Posted on: November 13, 2009 2:27 pm
Right now, it's pretty tumultous to be a fan of the New Orleans Hornets. As I stated in yesterday's little post, things around the franchise are hectic in all areas. From management to players to ownership, the Hornets are in a critical point in the franchise's history. So with that being said, you have to be confident that you have someone who can turn the ship around. Now I know a lot of people are blaming the current state of the Horents on Jeff Bower and you very well can, but let's evaluate his moves as a general manager from a whole. He's not looking too well now, but we all know that basketball is circumstantial. The Hornets have the 12th highest payroll in the league, but they don't have money like the Lakers and Knicks to throw around at players (and I know throwing money did not work for the Knicks so I'm not saying it's always an advantage), but when you want to commit to winning a championship it's difficult to do so as a small market team. Teams like the Spurs are the exception to the rule. They routinely have terrific drafts regardless of where they're drafting and find cheap, yet productive, free agents who really can impact a team (Roger Mason Jr., Matt Bonner, etc.). But this is why the NBA has such a small fan base compared to baseball and football, because there is no parody in the league. Actually, that's why football is the biggest sport in the nation. Because every year, going into the season, you can have hope for your team in football. Teams routinely make 5th and 6th round draft choices that produce right away. A great head coach can be hired and turn things around in only one season. You've had the Panthers go from nowhere to a Super Bowl and never be the same again. Some would look at that as a bad thing, I think it keeps fans of all teams interested. Here, even teams like the 76ers who have been above average the past few seasons won't get anyone to show up for their games, because even though the team will win 41 games and make the postseason, they'll do nothing when they get there. So what do you do in the case of the Hornets, who have always been around average or above average but have never broke the barrier as a small market team? They came close in 2008 and took big chances to build upon that and win immediately. That chance backfired in a really bad way and now the team is paying the consequences. But had they stood pat that offseason and not gone after anyone, people would have criticized management for not taking chances when they were so close. So overall, fans are fickle and management is in a no lose situation. But I'm here to tell you that Jeff Bower has done a good job as the general manager of the Hornets and I'm going to argue for him to stay on board in New Orleans.
The most often criticized move of the Jeff Bower regime, currently, is the contract given to Peja Stojakovic. At the time of the signing, in the 2006 offseason, Peja Stojakovic was a consistent 20 point threat and was one of the deadliest shooters in the league. When you're a team that's playing out of town in Oklahoma City and as a team that's never been an attractive destination for players, you're kind of forced to overpay to get above average talent to your team. Peja Stojakovic probably was a smarter investment at near the 9-11 million dollar a year range at that time, but the Hornets gave him 65 million and 5 years to convince any kind of big name to come and play for them. Again, that's management attempting to build a winner regardless of the restrictions. It didn't pay off immediately as he missed 69 games in his first year of the deal (and if that injury had happened prior to him becoming a free agent it's safe to say the Hornets would not have made that kind of investment to Peja). However, the next year paid off really well for the Hornets and Peja. He wasn't scoring at the rate he used to, but he shot over 40 percent from three point range and made countless clutch shots for the Hornets and became one of the most popular players amongst fans. As a three point catalyst, he was crucial to the Hornets winning the Southwest Division and making it to game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in 2008. The very next year his back injuries reemerged and he hasn't been the same player since, so in only that sense is it a bad contract. Had Bower had a miraculous crystal ball and could have predicted the injuries that would emerge with Peja, I seriously doubt the team would have made that kind of investment with Peja. However, with the contract in place, the Hornets can't do anything to distance themselves from Peja. I'm sure they tried to move him in the offseason, but with that price tag, the only way they could have moved would have been to add the relatively cheap David West to the package and if they had done that, fans and players would have accused the franchise of cost cutting and would have bashed Bower. So again, in a no win situation, Bower is forced to put Peja out on the floor.
The signings of Morris Peterson and James Posey go hand in hand. Neither are as expensive as Peja's, but both were brought in as complimentary swingmen who could really add unspoken intangibles to a team on the rise. The signings were a year apart, so I'll argue Peterson's first. When Peterson was brought in, he and Rasual Butler were supposed to provide a formidable pair at the two guard position. Peterson never has emerged as the player the Hornets thought he would be when they first brought him in. They gave him a 4 year, 28 million dollar deal (again overpaying) to get him to start at shooting guard. For years, Peterson had been regarded as a fan favorite who hustled, played defense and knocked down shots. He was viewed by many as one of the more unheralded players in the NBA and the Hornets really took a chance on him and gave him the starting shooting guard position. He's never materialized and I'll never know why. However, 9 out of 10 general managers would have done the same thing that Bower did. Again, maybe not at that price tag, but in order to convince players to come over you have to give them the best deal. Which brings me to James Posey. Is Posey a 4 year, 24 million dollar player? Not at all. He wasn't even when he was in Boston, playing on a one year contract with the Celtics and proving invaluable during the Celtics 2008 championship run. As one of those clutch, defensive role players that every championship team needs, the Hornets felt he was just the man to help get this team over the top. The Hornets had Julian Wright emerging as a backup small forward and he was entering his second year, so Posey was not a necessary signing, but it was an aggressive move to show that the team was still committed to brining a title to New Orleans. The Hornets were already spending a lot of money at that point, and with the contract extension given to Chris Paul ready to kick in in the 2009 offseason, they made a huge risk by bringing in Posey. A lot of teams were interested in Posey, but nobody wanted to offer 4 years. So the Hornets decided to do so to ensure that he would sign, and he did. James Posey is the same player he was when the Hornets brought him in. He'll give you around 9 points a game and play hard defense, bring the intangibles; the whole nine yards. But his efforts go unnoticed because the Hornets are struggling. He's not a saviour to a team. He's more of a complimentary player whose efforts would be better appreciated on a championship team (as they were in Boston). His contract is no different to the one the Spurs gave Malik Rose. Malik Rose was a huge crowd favorite in San Antonio and was a hustle guy/role player. The Spurs gave him a 7 year, 42 million dollar deal at his peak and he didn't change his style of play. The Pistons just did this with Jason Maxiell. These players aren't anything more than what they are on the court. But you make an investment in a player because you want them to stay. When they first pop on the scene, the market for them is huge and you want to do anything to keep the player on your squad. This may happen with the Jazz and Paul Millsap as well, but that's the risk you take when you invest your money into role players. Teams like the Lakers can get away with contracts like Luke Walton sitting on the bench. The Hornets really can't afford to do so and that's why the Posey deal is killing them right now.
But Bower has made countless great moves to bring the Hornets back to the forefront. As an assistant coach to both Paul Silas and Tim Floyd, Bower's been with the Hornets organization in various roles since 1996. After being given the general managers position in 2005, he oversaw a complete turnaround of the Hornets franchise. He was given a team that was starting the season with four starters (Baron Davis, Jamal Mashburn, Jamaal Magloire and David Wesley) on the injured list. The team had a lot of money invested in those players and a few others on the bench. That wasn't going to work. The team won 17 games his first season as general manager, but he oversaw the dismantling of that underachieving, often injured bunch (sound familiar to this year's squad?) and made key moves in putting the Hornets future together. As the team's primary talent scout, he played a huge role in drafting David West in 2003 at the 18th pick and drafting J.R. Smith the very next season at the same spot. Also, in the 2004 offseason, the Hornets moved from the Eastern Conference to the deadly Western Conference. Knowing that you couldn't win with the roster he had, he got rid of everybody. Darrell Armstrong and his salary were sent to Dallas for Dan Dickau: an expiring contract. David Wesley was sent to Houston for Jim Jackson and Bostjan Nachbar, Nachbar being a promising young player and Jackson being an expiring contract. Baron Davis was sent to Golden State for Speedy Claxton and an expiring contract in Dale Davis in a move that looked horrible at first, but freed up the space to eventually sign Peja and lock up David West longterm. He brought in Bryon Scott to lead the bunch and endured a very tough 17 win season. In the offseason, just by being apart of the deal that brought Antoine Walker, James Posey and Jason Williams to the Heat for the 2005-2006 season, the Hornets were given Rasual Butler and Kirk Snyder. Those two players played hard for the Hornets in the first season in Oklahoma City and they were huge steals for Bower.
One thing that cannot be underappreciated by Bower was his ability to keep the team together and afloat when they had to relocate to Oklahoma City because of Hurricane Katrina. With the help of Byron Scott, the Hornets kept a solid, promising team together and always put a competitive team on the court when it could have been very easy to look at the situation as a loss cause and completely collapse (see how the Saints handled being away from New Orleans after Katrina). In that same offseason that the Hornets had to go to OKC, they drafted Chris Paul. He and J.R. Smitih were supposed to be the tandem of the future for New Orleans, but once Smith started to undermine Byron Scott and regressed his second season, the Hornets turned a negative into a positive and moved him to Chicago for Tyson Chandler. Tyson Chandler would develop immediate chemistry with Chris Paul and would start for three seasons witih the Hornets. The next two drafts brought Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright to New Orleans and both players have showed promise sparingly. They've never capitalized and it's safe to say Hilton never will, but one bad draft pick in five or six years isn't a reason to fire the general manager. Especially when you picked both of them around the 13-15 range.
So let's look back at it all, he was able to trade J.R. Smith for Tyson Chandler, was able to trade Chandler for Emeka Okafor which allowed the team to still be able to compete this year while giving them minor salary cap relief (a move most general managers would not have been able to pull off, in fact he almost didn't pull it off when he sent Chandler to Oklahoma City for Joe Smith and Chris Wilcox). He worked with his limitations and brought in Darius Songaila and Ike Diogu to try and shore up a thin frontcourt, things just haven't materialized. But they haven't been bad moves. Had George Shinn not wanted to pony up 2 million dollars to the salary cap to keep Rasual Butler, the lack of a true shooting guard would not be a problem right now for the Hornets. Bower has someone to answer to and he has a limit to what he can spend, and he's still put out a team that most people are upset hasn't won a championship yet. He's still put out a team that expects to win. That's big for a small market general manager. He continued to build the franchise even when they were in Oklahoma City and throught drafts, trades and signings put together a great team for the 2008 season. Did the spending go a little overboard with the James Posey acquisition? Sure it did. But the fact that the franchise attempted to go for it all when they were close to a championship shows that it's a team trying to win. At the same time, there's a reason the same teams were able to go after big name players this offseason and the same teams had to cut costs and try and be competitive. Because the NBA salary cap sucks. It puts a lot of small market teams at a disadvantage. Teams like the Lakers can get away with having huge contracts on their team because they'll make it all back with TV deals, ticket sales and overall revenue based off of Kobe Bryant's jersey sales alone. So it's easy to say, as IP did, that "Kobe's not bigger than the Lakers." The Lakers have always been good. That's why Kobe's not bigger than the Lakers. The Lakers are a gifted franchise who should always be competitive with any kind of competent management.
Do I want to accept losing and do I want to make excuses for Jeff Bower? No. But I understand the situation and I know why the team made the moves they did. So I can't, in the same breath, sit and blame Bower for the same team that he was praised for a few years ago. He tried to shake things up and keep the team competitive even though the franchise was over the luxury tax this offseason. He still may; you never know. As the interim coach now, it's basically his chance to win with the players he put together or bring in a big time coach who can win (Tim Floyd is not the answer and if he hires him as Head Coach I demad that this post be stricken from the records and I will personally call for Bower's termintation). I still have hope in the Hornets and if the franchise decides to strip it bare and build it back up again, I would like Bower to still be the general manager of the team. Why? Because he's oversaw a rebuilding process that resulted in a big turnaround before. There's reason for me to believe he could do it again.
Tags: 76ers, Baron Davis, Celtics, Chris Paul, Chris Wilcox, Darius Songaila, David West, Emeka Okafor, heat, Hilton Armstrong, Hornets, Ike Diogu, J.R. Smith, Jamaal Magloire, James Posey, Jason Maxiell, Jason Williams, Jazz, Joe Smith, Julian Wright, Knicks, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Luke Walton, Matt Bonner, Morris Peterson, Paul Millsap, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rasual Butler, Roger Mason, Speedy Claxton, Spurs, Tyson Chandler
Posted on: May 3, 2009 3:34 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:44 pm
My Postseason Preview - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Cavs came into the postseason determined and really took it to Detroit in all areas of the game. Defensively the Pistons had no answer for LeBron James and the anemic play of their three stars (Tayshaun Prince, Richard Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace) resulted in just absolute destruction from beginning to end.
My Prediction: Cavaliers in five
Result: Cavaliers in four
Where I Was Right: I mentioned that the opposite ends at which these teams were entering the postseason was going to affect how they could perform. The Pistons frontcourt was small enough to where the Cavs' lack of size wouldn't be such a flaw.
Where I Was Wrong: I mentioned that the Pistons would be competitive in their games in Detroit and that Mo Williams would probably struggle in this series. Williams' shot was inconsistent but for the most part he was solid as the team's second option. The Pistons never really posed much of a threat to Cleveland aside from the first half of game one in Cleveland. It was sad to watch that proud franchise go out the way it did.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - This series has been really bad to watch because it hasn't given us great basketball from either team. For three games the Hawks have played terrific defense, for three games the Heat have taken it to the basket and gotten to the line and have made their three point shots. Neither team has shown any kind of consistency and the fact that it's gone to seven isn't fitting, seeing as how there hasn't been much competition or consistency from either squad.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - If not for this series, the first round would have been full of uninteresting, unmotivated players and performances. However, both teams here played fantastic basketball from start to finish and really brought out the best in eachother. It had theatrics on the bench, the young upstart squad versus the defending champions, fantastic buzzer beaters and tremendous basketball. It's a shame one of these squads had to lose, but the Celtics earned this on the court.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - Coming into the series, the Trail Blazers were the popular pick to make a run at the Lakers and give them trouble in the semifinals, and they proceeded to get destroyed in game 1 on their home court. After that loss, they never gained any momentum in this series and it never felt like they'd have a chance to win.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - This series pitting two division rivals against one another seemed to be one that was sure to bring fireworks from start to finish, but the Mavericks really dominated the Spurs on both sides of the court and gave them fits from all angles. The Spurs only had Tony Parker and Tim Duncan show up while the Mavericks had five players every night that gave tremendous production and really just overpowered the Spurs.
Oh no, now onto this next series.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In a matchup of two teams entering the playoffs on two opposite runs (Denver was hot going into the postseason whereas the Hornets stumbled entering the playoffs), the Nuggets thoroughly exposed the Hornets as the least talented team in the entire postseason. A dominating performance by Denver was highlighted by a 58 point game 4 victory in New Orleans
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller, Andrew Bynum, Brad Miller, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, David West, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Greg Oden, Hawks, Heat, Hornets, Jazz, Joel Przybilla, Jose Juan Barea, Kenyon Martin, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, Luis Scola, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Mavericks, Mo Williams, Nuggets, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Rasheed Wallace, Richard Hamilton, Rockets, Roger Mason, Ron Artest, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Battier, Spurs, Tayshaun Prince, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Trail Blazers, Tyrus Thomas, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:45 pm
Team By Team Previews
1st Round Matchups
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Pistons bring their experience to Cleveland to stand opposite the Cavaliers. The Cavs are really riding a huge wave of momentum into the postseason, the complete opposite way which Detroit is entering the playoffs. The Cavs have beaten the Pistons the last time they played in the postseason as well, and there's no reason for Detroit's intimidation factor to affect Cleveland. This is a solid matchup for the Cavs, because their lack of size won't affect them as the Pistons, likewise, lack significant size in their frontcourt.
(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade and the Heat are a tough out for anybody in the postseason, including an unproven playoff team like the Hawks. The Hawks are still a tough team to take seriously, although we all should, and they can look at that as a rallying cry. This is the most even matchup in the entire Eastern Conference, and the Hawks fantastic play at home should help this squad get out of the first round for the first time since 1999. Dwyane Wade and company will put up a fantastic effort, but I look for every home team to win in this series.
(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers - This is a matchup of slumping teams running head to head and will probably provide the least interesting of all of the playoff matchups in the NBA. The 76ers, even though they'll throw Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff at him, really have no answer for Dwight Howard. Andre Iguodala will have to do it by himself and I don't believe he's the kind of player capable of doing that. Also, his dissapointing performance in last season's playoffs has to weigh on his mind. However, Hedo Turkoglu's injury is something to look for in Orlando.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - Without Kevin Garnett, the Bulls lack of inside scoring can really be masked in this first round matchup. These two units play spectacular basketball at home and can really put points on the board. The key will be which team can make the defensive stops when it's necessary to get them. The defending champions, even without their defensive leader Garnett, have experience doing so and can really put the inexperienced Bulls on the ropes. I look for the Bulls to put up a great fight, and push the C's to seven but I look for the Celtics to somehow prevail.
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz - The Lakers get the unfortunate task of facing the inconsistent Utah Jazz in the first round. The Lakers should be confident, seeing as how Utah simply cannot win on the road, but the Jazz always give the Lakers fits. Kobe Bryant and company, though, should replicate last season's conference semifinals and really look to push Utah to the limit. Nobody outside of Deron Williams is really playing consistently for Utah, and he simply cannot do it alone. The Jazz will put up a fight in every single game, but they don't have the weapons or the confidence to pull games out.
(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - The Rockets were coming into the postseason on a huge positive note, but stumbling to the 5th seed and having to face Portland is not what the Dr. ordered for a team looking to make it out of the first round for the first time since 1998. It's all mental with the Rockets, and Yao Ming should really be a force, but Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden are big enough to stay in front of Yao and really alter his shots. With that being negated, the Rockets must rely on Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer and none of the three shoot consistently enough to match the late game heroics of Brandon Roy.
(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - The Spurs pulled off an amazing run to win the Southwest Division, but if there's one team that always troubles the Spurs it's the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have peaked at the right time and are entirely capable of winning games in San Antonio. Tim Duncan always plays fantastic ball against Dallas, but the same can be said for Dirk Nowitzki matching up against San Antonio. The role players will be huge in this matchup, as will Tony Parker, but the Mavs role players (Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Brandon Bass) should give the Mavericks the edge they need to pull the upset.
(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - This is a fantastic matchup here as the Hornets and Nuggets engage in a tightly contested head to head battle. Chris Paul may be too quick for Chauncey Billups to guard one on one, and if the Nuggets go to Anthony Carter that will give the Hornets the advantage defensively seeing as how Carter struggles with his shot. The Nuggets frontcourt could provide a lot of problems for the Hornets, especially Chris Andersen, who can really provide problems for Tyson Chandler and Sean Marks. When called upon, though, the acquisition of James Posey will pay off with his defense on Carmelo Anthony in this tough matchup.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (4) Atlanta Hawks - The Cavaliers will still be riding that wave of emotion heading into the semifinals after their dispatching of the Pistons. However, they're going to run into a tough, battle tested Hawks squad that could steal a game in Cleveland. Joe Johnson and LeBron James give the fans quite the one on one matchup and fans will be tuned in to watch those two go at it. However, Cleveland's role players outshine Atlanta's in critical spots and the Cavs will escape in seven.
(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Orlando Magic - Without Garnett, Dwight Howard looks to dominate against Boston and may very well do so. These two squads meet head to head and give a fantastic first four games in this series and the series should head back to Boston tied at 2 apiece. However, the Celtics will miss Garnett as they look fatiqued from a tough series with the Bulls. That gives the Magic an opportunity to steal a game and close out the series in Orlando. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will really shine in this series, but Boston's lack of options will do them in.
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Portland Trail Blazers - Coming off of facing the Jazz, the Lakers match up with another hated rival in Portland and have to be worried about this contest. The Lakers struggle against Portland, especially at Portland, and the Trail Blazers are one of the dangerous teams playing with no expectation to win. The Trail Blazers should give the Lakers lots of fits, but the Lakers have the best player on the court in Kobe Bryant, and have players outside of Kobe who can hit the big shot to win crucial games. The Blazers really will give the Lakers all they can handle and should take them to seven games.
(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In this matchup of underdogs to advance, the Hornets and Mavericks both should count their blessings to be so close to the conference finals. These two teams will meet up for the second straight postseason, providing a lot of intense moments of basketball. However, the Mavericks have always struggled with the combination of Chris Paul and David West. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass always give the Hornets trouble, but Nowitzki will be guarded closely by James Posey and the Hornets can allow Peja Stojakovic to run relatively free, giving the Hornets the series victory.
Eastern Conference Finals
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic - LeBron James should really dominate in this matchup, as the Magic simply have no answer for him. Courtney Lee will provide the best line of defense, but having to rely so many minutes to a rookie could hurt the Magic on the offensive side of the basketball. Dwight Howard may go off in this matchup as well, but his role players will be hard pressed to knock down the jump shot consistently against the fantastic defense of Cleveland's.
Western Conference Finals
(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - The Lakers, after two extremely draining matches will now be faced off with the postseason's cinderella team. However, the Hornets will be vexed from their two tough series as well, and their lack of size will finally come back to hurt them. Players like Odom and Bynum always perform well against the Hornets lack of height and the Lakers have more options to turn to than the Hornets do. They'll both be tired, but the Lakers have much more talent than New Orleans does and that will be enough for the Lakers to advance.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers - And now for the matchup that the nation, David Stern and ESPN want and that haters across the world will despise. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James will match up head to head in a battle between the two best teams in the NBA all season long. Coming into the finals, both teams will have been tested although the Lakers will have had the tougher time getting there. The Cavaliers can use Los Angels' fatique to their advantage for at least the first game of the series, but after a co uple days rest, the Lakers should shock Cleveland in game 2 on their home court. Once the series returns to Los Angeles, the Lakers should really use their size to their advantage and pound it into the paint against Cleveland's smaller lineup. LeBron's heroics will be tested against the defense of Trevor Ariza and the Lakers bench will do just enough to send the series back to Cleveland with the Lakers ahead 3-2. With a fantastic sixth game being held in Cleveland, the game of the year will come down to the wire but the Lakers prove to be too much for Cleveland and take the series.
Tags: 76ers, Aaron Brooks, Al Horford, Andre Iguodala, Andrei Kirilenko, Andrew Bynum, Anthony Carter, Brandon Bass, Brandon Roy, Bulls, Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Cavaliers, Celtics, Chauncey Billups, Chris Andersen, Chris Paul, Courtney Lee, Daniel Gibson, David West, Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Dwyane Wade, Glen Davis, Greg Oden, Hawks, Heat, Hedo Turkoglu, Hornets, J.R. Smith, James Posey, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Jazz, Joe Johnson, Joel Przybilla, Jose Juan Barea, Josh Howard, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Kwame Brown, Kyle Lowry, Lakers, Lamar Odom, LaMarcus Aldridge, LeBron James, Magic, Manu Ginobili, Mavericks, Michael Beasley, Mo Williams, Nuggets, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, Peja Stojakovic, Pistons, Rajon Rondo, Rashard Lewis, Ray Allen, Rockets, Roger Mason, Ron Artest, Ronald Murray, Samuel Dalembert, Sean Marks, Spurs, Theo Ratliff, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Trail Blazers, Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler, Von Wafer, Yao Ming, Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: April 3, 2009 12:09 am
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:42 pm
Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a team that has won four championships in ten seasons: the San Antonio Spurs.
The Spurs defense is having an off year but you know that, even through Bruce Bowen and Jacque Vaughn have seen limited minutes all season, they and players like Kurt Thomas will will step in and provide tough, tenacious minutes on their opposing man and provide the frustration necessary for great team defenders in Manu and Tony to possibly create turnovers and lead to fast break opportunities for the Spurs. And when the Spurs get on offense, they have a perfect inside-outside game that makes them dangerous from all angles. They have two of the top ten players percentage wise from behind the three point line in Roger Mason Jr. and Matt Bonner. Other players like Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bowen and Michael Finley can and have hit big three point shots in the postseason when called upon. And of course, Tim Duncan is possibly the best power forward of this generation. He can step out and hit the 20 footer and his footwork makes him nearly unstoppable around the basket as well. He's nearly unguardable. Add to the fact that players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili also thrive driving to the basket, and the Spurs get to the free throw line a respectable amount of times as well.
Also, depth may prove to be a problem for this Spurs team. They've always brought Manu off of the bench as a coaching ploy, and Pop should look to do that this year as well, but Tony Parker has played a lot of minutes this season for this Spurs team and George Hill, as a rookie, doesn't figure to get many minutes in the postseason. When Parker goes to the bench, Jacque Vaughn comes in and provides effecient basketball, but can't hit a jumper to save his life, and Roger Mason sometimes handles the ball but he can be turnover prone at the point guard position. Fact of the matter is, although Tony Parker is one of the biggest workhorses in this league, you have to wonder if his body can hold up and if it can't then the Spurs are in big trouble. Also, because of Manu's inability to stay healthy this season, a sense of chemistry and continuity seems to be lacking on this Spurs team that has been prominet on previous squads. That all still has time to be worked out, but could be a problem in early rounds, and the Spurs aren't guaranteed a first round victory this season.
Why They Will Win It
Why They Won't Win It
The next team to clinch will be covered in the next preview.
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