmatch his two previous seasons in which he was an all-star, precisely because of where he plays. His games are less televised, a predicament that dooms players like him from getting the recognition that he deserves. Up until the Washington Wizards’ recent playoff success, superstar guard John Wall suffered the same fate.

The Golden State Warriors have now changed an essential part of this dilemma for small-market teams. Simply put, Golden State has four all-stars. It would take at least three all-stars to realistically have a chance at beating the Warriors in a seven game series. Players around the NBA are starting to and will continue to realize this.

We are past the days when duos could challenge for titles. Gone are the days when duos like Jordan-Pippen, Stockton-Malone and Shaq-Kobe had a realistic chance at dominating and winning multiple championships.

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This summer, the NBA world witnessed the formation of two amazing duos. Nine time all-star PG Chris Paul, widely considered to be the best passing point guard in the league, joined forces with PG James Harden, a man who has averaged 29 points a game or higher for the past two seasons and led the league in assists this past season. We also witnessed four time all-star SF Paul George join forces with PG Russell Westbrook, the 2017 NBA MVP who broke the great Oscar Robertson’s record for the most triple doubles in a season.

And what kind of reaction did the formation of these two incredible duos generate for most NBA fans? A weak applause. A head nod. A hearty thumbs up. Why was the reaction to these newly formed duos so weak? You already know the name: the Golden State Warriors. Every NBA fan could do the quick math on these new duos, identify that it was going to be two-all stars versus Golden State’s four all-stars and predict the future: both of these duos would lose to Golden State in a seven game series. NBA players and executives know this too. With the Warriors now the benchmark and standard to judge all NBA transactions, every team knows that two star players isn’t enough.

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That’s why the Rockets are still interested in adding SF Carmelo Anthony. That’s why the Portland Trail Blazers are searching for superstars to add to SG CJ McCollum and PG Damian Lillard. That’s why Cleveland discussed multiple deals to try to add George, SF Jimmy Butler or Anthony.

And it’s why small-market teams will now have a chance. The main goal of players in the NBA going into free agency will soon be to form super teams good enough to take down the Warriors. And it won’t matter to them whether that team is formed in a small market or a large-market city.

PG Kyrie Irving has interest in joining C Karl Anthony-Towns and Butler in Minnesota. Yes, that same cold, boring, small-market Minnesota. Anthony reportedly has interest in joining the Portland Trailblazers. Yes, Portland, the small market that “no one” cares about. And George is willing to give the second smallest market in the NBA, Oklahoma City, a good chance to make it his home.

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It’s all because these players understand what the Golden State Warriors have done to the NBA. They have made super teams the only path to a championship. The city that these super teams are formed in will matter very little to players. Expect teams like Denver, New Orleans, Portland, Milwaukee and Minnesota to continue to add more talent in an attempt to form super teams. And expect the next great challenger to the Golden State Warriors to be a super team put together in an unassuming small market.