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Posted on: October 21, 2010 4:24 am
 

kmvennes comprehensive Northwest Division Preview



Hey, who wants to read 3,900+ words about the Northwest Division? You? Too bad! This is only 3,895! HAHAHA RUSE'D!

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Also, some other guys for this very board post there, so it's like one giant family. And I'm Bill Gates, and I won't give any of them a dime, because they are all worthless freeloaders that need to earn their Atlantic bluefin tuna. Which they could do if they read the Sexy Six at TSHQ , because WCF and myself are now 8-1 against the number in college football. Cheap plug FTW!

2010-2011 K.M. Venne Northwest Division Preview


The Northwest is stacked. Between Oklahoma City, Portland, and Utah, that is 3 teams that should crack 48 wins most the time. Denver is a team in turmoil, Minnesota is a team rebuilding (we think, who the hell knows with David Kahn). But there is no better battle for a division winner, there is no more important division for sorting out the West seeding, and between Utah and Portland not being afraid to make a trade to be a buyer (Utah having left some luxury tax flexibility this offseason by not going out and spending), and Denver likely to become a seller at some point, the Northwest could provide the pieces that shake up some other divisions as well.

But above all else, OKC, Portland, and Utah offers a race that is really tough to
handicap. Let’s face it, the NBA isn’t the MLB or the NFL, where surprise division winners happen all the time. Last year, it would have been foolish not to pick Boston, Chicago, Orlando, the Lakers , and Dallas as 5 of your division winners. But the Northwest? It could have went any of 3 ways to start the year, and almost went a 4th way when Oklahoma City rose up. This is a division without a lot of large fan bases, but with a lot of quality basketball and a race that may see the final week of the season, this is a basketball fan’s division. Let’s jump in and see who will take the crown and who will make the playoffs, and then let’s laugh at Minnesota for being so damn bad.



1.) Portland Trail Blazers


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:


Hangar 18 - Megadeth

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Elliot Williams , Luke Babbitt
Free Agents - in: G Wesley Matthews
Free Agents - out: C/F Juwan Howard , F Ryan Gomes (waived)
Trades - out: F Martell Webster

Training Camp Roster:

F LaMarcus Aldridge , F Nicolas Batum , G Jerryd Bayless , F Marcus Camby , F Dante Cunningham , G Rudy Fernandez , G Andre Miller , C Greg Oden , F/C Jeff Pendergraph , G/F Brandon Roy , C Joel Przybilla , G Wesley Matthews, G Elliot Wililams, F Luke Babbitt, C Steven Hill , G Armon Johnson , G Patrick Mills , F Raymond Sykes

Outlook:

Selective amnesia’s the story, believed foretold but who’d suspect…


Here they are. The baby Blazers. The Houston Texans of basketball. The team that everyone loved to pick for breakout team for the last 3 years, but never fulfilled their destiny. And now, finally, the Oklahoma City Thunder have risen up and claimed the mantle of “Next team to make ‘the leap’”, and Portland finally does not have to deal with the pressure that comes with being the trendy underdog pick. The Blazers limped home to a 50 win season last year, failed to protect their home court up to the standards you would have expected from Rip City, suffered injuries to top players all year long, and still answered the bell by making the playoffs with tons of games to spare.

Still, this is a roster capable of doing so much more. Andre Miller is a pretty damn solid NBA point guard, believe it or not. Brandon Roy is like a mini Kobe, or a super Stephen Curry , depending on how you want to look at it. He’s a do everything guard that can lead a team’s offense from the SG spot. LaMarcus Aldridge is a star in the making, Marcus Camby does nothing but play solid basketball, Greg Oden one day will play some NBA ball, and when Greg Oden plays basketball, he’s WAY better then you think he is (PER of 23.1 last year!), Wesley Matthews was paid a ton of cash and Blazers fans are falling in love with him, Nicolas Batum is a player that plays such great defense and can do things on the offensive end that Minnesota tried to trade the #4 overall pick in the last draft for him, an offer Portland turned down, overall, this a quality roster.

But even beyond the talent that we’ve always known that Portland possesses, this season represents a sea change for the team, no longer looked at as an up and coming squad, instead nearly an afterthought behind Utah and Oklahoma City in the Northwest. Nobody is thinking this is Portland’s year, when next to nothing has changed for the team from the times that people thought every year was going to be Portland’s year. Did teams get that much better? Or did picking Portland just fall out of favor? One thing is for sure, Portland no longer carries the weight of expectations that they have never accomplished as a unit on their shoulders, and free from the burden of being asked too much too soon, this group can finally actually sneak up on some teams, win some games they probably shouldn’t, and achieve up to what this roster looks like it could.

I could go on about Portland, but I’ve really said all there is to say. This roster is WAY better then you probably remember it being, I mean Miller/Batum/Camby serve as role players that most teams would love to have, and nobody questions that Roy/Aldridge is a legit 1-2 punch, and throw in anything from Matthews or Oden, and you got a roster with all the tools to go far in the playoffs and win regular season games. And best of all, finally this team can enjoy selective amnesia, forgetting about how the major media touted this team as a team on the rise, and just go ahead and actually BE a team on the rise. Let Utah and Okalhoma City deal with the exceptions. This is actually the year the Blazers do what they should have been doing. This is the year the Blazers rise up into the Western elite. Believed, foretold for the last few seasons, but who’d suspect that 2010-2011 is the year it happens? Me. And if you read this, maybe you, too.

Prediction: 1st in the Pacific, 3rd in the West, 54-28 record


2) Utah Jazz


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:


The Trooper – Iron Maiden


Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Gordon Hayward
Free Agents - in: G Raja Bell , C-F Francisco Elson , G Earl Watson
Trades - in: C/F Al Jefferson
Free Agents - out: F Carlos Boozer , F/G Kyle Korver , G Wesley Matthews
Trades -out: C Kosta Koufos

Training Camp Roster:

G Sundiata Gaines ,, F Andrei Kirilenko , F C.J. Miles , F/C Paul Millsap , C Mehmet Okur , G Ronnie Price , G Deron Williams , G Raja Bell, C/F Francisco Elson, G Earl Watson, C/F Al Jefferson, F Jeremy Evans , C Kyrylo Fesenko , G Gordon Hayward, G/F Othyus Jeffers , F Demetris Nichols, G Ryan Thompson

Outlook:

We get so near yet so far away, we won’t live to fight another day…


Oh, the Jazz. It’s gotta stink to be a Jazz fan. Every year your team is good. Most years, your team is really good. But nobody ever considers you a legit contender. Nobody wants to play you in the playoffs, but nobody will pick you to win the West. It’s a tortured existence, kinda like Dallas, but somehow with even less upside. If Portland is the Houston Texans of the NBA, the Jazz are the Dan Marino Dolphins, good enough to scare you, never good enough to win anything.

The Jazz are far from free spenders, but they spend well. Knowing they didn’t want to lock into Boozer, the Jazz picked up Al Jefferson, who, with the play of a elite point guard, could break out this season and nearly match what Boozer offered. And if not, Paul Millsap is around to help overcome the production loss that comes from losing Boozer. Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews went off to go get paid, but that’s ok, those are far from death blows to any franchise. The Jazz are well coached, still talented, and should be able to be about as good as they were last year.
It’s at this point I inform you how good the Jazz were last year, and that is way better then you think. By some metrics like Pythagorean W-L record, the Jazz were actually the 3rd best team last year. Not in the West, I’m taking the NBA. They were top ten in offense and defense, they have a great home court, an elite NBA superstar in the horribly nicknamed D-Will, plenty of size, and cause any team problems. It’s not like the Jazz can’t absorb a learning curve to start the year and a slight hit to their overall talent level. This team has talent to spare, quite frankly.

The major question is, what is going to get the Jazz to the next level? As the defending Pacific champions, they were able to take care of the Nuggets , who were falling apart at the end of the year, only to get owned in the face by the Lakers, showing again that the Jazz are not a serious threat to go super deep. Gordon Hayward is the only real answer the Jazz have, if he blows up out of nowhere and becomes a fringe rookie of the year candidate, perhaps this Jazz team can actually make noise this season. Anything less, and the Jazz should regress a bit. But the Jazz are regressing off of a 53 win season that easily could have been a 55 win season, so they got a few games to lose. I’ll take 4 wins away, but that still gives the Jazz home court in the first round and a very respectable regular season. It’s never the regular season that’s in doubt for the Jazz. It’s the second round of the playoffs, when they get so close, yet so far away, and time and time again, don’t live to fight another day. And that’s a story I expect will continue, barring someone on this team making the leap.

Prediction
: 2nd in the Northwest, 4th in the West, 51-31 record.


3) Oklahoma City Thunder


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:


You’ve Got Another Thing Coming – Judas Priest


Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Craig Brackins , Quincy Pondexter
Free Agents - in: G Royal Ivey
Trades - in: G Daequan Cook , G Morris Peterson , Cole Aldrich
Free Agents - out: F/C Etan Thomas , G Mustafa Shakur
Trades - out: Craig Brackins, Quincy Pondexter

Training Camp Roster:

F/C Nick Collison , G Daequan Cook, F Kevin Durant , F Jeff Green , G James Harden, C Serge Ibaka , C Nenad Krstic , G Eric Maynor , C Byron Mullens , G Thabo Sefolosha , G Kyle Weaver , G Russell Westbrook , F D.J. White , C Cole Aldrich, G Royal Ivey, G Morris Peterson

Outlook:

That’s right, here’s where the talking ends, well listen this night there’ll be some action spent…


It’s the most popular opinion in the NBA right now, the Thunder are Brock Lesner in NBA form, the Next Big Thing. Kevin Durant is the heir apparent to the throne LeBron vacated, Russell Westbrook is only going to keep getting better, Cole Aldrich is the missing piece for this team at center, James Harden is going to become a serious weapon this season, Jeff Green does not suck, and the Thunder are going to challenge for the #1 seed in the West.

You’ve got another thing coming.

First off, I fail to see how the hell Kevin Durant is going to make another leap. He’s already a 30 ppg on 20 shots a game scorer, deadly from the line, pretty solid from the arc, a solid rebounder, a poor as hell passer, and adequate on the defensive end (at best). What is going to get better? Is he going to score 34 on 20 shots now? Is he magically going to get to 5 assists? Is he going to start to get 2 steals and 2 blocks a game? Will he never miss a free throw? Listen, I like Durant, a lot in fact. I think he was the 3rd best player in the NBA last year. But why is he going to magically become #1? And why would that really matter if he did? He’s going to be exceptional, but after a while, when you are on Durant’s level and you just dominate everyone, how much more can you really do? It’s not like anyone slowed him down last year, so how does he help the win total? I don’t see what more people want from Durant.

Complimenting Durant is the underrated Westbrook, the overrated Green, and role players like defensive specialist (and he is special on D) Thabo Sefolosha, bench scorer James Harden, and now center acquisition Cole Aldrich, and all these players seem to be expected to make some sort of progression instead of regression. Well, I hate to break it to everyone, but none of these players is going to make a serious leap, Westbrook might make a minor one, but the rest are due for a return to the mean. Green and Thabo both played 82 games last year, as did Westbrook and Durant. Health like that just doesn’t repeat itself.

And worst of all, outside of Durant and Westbrook, nobody on the Thunder last year could crack a PER over 14, which is a decent amount BELOW average, outside Serge Ibaka, who is getting his minutes cut. People want to take Durant and compare him to LeBron as the anti-LeBron, and in turn want to put the Thunder into the Cavaliers mold of the last few seasons. Sadly, this team to me more resembles the Heat of the last few years. Stud, decent compliment, and role players at best surrounding them, which is not a winning formula.

It’s near hearsay to not predict the Thunder for your top 3, but this team is not that good, it lacks depth, it lacks assits, it lacks quality shooting, as evident by the team eFG%. I defy this team to have the health and the favorable situation as a come out of nowhere team from 2009-2010 repeat itself. This team is not going to win 50 games again, of that I feel strongly. With Durant in the West, you cannot miss the playoffs. But with this supporting cast, you can’t really make much noise in the regular season, either.

Find me the quality that this team has that I’m not seeing but you do. Defend these role players. Predict near perfect health again. Tell me this team is going to have the same starting lineup for 76 games this year, and keep it’s best 4 players playing all 82. Show me who is going to step up and take this team to the next level. Hell, tell me who’s gonna stop this team from regressing in wins. And then I’ll tell you how wrong you are, and if you really think the Thunder will be better then a low seed and a first round exit this season, you’ve got another thing coming.

Prediction: 3rd in the Northwest, 7th in the West, 46-36


4) Denver Nuggets


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:


Stricken - Distrubed


Offseason Moves:

Free Agents: F Al Harrington , F/C Shelden Williams , G Anthony Carter
Free Agents: C Johan Petro , F/G Joey Graham , F Malik Allen

Training Camp Roster:

G Arron Afflalo , F/C Chris Andersen , F Carmelo Anthony , F Renaldo Balkman, G Chauncey Billups , G Ty Lawson , C Nene, G J.R. Smith , F Kenyon Martin, G Anthony Carter, F Al Harrington, F/C Shelden Williams, G Anthony Carter, F/C Melvin Ely , F Gary Forbes

Outlook:

There’s no hope and we know, that I am crippled by that you’ve done, into the abyss will I run…


One of the craziest teams to predict, the Denver Nuggets are stricken with the demands of Carmelo Anthony to leave the abyss that is Denver and reach basketball nirvana by joining the New York Knicks and play his home games at the Mecca of basketball, the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden located in the heart of the greatest city on earth.

What? Don’t be such a Knicks homer? Go to hell, I do what I want.

Anyway, this team has problems. Melo is problem #1. Also, he’s problem #2 and problem #3. But sadly, the list goes on. Chauncey Billups appeared to finally lose it at the end of last season, his three point shooting went down nearly 10% after the All Star break, and his assists fell way down, because he’s so concerned with getting his 20 a night, he started taking more shots despite missing more. That is not the kind of leadership you need from your point guard, that goes without saying. Further complicating things for the Nuggets, Kenyon Martin is making noise about a contract extension, perhaps forgetting Denver overpaid him by about 40 million last time around, looking to go back to the well and get another overpriced deal, which is a distraction at minimum. J.R. Smith is still crazy as hell and knows he’s on the trade block, as Denver would love to move him and his salary If they have to part with Melo, and that is not a situation conducive to the volatile Smith being Good Smith.

Other then that, things are just fine for Denver. Then again, that’s like saying other then the fact you just lost your girlfriend, job, and house, you are doing well. Nene continues to be an underrated center in this league, and will have to produce his usual highly efficient scoring even more as the situation around him becomes more and more chaotic. Al Harrington was a nice pick up, adding a new dimension to the Nuggets and offering a player who can help carry the scoring load once Melo bolts the city. And Ty Lawson continues to be one of the best young players in the league, if Billups is indeed traded after Melo goes, Ty Lawson has the talent to step right in and be a quality PG starting PG, that is one less problem the Nuggets have to solve.

But replacing Melo is a problem for them. And with ownership unwilling to take on salary in a Melo trade, the Nuggets are going to get nothing but IOU’s and Magic beans for the All-Star, perhaps they will turn into something in the future, but in the near term, they won’t amount to squat. I mean, lets face it, there’s a good chance the Nuggets are terrible by the start of 2011. Someone has to lose way more games then most people think they will, after all, the West isn’t going to average 47 wins this season, so I predict that the Nuggets eat it on the chin. With a star looking to the East, a washed up PG who still thinks he’s a star, a shot chucking PF who only makes sense once the Nuggets deal the house, and a disgruntled Kenyon Martin, who is always a good bet to punch someone, this team is not going to win many games. At all. You’d be a damn fool to predict them to squeak into the playoffs, what’s the last team that had a superstar who didn’t want to be there and a secondary offensive player who is officially fallen off the cliff that made the playoffs? There’s no hope in Denver, they are stricken by what Carmelo has done, and into the abyss of the NBA lottery will they run.

Prediction:
4th in the Southwest, no playoffs, 36-46 record


5) Minnesota Timberwolves


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:


Round and Round - RATT

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Wesley Johnson , Lazar Hayward
Free Agents - in: F Nikola Pekovic , G Luke Ridnour , C Darko Milicic , F Anthony Tolliver
Trades - in: F Michael Beasley , F Martell Webster, C Kosta Koufos, G Sebastian Telfair
Trades - out: F Ryan Gomes, C/F Al Jefferson, G Ramon Sessions , C Ryan Hollins

Training Camp Roster:

G/F Corey Brewer , G Wayne Ellington , G Jonny Flynn , F/C Kevin Love , C Darko Milicic, F Wesley Johnson, F Lazar Hayward, F Nikola Pekovic, G Luke Ridnour, F Anthony Tolliver, G Maurice Ager , G Jason Hart , C Kousta Koufus, F Michael Beasley, F Martell Webster, G Sebastian Telfair, C John Thomas

Outlook:

I knew right from the beginning, that you would end up winnin’
...

Timberwolves suck.

Really, I gotta tell you more? Jesus…

Let me try to sum up what is up with the Timberwolves. They dealt their second best player, Al Jefferson, who to nobody’s surprise was one of their only two good players, to make room for Michael Beasley, best known for going to rehab for weed and being a total bust. He is shooting under 40% from the field this preseason, bottom 10 for qualified players in this preseason. So far, Beasley has an EFF of 8 in preseason action, dead last for those scoring over 12 a game. For those who are not NBA savvy, that’s a really bad combo. They gave Darko Milicic, who had a PER of 12.9 in Minnesota last year, but Minnesota fans are so beat up they actually thought that was good basketball (and compared to some players like Jonny Flynn, it probably does look like good basketball), a 4 year deal. For those who are not NBA savvy, Darko sucks. They gave Nikola Pekovic 3 years and 13 million, who was All-Euroleague first team in 2009, making him by far the most accomplished Timberwolves player. That’s not a very encouraging sign.

Kevin Love can ball. He’s a great rebounder, good passer, he can score pretty well, and he’s not awful on D. If he’s your second best player, you are probably a pretty decent team. However, he’s the Timberwolves only good player, and his win shares/48 of .138 is nearly double the second best Wolves player that played in Minnesota last year and is still on the roster. If Kevin Love is twice as good as your second best player, you are probably a pretty awful team.

The Wolves are switching from the ill conceived triangle offense, that was set up in sole part to ensure they received .30 cents on the dollar when they traded Al Jefferson this offseason (NOTE: This is fact), to an up tempo style that should result in your fantasy players going totally bonkers every time they play the Wolves, who lack the defensive talents to defend in the full court and will likely let up crazy points.

The Timberwolves lack the point guard to play an up-tempo style, a problem they hope that Ricky Rubio will one day solve for them, but in the short term, is only going to show off their biggest weakness, a complete lack of guards who are worthy of the label NBA player. Running when your best players are big men is not exactly a recipe for success in the league. The Wolves probably don’t care, as I’m sure they are much more interested in locking up the #1 pick in the draft, I mean heck, Enes Kanter should be available then, and lord knows the Wolves could use another center. But this season, when you see a Wolves game on your TV, which won’t be too often I’d imagine, you’ll know right from the beginning, that the other team will end up winning. At least about 80% of the time…

Prediction:
5th in the Southwest, no playoffs, 17-65 record

* food blogging doesn't actually happen. Story is true, however.
Posted on: October 13, 2010 12:46 am
 

kmvenne's comprehensive Pacific Division Preview

Hey, who wants to read 4,150+ words about the Pacific Division? You again? Welcome back!

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2010-2011 K.M. Venne Pacific Division Preview


The Pacific was a lame conference last year. The Lakers emerged as the West’s #1 seed, the Suns came out like a house of fire, stumbled, then got hot late and made it to the West Finals, and the Clippers, Warriors, and Kings played pretty terrible basketball. The Pacific is set up to be an even lamer conference this year if you listen to the national media. The Lakers are expected to be even better, last year they were a 57 win team treated as a 65 win team, there is no reason to expect that to not just grow this year. The Suns are all but written off due to the loss of STAT. The Warriors might get some play early on due to the David Lee trade and having Stephen Curry, but that will fade away quickly if the Warriors play typical awful Warrior basketball. The Clippers will remain a media joke unless they win some games, and Sacramento will only be interesting as people debate what city they will soon call home, unless they win some games.

I don’t buy into the negative and boring perception of the Pacific heading into this year. What was lame last year may be really interesting this year. I see some surprises, some failures, and some interesting subplots developing, and while the winner of the Pacific can be etched in stone right now, there is more to the Pacific then the top team (unless you are a L.A. fan, of course. They exist in a 2 team NBA).

Of note, I wrote an overall rock solid prediction of the Pacific last season as the only division I previewed, I about 18% more accurate with my season win predictions then Vegas was, so if you are going to take any of my predictions to the pay window, this may be the one.

1.) Los Angeles Lakers


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
Ace of Spades - Motorhead

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Devin Ebanks, Derrick Caracter
Free Agents - in: G Steve Blake, G Derek Fisher, C Theo Ratliff, G Matt Barnes
Free Agents - out: G Jordan Farmar, F Josh Powell

Training Camp Roster:

F Ron Artest, G Kobe Bryant, C Andrew Bynum, F Pau Gasol, F Lamar Odom, G Sasha Vujacic, F Luke Walton, G Derek Fisher, G Shannon Brown, G Steve Blake, G Derek Fisher, C Theo Ratliff, G Matt Barnes, F Devin Ebanks, F Derrick Caracter, G-F Trey Jonson, C-F Drew Naymick

Outlook:

Pushing up the ante, I know you’ve got to see me, Read ‘em and weep, the dead man’s hand again…

Far too much is being made of the Lakers offseason, and the first thing that comes to mind, is why? Not “Why?” as in “Why the hell is the media interested in these players?”, more as in “Why the hell is the media rightly interested in these players?”. The NBA Champions lost nothing, and are the defending champions. Therefore, why the hell were they really looking to add this many pieces? They got Steve Blake to help spell the aging and re-signed Derek Fisher, which is an important move. They also got Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff, and drafted Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter, all of which seem on their face to be pointless, where are the minutes for these guys, who may be ok, but have much better people in front of them?

The answer as to why the Lakers additions are being made a lot of is also the answer to what about the Lakers is being made far too little of. And that is the fact that this is Phil Jackson’s last year, a year after he got pushed to 7 games by the Boston Celtics in last year’s Finals, and now faces a Heat team that could be the same kind of favorite over his Lakers as his Lakers were over the Celtics.
Phil only cares about winning the title this season, and believe it or not, I think Phil learned a lesson from Doc Rivers (yes, it felt just as stupid to type that the Zen Master learned something from average at best X’s and O’s coach Doc Rivers as you felt stupid reading that).
And that is, the regular season is worthless. Take your aging team, get healthy, and make a run at the title.

Kobe recently said his knee was about 60%. Well, he’s not going to be doing much playing until he feels 100%. Bynum has had his timetable pushed back on his return. I would be surprised honestly if it’s not pushed back yet again before he wears a uniform. Pau will probably miss some games, Fisher will see another reduction in his minutes, and overall, the Lakers are going to be taking it easy this season. This would seem to be a recipe for a low seed, given how last year the Lakers honestly only made the playoffs by 7 games. Lose a couple extra games, and who knows how far you fall?

But I’m still going to say they get the #1 seed in the West. I think the West is weaker, the Lakers are still a team that has star talent on the court even if they are without one of their key players, and also the Lakers made the moves they made, meaning that at any time, Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, or Lamar Odom can be the replacement that gives a starter some rest. The Lakers are deep for a reason, they are going to use that depth to ensure they get to the playoffs in 1 piece. They won’t come close to the record of the Heat or perhaps a couple other East teams, and are highly unlikely to make a possible Finals with home court, but they are going to put themselves in the best position to make the finals, and that is with rest, with depth, and with a short memory. And still, that depth is so good, I predict 58 wins and the #1 seed.

Oh, you want a key to this season? Well, the media and the fans talk LA enough, but I’ll bring up one point, and that is Ron Artest. The playoff hero was still by and large a regular season and beginning of the playoffs zero, he needs to speed up his learning curve in the triangle offense and either regain his 3 point stroke or lose it, because that thing is not reliable, one shot does not a shooter become born again with. For all the gambles L.A. will make this year, how they treat Artest will be the biggest. Will they keep pushing up the ante and ask more and more of him as the season goes on? Will Artest show up as the winning hand when it counts again? Or will the Lakers and Artest continue to be more of a failure then a success overall? In the grand picture, the easiest way the Lakers can compete with anyone in the East is to get the old Artest back, and this regular season, his play will be every big as big a factor in determining the Lakers post-season success as anyone else. You want to see how the Lakers are looking? Watch Ron-Ron, L.A. will go this year as he goes. He is truly the dead man's hand, again.

Prediction: 1st in the Pacific, 1st in the West, 58-24 record.

2) Phoenix Suns


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
Godsmack – I Stand Alone

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Gani Lawal, Dwayne Collins
Free Agents - in: F Grant Hill, F Hakim Warrick, C Channing Frye, G Matt Janning
Trades - in: G/F Josh Childress, F Hedo Turkoglu
Free Agents - out: F Amar'e Stoudemire, F Louis Amundson
Trades – out: Leandro Barbosa

Training Camp Roster:

F Earl Clark, G Goran Dragic, F Jared Dudley, C Robin Lopez, G Steve Nash, G Jason Richardson, F Grant Hill, C Channing Frye, F Grant Hill, F Hakim Warrick, C Channing Frye, G Matt Janning, G/F Josh Childress, F Hedo Turkoglu, G Chucky Atkins, G Zabian Dowdell, F-C Dwayne Jones, C Garret Siler

Outlook:

I’ll never rest until I can make my own way, I’m not afraid of fading, I stand alone…


You gotta be a cold hearted scumbag not to have felt for Steve Nash last season, as he had another chance at seeing the NBA Finals slip away from him despite his inhuman efforts. Finally, years of Suns front office penny-pinching, the same penny-pinching that has prevented the Suns from adding that one piece for years with draft picks, has disassembled the team that Nash took to the WCF, refusing to pay Amar’e the top dollar a second team All-NBA performer deserves and losing the key partner in Nash’s game.

Thankfully for Suns fans, this season will not go like last year, but not be a complete disappointment, either. The best thing the Suns have going for them is two fold, firstly, the inability of many non-playoff teams from last year to make the moves necessary to rise up to a level above fringe contender, and partly due to that, secondly, the ability of Steve Nash to will a group of competent, if not exceptional, players to a playoff birth.

The major place where the talents of Steve Nash are able to effectively raise the collective level of his team into the playoffs, unlike, say, a Chris Paul, is the fact the Suns retain their most notable strength from last season, depth. The Suns depth in the 2009-2010 season was unparalleled in the entire NBA, and their second units’ advantage over the bench of other teams was more important to them then the abilities of the first unit to match up with other starting 5’s. The Suns won games not just in the fourth quarter, but at the start of the second, the middle of the third, and the end of the first, when teams rest their talent and bring in the reserves. Players like Goran Dragic, Channing Frye/Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, and now Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick will have to play above the level of the competition they will face, but all except Warrick have proven the ability to do well against second unit players.

Overall, people like Alvin Gentry and some Suns bloggers think the Suns could be even better this season. I call those people high as hell. The Suns are a playoff team due to Steve Nash and a second unit, perhaps better then I think due to the fact that Hedo’s ball handling can allow Nash to prove to the doubters that he is, bar none, the greatest shooting point guard to ever play the game, and excel in a half court role, but most of all, due to the fact this team gives other teams fits during the regular season due to the depth factor, you never really catch a break any night the Suns are on the schedule. The Suns will lose more game and more bad games, they will not put together the amazing stretches of playing great ball over 2-3 week periods they did last season, but they will benefit from the decreased level of competition in the West, and they will see the playoffs. I wasn’t surprised they made the playoffs last year, but I did have them as the 8 seed, I was very surprised to see them as the 3 seed. This year I’m going to drop them in the 6 seed, higher then last year, but I’ll actually be MORE surprised if they reach a top 4 seed, if that makes sense. Because the greater dreams of the Suns are dead, because when it comes down to the big moments of big games, for the first time in a long time, Nash stands alone.

Prediction: 2nd in the Southwest, 6th in the West, 47-35 record.

3) Sacramento Kings


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
The Smashing Pumpkins - Zero

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside
Free Agents - in: F Antoine Wright
Trades - in: C Samuel Dalembert, F Darnell Jackson
Free Agents - out: F Sean May
Trades - out: F-C Spencer Hawes, G-F Andres Nocioni, F Jon Brockman

Training Camp Roster:

F Omri Casspi, C Samuel Dalembert, G Tyreke Evans, F Francisco Garcia, F Donte Greene, F Carl Landry, F Jason Thompson, G Beno Udrih, F-C DeMarcus Cousins, F-C Hassan Whiteside, C Samuel Dalembert, F Darnell Jackson, C Connor Atchley, G Joe Crawford, G Luther Head, F Darnell Jackson, G Eugene Jeter, F Marcus Landry, F Antonie Wright

Outlook:

You blame yourself for what you can’t ignore, you blame yourself for wanting more.


The coolest video from the band with the coolest hot guitar chick, playing the coolest song about the coolest illegal drug on the face of the earth perfectly sums up my thoughts of the Kings this year. The Kings are awesome as hell, and it’s important that people figure this out now before the season starts. The best thing you can do for yourself is to start talking about the Kings a lot, get in on the ground floor of the Sacto pyramid scheme, and reap all the rewards when the scheme takes off and you can claim “I was on them first!”

I think a lot about how sweet this season is going to be for the Kings, and that makes me an NBA junkie loser, yes, but it also makes me aware of what is going on right now in Sacramento. And what they have going on is special, exciting, and going to surprise a lot of people this year. The Kings best starting 5 right now is Tyreke Evans, Beno Udrih, Omri Casspi, Carl Landry, and DeMarcus Cousins. Does that sound impressive to you? It sounds solid to me.

It’s at this point that I should probably point out that I am actually being dead serious. That is a great lineup. Evans and Landry have the ability to be top 7 players at their position. DeMarcus Cousins floor right now is the seventh best center in the NBA; he could become the clear second best center in the league by the time this season is over, that’s the ceiling for Big Cuz. He’s the one for me; he’s all I really need, oh yea, as the song above goes. He’s got what could be the best low post offense in the entire NBA right now, without playing game one in the league. His natural ability, impressive handles, and ugly but effective game is, to me, a near lock to produce big numbers this season. 15/14 is on the table.

Getting the rock to Boogie, as he is known, is the rightful and defending rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans. Putting up a 20/5/5 statline last year as a near one man show, he will only make Cousins better, and vice versa. His major knock is his distribution, but in a guard duo with Udrih, a decent player who actually compliments Evans game very well, Evans can spend year two doing more of what he does well and having to do less of what he does not do well. I was amazed at how good “Reke Havoc” was in year one, I do not intend on being surprised if/when he makes another leap this year.

Two men don’t make a team, but Carl Landry is a quality NBA player. A beast last year in Houston, he did not fit in well with the Kings when he was acquired in the Kevin Martin deal. This bodes in the Kings favor, as he is too good to perform at the slightly above average level he did for the Kings, he is likely to get back to near his Houston level of great NBA player. Toss in any production from the SF spot, and consider the Kings have Jason Thompson and Samuel Dalembert as backup bigs, who are pretty good for backups, and this is a quality team. They are a bit too young to make the playoffs, but they will shock the hell out of the entire league if they can go .500. I’ll actually give them a bit more credit then that, and call 42 wins and the surprise team of the year. And I’ll probably watch a lot of them, this team I can’t ignore, and I’ll blame myself for wanting more.

Prediction: 3rd in the Pacific, no playoffs, 42-40

4) Los Angeles Clippers


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
System Of A Down – Lonely Day

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, Willie Warren
Free Agents - in: F Ryan Gomes, G Randy Foye, F Brian Cook, F Craig Smith
Free Agents - out: F Drew Gooden, G Steve Blake, F Travis Outlaw

Training Camp Roster:

G Baron Davis, G Eric Gordon, F Blake Griffin, C DeAndre Jordan, C Chris Kaman, F Craig Smith, F Rasual Butler, F Ryan Gomes, G Randy Foye, F Brian Cook, F Craig Smith, F Marqus Blakely, F Al-Farouq Aminu, G Eric Bledsoe, C Jarron Collins, G Stephen Dennis, G Jon Scheyer, C Jake Voskuhl, G Willie Warren

Outlook:

Such a lonely day, and it's mine. It's a day that I'm glad I survived...


The Clippers offseason was one lonely day after another, as efforts to land any big time free agent, from LeBron to Pierce to Dirk, didn’t give the Clippers any more then lip service before bolting elsewhere. Clipper fans are used to bad things happening, players being injured, draft picks becoming busts, and any sort of failure one can imagine, but most of all, they are used to having a team that is just incapable of winning enough basketball games to be any sort of relevant don their uniforms, and the attempts to change that this offseason were met with results that were beyond predictable, closer to predestined.

Do the Clippers have some talent? Sure. Chris Kaman is a decent center, plays ok defense, scores the ball fairly well, a player who can get you 20 on any given night, but never 30 (oddly, Kaman has had 79 20+ point games, but 0 30+ point games). Baron Davis is still a decent point guard, his 8 apg is actually really solid in today’s day and age, only a handful of point guard came close to his assist numbers, and he can score the ball when he gets hot. Eric Gordon brought his sharpshooting to Team USA this summer and did well for himself, and Blake Griffin, barring another fluke injury, will make his debut this season as the #1 overall pick of the 2009 draft, after losing his entire season last year to injury.

But, knowing the Clippers, it won’t matter. Blake Griffin is almost destined to be a decent player, then have lost his rookie year to injury, lose a year to a lockout, and never get the chance to do anything of note for the franchise. Baron Davis is on the cusp of starting the late career freefall, and if the Clippers start to get any momentum, it almost seems a given his play will start to drop to ensure the Clippers don’t succeed. Offseason moves and draft picks brought in Eric Bledsoe, a Nate Robinson type instant offense chucker, who won’t really fit in on a team that has no problems taking bad shots on it’s own, and F Al-Farouq Aminu is the answer the Clippers made for their lack of a small forward, but he’s a project that will struggle to produce meaningful points.

Am I being overly pessimistic about the way the Clippers season will go? You could argue that, after all, on paper, the roster looks like a 30-33 win team. But, when you compare the roster to the roster of last year, how are the Clippers that much different? Sure, coaching changes have occurred, but even before game on, Vinny Del Negro has heard the rumblings about a coaching shake-up. Marc Iavaroni is viewed in some as the future head coach for the Clips, and it’s said to just be a matter of time. This is indicative of the reason you never predict the Clippers for any kind of real success. They will continue to go unnoticed, be irreverent, and enjoy a lot of lonely days in Staples, just being glad to survive.

Prediction: 4th in the Pacific, no playoffs, 28-52 record

5) Golden State Warriors


Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:
Metallica – King Nothing

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Ekpe Udoh
Free Agents - in: G Jeremy Lin, F Dorell Wright, G/F Rodney Carney, F Louis Amundson
Trades - in: G Charlie Bell, C Dan Gadzuric, C David Lee
Free Agents - out: G C.J. Watson, F Anthony Tolliver
Trades - out: F Corey Maggette, F Kelenna Azubuike, F Anthony Randolph, C Ronny Turiaf, G Anthony Morrow

Training Camp Roster:

G Charlie Bell, C Andris Biedrins, G Stephen Curry, G Monta Ellis, C Dan Gadzuric, F Reggie Williams, F Brandan Wright, F Ekep Udoh, G Jeremy Lin, F Dorell Wright, G-F Rodney Carney, F Louis Amundson, G Charlie Bell, C Dan Gadzuric, C David Lee, F Jeff Adrien, F Vernon Goodridge, G Aaron Miles,

Outlook:

Careful what you wish, you may regret it. Careful what you wish, you just might get it…

The kings are dead. Long live the kings.

Don Nelson has been the king of apathy on the sidelines for the Warriors for the last few years. His calling cards of laziness were crazy lineups, minute distribution that makes no sense, and a sense that he just didn’t care. Meanwhile, Chris Cohan, bad owner, finally sold the team to billionaire Larry Ellison. No wait, Ellison bid more money, but didn’t get the team, instead they sold it to Joe Lacob, who talks a big game, but will he back it up?

It seems pointless to judge Lacob on this season, because the former terrible kings of Oakland basketball, Nelson and Cohan, still have their stink all over this team. Keith Smart got the new head coaching job for Golden State, and is expected to try to bring a defensive mentality to the squad. However, this team still has a Nellieball cast, with Ellis and big time acquisition All-Star F/C David Lee not exactly knowledgeable about what a defense is or how to do it. The Warriors drafted defensive forward Ekpe Udoh, but he injured himself and will miss about all of 2010. The Warriors seem like what would happen if Mike Singletary took over the Indianapolis Colts and tried to instill a power running game, the lack of personnel capable to do the things coach Smart wants to do is going to produce some hilarious results, unless you are a Warriors fans, then it will produce the same level of winning you have become mostly accustom to.

This is not to say the Warriors are without any future hope. David Lee is locked up, and he is a fantastic pick and roll player with a great jumper, who has got better every year on the offensive end. Stephen Curry is a big star in the making, and Curry/Lee will be an offensive force for the near future. Monte Ellis still knows how to score the basketball, and he will be more important then ever with the losses of quality players like Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, and Kelenna Azubuike, the latter two players that would have been a great fit for Keith Smart’s new plans, but instead were traded for David Lee, who will have to adjust to the way Smart says he wants to coach.

In the end, the more things change in Golden State, the more they seem to stay the same. Many people figure the rash of injuries the Warriors suffered last year means that the Warriors have no choice but to be better this season, more so when you consider they added an All-Star player. But the Warriors injuries last year pretty much resulted in a garbage in, garbage out scenario where scrubs were replacing scrubs, and the roster lost more then it gained when you consider depth, scoring, and defense lost. Are the Warriors on the right path? Time will tell. But it won’t be any time soon. This team is still full of the 2009 makeup, but lacks the 2009 talent or the 2009 staff that at least tried stylistically to get the most out of the roster. Golden State is in for hard times this year, Warrior fans may be best served finding an Eastern Team, because until the Warriors finish revamping their roster to fit their new style, this will be a mismatch made in basketball hell, and not pleasant to watch. Warrior fans have wanted to see wholesale changes for a while, but careful what you wish, because you got it, and in the short term, it might just be uglier then it was back when you were praying for someone to do something different.

Prediction: 5th in the Pacific, no playoffs, 24-58 record

Posted on: October 1, 2010 12:04 am
 

kmvennes comprehensive Southwest Division Preview

Hey, who wants to read 3,800+ words about the Southwest Division? You? Great!

If you want to see the entirety of this post as it was intended, complete with embedded Youtube videos and a comment section that lets you swear (I think, go test it! Drop the C word! The lady one!), go check out TSHQ . It's a blog that I contribute to, and it has tons of awesome things I have written about sports and athletic contests and sports. Also, some other guy for this very board post there, I'm not sure who they are, I don't care about anyone else on this site or any other, but again, I have other stuff on it, so bookmark it and read what I write. As a bonus, GoHornets has a Atlantic preview up on the site, so you can read about the Knicks after reading my preview.

Southwest Division Preview

The Southwest is easily the most interesting conference in the NBA heading into the 2010-2011 season. With the Mavs retooling for another run at the West crown, the Spurs looking to defy father time yet again, this time with a new center addition, the Rockets fighting for a playoff run with the return of Yao, the Hornets looking for a healthy and happy CP3 to lead them and looking to see if Ariza is the answer, and the Grizzlies hoping to build off their talented starting 5 and find any semblance of bench play, it's not a stretch to consider the entire division a playoff contender. Clearly, all 5 won't make the playoffs, as few as 2 might, but all 5 won at least 37 games last year, and it's not a stretch to see all 5 winning at least 35 again this year. Do I think that? Read on and see (and listen, because I used music, because I love each and every one of you, and care only about your entertainment)

1.) Dallas Mavericks

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

No Leaf Clover - Metallica


Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: Dominique Jones

Free Agents - in: F Dirk Nowitzki, C Brendan Haywood, F Tim Thomas (now retired), C Ian Mahinmi, F Steve Novak,

Trades - in: C Tyson Chandler, C Alexis Ajinca

Trades - out: C Erick Dampier, F Eduardo Najera, F Matt Carroll

Training Camp Roster:

G Rodrigue Beaubois, G Jose Barea, G Dee Brown, G Caron Butler, F Brian Cardinal, G Adam Haluska, G Jason Kidd, F Shawn Marion, G DeShawn Stevenson, G Jason Terry, F Dirk Nowitzki, C Brendan Haywood, C Tyson Chandler, C Alexis Ajinca, C Ian Mahinmi, F Steve Novak, G Dominique Jones

Outlook:

Then it comes to be that the soothing light at the end of your tunnel is just a freight train coming your way...

No team over the last 10 years has epitomized the concept of the No Leaf Clover nearly as well as the Mavericks. One of only 4 teams in NBA history to win at least 50 games for 10 straight years, but the only one to never get the title. The 2006 Finals, one of the darkest moments in NBA history, has served over time to prove to be the calling card of this Mavericks team. Even when they win the title, they lose it, it's taken away from them, either by a oh-so-slightly better team, the refs, a choke job, you name it.

The Mavs are re-tooled for another season, and look as strong on paper as ever before. The center tandem of Chandler and Haywood is incredibly strong for today's NBA, Dirk Nowitzki is still clearly a top 10 player in the league, Jason Kidd showed last year he has a lot to contribute, deadline acquisition Caron Butler is a quality piece that will benefit from having a full training camp with Dallas, Shawn Marion will be hard pressed not to contribute more in year 2 with Dallas then he did in year 1, Jason Terry is still one of the elite 6th men in this league, and Rodrigue Beaubois is one of the most exciting young players in this league, although his advanced stats indicate he may be very overrated by the NBA community. If nothing else, he offers a trade piece for the Mavs, who are free spenders, bold (sometimes reckless) dealers, and fully committed to trying to get that elusive title. Owner Mark Cuban is impossible to hate, he will do what he can to win, no matter the cost, and coach Rich Carlisle is very underrated, an offensive guru with a solid regular season track record, and some playoff success as well. Even the draft pick, Dominique Jones, has the ability to be a solid contributor, although he faces a logjam at the guard spots to find minutes.

There is very little to not like about this Mavericks team. With so much size, they are easily the toughest matchup for the Lakers in the Western Conference. With so much talent, you are silly if you have them below 2nd in the West as far as seeding goes. Nobody else compares to this team, people who are pushing OKC or Utah or anyone else to compete with the Mavs in the regular season are grasping at invisible straws. And they will clearly win the Southwest, there is no other choice. With a proven core, the most proven additions, youth, size, and amazing depth, this is a team built for regular season excellence.

The only question is can they win the 59-61 games necessary to actually go into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the West. Given the chance for a learning curve at the start of the year, the age of some of the starters, and the fact that No Leaf Clover is still in the Mavs back pocket, I don't think so. I see 57 wins and a clear #2 seed for Dallas this year, a solid regular season, as usual, after all, the Mavs problem was never a lack of luck during the regular season...

Prediction: 1st in the Southwest, 2nd in the West, 57-25 record.

2) San Antonio Spurs

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Slipknot - Dead Memories

Offseason moves:

NBA Draft: James Anderson, Ryan Richards, C Tiago Splitter (2007 Draft pick)

Free Agents - in: G Gary Neal, F Richard Jefferson

Free Agents - out: G Keith Bogans, G Roger Mason, Jr., C Ian Mahinmi

Training Camp Roster:

F/C DeJuan Blair, F Matt Bonner, F/C Tim Duncan, G Alonzo Gee, G Manu Ginobili, G George Hill, G Curtis Jerrells, F Antonio McDyess, G Tony Parker, G Garrett Temple, F Richard Jefferson, G Gary Neal, G James Anderson, F Ryan Richards, C Tiago Splitter

Outlook:

The other me is gone, now I don't know where I belong...


The powers in the NBA from the mid-00's have all taken a step back over the last few years. The Detroit Pistons put together a strong run from 2003 until the 2008 playoffs with their old core, made the Iverson move for one last chance at glory, and now have slowly sold the sold of their former glory and rebuilt. The Lakers of today where forged out of the struggles of the mid-late 00's, not the glory of the early-mid 00's. The Cavs, a perennial contender (in media theory) since the mid-late 00's, are finally no more. Only the San Antonio Spurs are still trying to turn back the clock, ignoring the call of father time, and think that the band has one more grand reunion in them.

Parker, Manu, and Duncan have been the core trio of the Spurs last two titles, the last one coming with a Duncan that was 30 and a Manu that was 29. That was 4 years ago. The Spurs haven’t won a Western Semifinals game since 2008, yet continue to keep the core alive. A tweak here and a tweak there, a overhyped draft pick and a free agent signing or two, and everyone thinks the Spurs are right back in the elite of the NBA.

Well, it will never be 2007 again. James Anderson is sure to get a lot of hype, and Tiago Splitter is going to be pimped as the answer for the Spurs, just like Richard Jefferson was last year (how'd that work out?). Much will be made of Tony Parker going into a contract year, of DeJuan Blair having yet another year of seasoning, and of everything Spurs you can think of. But nothing is going to turn this team into an NBA contender, and it will take most every break for this team to contend for just the Southwest crown.

So, why do I have them second? As old as the Spurs are, I'm officially out of the business of predicting Duncan and Manu's demise. All Manu did at 32 last year was put up his SIXTH straight season of a PER over 22. For those unaware, a PER of 22 means you are one of the best players in the NBA. In fact, Manu's PER last year was TENTH. Manu, in short, is as good as you incorrectly think Derrick Rose actually is. That's damn good. As for Duncan, he's never put up a PER under 22. He is a pure machine, last year his PER of 24.7 was FIFTH in the NBA.

Those two are amazing. One day, they will start to decline, it has to happen. Until I see it, I know those two are good enough in today's NBA, with a slightly weaker West this year, to win 50. The help is overrated, the front office is overrated, the postseason chances will always be overrated, but with a core two players this underrated, I'm writing them in for 50 wins and the ability to give someone hell in the first round. They may not be the NBA contenders they once were. The other Spurs is gone, and they don't know where they belong, like the song says. But worse then that, they actually are just a bit too good to blow up. There's no hope like false hope, and if your top two players are that damn good, you'll always have that false hope to keep you fighting an unwinnable fight. They won't contend again with this core, the other Spurs are gone, but dismiss them during the regular season at your own peril.

Prediction: 2nd in the Southwest, 5th in the West, 50-32 record.



3) Memphis Grizzlies

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Judas Priest – Breaking the Law

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Xavier Henry, Greivis Vasquez

Free Agents - in: F Rudy Gay, G Tony Allen, G Acie Law

Free Agents - out: G Ronnie Brewer

Training Camp Roster:

F Darrell Arthur, F DeMarre Carroll, G Mike Conley, C Marc Gasol, F Hamed Haddadi, F Luke Jackson, G Tre Kelley, G O.J. Mayo, F Zach Randolph, C Hasheem Thabeet, F Kenny Thomas, F Damien Wilkins, F Sam Young, F Rudy Gay, G Tony Allen, G Acie Law, G Xavier Henry, G Greivis Vasquez

Outlook:

Feel as though nobody cares if I live or die, so I might as well begin to put some action in my life.

A surprise 40 win team last year, this is a make or break season for the Grizzlies. Let's be honest, this is one of the 3 most talented starting 5's in the Western Conference from 2009, back in full. Their major downfall last year was the bench, coupled with an inability to shoot 3's.

Enter Xavier Henry (finally signed!), a versatile 6-6 wingman with range, who could easily be the answers to the team's biggest flaws. On a team that featured a starting 5 that played the most minutes together last season, one 2-3 hybrid with 3 point range can go a long way for this team. Xavier Henry could be the piece that turns a 40 win team into a playoff contender, and with the help of proven veteran Tony Allen and fellow first rounder Greivis Vasquez, and who knows, maybe a few minutes of last year's pick, Hasheem Thabeet, the Grizzlies may just have a bench that isn't horrid, and if that is so, this team could make the next step forward.

There are other reasons to predict success for the Griz. Their best player, Zach Randolph, is coming off his first All-Star nod, after blowing up for just under 21 and 12 last season. Entering a contract year with an eye on Pau Gasol money, he is very likely to produce. Speaking of contract years, Marc Gasol will enter restricted free agency next season, so a solid season from the key defender on Memphis could net him a lucrative offer from another team, ensuring that Memphis has to pony up the catch to keep him on board. And Mike Conley, the weakest link in the starting 5 by far, is also at the end of his deal and heading to his restricted free agency season. It's now or never for Conley, and with pressure from both defensive stopper Tony Allen and the always fan-favorite Greivis Vasquez, he must produce.

Oh, by the way, the other two starters on Memphis? Those would be Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo, two possible All-Stars. Rudy Gay just finished being a big part of the US Team's FIBA gold, and him and Mayo are two excellent players who cause other coaches fits. This team has serious talent, it has a year of success to build on, and one thing many people forget is that this is a team that started 1-8 last year, due in part to the distraction that was Allen Iverson. If the Grizzlies can avoid a poor start this year sans Iverson, and show some improvement from the youth, they can contend for a playoff spot. And if the contract players go out there and earn that next deal, this is a team that could grab a playoff spot with games to spare.

Do not sleep on the Grizz. I'm going to put them down for 45 wins, and hell, I'm giving them the 8 seed. Nobody may care about this team, not even the city of Memphis for the most part, but they are going to be an action-packed squad this year, and with the players they got, success is fully within their grasp.

Prediction: 3rd in the Southwest, 8th in the West, 45-37 record

4) Houston Rockets

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Lamb of God – Laid to Rest

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Patrick Patterson

Free Agents - in: C Brad Miller, F/C Luis Scola, G Kyle Lowry

Trades - in: G Courtney Lee

Trades - out: C David Andersen, G/F Trevor Ariza

Training Camp Roster:

G Antonio Anderson, F Shane Battier, G Aaron Brooks, F Chase Budinger, C Jordan Eglseder, G Mike Harris, F Jordan Hill, F Alexander Johnson, G Kevin Martin, C Brad Miller, G Ishmael Smith, C-f Patrick Sullivan, F Jermaine Taylor, C Yao Ming, F Chuck Hayes, F Jared Jeffries, F/C Luis Scola, G Kyle Lowry

Outlook:

You're better off empty and blank, than left with a single pathetic trace of this. Smother another failure, lay this to rest.


Most people will be disgusted to see the Rockets down here at 4th in the Southwest, outside Justin, who's issues with this preview are about to show up with the next team. Most people are paste-eating morons, however, so I’m not worried about it. The common conception about the Rockets is this is a team that is going to take another step forward, after playing inspired ball last season, despite a serious lack of size, and with Yao's 24 minutes at most return expected, people think you can write the Rockets into the playoffs with permanent ink.

Why?

Let's be perfectly honest about the Rockets. About 2/3rds of this team last year had a career year in counting stats, and not just by a little bit. Aaron Brooks won the Most Improved Player award, but really, it could ahve went to any number of Rockets. Luis Scola saw his production move up to over 16 ppg, although it was fully due to an increase in shots, not an increase in production. Chuck Hayes brought overrated defense and a strong presence on the glass to the Rockets, Kyle Lowry had a career year, and Kevin Martin came over to provide much needed scoring for the Rockets.

But what do Scola, Martin, Brooks, Lowry, Hayes, and the rest of the Rockets have in common? None of them could crack a PER of 17.5. Quite frankly, the team is by and large composed of a bunch of average players. Kevin Martin is an incredible shooter, but offers little else, Aaron Brooks is Monta Ellis lite (not a good thing), Scola has upside, but has yet to put together a truly great year.

The Rockets did have one superstar last year, the ever underrated Carl Landry. Carl Landry put up a PER over 21 for the Rockets, doing a bit of everything, and helping their second unit keep the Rockets in games. Sadly for Rockets fans, the Rockets, they of the amazing front office, got swindled by the Kings, and gave Landry away for the one-dimensional Kevin Martin.

The Rockets have a bit of hope, with a few stockpiled assets from trades and some youth that has some solid credibility within the league. And Rick Adelman is a proven coach (Did you know: Adelman has over 900 career wins as a coach?) who will get the most out of this ragtag bunch. But with the only additions to this team a bit of Yao Ming and Courtney Lee, who is more of a trade chip then a rotation player on a team that has Brooks and Martin, and a roster that is quite frankly, chock full of average, I don't see the Rockets doing much. I'll show Adelman respect and give the Rockets a chance to make a solid trade this season, and give them 40 wins. But I do think your expectations of the Rockets this year are a good test of your basketball IQ. If you like this roster coming into this year, you're either a media sheep or not a huge fan of knowing who's an actual talent in this league. Thankfully, I'm neither, and I welcome the Rockets to try to prove my opinion on the team wrong, but I fancy my chances of seeing the Rockets done with their season by the start of the playoffs. Smother another failure, Houston, lay this season to rest.

Prediction: 4th in the Southwest, no playoffs, 40-42 record

5) New Orleans Hornets

Youtube Song for their 2010-2011 season:

Dio – Rainbow in the Dark

Offseason Moves:

NBA Draft: Cole Aldrich

Free Agents: G Mustafa Shakur, G Jannero Pargo, F Pops Mensah-Bonsu

Trades - in: F Quincy Pondexter, G/F Trevor Ariza, G Marco Belinelli, G Willie Green, F-C Jason
Smith

Trades - out: F Morris Peterson, Cole Aldrich, G Darren Collison, F James Posey, F Julian Wright, F Darius Songaila, F Craig Brackins

Training Camp Roster:

F Joe Alexander, C Aaron Gray, C Emeka Okafor, G Chris Paul, G Marcus Thornton, F David West, F Peja Stojakovic, F Quincy Pondexter, G-F Trevor Ariza, G Marco Belinelli, G Willie Green, F-C Jason Smith, G Mustafa Shakur, G Jannero Pargo, F Pops Mensah-Bonsu, G D.J. Strawberry, C Darryl Watkins

Outlook:

There's no sign of the morning coming, there's no sight of the day. You've been left on your own, like a rainbow in the dark


Chris Paul, a first team All-NBA level player, is the very essence of a Rainbow in the Dark. A magical creature stuck in a world of black. But let’s try to start on a happy note. Here are some good things about the Hornets.

Chris Paul is the best PG in the NBA, without question. David West is a former All-Star and a productive player, and Emeka Okafor is better then you think he is. Pops Mensah-Bonsu was fun to watch in college and likes dunking. Marcus Thornton is a youngster with a lot of upside.

I'm literally out of nice things to say about the Hornets. And I had to go to Mensah-Bonsu to get to 5 things positive. This could be even worse then I thought.

Under first year coach Monty Williams, this team is, to put in nicely, a team looking for an identity. Chris Paul is the star of the show, but everything around him is either unproven or slowly regressing. Or, in some cases, the players around him are quickly regressing. It is just too large a stretch to see Thornton making the leap, to see Ariza fitting into his 3rd team in 3 years with seamless precision, to see West not continue to regress in both points and rebounds, or at best hold steady to his 2009-2010 numbers, or to expect more from Okafor then a near 10-10 season.

This team won 37 games last year, without Paul, but with the solid play of Darren Collison, who was a drop off, but not the giant drop off you would have thought him to be. The Hornets made 2 million trades, most of them easy to argue more about saving money then improving talent. Of the 18 players on the training camp roster, 12 were not around last year. 24 members of the front office are also new, out of the 28 total.

I have no idea what this team's plan is, other then to be fiscally viable at a time they want to sell the team, and that's not exactly a recipe that translates into any wins. David West himself has said this Hornets team is trying to "get into the top 10 in the West". That's not a positive outlook on this season from the second best player on the roster. Marco Belinelli was brought in to bring some offense, odd considering Marcus Thornton is of the same mold, Trevor Ariza is in town to play D and be a playmaker, odd considering Chris Paul is the best playmaker in the NBA, and Willie Green was brought in to be hurt, odd considering the Hornets have no trouble being injured on their own.

This team’s entire hope of competing for a .500 record this year is pinned on two things, Chris Paul's health and Peja's expiring contract. The former is anyone's guess, but it's hard to see the latter being used to make the team a contender. Every move so far from the Hornets has been salary adverse more so then basketball proactive. Will the Hornets use Peja to get the missing piece to the puzzle? Or will they use him to rid themselves of the albatross that is Emeka Okafor's huge contract? Or will they just let it expire and take the savings, freeing themselves from a future in the luxury tax? For a team that's for sale and the expected big money buyer hurt by the gulf spill, there is far too much uncertainty about anything good happening for the Hornets on any front this season. The season is an enigma, but the cons far outweigh the pros, and as a member of the most competitive division in the NBA from top to bottom, the team not totally focused on winning now stands little chance of doing any winning now. Another last place finish for the Hornets seems likely, as the young kids find their way in the NBA, the team takes time to gel together, and Paul and West probably have not had their last moments in the news bashing the direction of the franchise, and the rainbow seems more likely to leave before the darkness does.

Prediction: 5th in the Southwest, no playoffs, 34-48 record
Posted on: May 22, 2010 4:01 am
 

BP study shows James will win the most with NY

How can we fairly decide who has the best supporting cast for LeBron James? Someone bothered to answer this question finally, and the results are perfectly in line with what I've been saying for a year now. Finally, someone actually crunched some damn numbers, the guys at Basketball Prospectus, to be exact, and I will share it with you. Here is the study they undertook...

"What this involves is a comprehensive valuation of all of a team's assets--players, future draft picks and cap space. Think of this as an objective version, if less comprehensive, of ESPN's future power rankings (Insider). Underlying this effort is the use of three-year WARP projections based on the 10 most similar players from our SCHOENE projection system. Draft picks were valued using the average performance of past players by pick number, and cap space is generally valued at 1 WARP for each $2.5 million of room, a figure based on the historic efficiency of the free-agent market."

So what they did, is look at a team's cap room, draft pick status, and current roster, before LeBron shows up, and added up their WARP, wins above replacement level, to see what kind of team they would be before they got LeBron, over the next 3 years. I'll save you the nitty gritty, and present to you the projected win-loss records of every team with enough cap room to offer LeBron a max deal (except Sacto, who isn't going to offer a max deal to anyone) over the next three seasons, taking all the factors into account. The leader will surprise some of you, but not me, it's what I've been saying all along.

I'll take the WARP out of it and present to you what the BP study predicts their actual record to be over the next three years. and share some choice comments. Remember, these records are BEFORE LeBron. Based on WARP, LeBron was worth 25.3 (!!!!) wins to the Cavs this year, so any team that gets LeBron can expect to be much better then their pre-LeBron projection.


Worst - Washington Wizards:

2010-2011 record: 27-55

2011-2012 record: 29-53

2012-2013 record: 32-50

Total before LeBron: 88 wins over the next 3 years

The projections see Wall emerging as a force by year 3, but Gilbert dropping as Wall grows. McGee and Blache are the only talents on the roster, everyone else is a dud, their 4th best player over the next 3 years is projected to be their 2011 first round pick, and their 6th best player the 2010 first rounder they own from Cleveland. Ouch.

Second worst - Chicago Bulls:

2010-2011 record: 35-47

2011-2012 record: 35-47

2012-2013 record: 32-50

Total before LeBron: 102 wins over the next 3 years


One of the most interesting things I saw in this study was the fact that Noah's career resembles guys who peaked early up to this point. The projections are very bearish on Captain Ugly being even a good player by 2012-2013. Now, you can argue that Noah will stay at the level he was this year bare minimum, which would mean the Bulls would instead win 39, 42, and 39 games over the next 3 years without LeBron. Well, that's still a sub .500 record, which honestly is exactly what the Bulls are. We get so caught up in one tough 5 game series they had with the Cavs in the postseason, and forget how awful they looked after they traded Salmons. Deng, Gibson, James Johnson, and Hinrich are the only pieces the Bulls currently have worth anything not named Noah or Rose. This cold look at the numbers keeps in mind a fact many of you are forgetting, the Bulls are a team scrapping to get into the playoffs right now, which is pretty much exactly what the Cavs are without LeBron.

However, don't fret Chicago, remember, even when you don't get LeBron, you will get somebody, and when they add on to your 34 win nucleus, you will be a perennial playoff contender, unlike Cleveland will, who can't add anything of note after LeBron walks.

Speaking of the Cavs....

Third Worst - Cleveland Cavs:

2010-2011 record: 35-47

2011-2012 record: 34-48

2012-2013 record: 34-48

Total before LeBron: 103 wins over the next 3 years

Will you look at that? Without LeBron, the Cavs arn't a playoff team! Who could have foreseen this? Oh, I've been saying it all season. Granted, the projections think lowly of players like Jamison three years down the line, since he is getting old fast, and the projection things nothing of J.J. Hickson next year, which is about what I think of him. But the projection also thinks Mo Williams is worth like 5 more wins then Devin Harris is worth, so it goes both ways. Point is, Cavs are not a good team without LeBron. In fact, without LeBron, the Cavs are pretty much the Bulls, and that's not a compliment.

Middle of the pack - Los Angeles Clippers:


2010-2011 record: 38-44

2011-2012 record: 40-42

2012-2013 record: 41-41

Total before LeBron: 119 wins over the next 3 years

Before you ask, the projections think Blake Griffin will be a stud. In fact, they have him worth almost exactly as many wins as they have Derrick Rose worth (they are both former #1's from back to back years after all..why not similar projections?). And oddly enough, it feels Eric Gordon is as valuable as Joakim Noah. Think what you will about that, but clearly Davis, Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, and the picks the Clippers own are far better then anything else the Bulls have, and considering the Clippers have nobody at SF, meaning they don't give up any wins to get LeBron's wins, and it's clear the Clippers would be a very good option for LeBron. The fact the Clippers are projected as a .500 team for the next 3 years is pretty nice for the franchise, a testament to the fact they are talented, no doubt. However, there are better options for LeBron...

Third best - Miami Heat:

2010-2011 record: 40-42

2011-2012 record: 43-39

2012-2013 record: 44-38

Total before LeBron: 127 wins over the next 3 years

This is with Wade on the team, of course. Even without anyone new added, the Heat are projected to be a playoff team, something that was proven this season when Wade took those bums as far as they could go. Mario Chalmers is actually a pretty solid player in these projections, who knew? Even Beasley is projected to be as valuable as Baron Davis, a surprise to me. This projection also makes the assumption that Miami uses some of it's cap room to resign Dorrell Wright, who was a quality wing that the Heat are very unlikely to find better then for the price Wright would cost. But this is a good nucleus for LeBron.

Second best - New Jersey Nets:

2010-2011 record: 39-43

2011-2012 record: 43-39

2012-2013 record: 47-35

Total before LeBron: 129 wins over the next 3 years

Lopez, Harris, the #3 overall pick, $10 million in cap room to spend in addition to a max contract, and a couple ok players like The Chairman make New Jersey a very talented roster moving forward. For the record, these projections think nothing of Courtney Lee or Chris Douglas-Roberts, I doubt many will disagree with that. The Nets have little outside shooting, so they may be a better team on paper for LeBron then they would be in reality, but overall, the Nets are projected to be pretty good. Better then I project them, I'll say that for sure.

Best - New York Knicks:


2010-2011 record: 41-41

2011-2012 record: 51-31

2012-2013 record: 47-35

Total before LeBron: 139 wins over the next 3 years

Now this projection assumes (correctly) the Knicks are getting Chris Bosh. Bosh including the Knicks on his list of teams he would accept a sign and trade to, and the Knicks being the team that has David Lee to send back in return, makes this matchup most likely. But the moral is, Bosh alone makes the Knicks a .500 ballclub next year, and after that, him alone makes the Knicks a home court contender, and that's considering nobody is signed with that second max player cap room.

Why the huge jump from 10-11 to 11-12? Two reasons. One is that Eddy Curry comes off the books, allowing the Knicks to sign a guy who is projected to add 4 wins in 11-12, and 4 in 12-13. The other is because Danilo Gallinari, Bill Walker, Wilson Chandler, and Toney Douglas are all young. They are projected as good players next year, and only to get better. People discount the Knicks talent, but everyone who is left on the Knicks roster is a talent that matters. Toss in Bosh, and you got a team full of guys who are above average basketball players, then consider the cap space for a $10 million guy, and the roster only gets better. And if the Knicks can flip Curry's expiring for that $10 million guy sooner, you can add more wins onto the total.

Now I know, basketball isn't played in a computer, blah blah blah. You can have whatever opinion you want. But how interesting is it that when someone actually crunches the numbers on what team is the best, considering the cap room, the draft pick status, and the players, not just from last year, but over the next three years, accounting for their age, and does so by using already defined stats as a measuring point, that the Knicks are clearly the best destination for LeBron James ON the court to play for?

Bottom line, everyone can shout their opinion on who has the best team for LeBron to play with to the high heavens, it don't mean a thing to anyone. But someone actually did a study to find the answer, and they agree with me, so everyone who wants to put down the Knicks as a team is free to find a unbias study that shows me that their team is the best destination, or they can eat it.

When the numbers show that LeBron can win the most on the court with New York, combined with what New York offers off the court, what chance does anyone else have of signing the back to back MVP?
Category: NBA
Tags: Science!
 
Posted on: March 30, 2010 3:35 am
 

The real champions of this season? The Knicks


Hey, you guys remember when this season started? I honestly don't, it was many drinks ago. Anyway, there were some lofty expectations for some teams and some fanbases, the preseason contenders, to be specific. I remember not seeing much agreement when I said the Lakers would win about 58 games this year (to be fair, they will probably win 60 or 61, and I did have them as the 2 seed, when they are clearly the 1 seed, but hold this "top team in the West is about a 60 win team" sidethought, it's indicative of my actual point). I was told this was a 64-66 win team easy by those rational Lakers fans out there, and a much better team by the more irrational bunch. Over in Beantown, the expectations were for far more then the 4 seed in the East, this is not the team you thought you had. Boston is lame, there is no need to waste much time tying about how bad they have missed the expectations. Orlando crowed about how swapping Vince for Hedo was the answer and how they could challenge for the Eastern home court. VC showed flashes, but I think it's safe to say that team underachieved.

Everyone thought the Nuggets were a trendy pick to push LA in the West, but the Nuggets have shown themselves to be a team lacking depth and with more holes then last year's playoffs led us to believe. Dumber people, like myself, thought the Spurs had something left in the tank and could challenge for the 1 seed in the West. How wrong myself and others were. Cleveland has had the regular season they were hoping for, but the regular season isn't the problem for the Cavs. Their problem is a couple weeks away. And after this offseason, Cleveland ceases to be a name worth typing on this board.

Teams like Orlando can't be too upset, and Dallas, Utah, Atlanta, and OKC have to be pretty happy with the way this season has gone so far, but those last 4 were loooooongshots to win the title, and for the most part, are still longshots. So if all the preseason contenders are pretty much disappointed with how strong their team has looked this season, except for Cleveland, who likes to jump on the disappointment train after the regular season ends, who really wins this year?

New York? LeBron's next home? I say yes.

Let's face it, if you are a Lakers fan, Celtics fan, Magic fan, or in about a month, a Cleveland fan, even a ring won't convince you that your team was as strong as you thought it was at the start of the year. This isn't just a pure fan thing. I remember Reggie Miller telling me the Lakers would start 20-1. Now they want to end 60-22. Big difference. Even this year's champ won't think they were as good as they thought they were to start the year. And I won't think they were as good as they were to start the year. Except if LA wins. I thought you were almost exactly this good. But I was on an island.

Now when New York gets LeBron and a friend and enters the NBA's elite next year, they are going to do it on a feast or famine team. They got cap room, a couple good young players, stole a couple rotation players dirt cheap from Boston (THANK YOU NATE!), and are going to sign a couple stud players, LeBron + 1. The rest of the team will be replacement level garbage and Eddy Curry until the Knicks get Curry off the books after 2010-2011. I've thought for a while that during LeBron's first year in New York, the Knicks would be like a scary 3 seed in the East. I thought unless Eddy Curry gets flipped into a big time piece, bigger then a Jamison acquisition, New York just won't be complete enough to contend until they dump all the dead weight off the roster and maximize the salary cap. I no longer think this.

But then it hit me, who the heck do a top heavy, relativity young Knicks have to fear in 2010? LA, even if they win the title this year, this isn't the dynasty juggernaut we all thought they were. LA is beatable. And if the Zen Master leaves, maybe more beatable then we are thinking. Cleveland will become nothing after this offseason. Orlando, a young team that seemed to just be VC away from being a perennial contender, hasn't shown me anything I won't hesitate to take my chances against with LeBron and friend next year. I woudln't have said this about next year at the start of this season. Atlanta is going to lose the #1 option this offseaon. Dallas will stick around, but can Kidd be this valuable with another year on those tires? Can Utah survive without Boozer? Can Denver actually contend? Should I even bother to mention 2010-2011 Boston?

I'm liking New York's ability to compete next season for the NBA Title more and more as time goes on. If the best team from this season that keeps their roster in tact is a 60 ro so win LA team that could lose it's coach, then 2010-2011 New York is a lot closer to a ring then even I thought. I don't expect any of the fans of contenders to agree that NY can become just as good as you guys in one offseason. But no matter how you shake it, all the preseason contenders have been disappointments to various degrees this year. They are all weaker then we thought. Blame injuries or poor luck or coasting to the postseason all you want. It's not like injuries, bad luck, or coasting to the postseason was just invented this year. I'll run the best player in the NBA, teamed up with the best teammate he's ever played with, in a system that is catered to his skillsets, and even with Eddy Curry wasting away on the bench, with second rounders at the end of the rotation, and no chemistry to start the year, I'll put next year's New York against anyone. After all, the defending champion isn't exactly going to be a historically great team. Not by any stretch.

NBA will be WIDE open next year. Who's to prevent NY from seizing the opportunity faster then I thought?

Category: NBA
Posted on: February 10, 2010 7:01 pm
 

Who owns the Knicks and Madison Square Garden?

I do.

I also own the Rangers, FYI.



Madison Square Garden, Inc. (MSG) announced today that its spin off from Cablevision Systems Corporation is complete and that MSG is now a separate, public company, which trades on NASDAQ under the symbol "MSG."

Madison Square Garden is a fully-integrated sports, entertainment and media business. The company is comprised of three business segments: MSG Sports, MSG Entertainment and MSG Media, which are strategically aligned to work together to drive its overall business, and built on a foundation of iconic venues and compelling content that MSG creates, produces, presents and/or distributes through its programming networks and other media assets. MSG Sports consists of the New York Knicks (NBA), the New York Rangers (NHL), the New York Liberty (WNBA), and the Hartford Wolf Pack (American Hockey League). MSG Entertainment is a leader in managing and creating concerts and events at Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, the Beacon Theatre, the Chicago Theatre, the Wang Theatre in Boston, and produces the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Radio City Rockettes. MSG Media is comprised of leading television networks MSG, MSG Plus, MSG HD and MSG Plus HD, as well as MSG Interactive, which oversees all company wireless and online initiatives, and Fuse and Fuse HD, the national television network dedicated exclusively to music. The company owns and operates the Madison Square Garden arena complex located in the heart of the New York metropolitan area.

Thank you, power of stocks...


Category: NBA
Posted on: January 3, 2010 11:10 pm
 

Nate Robinson and D'Antoni - explained

A lot has been made about Nate Robinson returning to the Knicks lineup after a full month on the bech, and lighting it up for 41 points in a huge win for the Knicks vs. the Atlanta Hawks. I have seen a few comments such as "Why was Nate not playing? What is wrong with D'Antoni???". Nate today went out and shot 2-11 for 6 points. Was Nate a 1 game wonder? Should he have played last month? What is going on in New York?

Let me answer these questions. First off, nobody can deny that Nate has a lot of growth to do as a basketball player. He's an energetic sparkplug, he can light it up, but he plays lax D and very selfish at times. This combined with his unprofessional manner led the Knicks to bench him early in a Dec. 1st game with Phoenix and not play him the rest of the month.

How did the Knicks do in December? 9-6, with wins vs. Phoenix, Atlanta, Portland, New Orleans, and Charlotte.

Nate came back and played great vs. Atlanta, and now had a bad game in a huge blowout win vs. Indiana.

But Nate is a different player now.

Even when scoring 41 points, Nate seemed to want to get his teammates involved, and was much more active on the defensive end. And today, his shot didn't fall, but he had some pretty passes, and did great work on the glass during his minutes.

D'Antoni had a lesson for Nate that he had to teach him, and the only way to get the lesson through was to stop giving Nate a run during the games. The lesson was: stop playing the way you want to play, and play the way I want you to play, because there is a place for you on this team, but it's only if you play a team-first style. Nate was a great teammate while he lost his minutes. He was energetic on the bench, him and Curry sat together every night and really cheered the Knicks on. Nate ran the steps after practice and on game days and kept himself ready to go if the team needed him.

But the Knicks didn't need Nate. When Nate was benched, the Knicks were 3-14. THREE AND FOURTEEN! When Nate came back, the Knicks were 12 and 20 and right in the thick of the playoff race. The Knicks excelled in a team first concept without Nate.

Have you seen the Knicks lately? They are playing great help defense, and really sharing the ball well. They arn't running as much, but they are all playing very hard on both ends. Some days they are just not talented enough, but during th 9-6 Nate-less December, the Knicks beat more teams they shoudln't beat then they did lose to teams they should beat. A team that had won only 3 of it's first 17 games actually won nine of fifteen. Think of what a huge swing that is!

And when New Years rolled around, Larry Hughes was bothered by injuries and bad play, and the Knicks needed him, D'Antoni called on Nate. And Nate came through. He didn't get 41 points because Nate is a star athlete and can get 41. He got 41 because the team was begging him to keep scoring big baskets to force OT and win the game in OT. Nate did what the team needed him to do, he even got 8 assists in that game.

Thanks to D'Antoni, Nate's game grew.

You have to give D'Antoni credit for how he played the Nate situation. The Knicks won 3 out of every 5 games without Nate, and now when we needed Nate, he boosted us to a huge win, and now we've won two straight. That's an 11-6 run for a team that was 3-14! D'Antoni made a bold call to bench arguably the Knicks most popular player, Nate grew up, took his benching like a man, and worked to stay better, Nate learned the mental lessons he needed to learn, and now Nate is fitting right in with the surging Knicks.

The Knicks became a dangerous team when they took the selfish Nate out of the lineup. And now the Knicks are more dangerous that they have the selfless Nate.

So what is wrong with D'Antoni? Nothing. Why was Nate benched? To change him for the better. What was D'Antoni thinking? Whatever it was, it's led the Knicks to 11 wins out of 17, so I hope he thinks like that more as the season continues.
Posted on: December 8, 2009 3:14 am
 

How good is this new Knick 8 man rotation?

December has been a good month for New York. The Knicks are 4-1 this month and are one good two week stretch of winning some games that could go either way from being in the playoff hunt, the new Nate-less 8 man rotation has found great success and some big wins. And that two week stretch of coin flip games where the Knicks need to get wins to get in the playoff hunt, it actually starts right now. I think it's important to examine the Knicks month game by game, quickly, because each game seemed like a fluke or a lucky break on it's surface, but I think if you look at the big picture, you can see a changing trend in the way the Knicks are playing, a change for the better.

Knicks 126 Suns 99

What went right:

Knicks shoot well from the arc (14-31). Play enough D to hold the Suns under 100 for the first time this year, including great perimeter D. No small task considering the higher then average temp both teams play at. Gallo has a great shooting game. Nate is benched in the first half, never returns, Knicks cruise without Nate.

Excuse from the other side: Suns had an off day. Suns can't be stopped by the Knicks, so they beat themselves. These games happen. Missed a lot of 3's (4-17)

Magic 118 Knicks 104

What went right:

Little. Magic kill the Knicks. Still shoot well from the arc (10-24). Nate still didn't play.

Excuse from the other side: None needed

Knicks 114 Hawks 107


What went right:

Knicks shoot well from the arc (11-25). Win without Gallo. D'Antoni sticks to his guns, doesn't play Nate. Duhon picks his game up. Knicks close the game out with very efficent offense, take control after trailing by 1 after 3 and get a rather easy road win. Play good perimeter D.

Excuse from the other side: Josh Smith got ejected. Missed a lot of 3's (4-23). It's the Knicks, who cares?

Knicks 106 Nets 97

What went right:

Knicks shoot well from the arc (6-15). Play good perimeter D. Nate doesn't play. Hughes and Lee help Harrington. Hold the Nets to 36 points in the second half after letting up 61 in the first half. Knicks control the boards big time despite Lopez's size. Gallo gets his feet back under him.

Excuse from the other side: Missed a lot of 3's (5-16). Harris isn't 100% yet. We just won a game, been partying since then.

Knicks 93 Portland 84


What went right:

Knicks shoot well from the arc (13-26). Play great D. Nate doesn't play. Gallo and Hughes provide depth. Destroy Blazers so badly that Blazers can outscore Knicks by 14 in the 4th and still lose by 9. Hustled and forced a lot of turnovers.

Excuse from the other side: Oden, Rudy, Outlaw all injured. Missed a lot of 3's (1-8). It's the Knicks, who cares?

If I look at this 4-1 stretch from the Knicks, I see a lot of similar themes. This is 4-1 with 3 wins against very tough teams, so I ask you, have the Knicks got lucky, or are they playing good ball right now?

Have the Knicks hit at least 40% from the arc in each of the 4 wins because they are playing better O, because Nate isn't playing anymore, or because they are lucky?

Did the Knicks hold the Blazers and Suns to under 100 because the opponents were off that night, or because D'Antoni is shrinking his rotation, eliminating Nate's minutes and pourous D for the defensive Hughes, and because Gallo and Jeffries are playing better D, with even Al Harrington giving a solid defensive effort as of late?

Did the Knicks go 4-1 because the Suns were off, the Hawks lost Hughes, the Nets were just happy after a win, and the Blazers lost Roy, or because they are defending the arc much better?

I'm sure a lot of people will write off the Knicks recent success as a fluke, due to great shooting, and expect a regression very soon. They will discount the improvement since Nate stopped playing. They will figure more teams will take the Knicks seriously, and the Knicks will stop lucking into playing teams without great players at their service.

Well, the test to see what side is right is coming up:

Here is the Knicks upcoming schedule:

@ Hornets
@ Bobcats
@ Bulls
Clippers
Bobcats
Bulls

The Knicks shouldn't win those first two games. The Bobcats and Hornets, when at home, are better teams, despite the improvement New York has shown.

But watching the Knicks this month, I'm willing to say that the Knicks are better then the Bulls are right now, regardless of where the game is played. The Knicks are better then the Clippers and good enough to beat the Bobcats at the World's Most Famous Arena (but that one is close).

I'm willing to say the Knicks can go 4-2 in their next 6 games. This shorter rotation, no Nate Robinson, better defensive effort, and offense that is much improving, I think this Knicks team is playing right now like one of the 8 best teams in the East, and I think it's not just luck and fortunate circumstances, but an improvement in the way they are playing ball.

These next two weeks will tell a lot about the Knicks. Will they fall apart and lose 4 of these 6? Maybe they will. Maybe they can't win without the excellent 3 point shooting they have had this month. But the eyeball test, from me at least, tells me this team is fighting hard for 48 minutes. Knicks have had bad quarters and bad halves in this 4-1 stretch, but have played hard during each of the 4 wins. I think this new 8 man rotation has real potential, everyone seems to know their role, and the sum of the pieces is good enough to get a win against almost anyone on any given night. I said before the season that I thought the Knicks were a team good enough to be just outside the playoff picture, and maybe just 1 move away from the 8 seed. They are actually playing right now like that team. I think it's gonna last for a while.

Feel free to blast me if the Knicks end up sliding back to the depths of the East in the next 6 games. But if the Knicks do go 4-2 in this stretch, and keep playing as well as they have to secure wins like the Suns, Hawks, and Blazers, I'm gonna start hunting you guys down. Nobody wants to hear smack from a Knicks fan. So I'm giving you fair warning, and a chance to give it to me first if NY fades. But if they don't, we might just have a legitimate scary opponent in New York, something the NBA hasn't really said (or at least meant it if they did say it) for far too long.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com