Posted on: June 7, 2010 8:19 pm
What's up folks? I've actually never done a mock draft before, but I did a lot of reading up on prospects for the Hornets appearance in the lottery and I'm goign to give it a shot now. Forgive me if you think this totally sucks. Don't be afraid to criticize, definitely don't be afraid to praise and I hope this generates some conversation heading forward on this dead day in between NBA Finals games. So here goes out.
By the way, I'm only going to mock draft the first round.
1) Washington Wizards - John Wall, PG, Kentucky - Seems to be the no brainer pick here. I'm not really excited about Wall's prospects going forward, but I've been wrong on his type before (Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade) and he could continue to prove me wrong. Overall, though, front offices are in love with him and he becomes the new face of a team that really needs a new start.
2) Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State - I'm aware of the comparisons to Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, but with the consensus being that Wall and Turner are the two can't miss prospects from this draft, I think Philadelphia has to stay at this place and take their chances with him. Also, if they have to move Young or Iguodala then I don't think they'll hesitate. It's not as if those guys did anything for team success this season.
3) New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech - The Nets rebuilding process may be slow and tedious, but he fits in nicely with Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee. It continues to give New Jersey a nice little core with a lot of promise going forward, which may make them a more appealing destination next offseason.
4) Minnesota Timberwolves - Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse - Sorry, BNW, but this looks like the pick here. Unless the team parts ways with Al Jefferson or Kevin Love going into the draft, the necessity of taking DeMarcus Cousins here just isn't necessary. Even though he's the better prospect, Minnesota would have a complete logjam without any fluidity in their frontcourt. Johnson also allows for Corey Brewer to go to the bench for Minnesota where he can be more of an impact player.
5) Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins, PF, Kentucky - The Kings wind up with the most promising player in the draft at the 5th spot. Cousins has a lot of upside but there seems to be questions regarding his attitude. Some think those red flags are unfair, but they do exist. Cousins will have to work on staying out of foul trouble and on his conditioning (he didn't play a lot of minutes his one year in college) but he should be great if he doesn't become a problematic player.
Now we have a general idea of how the top 5 is going to play out. The rest of it is all subjective.
6) Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown - I see the Warriors taking Monroe here to fit in nicely with their frontcourt. They already have the athletic big men in Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph, they have their explosive frontcourt with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis and Monroe can fill in at either PF or C (in a pinch) for the Warriors.
7) Detroit Pistons - Al Farouq-Aminu, SF, Wake Forest - Probably the best player available at this point, Aminu will be able to step into Detroit (a team largely in need of talent) and contribute immediately. He could be the eventual replacement for Tayshaun Prince (who may not even be with the team by the start of the season) and could turn into a nice player at a big position of need.
8) Los Angeles Clippers - Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas - I don't think Henry deserves to go this guy, but the Clippers could use a conventional shooting guard that allows for Eric Gordon to come off of the bench. With Blake Griffin debuting next season and with Chris Kaman under contract, the need for a big guy isn't huge but they could take one here. However, I see them taking Henry at this spot.
9) Utah Jazz - Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas - The Greg Osterag comparisons are entirely unfair (and, I would claim, racially motivated). Aldrich is a great shot blocker and tough defensive presence that the Jazz sorely need at their center position. He's a legit center who may never star in this league, but he can make a big difference right away for the Jazz.
10) Indiana Pacers - Epke Udoh, PF, Baylor - While picks like Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough haven't payed immediate dividends, a pure shooting guard or point guard would be a better fit for the Pacers at this point. However, there really isn't one available. For this reason, I could see the Pacers trading down (I know a lot of mocks have Heyward going here, but Indiana won't reach that high) but if they stay here, they'll Udoh and he can be a big upgrade over Hibbert right away.
11) New Orleans Hornets - Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky - The idea of taking a small forward here is really intriguing, but the Hornets probably draft for need and take a big man here. Since I don't want the team to end up with Ed Davis or Larry Sanders, I'm going to pencil in Patterson here. Patterson has drawn a lot of comparisons to David West in that he wants to be a conventional PF but lacks the size to do it. However, being similar to David West is alright in this poster's eyes and, with West likely to opt out next summer, Patterson could wind up starting by next year for New Orleans.
12) Memphis Grizzlies - Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuania - The Grizzlies probably don't need to add another big man, but I think the recent investigations with Zach Randolph are going to scare the team off of giving him the reported contract extension. For that reason, they may want to start looking for a replacement. Motiejunas is a complete opposite of Zach Randolph, but with Marc Gasol around the basket, the team can afford to take a chance on the sharp shooting, smooth 7 footer Motiejunas.
13) Toronto Raptors - Hassan Whiteside, C, Marshall - With Chris Bosh likely leaving, Toronto may start to look forward for its frontcourt. Who knows where they'll be selecting depending on what trades they do or don't make involving Hedo Turkoglu, but there's no doubt the team needs a big man. For that reason, the Raptors take Hassan Whiteside here, who's a big project but worthy of the risk at this selection. Also, he's a legit center which would allow for Andrea Bargnani to play at his more natural power forward position.
14) Houston Rockets - Paul George, SF, Fresno State - I don't think that Yao Ming is healthy and nobody can say certainly that he is. However, the Rockets will go into next season with the idea that he'll be the team's starting center. As a result, the team isn't in need of drafting another power forward. Therefore, I see the team taking one of the fastest rising stars in the draft in George and plugging him in alongside Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin to form an explosive offensive trio.
15) Milwaukee Bucks - Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina - Although the Bucks aren't in desperate need of a big man, Davis can be plugged in to the rebuilding Bucks right away and immediately contribute for the team. Whether as a starter or backing up Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Davis would a nice compliment to Andrew Bogut in the frontcourt and would join an already young and impressive Bucks squad.
16) Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State - Ideally, the Timberwolves would love George to be here at 16th. Because he's not, the team goes for another wing man here with the 16th pick. Anderson has a nice offensive touch and can immediately step in as the team's starting shooting guard next season. He'd bring a long range shot that was missing in Minnesota last season and can even become an eventual solid man defender at the NBA level.
17) Chicago Bulls - Avery Bradley, SG, Texas - Regardless of which route Chicago goes in free agency, Bradley could step in and play the Ben Gordon role in Chicago. Kirk Hinrich may be better coming off the bench and, although similarly undersized, Bradley would be a better compliment in the backcourt with Derrick Rose than Hinrich is. Anderson would be a great fit here as well if I didn't have him going to Minnesota.
18) Miami Heat - Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky - Rumored to be a potential lottery pick, the size starved Heat will take a chance on the promising but largely unproven Orton. Although he only produced in spots last season for Kentucky, there seems to be a lot of potential for Orton. His lack of colleigate production will cause him to drop out of the lottery, but Miami will quickly take him here.
19) Boston Celtics - Gordon Heyward, SF, Butler - Although not your prototypical shooting guard, Heyward would be able to contribute in Boston right away. Really promising and possesing a really good fell for the game, Heyward would fit in with Boston and could eventually be groomed to supplant Ray Allen's shooting guard position, or be the eventual replacement for Paul Pierce. Either way, the Celtics could use a young, talented wing player and Heyward fits the bill.
20) San Antonio Spurs - Damion James, SF, Texas - The Spurs will get a smart, four year senior who can contribute right away in Damion James. Needing an eventual replacement for Richard Jefferson (either this season or next season), James can play the small forward position and, while lacking the ball skills for the two guard spot, could play in that position in a pinch.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders, PF, VCU - Joining former VCU teammate Eric Maynor, Sanders could step in right away and contribute for Oklahoma City. Needing a legit PF, Sanders could join Serge Ibaka as a very promising front court going forward for Oklahoma City, which may be forced to let Jeff Green go due to financial limitations after they give the money to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
22) Portland Trail Blazers - Kevin Seraphin, PF, France - Without the necessary roster spots, Portland may seem content with drafting a foreign prospect and stashing him overseas for a couple of years. A talented big man, Seraphin won't take LaMarcus Aldridge's spot anytime soon but he could be a contributing piece for a thin Portland frontcourt.
23) Minnesota Timberwolves - Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada - Seen as a possible lottery talent, Minnesota will be extremely happy that Babbitt fell to them at 23. Babbitt is different from the earlier picks in that he can play a front court position if necessary (although his skill set is more natural for a SF).
24) Atlanta Hawks - Eric Bledsoe, SG, Kentucky - With Joe Johnson probably leaving and with Mike Bibby no longer blowing anybody away, Atlanta needs to turn its attention to the backcourt with the 24th pick. Bledsoe may be very similar to Jamaal Crawford in that he's an undersized two guard who likes to score a lot, but the team may not have a long term need for Crawford either after this season.
25) Memphis Grizzlies - Willie Warren, SG, Oklahoma - Seen as a possible lottery pick last season before deciding to stay at Oklahoma, Warren will be able to step in and be a nice combo guard off the bench for Memphis. Jamaal Tinsley isn't going to lock down any spots on the bench, so the guard spots should be wide open and Warren's scoring would fit rigiht in with what the rest of the Grizzlies are doing.
26) Oklahoma City Thunder - Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia - Joining Sanders, Ebanks looks like a solid second first round pick for Oklahoma City. He may be too similar to Kevin Durant, but he can be a nice back up for Oklahoma City at both the SG and the SF positions. He's a really smart player that's a fine rebounder for his position and also shoots a high percentage from the field. That'd fit right in with what Oklahoma City's doing.
27) New Jersey Nets - Lance Stephenson, SG, Cincinnati - There have long been attitude issues with Stephenson and questions about his character, but Stephenson is an extremely talented player who can shoot from NBA range and has great size for a shooting guard or small forward. It's a risky pick for New Jersey, but his upside has impressed scouts thus far and he may be worth the risk at 27.
28) Memphis Grizzlies - Craig Brackins, PF, Iowa State - Another player whose stock dropped after he decided to stay in college instead of entering last year's draft, Brackins is a hard workign big man who could provide some grit and toughness for the Grizzlies. After having taken two prolific scorers with their other first round picks, Brackins is the kind of low post, hard working presence the team could use.
29) Orlando Magic - Elliot Williams, SG, Memphis - Although Orlando would like to take a big man here to move Rashard Lewis to his natural SF position, they take Williams with hopes that he can become the eventual replacement for Vince Carter. Although lacking a great midrange game, Williams is a fantastic open court player and has no problem finishing around the basket. He's also a great on ball defender and can learn even more in the Magic's system.
30) New Jersey Nets - Armon Johnson, PG, Nevada - A tough point guard who could give the Nets another young, promising player, Johnson can step in and give New Jersey depth at the point guard position right away. He's a solid, solid pick this late in the first round as well.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Anthony Randolph, Ben Gordon, Blake Griffin, Brandan Wright, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Celtics, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Clippers, Corey Brewer, Courtney Lee, David West, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dwyane Wade, Eric Gordon, Eric Maynor, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jamaal Tinsley, Jazz, Jeff Green, Joe Johnson, Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Kirk Hinrich, LaMarcus Aldridge, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Magic, Marc Gasol, Mike Bibby, Monta Ellis, Nets, Pacers, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Raptors, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Roy Hibbert, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Spurs, Stephen Curry, Tayshaun Prince, Thaddeus Young, Thunder, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Tyler Hansbrough, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph
Posted on: May 25, 2010 5:27 pm
I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason. Sorry for the delay today, instead of working my usual nights I was asked to cover a morning shift and am just now getting on. Don't worry, the countdown still goes on as usual. Much like 2009, this draft that is coming in at number four is kind of hard to fully evaluate since it's only two years old (as opposed to 2009's one). Early prognosis, however, is that this draft was really, really solid and should produce quite a bit of players who will produce for a long period of team. In case I haven't given it away, the 2008 NBA Draft will be coming in at number four in our countdown.
Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
Tags: 76ers, Alexis Ajinca, Anthony Randolph, Bill Walker, Blake Griffin, Bobcats, Brandon Rush, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Clippers, Courtney Lee, D.J. Augustin, D.J. White, Danilo Gallinari, Darrell Arthur, DeAndre Jordan, Derrick Rose, Donte Greene, Eric Gordon, George Hill, Goran Dragic, Greg Oden, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, J.J. Hickson, J.R. Giddens, Jason Thompson, JaVale McGee, Jazz, Jerryd Bayless, Joe Alexander, Kevin Love, Kings, Knicks, Kosta Koufos, Lakers, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Magic, Marc Gasol, Mario Chalmers, Marreese Speights, Michael Beasley, Nets, Nicolas Batum, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pistons, Raptors, Robin Lopez, Rockets, Roy Hibbert, Rudy Fernandez, Russell Westbrook, Ryan Anderson, Serge Ibaka, Sonny Weems, Spurs, Suns, Thunder, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, Warriors, Wizards
Posted on: November 19, 2009 12:28 pm
We all know the big phrase for every team that has a losing record ten games into the season. "Let's trade this bad contract for this guy with an expiring contract." These kind of moves have been made for the past two seasons all with anticipation of this upcoming offseason: the big 2010 free agent class. Teams are shedding payroll like Rex Ryan sheds tears in hopes of being able to afford the plethora of superstars available this upcoming July. Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dirk Nowitzki and, of course, LeBron James headline the class this summer and have every team in the league hoping to changes its fortunes in quick fashion. Out of the mentioned prospects, Nowitzki is the only player almost guaranteed to stay with his current team. The rest are all targeted players for that team looking to return to glory, for that team trying to establish a glorious rotation or just for a team looking to make a little bit of a profit with some ticket sales. But I'm here to tell you that shedding all that salary cap is probably more of a risk than some are mentioning.
The New York Knicks have been bad for awhile. They were the league's most consistent and glorious franchise in the 1970s and in the 90s into the early part of this new millenium, they were able to remain competitive and even had two Eastern Conference Championships to show for it. But ever since 2002 the Knicks have fallen on very hard times. They've had one playoff appearance since then, a crazy amount of bad contracts, displeased fans and one of the worst win-loss records in the league during that span. But the Knicks, even at 2-9 today, will sell to you that they're a team on the rise. Why? Not because of any young talent on the team (although Danilo Gallinari and David Lee are nice, young players) but because they're going to land one of the big free agents in 2010. Playing in the most famous arena in the world, Madison Square Garden, in the biggest market in the league, the Knicks are always formidable players in the free agent spending department (look at the contracts they were able to give to Allan Houston, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James and Eddy Curry). They've just never spent the time to focus on spending on talented players.
But at least they can sell you that they're New York and that's why you should play there. The other team that's been building for 2010 for a few seasons now is the New Jersey Nets. The Nets have had more success than the Knicks in recent history and made the NBA Finals two seasons in a row back in 2002 and then in 2003. But after this season, they will have missed the postseason for three consecutive seasons. They do have Devin Harris, Brook Lopez and Courtney Lee, but even with all that young talent on board, they play in an immensely small market, in an old stadium and in front of some of the most lackluster crowds east of the Clippers. Even with young talent in place, it's hard to sell to a potential star how important it is to sign with New Jersey. Until they get their ownership and the impending relocation to Brooklyn in order, the Nets will struggle to build as a franchise. And that includes playing any role in this offseason.
But those teams assume the risks of this offseason and do so with high hopes. They've put all of their eggs in the 2010 basket, but how reliable is that really? The Knicks have a city desperate for success and that's used to being at least remotely competitive. Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni were to turn things around but decided bringing in established superstars was the route to go. Fans have been patient for two seasons and even though the Knicks have fielded fun teams, they have not fielded successful teams nor do they bear any resemblance of a team on the rise. Unless they get that big piece. But what happens if you don't? That could be killer for this New York franchise. When you're a team like the Knicks and the Nets, if you swing and miss this offseason it's fatal for your franchise. The Nets are trying hard to sell a relocation and trying to bring on board an owner who's committed to winning, those will be even harder sells if the team that is currently 0-12 boasts no superstar power after this offseason. They all want LeBron James and LeBron has teased everyone involved, but let's not forget that Cleveland will still be able to give him the most money. When you resign your own players, it does not matter how big the contract is. Sure it goes against your payroll, but the NBA does not charge cap penalties when you improve within the organization. That's why Cleveland, even while spending 50 million dollars on Anderon Vareajo back in the summer, can offer LeBron the most money to get him to stay. It's his hometown, they've been a consistently good team for the past five seasons. They're on the verge of becoming a championship team. His best chance to win is in Cleveland. Sure LeBron has done nothing to disassociate himself from the notion that he's all about the money, but at the end of the day if you have a franchise that can give you the Benjamins and Franklins and still guarantee you an opportunity at the Larry O'Brien Trophy, you think he'll easily turn his nose up at that as opposed to a team that may become a formidable player with him on the roster? Look at how long it took the Cavaliers to build around LeBron. A player of his skill set is easy to surround with players, but to find a formidable roster that can win with one person controlling the ball a majority of the time is very difficult. Look at the problems the Heat are having now with Dwyane Wade. Look at the problems the Hornets are having with Chris Paul. Look at the Cavaliers during LeBron's first years in the league. It's hard to run a one dimensional offense, and if you spend all of your money on LeBron James that's what you'll have.
Fans have been patient in New York because they feel as if it's their God given right to have a superstar sign in 2010. Amar'e Stoudemire and Chris Bosh are likely candidates to switch jerseys this offseason because neither of their teams have been successful as of late and neither seems very commited to their organization. But are either of those guys going to be centerpieces for a championship? Don't you think that if they were, their teams would be better than they are now? Some team will overspend on Bosh or Stoudemire this offseason because the market will be so high on them. But that team better hope that those players mature and develop into something that they're currently not, or else they're looking at limited cap space and medicore results (see the Washington Wizards).
It's always attractive to look at good players and wonder what they'll do if they get to your team. But look at how the Hawks built around Joe Johnson. They have Josh Smith, Mike Bibby, Al Horford and a franchise on the rise. Look at Dwyane Wade. He's won a championship, has a lot of young, growing pieces in Miami and a franchise and city that adores him. Same goes for Dirk Nowitzki (minus the championship part). It's a hard sell to look a player in the eye and say "trust me" than it is to say "look what we've done for you." When you cut this much space, you're basically putting all your cards and chips on the table. In the New York Metropolitan area, you better hope that river card turns up a LeBron or a Wade. Because if it doesn't, years of futility will follow and the backlash will be catastrophic for the franchise.
Tags: Al Horford, Amar'e Stoudemire, Brook Lopez, Cavaliers, Chris Bosh, Chris Paul, Clippers, Courtney Lee, Danilo Gallinari, David Lee, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwyane Wade, Eddy Curry, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Knicks, LeBron James, Mike Bibby, Nets, Wizards
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:45 pm
Rookie of the Year:
Most Valuable Player:
Coach of the Year:
Executive of the Year:
Defensive Player of the Year:
Sixth Man of the Year:
Most Improved Player:
Tags: Brandon Roy, Brook Lopez, Bulls, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Paul, David Lee, Derrick Rose, Devin Harris, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Grizzlies, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jason Terry, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Knicks, LeBron James, Magic, Marcus Camby, Mavericks, Mo Williams, Nene, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Paul Pierce, Russell Westbrook, Spurs, Thunder, Timberwolves, Tony Parker, Trail Blazers, Travis Outlaw
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:42 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers were the best team throughout the entire season, expressing dominance at home, boasting the greatest player in the game and a fantastic group of shooters that could really spread the floor. Their commitment to defense, though, is what's been the true reason for their elevation of play.
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bynum, Andris Biedrins, Antawn Jamison, Bobcats, Brandon Roy, Brandon Rush, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Clippers, Corey Maggette, Danny Granger, David Lee, Deron Williams, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Glen Davis, Grant Hill, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jameer Nelson, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jazz, Jeff Green, Jermaine O'Neal, Jose Calderon, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, LaMarcus Aldridge, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Mario Chalmers, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mike Conley, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Miller, Monta Ellis, Nate Robinson, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Millsap, Paul Pierce, Pistons, Rafer Alston, Rajon Rondo, Ramon Sessions, Randy Foye, Raptors, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Roy Hibbert, Rudy Gay, Shaquille O'Neal, Spencer Hawes, Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Suns, Thunder, Timberwolves, Tony Allen, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wilson Chandler, Wizards
Posted on: December 29, 2008 1:45 am
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (2) - The Cavaliers rallied for an impressive win against Miami today and remain the only team this season to be undefeated at home. They hold home court admirably and they also are getting fantastic play out of Mo Williams lately. This team is playing a consistent brand of basketball, and although the assortment of players and the list of victories doesn't blow you away, they are the hottest team so far this season and they play fantastic defense and win basketball games at home. Those are three qualities of great teams.
2. Boston Celtics (1) - I know with two losses this week you could make arguments about them falling behind either Orlando or the Lakers, but they still have the best record in the league and last week people were questioning when exactly this team was going to lose. They had a tough western swing but the Celtics are still the best team in the league. I think it would be entirely irrational to drop them too far down the list.
3. Orlando Magic (3) - The Magic are the second hottest team in the league right now and are frequently blowing teams out of the arena. That performance against New Orleans on Christmas day was impressive. Getting Mickael Pietrus back from injury is going to help this team immensely in the near future. They continue to perform at a high level regardless of doubts concerning their ability to consistently perform at this level. Currently, they're at this level so I can't drop them.
4. Los Angeles Lakers (4) - The Lakers gained an emotional and emphatic triumph over Boston on Christmas day in one of the most anticipated regular season games in recent memory. Kobe Bryant, as of late, has been playing near his MVP level from last season and the Lakers have to love what they're getting out of players like Sasha Vujacic as of late. They've seemed to turn the corner on the difficult stretch that they seemingly were having and inner turmoil over their defense had to be addressed with that performance against Boston. They clearly are the best current team in the Western Confrence.
5. Atlanta Hawks (6) - Joe Johnson is playing at an amazing level currently and this Hawks team is clicking on both sides of the basketball. Their quick start has proved to not be a fluke as they continue to play great basketball even going into January. The team may lack true depth at the point guard position, but Johnson runs the offense so much that it masks that problem. Overall, Mike Woodson has this team playing at an unbelievable level.
6. San Antonio Spurs (10) - Tony Parker has elevated his game to an unbelievable level this season. His offensive game is as polished as any point guards in the league. That shot from Roger Mason was huge on Christmas day and Tim Duncan is quietly having an unbelievable season. Matt Bonner has really slowed as of late, and as a result I look for the Spurs to look for some inside scoring around the trade deadline. Knowing them, they'll find a team to give them an outcast and I look at Eddy Curry (don't laugh) as being someone who could fit in good with the Spurs. But they need another force in the paint to take some pressure off of Tim Duncan.
7. Denver Nuggets (9) - The team played great basketball without Carmelo Anthony in the lineup and then carried it over with a big win at Madison Square Garden today when Carmelo returned. This team continues to stay around the top and are getting fantastic production out of J.R. Smith as of late. Kenyon Martin has shown flashes of the player we all loved in New Jersey as of late but it's a shame that a lot of his explosiveness has limited him. He had the potential to be a really, really good player in his career.
8. Portland Trail Blazers (7) - They're getting production out of Brandon Roy, but they have to love the contributions they're getting night in and night out from players like Steve Blake, Travis Outlaw and Joel Przybilla as those types of role players are what help a team become a consistent threat night in and night out.
9. New Orleans Hornets (5) - Their performances against Los Angeles and Orlando revealed they still have not yet turned that corner and become a really good team. They're still playing maddingly inconsistent basketball but Peja Stojakovic and Antonio Daniels returned this week and that is reason enough for optimism in New Orleans.
10. Houston Rockets (8) - Ron Artest has been great off of the bench since his return from injury and I look for the Rockets to continue to play him at that spot. Tracy McGrady has been really inconsistent this season and continues to be in and out of lineups with nagging injuries. It's a shame he could indirectly ruin the best chance the Rockets have had at a championship since Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen were wearing Rockets uniforms.
11. Dallas Mavericks (12) - The Mavericks are playing tremendous basketball as of late and have gotten past that slow start to develop into a fun, cohesive unit. That suspension for Dirk Nowitzki is laughable but it didn't stop them from being the lowly Clippers. I know Jason Kidd's numbers are down, and he's not the player he once was, but I feel as if he's delivering so far this season for Dallas. No he's not the player that Devin Harris is but he's done a fine job keeping this team together this season and they're slowly getting healthy as well. The Mavericks have played above expectations so far this season and it'll be intersting to see them continue to try and do so.
12. Utah Jazz (11) - Injuries to Carlos Boozer, Deron Williams, Ronnie Price, Mehmet Okur and Paul Millsap have held this team back and they've still yet to field a consistent and healthy squad for an extended period of time so that we can fairly evaluate the legitimacy of this Utah squad this season. Overall, I believe Jerry Sloan has done a fantastic job keeping this unit at where they're at even though they can't get continuity in the lineup.
13. Phoenix Suns (13) - The Suns had one game this week and lost it but they played strongly against the Spurs on Christmas day. They're winning games and at this rate will put up a soild record for the season but they don't seem to have any sort of spark to them this season that makes them feel like a legitimate threat to a team in a seven game series. Amare Stoudemire, for all the talent that he posseses, is becoming a quiet 20 point 8 rebound guy and you never want to fall into that category.
14. Miami Heat (14) - A tough loss at Cleveland is the only problem the Heat have experienced the past couple of weeks. Their defense keeps them in every single game and they find ways to hang around and win ball games. Jamaal Magloire would be a nice boost to this team if he could ever get consistently healthy but I don't know if that's in his capabilities any longer.
15. Detroit Pistons (15) - The Pistons found ways to beat bad teams this week and it's still a step in the right drection. They've been around .500 since acquiring Allen Iverson but they've still got time to right the ship and become a threat come the postseason. But looking at the energy of this squad, you have to wonder if they will.
16. New Jersey Nets (18) - The Nets still refuse to go away. Devin Harris and Vince Carter, night in and night out, carry this squad and keep them playing at a competitive level. Brook Lopez has done a fine job and has settled in nicely at the starting center position but I think this team still lacks the overall talent to stay in the playoff race all season long. But they've exceeded expecations so far this season so it's not outside of the realm of possibility for this team to stay at this level.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (17) - The Bucks continue to stick around regardless of a lack of fanfare or consistency. Michael Redd has struggled a tad this season and Richard Jefferson's game has dropped a bit as of late but Andrew Bogut has done a great job keeping this team afloat. I'd also like to give some kudos to Charlie Villanueva for being voted the world's sexiest bald man, giving the Bucks their first player to win an award in the past couple of decades. Congratulations!
18. Chicago Bulls (16) - This squad, much like the team in Utah, continues to deal with inconvenient injuries and have not yet fielded a consistently healthy squad. Everyone can't seem to get cohesive on this team because of the injury problems. Derrick Rose and Ben Gordon have done a great job of keeping this team together but overall they are a perimeter based squad and unfortunately, when shots don't fall they have no shot of victory and that won't hold up all season long.
19. Philadelphia 76ers (19) - I've been wanting to say it the past few weeks so I will give credit this week, Marreese Speights has done a great job this season, especially in the recent absence of Elton Brand. Andre Iguodala has shown flashes of the player that he was last season but overall he and this squad have vastly underacheived this season.
20. Memphis Grizzlies (23) - I wonder what happened to Marc Gasol to see his minutes being reduced as the season has progressed. Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are nightly constants for this young squad and they finally have a sense of direction in Memphis for the first time since the first season they made the playoffs in 2003-2004.
21. Golden State Warriors (24) - The Warriors had a very impressive victory over Boston this week that was quickly forgotten after their performance against the Lakers tonight. Stephen Jackson has been playing better as of late but this team still misses Monta Ellis. Corey Maggette was a questionable addition when he signed with Golden State and word is the Warriors are listening to offers for the swingman. His contract may make it hard for him to be moved, but I don't believe it's going to work for him in Golden State.
22. Charlotte Bobcats (25) - Emeka Okafor has played great as of late, giving the Bobcats a consistent threat at the center position that they've lacked majorly this season. Boris Diaw gives him a body to work with down in the paint and Raja Bell has finally picked up his play after being traded from Phoenix. They're playing good, hard basketball at the moment and still have time to salvage the season by making a late season push for the playoffs.
23. Toronto Raptors (26) - The Raptors, mainly spearheaded by Jermaine O'Neal, responded in a big way this week after that dreadful previous couple of weeks that they played. This team still is a question mark as to whether or not they're going to right things this year but there's no denying how tough it's been to get a grip on this team.
24. New York Knicks (20) - The Knicks were never known for their defense even before the arrival of Mike D'Antoni, but the laziness on the defensive side of the ball has quickly spread in that locker room and has since grown to become a laughable ailment for this team. The team doesn't even try to guard you, which is what keeps them from pulling potential upsets over better squads.
25. Indiana Pacers (22) - The Pacers have yet to really get it together this season and after spending all season waiting for them to do so, I've finally come to the conclusion that it just may not happen. Mike Dunleavy has started to become more active after missing all season due to injury but I believe it's outside of his capabilities to turn this season around in Indiana. I said Brandon Rush would be a rookie to look out for this season and in turn he's played very underwhelming basketball this season.
26. Los Angeles Clippers (21) - The Clippers are such a Dr. Jeckyll/Mr. Hide squad. You have no idea if they're going to be competitive or susceptible to being blown out. They've recently given minutes to raw project DeAndre Jordan as of late and you have to wonder what that spells for oft injured but extremely talented center Chris Kaman with the now recently crammed frontcourt in Clipper land.
27. Sacramento Kings (27) - Their offense is so anemic without Kevin Martin in the lineup and I'm tired of waiting for him to come back and make this team competitive again. It has to be dissapointing that after such a strong season last year this team has played at the level it has this season, but injuries and inconsistency within the organization can derail a team on the rise and that's exactly what's happened to this identity-less team.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves finally got a victory for coach Kevin McHale this week but still lack any true power on their squad. Rashad McCants and Ryan Gomes are two pieces of this team that would truly flourish on better squads but they basically serve no purpose for this horrible team. If you look at the current roster, you can't even say that they're rebuilding. They don't have any young projects in place aside from Al Jefferson. They're just an assortment of bad players.
29. Washington Wizards (29) - Now that Caron Butler is injured (and we all saw that coming), Antawn Jamison is all alone now as far as options for the Wizards. He was good enough for a victory over Oklahoma City but there's not much more he can do for this squad. He's played unbelievable basketball but it will and should go largely unnoticed around the league because this franchise is so poorly operated.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - I looked at the Thunder playing Joe Smith at the center position with concern but after looking at the level of center play around the league, I guess it's a gamble for the worst roster in the league. Nick Collison's injury obviously doesn't help matters but for the most part it really doesn't matter. I don't see Joe Smith (who would be a nice fit in San Antonio) or Desmond Mason finishing February in Oklahoma City jerseys.
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Andre Iguodala, Andrew Bogut, Antawn Jamison, Antonio Daniels, Ben Gordon, Bobcats, Boris Diaw, Brandon Roy, Brandon Rush, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Charlie Villanueva, Chris Kaman, Clippers, Corey Maggette, DeAndre Jordan, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Desmond Mason, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Eddy Curry, Elton Brand, Emeka Okafor, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Magloire, Jason Kidd, Jazz, Jermaine O'Neal, Joe Johnson, Joe Smith, Joel Przybilla, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Magic, Marc Gasol, Marreese Speights, Matt Bonner, Mavericks, Mehmet Okur, Michael Redd, Mickael Pietrus, Mike Dunleavy, Mo Williams, Monta Ellis, Nets, Nick Collison, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Paul Millsap, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Raja Bell, Raptors, Rashad McCants, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Ron Artest, Ronnie Price, Rudy Gay, Ryan Gomes, Sasha Vujacic, Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Steve Blake, Suns, Thunder, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Travis Outlaw, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards
Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:57 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:25 am
1. Boston Celtics (1) - This team is absolutely on a roll and every bit as dominant as last season's champions were. Kendrick Perkins is a force down there in the middle and the bench, despite Kevin Garnett's in game criticism, is fantastic. Players like Glen Davis, Eddie House and Leon Powe have spearheaded a very fun team over in Boston.
2. Los Angeles Lakers (2) - A quiet week for the Lakers, despite their loss to Sacramento. They seem to be in cruise control at the moment and aren't as smooth and dominant as they were at the beginning of the season, but they're still winning and are still 20-3. I was surprised by Luke Walton's promotion to the starting lineup, and even though coach Phil Jackson stresses Vladimir Radmanovic is not in the doghouse, the team's depth at the small forward position may leave him on the outside looking in. Something to keep an eye on.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (3) - A loss at Atlanta keeps this team from jumping up in the rankings but they're still playing fantastic ball and are still looking every bit as talented as both Boston and the Lakers. I understand and agree with the high praise for Dwyane Wade but LeBron James is currently in another atmosphere. He's playing tremendous ball and they're getting great production out of everyone else on the team. Zydrunas Ilgauskas' injury is something to keep an eye on but the team is still playing good ball.
4. Orlando Magic (4) - They've solidified their spot with a fantastic road trip this week. Tough wins at Portland and Utah couldn't be overshadowed by a tough, last second loss without Dwight Howard to Phoenix. Rashard Lewis is carrying this team currently and even with Hedo Turkoglu playing inconsistent ball, they continue to quietly win and that seems to be enough for them.
5. Denver Nuggets (5) - Carmelo Anthony is currently on fire. His 33 points in one quarter against Minnesota on Wednesday was the highlight of a quiet two game week for the Nuggets. This team continues to roll along with Chauncey Billups and are even getting good minutes out of their big men. Their lack of depth and inconsistent production out of those 4 and 5 positions may do them in but currently it's not so you have to keep them up here.
6. San Antonio Spurs (11) - Yeah they've shot up here quickly and the San Antonio Spurs have arrived. This team's offense is clicking and just as quickly as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili returned this team has reeled off a string of successive victories. They're going to be in the race all season and their slow start seems like it was years ago.
7. Atlanta Hawks (8) - Mike Bibby has played like his former self here lately and has eased some of the pressure off of Joe Johnson. The team's getting healthy and a big, impressive win over Cleveland helped the Hawks get some of their much deserved recognition.
8. New Orleans Hornets (9) - Friday's dissapointing third quarter at Boston has taken some eyes off of the fact that the Hornets have been highly successful the past three weeks. Tyson Chandler's stiff neck is room for concern but if he can return at full force the Hornets can work at reclaiming the spot they held last season.
9. Houston Rockets (9) - That loss to the Clippers was embarassing but we'll give them a break since they were without Ron Artest. The fact that Yao Ming has been the most consistently healthy out of the big three this season is room for concern but the team has stayed up around the top ten all season long and continue to play solid, cohesive ball.
10. Utah Jazz (10) - They looked great against Portland but couldn't take care of business against the Dwight Howard-less Magic at home. They still look like the class of their division but seem to be lacking something so far. Even though Paul Millsap continues to prove his early season production is no fluke, they're better suited with Carlos Boozer and need him to return.
11. Portland Trail Blazers (6) - The Blazer's big drop was more one of those "everyone else around you" situations more than their actual play, though their play hasn't been very inspiring this week. Brandon Roy has been amazing this season but aside from him, nobody else can consistently keep up. This team is deep but they're unpredictable. All of this will change as the season goes on as this team just needs to grow.
12. Dallas Mavericks (12) - You inhale and take a step back, and the Mavericks are right there. Again. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry are shouldering the load but they usually get somebody different to step up every single night. I'm pleased to see the increase in Brandon Bass' minutes and think he's more important to that team than his production shows. Carlisle needs to utilize him a little better.
13. Detroit Pistons (14) - Right now in Motown, there's no such thing as bad wins. This team is still trying (months later) to transition into the Allen Iverson era and even though their victory over the Charlotte lacked punch, this team has lost bad games and the fact that they won needs to be acknowledged moreso than how they won. Tayshaun Prince has fallen off big time since Iverson's arrival and I'm not sure if this small lineup that has him at the power forward position is going to help that, but Antonio McDyess' return gives this team some more front court depth. Rodney Stuckey has done great with the starting role, but you have to move either Iverson or Richard Hamilton to the bench. Their lineup stands no chance in the postseason.
14. Phoenix Suns (15) - I'm one of the few that doesn't like the arrival of Jason Richardson in Phoenix but I'm going to give it some time. The loss of two important role players in Raja Bell and Boris Diaw (regardless of fickle fans' loss of interest in the two) will hurt the team just as the loss of McDyess did to Detroit. Richardson is a scorer, but not much else, and I'm not too sure if he was any kind of missing piece to anything. Looks like a desperate move by Steve Kerr to me.
16. Miami Heat (16) - Dwyane Wade is trying to do it all by himself, but they can't get anyone else to step up and compliment the spectacular season the former Finals MVP is having. Coach Spoelstra and Wade actually have this team overacheiving but they should still stay above average all season long.
16. New Jersey Nets (13) - Welcome back to Earth, Nets. Vince Carter's 0 for 13 performance against Toronto highlighted a woeful week for the Nets. They've played over their heads this year but have been too good for me to drop them too far. I like what they're currently getting out of Brook Lopez.
17. Chicago Bulls (18) - I'm a little dissapointed in the season Joakim Noah is having for the Bulls as I felt with last season's late surge he would carry that over into this year but he seems to be lackadaisical at times out there. Ben Gordon and Derrick Rose are night in and night out doing it for Chicago and they have to be pleased with the recent production out of Drew Gooden. By the way, I like Luol Deng but they have to be displeased with his production given the contract that he received this offseason.
18. Toronto Raptors (19) - This team has responded well to coach Triano and played some inspired ball this week. Jose Calderon has been solid this season, but so much more was expected after last season. He has struggled as the team's second option although he's still putting up the same numbers as last year. I'm surprised with Andrea Bargnani's decrease in minutes lately and wonder if the Raptors will look to move him at the deadline.
19. New York Knicks (17) - A Jerome James sighting! D'Antoni has finally started to play more than 7 people (it's too early for his typical short rotation) and the team got Jared Jeffries back this week. He's not a great player in any category but is versatile enough to where I could see him succeeding in D'Antoni's system. It was sad to see Cuttino Mobely to retire. He was always a classy guy and a fantastic shooter. His lefty release always looked like it was going in. I give best wishes to him and hope the enlarged heart condition doesn't substantially shorten his life.
20. Milwaukee Bucks (21) - Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson have been solid in the starting lineup for the Bucks this season. Ramon Sessions has quieted a little bit recently but this team still has stayed around .500 all year. They're not great in any facet of the game, but they're well coached and are solid in all areas. They're a fun team to follow.
21. Philadelphia 76ers (20) - The firing of Maurice Cheeks was pathetic. It's a shame that a team that gave an injured, overweight Elton Brand that type of money can blame Cheeks for being unable to work Brand into an offense that's better suited in the open court. Ed Stefanski should be ashamed of himself and I hope to see bad karma visit this team the rest of the season.
22. Memphis Grizzlies (26) - Don't look now, but outside of Boston and San Antonio, the hottest team in the league is the Memphis Grizzlies! Benching Rudy Gay seemed to spark the team a bit and they're even getting solid minutes out of Darko Milicic this week. O.J. Mayo has been nothing short out of tremendous this year and lately has played like the best rookie in the league. And that's no shot on Derrick Rose, just high praise for Mayo.
23. Los Angeles Clippers (27) - For one week, the Clippers were the team I thought they would be this season. With great wins over Portland and Houston this week, the Clippers looked like a talented cohesive team and like a team that could hang with the league's best. It's probably fools gold as far as the record is concerned, but Zach Randolph continues to be the team's best player and Al Thornton looks like a great player to build around for the next couple of seasons. For one week at least, Clipper land!
24. Indiana Pacers (22) - Their inconsistency and inability to get over the hump is killing me. Danny Granger is seemingly doing it by himself but this team is just bland all around. I had picked them to make the poseason this year, and they still may make a run at it, but they're lacking some serious energy and excitement on this team. This organization still needs that shot in the arm.
25. Golden State Warriors (24) - The Warriors won a couple games this week and that's reason for excitement in the bay area. Corey Maggette may be ruled out indefinitely and his scoring may be missed, but he hasn't seemed like much of a fit out there on that team. Kelenna Azubuike deserves a little bit of praise for his performance this season. It further heightens why teams showed interest in him in the offseason.
26. Sacramento Kings (28) - A victory over the Lakers gives this team a nice little boost and shows that they can still play hard for Reggie Theus. Kevin Martin is back to missing games after his short return and you have to wonder how serious that injury is. Brad Miller will most likely be gone by midseason and this team is still two years (including this one) away from being taken serious as postseason contenders.
27. Charlotte Bobcats (23) - I know I bashed Phoenix for the Richardson trade, but it's not as if I like it any better for the Bobcats. They lack scoring and, again, Michael Jordan is running an organization where pieces just don't fit. You can't make things work. His lack of dedication kills this team and the front office is so infatuated with his name that they won't properly evaluate his job. After all, if they did he would not have gotten the job in the first place after that fiasco in Washington.
28. Minnesota Timberwolves (25) - Memo to Kevin McHale, improve this team or be shown the exit. Randy Wittman was let go this week and McHale now steps up. He was solid in the 2005 season but he's not that much of a coach. Al Jefferson, Randy Foye and Kevin Love (three players McHale has traded for) have all played better under McHale but I don't know if they can be enough for McHale to keep his job. Or rightfully keep his job anyways.
29. Washington Wizards (29) - Caron Butler is wasting away over there in Washington and their team's response to their struggles was not addressing their extremely small and thin frontcourt, but was instead a decision to add Mike James and Javaris Crittenton to a team that boasts a bunch of run of the mill guards in the first place. I'd like to see Crittenton to get an opportunity to flourish but this situation is no different from his situation in Memphis.
30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - Finally Kevin Durant is grabbing some rebounds and playing some down in the post. He's too talented to let his game be jump shooting and taking possesions off on defense. Jeff Green has been tremendous this week and I was surprised at Russell Westbrook being benched today. They're playing more competitive lately and the talk of them being unable to win 9 games this season is ludicrous. They'll win at least 10 games this season and this team is talented, just extremely raw. They need more time.
Tags: 76ers, Al Jefferson, Al Thornton, Allen Iverson, Andrea Bargnani, Andrew Bogut, Antonio McDyess, Ben Gordon, Bobcats, Boris Diaw, Brad Miller, Brandon Bass, Brandon Roy, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Clippers, Corey Maggette, Danny Granger, Darko Milicic, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Eddie House, Elton Brand, Glen Davis, Grizzlies, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, Jared Jeffries, Jason Richardson, Jason Terry, Javaris Crittenton, Jazz, Jeff Green, Jerome James, Joakim Noah, Joe Johnson, Jose Calderon, Kelenna Azubuike, Kendrick Perkins, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Lakers, LeBron James, Leon Powe, Luke Walton, Luol Deng, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Mavericks, Mike Bibby, Mike James, Nets, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Paul Millsap, Pistons, Raja Bell, Ramon Sessions, Randy Foye, Raptors, Rashard Lewis, Richard Hamilton, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Rodney Stuckey, Ron Artest, Rudy Gay, Russell Westbrook, Spurs, Suns, Tayshaun Prince, Thunder, Timberwolves, Tony Parker, Trail Blazers, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Vladimir Radmanovic, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Zach Randolph, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: October 2, 2008 11:50 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:22 am
Well with the season nearing and with all of the players basically signed up to play for the upcoming 2008-2009 NBA season, I'm going to throw my predictions out there (even if it is too early). Their playoff seeding will be by the team name.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (3) - Obviously the addition of Elton Brand was huge for this team but it will be interesting to see how he meshes with this up tempo type team. Andre Miller is getting up there in age and Andre Iguodala had an awful postseason so there's room for skepticism but for some reason everything just looks as if it will mesh. Maurice Cheeks will have pressure to get out of the first round and if he can't deliver then he may be gone by next season.
3. Toronto Raptors (6) - Picking up Jermaine O'Neal gave them virtually a Chris Bosh carbon copy as both have similar games. Still the addition of another big man will always help and if O'Neal can be healthy and man down the center position (two tall tasks), if Chris Bosh plays like he did in the olympics, and if Jose Calderon plays like he did last season then this team could surprise. Too many if's for me, though.
4. New Jersey Nets - Even though this team was virtually in firesale mode this offseason I really liked the moves that they made. They picked up Yi Jianlian and I think he's going to be a great player in the league. Devin Harris is coming into his own as a point guard and the additions of role players like Bobby Simmons, Jarvis Hayes, and Eduardo Najera will keep this team playing hard. Is it just me or does anyone else see Vince Carter having a great season this year?
5. New York Knicks - Mike D'Antoni's gimmick offense worked when it had talent on his team. People forget how "great" his offense was when Leandro Barbosa was running the point the year before Steve Nash arrived. I don't know how he's going to involve Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and company but if the offensive genius can do it then he'll have to do it with Chris Duhon at point guard. Good luck with that.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (5) - The addition of Mo Williams was drastically overrated as his style doesn't look like it will match up with LeBron James. Maybe they know something I don't, though. It looks like a shoot first point guard who didn't really run an offense (Delonte West and Daniel Gibson) were already on the roster so it looks like he was brought in for his gaudy stats. Unless LeBron James truly can do it all and play center then this team will have no inside presence. Zydrunas Ilgauskas tries but he's too old to be a dominat presence. Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao don't deserve mention.
3. Indiana Pacers (8) - For the first time in a couple years I see the Pacers coming into the season with a direction. It may not be talented enough to make a huge splash but the playoffs are every bit a possibility. Mike Dunleavy finally came into his own last year and now the key is doing it on a good team. Danny Granger is as talented as they come and the additions of T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic will help make this team better than it was last year when it fielded Jamaal Tinsley and Jeff Foster in those spots. Foster is better off the bench and the Pacers could be in position to make a legitimate run at the postseason.
4. Milwaukee Bucks - Scott Skiles was a huge addition for this team. He'll be able to get the pass-first point guards like Ramon Sessions and Luke Rindour get the ball into Andrew Bogut and Richard Jefferson. Michael Redd is still a one trick pony and any team with him as your best player is not going to go anywhere deep in the postseason so the key is to get Bogut going this season. Now's as good a year as any.
5. Chicago Bulls - Last year I had them in the confrence finals, this year they still haven't proven to me they've overcome last year's turmoil. I said it would be interesting to see how everyone responded to almost being traded for Kobe Bryant and sure enough they collapsed. Was last year just that or is that mental weakness and turmoil still in the clubhouse. Vinny Del Negro as your head coach is a head scratcher and who knows where this team is headed this season. I don't think it's the postseason. Joakim Noah should have an awesome season, though.
2. Washington Wizards (7) - Losing Gilbert Arenas and replacing him with Juan Dixon isn't a blueprint for success and neither is dedicating all your money to two players on a team who haven't gotten your team out of the first round the past few seasons. This is a team destined for mediocrity and even though I love the games of all three members of the big three, they just don't spell championship success for a team. Caron Butler is great and I think with Arenas missing most of the season he can lead this team to the postseason.
3. Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade has made me a believer. After watching him in the olympics I can't wait to see him do it for a whole season. Problem is it's not likely he'll do it for more than 65 games. This year, though, they have Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley to pull some weight but the lack of a point guard or center could definitely kill this team. Spoelstra is a great selection as coach, though.
4. Charlotte Bobcats - Larry Brown was a fine addition to this club and they finally have a legitimate head coach. They just don't have legitimate players on the club. Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace don't mesh well together and Emeka Okafor would be better serves as a power forward on a contender. He's a fine player who was wrongfully given great player expectations. The selection of D.J. Augustin over Brook Lopez makes me scratch my head but it goes to show how much they don't think of Raymond Felton. Adam Morrison and Sean May's production expectations are anyone's guess.
5. Atlanta Hawks - My how they've fallen. Say what you want to about Knight but when he was fired I mentioned how bad of a move it was. Next thing you know this team lets Josh Childress leave, horribly mishandles the Josh Smith contract situation and are going to throw out a frontcourt of Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford. An aging Mike Bibby and floundering Joe Johnson won't save this team from taking a humongous step back from last season's promising playoff appearance.
2. Houston Rockets (3) - The addition of Ron Artest is big and I really do look for Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming to have huge seasons. This team will mesh together very well and the flexibility off the bench with players like Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, and Carl Landry (whose offer sheet I expect them to match) give this team a lot of depth and talent. But I still can't see a team with Raefer Alston at point guard winning a championship.
3. San Antonio Spurs (5) - The models for consistency are getting up there in age and with Manu Ginobili's health being in question coming into the season you have to wonder what, exactly, this team is going to do this upcoming season. Tim Duncan may have a couple more seasons like last year stored up but it's not guaranteed. You know what you're going to get out of Tony Parker but the rest of the team is open to interpretation. Roger Mason's a nice pickup, though, and this team is still a legitimate title contender with Tim Duncan on the roster.
4. Dallas Mavericks (7) - I stated last year that no team with Dirk Nowitzki as its best player would win a championship. The Mavericks tried to adress this by giving up Devin Harris for Jason Kidd and again (as properly predicted) it blew up in their face. Josh Howard has become a public relations nightmare and you have to wonder if this team as presently constructed can ever recover from that series with the Warriors two seasons ago.
5. Memphis Grizzlies - O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay are going to make this team exciting and if Marc Gasol lives up to expectations and Hakim Warrick plays as he did at the end of last season this team has the makeup and talent to be every bit as pesky and annoying as last year's Sacramento Kings team was. Their lack of a bench will keep us from taking them serious (unless you want to mention Antoine Walker and Darko Milicic, then again why would you?) but this is a team with a very good direction who could be good again in a couple years.
2. Portland Trail Blazers - Getting Greg Oden back is huge and Bradon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are already legitimate. This team, though, still seems to be lacking somethign to take that last step. They're going to push for a postseason spot but last year this team thrived on everyone writing them off. They can't get caught up in the hype surrounding them or else they'll fail to live up to those expectations.
3. Denver Nuggets - Having a frontcourt of Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen isn't the sturdiest nor most dependable assembly of big guys in NBA history and that alone is the reason why the Nuggets will miss the playoffs for the first time in five years. Allen Iverson was denied a contract extension and will probably finish the year on someon else's team. J.R. Smith is a good player but you have to scratch your head at the contract he was given. Who knows how focused Carmelo Anthony is and if his head will ever match his skill out on the court.
4. Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant is the real deal. Everyone who said he had a bland year last season didn't really watch him play. He and Jeff Green are good cornerstones for this team and players like Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, and Nick Collison will make this team more competitive than last season's Supersonics. I'm surprised Carlesimo was retained but you can't blame him for last season's debacle of a team. Sam Presti has this team in the right direction and in a few years they're going to be great. Kudos to those great fans as well.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves - New logo, new power forward, same Kevin McHale, same Timberwolves. Trading O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love is confusing regardless of the influx of guards on the Timberwolves roster. Mike Miller is a fine player and Al Jefferson is the real deal, but why Randy Wittman is a head coach in this league I'll never know. It's tough for me to see this team being anything better than what was on the court last season.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (6) - Yes I put them above Phoenix. Even though chemistry may be a problem they put a talented team together and it's a team full of players who look like they will fit together. Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby are going to be deadly inside presences (if Kaman is focused for 82 games) and Baron Davis and Eric Gordon should light it up on the offensive end. They're not going to win championships but this team is very talented and if Mike Dunleavy can't get them to be legitimate this season then he's just not the coach we thought he was.
3. Phoenix Suns (8) - Signs of Steve Nash's decline are in place and even though Terry Porter is going to be good for this team you have to wonder if it's too late for the Suns to contend for their title. Shaquille O'Neal is light years past his prime but is still a legitimate center and a fantastic role player at this stage in his career: when he's motivated. That's the problem. Amare Stoudemire is a top ten player in this league and if he ever learns how to pass or play defense then he's going to be something special for years to come. But he's developed a fantastic mid range game to offset what he's lost with those knee surgeries. Problem is, though, this team is not built around Stoudemire. In due time, though.
4. Golden State Warriors - The Warriors, last year, were the toast of the town. Losing Baron Davis and trying to replace his scoring with Corey Maggette will show up in the box score but not in the leadership or win-loss column. After being burned by Elton Brand and Baron Davis and also losing Monta Ellis for the beginning of the regular season Warriors fans have to be wondering what's going to become of that promise that was there at the end of the 2006 season. Brandon Wright and Anthony Randolph are very good players to grow with but Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington are just like Corey Maggette and nobody knows who's going to run this team.
5. Sacramento Kings - After last season's surprising season this team will not sneak up on anybody this year. Kevin Martin looks like this generation's Reggie Miller; in other words he can score and try on defense but not much else. That's not a knock on him as I think he's better in that role than Michael Redd is and he's somebody good to build around. I just don't know if they'll win a championship with him as the guy on the team. Giving Beno Udrih that long term contract is quite the gamble but if he plays like he did last season it will pay off. If not he's going to just be on the roster for three years until they release him. This team is still talented and I still love Reggie Theus but the perception is they're not a playoff team, yet. And I agree.
Eastern Confrence First Round
2. Orlando Magic vs. 7. Washington Wizards - The Wizards string of seasons backing into the playoffs and losing in the first round will be continued this season as Dwight Howard destroys Brendan Haywood and the Magic advance.
3. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 6. Toronto Raptors - The matchup of Chris Bosh vs. Elton Brand will be hyped uncontrollably and this series should be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, though, the addition of Jermaine O'Neal gives no new result for the Raptors as they bow out in the first round again.
4. Detroit Pistons vs. 5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Rasheed Wallace and company help the Pistons overcome LeBron James despite a valiant effort from the Cavaliers. Will be the best matchup of the first round.
Eastern Confrence Semifinals
2. Orlando Magic vs. 3. Philadelphia 76ers - This will be a great matchup of last year's two surprising teams. Stan Van Gundy will try to bombard the Sixers with three pointers while the Sixers will struggle to make some. Elton Brand and company will give a valiant effort but the Sixers will lose in the semifinals.
Eastern Confrence Finals
Western Confrence First Round
2. New Orleans Hornets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks - A rematch of last year's first round matchup proves the same result. Brandon Bass and Dirk Nowitzki will go nuts but Chris Paul will run circles around Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic and James Posey will shoot the Hornets past the Mavericks in six games.
3. Houston Rockets vs. 6. Los Angeles Clippers - This will, again, be a very interesting matchup. The Clippers will steal a game in Houston and everyone will panic and remind themselves Tracy McGrady has never gotten past the first round. But then when the series shifts to Los Angeles McGrady will take over and Rafer Alston will knock down big shots to help the Rockets win this series in six games.
4. Utah Jazz vs. 5. San Antonio Spurs - A fantastic matchup in the first round will take place but this series will only be for the old school fans. A lot of tough, inside, rough and tough, physical games will take place but that benefits the Spurs. Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer will be a good matchup as will Tony Parker's speed vs. Deron William's strength but Manu Ginobili will out shoot Kyle Korver to help the Spurs advance.
Western Confrence Semifinals
2. New Orleans Hornets vs. 3. Houston Rockets - This will (until the Western Confrence Finals) be the best matchup of the playoffs as the Rockets size and strength will matchup against the Hornets finesse style of play. Yao Ming will dominate as the Hornets leave Tyson Chandler one on one against the 7'6" superstar. Peja Stojakovic will be smothered by Ron Artest and Luis Scola will do his best to stay in front of David West. The Hornets will panic but James Posey and Julian Wright will slow down Tracy McGrady and eventually Chris Paul and David West will run the pick and roll to perfection to advance in seven games.
Western Confrence F inals
Tags: 76ers, Adam Morrison, Al Harrington, Al Horford, Al Jefferson, Allen Iverson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Anderson Varejao, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrew Bogut, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Randolph, Antoine Walker, Baron Davis, Ben Wallace, Beno Udrih, Bobby Simmons, Bobcats, Brandon Bass, Brendan Haywood, Brook Lopez, Bucks, Bulls, Carl Landry, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Caron Butler, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Bosh, Chris Duhon, Chris Kaman, Chris Paul, Chuck Hayes, Clippers, Corey Maggette, D.J. Augustin, Daniel Gibson, Danny Granger, Darko Milicic, David West, Delonte West, Deron Williams, Desmond Mason, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Eddy Curry, Eduardo Najera, Elton Brand, Emeka Okafor, Eric Gordon, Gerald Wallace, Gilbert Arenas, Grant Hill, Greg Oden, Grizzlies, Hakim Warrick, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hilton Armstrong, Hornets, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Tinsley, Jameer Nelson, James Posey, Jarvis Hayes, Jason Kidd, Jason Richardson, Jazz, Jeff Foster, Jeff Green, Joakim Noah, Joe Johnson, Joe Smith, Jose Calderon, Josh Childress, Josh Howard, Josh Smith, Juan Dixon, Julian Wright, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, Kings, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Kobe Bryant, Kyle Korver, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LaMarcus Aldridge, Leandro Barbosa, LeBron James, Luis Scola, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Marcus Camby, Marvin Williams, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Michael Redd, Mike Bibby, Mike Conley, Mike Dunleavy, Mike Miller, Mo Williams, Monta Ellis, Nets, Nick Collison, Nuggets, O.J. Mayo, Pacers, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rafer Alston, Rajon Rondo, Ramon Sessions, Raptors, Rashard Lewis, Rasheed Wallace, Rasho Nesterovic, Ray Allen, Raymond Felton, Richard Hamilton, Richard Jefferson, Rockets, Roger Mason, Ron Artest, Rudy Gay, Sean May, Shane Battier, Shawn Marion, Spurs, Stephen Jackson, Steve Nash, Suns, T.J. Ford, Tayshaun Prince, Thunder, Tim Duncan, Timberwolves, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Warriors, Wizards, Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian, Zach Randolph, Zydrunas Ilgauskas