Tag:Jerome James
Posted on: November 19, 2009 12:28 pm
 

The 2010 Sweepstakes: High Reward of High Risk?

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.
Posted on: January 5, 2009 1:07 am
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
 

NBA Power Rankings Through January 4th, 2009

1. Los Angeles Lakers (4) - Rejoice, Los Angeles!  The beloved Lakers have reclaimed their top position.  The hottest team in the NBA is boasting one of its hottest players in Kobe Bryant.  As of late, Kobe and Pau Gasol have elevated their play to around the level they were at around the postseason last year.  The bench is getting good production even with Jordan Farmar missing time with his injury.  I don't believe adding another point guard is critical for the moment but it wouldn't hurt if they could land one for cheap.

2. Atlanta Hawks (5) - The Hawks suffered a crushing loss with a near halfcourt heave at the buzzer from Vince Carter at New Jersey.  That was only their second loss in twelve games.  Victories over Cleveland, Denver, Houston and Detroit highlight that stretch and prove that this team is not a flash in the pan.  I'm sure they won't maintain this level of competition all season long as the team is largely unproven, but don't try to dispute what they've accomplished so far this season.  Not only is this team legitimate, they're talented. 

3. Boston Celtics (2) - And just like that, with a loss to a depleted Portland team and to a bad New York team (coming off a week in which they lost their first game in forever in addition to a loss to a bad Golden State team) and the Celtics all of a sudden look vulnerable.  I'm not going to jump off of the bandwagon and say that they're cooked, it's not a matter of if but when this team rights the ship and gets back to playing the defense that made them impossible to beat through November and December.  Kevin Garnett has slowed a bit so far this season and Paul Pierce has had to carry this unit for basically the whole season.  The role players have also slowed a tad, which is the main reason for the team's struggles but they'll get it back together and they'll still be there in the end.

4. Orlando Magic (3) - Something doesn't quite seem right with Hedo Turkoglu this season.  All of his statistics have dropped from last season and his field goal percentage is at a laughable 38 percent.  That's either meaning he's struggling to do too much in a contract year, or maybe last season was more of an aberration for the turkish born star.  Overall, the Magic have been solid all season long and if he captures the form he showed last season then they'll be right up there at the top of the eastern confrence.

5. Cleveland Cavaliers (1) - Rejoice, Cavs haters!  Zydrunas Ilgauskas has gone down to injury and the Cavaliers dropped two games this week, including an embarassing defeat at the hands of Washington today.  For at least a week anyways, the team looked like last season's team, which relied entirely too heavily on LeBron James.  What's happened to Wally Szczerbiak this season?  He's the definition of a non factor, and with his expiring contract, if he showed any bit of production they could get a really good player in return for Wally World.  But so far his value is worth about the same as Eric Snow's.

6. San Antonio Spurs (6) - Manu Ginobili had a huge week for the Spurs.  Greg Popovich has done a fine job with his roster and has seemingly settled on a nice rotation.  Tim Duncan is having the best year he's had in the past two or three and Tony Parker is currently playing like their best player.  They're a dangerous unit and they're going to be there in the end, regardless of their difficult start. 

7. Denver Nuggets (7) - Carmelo Anthony played hero on two separate occasions for the Nuggets this season, even if they were underwhelming in barely defeated Oklahoma City and blowing a 26 point lead at home to New Orleans.  An injury to Nene for the Oklahoma City game showed no immediate hamper on the Nuggets, but if he misses any prolonged period of time they're in bad shape.  They lack serious depth in the frontcourt.

8. New Orleans Hornets (9) - They still lack the consistency that they showed for so much of last season but Chris Paul is playing the best ball of any player in the NBA.  The fact that he's not up there with Kobe Bryant in all star voting is unbelievable and truly speaks to the knowledge of the average NBA fan.  David West has really picked up his game as of late and don't look now, but the Hornets rank among the league's best at the defensive side of the ball. 

9. Detroit Pistons (15) - I've ridden no team as hard this year as I have the Pistons, but Rodney Stuckey has resurrected what was a dead season for Detroit after the Allen Iverson trade.  The readdition of Antonio McDyess is as much a factor as any in the team's current winning streak and even though they may not be blowing teams out, victories are victories and the Pistons are winning ball games.

10. Portland Trail Blazers (8) - Playing without Brandon Roy hurt this team this week as they looked bad against New Orleans and the Lakers.  Overall, they managed to pull out a victory against Boston and they're still playing hard even without Roy in the lineup.  McMillan will never let this team play a weak game but they can't win without their all star guard in the lineup.

11. Dallas Mavericks (11) - Today's loss at Memphis was embarassing but Dirk Nowitzki has carried the Mavericks to a very strong season thus far.  They're a team of wing players and that will doom them in the playoffs, but they will exceed any expectations they were given this season.  Rick Carlisle has done a really good job with the Mavericks this season.

12. Phoenix Suns (13) - Shaquille O'Neal is having his best year since his last year in Los Angeles for Phoenix and the team is maintaining a steady play so far this season.  Jason Richardson hasn't added much since his addition, but the team continues to win so his presence alone must be enough for the Suns to get by. 

13. Utah Jazz (12) - Word of Carlos Boozer now needing surgery has to demoralize this squad even with Paul Millsap playing as fantastic as he has this season (I forgot to mention him in my most improved players list last week).  The C.J. Miles experiment has worked well with him playing so steady this season.  He's never going to be more than an average starter in this league but he's solid enough to where the Jazz can continue to use Andrei Kirilenko on the bench, which has worked very well for them so far this season.

14. Miami Heat (14) - An injury to Shawn Marion has thrusted Daequan Cook into the starting lineup and I think with a shipping of Marion and his expiring contract at the deadline, that can be a nice spot for Cook.  Michael Beasley has been underwhelming so far this season but has shown flashes of being a nice player in this league.  It's safe to say that he was a tad overhyped coming into the draft, though.

15. Houston Rockets (10) - Tracy McGrady's play this season has been absolutely pathetic.  He's beyond bad at this moment and Yao Ming is shooting a percentage in the low 40s the past few games as well.  With Ron Artest in and out of the lineup as well, this team is currently in a great deal of turmoil and it's evident when you watch them out on the court.  Aaron Brooks has tailed off considerably since his start this season but the talent is still there for this team to turn it around.  You just have to wonder if their players are tough enough to do it.

16. New Jersey Nets (16) - They're incredibly inconsistent and continue to be without a victory when Devin Harris is out of the lineup, but the Nets still, week after week, find themselves in the picture in the NBA.  Vince Carter has had his fair share of last second theatrics this season and that's been a major reason for the Nets' position at the moment.  They have to wonder if a postseason appearance is worth a possible run at a championship in the next two or three seasons when it comes to Carter, but we'll see what it is they're offered for Vince.

17. Milwaukee Bucks (17) - The Bucks are a team that's so difficult to put a finger on, because they have no player who's consistently great every night and they don't really scare you in any facet of their play.  Yet they've been near .500 all season long and they're still in the playoff race thus far.  That speaks wonders for Scott Skiles, even though I'm confused at his reluctancy to give Ramon Sessions big minutes.  I've seen an increase in Tyronn Lue as of late and I don't believe he's better than Sessions.

18. Toronto Raptors (23) - Two weeks ago the Raptors were left for dead, and since then they've had a very impressive past two weeks.  Chris Bosh has found the form he displayed earlier this season and the team is winning ball games without Jermaine O'Neal and Jose Calderon in the lineup.  Anthony Parker has been a steady player at the shooting guard position and the Raptors have found themselves back in the discussion as far as the playoffs are concerned.  It's a nice turnaround for a team that I wrote off just two weeks earlier.

19. Philadelphia 76ers (19) - If you were to look up the word "bland" in the dictionary, you would see this team's photo right beside it.  Their play hasn't inreased without Elton Brand (even though I thought it would) and maybe they are what they are, a below .500 team that can't score and that isn't even that special on the defensive side of the ball.  It seems like the two years of momentum that was built up by this squad was ruined with possibly unfair expectations with the Elton Brand acquisition.

20. Chicago Bulls (18) - A loss at home to Minnesota highlights a woeful week for the Bulls which was heightened even further with a horrible showing by Derrick RoseBen Gordon deserves serious all star consideration this season beyond the three point shootout and he's been the team's steadiest, most consistent option thus far.  That probably is why they're down here at 20, but he deserves a little bit of credit after the way he was blasted and treated this offseason.  He may, yet, see his big payday this offseason.

21. Indiana Pacers (25) - Mike Dunleavy is set to debut this week for the Pacers and that should help a team that still is looking to make a run at sneaking into the last playoff spot.  Danny Granger has been tremendous this season even in the dissapointing year for the Pacers and Jarrett Jack has been tremendous since being inserted into the starting lineup as of late.  T.J. Ford has done fine off of the bench but you have to wonder if he's the type of player that would be content with coming off of the bench.

22. Charlotte Bobcats (22) - I still can't speak enough for Boris Diaw's play since coming over from Phoenix.  This Bobcats team has raised its level of play since that trade and currently has shown that they can be a pesky bunch to put away.  Adam Morrison, on the other hand, is now officially ready to be labeled as a bust.  He was a horrible selection as a 3rd overall draft pick (don't even get me started on Sean May).  Little known Matt Caroll is better at what Morrison does than Morrison is and that's why Morrison scored for the first time in six games Saturday night.  I still remember when Dick Vitale said we were all stupid for saying J.J. Reddick and Morrison wouldn't be great in the NBA.

23. Memphis Grizzlies (20) - Darius Miles made his debut this week for the Grizzlies and Steve Francis may be set to dress up anytime soon.  It's amazing that those two players found their way onto the Grizzlies roster, but it's safe to say both are in dire need to prove that their careers aren't over in the NBA. 

24. New York Knicks (24) - The Knicks have lost all of the good will they built up with a strong opening to the season, but still continue to play hard for coach D'Antoni.  Al Harrington off of the bench has payed huge dividends as of late, including a victory today over Boston.  David Lee has been tremendous this season and if they package him with a contract of Jerome James or Eddy Curry they can get another building block for the rebuilding of this proud franchise.

25. Minnesota Timberwolves (28) - The Timberwolves got back to back victories for the first time all season and got Mike Miller back from injury.  Still, though, a lot is left to be done in Minnesota in order to get this team back to respectability.  Kevin Love has been inconsistent in his performance this season and doesn't look like a great acquisition by Kevin McHale (and nobody honestly believed he would be) but I think, with the investment they made in him, that he needs to be shown more minutes as the season progresses. 

26. Los Angeles Clippers (26) - Baron Davis, in addition to his pathetic displays on the court this season, caused controversy with a recent report of his wanting to return to the team he shafted just five months earlier.  His homecoming has been nothing short of brutal but the team has got to be happy with the play of Marcus Camby and Eric Gordon as of late.  They look like a team capable of hanging in tough games as long as Davis doesn't continue to shoot them out of ball games.

27. Washington Wizards (29) - The Wizards, with a run over Cleveland today, move out of the bottom two for the first time all season.  Getting Caron Butler back this week has been good for the Wizards and the increase in minutes for Javaris Crittenton is a solid move by coach Tapscott.  Andray Blatche has been a nice spot for what's been a dreadful season thus far and the Wizards are now starting to play harder each and every night.  It's not going to amount to any kind of success this year, but it's a far cry from the team that regularly would get beat by 20 every night just a couple months prior.

28. Golden State Warriors (21) - With Stephen Jackson and Corey Maggette now publicly speaking about trade requests the horrid season for the Warriors has now reached rock bottom.  The dissapointing performance has taken a back seat to the fact that the group of players that they've assembled has now made the franchise one without any kind of positive direction.  It's tough to be a loyal Warrior fan, and this season is a perfect explanation of why that's so.

29. Sacramento Kings (27) - Kevin Martin came back this season and looked fantastic in his return and Brad Miller has been a steady force all season for Sacramento, but they still continue to lose.  This team looked like a team with a direction this season, but so far this season hasn't shown anything other than that they're a team without much talent or direction.  It's tough to see what the future holds for this franchise.

30. Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - The Thunder are really playing good basketball as of late and I wanted to move them out of the last spot for the first time all season, but can't justifiably do so.  Jeff Green, this season, has looked like a player that was worthy of the draft slot they used on him and Kevin Durant have played at a very high level as of late.  They're playing with more intensity than they did earlier in the season and have showed signs of a team that's on the right path as of late.  That's good for that loyal fan base.

 

Posted on: December 15, 2008 1:57 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:25 am
 

NBA Power Rankings Through December 14th, 2008

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.

 

 

Posted on: October 10, 2008 7:05 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2008 1:33 pm
 

2008 - 2009 NBA Atlantic Division Preview

"Man I'm so hyped right now! Anything's possible!" Amidst the crying, yelling, and screaming that followed, we were able to distinguish Kevin Garnett above it all. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were not as overly jubulant and we may have been able to make out what they were saying, but let's not fool ourselves: after years of those three superstars wasting away in mediocrity they were able to come together and give one of the greatest single season performances in NBA history. The Boston Celtics were an extremely proud franchise but had not been able to recover from the retiring of Larry Bird. Many experiments followed. The Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker tandem created the most excitment, but who expected Kenny Anderson and Tony Delk to lead this team to the promised land? Soon Walker left and the Celtics relied on Ryan Gomes and Sebastian Telfair (amongst a strange assortment of other players) to be missing pieces alongside Paul Pierce. Needless to say, the losses piled and the Celtics continued to look at mediocrity as a haven for the current state of their franchise. But then the Celtics found a rebuilding Supersonics team and it all changed. What followed was something right out of a fantasy league. Nobody could have imagined a team pitting Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen on the same NBA squad and hardly anyone could have imagined the three being able to mesh so seamlessly and also be able to generate the most out of a questionable supporting cast. But the "Boston Three Party" quickly came together and created a euphoria in Boston that was unimaginable just one year prior.

It's amazing what a couple of deals can do to the face of a franchise: and all of the teams in the Atlantic division can attest to it. They all seemed to mirror the Celtics vision of changing your franchise's outlook and direction with a couple of transactions and an influx of new players. For better or for worse: the Atlantic division teams are all brand new: except for the Celtics. Nobody can blame the Celtics for staying put, especially since the assortment of players performed so well last season and with Kevin Garnett still serving as the anchor for this squad we have no reason to believe that motivation and hunger should be an issue. But all of the other teams made moves, maybe in a panic, to grab that trophy that's currently in the Celtics possession. From the 76ers acquisition of Elton Brand, to the Raptors rolling the dice on Jermaine O'Neal, followed by the "Firesale For LeBron" sweepstakes in New Jersey and the arrival of a new regime in New York.

Yes, change is abundant in the Atlantic but as the old saying goes, "the more things change the more they stay the same." Plenty of big name players and contracts have been added to the other four competitors, but none of the aforementioned squads will be able to test the Celtics on their quest for back to back championships. All of the other teams will prove to be more competition to the Celtics than they were last year, but at the end of the day the team with the experience, talent, coaching and love for defensive play will stand tall above the rest of the teams in the division. Here's the outlook on the Atlantic division.

1) Boston Celtics - After last offseason's wheeling and dealing, the Celtics won a championship and had the luxury of keeping the team intact for this season. Hunger will be the only obstacle facing this team in its quest to capture a second championship trophy. Kevin Garnett is still the MVP of this team and will handle the onseason leadership role while Paul Pierce continues to show that his spot on the Finals MVP trophy is completely deserved. Ray Allen's production will continue to decrease as he settles into the role of a spectacular spot up shooter (but not much else). Rajon Rondo is already the best defensive point guard in the league and the sky is still the limit for this young guard as he figures to be penciled in as a top ten point guard for the next few years. Kendrick Perkins isn't much more than a big body and bruiser but he isn't needed for much more than his presence. Obviously the departure of James Posey hurts this team (and definitely cripples the bench) and will lessen the Celtics chances at a repeat. His production just simply cannot be replaced by Tony Allen, Eddie House, or Darius Miles. Doc Rivers emerged as someone who looks like he can coach after his taking Phil Jackson to school in the NBA finals. Time will tell if this team is as motivated as it was last season. All signs point to yes.

2) Philadelphia 76ers - Trying to capture the Magic that the Celtics obtained last season, the Sixers set out to pick up an inside presence that would allow Reggie Evans to slide back into a better suited bench role. Elton Brand is just what the doctor ordered; or at least it looks like it on paper. Elton Brand is one of five current players to have career averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. He's had a stellar career but has lacked success regardless of his location. Of course, playing with the Bulls post-Jordan and then suiting up for the Clippers for seven years doesn't give you many opportunities to be successful but now is his best opportunity to show that he's not just a player who puts up good numbers on bad teams. If he can't get it done this season, he's nothing more than Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Andre Iguodala had a solid season last year in response to the critics who bashed Iggy for turning down the contract extension he was offered the previous summer. Iguodala still got his big contract but his performance against the Pistons last postseason is enough to make people second guess his ability to lead and deliver in clutch, crucial situations. As far as point guards go in this league, there aren't many as effecient and effective as Andre Miller is. He never misses games, plays good defense and owns one of the best lob passes in the league. Samuel Dalembert continues to improve at the center position and players like Louis Williams, Thaddeus Young and Willie Green help form the identity of what looks like a promising team. As has been pointed out, their lack of three point shooting could hurt them when the playoffs come around but it won't prevent them from reaching the postseason.

3) Toronto Raptors - Last year was a setback in many ways for the Toronto Raptors players, franchise and fans. The arrival of Bryan Colangelo seemed like a match made in heaven and the 2006-2007 Raptors brought Chris Bosh to the spotlight, got Sam Mitchell a coach of the year award and gave big expectations to Andrea Bargnani entering his second year in the league. Sam Mitchell proceeded to mishandle (badly) the point guard situation with T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon. An injury to Chris Bosh midseason derailed the Raptors and they never recovered. And Andrea Bargnani? When he wasn't pulling down 3 rebounds a game he was shooting near 30 percent from the three point line. Because of his horrible sophomore slump last season, the Raptors looked for an inside presence that could put this team into contention for an Eastern Confrence crown. As far as big names are concerned, acquiring Jermaine O'Neal is a big deal (even if it would have looked much better a few years ago). The team had to part ways with T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic but with Jose Calderon poised and ready to step into the starting point guard role and with Jermaine O'Neal replacing Rasho Nesterovic, this team should be better than what they were last season. Still, let's not fool ourselves. This is a team that was outsted from the playoffs in five games. Unless Jermaine O'Neal turns the clock back three years they will suffer, roughly, the same fate this season. O'Neal never lived up to that humongous contract that the Pacers gave him and it's hard to imagine that playing out of position alongside a player who is a better version of what O'Neal used to be is going to revive O'Neal's game and career. Jason Kapono is deadly from three point range but aside from that, the Raptors don't posses that type of wing player who's capable of taking over a game with his playmaking abilities. Anthony Parker is equally effecient from behind the arc but isn't as lethal a shooter or as much of a threat as Kapono is. Their lack of a true center and their lack of effective, effecient wing players will prevent the Raptors from making a huge splash in the postseason.

4) New Jersey Nets - If you entered last year expecting the Nets to make one last run at an Eastern Confrence crown with Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter then don't feel foolish. It seemed like a match made in heaven - Jason Kidd running the court with outstanding leapers Jefferson and Carter by his side. For whatever reason, that "big three" was never able to get past the semifinals and after watching last season's mediocre season unfold, the Nets went into firesale mode. But don't confuse this as rebuilding. This team has nothing to build around; except for the prospect of landing LeBron James in 2010. Gone are Kidd and Jefferson, in come the promising Yi Jianlian and the ever talented but annoyingly inconsistent Devin Harris to help reshape this Nets team. Jianlian faltered greatly down the stretch last year as he did not handle the 82 game season very well. It's hard to imagine playing for China in the Beijing Olympics helped matters but we'll see what steps he took to improve this season. Devin Harris has been on the cusp the past few years, people eager to see him take over and lead a team. He's yet to do so but posted solid numbers after leaving the Mavericks for Jersey last February. Vince Carter is there in contract and in scoring but not much else. He just seems to glide nowadays and is a shadow of the player that he was back in Toronto. Add that to the frontcourt by committee and it's hard to imagine this team being anything more than competitive this season. But look for them to make some progress this season, especially if Carter is traded by midseason.

5) New York Knicks - Oh, the New York Knicks. What's left to be said of this team that hasn't already been said? After five plus years of torture inflicted onto the fickle New York fanbase courtesy of Isiah Thomas, in comes Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni to save the day. Players love playing for D'Antoni's free spirit and light it up type of offense. Add that to the attractive market that is New York and the Knicks could be perceived as a team ready to turn the corner. Unfortunately, Isiah Thomas left this team stuck in the mud. With atrocious contracts being given to Eddy Curry, Jared Jeffries and Jerome James coupled with taking on ridiculous contracts of Stephon Marbury, Zach Randolph, Quentin Richardson, and Malik Rose, this team is in financial hell and God himself couldn't save them for this season or next. D'Antoni has his work cut out for him asking Curry and Randolph to leave the buffet table to run the floor and fit into his offense. If it looked awkward trying to incorporate Shaq into the Suns offense last season, one can imagine the fun of watching Eddy Curry and Zach Randolph running up and down the court and hustling. Good luck with that. Stephon Marbury seems like he would be a good fit for this offense, but didn't he look like a good fit alongside Kevin Garnett in Minnesota? Didn't he look like a good fit as the cornerstone in New Jersey? Didn't he look like a player who could bring the Suns what Jason Kidd couldn't? Looks can be deceiving. Stephon Marbury has underachieved on every team he's played for and aggrevated plenty of teammates and personnel over that period. The Knicks have players that fit the system in Richardson, Jamal Crawford, Nate Robinson and David Lee but the reigns of the D'Antoni offense will no longer be handled by Steve Nash, but instead should be headed by Chris Duhon. The only big time free agent acquisition for the Knicks is a low key guy who would be a solid backup on a really good team but hardly is a man to run a complex offense of overpaid crybabies nor is he a candidate to lead them anywhere. His "party boy" tendencies also could be further exposed with the New York media paying close attention to him. Look for New York fans to be extremely patient this year and with this roster as currently constructed, they'll need all that patience and then some.

Posted on: February 16, 2008 12:53 pm
Edited on: November 2, 2008 9:33 pm
 

Looking Back At GoHornets' Preseason Predictions

I figured the all star break is the best time to reflect at all preseason comments and predictions .. so why not take this time to boast .. brag .. make fun of myself and shake my head at all that I said before the opening tip off of the 2007-2008 season.

We will start with the Western Confrence. 

1) San Antonio Spurs - this was real close between them and Phoenix but I do believe that staying pat was the right thing for them to do.  Their age, though, may come into question when the playoffs start.

I still agree with that and feel that keeping the team as was was the smartest thing to do.  Only time will tell if they'll win but because of the Lakers and Suns trade my predictions were thrown out of whack.  I, though, do like the Spurs over both of them at this current time.  But as you'll soon see .. my predictions don't stand for much.

2) Phoenix Suns - As much as I've criticized them for their lack of defense there isn't a team that plays with more heart than this one.  A very good team full of good character players.  I'm not going out on a limb .. but I am saying they're my pick for champs this year.

I hate that I picked them to win it all.  It goes against my "Defense wins championships" motto .. but I figured they'd come in with a huge chip on their shoulder after last season.  Maybe the Shawn Marion trade demands hurt the team more than I thought it would .. but they look a lot more fresher with him out of there.  I don't think they'll win the title now but I have them as probably the 3rd best team in the west.

3) Houston Rockets - Yes I do have them ahead of Dallas.  I absolutely loved the moves that they made in the offseason and if Tracy McGrady's brittle back can hold up and if Yao can stay on the court (huge if's) they could be a sleeper to really make some strides this year.  But because of the injury history .. I'm taking a chance by placing them this high.

Ugh.  I hate Houston and always criticize their moves but I bought into the hype.  All offseason I said Van Gundy was so much better than Adelman and that firing him was a mistake .. but then they made the transactions they did and I bought the hype.  I back off of those current statements though they'll still make the playoffs.  I still don't think they'll make it out the 1st round though.

4) Utah Jazz - I do believe that Deron Williams is a player with a huge upside and I could go on for days about how much I love Carlos Boozer and his style of play.  I'm not a big fan of Mehmet Okur though .. and even though I am a huge fan of Andrei Kirilenko .. I'm wondering how he'll really adjust this season .. not only because of last year's dissapointment but also because of the offseason issues.

I pretty much agree with all of that

5) Dallas Mavericks - I know I'm giving them a huge drop off .. but I see it in order.  I'm really confused with this team because they have the most talent but I don't think they play with enough heart.  Not that they don't play hard every night .. but when things get rough .. fingers start getting pointed .. excuses start being made and unfortunately that's not the way to handle situations.  It's cost them the last two years and I don't see why things would change.

I agree with all of that as well.

6) Denver Nuggets - I like A.I. and 'Melo together .. but there's still not much about this team that scares me.  A.I. reverted back to his old ways in the playoffs .. and just because he notches assists doesn't mean he seamlessly gets his teammates involved.  Carmello is a nice talent but I think he's better as a second option type.

I still pretty much agree with this .. though I hope they're the team that doesn't make the playoffs.

7) New Orleans Hornets - I know this may be viewed as a homer pick but I don't believe that it is.  They have a ton of talent and the addition of Morris Peterson is huge for the team as he's someone that not only plays tough defense but also stretches the opposing defense with his shooting and tough nosed play.  The team usually gets hit with injuries every year .. but if they can somehow avoid it this year then a trip to the playoffs is in order, I believe.

I caught a lot of flack for putting the Hornets in the playoffs .. but everything I felt was justified.  They're playing good now and should finish a bit ahead of this 7th seed .. but barring some huge collapse .. they should still be in.

8) Golden State Warriors - I don't believe that they're a fluke .. but they are what they are.  They're not better than last year because they gave away Jason RichardsonBaron Davis is great .. but he's also been one with huge injury problems.  The team plays hard .. their fans are great .. but they didn't get any better than last season so I see them right where they were.

I still think they'll finish in the lower seedings in the West so I like this pick.  Only problem is I called Jason Richardson their best player.

9) Los Angeles Lakers - Regardless if Kobe gets traded or not .. I don't see them making it.  This is just not a good team .. there's no type of frontcourt .. and though I love Derek Fisher I don't see how he makes them that much better.  I expect a drop off from a team that's, believe it or not, overachieved the last couple years.  Lamar Odom has put up good numbers but sometimes you forget he's even out there.

I deserve a lot of flack for this one.  I said they had no front court (Andrew Bynum), I said they wouldn't make the playoffs (and then called them a championship contender in this blog), and I called them a bunch of overachievers.  Whoops.

10) Portland Trailblazers - A team well on the right track to something special.  The injury to Oden really hurts the team .. and though they have promise they're still a year or maybe even two away in my estimation.  I love Nate McMillan as a coach though.

I think that turned out pretty fair.

11) Memphis Grizzlies - They did the right move in kind of reshaping the team .. but they just seem so bland to me.  I don't have any reason to get excited about facing them (with the exception of Pau Gasol) and I don't really know which direction this team is heading in.  They'll be better than last year .. but after last year's abysmal season .. that's not saying much.

I agree with that.  Though I should have placed them lower.

12) Los Angeles Clippers - The loss of Elton Brand kills them .. and after last year's sky high expectations .. they're reverting back to the same ol' Clippers.  They've turned into a dissapointment again .. and this is another team where I'm just not sure in which direction they're going.

I agree with that still.

13) Seattle SuperSonics - A very talented team.  At the same time .. a very young team.  I think they will be good in due time but not as quickly as Portland will be.  Durant's exciting .. as is Jeff Green but I'm interested to see how Carleisimo handles the team because he's had a history of not handling young players well.  And that's all this team is.

I like that prediction as well.

14) Sacramento Kings - Mike Bibby has fallen off of the face of this Earth.  He must have held on for dear life and brought Brad Miller down with him.  This team is looking like another stale 33 win season .. or even worse .. and it won't be because of Theus.  I like him as a coach but this is not a good situation.  I look for at least Bibby to be traded by mid season .. if not Artest and/or Brad Miller as well.

Well I was calling for total rebuilding for them but they've turned out a solid team this year.  Though .. I don't see them as a championship contender the way they are .. and even if they stay pat .. they may make the playoffs next year but they won't make any noise.  They still have to make some moves to get back to the Kings of old.

15) Minnesota Timberwolves - At least they're not stuck in the "stale/bland" situation that I've labeled the Lakers, Grizzlies, and Kings with.  There's no hiding that they're rebuilding .. but as a result this year will be VERY tough.  As will next year, more than likely, .. and I don't like Randy Wittman as a coach.  They may be on the right path .. but they're right at the starting line.  It may be rough for them this year.

I still agree with that.  And then I made my playoff predictions.

Playoff Predictions:
Spurs over Warriors
Suns over Hornets
Rockets over Nuggets
Mavericks over Jazz

Spurs over Jazz
Suns over Rockets

Suns over Spurs

I have backtracked my statement of Suns beating the Spurs in a seven game series .. and though the Rockets could probably beat the Nuggets in a seven game series .. they're not gonna play them in the 1st round so .. still on the outside looking in as far as the semifinals is concerned.

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Oh but if you thought that was bad .. wait until you get a load of my Eastern confrence picks.

I will warn you to take my predictions with caution .. because my predictions for the 04-05 Pacers, 05-06 Pacers, and 06-07 Nets have not gone as planned.  So this year's prediction (the Wizards) must immediately put a hit out on me .. or hope that they can break the mold.

1) Cleveland Cavaliers - In a wide oppen Eastern Confrence .. I'm going to go with the only team that can have eleven average players and one fantastic one .. and still manage to win.  This is the East's version of the L.A. Lakers .. what helps them out is .. they play in the East.  I'm a big critic of LeBron's and thinks he gets a little too much attention (as far as the media is concerned) .. but that's my only gripe and his play is undeniable.  I think he's eclipsed Kobe Bryant as far as single best player in the NBA. It's fair to say they won't get the number one seed but they'll still be a really good team in the East.  I was a little premature in calling LeBron better than Kobe, though.

2) Boston Celtics - I do believe that they will be a good regular season team.  Danny Ainge got people to care for this team again and for that deserves a pat on the back.  Other than that, though .. I don't see them winning the title or even making it to the finals .. because none of the "big three" know how to win.  They're all career losers (for a lack of a better word) and where's the help going to come from?

I still kind of agree with that though I was kind of harsh calling them all losers.  I don't think they'll win the championship (I don't know why it's just a gut feeling I've always had .. but I had that same feeling about the 05-06 Heat) .. so who knows what's going to happen.

3) Chicago Bulls - A team that is right on the brink but doesn't have a big man that can score.  They have so many pieces in place .. but for some reason I just don't see hwo they can win a championship.  It's hard to explain .. I just don't see the "it" in them.  I believe Ben Wallace is past his prime .. and who knows how the team is going to react to everyone being on the trading block this offseason.

I was half right and half wrong on this.  Right when I said I didn't know how the team was going to react to everyone being on the trading block .. wrong when I said they would be a top tier team in the East.

4) Washington Wizards - My pick for the East is this team right here.  I don't know why .. since they can't play defense to save their lives .. but I love Gilbert Arenas and have a man crush on Caron Butler.  Jamison is playing in a contract year (as is Arenas) and I see huge production out of those two.  They play a lot of offense and very minimal defense .. and that will bite them when they play the west teams.  Lucky for them .. they don't play the western teams until possibly the finals.  So I'm giving them the dreaded vote of approval to win the East.

I don't know.  I look at my prediction and still don't see anything dreadfully wrong with it .. but they just have become bland to me.  I no longer look at Arenas as an elite player .. I think he's more infatuated with himself than he is winning .. but they may still make noise in the playoffs when fully healthy.  The problem is .. they're never fully healthy.

5) New Jersey Nets - This team is sort of bland.  Jason Kidd is great .. but Vince now has his contract .. and Jefferson's injury history has taken away a lot of his play .. to me anyways.  They still don't have a frontcourt .. and after Kidd .. their toughest player, Mikki Moore .. left.  So they will drop off in my estimation but will still be good enough to get the fifth seed.

Ehh .. I kind of foresaw the decline of the team but I had them at 5 which turned out to be too high.  I also had them ahead of ..

6) Detroit Pistons - My how the once mighty have fallen.  Speaking of bland teams .. this is right up there with them.  They've taken steps back in all positions .. mostly because of age.  Flip Saunders has waisted the last two years with the Pistons .. and unfortunately they just don't seem to play as motivated as they did before.  Nothing on this team excites me (except for Tayshaun Prince) and Billups and Hamilton both took drastic steps back in their game last year.

I'm eating serious crow pertaining to the Pistons and the Lakers.  I can't say anything except for I was wrong .. and putting the Wizards, Nets, and Bulls ahead of them looks horrendously idiotic now.  I still think Saunders will find a way to blow it in the playoffs, though.

7) Toronto Raptors - I'm a big fan of Toronto but don't see where they wind up stepping above anyone I've placed before them.  I like T.J. Ford and absolutely love Chris Bosh .. but the loss of Peterson hurts them.  They got great chemistry and I see them possibly moving up from this spot up to possibly even the second seed .. but I can't get a handle on them and don't think they'll win the division.

I still feel that way about them.  They're better than seventh but I still have a hard time getting a feel for them.

8) Orlando Magic - I pondered them and the Heat .. but I figured I'd go with the younger team that actually has a bit of excitement to them.  They overpayed immensely for Rashard Lewis .. and I'm not sure that Jameer Nelson is the guy at point guard.  Who knows what happened to J.J. Reddick .. and Turkoglu is as streaky a player as I've ever seen.  But Dwight Howard himself should will this team to the playoffs .. but I don't see them making much noise when they get there.

I still don't see them making it deep in the playoffs .. but they're better than eighth.  Who knows what they'll do when they make it though.

9) Miami Heat - I'm probably making a mistake by not putting them in .. but Dwyane Wade will be starting this season on the injured list.  Shaq is also a year older .. and boy did he look sad at times last year.  He's not at all the player he once was .. but that happens to everyone.  It's just he's been "invinceible" for so long that to see him deteoriate like that really shocked me.  This is a team on the downside.

This is a team on the downside.  Unfortunately .. I don't regret not putting them in the postseason and they've declined so rapidly that they can't even sniff the playoffs.  Even in that pathetic eastern confrence.

10) Atlanta Hawks - I really like this team but I just can't put them in the playoffs this year.  Joe Johnson is fantastic .. and the potential .. the players .. it's there.  They strike me as an Eastern version of Portland .. and I guess it's a coincidence I placed both them and Portland in 10th in their respective confrences.  Josh Smith is great as well .. and the two rookies were smart picks .. but I don't know how it will all come together.  I wouldn't be shocked if they made the postseason though .. and if things keep on the right path .. they should make it by next season.

I stand by that.  I hope they make the playoffs though.

11) Indiana Pacers - Speaking of how the once mighty have fallen.  I don't think the trade with Golden State killed them last year .. but they did take a raw deal.  Jermaine O'Neal is the only player on this team that would really scare me.  Other than that there's not much to them .. and O'Neal himself isn't guaranteed to play half a year with his past injury history.  Who knows what direction this team is going to go in.

I still stand by that.  I caught a lot of flack from Pacers fans for this pick too.  Other than hurricane .. none of them are anywhere to be found any longer.

12) Philadelphia 76ers - I like this team and want to think that they'll build upon how they did without Allen Iverson last year .. but I don't see that happening.  Andre Igoudala did great last year .. but I wonder if he'll be able to surpass that this year .. which he'll need to do to get this team in the playoffs.  Andre Miller is one of the best pure point guards in the league because of his passing ability .. but that's basically all he's got is his passing. 

I'm content with that.

13) New York Knicks - I don't like to put them so low but .. man I don't like the Randolph trade.  Now they have two carbon copies of basically the same player with Zack Randolph and Eddy Curry.  The only difference is Randolph can kind of pass out of the paint (and Curry can't pass at all) .. but who do they pass it out to?  Jamaal Crawford, Stephon Marbury, Quentin Richardson, and company are only streaky at best.  And though I want to be wrong here because I really like the guy .. I don't see how much Allan Houston can do for them.  And on a side note .. man how bad do the Jared Jeffries and Jerome James signings look?

I look like a genius with that pick.

14) Charlotte Bobcats - I keep wanting to move them up but just can't.  I actually am one of the few who liked the Jason Richardson deal because it gives them a player who can score now.  But losing Sean May (AGAIN) for the whole year hurts .. Okafor's not very dependable as far as staying on the court is concerned (fouls and injuries) and Raymond Felton is a good player but not a good shooter.  All that factors into another bitter season for them .. which will probably start frustrating the fans.

I still stand by that.  I do hope they make the playoffs though.

15) Milwaukee Bucks - I want to put them up here and I will probably get flack for putting them so low but the drafting of Yi Jianlin made no sense to me and I don't know how Maurice Williams will play now that he's got his contract.  On the flip side .. he did turn down Miami to stay here .. so maybe I'm making a mistake by questioning his drive.  Michael Redd is fantastic .. but he's a one trick pony.  He just shoots.  He's great at what he does .. but I think he's a tad overrated as far as his salary is concerned.

I still stand by that as well.  And then I made my playoff predictions in the East.

Playoff Predictions:
Cavs over Magic
Celtics over Raptors
Bulls over Pistons
Wizards over Nets

Wizards over Cavs
Bulls over Celtics

Wizards over Bulls

And then I have Suns over Wizards in the NBA finals.

I had a lot of people telling me the Bulls wouldn't beat the Pistons in a seven game series and they all were right.  I don't know what I was thinking with Suns and Wizards .. I now would take a safe pick and predict Spurs-Celtics in the NBA finals .. but overall I wasn't horrendously bad in my pre season predictions.  I had some foreshadowing in there and some bad decisions (Lakers, Pistons) .. but overall I thought it was OK.  It's always fun to look back and see what you got right and wrong though .. and I'm not as stupid as I sound sometimes haha.  Take them for what they are .. these are GoHornets21's preseason predictions revisited.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com