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Tag:Zydrunas Ilgauskas
Posted on: October 21, 2010 12:42 am
 

2010-2011 NBA Southeast Division Preview

2010-2011 NBA Southeast Division Preview

There is no tried and true formula to winning in the NBA.  Most people, my foolish self included, believe in the sanctity of building through the draft and through cost effective moves in free agency to build around those great players you drafted.  However, it’s becoming increasingly evident that the most successful formula, is to stack your team to the best of your abilities and then follow by adding in a bunch of older players willing to take a veterans salary to contribute to a championship team (or coattail their way to a championship, if you will).  There’s been no more glaring example of stacking your team than what happened in Miami this offseason.  The Heat stayed away from improving their team through free agency for most of the last two years, traded away players this offseason with the sole hope of free agency and then watched it all pay off as both LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined Dwyane Wade in Miami to form one of the most controversial rosters in NBA history.  Whether or not this pays off is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile, teams like Orlando and Atlanta, the division’s two best teams the past two seasons, went the traditional route of building on their success by focusing on player development and keeping the core intact.  Orlando, already possessing one of the best players in the league in all world center Dwight Howard, were exposed in the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston, and whispers of the team being soft were as loud as ever.  Meanwhile, those whispers against Orlando were shouts against Atlanta, as a second straight season ended in them being swept out of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.  They’ve now dedicated a ton of money to a roster that many feel have already peaked, and this may be Atlanta’s last year to be seen as contenders in the East. 

Meanwhile, Washington drafted their hopeful superstar this past June in John Wall.  Lucking into the number one overall selection, Washington chose Wall and decided to ask questions later.  It’s still a mystery as to how Wall and Gilbert Arenas will play on the court together and Arenas’ insistence on not being seen as a distraction has already directly caused a distraction for the team.  And Charlotte, after buying big time to make the playoffs last year, got swept in their first postseason appearance in franchise history and kept the team together in hopes that they improve. 

So which method of management is best conducive to an NBA Championship?  We’ve seen both methods in the last few years, but the better bet is on Miami this year.  Ultimately, though, we’ll see come June which blueprint is truly the most successful.


1) Miami Heat
Incoming Players:
Dexter Pittman, Da’Sean Butler, Patrick Beverly, Chris Bosh, Eddie House, Juwan Howard, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, LeBron James, Mike Miller
Outgoing Players:
Quentin Richardson, Jermaine O’Neal, Michael Beasley, Dorell Wright, Yakhouba Diawara, Daequan Cook
Team Analysis:
Easily the most hyped team in recent NBA memory (including the 2008 Boston Celtics), the Heat enter this season as a captivating story, polarizing figures and, most of all, a pretty solid basketball team.  Although not your traditional eight deep, in sync roster that you’d come to expect from many of the league’s greatest, the Heat feature three of the best players in the league in their starting lineup and did so after a humongous free agent coup by Pat Riley this offseason.  When the team did everything from passing up on free agents, trading away draft picks and letting players walk in order to clear the cap space for this summer, it was pretty evident that team president Pat Riley had gone all in and was gambling the franchise’s future on this offseason alone.  But his gambles paid off when Dwyane Wade resigned, Chris Bosh came over in free agency and then two time defending NBA MVP LeBron James, in a not so subtle manner, announced he was taking his talents to South Beach as well.

What sets these guys apart from previous players who teamed up to take over the league is that all of these guys are in their prime.  From a historical standpoint, most fans were upset to see three players in their prime basically take the “easy route” and join up to win championships.  But from a basketball standpoint, it’s a bold move that should pay off for the Heat.  After trading away Michael Beasley in order to resign Udonis Haslem and add Mike Miller in free agency, the Heat had every who’s who of past-their-prime role players knocking on the door to try and get that elusive championship before retirement.  Former all stars Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard were among the first to join the team and will probably be among the team’s most important reserves in the frontcourt.  Take that for what it’s worth.

The rest of the roster isn’t shaping up as anything beautiful but, honestly, they don’t need to be incredibly deep.  The talent gap between the third best player on the team and the fourth best player on the team is humongous, and therein lies the question of how this team is really going to perform this season if an injury is to happen, if one of the players struggles in adapting to a limited role or if dare the other starters like Mario Chalmers or Joel Anthony to beat them.  At the end of the day, the Heat will rely heavily on Miller and Haslem to bolster the big three and, if they stay healthy and perform to their capabilities, it could be more than enough for the Heat to reign as champions.  But with players like Wade, Miller and Bosh all having a history with injuries, the room for error is really thin.  There’s no doubt that just as Pat Riley was this offseason, this Heat roster better be all in to win a championship this season, or else the critics will be as loud as ever.

2) Orlando Magic
Incoming Players:
Daniel Orton, Stanley Robinson, Malik Allen, Chris Duhon, Quentin Richardson
Outgoing Players:
Matt Barnes, Adonal Foyle, Anthony Johnson
Team Analysis:
Lost in some of the hoopla surrounding this offseason was the 2009 Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.  After making the NBA Finals in 2009, the team was bounced from the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010 in convincing fashion by the Boston Celtics.  Although the team had strong performances from Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson, the rest of the team faltered as the Celtics closed out the Magic in six games.  Despite his strong performance, however, all of the criticism remained on Dwight Howard and his inability to will his team to victory.  Due to his frustration with the criticism, with teams playing him very physical and with consistently being in foul trouble during last year’s postseason, Howard is said to be a man on a mission this offseason, working with 2008 Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon on his still developing offensive repertoire and promising to cut down on the fan friendly, childish actions that most fans have associated him with.  If Howard is able to continue to progress offensively to already meet his fantastic defensive presence and capabilities, then the Magic could soon posses the most dominant player in the league.  But his development is key to how far Orlando goes this season.

Players like Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis struggled with consistency last season after huge years in 2009.  There’s no doubt that the team as a whole performed much better when Nelson played at a high level and struggled when he did, and his attempts to regain his early form of the 2009 season will be huge for Orlando if he’s to reach that level.  However, numerous offseason attempts to move Nelson to improve the roster probably don’t bode well for the team’s hope of him doing so.  Lewis on the other hand is finally being criticized for his ludicrous salary as his production, while never fully meeting his paycheck before, became a detriment to the team last season when his offensive numbers fell across the board.  A move back to his more natural Small Forward position would probably suit Lewis well, but the offense that Orlando runs gels better when Lewis is at the Power Forward spot shooting a high percentage from outside.  The team’s lineup, ultimate success and even fiscal future could depend a lot on how Lewis plays this year.

As far as the role players that surround the team’s most central figures, Quentin Richardson enters after Matt Barnes left to join the Lakers.  He can probably replace Barnes’ offensive production, but he will struggle to match Barnes’ importance on the defensive end.  Therefore, more will be asked of Mickael Pietrus this season in Orlando, and you have to wonder if he’ll be up to the task for a full season and postseason.  The team matched Chicago’s offer sheet for J.J. Redick, giving them three of the highest paid reserves in the league in Redick, Marcin Gortat and Brandon Bass.  Bass, who barely played at all last year, is more of a traditional PF and his strong postseason play may result in a more traditional lineup at times for Orlando.  But whether Stan Van Gundy commits to him or Ryan Anderson as the back-up PF depends on whether or not he wants to abandon the system the team has ran the past two seasons.  Whether or not the system they’ve ran has run its course is still to be seen, and will play a large factor into whether or not the team returns to the NBA Finals this season.

3) Washington Wizards
Incoming Players:
John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, Hamady N’diaye, Hilton Armstrong, Kirk Hinrich, Yi Jianlian

Outgoing Players:
Shaun Livingston, Mike Miller, Fabricio Oberto, Cartier Martin, James Singleton, Cedric Jackson, Quinton Ross, Randy Foye, Earl Boykins
Team Analysis:
Two years ago, Washington did very much the same thing that Atlanta did this offseason.  Even though the team had made the postseason four consecutive years, they had only one playoff victory in those four years to show for it and many felt the team had reached its peak.  Instead, the Wizards committed a combined 161 million dollars over 6 and 4 years, respectively, to franchise players Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.  Arenas has played only 34 games in the two seasons since signing that contract while Jamison was traded to Cleveland at last season’s trade deadline in a moment where the Wizards decided to rebuild the roster.  Jamison, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood were all traded at last season’s deadline, but Arenas’ contract looks immovable, and the team will put him on the court again; at least for this season.  But after committed a huge chunk of cash to what many felt was an above average cast, the Wizards saw injuries and suspensions ruin the team’s reputation and overall winning percentage, as the Wizards have combined for 55 victories in the two seasons that followed that spending spree to keep the team intact.  And although 2009’s 19 win season was ugly, it hit rock bottom last year after Arenas was suspended for supposedly drawing a gun out towards a teammate in an argument over a card game in the team’s locker room.  What followed was a largely upsetting season where the team only won 26 games. 

But the team’s luck may eventually be turning around.  After the death of owner Abe Polin last year, the team was successfully sold to Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, they scored the number one overall pick in the draft and used it on Kentucky point guard John Wall, and had impressive second half performances from big men Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee after the trade deadline, giving the team a semblance of hope this upcoming season.  In John Wall, the Wizards immediately have a new face of the franchise and cornerstone player around whom the team plans to build.  Wall won almost every collegiate award in his freshman season at Kentucky and hopes to follow in Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans’ shoes as point guards under former college coach John Calipari who went on to win the Rookie of the Year award.  Rose and Evans have won the last two respectively.  That would be a welcome change of pace for Washington, who are trying to reunite with their fan base and shake the problems that hurt the team on and off the court the last two seasons. 

Gilbert Arenas has already caused problems.  Most media outlets are talking about his stern expressions, reluctance to give interviews and unwillingness to show any emotion as an act more so than a turning of the leaf, and he’s already been fined by the league for faking an injury to allow guard Nick Young more playing time this preseason.  How he reacts to this year plays a large role in how the team ultimately does.  Blatche performed very well as the go to guy in the second half of last season and McGee had an impressive showing at this year’s summer league and followed it up by being one of the final players cut from the final roster for the USA’s World Championship team.  If those two players team up with Wall to show a consistent production this year, then the Wizards, at the very least, will have something to build around for the future.  They could be one of the surprise teams in the league this year.  But a lot of that depends on whether or not Gilbert Arenas buys into the system, and also whether or not he can regain some of the magic he showed on the court prior to his first knee injury late in the 2008 season.


4) Atlanta Hawks
Incoming Players:
Jordan Crawford, Pape Sy, Josh Powell, Etan Thomas
Outgoing Players:
Randolph Morris, Mario West, Joe Smith,
Team Analysis:
For eight straight seasons, the Atlanta Hawks were a dependable team in terms of NBA Futility.  They routinely finished among the worst teams in the league, underwent numerous head coaching and regime changes and couldn’t convince any star player to capitalize on their infinite cap space.  Joe Johnson changed all that when he left for Atlanta in the middle of that run in 2005, and by his third season with the team, Atlanta had returned to the NBA playoffs and pushed the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round in 2008.  Two Eastern Conference Semifinals appearances followed, but both were convincing sweeps at the hands of Cleveland and Orlando.  Instead of figuring that the roster had reached its peak with those two consecutive embarrassing exits, the Hawks instead figured it to be head coach Mike Woodson, who oversaw a gradual improvement with the Hawks from 13 wins in his first season in 2004 to the 53 wins the team achieved last season.  Stepping into his place will be longtime assistant coach Larry Drew, who wants to run a more motion based offense instead of the isolation game that Woodson preferred.  Fully believing that it was Woodson, and not the roster, that had held the Hawks back, Atlanta committed six years and 129 million dollars to Joe Johnson this offseason in hopes that he can continue to lead the Hawks as they try and improve upon their past success.  Whether or not that contract eventually spells an early fall from grace or an eventual rise to glory is largely debatable. 

But Johnson’s not the only important player on the team.  The Hawks still have hope that Josh Smith, coming off a very impressive season last year, will continue his ascension among the most exciting players in the league.  Graced with natural athleticism and starting to finally develop a better feel for the game, Smith had his best year last year with new head coach Drew working directly with him.  His development could mean wonders for Atlanta.  The team does have two more contract situations to work out.  Reigning sixth man of the year Jamaal Crawford is asking for an extension as is All Star center Al Horford.  As of yet, neither have reached deals and Crawford has asked to be traded if he doesn’t reach an extension with the team.  With rookie Jordan Crawford capable of playing a similar role, there’s a good chance that Jamaal doesn’t finish the year with the team.  But we’ll see with how those contracts are worked whether or not the Hawks are truly committed to keeping this team intact.  And we’ll see in due time if that was the correct decision to make. 

5) Charlotte Bobcats
Incoming Players:
Sherron Collins, Kwame Brown, Matt Carroll, Shaun Livingston, Dominic McGuire, Eduardo Najera
Outgoing Players:
Raymond Felton, Theo Ratliff, Tyson Chandler, Larry Hughes, Stephen Graham, Alexis Ajinca
Team Analysis:
Ever since head coach Larry Brown came to Charlotte in 2008, the team has seen a plethora of bold moves made by team president and eventual team owner Michael Jordan in an attempt to remove Charlotte from the sea of mediocrity it had been in for the majority of its existence.  Those bold moves finally resulted in a playoff appearance last season, although the Bobcats were quickly swept by Orlando in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.  But because of the major moves Charlotte made to become winners: namely taking on the contracts of big men DeSagana Diop and Nazr Mohammed, and also taking on the contracts of productive wing players Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson, the Bobcats reverted back to seller mode this offseason.  Since Brown came to the team in 2008, only Gerald Wallace remains from the team that Brown inherited, and the team has made so many moves that it reacquired Matt Carroll, a player the team traded in 2009, in an offseason trade that rid themselves of Tyson Chandler’s big salary.  Therefore, it could be said that the Bobcats won’t be afraid to wheel and deal again this season, although early indications would be that the team will be more in seller mode this season.

True to that, the team let Raymond Felton walk in free agency and the biggest question surrounding the Bobcats is who will play the point guard position.  2008 first round draft pick D.J. Augustin looks to be the early favorite, although he’s been pushed by former lottery pick Shaun Livingston for the job.  Neither are Earth shattering candidates to run the point, so we may see a lot of the offense being run through Stephen Jackson.  It’s fair to call Wallace the best player on the Bobcats team, but it’s no coincidence that Jackson’s midseason acquisition coincided with a run that got the team to its first ever playoff appearance.  More may be asked of Jackson this year, who saw his numbers dip a little bit last year after leaving Golden State’s offense.  He and Wallace are easily the team’s best players, and Wallace is still the face of the franchise, having remained with the team since its inception in 2004. 

The Bobcats downgraded the team in terms of talent when they traded disappointing center Tyson Chandler to Dallas for Erick Dampier’s non guaranteed contract and mainly hustle players in Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera.  Najera has been a fan favorite wherever he’s gone, but his skill set is better suited for a more talented team.  Carroll had his best years in Charlotte, and may assume a bigger role with the team this season than he had while in Dallas.  Dampier was quickly cut, leaving the center position about as uninspiring as the team’s outlook at point guard, with Diop and Mohammed being the early options at that position.  The Bobcats are a tough team to get a grip on, as they should be looked at as a team on the rise given their first postseason appearance in franchise history occurred last season, but the team is largely made up of veterans, and not all of those veterans are in the peak of their careers anymore.  In fact, it’s arguable that Wallace is the only one still in his peak.  So while the Bobcats built something last year, it’s hard to envision them building on that this season.

Posted on: October 13, 2010 3:12 pm
 

2010-2011 NBA Central Division Preview

2010-2011 NBA's Central Division

1) Chicago Bulls
Incoming Players:
Omer Asik, Keith Bogans, Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, Brian Scalabrine, Kurt Thomas, C.J. Watson
Outgoing Players: Kirk Hinrich, Ronald Murray, Brad Miller, Hakim Warrick, Joe Alexander, Devin Brown, Jannero Pargo, Acie Law
Team Analysis: After mainly conservative fiscal moves on the part of the front office for the better portion of the last two seasons, the Bulls finally entered this offseason as players in free agency.  They finally began fully committing themselves to a championship.  The results weren’t staggering.  Regardless of what they try to sell the fan base, they cleared up that cash for LeBron James or Dwyane Wade.  Instead they got Carlos Boozer.  But the Bulls then decided to make the most of the available remaining money, and spent it on pieces that could come in and play parts for championship teams.  All great teams have particular role players and the Bulls seem to have them.  They have the defender in Ronnie Brewer, the three point marksman in Kyle Korver and the Bulls even brought in old, wise veterans like Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans to be mentors in times of trouble for the team.  But how will it all fit?

As is the case with any kind of massive roster overhaul, chemistry is a huge issue, and the Bulls will be dealing with this chemistry while also implementing a new system from a new head coach.  Tom Thibodeau was possibly the most famous assistant in the league after his noticeable work with Boston’s defense the last three seasons.  This can be seen as a blessing in disguise, seeing as how he shouldn’t have to get rid of any bad habits from the previous regime.  Thibodeau’s commitment to defense will be seen as a sign of hope in Chicago, but time will tell whether or not the players buy into or even execute that style. 

The Bulls do have nice pieces though.  Derrick Rose is an up and coming point guard, although nowhere near the superstar that the media portrays him as, Joakim Noah is a solid big man in the middle, although nowhere near the amount of money he just received, and Carlos Boozer is a very good low post scorer, although one who relied a lot on Deron Williams setting him up in Utah.  It’s fair to look at this team with a bit of reservation.  The Bulls have a lot of players that play certain parts without any guarantee that those parts will fit together.  Add in a new coach and new system, and the learning curve could be steep for Chicago.  Even still, the division is theirs to lose.  They spent their money on being competitive and at least will be more than they have in recent seasons.

2) Milwaukee Bucks
Incoming Players:
Larry Sanders, Tiny Gallon, Darington Hobson, Earl Boykins, Jon Brockman, Keyon Dooling, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette, Brian Skinner
Outgoing Players: Kurt Thomas, Luke Ridnour, Jerry Stackhouse, Primoz Brezec, Royal Ivey, Dan Gadzuric, Charlie Bell
Team Analysis: Undergoing just as big of an overhaul as Chicago’s, Milwaukee burst onto the scene last season as one of the biggest surprises in the entire league.  After years of mediocrity at best and futility at worst, the Bucks bought into coach Scott Skiles’ desired style of play and responded by making the NBA postseason for only the second time in six seasons before pushing the Atlanta Hawks to seven games in the first round, even without center Andrew Bogut.  Bogut is said to be recovering nicely from an arm injury that kept him out of the postseason and should be ready to man down the center position for the Bucks for a fifth consecutive season.  Long seen as inconsistent and a bit of an underachiever, Bogut routinely was registering double digits in both points and rebounds and was, by and large, the team’s best player last season.  But he was joined by the team’s most exciting player in rookie Brandon Jennings.  Jennings took the league by storm by scoring 55 points in a game versus the Golden State Warriors in the third week of the season.  His offense was erratic, at best, for a majority of the year, but his playmaking improved drastically over the last portion of the season.

Because the Bucks felt that they were close to becoming a great team, GM John Hammond was given the green light to make aggressive, costly moves in hopes of becoming among the NBA’s best teams again.  The results were nice.  After trading for Corey Maggette, the Bucks resigned John Salmons, a big reason why the team surged to the postseason last year, gave a long term deal to Drew Gooden and filled in the pieces with more small moves and with their draft picks.  Players like Maggette and Gooden come with recognizable names, but with games that haven’t hugely contributed to much success in the NBA.  Probably where Maggette will best contribute to Milwaukee is in his ability to get to the free throw line, something the Bucks as a team were the worst at in the entire league.  The Bucks are hoping that Gooden can slide in and play alongside Bogut.  He’ll give you a sold, if unspectacular, stat line on a nightly basis but teams like Orlando and Cleveland will tell you not to rely too much on Gooden’s consistency. 

Although the new pieces are nice, a lot of this team will rely on the improvements of players like Jennings, Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova and continued, solid production out of players like Jon Brockman, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Carlos Delfino.  In an ideal scenario, all of those pieces fall into place for Milwaukee and the team takes the entire league by storm.  But there’s great potential for a crash and burn here.  Skiles’ style has soured elsewhere before, a lot of the names they brought in haven’t achieved much before, and Bogut has still not proven he can have a consistent and relatively injury free year.  All needs to go right for Milwaukee to reach its full potential, but there’s a chance all could go right.


3) Indiana Pacers
Incoming Players:
Paul George, Lance Stephenson, Magnum Rolle, Darren Collison, James Posey
Outgoing Players:
Earl Watson, Troy Murphy, Luther Head
Team Analysis:
For the past two seasons, the Pacers have been in the dangerous “good but not great” category, making them one of the most bland and unexciting teams in basketball.  The best example of this is in their very own stadium, where the NBA’s finest venue and one of its most dedicated fan bases seem very much split apart.  In the beginning of this decade, the Pacers were among one of the NBA’s best teams on a yearly basis only to see the character of some of the guys they brought in result in the team being imploded from the inside-out, and seeing one of the most disturbing crash and burns in NBA history.  But the Pacers dedicated themselves to building a team full of good character, marketable guys and now they need to get dedicated to winning.  The moves they made this offseason showed there’s at least a direction towards being dedicated to winning.

One of the biggest moves made outside of the max free agents going elsewhere this offseason was the Pacers acquiring Darren Collison in a trade back in August.  The result hopefully will be the end to a revolving door at the point guard position for Indiana, who has unsuccessfully tried anyone at that position in recent years, including the uninspiring performances of Earl Watson and T.J. Ford last season.  Collison is coming off of a year where he subbed in for all world point guard Chris Paul in New Orleans and did an admirable job: putting up very inspiring numbers, showing consistency on a jump shot that was largely critiqued leading up to his being drafted and being rewarded with a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team as a result.  Also not to be overlooked is the Pacers acquiring James Posey from New Orleans in the same trade.  Although Posey’s contract causes people to negatively react towards his play, his personality, experience and play could mean wonders in terms of giving this team an identity or just giving this relatively soft bunch a bit of an attitude.

The Pacers return Danny Granger, fresh off of a first place finish with the USA team in the World Championships, and the improving Roy Hibbert as the main pieces in terms of how they will play this season.  Granger still seems a bit one dimensional, but it’s hard to truly evaluate his game until he plays with teammates who he genuinely should defer to in given situations.  Hibbert isn’t your typical seven-footer in that he’s not a dominant low post player nor is he even a consistently good player facing the basket.  But he’s a solid team defense guy and is a good enough low post player to where teams can’t leave him alone.  Although Pacers fans may have thrown their hands up and been dissatisfied with the conduct of second round draft choice Lance Stephenson this offseason, it’s really the most noticeable conduct issue in the past few seasons on a team that was routinely in the news for only that reason.  Pacers fans are still a long ways away from being truly happy with their team, but seeing what Larry Bird was able to do with Troy Murphy’s expiring deal in the offseason had to be encouraging.  Soon enough, the Pacers will have room to operate as well and then we can officially evaluate Bird’s job as a GM.  They’re still further away from that than the optimism created by the Collison trade would indicate, but there’s finally light at the end of the tunnel for the Pacers. 


4) Detroit Pistons
Incoming Players:
Greg Monroe, Terrico White, Vernon Hamilton, Tracy McGrady
Outgoing Players:
Chucky Atkins, Kwame Brown
Team Analysis:
After six consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals, two NBA Finals appearances and one NBA Championship from a largely successful run for Detroit, the Pistons made the decision a couple of years ago to blow up the roster.  Since then, the Pistons have undergone two head coaching changes, seen their win total drop from 59 to 39 to 27, and have only Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, Rodney Stuckey and Jason Maxiell remaining from that 2008 team that made its sixth and final trip to the Eastern Conference Finals.  When the Pistons made their initial decision to shake up the roster, much was made about the possibility of them being players in this past summer’s free agent market.  However, Joe Dumars spent the majority of that cleared cap space last offseason, being proactive in the acquisitions of players like Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.  The results, however, were not very promising.  Gordon and Villanueva both showed a lot of their bad qualities over the course of the season, and huge improvements need to be made by both players if the Pistons want to be competitive this season.

Stuckey is entering a make or break season this year with the Pistons, as is probably coach John Kuester.  Both have been praised for their performances in supporting roles, although neither have done extraordinary when much is asked of them.  In Kuester’s case, the Pistons could have been justified in firing him after only one season (they had just done so to Michael Curry in 2009 after a much better season than last year’s) but Dumars felt that Kuester’s potential and continuity would serve the team well this offseason.  While a lot of teams made huge roster overhauls this offseason, including two very publicized teams in Chicago and Milwaukee in their own division, the Pistons are banking that a continued year of growth and development will go a long way in determining their success this season.  Much of that is reliant on Rodney Stuckey, the player who once made Chauncey Billups expendable.  Stuckey has been largely inconsistent, but the team still remains committed to seeing him succeed in Detroit. 

But the Pistons roster is still divided between players who are young and promising, and players who are old and declining.  Some could see that as a nice bridging of the gap.  I feel that’d be a better sell had the team not just won 27 games last season.  The move to acquire Tracy McGrady this offseason probably does nothing to dispel the confusion in regards to Detroit’s roster, but the Pistons are hoping he can recover from his knee injuries to play a solid role at both backup guard positions.  There’s also confusion on what kind of team the Pistons will be.  After a unusually porous performance from the team’s defense last season, Dumars promised better results this year, but they return a lot of the same players.  We still don’t’ know if a lot of their players can fully succeed in a half court system either.  There are a lot of questions In Detroit; frankly, too many to say with any certainty how they’ll perform next season.  Optimists will point to last year’s injuries, pessimists will point to the contradicting roster moves in terms of players brought in, and the players ability to fit the team philosophy.  A lot is on the line this season in Detroit, and change will be on their horizon if they don’t get better and do so soon.


5) Cleveland Cavaliers
Incoming Players:
Christian Eyenga, Joey Graham, Ryan Hollins, Ramon Sessions
Outgoing Players:
LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, Delonte West, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Sebastian Telfair,
Team Analysis:
No team was more largely affected by this offseason than Cleveland.  After two straight seasons of having the NBA’s best record and failing to reach the NBA Finals in either season, Mike Brown was fired as the team’s head coach, and after a very public flirtation with Tim Floyd (who turned the job down due to LeBron James’ uncertain status with the team), settled for former coach of the year Byron Scott.  Scott has been at the helm for two very impressive roster turnarounds in New Jersey and New Orleans and he’s about to be at the helm for another.  Because Cleveland had spent so much towards being competitive the past couple of seasons, role players like Anthony Parker, Anderson Vareajo and Mo Williams are now average shooters and average defenders, overpaid hustle-type guys and shooters who really aren’t comfortable in the lead role.  That doesn’t bode well for Cleveland entering this season.  Add to the fact that LeBron’s departure has placed the whole city of Cleveland in a noticeable funk, and you may have a recipe for disaster this season.

Mo Williams, fresh off of a public pity party which included him admitting that he recently contemplated retirement, returns as Cleveland’s best player.  He disappeared in both postseasons with the team and has been justifiably criticized for those faults.  He and Antawn Jamison are the only players on the team that have shown they can carry the load on offense and contribute on a nightly basis.  Only problem is, neither has done so for a good squad and both should be the subject of trade rumors all season.  The Cavaliers hope that improvements from players like J.J. Hickson and incoming rookie Christian Eyenga will be bright spots for the coming seasons for the team.  But with so much uncertainty regarding those players, it’s foolish to assume they’ll reach their maximum potential this season. 

Cleveland has been vocal in bracing for a youth movement, which is fine if the team has much youth to turn over the new leaf.  Unfortunately, they don’t.  They’re still a team of players that were brought in to win now and a few nice guys who can keep you competitive on a given night.  But the departure of LeBron James will be felt in the team morale, the attendance figures and, most of all, the on court production.  Cleveland is still a few seasons from removing themselves from the mess that was this offseason, and it will be a slow process.  It’s very possible Cleveland could find themselves right back in the bottom of the league this season.  In fact, some will say that’s in the best interest of the team moving forward.  With the whole city of Cleveland being personified by Mo Williams’ public cries for sympathy, it’s unlikely to expect much fire and retaliation from this bunch.

Posted on: December 2, 2009 5:38 pm
Edited on: December 3, 2009 6:52 pm
 

Worst Teams In The NBA Of The Last Decade

0-17.  That's right; 17 straight losses to begin an NBA Season.  The New Jersey Nets have done the unthinkable and joined an elite list in the NBA's illustrious history.  Three franchises, only three in the entire history of the NBA, have started off a season with 17 straight losses.  No team has lost 18 straight.  While the Nets record indicates they'd be among the worst this decade, it's hard to see where they fall with teams of the past few years.  So I thought it'd be fun to do a little research and come up with my own list of the ten worst NBA teams of the last decade.  Beginning in the 2000-2001 season and concluding last season (which technically only  makes it 9 seasons), all teams were candidates for this list.  The ten that made it had problems with youth, problems with injuries, problems with coaching, problems with talent, problems with attendance and, obviously, problems with winning.  So without further adieu, here's the Ten Worst NBA Teams of the Last Decade.

10. 2006/2007 Boston Celtics (24-58) and the 2007/2008 Minnesota Timberwolves (22-60)
Head Coaches - Boston Celtics: Doc Rivers.  Minnesota Timberwolves: Randy Wittman
Leading Scorers - Boston Celtics: Paul Pierce .  Minnesota Timberwolves: Al Jefferson
Years In Review  - The reason I group these teams together is because at least a handful of players found themselves on both squads as a result of the Kevin Garnett trade.  After injuries to Paul Pierce, Tony Allen and company in 2007, frustration fully showed its face in the Boston Garden.  After finishing the season with a 24-58 record in 2007 and then missing out on the top pick, which would have londed Boston Greg Oden , the Celtics traded five of their players in order to obtain one from Minnesota: franchise player Kevin Garnett.  The players included in that deal (Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes , Sebastian Telfair , Gerald Green and Theo Ratliff ) would go to Minnesota and carry the same amount of inconsistency and agonizing defeat to Minnesota.  Jefferson and Gomes are clearly good players, but they're not capable of taking a team and leading it to any kind of respectability.  And since more than a handful of players carried the same amount of problems into Minnesota in 2007 that they had developed in Boston, these two teams will forever be joined in terms of NBA ineptitude since the turn of the century.

9. 2008/2009 Washington Wizards (19-63)
Head Coaches - Eddie Jordan (1-10) and Ed Tapscott (18-53)
Leading Scorer - Antawn Jamison
Year in Review - After investing over 100 million dollars to retain star point guard Gilbert Arenas , the Wizards, who were coming off of a 43 win season the year before. looked, at the best, destined to be regulars in the Eastern Conference Playoffs each season.  An impressive trio of Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler were supposed to lead the Wizards to success in the Eastern Conference, even though the team had shown no such promise before investing that much money to Jamison and Arenas.  Only a few months after handing Arenas that six year contract, the Wizards received word he would be undergoing another knee surgery and would miss, basically, the entire season.  Arenas played two games and another of the big three, Caron Butler, also struggled to stay healthy; missing 15 games during the season.  Additionally, starting center Brendan Haywood was only available for 6 games that season and things looked bad all season for the Wizards.  Having to rely on very raw big men (Andray Blatche , JaVale McGee and Dominic McQuire), very young guards (Nick Young and Javaris Crittenton ) and career journeymen (Darius Songaila , Mike James and Juan Dixon), it's no surprise that the Wizards stumbled their way to an ugly 19 win season.  They had the talent of a playoff team, but when you lose your best players, you see just how bad things can get.  The Wizards were exhibit A of a top heavy team.

8. 2000/2001 Washington Wizards (19-63)
Head Coaches - Leonard Hamilton
Leading Scorer - Richard Hamilton
Year in Review - In the late 90s, the Wizards were a team with a lot of money invested in a few players but were getting few in return in terms of the win/loss column.  After only one playoff appearance (in 1996/97), the Wizards looked ready to shake things up.  For a few seasons they were an old, mediocre team.  In 2000/2001, they became a team that imploded.  Rod Strickland, Mitch Richmond and Juwan Howard all began the year as a big three for Washington, but Strickland and Howard ended the year in different locations.  The team was led by a head coach, Hamilton, who was a personal hire for then head of basketball operations Michael Jordan.  Hamilton could barely control the roster, famously being cussed out by Tyrone Nesby when Hamilton took Nesby out of the game.  The Wizards were an ugly display of basketball on the court all season long and, the very next  year, Michael Jordan would take off the sport coat and put on the cape.  When the consecutive 37 win seasons that followed were considered a success, it shows how bad things had gotten in Washington; concluding with this 2000/2001 team.

7. 2005/2006 New York Knicks (23-59)
Head Coach - Larry Brown
Leading Scorer - Stephon Marbury
Year in Review - Trying desperately to recapture respectability, the Knicks handed Isiah Thomas the keys to the franchise in 2008.  He followed that up by making a plethora of moves to bring in all kinds of new players in an attempt to shake up the New York franchise.  While it initially ended in a playoff appearance for the Knicks in 2004, the Knicks quickly looked like a makeshift team thrown together in an attempt at a quick fix with no real plans for the future.  Isiah then pulled out the ace of spades and hired the coach who would take the Knicks back to respectability: Larry Brown.  With Brown at the helm, pundits and fans alike immediately predicted big improvements for a Knicks franchise that looked very discombobulated the year before.  What ensued was an insanely ugly season in the city that never sleeps.  Brown immediately clashed with Stephon Marbury and the Knicks actually regressed, losing eleven more games than they had the previous year.  Brown bashed the team publicly, looked very uninterested as the season wore on and would eventually be fired in the offseason.  With insane money being given to a recently retired Alan Houston (20 million), Stephon Marbury (17 million), Jalen Rose (16 million), Steve Francis (14 million), Maurice Taylor (9 million),  Eddy Curry (8 million), Quentin Richardson (7 million), Jerome James (5 million), Jamaal Crawford (7 million), and Malike Rose (7 million), the Knicks were officially a severely bad NBA team that was spending an insanely bad amount of money. 

6. 2007/2008 Miami Heat (15-67)
Head Coach - Pat Riley
Leading Scorer - Dwyane Wade
Year In Review - When your leading scorer for the season only plays 51 games, things are more than likely going to be tough for your franchise.  The fact that this team was only two years removed from an NBA championship made things incredibly worse.  Entering the season with the duo of Wade and Shaquille O'Neal still on the roster, few could have predicted the futility and agony that would be bestowed upon Miami Heat fans the next season.  With starters Udonis Haslem , Jason Williams , Wade and O'Neal missing a major amount of time early in the season, the Heat were immediately far behind schedule in terms of success.  To make matters worse, because big things were anticipated for the Heat that season, they were regulars on national television and fans were forced to watch the putrid display of basketball put on by the squad.  Even when the Heat traded O'Neal for Shawn Marion , a player who had stayed relatively healthy his entire career, even if caught the injury bug and missed a majority of his time with the Heat.  At the end of the year, only Ricky Davis played in all 82 games for Miami.  But with Davis, Mark Blount , Daequan Cook and Chris Quinn becoming regulars in Miami's rotation, the losses piled up.  Mercifully, Wade would be healthy the next season and Miami would make the playoffs.  But that season remains a painful one to observe for NBA fans alike.

5. 2000/2001 Golden State Warriors (17-65)
Head Coach - Dave Cowens
Leading Scorer - Antawn Jamison
Year in Review - Entering the year with really past their prime players like Mookie Blaylock and John Starks still on the roster, Golden State was quickly becoming a regular among the bottom of the NBA.  Things would peak, though, in the 2000/2001 season for the Warriors in terms of futility.  Antawn Jamison was still a young player, currently in his third season, but the rest of the team around him was not producing at all.  Midseason trades for Larry Hughes and Bob Sura were made with intentions fo building for the future, but things were really bad all season long.  With Blaylock, Adam Keefe, Erick Dampier , Adonal Foyle , Chris Porter and Vonteego Cummings **** becoming regulars in the Golden State rotation, things were tough for the fans in the Oracle.  Things would eventually get bright in Golden State for a couple of seasons, but unfortunately for one of the better fan bases in the NBA, things are tough again in San Francisco.

4. 2002/2003 Denver Nuggets (17-65)
Head Coach - Jeff Bzdelik
Leading Scorer - Juwan Howard
Year in Review - Similar to the situation above, the Nuggets were a consistently mediocre NBA franchise by the time the 2002/2003 season came along.  Similar to the situation above, things peaked in a negative way in 2003 when the Denver Nuggets only won 17 games.  After a trade in the offseason for Marcus Camby and rookie Nene Hilario, the Nuggets were expected to make more of a push towards respectability than had previously been experienced in Denver.  However, injuries to Camby quickly followed and the Nuggets became a really bad team really fast.  Players like Mark Bryant, Junior Harrington, Ryan Bowen, Rodney White, Donnell Harvey, Nikoloz Tskitishvilli and Vincent Yarbrouugh (I had to look that up) were receing heavy minutes in Denver's rotation.  Top to bottom, this is a tough looking roster that really could not score (84.2 PPG).  Carmelo Anthony would follow, however, and the Nuggets luck would change just one season later.

3. 2004/2005 New Orleans Hornets (18-64)
Head Coach - Byron Scott
Leading Scorer - Lee Nailon
Year in Review - Going into the 2004 season, the Hornets had been a regular in the NBA postseason.  Although they were entering the Western Conference, they had been to the finals 7 of their previous 8 years.  However, it was becoming increasingly evident that the team as constructed was not going to win a championship.  For Hornets fans, the incredibly bad 2004/2005 season began.  With new head coach Byron Scott and general manager Jeff Bower leading the way, the Hornets underwent an incredibly swift rebuilding process and shed contracts of Baron Davis , David Wesley, Darrell Armstrong and Jamal Mashburn along the season.  The Hornets other all star player, Jamaal Magloire , was only available for 26 games.  As a result of all the trades, the team was regularly led by Lee Nailon, Bostjan Nachbar, Dan Dickau, Casey Jacobsen, Chris Andersen , Jackson Vroman, Maciej Lampe and a rookie J.R. Smith .  Not surprisingly, wins weren't regular in the Crescent City.  P.J. Brown was the only Hornet to play in all 82 games and the Hornets consistently played in front of some of the smallest crowds in recent memory.  In the offseason, Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans and things could have gotten much worse for the franchise.  But they drafted Chris Paul , got David West healthy and made a quick turnaround to respectability. 

2. 2004/2005 Atlanta Hawks (13-69)
Head Coach - Mike Woodson
Leading Scorer - Al Harrington
Year in Review - The Hawks were regulars at the bottom of the league every year at the beginning of the decade.  It was a slow, painful process and things looked bleak for many years in Atlanta.  After hiring new coach Mike Woodson, drafting Josh Childress and Josh Smith , and trading for Al Harrington, the Hawks were now looking for plan A, B, C, D or E at the time to try and turn things around.  It didn't work.  Harrington responded with career highs in scoring and rebounding, but the team was completely bad, losing games by an average of 10 PPG.  The Hawks would acquire Tyronn Lue during the season and subtract Jon Barry, Kevin Willis and Kenny Anderson during the year but the defeats remained.  In the offseason, the Hawks would acquire Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw and would start the process to becoming the much better team that they are now.  But for those few years, and especially this season, the Hawks were regulars among the worst teams in the NBA.

1. 2002/2003 Cleveland Cavaliers (17-65)
Head Coach - John Lucas (8-34), Keith Smart (9-31)
Leading Scorer - Ricky Davis
Year in Review - As is regular in this countdown, Cleveland was a consistently bad franchise for a number of years entering the 2002/2003 NBA season.  Things weren't promising at all entering the 2002 season for the Cavs, but they did get worse really fast in Cleveland.  With Davis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas leading the way, the Cavaliers consistently turned the ball over, got blown out, played horrid defense and played in front of some horribly empty crowds at the Gund Arena.  No transactions were really made throughout the season, no real rebuilding moves were made, a coaching change happened but the same team produced the same bad results all season long.  Rookie Dajuan Wagner showed some promise but only played in 47 games.  Meanwhile, rookie Carlos Boozer , Jumaine Jones, Darius Miles, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Milt Polacio got heavy minutes in Cleveland and none of them were capable of changing pace.  The season was awfully bad but was quickly forgotten when Cleveland landed the number one pick and drafted LeBron James in the offseason.  But that season was a horrible one to watch for Cleveland fans and one that's only forgotten because of the talent of James. 


Posted on: June 17, 2009 7:37 pm
 

Biggest Draft Busts of NBA Draft Lottery Era

Now that the season is over and the draft is underway, the time is here and now to revisit my draft observations and start to look back at the biggest draft busts of all time.  There are quite a few go through, actually, and I know some people are going to point out that I left some out, but I'm taking into account the player, the players drafted after them, and the player's performance and attitude.  So here it goes: the biggest draft busts of the NBA Draft Lottery Era.

16) Adam Morrison, SF, Charlotte Bobcats Drafted 3rd Overall in 2006 NBA Draft out of University of Gonzaga (130 Games, 8.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG) - I only wanted to include 15 players, but I just want to remind everyone of how big of a draft bust Morrison has turned out to be.  While in college, Morrison would score from all angles and was unstoppable while at Gonzaga.  After a fantastic junior season in which he and Duk eguard J.J. Redick took the college world by storm, Morrison declared for the 2006 NBA Draft and was looked by many as a second coming of Larry Bird.  One of many questionable executive decisions by Michael Jordan, Morrison showed flashes of the dynamic scoring that made him such a high draft pick in his rookie season, but in the preseason of his second year in the league, Morrison suffered an extremely ugly looking ACL tear.  He missed all of his second season and then struggled to break into the rotation in this third year with the Bobcats.  Morrison was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers midway through the 2008-2009 NBA Season but is an afterthought in the rotation and did not make the playoff roster for a team that won the NBA Championship.  He's a future free agent this offseason and it's questionable whether Morrison will have any kind of future in the NBA.

15) Todd Fuller, PF, Golden State Warriors Drafted 11th Overall in 1996 NBA Draft out of North Carolina State University (225 Games, 3.7 PPG, 3.0 RPG) - One of many awful Warriors draft picks in the Dave Twardzik era, Fuller was never really any good and never showed promise of being much of anything in his career, having a career high of 15 points and lasting only two seasons with the Warriors; four seasons in the league overall.  And if you want to look at the players drafted after him, you could have had a productive all star at every position: Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Jermaine O'Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

14) Los Angeles Clippers - The Clippers gave former general manager Elgin Baylor handfuls of opportunities to get it right in the first round during the draft lottery era, and he flopped almost every time.  In 1985, Benoit Benjamin was drafted 3rd overall (807 Games, 11.4 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 2.0 BPG, 1.3 APG), Reggie Williams was drafted 4th overall in 1987 (599 Games, 12.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG), Charles Smith was drafted 3rd Overall in 1988 (564 Games, 14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.4 BPG), Bo Kimble was taken 8th overall in the 1990 NBA Draft (105 Games, 5.5 PPG, 1.5 RPG), LeRon Ellis was taken 22nd Overall in 1991 (91 Games, 3.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG), Randy Woods was taken 16th in 1992 (151 Games, 2.4 PPG, 1.7 APG), Terry Dehere was taken 13th in 1993 NBA Draft (402 Games, 8.0 PPG, 2.6 APG, 1.5 RPG), Lamond Murray was taken 7th in 1994 (736 Games, 11.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.3 APG), Lorenzen Wright was taken 7th overall in the famed 1996 NBA Draft (778 Games, 8.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG),  Maurice Taylor was taken 14th in 1997 (534 Games, 11.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 1.2 APG), Darius Miles was taken 3rd overall in 2000 (446 Games, 10.1 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.1 BPG), Melvin Ely 12th overall in 2002 (343 Games, 5.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG), Chris Kaman 6th overall in 2003 (385 Games, 10.4 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 1.2 APG), Shaun Livingston 4th overall in 2004 (157 Games, 7.3 PPG, 4.6 APG, 3.1 RPG), and Yaroslav Korolev was taken 12th in 2005 and hasn't played a minute in the NBA.  There are a few solid names and numbers, but year after year of opportunities to draft an above average player and the Clippers flopped all of them.  In fact, the most respectable players drafted by the Clippers in the draft lottery era are Lamar Odom (1999), Tyson Chandler (2001) and Antonio McDyess (1995).  Chandler and McDyess both had their rights traded to other squads before ever suiting up for the Clippers, and Odom didn't make it past four years with the Clippers.  One glaringly bad selection is being saved for later in this countdown.   God save Blake Griffin.

13) Danny Ferry, F, Los Angeles Clippers Drafted 2nd Overall in 1989 NBA Draft out of Duke University (917 Games, 7.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.3 APG) - Taken by the ill fated Clippers, Ferry refused to report to Los Angeles and after playing a year in Italy to protest, he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers and given a very lucrative ten year guaranteed contract by Cleveland.  The guy he was traded for?  Ron Harper.  A tremendous colliegate player with size and a shooting touch, Ferry was supposed to be a great player but hardly produced in Cleveland.  He did, however, win a championship on the end of the bench for the 2003 San Antonio Spurs.

12) Ed O'Bannon, PF, New Jersey Nets drafted 9th Overall in 1995 NBA Draft out of University of California in Los Angeles (128 Games, 5.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG) - The star and Final Four MVP for the 1995 UCLA Bruins, O'Bannon wasn't big enough for the league and struggled to score when drafted by the New Jersey Nets.  Hardly making any kind of niche in this league, O'Bannon lasted a year and a half with New Jersey before being shipped to Dallas.  His entire NBA Career was two seasons.

11) Future Michael Jordans - Harold Miner, SG, Miami Heat drafted 12th Overall in 1995 NBA Draft out of University of Southern California (200 Games, 9.0 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 1.2 APG) and Dennis Hopson, SF, New Jersey Nets drafted 3rd Overall in 1987 NBA Draft out of Ohio State University (334 Games, 10.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG) - Jordan's dominance in the league prompted many analysts to try and find the "next Michael Jordan" to come in every single draft.  A fantastic scorer at Ohio State, Hopson struggled on the court and clashed with his coaches before being shipped to Chicago and quietly exiting the league after five seasons in the league.  Miner won two NBA Slam Dunk Contests and his athletic ability prompted the media to christen him "Baby Jordan."  Outside of dunking, Miner wasn't very talented in any area of the court and he only lasted four years in the league.  The closest either of these players got to Jordan was when Hopson sat on the bench in 1991 and won an NBA Championship with Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

10) William Bedford, C, Phoenix Suns drafted 6th Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of University of Memphis (238 Games, 4.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) - Bedford was an imposing presence in college for the Memphis Tigers and was projected to be a huge NBA star.  Drafted sixth overall by Phoenix, Bedford only lasted six seasons in the league and struggled with drug addiction the entire time.  He was arrested for drug possession twice in 1996 and 1997, accused of transporting 25 pounds of marijuana in 2001 and arrested two more times for marijuana before being given a ten year sentence in 2003.  Bedford is currently serving time in Fort Worth, Texas and will be in prison until 2013.

9) Rafael Araujo, C, Toronto Raptors drafted 8th Overall in 2004 NBA Draft out of Bringham Young University (139 Games, 2.8 PPG, 2.8 RPG) - A prime example of what happens when you draft for need instead of by talent, Araujo was taken eigth overall by Toronto in 2004 and lasted only three seasons in the league.  His play on the court was abysmal and he's one of many examples of why you should never draft a player simply for his size.  He was out of the league by 2007 after he was traded to Utah.

8) Eddie Griffin, F, New Jersey Nets drafted 7th Overall in 2001 NBA Draft out of Seton Hall University (303 Games, 7.2 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.7 BPG) - An extremely talented ball player, Griffin had many flashes of brilliance in college at Seton Hall, but had many character problems and even got into a fight with a teammate during a practice that was the beginning of the end for a promising Seton Hall season.  Once viewed as a possible selection for the first overall pick, Griffin was drafted by the Nets.  Griffin's rights were traded to the Houston Rockets for the rights to Richard Jefferson and Griffin quickly drank himself out of the league.  Succumbing to alcohol problems, Griffin rarely played as a result of his problems and his performance didn't show much promise either.  He was released in 2003, and missed every game until 2004 as a result of being in a rehabilitation clinic.  He came back to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves and was a good story before his off court problems and on court production continued to dissapoint critics until Minnesota released him in 2007.  Griffin eventually died in August of 2007 after his car was hit by a train.

7) Jonathan Bender, PF, Toronto Raptors drafted 5th Overall in 1999 NBA Draft out of Picayune High School (237 Games, 5.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG) - Billed as a Kevin Garnett clone, the Indiana Pacers immediately traded established forward Antonio Davis for the rights to Bender and looked to make him a cornerstone for the future of the squad.  Davis went on to be an all star in Toronto and Bender never got off of the bench in Indiana.  Injuries and inconsistency kept Bender grounded and he quietly exited the league in 2006.

6) Nikoloz Tskitishvili, PF, Denver Nuggets drafted 5th Overall in 2002 NBA Draft out of Georgia [Europe] (172 Games, 2.9 PPG, 1.8 RPG) - Tskitishvili played profesionally in Italy and won the 2002 Italian championship under current Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni.  Viewed as an extremely talented player with a ridiculous skill set, Nikoloz was quickly taken by the Denver Nuggets in 2002 and billed as a do-it-all type player who can score in transition, run the floor, score from the outside but was a foreign product who teams had hardly seen play.  As a result, he was simply word of mouth when he was drafted by Denver and his performance on the court was awful.  A worst case scenario for foreign drafted players, Nikoloz is possibly the worst lottery pick in terms of talent and quickly left the league after the 2007 season.

5) Robert Traylor, PF, Dallas Mavericks drafted 6th Overall in 1998 NBA Draft out of University of Michigan (438 Games, 4.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG) - Note to NBA: don't draft someone in the lottery who is nicknamed Tractor.  Standing at 6 foot 8 and generously being billed at 284 pounds, Traylor was an imposing presence in college and bullied around opposition in the paint.  When drafted by Dallas, his draft rights were immediately traded for the rights to German prospect Dirk Nowitzki.  Nowitzki is a future hall of famer, and Traylor's production on the court was abysmal.  Traylor regularly battled obesity to the point where he was out of the league by 2005. 

4) Michael Olowoakandi, C, Los Angeles Clippers drafted 1st Overall in 1998 NBA Draft out of University of Pacific (500 Games, 8.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 BPG) - So big a bust that he deserves a slot all his own, seperated from the Clippers, Olowokandi is the worst of all of the draft blunders made by the doomed Los Angeles franchise.  After only one solid season for the Pacific Tigers, Olowokandi was drafted to be the man in the middle of the future for the Clippers and rewarded them with mediocre production.  He showed flashes of being a solid player, but once he signed to play for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Olowokandi hardly got off of the bench.  Suffering through injuries his entire career, Olowokandi was drafted first overall in a draft that produced six different NBA All Stars in Mike Bibby, Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce and Rashard Lewis.

3) Chris Washburn, C, Golden State Warriors drafted 3rd Overall in 1986 NBA Draft out of North Carolina State University (72 Games, 3.1 PPG, 2.4 RPG) - An extremely talented athlete gifted with extremely soft hands and incredible speed for someone his size, Washburn was drafted third overall under much publicity for Golden State.  A high school prodigy of sorts, Washburn was inconsistent at North Carolina State and teammates would question his work ethic and criticize his penchant for skipping class.  After serving jail time for stealing a stereo while in college, Washburn would have one good season and declare for the NBA Draft.  The Warriors lookd to bring him along slowly to cope with his immaturity but it didn't work.  Washburn was largely ineffective and rarely got off the bench.  After only three seasons in the league, Washburn was banned from the NBA for life after testing positive for cocaine three times in three years.

2) Kwame Brown, C, Washington Wizards drafted 1st Overall in 2001 NBA Draft out of Glynn Academy High School (462 Games, 7.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 1.0 APG) - Brown holds the distinction of being the first high schooler to ever be selected first overall in an NBA Draft.  Highlighted as the first of many bad executive decisions made by basketball legend Michael Jordan, Brown struggled to display any production or maturity in his first few years as a Wizard.  In his th ird season he showed real signs of a breakthrough, but injuries and problems with his teammates cost him his job in Washington.  He was sent home by the Wizards during the 2005 NBA postseason and was on the negative end of two of the most lopsided trades in recent memory, being traded to the Lakers for Caron Butler and then being traded to the Grizzlies for Pau Gasol.  His future looks to be primarily as a backup center in the league.

1) Darko Milicic, F-C, Detroit Pistons drafted 2nd Overall in 2003 NBA Draft out of Serbia (337 Games, 5.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG) - There were a lot of great players in the famed 2003 NBA Draft.  Going into the draft, it was almost assured to all that Darko Milicic would be the first player selected after LeBron James.  The Detroit Pistons, fresh off of a conference finals appearance, were able to land the No. 2 pick after a prior deal with the then Vancouver Grizzlies for Otis Thorpe.  Milicic arrived with much fan fare in Detroit but was never able to get off of the bench.  Viewed as too young by fans and coach Larry Brown, the 18 year old Milicic sat on the bench for two Pistons teams that went to the finals and Darko won a championship in his rookie season on the 2004 Pistons team.  Midway through his third year with the Pistons, still unable to get off of the bench, Milicic was traded to the Magic and showed the promise that people hoped for.  However, after landing a solid deal from the Memphis Grizzlies as a result of that promise, Milicic has largely dissapointed and stands out as a ridiculously underachieving talent in a draft that included players such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and even Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, T.J. Ford and David West drafted after Milicic.  Even though the Pistons achieved great success at the early part of this century, this pick is largely viewed as "what could have been" as most say the team would have achieved more than one championship if not for this draft blunder.
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:45 pm
 

2008-2009 NBA Postseason Predictions

 Team By Team Previews
Western Conference:
1) Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

2) Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

3) San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

4) Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

5) Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

6) Dallas Mavericks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14440073

7) New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

8) Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

Eastern Conference:
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

2) Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

3) Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

4) Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

5) Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

6) Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

7) Chicago Bulls - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14504657

8) Detroit Pistons - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14467742

1st Round Matchups
Eastern Conference

(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.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Mo Williams - It will be interesting to see how Williams, the Cavs' second option, responds to having that kind of pressure on him in the postseason.
Pistons Player to Watch: Kwame Brown - With the Cavaliers lack of size, Brown can continue his solid play down the stretch with solid defense on Zydrunas Ilgauskas if called upon. He can really help the Pistons if he elevates his play.

(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.
Prediction: Hawks in seven.
Hawks Player to Watch: Al Horford - The Heat's lack of a true center should speak for a good series for Al Horford. Also, the Hawks are nearly unstoppable when Horford averages over 15 points a game. So his play is critical for the advancement of Atlanta.
Heat Player to Watch: Michael Beasley - Beasley is entering the postseason on a tear, and if he can continue to be that consistent second option for Miami then the Heat have the chance to pull off the upset.

(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.
Prediction: Magic in six.
Magic Player to Watch: Hedo Turkoglu - It will be intersting to see how he plays with this injured ankle. This team can really take off if he can somehow go back to the style of play and consistency he showed last season.
76ers Player to Watch: Samuel Dalembert - His defense on Dwight Howard will be critical for the 76ers chances to advance. However, he's had moments where he dissapears.

(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.
Prediction: Celtics in seven.
Celtics Player to Watch: Rajon Rondo - Rondo's play in this series is going to be crucial for Boston. Without Garnett, the teams are very evenly matched and Rondo's defense on Derrick Rose will be key for the Celtics.
Bulls Player to Watch: Derrick Rose - The Rookie of the Year will have a lot of pressure playing point guard in his first postseason against the defending champions. He can really blow skeptics away or he can struggle against the insurmountable odds.

Western Conference

(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.
Prediction: Lakers in five.
Lakers Player to Watch: Lamar Odom - Odom always plays well against the Jazz, and coming off of the bench he can match up against Andrei Kirilenko and really take it to the Jazz. Without pressure Odom always seems to shine, and this is a perfect chance for the Lakers to develop a playoff rotation that includes Odom on the bench.
Jazz Player to Watch: Carlos Boozer - Boozer struggled mightily last season against the Lakers and without him scoring inside, the Jazz are simply a jump shooting team. That plays well into the Lakers' hands, so it's on Boozer to improve from last season's (and mainly this season's) performance.

(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.
Prediction: Trail Blazers in six.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: Greg Oden - He's dissapointed all season long, but his defensive capabilities give the Blazers a lot of hope in their matchup with Yao Ming. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he can give the Blazers a good 20-25 minutes of solid defense on Yao and has the best size to matchup with the Rockets center.
Rockets Player to Watch: Kyle Lowry - Aaron Brooks is the better offensive player, but Lowry will most likely draw the assignment of guarding when he's in the game. His defense will be critical if he can slow down Roy for stretches and affect his confidence for the late game situations when Roy will be forced to take the shot for Portland.

(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.
Prediction: Mavericks in seven.
Spurs Player to Watch: Roger Mason Jr. - With Manu Ginobili out, Mason's contributions will be critical. After an unbelievable first half to the season, he's been rather inconsistent as of late. If he can provide good minutes and consistently hit his jump shot, the Spurs will be in great shape.
Mavericks Player to Watch: Jose Juan Barea - Coming off of the bench, Barea has the speed to really give Tony Parker fits when the Mavs have the ball. If he can come in and play well alongside either Jason Kidd or Jason Terry, the Mavericks will really have a leg up in the matchup.

(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.
Prediction: Hornets in six
Nuggets Player to Watch: J.R. Smith - Coming off of the bench, J.R. Smith gives the Nuggets a huge advantage with his ability to take games over with his shot making ability. However, he takes possesions off on defense and can also shoot the Nuggets out of games, so he has to one day his erratic play to be fully helpful to the Nuggets.
Hornets Player to Watch: Tyson Chandler - Coming off of an injury, Chandler should be monitored. If he doesn't play many minutes then that could prove to be a huge problem for the Hornets. However, the Hornets are infinitely better when Chandler plays and it will be crucial to see to it that he contributes as much as possible.
 


Conference Semifinals
Eastern Conference

(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.
Prediction: Cavaliers in seven.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Zydrunas Ilgauskas - There's no reason anywhere near his height in Atlanta, and he can really pull defenders away from the basket with his jump shot. If he has a big series, the Cavaliers will undoubtedly advance.
Hawks Player to Watch: Ronald Murray - Murray is the best player on a shallow Atlanta bench, and he can really jumpstart Atlanta's role players and give the Hawks a ton of energy in spots where they least expect to receive it.

(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.
Prediction: Magic in six.
Celtics Player to Watch: Glen Davis - Assuming he'll be playing the power forward position without Kevin Garnett in the lineup, he can really get his shot off against the smaller Magic. His ability to knock down the 15 footer could really help open the floor up for Boston.
Magic Player to Watch: Rashard Lewis - With the Celtics throwing out a bigger, slower lineup Lewis can really put the Magic over the top. He'll create the fantastic offensive mismatch for Orlando if he remains aggressive and looks to take it to the basket more than settling for his jump shot. Furthermore, he's long and quick enough to guard Davis and Powe if he stays out of foul trouble.

Western Conference

(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.
Prediction: Lakers in seven.
Lakers Player to Watch: Andrew Bynum - Portland has very servicable big men, so Bynum's effort, play and intensity level should speak volumes on if the Lakers will advance or not. If he isn't as commanding as he can be, then the Lakers may have to go small with Odom and Gasol in the lineup instead.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: LaMarcus Aldridge - Going up against Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom, Aldridge is talented enough to get his points against either of those defenders. If he takes to the basket more often and stays aggressive, then the Lakers will be hard pressed to find options to stop him. However, he has a tendency to fall in love with the jump shot and that could hurt the Blazers more than help them.

(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.
Prediction: Hornets in six.
Mavericks Player to Watch: Brandon Bass - Bass has always given the Hornets fits since signing as a free agent from New Orleans a few years ago. His strength, speed and ability to hit the mid range jump shot give the Hornets plenty of fits and he really can take over games if given significant minutes by Rick Carlisle.
Hornets Player to Watch: Peja Stojakovic - Peja's struggled mightily against more physical teams, but the Mavericks usually throw Josh Howard at Peja, and Peja generally gives the Mavericks problems. If he's able to run free and hit his jump shot, like he did last postseason, the Hornets will dispose of the Mavericks.


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.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: LeBron James - When times get thick, your best player is the one that can carry you out of tough situations. The Cavaliers will all feed off of the play of their MVP and if he plays well, the team will play well.
Magic Player to Watch: Courtney Lee - His defense on LeBron will be crucial, and if he can stay in front of and attempt to contain LeBron then the Magic can allow Howard to really take adavantage of Cleveland's lack of strength inside.

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.
Prediction: Lakers in five.
Lakers Player to Watch: Pau Gasol - The Hornets have no option to defend Pau Gasol. He can basically get his shot off at will against David West or Tyson Chandler and can really take over the series and give the Lakers the easy victory.
Hornets Player to Watch: James Posey - Posey was brought to this team for critical spots like these, and he will be assigned the task of guarding Kobe Bryant. Posey will look to feed off of last season's finals to get into Kobe's head, and if he can stay in front of Kobe and keep him around a percentage near 40%, the Hornets will be in contention.


NBA Finals

(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.
Prediction: Lakers in six.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Daniel Gibson - Gibson can be the true catalyst for a Cavaliers bench that is deep in body's but shallow in terms of point production. If he can come in and hit the three point shot consistently, that should bring more to the table nightly than anybody the Lakers can throw off of the bench. He also can spell either guard in critical moments and has hit big shots in the postseason before, and should be comfortable taking them when called upon.
Lakers Player to Watch: Trevor Ariza - His athleticism and defensive prowress will really come into play here against the Cavaliers. He's quite possibly the best option to defense LeBron as he is strong enough to where LeBron can't entirely muscle Ariza and Ariza's quick enough to stay in front of him as well. If he makes the open jump shot as well, that makes things all the better for the Lakers.

Posted on: March 21, 2009 1:13 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:27 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

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.  Let's start with the team with the best record in the NBA: the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Strengths:
The Cleveland Cavaliers have the best home record in the league.  As a team that has the best record in the league, this can be used to create a substantial advantage if they are to clinch home court throughout.  The team's role players seem to play much better at home, which creates for a calmer style of play which is what Cleveland thrives in.  A 31-1 home record at the time of this post speaks for itself in terms of where the team's main strength lies.  Contrary to many people's beliefs, the team is actually very experienced in the postseason.  Mike Brown has been criticized as an inept coach who plays too slow for LeBron James' style, but under Brown the team has a 26-20 postseason record with an NBA finals berth to boast of.  His emphasis on the defensive side of the ball and ability to keep the games close has always made this team better in the postseason.  They have proven that they can win on the road and at home in the playoffs and when you have arguably the best player in the league on your side, putting the ball in his hands in a close game is a successful formula in the postseason.

Speaking of LeBron James, how can we not mention him as the team's main strength.  He does a lot for this team and he allows for the other players on the squad to fly under the radar and simply do what's asked of them since so much is put on LeBron's plate.  The fact that LeBron presumably plays with nobodies works to the Cavs' favor.  Other teams at least have two players who are considered stars, the fact that the Cavs only have one allows the other players to quietly do their job, which is why they're the least flashy of the top four teams in the league.  Furthermore, the team has a solid bench and fantastic three point shootingDaniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, Wally Szczerbiak, Anderson Varejao and now Joe Smith provide a solid list of role players coming off of the bench.  None of them will blow you away, but on any given night the Cavs can rely on at least one person off of the bench to step up.  Furthermore, Gibson has proved he will do it in the postseason. 

Weaknesses:
The team is very small.  Let's face it, Delonte West and Mo Williams are both undersized for a two guard spot and since they both start, one of them has to play that role.  LeBron James is the primary ball handler so on offense that's not an issue.  On defense, however, a small lineup can come back to cause problems when you have games going down to every possesion in the playoffs.  I don't think it will kill them, but it doesn't help on the defensive side of the ball.  And the Cavaliers have a nice list of big guys on the team, but none of them aside from Zydrunas Ilgauskas are capable of taking over a game offensively.  In addition to Big Z being the only big capable of scoring in bunches, he rarely scores inside the paint.  In fact, aside from LeBron, nobody on this team thrives around the basket.  When you're a jump shooting team, it can cause frustration and lots of problems if you have a two or three game stretch where the shots simply aren't falling. 

Why They Will Win It:
The Cavaliers have a very unselfish star in LeBron James and are the most efficient team at home in the league.  They run a very structured offensive and defensive scheme and that means the team will rarely make mistakes in the postseason.  LeBron James has done a lot for this team and will continue to do so in the playoffs.  Mike Brown knows how to coach his players in the postseason and this team (like the Spurs) plays a very playoff brand of basketball.  They can get hot and cl inch home court, which would allow them to have the fast track towards a championship.

Why They Won't Win It:
Overeliance on LeBron was a problem in the Boston series last year, but other players stepped up.  Although one is guaranteed to play well every night, they will need consistent efforts from somebody.  They may not get that.  The team's lack of presence around the paint is bad enough as it is, but the fact that two of their big men (Vareajo and Ben Wallace) are so inept on offense that they're essentially non factors will allow teams to focus on stopping the Cavs are the perimeter, or even allow bigs to guard the basket for when LeBron makes his drives. 

Conclusion:
The Cavaliers are built for playoff basketball.  They're not going to sweep anybody, they never will.  But the fact that they are tough to beat at home and that they play great defensive basketball are both things that are crucial in the postseason.  They're a disciplined squad and won't really kill themselves.  Some nights they won't be able to beat you, but they will never beat themselves.  They have as good a shot as anybody to win the NBA championship this season.

 Coming Next: The Los Angeles Lakers

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.

 

 

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