The Clock Is Striking Midnight on the Fighting Maroons’ Cinderella Run – Quick Thoughts on Game 1

Photo by Michael Gatpantan, Rappler

Going into the finals, the UP Fighting Maroons were riding high, winning 7 out of their last 8 games, igniting the heart of everyone in the UP community. They were a trendy pick to win the championship. But there’s one big problem on UP’s quest for the title.

How do you beat a team as dominant as the Ateneo Blue Eagles? Here’s why they are the best team in the league:

  • They hold opponents to a league-worst 61.9 points per game.
  • Even if they play at the 3rd slowest pace, they are 2nd in scoring in the league, averaging 78.8 points per game, which means they maximize possessions, execute well, and are efficient on the offensive end.

They win tons of games, and they win them convincingly, crushing opponents by an average of 17 points. The Blue Eagles leave no margin for error – you have to play your A-game on both ends just to avoid getting blown out. So what turned out for both teams in this game? These are my thoughts on the 88-79 Ateneo victory:

UP’s defense is hyper-aggressive, but now they have to chill

Putting pressure is probably necessary for UP to thrive because they play their best on the open-floor and play at the fastest pace in the league. Everyone knows they love to go out and run, so they need to force turnovers. It won’t work against Ateneo. Ateneo has a ton of capable ball-handlers but the problem was putting pressure on everyone, including Thirdy Ravena, whose game isn’t predicated on long-range shooting. UP overplayed on defense, repeatedly getting blown by because they were too far out guarding on the perimeter.

UP got beat on backdoor cuts over and over and again, and once UP adjusted their defense to account for Ateneo’s inside scoring, the Blue Eagles just kicked the ball out and feasted from three, including back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter to start pulling away from the crowd favorites.

UP has embraced the analytics movement

Threes are better than twos. It’s the analytics movement in a nutshell. The best shot in the game, aside from an open dunk or layup, is still an open three-point shot. For starters, a 50% clip from two, is equivalent to 33% from three, so the more open threes, the better. And it’s this offensive philosophy that has given the Fighting Maroons new life on that end.

The Fighting Maroons have made spacing the floor their priority, and the game was close up until the end because their shooters have stayed on fire from distance. Now, whether that was by conscious choice or by necessary adjustment (Adamson and Ateneo have towering rim protectors making scoring at the rim doubly hard, making perimeter scoring a must), I’m not sure, but UP is better off because of it. Diego Dario, Javi and Juan Gomez de Liano, and Jun Manzo are all thriving with the newfound emphasis on outside shooting.

Thirdy Ravena and Matt Nieto came to play

Nieto exploded with a career-best 27-point performance and he capitalized on the countless defensive lapses of the Maroons. Whether it was from catch-and-shoot opportunities, pull-up jumpers, and transition layups, he was on-point from everywhere on the floor, and he made the overly-aggressive UP defense pay over and over again.

Ravena was a disruptive two-way force, and is probably mad about his exclusion from the Mythical Five this season. He finished with a near triple-double, tallying 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists. He is everything the Fighting Maroons lack – a go-to scorer who not only can get you buckets when you need them, but is also a pesky, hard-nosed defender. (This void will probably be filled next season by Kobe Paras, a bouncy and rangy athlete who has shown go-to scorer potential, but has to make use of his athleticism to be a lockdown defender.)

Paul Desiderio and Bright Akhuetie both need to have a better game

These two have to show up in the next game. I already noted that Bright struggles when guarded by a behemoth, and tonight against Angelo Kouame is no different. And after returning from his Paul Pierce in the 2008 finals-like knee injury, he played with relentless energy and crashed the boards harder than he was before his injury. He needs to take the matchup against Kouame personally. He needs to play up to his MVP-standards if UP is to have any chance in extending the series.

Meanwhile, Desiderio who finished with 5 points… this is just the way he plays. He is a volume shooter – he scores a lot, but he needs to take tons of shots. His shots just didn’t fall tonight. But knowing how well Desiderio steps up in the clutch, it’s going to be a surprise if he doesn’t show up on Wednesday with their backs against the wall, in what is potentially his last game as a Fighting Maroon.

UP fans need to chill

The UP fans in Twitter need to relax. It’s not “luto”. It’s not “bayad”. It’s not “cheating”. It’s good ol’ basketball and most of the time, the better team wins, and Ateneo is the best team in the UAAP, so it should come as a surprise to no one that they won. Is allowing Nieto and Ravena to tally 27 and 21 points, respectively, due to “luto”? No. They shot better, defended better, and in turn, scored more points than UP, so they won.

UP fans, we’re better than this. Basketball is just a sport, after all.  Let’s focus on cheering for the Fighting Maroons, okay? It’s okay to feel sad and angry after defeat, but let’s not cross the line. Let’s not compromise on any values just because we’re emotional.

Let’s go UP!

 

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Quick Thoughts on UP’s 89-87 win over Adamson

Just 5 years after going winless in Season 76, UP has finally reached the UAAP finals

Photo: Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

It’s amazing how a team that was once 3-5, seemingly bound for yet another disappointing season, reached the Finals. For a basketball program that had a 21-year playoff and 32-year finals drought, it’s amazing just how the Fighting Maroons were able to compose themselves, winning their 7th game out of their last 8 to knock off Adamson and set up the “Battle of Katipunan” for the championship . Here are some quick thoughts on the game:

Paul Desiderio comes up huge once again

Desiderio, the graduating captain of the team, has done it again. He is only shooting 27% from three, but he sure makes them when it counts. He also hit another tough fadeaway to take the lead, and he seems to pull out a miracle shot when the team needs him to. As coach Bo Perasol says, “makapal talaga mukha ni Paul.” And in dire times, when all you need is a bucket to win, all you need is a ton of self-confidence and Desiderio has that in spades.

Juan Gomez de Liaño is the true MVP for UP

It’s no secret that Bright Akhuetie struggles against guys of his own size. He had a hard time against Angelo Kouame in the regular season, and he was neutralized by Papi Sarr in the final four, holding Bright to just 6 points in the first game. Bright played better a while ago (13 points), but it’s clear that he hasn’t played up to his standard in the playoffs yet.

Enter Swish. He dropped a cool 30 points on an efficient 12-22 (55%) from the field, and when he was on the floor, it was really clear who the best player on the court was. He was in top form, and a lot of times, he was a one-man offense in a system that occasionally struggles to score. Since he was moved to the bench, he has elevated his game, and without him stepping up into the alpha role, the Fighting Maroon offense collapses.

Jaydee Tungcab is UP’s unsung hero

In a night where every bit of contribution mattered, Tungcab shines as he was excellent with all the little things. Against an Adamson defensive system that forces turnovers through full-court pressure, he was composed and became a secondary playmaker to complement the team’s primary scorers. He had a good read on the pick and roll in the Maroons’ penultimate possession in overtime – instead of dropping the ball off to Bright, he was able to read the rotation and kick it out to Desiderio for the go-ahead three. It was good, smart, and heady playmaking from the former Soaring Falcon, and he was also top-notch as a defensive pest.

UP nearly squandered the game… again (emphasis on nearly!)

This had all the makings of a classic UP game – relentless energy out of the opening tip, but once the game slows down, their offense sputters and they give up a double-digit lead. Nearing the end of the third, UP held a huge lead, but with Bright being exhausted (he was being stretched out on the sidelines, possibly due to muscle pain) and Juan GDL resting due to foul trouble, they relinquished the lead ending the third.

They dodged a huge bullet because it was apparent just how reliant the Maroons’ offense was on Juan’s ability to create shots for himself and for others. Desiderio is more of a finisher than creator (except for the times when he drains clutch fadeaway jumpers) and when he was on his own running the show, UP struggled mightily. Thankfully, they recovered on time instead of losing the lead for good.

Adamson is good… but nowhere near the level of Ateneo

Adamson did not execute up to their standard on offense because they relied too much on free throws and inside points to go toe-to-toe against UP. Only Jerick Ahanmisi and Jerom Lastimosa were reliable from the perimeter, while Sean Manganti – the UP Killer who drained a game-winner in Round 1 – went ice-cold from distance which made his drives easier to defend. Sarr was solid inside, but Adamson had no reliable big man on the bench which forced him to play extended minutes leading to a drop in effectiveness.

Ateneo, on the other hand, is as well-rounded as any collegiate team in the country. They have two reliable post presences (Kouame and Isaac Go), a go-to-scorer (Thirdy Ravena), a lead facilitator (Matt Nieto), and a ton of shooters (Go, Mike Nieto, Jolo Mendoza, Gian Mamuyac, among others). While UP was able to pack the paint against Adamson due to the lack of shooting, they will have their hands full against the depth and shooting of Ateneo which leaves no margin of error for the Fighting Maroons.

Swish has already seized the alpha role, Desiderio is steady as the reliable veteran, and Akhuetie is the most reliable big man in the UAAP, so it’s not as if UP doesn’t have a chance against the Blue Eagles.  It’s good that Tungcab has already stepped up, earning major minutes in the process, especially after starter Janjan Jaboneta’s finger injury, but more players have to contribute. Everybody has to pitch in. The odds don’t look great at all, but the Fighting Maroons, who had to win their last 3 games just to stave off elimination, have already defied the odds and will look to defy them again and get 2 more wins to claim the championship.

Finals Prediction:
Ateneo wins series over UP, 2-1
(Hopefully, UP wins over Ateneo, 2-1)

An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated that Jaydee Tungcab was a rookie. He already played two seasons for the Adamson Soaring Falcons.

‘Para Kay Tatay’ is a Subtle, yet Profound Look into the Reality of Inflation

A gripping view on one of the most pressing issues the country is facing

Para Kay Tatay”, a short directed by Christlin Conanan, is a part of the Top 10 in the Cinema One Minute Student Film Competition and it focuses on how inflation affects a certain family, after a child who wants to purchase a cake for his dad fails to do so due to the rapid price hike in goods.

Some filmmakers, whether those who create short or full-length ones, fail to recognize that one of the worst ways to engage an audience is to shove the subject matter unto the throats of the viewers. It just won’t work. If there’s one thing that a person realizes as one grows, it’s that to evoke change, you have to make people look inward and realize the need for change themselves. The power of self-realization is second to none.

It’s this power that this one-minute short utilizes. It doesn’t cram the problem straight in your face, like any great work of art should. It operates on a good plane of subtlety, giving a problem as dense and encompassing as rapid inflation a human face, further bolstering the personal resonance and connection with the audience.

The strong use of subtext emphasizes the context in which the overarching issue resides. While inflation affects everyone, not everyone is affected the same way. The levels of effect are rather progressive, from one social class to another. For those who are fortunate enough not to worry every day about what they would eat, drink, or what they would pay the bills with, the problem may be nothing more than a phase, but not everyone is given the same, favorable circumstances.

The usage of a family setting enables the short to stand on solid ground; the family is the most basic unit of society after all. To achieve social relevance, you have to start from the ground up. Change is an inward to outward transformation, and you have to target the depths to reach the surface. Personal relevance is the first step towards social awareness, and subsequently, changes. The delicate balance shown in displaying the micro and macro issues in society is a testament to the direction of the short.

The courage of the director is the thing that stands out. Tough-to-swallow subject matters don’t appeal to the moneymakers. But the medium of film should never be about the money. Film is about taking stomach-churning issues, staring them at the face, and presenting it in a way that allows the film’s biting commentary to stretch beyond the relevance of the issue. This short does that in spades.

With a sharp, thoughtful analysis on the seemingly-bleak state of the nation, a delicate tip-toeing on the line of social and personal relevance, and a subtle approach to a relevant subject, one that is as tough to handle as this, ‘Para Kay Tatay’ is a profound short, one that recontextualizes a huge glaring issue into a personal one, all in a minute.

Please like, share, and comment on the YouTube video itself! Your support would be much appreciated!

 

It’s Time To Address the Problem at Its Source

It’s time to address the heart of the issues our national teams have been plagued with for so long.

After the Philippines’ Men’s National Basketball Team’s crushing defeat to South Korea earlier today, 82-91, and the downright demoralizing loss last Tuesday to China, 80-82, it’s fair to wonder: when will this cycle of accepting “moral victories” as victories end? When does coming so close yet so far even come close to the satisfaction that comes with finally getting over that hump that our national sports teams have been mired with for the past few years? Since when has “being close enough” been enough?  This goes not only for our basketball team, but also for the rest of our delegates to the Asian Games. With yet another mediocre showing in the medal tally, just when will we learn to cultivate our own athletes, invest in youth development, and build from the ground up instead of relying on sheer talent, which, as our athletes’ performances in these competitions show, isn’t enough anymore?

The Philippines isn’t a nation starved of talent, skills, desire, or resources. We just don’t utilize them to the best of our abilities, and making matters worse, we’re aiming to justify or sugarcoat this complete inability to efficiently utilize our resources by being content with these minuscule moral victories. We’re taking solace in the fact that we lost by 2 in a basketball game to China, “counting it as a win” just because there wasn’t enough preparation time. If anything, we should be mad at the heads of the Samahan ng Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) because of the endless yo-yoing with regards to our status in joining the tournament, which decreased our blatantly insufficient training time even more. (They were given 10 days to train. 10 days!)

There’s this even-bigger problem that our country faces with regards to development in sports; being an athlete has become very elite-centric. If you don’t study in the one of the top-flight colleges or high schools and/or have any connections with those in high regard in the sports industry, chances are you won’t be given the opportunity to be put in that aforementioned environment where one’s skills can be developed.

As a former student-athlete in an admittedly weak high school in an admittedly non-competitive environment, I grew up in an environment wherein the young athlete him/herself is the one expected to invest his/her time and resources in order to improve. You’d have to dedicate money to attend training camps and you have to save money so you can invest in reliable equipment. Long story short, there is no initiative for the higher-ups of the different sports committees in charge of our sports programs to scourge the depths of society and invest in a diverse set of kids who love sports. There are no local youth development programs with sights set towards the future, and if there are, the development culture of these programs isn’t effective enough.

When you go around the country, you’d see lots of teens playing hoops in the streets. Why not place them in programs with sound infrastructure where they can develop, effectively taking them out of the streets in the process with their lives now devoted to sports, giving them a chance to rise out of poverty if they can prove to be excellent athletes? Why not invest in those out-of-school youth, provide for them an environment where in their skills can be honed and their potentials can be unleashed instead of allowing them to waste around the streets? Why not give those mired in youth labor a chance to, instead of using their physical skills to endlessly lift cartons of heavy cargo or blocks of steel, or run around chasing strangers to sell goods that don’t end up being sold anyway, dedicate these physical skills in development for various sports such as football, baseball, track and field, weightlifting, and other sports? Heck, as people living in an archipelago, why don’t we invest in swimmers? Isn’t that the least bit logical? How do we still end up finishing 8th anyway?

Isn’t it also a bit telling that our representatives are mostly athletes who are in their late-20s to late-30s? (For example, look at our Men’s Basketball Team. Asi Taulava is 45!!) We don’t start training athletes young enough so we have to keep on relying on our veterans to keep on representing us, even asking some of them to come out of retirement just because we don’t have nearly enough prepared athletes to compensate for their potential losses.

We keep talking about how our grassroots programs are improving and how the Philippine Sports Commission invests on the athletes of this country yet we never see anything materializing in the form of tangible success. The problem is that we’re not the freakin’ United States of America, especially when it comes to basketball; we can’t just take the best in their respective fields, give them a bit of preparation time and then expect them to mesh fully just because of the sheer talent level involved.

There’s also this basketball-centricity that the country seems to suffer from. As one of the biggest basketball fans, it is obvious why I’m writing this from a basketball fan’s perspective – it’s the most blatant example of poor, insufficient, and inefficient preparation just because it’s the one at the forefront of sports news when it comes to our  national athletes. And in a vacuum, it’s not even a problem at all that we’re investing so much in our basketball program. It’s the sport the country loves the most. But maybe that’s where the problem lies. It’s this fixation with this one sport that has caused us to neglect other sports that maybe we’re missing out on development chances for other sports. We know a lot of members of our Men’s National Basketball Team, who clearly haven’t won anything. But do we know who won our three gold medals in the 2018 Asian Games? Of course, Hidilyn Diaz is famous because she won the silver medal for Weightlifting at the 2016 Summer Olympics. But besides her, who are the other gold medal winners? For what sport(s) are the other golds for? (The Women’s Golf Team of Bianca Pagdanganan, Lois Kaye Go, and Yuka Saso, a 17-year old (!!) prodigy, won a gold in the team event, and Saso added another in an individual event.)

It’s time to stop trying to address these problems with band-aid solutions. It’s time to start overhauling the entire sports infrastructure in the country, set up local youth development programs, and try to give everyone a fair shot to develop. It’s time to have our different sports teams equally well-funded so they can train all year around and be better at what they do instead of just training when the competition is right around the corner. It’s time to stop focusing on just basketball and start giving athletes of other sports opportunities to flourish. It’s time to stop feeling good about almost getting there and instead rue the missed opportunities we had and use it as a turning point, a point where we realize that with tons of investment, scouting, and development, our athletes could achieve so much more than what they have so far, because as one intelligent man named Ricky Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ultimate Paramore Ranking

Finally! They’re going to perform live in Manila (specifically, Pasay) later! All I wanted was you!!

Paramore is not just a phase, ladies and gentlemen! I started listening religiously to Paramore back when I was all of 9 years old, back in a time when not much of how the world worked made sense to me, but the band helped me understand the piercing emotions that slices through every single heart that their songs had touched on. Their songs possess power that no other band can come close to wielding; it’s the power of hope, that power of believing that things would be better one day that their songs most powerfully possesses that has made them an incredible joy to everybody listening around the world. Thank you, Paramore. I guess I’ll be seeing you later!!

I got tickets!!

Anyway, this list is not focused on deciding how much better one track is than another. It’s a matter of how much I liked the song, how powerful the song’s words are, and above all, the impact it had on me. It’s truly a testament to Paramore’s creativity and ingenuity that there really are no bad Paramore songs, but it’s okay if we like one better over the other. It’s a human thing!

Note: Songs from “The B-Sides” weren’t included. There are good tracks there, like “Adore”, but it’s unfair to judge them against album tracks (or even EP) because even the band itself didn’t think it was worth putting into their four major albums. Another: this is not an original idea. I wanted to make my own version of this

Well, off to the list:

  1. Fast In My Car (2013)

It’s a track where you can’t help but feel good for the band, but admittedly, it doesn’t carry the emotional weight, the headbang factor, catchiness or the relatability of the best Paramore songs.

  1. Future (2013)

The band was probably just trying something new, but probably even they didn’t expect that they would make some sort of a meditation track.

  1. Interlude: Holiday (2013)

The first member of the interlude trio in the self-titled album to appear on the list, “Interlude: Holiday” sounds like the result of a random jam session where everyone has mailed it in already.

  1. I Caught Myself (2008)

Another Twilight song, it’s a track that doesn’t quite carry the emotional weight and nostalgic feeling that “Decode” possesses.

  1. Anklebiters (2013)

Is it just me, or does this track’s intro sound a lot like “Fast In My Car”? Anyway, it’s a track that gives off carefree vibes and to top it off, it speaks about creating your own conviction because in the end it’s going to be you who will stay for yourself.

  1. No Friend (2017)

A confusing track more than anything, this feels more like an intro to an upcoming set than a single track.

  1. Now (2013)

An extremely loud song, and with no fault of its own, this track earns negative points from me due to the fact that I have an extremely bad memory associated with this song. (Let’s just say a certain former classmate of mine sang this song in an extremely reprehensible way that I would forever associate that moment with this song.)

  1. Interlude: Moving On (2013)

Part of an experimental series, this interlude earns zing points for being the most honest track the band has ever made.

  1. Grow Up (2013)

Everyone has to grow up someday. If, say, “Hard Times” symbolizes the distinct genre shift from “Old Paramore” to “New Paramore” (a distinction that doesn’t make much sense, bands change, it’s time to grow up, haters), then this song embodies the tonal maturity the band went through throughout the years.

  1. Daydreaming (2013)

It’s a saccharine-y song, and that chorus provides an intense feeling of joy and a feeling of making it into the big leagues. It’s not a sad song masquerading as a fun song, it’s a fun song that sounds like one!

  1. Escape Route (2013)

In a way, this song represents what it’s like to be a freshman in a college or university. Everyone is a blank slate, and as the song feels ever-so-excited about, that can be just what we need, especially in an era where overfamiliarity breeds contempt.

  1. Stop This Song (2007)

A song that probably tells us all about the Sunk Cost Fallacy (just look at that Pre-Chorus verse),  this track focuses on the vulnerability of humans and just how easy it is to give in to feelings even if they seem misplaced.

  1. Interlude: I’m Not Angry Anymore (2013)

The best in the weird interlude gimmick, this stands out as a short yet sweet track, but can also become forgettable due to the fact that these interludes sound a lot like one another.

  1. Be Alone (2013)

“Be Alone” is a sweet, yet ultimately unspectacular song that speaks about being alone and how that can sometimes be necessary to grow.

  1. Proof (2013)

The intro sounds generic for a Paramore song, but the positive energy emanating from the chorus sure will make you feel like everything’s going to work out in the end.

  1. Native Tongue (2013)

Surely, sometime in your life, you’ve come across a person whom you just found a connection with, that rare person whose wavelength connects with yours. This is that kind of friendship compressed into a song.

  1. Tell Me It’s Okay (2013)

A light track, this song is all about being cautiously optimistic about being happy, because as “Fake Happy” alludes to, “I should’ve known that when things were going good, that’s when I’d get knocked down.” How about Hayley calling out her past self for being a misery factory? That sounds familiar, no?

  1. This Circle (2006)

You have to like that intro, with sounds appearing and disappearing in each earplug. This is a song raging about the cyclical nature of life, and that’s a feeling everyone can understand.

  1. Ain’t It Fun (2013)

A poppy, cheesy, yet popular track, this doesn’t work well enough as an angsty, sarcastic, or as a dance-y song. It’s caught in the middle, but it’s still a very fun song.

  1. Pressure (2005)

One of those songs that aptly matches its title, “Pressure”, when listened to, puts you in some sort of listening pressure cooker, for better or worse.

  1. Born For This (2007)

A quintessential “us against the world” song full of unstoppable authority, this song packs a wallop but may leave you feeling empty at times.

  1. All We Know (2005)

This is a perfectly fine intro song, a brisk song played at a breakneck pace, where the intensity level is kept throughout the entire song, with a hidden meaning that is stocked with some sort of depth.

  1. Hello Cold World (2011)

I just wanna feel something. Same, Hayley, same. In this cold, unforgiving world we live in, sometimes it’s tempting to just have to not be able to feel anything. But emotions are the backbone of our relational infrastructures and that these common struggles we have are what bonds us and what will ultimately make us better.

  1. Monster (2011)

This song will forever have the notoriety of being the only Paramore track that could be conceivably linked to Megatron. (It’s not even a bad track by any stretch of the imagination! It’s just… Transformers. Ugh.)

  1. In The Mourning (2011)

The saddest in the aptly named “Singles Club” (a club I’m still in!), this is arguably the band’s gloomiest song, a sad, sad track carrying a sad, sad tune containing sad, sad lyrics.

  1. Here We Go Again (2005)

This is signature Paramore melancholy. The song implies that most people in our lives would leave in one way or another, but we have to move on and not feel sad for ourselves but rather be happy about the people who stayed.

  1. Told You So (2017)

For all I know, in this list, the best is yet to come. (The worst is over. (One could argue that there is no such thing as a “worst” Paramore song, and in that case, I would agree with you.))

  1. Whoa (2005)

Do you know that this song has a good meaning? The part where they imply that change can’t be done on their own was good. But as the band admitted, the song was primarily for getting the crowd to chant on, and I agree, since it carries more style than substance. (But that’s okay, not every song should be heavy and gloomy and angsty.)

  1. Miracle (2007)

Just take it from a hopeless romantic, (i.e. “me”) when he says that this song is such a gut punch to everyone who would just look at the stars, hoping that everything would break right. Well, it’s not faith if you’re using your eyes.

  1. Looking Up (2009)

You’ll always pull through when you try, and I’m always wrong but you’re never right. I feel no sympathy, because you live inside a cage. Oh wait, those are lyrics from different songs?? That’s interesting… (Jokes about “Looking Up” and “Feeling Sorry” sounding alike aside, this song is about the band’s optimism about itself after the release of their third album amidst rumors of band disputes, which, in hindsight, is ironic knowing what happened after Brand New Eyes.)

  1. Fences (2007)

It’s obvious that you’re dying. That makes for a pretty good war cry especially during this age of profound nihilism.

  1. Tell Me How (2017)

Competing with “26”, “Misguided Ghosts”, “When It Rains” and “In The Mourning” for the title of the most melancholic Paramore song, Tell Me How is the band’s most profoundly straightforward song. (That bridge, oh my goodness.)

  1. When It Rains (2007)

These next two songs touch on really heavy themes, and this song in particular, talks about someone close to Hayley committing suicide. The lines, “Take your time, Take my time” hits home because just a few precious moments of loving someone and being there for them could make a difference when it comes to matters of life and death. All in all, this is a very sad song which makes for an especially warm listening experience during a rainy day.

  1. Turn It Off (2009)

Yes, the true story behind the song is… a bit heavy Anyways, its intro riff is great, and the part just before the bridge is even better. The song makes you feel as if it’s going to be okay even though evidence contrary to this idealistic belief is mounting.

  1. Playing God (2009)

Hey, while everyone, at one point in their lives, has pondered what it’s like to be God, and in fact, even played God, being so self-righteous, it’s especially frustrating to come across people like that. You don’t deserve a point of view, if the only thing you see is you.

  1. Franklin (2005)

The song carries emotional weight for the band, and it shows. The lyrics carry weight because the song is all about being excited to go home, only for that feeling of excitement to disappear just because of how different it feels compared to before.

  1. Hard Times (2017)

The first song released from “After Laughter”, this song marks the true tonal shift that has defined the past few years of the Paramore era. Who cares about the genre shift anyway? It’s Paramore! When things don’t evolve, they die. Thankfully for fans and for the band itself, after the hard times they went through as a band, they’ve been back better than ever.

  1. Still Into You (2013)

It feels like this song is thematically connected to “Never Let This Go” and “The Only Exception”. Songs about not giving up on someone because, I don’t know, that person really loves him/her? Yes, please.

  1. Caught In The Middle (2017)

The perfect quarter/mid-life crisis song has finally arrived. As we see the years go by, it’s a bit paralyzing when we think that we haven’t done enough, and there’s also that additional societal pressure when people expect you to have life all figured out. Yup, the perfect life crisis song.

  1. Oh Star (2005)

If you think that the usage of star in the context of this song is purely metaphorical, you will enjoy this song even more, but alas, it looks like this song is about literally wishing upon a star, which is okay I guess. The strong line, I won’t let you fall away, at the end makes this song worth listening to, all by itself.

  1. Misery Business (2007)

Another song that makes you feel as if someone killed a person Hayley loved, “Misery Business” is Paramore’s song with the most conviction, and knowing how ferocious some of their songs can be, that’s saying a lot.

  1. That’s What You Get (2007)

Why do we like to hurt? Eh, it’s a human tendency to hurt the ones we love. That’s what we get when we let our hearts win. Emotions can be such a pain to deal with, but hey, it’s what makes humans human, so it’s going to be okay I guess.

  1. The Only Exception (2009)

Loving can hurt. Love can make you question whether all of what you are doing is worth it in the end. “The Only Exception” tells us that despite how scary this loving thing seems to be, it’s going to be worth it for that special person deemed to be an exception to the rule.

  1. Feeling Sorry (2009)

There’s a fine line to walk between “I can’t do it” and “I choose not to do it”. This song is a wake-up call to those entrenched in the latter mindset – a mentality wherein one chooses not to push through just because of how heavy one’s past was – to wake up and help yourself, because things are not going to be better if you don’t believe that you can do better.

  1. Ignorance (2009)

This is inarguably the band’s most ferocious and emotionally charged song. This is peak emo-rock Paramore, a song crying out against the cynicism and cataclysm of society.

  1. Brick by Boring Brick (2009)

The counterpunch to dreaming unrealistically, the song teaches us that fantasy is where dreams are created while reality is where dreams manifest, if only we work on it brick by boring brick. It’s easy to get caught up in a fantasy world, in a world where everything is alright, but nothing beats the feeling you get when you see that everything you had wished for is right there in front of you.

  1. Part II (2013)

You know what cineastes say, the sequel rarely comes close to the original. But if your original is that good, then having a drop off doesn’t matter at all. Do songs need sequels? I think they do. Do we have enough sequel-songs? I think we don’t.

  1. Decode (2008)

While “Twilight” was a bad film, at least that gave us this gem of a song. Of course this song will forever be linked to that film and there will forever be flashes of that vampire-werewolf showdown in our heads everytime this is played. But who cares? The best songs give off the greatest emotions and who wouldn’t be taken back to memory lane when they listen to this?

  1. Hate To See Your Heart Break (2013)

It’s tough to be someone whose heart ends up hurting worse when you see a loved one hurt than when yours is the one in pain. It’s that feeling of helplessness stemming from our inability to muster a solution that makes it extra painful, but it’s okay because there’s always a rainbow after the rain.

  1. For A Pessimist, I’m Pretty Optimistic (2007)

Have you ever had someone close to you, thought you were going to be friends forever, but he/she offended you but you keep telling yourself that because he/she is your friend, you’ll just be the one to understand him/her but they end up blowing every second chance over and over? That’s this song in a nutshell.

  1. Never Let This Go (2005)

A song where one vows to never let go, even if he/she feels as if the person he/she’s holding to has changed already, this is hands down Paramore’s most underrated song. I ignored this song during my pre-teen days, not knowing that this song was perfectly made for someone who thought (either wrongfully or correctly) that their feelings for someone were one-sided.

  1. Careful (2009)

The truth never set me free, so I’ll do it myself. The scapegoat of the Farro-Williams feud of 2010, you can see where Josh was coming from when he decided to use that line to call out Hayley. Looking back, however, we can see that the song wasn’t about that at all. It talks about destiny and the truth of reality not being the same for everyone, and when we figure out that the ideals of society are only man-made, we need not be pressured to reach those societal standards. It’s still going to be up to you in the end to decide what you end up doing and who the person you are going to end up becoming, and as it is in life, we’re going to have to take risks.

  1. Forgiveness (2017)

It’s not easy to forgive because [cliché alert] if it was, then everyone would be doing it. The song nails the feeling of being at odds with someone – there is panic everytime you see or hear their name, and everytime you recall that time when you clashed, there is renewed frustration brewing within, and yes, forgiveness is useless if it’s half-assed, so you should be truly ready to forgive once you do so.

  1. (One of Those) Crazy Girls (2013)

This is a very niche song, and I liked it a lot because I found it oddly funny especially after a (well-telegraphed) heartbreak just because of how misplaced optimism can sometimes be, especially in romance.

  1. Rose-Colored Boy (2017)

“When you look at someone with rose-colored glasses, all the red flags look just like flags.” As the band itself beautifully detailed, it’s alright to be sad and decide to take off those rose-colored glasses just because we want to decipher what are warning signs and what aren’t because we’ve been burnt way too many times before.

  1. crushcrushcrush (2007)

This song is about having a crush on someone but ending up just pretending and not doing a single thing about it because of… reasons? Well, that sounds awfully familiar.

  1. My Heart (2005)

Ah, it’s been quite a wild ride when it comes to Hayley’s faith and relationship with God, from this on-fire willingness to go back to God to a bit of shakiness with “Careful” and “Turn It Off”. It’s alright though, progressing in one’s faith isn’t as linear as we think it will be, and that’s okay, because our hearts are Yours, and what would we be without You?

  1. Grudges (2017)

Stop asking why, why we had to waste so much time. Healing takes time, yes?

  1. Renegade (2011)

A (band) breakup song, it focuses on expressing that ever-present feeling of not being enough, and sometimes we’re left wondering as to what it takes to keep the people in our lives.

  1. Pool (2017)

Paramore rarely makes love songs, but when they do, they are really good. Of course the memory I have of a pool that stands out the most is when I nearly drowned during a P.E. class, and got made fun of for not knowing how to swim. Sometimes you have to struggle so that you can understand what it takes to remain afloat, and as the song implies, even if you sank that one time, depending on the person, it’ll always be worth it to dive back in.

  1. Misguided Ghosts (2009)

Yup, life is not a race of whose life is better, or whose life is more figured out – life is carried out in its own pace, and it’s okay if we’re a bit misguided as of the moment; we all have room to grow, and we bloom in our own seasons.

  1. 26 (2017)

It’s a song about staring at the gnashing maul of the eternal bleakness of life, flipping it off and then saying that one doesn’t care about the apparent uselessness of hoping, and no matter what life throws at that person, one won’t let go of that hope because it’s what pushes him/her to go through every day.

  1. We Are Broken (2007)

What could be classified by some as yet another cheesy song, this song encapsulates the realization of how hopeless life is; yes, I am broken, and I want to be made whole again, but I can’t make myself whole because I am incapable. It’s an acceptance of the fact that there is a God that can make us whole once again, and if that isn’t beautiful, then I don’t know what is.

  1. Idle Worship (2017)

La-la-la-la-la-la-la. If you haven’t at least once in your life sang along to that, it’s time to do so. A song that embodies the mindset of not needing to place people in imaginary pedestals, shoehorning someone to fit into this abstract idea we have of them just to suit our needs, this sure is a song that won’t let you down.

  1. Conspiracy (2005)

This is a song that I got hooked on when I was younger due to its catchiness, but as I grew up, I understood what the song was about and it immediately became a better one in my book. A song about loyalty, trust, and security, this song sure takes me years back.

  1. Fake Happy (2017)

If it doesn’t hit you in the gut in one way or another, is it truly a Paramore song? As some people would like to say, the strongest people are the saddest. The ones who smile or love the most are the ones who’ve been hurt the worst, but indeed, everyone has tried to hide some sort of scathing pain at some point in their lives, and if it’s a highly relatable feeling, I’m sure Paramore would write a song about it.

  1. Last Hope (2013)

You can really see the band’s consistency – by the time their third album came to fruition, their songs are still pestered with hope. Truly, sometimes, the best we can do when faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges is to ride them out, and that each day is a day to be lived full of hope, knowing full well that as long as we’re alive and kicking, there’s still hope that there are better days ahead.

  1. Let The Flames Begin (2007)

That intro is arguably the band’s best – What a shame we all became such fragile broken things – and all that teenage angst is baked into a ten-word phrase. It also serves as a reminder for pushing through the hardest of times knowing that those pitfalls are inevitable, but what matters is if you allow that to serve as a turning point, allowing yourself to grow from what once was a period of weakness.

  1. Where The Lines Overlap (2009)

The list of Paramore songs one likes the most speaks volumes about that person, and music works best – at least for myself – when I forget about the harsh reality at hand and I get reminded of the hope we have of having a better life. This is a song that encapsulates that aesthetic experience I seek to have when listening to music. “We’re not at the end yet, but we’ve already won” is a killer line, not to mention that sweet-sounding bridge. This is probably the band’s most slept-on song.

  1. Hallelujah (2007)

Somehow, everything’s gonna fall, right into place. This perfectly captures the hope that keeps everyone going through the ever-unforgiving grind of life that threatens to take away every inch of determination we have that sometimes makes us forget why we do what we do. This anthem, if you will, aims to push back on the notion of the hopelessness of the world – we know, deep inside each and every one of us, no matter how deeply embedded within the recesses of our soul this belief lies, that everything will work out in the end, and this song celebrates that unbridled hope ever so exuberantly.

  1. Brighter (2005)

As soon as you wake up, lunchtime, naptime, dinnertime, anytime, “Brighter” is such a delight to listen to. This is a song that makes you feel as if everything will be alright, that no matter what would become of your relationship with a certain loved one, your view of them will never change, and if that’s not sweet, then I don’t know what is. ­­­

  1. Emergency (2005)

The moment I listened to this song, I knew it was one of the best songs of all time. A lovely outcry against the death of love, this song steps on the gas pedal from the onset, carrying a certain brand of tenacity and sense of umm… (em)urgency, adding up to create a song that doesn’t let up from start to finish.

  1. All I Wanted (2009)

The song that most powerfully embodies the Paramore ethos – “All I Wanted” is the band’s most sentimental song, and undoubtedly, in my honest opinion, their best. Rarely does a song evoke so many emotions – extreme longing for a special someone, acceptance of a bleak reality where the people we want don’t necessarily become the ones we end up with, and coming to grips that past moments are only accessible to us through memories. Paramore is at its best when the songs they create mirror that of a film’s flow – when the build up in the first act pays off in a big way in the end, with a thrilling climax in between. “All I Wanted” embodies that kind of flow unlike any other Paramore song.

Way Too Early 2018-2019 NBA Power Rankings

During the dog days of August when all NBA fans could do nothing but clamor for the return of the league we all love, it is tons of fun to generate anticipation of what promises to be yet another interesting season ahead. The past offseason has become one to remember, with two of the best nominal small forwards in the world, LeBron James, and Kawhi Leonard changing conferences, going to the Lakers, and Raptors respectively. The signing of DeMarcus Cousins, however, prompted lots of fans to prematurely declare the Warriors champions, which, to be fair, basically everyone expects. But as we learned from the Rockets last season, nothing is set in stone. Maybe Kevin Durant rolls his ankle, or DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t recover fully and becomes a locker room problem, and the Warriors get bounced in the second round. (You’re right, that’s not happening.) Let’s face it; if the Warriors are healthy come playoff time, they’ll surely be raising their third straight championship and their fourth in five years, and that means that, yet again, all 29 teams are going to be looking up on Golden State, and the only question left to ask is just how far a team is from their level.

Without further ado:

Note: My Win-Loss predictions did not come from statistical analysis but rather educated guesses guided by true statistical projections.

  1. ATLANTA HAWKStrae

ESPN Projected Record: 22-60

538 Projected Record: 28-54

My Projected Record: 20-62

Player(s) to Watch: Trae Young, PG; John Collins, PF/C

With Travis Schlenk, a former member of the Warriors staff, trying to build his own version of the Warriors with his 2018 first round draft picks (Young, Kevin Huerter, and Omari Spellman), it’s a good reminder that the Warriors definitely did not expect to be the juggernaut they became after drafting Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. Back in 2013, Green was nothing but an enforcer off the bench who shot dreadfully (22%) from beyond the arc, and Thompson’s perception around the league was still affected by his inability to create his own shot. Curry was just coming into his own after an injury-marred start to his career, but nobody thought he’d change the game the way he did. No one thought they’d become the centerpieces of a 73-win team that was good enough to lure another MVP from a good situation in Oklahoma City. It’s a relevant and significant reminder that literally everything had to go their way for them to become 3-time champions. Everyone trying to emulate the Warriors is bound to fail. God bless you, Travis Schlenk.

  1. SACRAMENTO KINGSfox.jpg

ESPN Projected Record: 24-58

538 Projected Record: 21-61

My Projected Record: 23-59

Player(s) to Watch: De’Aaron Fox, PG; Marvin Bagley III, PF

Here’s another team with delusions of being the Warriors. No one will ever forget Kings owner, Vivek Ranadive, dubbing Buddy Hield as “the next Steph Curry”. Anyway, that’s enough talking about the Warriors. The Kings own the longest active postseason drought, and they’re that team that when they look like they’re finally building something, they take shortcuts which costs them even greater in the long run. There’s that Mike Malone firing after a good start to the season. How about using two first-round picks to dump salary so they can sign Rajon Rondo and Marco frickin’ Belinelli? Here’s to hoping that they continue to build the right way because it’s slowly looking like they’ve got something brewing. If Fox’s shooting continues to grow, Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic become bonafide two-way players, Harry Giles proves himself legitimate, and Bagley shakes off the “tweener” distinction to become a star, then the Kings are finally on their way up. But those are a lot of ifs, and that’s if they haven’t used them by then to dump salary.

  1. NEW YORK KNICKSok.jpg

ESPN Projected Record: 28-54

538 Projected Record: 25-57

My Projected Record: 26-56

Player(s) to Watch: Kevin Knox, SF/PF; Frank Ntilikina, PG/SG

Much like the aforementioned Kings, the Knicks love to take shortcuts, as seen in their 2016 offseason moves of acquiring past-their-prime stars Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. It’s safe to say that they’re building the right way under GM Scott Perry. The biggest thing to watch is the growth of Ntilikina. It’s probably too early for now to move him to off-guard without knowing just how effective he can be as the primary ballhandler. He needs to have that freedom to grow as a point guard, and with Trey Burke, and Emmanuel Mudiay in the way, not to mention the presence of Jarrett Jack last season, he just wasn’t able to explore his ability as the lead ballhandler. One thing’s for sure – they’re going to be a much improved defensive team. The addition of Knox and Mitchell Robinson, a high energy big man in the mold of JaVale McGee, gives them length and mobility across all positions, a defensive skill asked out of every player nowadays, not to mention the already-terrifying defensive presence of Ntilikina. But with their main man Kristaps Porzingis absent due to a Torn ACL, wins will be hard to come by this year.

  1. CHICAGO BULLSzachdunk

ESPN Projected Record: 28-54

538 Projected Record: 27-55

My Projected Record: 26-56

Players to Watch: Jabari Parker, SF/PF; Zach LaVine, SG

All eyes are on Parker and LaVine, the highest-paid players on the Bulls. Their defensive track record is brutal, but it’s their offensive ceiling that dictates just how far this team can go. I have to admit that I wasn’t a Lauri Markkanen fan, but with the way he balled out during his rookie year, it’s safe to say that he’s the rock and the centerpiece of this Chicago rebuild, and the Bulls are in a position to take chances on young players whose stars have dimmed to see who would fit around Markkanen. I’d have to say that I think Parker isn’t it – he loves to play along the mid-range, utilize isolation plays to score, which is Markkanen’s natural scoring position, and his defensive position is the 4, which is Markkanen’s for the long run after the selection of Wendell Carter Jr. LaVine is pricy but he was looked at as the prize in the Jimmy Butler deal so keeping him was understandable even if the price was too steep in the end. Overall, the Bulls are on the rise, especially after Kris Dunn’s emergence (however, keep in mind that he’s already 24 for some reason), but they’d need to target more two-way players to reach the next level.

  1. ORLANDO MAGICmobamba

ESPN Projected Record: 30-52

538 Projected Record: 33-49

My Projected Record: 29-53

Players To Watch: Jonathan Isaac, PF; Mohamed Bamba, C

The Magic are the perfect example that should be brought up by everyone against those who are against tanking – they’ve been stuck in an endless rebuild, cycling through high draft pick and high draft pick, ultimately turning some valuable pieces like Victor Oladipo and Tobias Harris into an overpaid Terrence Ross, so drafting high in the lottery doesn’t necessarily translate into a linear path to contention. The Magic also haven’t really remedied its frontcourt logjam that the team seems to have been stuck with for eternity. Mo Bamba. Jonathan Isaac. Nikola Vucevic. Aaron Gordon. Timofey Mozgov, (Yeah, you’re right, he’s not gonna play.) The aforementioned four are big men whose best positions are at the 5. (Aaron Gordon is a natural 4, but his greatest strengths are his rim-running and vertical game, and he fits really well in super-small ball lineups with him at the 5.) Only time will tell if this supersized team can coalesce into a unit whose collective impact far exceeds their collective wingspans.

  1. CHARLOTTE HORNETSkemba

ESPN Projected Record: 35-47

538 Projected Record: 38-44

My Projected Record: 31-51

Players to Watch: Kemba Walker, PG; Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, SF/PF; Malik Monk, SG

I’m not high at all on the Hornets. Everything just feels meh. Kemba Walker is a good bet to be traded. (If the Hornets fall off and he becomes available at a discounted rate, why wouldn’t the 76ers, Pacers, or Knicks jump in? But Walker has said that he wants to stay in Charlotte.) Nicolas Batum is slowing down, the frontcourt is lacking, and a lot of what the Hornets would hope to become (be a playoff team) relies on the exponential improvement of Monk, immediate star-level impact from 11th pick Miles Bridges, and tons of internal improvement from Jeremy Lamb and Kidd-Gilchrist. Kidd-Gilchrist’s ceiling, at this point in his career, seems to be a longer version of Tony Allen (Which is not at all bad, but downright disappointing coming from the second overall selection.)  He defends extremely well, but his shooting just never developed into anything close to league average. Many are also disregarding the loss of Dwight Howard, but he sure contributed a lot to a team that won just 36 games and, even with his warts and all, his presence is going to be missed on the court.

  1. BROOKLYN NETSbrooklynn

ESPN Projected Record: 32-50

538 Projected Record: 35-47

My Projected Record: 31-51

Players To Watch: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, PF; Jarrett Allen, C; D’Angelo Russell, PG/SG

It’s a testament to how well the Nets have operated after Sean Marks was hired that for the first time in a while, they own their pick (yes!), but it looks like the pick is going to land in the mid-teens (noooo). Allen is a very good big man. He’s mobile for his size, freakishly long, and plays his role (rim-runner) with no nonsense. Hollis-Jefferson has exceeded expectations, and his offensive game is developing. The Nets have a modern collection of wings – an athletic scorer (Caris LeVert), a hard-nosed 3-and-D wing (DeMarre Carroll), sharpshooters that could go off at any time (Allen Crabbe and Joe Harris), and potential impact wings (rookies Rodions Kurucs and Dzanan Musa.) They have also amassed tons of depth, signing Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier, and while their best players aren’t there yet in terms of talent and two-way impact (D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie), their depth can be annoying to play against, especially coming off back-to-backs, and knowing how well Kenny Atkinson puts his players in positions to succeed, the Nets are only going up. (Not to mention they have tons of cap space, next offseason…)

  1. PHOENIX SUNSdbook.jpg

ESPN Projected Record: 27-55

538 Projected Record: 26-56

My Projected Record: 27-55

Players To Watch: Josh Jackson, SF; DeAndre Ayton, C; Devin Booker, SG

Devin Booker has been paid, and paid a lot, and the Suns have decided that they are going to keep on giving him the keys to franchise, and to his credit, he has done his fair share to contribute, averaging around 24 points the past season. Luka Doncic and Booker could have been fun, especially with Doncic’s former coach Igor Kokoskov now in the helm, but Ayton should provide a reliable interior presence that can relieve the pressure off the Suns’ young perimeter players. (If even one of Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss just panned out, they could have taken Doncic, but, here we are.) The addition of Trevor Ariza and selection of Mikal Bridges would help take pressure off Jackson on both ends, which could then help him transition into more of a secondary playmaking role against opposing bench units. Overall, if Kokoskov can bring out the best in everyone, especially the unreliable duo of Bender and Chriss, the Suns could be a bit more dangerous than we think.

  1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERSlove

ESPN Projected Record: 31-51

538 Projected Record: 30-52

My Projected Record: 33-49

Players To Watch: Collin Sexton, PG; Kevin Love, PF; Cedi Osman, SG/SF

Everytime the King leaves Cleveland, they draft a 19 year old guard with tremendous scoring potential. Maybe the King leaving is a good thing? Yeah, didn’t think so. Everyone, I mean, everyone piled on LeBron’s supporting cast last season, and rightfully so. The numbers show an immense drop off every time he sits. But I don’t think the 17-18 Cavalier Supporting Cast deserves to be trashed by that magnitude, especially after seeing just how dependent they were on LeBron. Almost, if not all, plays went through LeBron. It’s like having your mom take care of every single thing in your life just because she knows how everything works better than you do. You’re just not going to learn how to do stuff if you aren’t allowed to spread your wings a little. Am I saying that they’re better off if they do so? No! But it only means that we can’t know for sure just how well (or poorly) these Cavs would play just because we’ve seen that apart from LeBron, they suffer. The last time Love was surrounded by playmakers and shooters (i.e. Not Jordan Clarkson) while he was cast in a central role, they won 40 games. Now whether that version of Love still exists is up for debate, but I can definitely see the Cavs making the playoffs in a weak conference.

  1. DALLAS MAVERICKSlukaa

ESPN Projected Record: 33-49

538 Projected Record: 27-55

My Projected Record: 30-52

Players To Watch: Luka Doncic, PG/SG; Dirk Nowitzki, PF/C

The Mavericks better hope that lottery luck would shine upon them (their 2019 pick traded to Atlanta conveys if it lands in the Top 5), because there probably isn’t a reasonable way for them to make the playoffs in the dreadful Western Conference. Once again, Power Rankings aren’t pieces that arrange teams from the best record to the worst, it’s an estimation of the collection of talent a team has, and if you look at their rosters, the Mavericks clearly have better personnel than the Cavaliers. But Dallas would face teams from the West 52(!) times, including four times against the Rockets, Spurs, Thunder, Jazz, Pelicans and the Warriors, and 3 more times against the Lakers, Nuggets, and other playoff contenders. Doncic would definitely make an immediate impact; Dennis Smith should continue to grow as a facilitator and shooter, while DeAndre Jordan would improve the vertical spacing of the team. It’s admirable from the Mavericks to try and contend for a playoff spot in what looks like Dirk’s final season, but, even with the wizardry of Rick Carlisle, the bloodbath that is the West would prove to be too much for them.

  1. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIESconley

ESPN Projected Record: 33-49

538 Projected Record: 32-50

My Projected Record: 31-51

Players To Watch: Jaren Jackson Jr, PF/C; Mike Conley, PG

The Grizzlies are becoming a modern NBA team by the day, and for a team that has seemed as old-fashioned as them, this stylistic transformation is still amazing to see. It’s hard to name a Grizzlies player who doesn’t shoot threes. (Ivan Rabb, maybe?) Even Jarell Martin and JaMychal Green let it fly every once in a while. There is no questioning the Grizzlies’ intent – they aim to make the playoffs year in, year out, and for quite a while with their Grit and Grind core, they’ve done so, but now, the league has passed them by and they haven’t been able to keep up in terms of the talent level necessary nowadays to compete in the West. They tried to make a splash in the form of Chandler Parsons (how’d that work out, Grizzlies fans?), and failed miserably. The good thing about their previous season is that they were bad enough to select Jackson, and they are only going as far as he takes them. Along with a potentially healthy Conley and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies are still going to be annoying to play against.

  1. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERStobias

ESPN Projected Record: 35-47

538 Projected Record: 33-49

My Projected Record: 32-50

Players To Watch: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, PG; Tobias Harris, PF

The Clippers are a very fun and guard-heavy team. They are going to run and gun, and they have a collection of players who defend well, especially that starting backcourt of Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley. The degree to which the Clippers’ season succeeds depends on their rising star, Harris. Harris has improved to the point where he can be a third cog on a winning team – he’s that good. His range has improved immensely, and his shot creating has only improved from his days with the Magic. He is going to be a matchup problem for teams who still start traditional power forwards, and defensively, he is underrated, as his size can be bothersome for perimeter and interior players alike. What the Clippers don’t have is that night-in, night-out star who you can pencil in to lead the team every night. They will try to do it by committee, led by Harris and reigning Sixth Man of The Year Lou Williams, but there will be plenty of nights where they will face an insurmountable talent deficit.

  1. DETROIT PISTONSblake

ESPN Projected Record: 38-44

538 Projected Record: 39-43

My Projected Record: 38-44

Players To Watch: Blake Griffin, PF; Stanley Johnson, SF

Griffin and Andre Drummond are infinitely valuable cornerstones… if this were the 80s or the 90s. Both are dominant interior presences who have underrated passing vision, and Dwane Casey is sure going to put both players in positions where they can play off one another’s strengths. However, the league’s playing style has changed by a ton, and the Pistons are really short on wings to capitalize on the interior presences of the two. Reggie Bullock had a nice little breakout, but Johnson, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, and Glenn Robinson III don’t move the needle enough to justify the amount the Pistons are paying Griffin just to barely make the playoffs. Griffin and Drummond are good enough that they can make it work, and it’s going to be living hell for teams with small frontcourts to deal with the two, but besides them, there really is no one else threatening enough for the Pistons to become more than a mediocrity.

  1. MIAMI HEATgoran

ESPN Projected Record: 43-39

538 Projected Record: 41-41

My Projected Record: 41-41

Players To Watch: Josh Richardson, SG/SF; Bam Adebayo, C; Justise Winslow, PF

Pat Riley is a genius, and he probably thought that the cap would keep on rising exponentially that the contracts they have would remain tradeable and potentially packaged together to get a disgruntled star. Well, it turns out that that’s not the case, and you’d be hard pressed to find a team willing to take on the contracts of Tyler Johnson, Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Hassan Whiteside, and Kelly Olynyk. The Heat are spending a lot of valuable cap space on players who barely move the championship needle, and they don’t have a true star now that Whiteside has become disgruntled due to the fact that he’s not as big a part of the offense as he had hoped. Goran Dragic is good, but he’s not good enough for the Heat to be more than first-round fodder for the Celtics, Raptors, or, as we saw just this past season, for the 76ers as well. They need Richardson, Adebayo, and Winslow to break out, but with the aforementioned veterans in the way, the opportunity to break out might not be there for them either.

  1. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS

lillard

ESPN Projected Record: 43-39

538 Projected Record: 39-43

My Projected Record: 44-38

Players To Watch: Damian Lillard, PG; C.J. McCollum, SG

Their embarrassing first round exit against the Pelicans shed light on the greatest flaw of their roster – they are overly reliant on the shot and space creation of their lead guards. Their wing depth is non-existent, and they have tied up valuable cap space on below average players such as Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard and this has handicapped their ability to add versatile two-way players to the mix. They don’t have any other players who generate open shots for them like Lillard and McCollum, and once they are blitzed, their other pieces don’t have enough passing and playmaking amongst themselves to make the defense pay for trapping. Lillard played out of his mind last season en route to an All-NBA First Team selection only to lose in the first round, and it’s been noted that he has been critical of some past personnel moves, such as trading away Will Barton and letting Ed Davis go. He has also repeatedly said that he wants to win a chip in Portland, but with how flawed the roster is, it’s hard to see that happening, especially with how brutal the West is, especially this season. Look for Lillard (or McCollum) trade talks to heat up soon.

  1. WASHINGTON WIZARDSbealwall

ESPN Projected Record: 44-38

538 Projected Record: 48-34

My Projected Record: 46-36

Players To Watch: Dwight Howard, C; John Wall, PG

This team definitely belongs on the #2 spot on the Meme Team Power Rankings, but alas, here they are in the real Power Rankings. They should improve solely on the fact that they replaced a rapidly declining Marcin Gortat with a still functional Dwight Howard, and to their credit, they also improved their bench with the additions of Austin Rivers and Jeff Green. If they are able to set aside their egos and work for the collective good of the team, they are going to be good. It’s just not happening. Bradley Beal has improved so much that it’s fair to wonder whose team this is. How is Wall going to take it if Beal becomes undoubtedly better than him? Or heck, how would the Wizards feel, knowing how much money they have tied up to Wall? This is a team that should threaten the single-season record for players-only meetings. Here’s to hoping the Wizards actually bond and perform to their best because the East could sure use another contender.

  1. INDIANA PACERSmycity

ESPN Projected Record: 47-35

538 Projected Record: 43-39

My Projected Record: 47-35

Players To Watch: Victor Oladipo, SG; Myles Turner, C

The surprise team of the 17-18 season, the Pacers shattered basically every expectations fans had for them, especially after the initially disappointing return for their former franchise star, Paul George. They were projected to win a measly 32 games, but Oladipo had something to say about that. I don’t really believe that players leaving Oklahoma City become better – context matters, like Oladipo being the lead guard in Indiana, something that was never going to happen with Russell Westbrook around, but to his credit, he took full advantage of the opportunity handed to him and he hasn’t looked back since. It’s now a matter of surrounding him with other stars, which the Pacers have yet to do. They made solid, yet unspectacular, signings, inking Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott to reasonable contracts, but for the Pacers to make the jump to the upper echelon of the league, they’d need any of Turner, Domantas Sabonis, or even Aaron Holiday to be a star, which looks unlikely, and Indiana has never been an attractive free-agent destination, so signing a star also seems far-fetched. But Indiana has a deep team, and they are a few pieces away from true contention.

  1. MILWAUKEE BUCKSgiannis

ESPN Projected Record:  47-35

538 Projected Record: 47-35

My Projected Record: 47-35

Players To Watch: Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF/PF/C; Khris Middleton, SG

It’s funny how dominant the Bucks can be in 2K, while being closer to mediocre than elite in the real world. When you look at Milwaukee’s roster construction, it’s a very ideal and complete roster featuring an all-world superstar (Antetokounmpo), a consistent second option (Middleton), a complementary ball-handling shot creator (Eric Bledsoe), three-and-D specialists (Tony Snell and Malcolm Brogdon), and defensively solid big men (John Henson and Thon Maker). It speaks volumes to the inability of both Jason Kidd and interim coach Joe Prunty to maximize the roster that the Bucks haven’t really made a huge leap despite Antetokounmpo’s massive improvement. With superstars leaving becoming more of a thing by the day, it’s fair to say that the Bucks are on the clock in keeping Giannis. However, with the additions of all-around offensive bigs Brook Lopez and Ersan Ilyasova, along with the hiring of Coach Mike Budenholzer, the Bucks have more firepower than ever that it’d be a disappointment if they don’t make it to the second round.

  1. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVESKarl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins

ESPN Projected Record: 45-37

538 Projected Record: 52-30

My Projected Record: 46-36

Players To Watch: Derrick Rose, PG; Andrew Wiggins, SF

There’s just no way to predict the West’s top 8, but here I am going out on a limb, saying that the Timberwolves would miss the playoffs (again) after not making the playoffs for 14 seasons before the last. The Timberwolves were so good last year that I might be underrating them a bit – they went 36-25, holding third place in the West before Jimmy Butler went down with a meniscus tear. They proceeded to play at a mediocre clip the rest of the way, going 11-10, before going down in 5 against the Rockets in the first round. With another year of improvement for Karl-Anthony Towns, Wiggins, and with improved continuity, the Timberwolves should be better, but they wouldn’t be. They have a razor-thin bench (hard-capping themselves to sign Anthony Tolliver was… interesting), and with Thibs’ well-documented reputation for running his players into the ground (Towns, Wiggins, and Taj Gibson all ranked in the Top 15 in Total Minutes played) and for not playing rookies a lot, if at all, the Wolves are going to run out of gas before the season is all said and done.

  1. SAN ANTONIO SPURSderozan

ESPN Projected Record: 44-38

538 Projected Record: 40-42

My Projected Record: 48-34

Players To Watch: DeMar DeRozan, SG; Dejounte Murray, PG; Lonnie Walker, PG/SG

LaMarcus Aldridge did a hell of a job carrying the Spurs throughout last season’s turmoil, and with Pop still at the helm, there’s no doubt that the Spurs will continue to make the playoffs. There are legitimate spacing issues to be concerned about, and the frontcourt is going to be one of, if not the, slowest in the league. However, with Pop’s track record of being the best in bringing out the best in just about everyone and ensuring that their execution is better than that of their opponent, the Spurs are sure to weather the unusual storm the franchise has been through. The loss of Kawhi stings a lot – they were beating up on the Warriors in the 2017 Western Conference Finals before the unfortunate injury that caused the whole fiasco happened. The downgrade from Kawhi to DeRozan is steep, but seeing as to how the Spurs won 47 games with a patchwork roster last season and with All-NBA Second Team member DeRozan essentially replacing a Kawhi that played for 9 unimpressive games, the Spurs should not miss the playoffs, even in the tightly contested West.

  1. DENVER NUGGETSjoki

ESPN Projected Record: 47-35

538 Projected Record: 48-34

My Projected Record: 49-33

Players To Watch: Nikola Jokic, C; Isaiah Thomas, PG; Paul Millsap, PF

After two seasons of nearly sneaking into the playoffs, this is the year that the Nuggets finally make it. Jokic played extremely well in the final 15 games of the season as the Nuggets were making their playoff push, averaging 24 points, 12 rebounds, and 7.5 assists per game on 50/45/87 shooting splits. He is definitely worth a max deal, but it’s important that if you have an extremely flawed, yet still amazing, superstar, you surround him with perfect complementary pieces and it looks like the Nuggets have done quite well, surrounding him with off-ball monsters Gary Harris and Jamal Murray, a slashing guard to relieve some playmaking pressure (Will Barton), and a defensive-minded two-way frontcourt mate (Millsap). They have a wildcard in IT, and if he’s even at 80% of his 2016-17 self, the Nuggets have themselves a steal and a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate. They also have a rotation that goes 11 deep, and with Jokic leading the way and Millsap hopefully being healthier this upcoming season, the Nuggets are a team on the rise and it’d be a tragedy if they miss out yet again on the postseason.

  1. NEW ORLEANS PELICANSad

ESPN Projected Record: 45-37

538 Projected Record: 46-36

My Projected Record: 49-33

Players To Watch: Anthony Davis, PF/C; Julius Randle, PF/C; Jrue Holiday, PG/SG

The Pelicans played better once Cousins went down with an unfortunate Achilles injury, however, Cousins raised the ceiling of that Pelicans team. A healthy Boogie could have been helpful against the Warriors. But with him gone, their floor improved just because of how defined their identity was without him. They ranked #1 in pace, and they play at such a breakneck speed that it’s impossible to keep up especially if The Brow and Holiday are on fire similar to what we saw during the Playoffs. Losing Rajon Rondo was arguably a bigger blow than losing Boogie, but maybe that’s just me. Randle can provide most of what Boogie gives but he’s a worse shooter, although he’s also less demanding of the ball, not to mention that he has better mobility. With AD playing the 5 (something that he wasn’t as willing to do before due to his wispy body, but with small-ball 5 at the forefront of the pace-and-space revolution, he’s been more suited to play the 5 especially with the mismatch problems he presents), he’s seen better spacing and better lanes to finish at the rim, and with the emergence of Holiday and Nikola Mirotic, the Pelicans are going to be surprisingly better than last season.

  1. UTAH JAZZspida

ESPN Projected Record: 49-33

538 Projected Record: 54-28

My Projected Record: 50-32

Players To Watch: Donovan Mitchell, SG; Ricky Rubio, PG; Joe Ingles, SF

Have you ever heard or seen someone say that “A rookie beat the Thunder in the First Round! Cry Thunder fans!”? Don’t they know just how disrespectful that was to the Jazz team? Yes, Mitchell carved up the Thunder defense, especially Corey Brewer and Melo’s “defense”, but without the heavy interior presence of both Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors, the underrated feistiness of Ingles, the wing toughness of Royce O’Neale and Jae Crowder, and especially the pesky two-way playmaking Rubio, the Jazz wouldn’t have been able to beat the Thunder. The Jazz were just so good, especially during the second half of the season. Teams wouldn’t be able to penetrate inside just because of how intimidating Gobert is, and the Jazz just have this unabashed confidence in how they play that their team’s sum is greater than those of their parts. They will not let up and they will be in your grill for 48 minutes a night for every game, and the Jazz would continue to be better, especially if they add another offensive creator that would lessen the burden on Mitchell.

  1. PHILADELPHIA 76ERSsimmonsembiid

ESPN Projected Record: 53-29

538 Projected Record: 52-30

My Projected Record: 52-30

Players To Watch: Markelle Fultz, PG; Ben Simmons, PG; Joel Embiid, C

The 76ers are one of those teams that really haven’t sunk in yet as a true contender, especially after years of intentional losing, but here we are, living in a blessed timeline where The Process has succeeded. But here’s where the league is wrong about Sam Hinkie and the Process – they didn’t just suck and draft all the good prospects – they made great trades. How about nabbing Dario Saric and an additional first round pick for Elfrid Payton, or signing Robert Covington while he was still an unknown in the league? How about being the pioneers for the salary dump trades we usually see nowadays, utilizing their cap space to absorb contracts from the Kings to acquire more draft assets? It’s great that the Process has materialized in the way that it has because it promotes smart front-office management – why aim for the middle, overpay average free agents and, in turn, have good free agents sign for cheap? (Looking at you, Boogie.) The 76ers are a product of careful construction, and now, the 76ers have a chance to be true threats to win the championship, especially if Fultz proves trainer Drew Hanlen correct and he shoots the light out this upcoming season.

  1. LOS ANGELES LAKERSlebronlakers

ESPN Projected Record: 46-36

538 Projected Record: 46-36

My Projected Record: 52-30

Players To Watch: The Whole Team, except Ivica Zubac, C, and Travis Wear, PF

Ah, the All-Time Meme Squad. Signing Lance Stephenson was funny enough, but signing McGee, then Rondo, then Michael Beasley? To the team that already has Lonzo Ball’s circus, and Kyle Kuzma’s antics? The team might look to be nothing more than a novelty act to ensure fan interest while LeBron bides his time in formulating yet another super team, but when you look at the team that LeBron carried to the Finals last season, this team is going to be miles better defensively and be a smarter team overall. McGee and Beasley might not be the players with the most tightly-screwed heads, but having Rondo and LeBron on the same team, along with Ball’s underrated basketball IQ and feel? Now that is going to make for some fun basketball, and if Brandon Ingram takes the next step feeding off the King, the Lakers are going to be a lot better than people realize.

  1. TORONTO RAPTORSNBA: Playoffs-Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers

ESPN Projected Record: 55-27

538 Projected Record: 55-27

My Projected Record: 53-29

Players To Watch: Kawhi Leonard, SF; Pascal Siakam, PF/C

Speaking of teams that are going to be better than expected, the Raptors are going to make a lot of noise, especially if Kawhi proves that the awful season he went through last season is a thing of the past. They are very good defensively – they have Kawhi, Danny Green, O.G. Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam as a switchable 2 through 5, and with Kyle Lowry quarterbacking the offense, along with his underrated defense, that lineup is going to be so good. (x4) With Jonas Valanciunas, Serge Ibaka, Fred VanVleet, and C.J. Miles returning, the Raptors have an insanely deep rotation. Newly promoted coach Nick Nurse has been credited with the vast offensive overhaul the team underwent last season, and he’s going to be tasked to continue the winning culture set by reigning Coach of The Year Dwane Casey. This is a team that has the potential to be Top 5 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and with LeBron out West, the East is now open enough that they have a shot to finally make the Finals.

  1. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDERnomelo

ESPN Projected Record: 49-33

538 Projected Record: 53-29

My Projected Record: 54-28

Players To Watch: Dennis Schroder, PG; Nerlens Noel, C

The Thunder was noticeably hitting their stride in late January, only for any realistic championship hopes they had dashed by Andre Roberson’s ruptured patellar tendon. But for multiple reasons, the OK3 experiment just didn’t work out. Acquiring Carmelo Anthony, in a vacuum, wasn’t as bad as some fans would say, but they gave up valuable depth (Enes Kanter) that could have made a difference especially during that Jazz series. And even Melo admitted that the fit just wasn’t right and he’s not wrong – Russ and PG both love to create off the dribble, and there was a forced feeling everytime Melo got his touches. Melo was never known for his defense but to be torched to the degree he was burned in the Jazz series, it’s clear that he’s not the player he thinks he is anymore. To get an intriguing guard in Schroder in exchange for a pick that is unlikely to convey in a meaningful way and Melo’s bad contract was a win. Schroder can act as the honorary Thunder sixth man much like Eric Maynor, James Harden, Reggie Jackson, and Dion Waiters before him, and being in a winning situation would probably rejuvenate his game. With the big offseason win of retaining PG, along with the addition of Noel that addresses the need for a backup center, improvements from Jerami Grant and Patrick Patterson, the return of Roberson, and improved team chemistry, the Thunder are a much-improved dark horse to topple the Warriors.

  1. HOUSTON ROCKETSharden

ESPN Projected Record: 57-25

538 Projected Record: 54-28

My Projected Record: 57-25

Players To Watch: Carmelo Anthony, SF/PF; James Ennis, SF; Michael Carter-Williams, PG

No one is expecting much out of Melo, but as someone who intently watched the Thunder last season, Melo is going to contribute a lot more to the Rockets than he did with the Thunder. He’s not going to replace Trevor Ariza’s versatility on defense, but he’s going to receive more wide open shots, he’s going to receive the ball in much more space than he did just because he has more shooters around him, and the ball will be going to his pocket a lot more often due to the sheer playmaking prowess of both Chris Paul and Harden. For a team that’s ducking extreme luxury tax penalties (it’s another thing to discuss entirely – for a team that came one win away from making the finals and most probably winning the title, it’s questionable that they won’t pony up to retain the roster), acquiring even something close to what Ariza provides can be enough, but still, it’s hard not to think about just how much defensive versatility they lost with Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute fleeing. They’re still going to be a great team, but clearly, they’ve become worse than last season. The question is: just how much worse are the Rockets from last year?

  1. BOSTON CELTICSNBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics

ESPN Projected Record: 58-24

538 Projected Record: 53-29

My Projected Record: 58-24

Players To Watch: Gordon Hayward, SF; Jaylen Brown, SG/SF, Jayson Tatum, SF/PF

The Celtics have all the tools necessary to top the Warriors. They have a potentially entirely switchable defense, the most enviable collection of wings in the league, and inarguably one of the top 3 coaches in the league in Brad Stevens. They have elite scorers in Kyrie Irving, Hayward, and Tatum; they have elite secondary scoring playmakers in Brown, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford; they have one of the most tenacious defensive backcourts in Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart. They don’t even have to push all their chips in the regular season; they can afford to ease Irving and Hayward back just because of how well Stevens enables his team to play their best and with how the confidence levels of Rozier and Tatum, among others, remain sky high after balling out in the playoffs where no one expected much out of them especially with their best players out with injury. They are the deepest and most flexible team in the league, and if every one of their core players remains healthy throughout the postseason, the Celtics are going to be heavy favorites to meet the Warriors come June.

  1. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORSogbig3

ESPN Projected Record: 61-21

538 Projected Record: 64-18

My Projected Record: 60-22

Player To Watch: DeMarcus Cousins, C

They have somewhat true depth problems, and if Andre Iguodala suffers yet another injury at an inopportune time, the Warriors may find those concerns legitimate. They are counting on Jacob Evans to be a legitimate contributor, and while the Warriors’ track record of drafting has been impressive, it’s highly unlikely that Evans would provide immediate two-way impact. At least Nick Young was dependable to provide some spacing and, if locked in, he was a defensive pest, too. Jonas Jerebko is a good addition to provide some shooting, but he’s not a defender, and he’s going to be unplayable against the best of ballhandlers. But everytime your roster’s core is made up of three of the best shooters of all time, a perennial Defensive Player of The Year Candidate, and now, once healthy, a nightly 20-10 threat that provides a complementary interior scoring presence to relieve some pressure off the perimeter superstars (as if that was necessary), everything is just nitpicking at this point. There would come a time where the Warriors dynasty is nothing but a distant memory, falling victim to being perceived of as the ones responsible for breaking the league, but they’re just that good – they play a level of basketball unmatched by any team on the planet. And it all started with drafting a scrawny, 6’3 Point Guard out of Davidson. Sometimes, in life, you just never know. And with the Warriors, we never know when we’re ever going to see a collection of talent playing to the best of their abilities to create some of the best brand of basketball anyone’s ever witnessed ever again, so let’s sit back, relax, enjoy the season and the Warriors in all their glory.

Warriors over the Raptors in 6.

Why It’s Time for Chot Reyes to Say Goodbye (for good this time)

If last Monday’s all-out melee doesn’t get Chot ousted for good, we might as well accept the fact that he will coach the team into the ground for however long it takes until the higher-ups realize that the man at the helm of Gilas is not the right man for the job. Monday’s brawl should not have escalated to the degree it did. The bench had no business joining the fracas. Fighting back, when judged in a vacuum, is understandable. These are players looking out for someone whom they consider as a brother. Clearing the bench, however, was uncalled for. This was downright assault. This was unwarranted. The worst parts of the brawl were caused by players who were not even part of the active lineup. Sure, the Australians kind of had it coming after that nasty elbow from Daniel Kickert. You can understand where the players on the court were coming from. Come on, you’re not just going to stand there after seeing your teammate take that elbow, especially after being pushed around during warmups, and after having your homecourt “disrespected” after the sticker incident. However, clearing the bench was just a bad look for a team that was already down by 31. This falls on the shoulders of the coaching staff, and when it reaches a point where even a member of your staff gets in on the action, you know that you’re doing something wrong as a coach. Couldn’t he have done something more to diffuse the tension?

After serving what would probably be a well-deserved, lengthy suspension, it’s only fair to wonder whether the team would be better off being led by a more forward-thinking coach. The international game has long been riddled with teams playing with a spread pick-and-roll offense, an offense where the tempo is pushed, players move and screen each other’s man to find the best shot possible, be it a shot at the rim or a kickout for an open three. Players move without the ball. Gilas, on the other hand, mirrors the way Philippine basketball is played as a whole.

Gilas uses a dribble-drive system, a system where ball-handlers take on their initial defenders off the dribble, pray that someone overhelps, then throw a kick-out pass for a three, or if not, then take it all the way to the rim. Gilas loves playing iso-ball, but they play iso-ball without hunting switches, which is the exact opposite of how the Houston Rockets run their offense, which, to say, is not ideal. They are shooting at a below-average clip from beyond the arc during the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifying Tournament, ranking 11th out of 16 teams, shooting 30.8%. (40/130)

Most of the time speedy guards Jayson Castro, Terrence Romeo, and Kiefer Ravena break down the defense anyway due to their sheer slashing ability, leading to open shots from deep and from inside.

Here is Castro, blowing by a defender after a forced switch, despite less-than-ideal spacing:

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Romeo splits two defenders to create on open three that just missed:gif (2).gif

There are moments where the ball hops around the perimeter, finding an open Gabe Norwood at the corner:gif (3).gif

When they decide to run the pick-and-roll, June Mar Fajardo is money on the catch and release:gif (12).gifgif (13).gif

Against superior competition, however, this kind of offense can be stifled by big, lockdown defending guards. They also refuse to utilize the pick-and-roll as much as they could, seeing how it can be effective when a slashing guard such as Romeo, Castro, or Ravena draws attention then drops a pass to a big man, usually Fajardo. But usually, they are stuck playing the iso-ball that seems to have been ingrained in their playing DNA. Here are multiple instances of the offense basically just going nowhere:gif (14).gifgif (15).gif

Once the primary action is stifled, the offense is in disarray, and then they just dump the ball into the hands of naturalized center Andray Blatche and watch him create something out of nothing. And by “watch him”, they literally watch him, to the point that nobody is moving off the ball:

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If those don’t work, they dump the ball in the post to four-time PBA MVP Fajardo, to mixed results:gif (5).gif

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They can’t use him as an offensive hub on the elbows either, seeing that he’s not that good a passer:

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With the influx of talent in the national team, this kind of execution is downright inexcusable. These players have played side-by-side for quite some time now, and if continuity can’t improve the offense, then it’s fair to wonder whether the problems start from above, from the instructions given to them by the coaching staff, led by Chot.

If the offense is going to remain stuck with the old dribble-drive system, then shouldn’t Gilas at least try to tighten up their defensive scheme? Nope. This might be more of a personnel problem, but it’s the coaching staff that picks the roster so… it’s only fair to criticize the coaching staff by criticizing the defensive strategy set in place.

How about getting killed on a basic pick-and-pop action:

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Here they are, almost allowing the opposing offense to bail themselves out, failing to close out against shooters:

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How about a general lack of defense in transition:

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Or a lack of defense in general:

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It’s on the coaching staff to pick two-way players, and if they are going to pick a lot of one-way players, such as Castro, and Matthew Wright, among others, they should at least have a fixed system to try and hide the defensive flaws of their guards. Against a team like South Korea or Australia, who have tons of shooters and usually plays five-out, they should deploy as many switchable defenders as possible to bottle up the initial screening action. Players like Japeth Aguilar or Troy Rosario are long and quick-footed bigs who can theoretically keep up with guards on switches. And if there is a mismatch in the post, try and switch Boston Celtics-style, taking away the guard from the post, replacing him with a more competent post defender:

Other Asian teams have been making great progress. South Korea, the team that demolished Gilas by 31 last year, added a workhorse big man, former PBA import Ricardo Ratliffe. Even Japan, a team that the Philippines usually beats, made a lot of strides especially after adding Nick Fazekas and 20 year-old Rui Hachimura, edging Australia by 1 and destroying Chinese Taipei by 40 during their last match. Australia and New Zealand were both moved to the Asian tournament, further improving the talent pool in the Asian competition. While these Asian teams have been making incremental improvements through the years, Gilas has been stuck playing the same way. It’s not enough that they coast on talent anymore. As we’ve seen in the world stage, we have the ability to keep up with teams such as Croatia, Puerto Rico, and Argentina. There is no question about the talent level of our players. It’s just a matter of the coaching staff being able to put everyone in the best position to succeed, creating a unit whose sum is greater than that of their parts. Maybe he is already content; they did as well as they could have hoped for in 2013 and 2014 anyway. However, to take this team to the next level, he has to be able to adapt to the changing game, and so far this is where Chot has failed.

This is the perfect opportunity to make a big change. If Chot is fired after the ruckus last Monday, not a lot of people would bat an eye. The optics of the move would be fine, and the public would understand the rationale for such a change. He couldn’t control the team, plain and simple. He just stood there while every one of his players threw punches, which is just irresponsible out of a head coach. And instead of being remorseful, he failed to accept the fact that allowing the brawl to escalate in that fashion was unnecessary and that he played a role in allowing that to happen. He was beaming with pride, trying to justify his inaction (and his bench’s inexplicable outburst) by using an excuse that even six-year old kids use. His excuse translates into, “they started it”, which is a very immature excuse. He had a good opportunity to admit his shortcomings, but he took the easy way out, blaming external factors when he surely could have done something more to prevent things from being as messy as they became. It’s long been said that you cannot control what others do, think, or say, and that you could only control your thoughts, words, and actions. Seriously, he could have at least done something during the brawl. Or even after. Just do something for the good of your team! But he chose not to do anything and now, his future is up in the air. Is this the coach that we can trust to take Philippine basketball to an even greater level? His offensive system is antiquated, and his defensive schemes, if he even implements schemes, are misguided, and he usually takes a long time to adjust in-game. If he isn’t adept at strategy, and he couldn’t control the team, then what does he do well exactly, as a coach?  It is clear that the game has passed him by, and after Monday’s sorry incident, it’s time for Gilas Pilipinas to move on.

[Note: Sports5 doesn’t allow their videos to be turned into GIFs, hence the lack of GIFs from Gilas’ most recent game.]