Posted on: November 17, 2008 12:56 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:22 am

NBA Power Rankings Through November 16th, 2008

1) Los Angeles Lakers (1) - Even though the Lakers lost their first game this season Friday night at home to Detroit, they looked impressive in a back to back at Dallas and New Orleans and still field the team's best record at 7-1 and it's best player in Kobe Bryant.  It's tempting to drop them with that loss to Detroit fresh in our memories but honestly, who deserves to be above them?

2) Boston Celtics (2) - This is another team I'm encouraged to drop but a slip up at home to Denver (a real testament to how better Denver is with Chauncey Billups in the lineup) but the team rebounded in a hostile game at Milwaukee and still is playing with that hunger, determination and intensity that made last season's team so fun to watch.  Ray Allen has found his groove and Paul Pierce has played tremendous ball this season. 

3) Cleveland Cavaliers (7) - The Cavaliers are the hottest team at the moment and LeBron James is playing the best ball of his career at this point.  Mo Williams has settled into his role as the team's second option and Ben Wallace is showing some command on the boards again.  With options like Daniel Gibson, Anderson Varejao and Wally Szczerbiak performing well off the bench this season the team looks prime to be Boston's best opposition for the Eastern Confrence crown.

4) Phoenix Suns (6) - It's fun to watch Shaquille O'Neal playing the best ball I've seen him play since his first season in Miami.  With Steve Nash struggling and with Amare Stoudemire being unable to do it all by himself, O'Neal has been asked to do a lot and has answered the challenge.  It's doubtful he'll play at this level the rest of the season but Phoenix fans have to be encouraged.

5) Orlando Magic (8) - Orlando has yet to look very vulnerable after their slow start, and the victory at Charlotte is impressive with the team playing without Dwight Howard for a majority of the game.  Rashard Lewis had a big week and when Hedo Turkoglu regains last year's form this team will continue to be a fixture atop the Eastern Confrence.

6) Detroit Pistons (9) - OK so maybe the team wouldn't go winless without Allen Iverson, and I still don't think they're a championship team with him in the lineup, but they had a very impressive game at Los Angeles Friday night.  Rodney Stuckey came back tonight after being absent a couple of games but the play of Aaron Afflalo gives this team more options off of an already solid bench and continues to add to the promise for the future of this team.  Overall it has be an encouraging week in Motown after the flack they've received since the Iverson trade.

7) Denver Nuggets (15) - This may seem a bit high or premature but this team has gone 5-1 with Chauncey Billups in the lineup and they are playing an all around better style of ball with a true point guard in the lineup.  Nene has looked great this year with the demanding role he's been given and Carmelo Anthony is spending more time around the rim and has improved his rebounding considerably.  Mix that in with an impressive win at Boston and this team deserves the jump in the rankings.

8) Houston Rockets (10) - Something still doesn't seem quite right about this team.  A dominating performance against New Orleans on Saturday is overshadowed by the dreadful performance in San Antonio the previous night and this team, after a fantastic first week, looks a little stagnant in its development.  Overall, though, their defense has been superb and will only improve when Shane Battier returns. 

9) Utah Jazz (5) - After starting the season 5-1 without Deron Williams in the lineup, the team surprisingly looked sluggish in his three games back (post a 1-2 record) before he sat out the loss at Cleveland.  Andrei Kirilenko and Mehmet Okur are hurting as well and Utah has to weather the storm though the play of Kosta Koufos has been fine in relief of Okur and Carlos Boozer is playing like an MVP candidate. 

10) Atlanta Hawks (3) - Josh Smith's injury hurt this team and after an impressive 6-0 start, they've lost their last three games.  They've all been by close distances, though, and Joe Johnson continues to play all star-caliber ball.  All this team needs is a little consistency but they've played like a team that should be in the playoff race at the end of the season.

11) New Orleans Hornets (4) - The Hornets, similar to Utah, have played sluggish ball this week and although they still boast a 5-4 record, they don't intimidate teams like they did at the end of last season.  Consistency off the bench and in the execution of their offense will need to be addressed this week if they want to regain the form that they showed the first week of the season.

12) Portland Trail Blazers (14) - After again looking sluggish in his first game back, Greg Oden has averaged 12 points and 9.5 rebounds in relief in his last two appearances.  If he can put up about those same numbers, he can help Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge drive this team to its first postseason appearance since 2004.

13) New York Knicks (12) - The Knicks came back down to Earth this week but Zach Randolph sure hasn't.  Mike D'Antoni continues to amaze me with how much he's getting out of this squad.  Wilson Chandler is putting up great numbers as well and this team is able to stay in the top half of the NBA this week.

14) Toronto Raptors (11) - This team is so hard to read but it's plain to see how thin they are at point guard.  Past Jose Calderon this team has nothing and even though Chris Bosh is playing amazing basketball and Jermaine O'Neal has showed comfort in his new role, this team has yet to blow me away yet.  They may be stuck in the "average" label all season long.

15) San Antonio Spurs (26) - After the horrid 1-5 start (the team's worst in over a decade), Tim Duncan, even still at this point in his career, has taken this team on his back and carried them to a 3-1 record this week.  Michael Finley has shown flashes of his old self and Roger Mason continues to look like a guy who just seems like a "Spur fit".  Tim Duncan is playing good ball, though, and if this team is around .500 when Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili come back then the rest of the league will have to watch another run by those pesky Spurs.

16) Chicago Bulls (16) - Derrick Rose continues to play at a phenomenal level and Ben Gordon is playing out of his mind at the moment.  All of these things hide the fact that the Bulls had to sign Lindsey Hunter even though they have an influx of guards on the roster.  Injuries to the backcourt have hurt this team but you wouldn't notice it in their play. 

17) Miami Heat (13) - Dwyane Wade still continues to play amazing ball but the rest of the team is a nightly question mark.  Shawn Marion looks so uncomfortable out there and Michael Beasley is going to be a rookie all season (meaning the inconsistency is going to be there).  Udonis Haslem is playing good ball (as is Chris Quinn and Daequan Cook off the bench) but it's still too early to get a good read of this team.

18) Philadelphia 76ers (22) - I burried this team last week and even though Elton Brand, Andre Miller and Andre Iguodala are all still underacheiving, Thaddeus Young and Willie Green have powered a nice little three game winning streak in Philadephia.  They have been two different teams this season but we'll look to see a little consistency (either way) as time goes on with them.

19) Milwaukee Bucks (19) - Impressive showings against the Spurs and Celtics (including a win against San Antonio) show that this team is more than capable even without Michael Redd in the lineup.  Andrew Bogut is playing aggressive ball and Ramon Sessions needs to see an increase in minutes right now.  Scott Skiles continues to get the most out of what he has on his roster.

20) New Jersey Nets (23) - Devin Harris has been amazing in his return from injury and the team has followed suit.  They look like a much different team with him in the lineup and Ryan Anderson is playing very productive ball off of the bench.  This team has played strong, energized ball so far this season and it's nice to see a team give that much effort after being burried all offseason.

21) Sacramento Kings (17) - This team has played admirable without Kevin Martin and even though Beno Udrih and John Salmons have kept the team in games with out Martin, they've lost almost all of the games without him in the lineup.  His contributions go beyond the boxscore for this young team but you have to be impressed by the effort they show even when undermanned.

22) Indiana Pacers (20) - This team has been tough to figure out this season but I think with Mike Dunleavy yet to play a game this season, it's important that you don't completely judge what they're doing on the court.  Brandon Rush is seeing an increase in minutes and an increase in production has followed.  T.J. Ford has also continued his stellar play so far this season.

23) Golden State Warriors (25) - Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins have been amazing this season and slowly this team is getting a little bit of direction to them.  I think once they address the Al Harrington situation (and we see what they get in return) we could see this team become a pesky counterpart for any team during the rest of the season.

24) Charlotte Bobcats (24) - They're still wildly inconsistent but at least Gerald Wallace is showing a bit of a return to form these past few games.  Rumor has it that he's on the trading block, though, and with the play of Adam Morrison I can't say I'm surprised.  But if they get anything other than a offensive frontcourt option then Michael Jordan will again have dropped the ball.  This team is incredibly bland, though, and could be looking at a new owner in the next few years already.  This organization is in dire need of success and I just don't see it on the horizon.

25) Dallas Mavericks (21) - After the tumultous offseason, Josh Howard has played encouraging ball.  Jason Kidd, though, looks out of his element in this lineup and I think this team is better suited to a half court offense.  I think they need to get back to what Avery preached but the problem is that Avery's no longer on the sidelines.  Carlisle is rooted in defense, though, and I don't understand why he's not doing more to stress that side of the ball.  This team has talent but needs to get Brandon Bass more minutes and needs to become dedicated to the defensive side of the ball again.

26) Memphis Grizzlies (18) - I praised the team last week and they fell back down to Earth this week.  O.J. Mayo has been amazing so far but they are going to be wildly inconsistent as a team all season.  Iavaroni probably won't make it past this year (if he makes it the entire year) but the team still has a good young nucleus intact.

27) Washington Wizards (28) - JaVale McGee and Nick Young have played admirable ball so far this season but this team still lacks a true identity and they just don't seem to play inspired ball.  A coaching change may take place by the end of December in our nation 's capital.

28) Los Angeles Clippers (27) - Same old Clippers although they're starting to get relatively healthy again.  This team still has yet to gell so far this season and with as many egos and personalities that they have on that roster it may be tough to do so.  The fact that Baron Davis and Mike Dunleavy are already at odds, too, doesn't bode well for Dunleavy's job security.

29) Minnesota Timberwolves (29) - Aside from Al Jefferson and Randy Foye, does this team really have anything on its roster?  Mike Miller has looked awful this year and moral victories are all that you have to look at this season.  Randy Wittman doesn't deserve to be a coach in this league anymore than Dwayne Casey did. 

30) Oklahoma City Thunder (30) - Jeff Green finally showed some life this week but the Thunder still continue to lose.  Kevin Durant looks to be in the same rhythym he was last season, in other words getting his 20 points with a low 40's percentage shooting the ball and without much either rebounding or dishing the ball.  He needs to develop his game a little bit more and this team has to show some signs of life if we're going to take any encouragement from this promising squad.




Posted on: November 16, 2008 11:50 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2008 11:53 pm

New Orleans Hornets Week 3 Review

This week leaves us very malcontent in Hornets nation.  Entering this week the Hornets were coming off a very dissapointing second week, in which they lost at home to the Hawks and at Charlotte before finding a way to overtake the Heat in New Orleans.  But this week brought more of the same for the big easy bugs.  As of today, they've now lost four out of their last six, and it looks as if this team is struggling to regain the identity that it possessed for so much of last season.  The swagger and confidence that was there in April and May is gone, and this is a team playing off of expectations and habit.  A 5-4 record is nothing to scoff at, especially since everyone in the NBA has had an up and down week and they remain only a half game behind Houston in the southwest division, but this is a team that needs to regain its confidence.  Its bench, all too often a hindrance to the Hornets has continued to be inconsistent and unpredictable.  James Posey has been every bit what the Hornets signed him up to be and the price tag, at the moment, doesn't seem as high as it did when they offered it to him, but after him there's no guarantees.  Moments like this the Hornets miss the big game production and swagger that Jannero Pargo brought to the team.  Mike James can put up Pargo numbers (he put up 10 points against the Heat last week) but doesn't have that presence or command the attention that Pargo did and hasn't yet produced like Pargo did.  Overall this team needs to develop options and currently there aren't any that you can rely on past Chris Paul and David West.

Coming into this week was the highly anticipated matchup with the Lakers on Wednesday night.  The Lakers proceeded to continue to be the Lakers and took a 21 point lead into halftime before the Hornets came back and cut it down to 3 points with a minute and a half left.  That shot that Kobe Bryant hit over James Posey was a thing of beauty and completely unguardable.  But this was a problem that the Hornets had last season; first half performances.  The Hornets ended the season and played in the playoffs very lackadaisacally in the first half and the same problem has followed the team to this season.  The Hornets need to get up for games like this (especially with three days off in between them and with the Lakers being on the second night of a back to back) and with their chance to get a little confidence they played flat against the best team in the league. 

Then came the game against Portland on Friday night in New Orleans.  The Trail Blazers came into the game on a winning streak and the Hornets, though ugly, pulled out a victory over the Blazers to get back on the board.  But that ugly win was followed by an ugly loss at Houston on Saturday night.  The Rockes bottled Chris Paul and a weak 18 points by David West was all that kept the Hornets to a respectable 9 point loss.

I don't want to come across as harsh on my team but they had an awful week (even though they did win against Portland).  Their performances in these three games leave a lot to be desired and don't exactly inspire us onlookers.  Tyson Chandler may still be bothered by that ankle as he has yet to kick it into stride this season and Peja Stojakovic has been wildly inconsistent with his shot.  He's not automatic as he was last season (37.4% from the field) and he has yet to find his groove.  This all could be attributed to still being in early season mode, rust and continuity lacking on the team but it's not encouraging when you're playing this way against teams that are playing well as a team themselves. 

Rasual Butler (a favorite of the first two reviews) had a quiet week but still remains in the regular rotation.  With Mike James missing the games against Portland and Houston and with Melvin Ely missing every game since the Phoenix game, the Hornets have played Hilton Armstrong and Devin Brown heavy minutes this week.  Devin Brown responded (7 points 2.6 rebounds this week) but Armstrong continues to just be another body out there.  He needs to show aggression if he wants to keep his job, because Antonio McDyess is available (though I'm not sure if the Hornets could afford him) and there's a chance they could go after P.J. Brown at midseason.  His seat is hot and I'm not seeing the immediacy I need to see out of him.  Coming up next Wednesday is a game against Sacramento who fields an impressive list of big men.  Armstrong will need to be productive and will need to have some sort of presence if the Hornets are to feel safe with him in the lineup.

Coming up next week is a meeting in New Orleans against the Kings, a return to Oklahoma City that I'm much looking forward to and a rematch against the Thunder the next night in New Orleans.  So The Hornets have an opportunity for three impressive victories this week and time will tell if they get back to that team you knew would win last season.  Until then, we'll have to think of last season to have good memories of the Hornets.

Posted on: November 10, 2008 2:34 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:23 am

NBA Power Rankings Through November 9, 2008

1) Los Angeles Lakers - The preseason favorites to win the championship look unstoppable through their first five games.  That bench is about as deep as I've ever seen and Jordan Farmar has been hugh off of the bench for them.  The only thing that could possibly stop this team is injury because as of right now they look great.

2) Boston Celtics - The only slip up of the season was a tough game at Indiana.  The Celtics look to be rolling similar to how they were last season, though they're doing it without much fanfare so far in the young season.  They seem to be more under the radar than last year and I think that's fine with them.  Tony Allen's play has been very encouraging off of the bench.

3) Atlanta Hawks - By virtue of being undefeated and having impressive victories over Orlando, Philadelphia and New Orleans, the Hawks find themselves in the top 3.  They probably won't hold up at this level for the rest of the season, but Joe Johnson has looked amazing and their team defense is great.



4) New Orleans Hornets - The Hornets have had a good start to their season with impressive victories over Phoenix and Cleveland but need to get up for games against the likes of Atlanta and Charlotte.  Bringing it every night is a priority for this team since they have the bullseye on their backs this season.

5) Utah Jazz - A 5-1 start to any season is good, but the fact that they're doing it without Deron Williams and Matt Harpring is very impressive.  Andrei Kirilenko has fit in nicely in his role off of the bench and Carlos Boozer has carried this team through their first six games.  A dissapointing loss at New York isn't enough to drop them out of the top five.

6) Phoenix Suns - The Suns were an enigma of sorts coming into this season as you really couldn't predict what was going to happen with them.  But they have responded well to Terry Porter so far this season and even though Steve Nash's production has dipped slightly, they're getting encouraging play out of Shaquille O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire has played out of this world.  I think it's important to keep an eye on them throughout the season to see whether this team is for real or if they're playing off the emotion of a new coach right now.

7) Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James is playing amazing basketball right now and Anderson Varejao has been the anchor of that bench so far into the young season.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the key to whether this team will be in the finals or not, but so far they have a good team set in place and will play solid ball in the playoffs.  As long as LeBron's on the team they're a contender.

8) Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard has put up good number this season but his free throw  shooting needs to improve.  Something about this season seems different from last year's Magic squad, but we'll see in the next few weeks whether this team has gotten off to a slow start shooting or if they're for real. 

9) Detroit Pistons - The much hyped Allen Iverson trade has yet to bring results and it probably won't bring results until the offseason.  At least the trade shook up the team and fan base and put a little bit of excitement back into Detroit basketball.

10) Houston Rockets - They looked great in their victory at Dallas, but aside from that the Rockets haven't played solid ball this season.  They're getting by on talent and I think the team misses Shane Battier more than they let on.  Tracy McGrady has played good ball this year, but Ron Artest and Yao Ming have yet to get going consistently.  Of course, McGrady's health issues are going to be a problem throughout the season but they have to be happy with the play of Aaron Brooks so far this year.

11) Toronto Raptors - Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon alone have put this team as high up as they are.  Jermaine O'Neal had a solid first game but has yet to really put a stamp on his new team.  Chris Bosh is playing the best ball probably in the entire league (and I mean that) and Calderon has answered the challenge after being given the starting PG reigns.  Depth at the guard spots will probably keep this team from contending but they play together and as long as Chris Bosh is playing at this level, they should new the 45-50 win mark.

12) New York Knicks - Yes the Knicks start the season in the top 12.  I'm eating serious crow on my criticism of Mike D'Antoni as he's gotten this team (and especially Zach Randolph) to play some serious, inspired ball six games into the season.  They probably still won't make the playoffs, but it's given that city hope and Knicks fans have to love what they've seen so far.

13) Miami Heat - Shawn Marion has been a dissapointment so far into the season but Dwyane Wade is playing the best ball since the 2006 finals right now.  It'll be interesting to see if he holds up, but I think this team is better suited with Marion as the number two scorer instead of an unproven Michael Beasley.  Spoelstra has gotten the team to play solid defense as well so far this season.

14) Portland Trail Blazers - The loss of Greg Oden early in the season put a negative energy on what was supposed to be a promising start to the season, but the Blazers have responded to their tough schedule with an impressive 3-3 record.  LaMarcus Aldridge continues to blow me away and Brandon Roy is Brandon Roy.  So far Rudy Fernandez has been a great find as well.

15) Denver Nuggets - They've kind of coasted but I look for their play to improve once they get true point guard Chauncey Billups acclimated into the system.  Linas Kleiza, J.R. Smith and (surprisingly) Chris Andersen has solidified a solid bench and the Nuggets again look like they'll be heading to the playoffs.  A first round exit still seems likely, though.

16) Chicago Bulls - It's been a season of ups and downs so far for the Baby Bulls, and Kirk Hinrich's injury doesn't help matters but Derrick Rose has been playing some really good basketball so far this season.  They still lack good front court and I think that's going to hurt them in the future but so far they've been responding well to Vinny Del Negro and I think once Larry Hughes and Hinrich return they're going to make a serious push for the postseason.

17) Sacramento Kings - The Kings are 0-4 away from Arco and 3-0 at home in Sacramento.  That looks, roughly, like how the team will play all year.  They looked awful four games into the season but have calmed since returning home.  The return of Brad Miller allows them to play Spencer Hawes off of the bench and gives them incredible front court depth.  They're not great in any one category but they're solid in a bunch of them.  The playoffs don't seem likely but so far Reggie Theus has continued to get the most out of this squad.

18) Memphis Grizzlies - I'm surprised they've gone 3-4 so far this season but they've played good basketball together.  Rudy Gay has been playing great and O.J. Mayo will put up good numbers since he's going to get the minutes to give him those opportunities.  They may not have much of a front court but they still should frustrate teams all season long.

19) Milwaukee Bucks - Richard Jefferson has played solid to start the season.  They've responded well to Scott Skiles' style and now that Ramon Sessions is getting regular minutes I wouldn't be surprised to see him wind up as a candidate for Most Improved Player of the year.  They need to get more out of Andrew Bogut, though.  Especially after giving him that contract.

20) Indiana Pacers - A win at home against Boston puts them in the top 20 but they need to get Mike Dunleavy back healthy to be seen at full strength.  Marquis Daniels has played really well this year and T.J. Ford has responded to coach Jim O'Brien's system.  They'll be in the playoff hunt all year long.

21) Dallas Mavericks - It looks like firing Avery Johnson wasn't the right move.  There's not a more bland team in the league than the Mavericks.  The brightest spot so far has been the surprising play of Gerald Green, but they can't get a lineup set, Jason Kidd looks 50 out there and Dirk Nowitzki is all by himself out on the court.  That doesn't bode well for Dallas.

22) Philadelphia 76ers - So far the acquisition of Elton Brand has done nothing for this team.  Thaddeus Young has kept them respectable while Andre Iguodala has been atrocious and Andre Miller has yet to find a groove so far into the season.  Maurice Cheeks has to be feeling the pressure and I don't want to see him lose his job as he's one of the best guys in the league.

23) New Jersey Nets - For the lack of top tier talent on this team they sure have played solid basketball.  Devin Harris looks like a stud in New Jersey while Vince Carter has to love being the only go to option on a team again (like he was back in Toronto).  They won't last but it's nice to see them trying hard early in the season.

24) Charlotte Bobcats - A win against the Hornets last Friday has hid what's been a dissapointing start to the season for Larry Brown and company.  Sean May is healthy but overweight, Gerald Wallace and Jason Richardson still look awkward playing together and rookie D.J. Augustin has been the most consistent player on the team.  It looks like another year of being on the outside looking in for Charlotte.

25) Golden State Warriors - This team is in total dissaray.  You have star players leaving, budding stars wrecking their mopeds, players asking for trades and players being hurt.  Don Nelson has to shake his head at this train wreck of an organization and the window has officially shut on the promise that was two seasons ago.  Andris Biedrins has looked like an all star so far this season.

26) San Antonio Spurs - No bones about it, they look awful.  A super hero-like performance from Tony Parker got the Spurs their only championship against lowly Minnesota and now that he's out, Tim Duncan is left on an island all alone.  Roger Mason's been a nice acquistion but you have to wonder if San Antonio will be too far out when Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker return.

27) Los Angeles Clippers - They've looked awful so far this year and have no gelled as a squad but they still may take 30-35 wins this year.  They need to get some continuity amongst the squad and they need to stay healthy.  But those are two tall tasks in Clipper nation and all the preseason hope has already evaporated for this squad.

28) Washington Wizards - Caron Butler has tried to do it all by himself by simply can't.  They have no point guard, no center, no flare, no Gilbert Arenas.  It's time for Eddie Jordan to leave and it's time for this team to do something.  Problem is that they can't since they invested so much into Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison.  You're looking at this type of play from this team for years to come.

29) Minnesota Timberwolves - Same old Timberwolves.  Al Jefferson's been solid but that's about it.  The Kevin Love addition, though he has played good ball, still makes you scratch your head as he looks out of place playing alongside Jefferson.  This team is just a transaction nightmare and Kevin McHale has to go.

30) Oklahoma City Thunder - I didn't expect them to be worth a darn this year but I still expected better play than this.  Everyone minus Kevin Durant and (surprisingly) Joe Smith didn't get the memo that the season started already.  I thought they'd play better in front of the Oklahoma City crowd but I suppose if you don't have it, you just don't have it.  They played tough against Atlanta last night, though.

Posted on: November 9, 2008 1:34 pm

New Orleans Hornets Week 2 Review

 It's been a tale of two weeks so far in the young season for the New Orleans Hornets.  After a surprising start with victories over the Suns, Warriors and Cavaliers last week, the Hornets opened up this week with a surprising loss to an equally surprising Atlanta Hawks team, and then an extremely dissapointing loss at their old stomping grounds in Charlotte.  Losing to the Bobcats is inexcusable but the loss was eased by a game the very next night, a home victory over the Miami Heat.

After the initial high of the season wore off, the Hornets fell back down to earth on Wednesday night when an Atlanta Hawks team walked into New Orleans and beat the Hornets down.  The Hawks were more physical, hungrier and more determined than the Hornets on that night, even with the returns of Tyson Chandler and Peja Stojakovic to the lineup.  The best part out of the game was the said returns of the two injured starters.

The main negative of this week is not the two losses, but how the Hornets lost those games.  Chris Paul has been absolutely amazing this season, picking up exactly where he left off last year and has put up 20 points and 10 assists in all six games this season.  His contributions and performance just cannot be categorized into words and I believe there's not a player in the NBA playing at his current level.  But the problem with the Hornets is, they've looked soft through six games.  They've become a jump shooting team and were able to get out muscled by teams without big strong presences in Charlotte and Atlanta (and no offense to Emeka Okafor and Al Horford, they're good players just not strong inside presences).  Byron Scott has a lot to address in the physicality of this team.  The Hornets don't want to fall back into finesse mode where all you have to do is bump them around and take them out of their games, and David West will shoot jumper after jumper with Peja Stojakovic firing up three point bricks.  The Hornets need to address a lack of frontcourt scoring and that includes utilizing David West's frame more down in the low block and continuing to feed Tyson Chandler and Hilton Armstrong shot after shot.

The Hornets have no injuries to report this week minus the dental work of Melvin Ely that kept him from the games against the Bobcats and Heat and the bench continues to be servicable this season with surprising contributions from Mike James and Hilton Armstrong this week.  Mike James has fought off Devin Brown from taking his point guard spot six games into the season and the Hornets look comfortable with Mike James being this year's lesser version of Jannero Pargo

Rasual Butler Watch: Rasual Butler continues to be a contributing member of the Hornets bench.  He's used Julian Wright's early ankle injury to his advantage and has shot 47 percent from the three point line through the first six games.  In the Saturday night victory against the Heat, though, Julian Wright logged 10 minutes and Butler has to feel the pressure to continue to perform at a servicable level.  All it takes is a stretch of cold games for Butler to lose his job to Wright.  I hope he continues to surprise me.

The Hornets will take the next few days off before Wednesday's huge game against the Lakers.  They then finish the week Friday against the Trail Blazers at home before playing their only road game next week a few hours away Saturday night in Houston against the Rockets.  The Hornets have a strenuous week ahead and their toughness has to be adressed.  All things considered, though, it's still been a solid start for the Big Easy Bugs.

Top Ten Teams Through November 9th, 2008
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Utah Jazz
3. Boston Celtics
4. Atlanta Hawks
5. Phoenix Suns
6. Houston Rockets
7. Detroit Pistons
8. New Orleans Hornets
9. Cleveland Cavaliers
10. Orlando Magic

Posted on: November 2, 2008 9:22 pm

New Orleans Hornets Week 1 Review


The very first week was a successful one for the New Orleans Hornets as (including the postseason) they have yet to lose a game this season.  A 3-0 start is impressive with wins at Phoenix and Golden State and with a home victory over Cleveland (three talented teams), especially considering that Tyson Chandler has not been healthy for any of the games.  Hilton Armstrong played admirable at home against the Cavaliers and he's a player you cheer for, as he's talented enough to be an impact player but his mental approach to the game needs lots of work.  There were many instances against the Suns where he would make a solid play, such as a block and would then try and grab the ball to pass it and would just slap it out of bounds by accident.  He commits stupid fouls and has bad footwork but the players and coaches stand by him so I hope he plays with the intensity he did against Cleveland, and the team will be fine.

Peja Stojakovic picked up where he left off last season and you can only hope that his and Chandler's injuries aren't really serious.  The Hornets health last season was the key factor in why that team won 56 games and the southwest division.  You don't want to see problems with injuries in the beginning of the season, even if the injuries are really freak problems.  Freak problems can accumulate and become a huge problem for the team.  Speaking of injuries, it was nice to see Julian Wright get some minutes against the Cavaliers as he has tried all year (including the preseason) to recover from a sprained ankle sustained in training camp.

James Posey seems to be all that was advertised (his defense against LeBron James in the 4th quarter was inspirational and looked infections to the entire squad).  He has been a fantastic addition so far.  His and Rasual Butler's big shots in the 4th quarter against Phoenix saved what should have been a big collapse.  I'm surprised to see Butler get the minutes he has the first three games and am even more surprised at what he's doing with them.  If the Hornets get anything out of him this season that should allow Devin Brown (instead of Mike James) to play point guard and should give the Hornets even more depth (as I expected nothing out of Butler this season).

Chris Paul has picked up where he left off and has not lost a step so far, but endurance will be big this season.  His tour in Beijing may affect his play in February, March (especially since we saw him tail off in April last season until his game picked up in the playoffs).  David West has been solid and the jerseys are slowly growing on me.  Overall, a very good 3-0 start for the Hornets.

Top Ten Teams Through November 2nd, 2008
1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. New Orleans Hornets
3. Houston Rockets
4. Utah Jazz
5. Detroit Pistons
6. Boston Celtics
7. Toronto Raptors
8. Phoenix Suns
9. Atlanta Hawks
10. Chicago Bulls

Posted on: October 20, 2008 3:50 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2008 1:27 pm

Outlook for the 2008-2009 New Orleans Hornets


After another dominating performance in the ever so pointless preseason I find myself eagerly anticipating the regular season for the New Orleans Hornets.  It's been a tumultuous time cheering for this team and for the first time since the Alonzo Mourning years the Hornets enter a season with serious championship aspirations.  Granted, they won't sneak up on anybody this season, but this team looks talented enough to make a serious run at a championship.  The Hornets game 7 fall to the San Antonio Spurs in last year's western confrence semifinals left a bad taste in many people's mouths, but hopefully the taste of defeat will only make this team hungrier for success.  The addition of James Posey brings the championship experience that the team did not previously have and also gives the Hornets a clutch three point option whenever Peja Stojakovic may falter in the postseason.  There's not much left to be said about Chris Paul and David West as they are already all stars, and this is as prime a year as any for Tyson Chandler to achieve that same accolade.  But here is the outlook and current roster for the New Orleans Hornets.

PG: #3 Chris Paul  (2007/2008 Stats in 80 games:  21.1 PPG, 11.6 APG, 4.0 RPG, 2.7 SPG while shooting 85.1 FT Pctg., 36.9 3PT FG Pctg., 48.8 FG Pctg.)
Last year's runner up for the MVP award comes into this season as an early favorite to win that same award.  Last year was a surprise for some but it wasn't necessarily a coming out party for Chris Paul.  He has now put out three years of consistent, spectacular point guard play and last year developed a three point shot to compliment his speed and driving abilities.  He continued the same play in the postseason by winning battles with future hall of famer Jason Kidd and former Finals MVP Tony Parker.  He enters this season as a star and with the eyes of the NBA watching him.

#5 Mike James: (2007/2008 Stats in 21 games with the Hornets: 2.7 PPG shooting 100 FT Pctg., 30.4 3PT FG Pctg., 34.4 FG Pctg.)
It seems eons ago that Mike James averaged 20 points a game with the Toronto Raptors and received a contract for that season from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  After being shipped from Minnesota to Houston, Mike James found a place he hadn't yet suited up for and was traded (along with G/F Bonzi Wells) to New Orleans at the trade deadline in a deal involving guard Bobby Jackson.  Mike James did very little after arriving to New Orleans after sitting behind both Chris Paul and Jannero Pargo on the depth chart.  After Pargo's departure for the money in Russia, Mike James will be thrust into the backup point guard position and will be counted on to provide good shooting, championship experience, and steady play when Chris Paul needs a breather.  If possible, it'd be great if he could find his jump shot and even though he likely will put up similar numbers to that of Jannero Pargo's, it's doubtful he will play the same role that Pargo played and he will not be able to fill Jannero Pargo's shoes.  Thankfully, the Hornets don't need him to.

SG: #9 Morris Peterson (2007/2008 stats in 76 games: 8.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG while shooting 76.5 FT Pctg., 39.4 3PT FG Pctg., 41.7 FG Pctg.)
After being a highly regarded pick up last offseason for the Hornets, Morris Peterson inexplicably turned in the worst season of his professional career.  In the 2004 offseason, the Hornets signed Peterson to an offer sheet that was matched by the Toronto Raptors but three years later the Hornets finally acquired Morris Peterson via free agency but the output didn't match the desire that was shown to acquire him.  Peterson was extremely solid from the three point line and he was still asked to guard the opposing team's best wing player, but Peterson rarely finished games (with Jannero Pargo finishing games at shooting guard) and would go periods of play where you would barely notice he was still on the team.  He should retain the starting shooting guard position but will most likely continue to finish games on the bench, as it's likely that Peja will finish games at the 2 spot with James Posey coming into the closer role.

#23 Devin Brown (2007/2008 stats in 78 games with the Cavaliers: 7.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.2 APG while shooting 75.4 FT Pctg., 30.8 3PT FG Pctg., 40.9 FG Pctg.)
Devin Brown returns to the Hornets organization after spending a majority of the 2006/2007 season with the (then) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.  After being brough in following a Chris Paul injury, Devin Brown played a majority of starts at the point guard position and may be asked to do some of the same this season if Mike James fatlers.  He brings more championship experience from the 2005 season with the San Antonio Spurs and will be a valuable player off of the bench.

#45 Rasual Butler (2007/2008 stats in 51 games: 4.9 PPG, 2.0 RPG while shooting 83.9 FT Pctg., 33.1 3PT FG Pctg., 35.0 FG Pctg.)
After receiving a contract extension in the 2007 offseason, Rasual Butler delivered a horrible season, falling completely out of the rotation and not playing a game with the Hornets after March.  The three point shooting specialist has fallen into Byron Scott's doghouse and if not for his contract probably would not make the final roster.  He's deadly when on, though, and if he plays his way out of the doghouse could be good as an occasinal breather for either Peterson or Brown.  Butler could also play some small forward but the team is solid there.

SF: #16 Peja Stojakovic (2007/2008 stats in 77 games: 16.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 APG while shooting 92.9 FT Pctg., 44.1 3PT FG Pctg., 44.0 FG Pctg.)
Peja Stojakovic was a hearalded free agent pickup back in the 2006 offseason, hoping to give the Hornets a spectacular three point shooter who could close games in clutch situations and bring experience to one of the youngest teams in the NBA.  He gave them 13 games.  After recovering from those back pains Stojakovic turned in an extremely solid season last year, even still if not living up to the contract he was given.  He posted career highs in three point shooting accuracy and played in 77 games last season.  He dissapeared, badly, in the final five games of the semifinals series with the San Antonio Spurs but the Hornets biggest free agent acquisition since Stojakovic was brought in to help with that.

#41 James Posey (2007/2008 stats in 74 games with the Celtics: 7.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 SPG while shooting 80.9 FT Pctg., 38.0 3PT FG Pctg., 41.8 FG Pctg.)
James Posey has won two NBA championships as a member of both the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics and played an intregal role in both championships.  He is known as a defensive stopper with an uncanny ability to hit big shots and his leadership and skillset is invaluable to a team looking to bring on board anything that he can offer to them.  Posey's addition will steal minutes from the promising Julian Wright, but it was a move that was made to put the Hornets in position to win this season.  Time will tell if he will be able to live up to the four years, 24 million dollar deal that the Hornets gave him, but it looks like a brilliant move thus far.

#32 Julian Wright (2007/2008 Stats in 57 games: 3.9 PPG, 2.1 RPG while shooting 63.5 FT Pctg., 41.7 3PT FG Pctg., 53.3 FG Pctg.)
After being a surprise addition in the draft last season, Julian Wright delivered an extremely strong second half of the season and played admirably in the playoffs, developing a three point shot that many critics said would keep him from becoming a good NBA player.  His athleticism, speed, and leaping ability make him a perfect fit for the Hornets up tempo style, but Wright will see his development halted by the addition of James Posey, unless his shot has improved enough for him to receive time at the shooting guard position.

PF: #30 David West (2007/2008 stats in 76 games: 20.6 PPG, 8.9 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.3 BPG while shooting 85.0 FT Pctg., 48.2 FG Pctg.)
David West continued his amazing improvement by turning in an all star season last year highlighted by a brilliant game five performance in the semifinals against the Spurs which West turned out an amazing statline of 38 points, 14 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 blocks in a crucial game.  West slipped down to the Hornets in the stocked 2003 draft thanks to questions about which position he would be able to adjust tot.  What people overlooked is the man's ability to just play the game.  He has the potential to become the Hornets first 20/10 player since Alonzo Mourning (as far as points and rebounds are concerned) and looks to be a staple at the PF position for years to come.

#33 Melvin Ely (2007/2008 stats in 52 games: 3.9 PPG, 2.8 RPG while shooting 55.2 FT Pctg., 47.2 FG Pctg.)
Melvin Ely was brought in to give the Hornets a low post offensive option and a championship ring that he won with the 2007 San Antonio Spurs.  He delivered what was expected and not much more.  Melvin Ely mainly coasted last season before seeing important minutes against the Spurs in the confrence semifinals.  He picked up his player option to stay this season with the Hornets, and he will be insurance in case Hilton Armstrong doesn't progress the way the Hornets believe that he will. 

#40 Ryan Bowen (2007/2008 stats in 53 games: 2.2 PPG, 1.9 RPG while shooting 55.2 FT Pctg., 49.0 FG Pctg.)
Ryan Bowen's role is something that's overlooked on many teams, but which championship squad doesn't boast that "dirty work/do it all" hustle player off of the bench?  Ryan Bowen probably doesn't have a talented bone in his body, but he's still been able to maintain a lengthy, solid career.  This is due, entirely, to his work ethic, dedication and willingness to do whatever's necessary to benefit whichever team he's on.  The Hornets resigned him instead of Chris Andersen for frontcourt depth mainly because of his locker room presence and his commitment to hustling.  Every team needs this kind of positive influence in the locker room.

#4 Sean Marks (2007/2008 stats in 19 games with the Suns: 3.1 PPG, 1.9 RPG while shooting 63.2 FT Pctg., 53.5 FG Pctg.)
Sean Marks joins Devin Brown and Melvin Ely as Hornets who have won championship rings with the Spurs.  He probably will not see much playing time but is a big man who can knock down a jump shot and provide minutes in garbage time.  He's nothing more than a clubhouse guy and you can't expect more than 20 games from him.  You'll see a lot of DNP-CD next to his name this season.

C: #6 Tyson Chandler (2007/2008 stats in 79 games: 11.8 PPG, 11.7 RPG, 1.1 BPG, 1.0 APG while shooting 59.3 FT Pctg., 62.3 FG Pctg.)
The Chicago Bulls looked like idiots trading Elton Brand for the draft right to an 18 year old Tyson Chandler back in 2001.  Aside from a solid 2004/2005 season Tyson Chandler's career and role never materalized in Chicago, and after five seasons the promising center was shipped to the Hornets for the troubled J.R. Smith and aging P.J. Brown.  The deal could not have worked out better for the Hornets.  Tyson Chandler has lived up to that high draft pick in his two seasons with the Hornets, progressing to the point where he is now one of the best centers in the league.  He runs the floor extremely well for a 7 footer and as a result is the finishing option on the best alley oop tandem in the league along with Chris Paul.  As a result of that alley oop, Chandler shot 62.3 percent from the field and averaged double figure points for the first time in his career.  His blocks dipped a little bit, but he's still a rebounding machine and if he consistently stays out of foul trouble he'll be in prime position to make the 2009 NBA All Star game.

#12 Hilton Armstrong (2007/2008 stats in 65 games: 2.7 PPG, 2.5 RPG while shooting 62.9 FT Pctg., 45.3 FG Pctg.)
Hilton Armstrong hasn't yet become the player that the Hornets envisioned he would when they selected him 12th overall back in the 2006 NBA draft.  His wingspan and amazing athletic abililty for someone of his size made him a coveted pick, and he and 15th overall selection Cedric Simmons were supposed to be fontcourt staples for the Hornets for years to come.  The Hornets were so sold on Armstrong's game that they let a then overweight and underacheiving Brandon Bass leave for Dallas in free agency.  But Cedric Simmons never worked out, now struggling to find playing time with Chicago, and Armstrong is facing the defining year of his career.  The Hornets have high hopes for Armstrong and he is a favorite of the organization, this is proven by the fact that they brought in no front court help in case he doesn't pan out.  They believe this is the year he will leave up to the potential he has shown and that he posseses.  If he ever becomes confident or graceful out on the court, he could be the mini Tyson Chandler the team needs off the bench.  If not, it could severely hurt the Hornets championship hopes and he most likely will not be employed by the team next season.  This is it for Armstrong and I hope he pulls through.

Coach: Byron Scott (career record with the Hornets: 151-177 with 7-5 playoff record)
Byron Scott finally won a much deserved coach of the year award.  He was probably slighted out of the award in the 2001/2002 season because he coached a team that had Jason Kidd on it.  Last year, he was criticized for coaching a team with Chris Paul on it.  But let's face facts: Jason Kidd has never made it past the confrence semifinals without Byron Scott.  Byron Scott took perennial loser New Jersey and brought the Nets to two NBA Finals.  He walked into an awful situation in the rebuilding 2004/2005 season with the Hornets (a season that saw Lee Nailon and Dan Dickau as leading scorers) before grabbing control of the team in 2005 and then leading them.  He's always got this team to play hard, to play tough defense and to play an amazing organized style of basketball play.  Chris Paul's success should be largely attributed to Byron Scott's coaching, as probably nobody is as adept at coaching a point guard than Byron Scott is.  Just look at what he got out of Dan Dickau.  He's one of the top five coaches in the league, and honestly in my unbiased opinion, I would only put Greg Popovich and Phil Jackson ahead of him.

Final Analysis: The Hornets enter this season on a high note and with high expectations.  They are an extremely talented assortment of athleticism, three point shooting, team work, chemistry and hard nosed coaching.  Byron Scott will have his best shot at returning to the finals and winning his first championship this season but it's not as clear cut as some would think.  If you look at the statistics I posted, I think the one that stands out the most is the fact that all five of the Hornets started played at least 76 games.  Last year the Hornets had everything clicking: momentum, health, play.  They drove past the Mavericks and gave the Spurs more of a fight than they probably should have before falling at home in that tough game 7 loss.  The addition of James Posey brings talent to a seemingly talent deprived bench, but the loss of Jannero Pargo nearly offsets all of that.  Jannero Pargo is not going to win MVP awards or scoring titles but he was essential and vital to last year's team.  You may be able to replace production in this league, but you can't replace presence.  The thin front court also leaves no room for error for David West or Tyson Chandler.  The Hornets are still waiting on Hilton Armstrong while, even though Melvin Ely, Ryan Bowen and Sean Marks try, they just don't have game changing backups in the front court position.  They have bodies though and after last season this team now has experience.  All that's left is replicating last year's play while dealing with the new expectations of a contending team.  The Hornets should be in the thick of things near the end of the season and will finish between the 50-56 win mark for this season.  A second division championship in franchise history is more than a possibility (even with the Rockets and Spurs looming) and an NBA Championship is more than a possibility.  But things need to fall in place this season.  After all, luck plays a huge role in winning championships.

Posted on: October 2, 2008 11:50 am
Edited on: March 21, 2009 1:22 am

My 2008-2009 NBA Preseason Predictions

 Well with the season nearing and with all of the players basically signed up to play for the upcoming 2008-2009 NBA season, I'm going to throw my predictions out there (even if it is too early).  Their playoff seeding will be by the team name.




Eastern Confrence



Atlantic Division
1. Boston Celtics (1) - The defending NBA champions throw out, roughly, the same roster and the biggest question is how hungry the big three will be after winning their championship.  That may be a problem down the road but Kevin Garnett and company will not have hunger issues this season.

2. Philadelphia 76ers (3) - Obviously the addition of Elton Brand was huge for this team but it will be interesting to see how he meshes with this up tempo type team.  Andre Miller is getting up there in age and Andre Iguodala had an awful postseason so there's room for skepticism but for some reason everything just looks as if it will mesh.  Maurice Cheeks will have pressure to get out of the first round and if he can't deliver then he may be gone by next season.

3. Toronto Raptors (6) - Picking up Jermaine O'Neal gave them virtually a Chris Bosh carbon copy as both have similar games.  Still the addition of another big man will always help and if O'Neal can be healthy and man down the center position (two tall tasks), if Chris Bosh plays like he did in the olympics, and if Jose Calderon plays like he did last season then this team could surprise.  Too many if's for me, though.

4. New Jersey Nets - Even though this team was virtually in firesale mode this offseason I really liked the moves that they made.  They picked up Yi Jianlian and I think he's going to be a great player in the league.  Devin Harris is coming into his own as a point guard and the additions of role players like Bobby Simmons, Jarvis Hayes, and Eduardo Najera will keep this team playing hard.  Is it just me or does anyone else see Vince Carter having a great season this year?

5. New York Knicks - Mike D'Antoni's gimmick offense worked when it had talent on his team.  People forget how "great" his offense was when Leandro Barbosa was running the point the year before Steve Nash arrived.  I don't know how he's going to involve Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry and company but if the offensive genius can do it then he'll have to do it with Chris Duhon at point guard.  Good luck with that. 

Central Division:
1. Detroit Pistons (4) - The talks of the Pistons demise have been dramtically overexaggerated.  I, too, thought that Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace needed to go but that Richard Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince should be retained.  Turns out all of them are there.  This doesn't mean that the team is going to lose in the first round.  This team is every bit as talented as any of the teams that have gone to the last six eastern confrence finals.  The problem is, it's as talented as all of the teams that have collapsed in those same confrence finals the last three seasons.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers (5) - The addition of Mo Williams was drastically overrated as his style doesn't look like it will match up with LeBron James.  Maybe they know something I don't, though.  It looks like a shoot first point guard who didn't really run an offense (Delonte West and Daniel Gibson) were already on the roster so it looks like he was brought in for his gaudy stats.  Unless LeBron James truly can do it all and play center then this team will have no inside presence.  Zydrunas Ilgauskas tries but he's too old to be a dominat presence.  Ben Wallace and Anderson Varejao don't deserve mention.

3. Indiana Pacers (8) - For the first time in a couple years I see the Pacers coming into the season with a direction.  It may not be talented enough to make a huge splash but the playoffs are every bit a possibility.  Mike Dunleavy finally came into his own last year and now the key is doing it on a good team.  Danny Granger is as talented as they come and the additions of T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic will help make this team better than it was last year when it fielded Jamaal Tinsley and Jeff Foster in those spots.  Foster is better off the bench and the Pacers could be in position to make a legitimate run at the postseason.

4. Milwaukee Bucks - Scott Skiles was a huge addition for this team.  He'll be able to get the pass-first point guards like Ramon Sessions and Luke Rindour get the ball into Andrew Bogut and Richard JeffersonMichael Redd is still a one trick pony and any team with him as your best player is not going to go anywhere deep in the postseason so the key is to get Bogut going this season.  Now's as good a year as any.

5. Chicago Bulls - Last year I had them in the confrence finals, this year they still haven't proven to me they've overcome last year's turmoil.  I said it would be interesting to see how everyone responded to almost being traded for Kobe Bryant and sure enough they collapsed.  Was last year just that or is that mental weakness and turmoil still in the clubhouse.  Vinny Del Negro as your head coach is a head scratcher and who knows where this team is headed this season.  I don't think it's the postseason.  Joakim Noah should have an awesome season, though.

Southeast Division:
1. Orlando Magic (2) - Dwight Howard is right behind LeBron James and Kobe Bryant as far as best players in the league go.  Rashard Lewis is going to put up similar numbers as he did last year (Though you'd like to see more rebounds) and the key is getting Hedo Turkoglu to repeat his performance from last season.  Seeing that this is a contract year I think it's a big possibility.  I wish Jameer Nelson would play all season like he did in last year's postseason and this team would be much better.  They still lack that legitimate power forward and shooting guard but overall this team will be carried wherever Howard takes them.

2. Washington Wizards (7) - Losing Gilbert Arenas and replacing him with Juan Dixon isn't a blueprint for success and neither is dedicating all your money to two players on a team who haven't gotten your team out of the first round the past few seasons.  This is a team destined for mediocrity and even though I love the games of all three members of the big three, they just don't spell championship success for a team.  Caron Butler is great and I think with Arenas missing most of the season he can lead this team to the postseason.

3. Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade has made me a believer.  After watching him in the olympics I can't wait to see him do it for a whole season.  Problem is it's not likely he'll do it for more than 65 games.  This year, though, they have Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley to pull some weight but the lack of a point guard or center could definitely kill this team.  Spoelstra is a great selection as coach, though.

4. Charlotte Bobcats - Larry Brown was a fine addition to this club and they finally have a legitimate head coach.  They just don't have legitimate players on the club.  Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace don't mesh well together and Emeka Okafor would be better serves as a power forward on a contender.  He's a fine player who was wrongfully given great player expectations.  The selection of D.J. Augustin over Brook Lopez makes me scratch my head but it goes to show how much they don't think of Raymond FeltonAdam Morrison and Sean May's production expectations are anyone's guess.

5. Atlanta Hawks - My how they've fallen.  Say what you want to about Knight but when he was fired I mentioned how bad of a move it was.  Next thing you know this team lets Josh Childress leave, horribly mishandles the Josh Smith contract situation and are going to throw out a frontcourt of Marvin Williams, Josh Smith, and Al Horford.  An aging Mike Bibby and floundering Joe Johnson won't save this team from taking a humongous step back from last season's promising playoff appearance.

Western Confrence

Southwest Division:
1. New Orleans Hornets (2) - This team looks poised to take a step forward from their breakthrough performance last season.  Inside presences like Tyson Chandler, fantastic scorers like David West and Peja Stojakovic, championship experience and toughness/defense in James Posey, athleticism and dedication from Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong in addition to the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul leaves this team with no glaring weakness.  The only problem for them will be how they handle expecting to win.

2. Houston Rockets (3) - The addition of Ron Artest is big and I really do look for Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming to have huge seasons.  This team will mesh together very well and the flexibility off the bench with players like Shane Battier, Chuck Hayes, and Carl Landry (whose offer sheet I expect them to match) give this team a lot of depth and talent.  But I still can't see a team with Raefer Alston at point guard winning a championship.

3. San Antonio Spurs (5) - The models for consistency are getting up there in age and with Manu Ginobili's health being in question coming into the season you have to wonder what, exactly, this team is going to do this upcoming season.  Tim Duncan may have a couple more seasons like last year stored up but it's not guaranteed.  You know what you're going to get out of Tony Parker but the rest of the team is open to interpretation.  Roger Mason's a nice pickup, though, and this team is still a legitimate title contender with Tim Duncan on the roster.

4. Dallas Mavericks (7) - I stated last year that no team with Dirk Nowitzki as its best player would win a championship.  The Mavericks tried to adress this by giving up Devin Harris for Jason Kidd and again (as properly predicted) it blew up in their face.  Josh Howard has become a public relations nightmare and you have to wonder if this team as presently constructed can ever recover from that series with the Warriors two seasons ago.

5. Memphis Grizzlies - O.J. Mayo, Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay are going to make this team exciting and if Marc Gasol lives up to expectations and Hakim Warrick plays as he did at the end of last season this team has the makeup and talent to be every bit as pesky and annoying as last year's Sacramento Kings team was.  Their lack of a bench will keep us from taking them serious (unless you want to mention Antoine Walker and Darko Milicic, then again why would you?) but this is a team with a very good direction who could be good again in a couple years.

Northwest Division:
1. Utah Jazz (4) *by virtue of winning division - No offense to the rest of the teams in the northwest division but this is the weakest division in the West by far and aside from the southeast may be the weakest in the league.  The Jazz are extremely talented and still lack enough inside power and a legitimate swing man to be taken serious as championship contenders but Deron Williams is the most underrated player in the league and this team will again win this division and be on its way to the postseason.

2. Portland Trail Blazers - Getting Greg Oden back is huge and Bradon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are already legitimate.  This team, though, still seems to be lacking somethign to take that last step.  They're going to push for a postseason spot but last year this team thrived on everyone writing them off.  They can't get caught up in the hype surrounding them or else they'll fail to live up to those expectations. 

3. Denver Nuggets - Having a frontcourt of Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen isn't the sturdiest nor most dependable assembly of big guys in NBA history and that alone is the reason why the Nuggets will miss the playoffs for the first time in five years.  Allen Iverson was denied a contract extension and will probably finish the year on someon else's team.  J.R. Smith is a good player but you have to scratch your head at the contract he was given.  Who knows how focused Carmelo Anthony is and if his head will ever match his skill out on the court. 

4. Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant is the real deal.  Everyone who said he had a bland year last season didn't really watch him play.  He and Jeff Green are good cornerstones for this team and players like Desmond Mason, Joe Smith, and Nick Collison will make this team more competitive than last season's Supersonics.  I'm surprised Carlesimo was retained but you can't blame him for last season's debacle of a team.  Sam Presti has this team in the right direction and in a few years they're going to be great.  Kudos to those great fans as well.

5. Minnesota Timberwolves - New logo, new power forward, same Kevin McHale, same Timberwolves.  Trading O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love is confusing regardless of the influx of guards on the Timberwolves roster.  Mike Miller is a fine player and Al Jefferson is the real deal, but why Randy Wittman is a head coach in this league I'll never know.  It's tough for me to see this team being anything better than what was on the court last season.

Pacific Division:
1. Los Angeles Lakers (1) - There's no doubt as to who is going to win this division.  The Lakers are the most talented team in the league and getting Andrew Bynum back is more of a boost to this team than Greg Oden is to Portland.  Bynum should move in and it will be awkward at first before this team catches its groove around December/January.  Bynum's injury status is something to keep an eye on as he hasn't yet played a full season.  Kobe Bryant is the best player in the league and this is the Lakers' best shot at bringing home a championship.

2. Los Angeles Clippers (6) - Yes I put them above Phoenix.  Even though chemistry may be a problem they put a talented team together and it's a team full of players who look like they will fit together.  Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby are going to be deadly inside presences (if Kaman is focused for 82 games) and Baron Davis and Eric Gordon should light it up on the offensive end.  They're not going to win championships but this team is very talented and if Mike Dunleavy can't get them to be legitimate this season then he's just not the coach we thought he was.

3. Phoenix Suns (8) - Signs of Steve Nash's decline are in place and even though Terry Porter is going to be good for this team you have to wonder if it's too late for the Suns to contend for their title.  Shaquille O'Neal is light years past his prime but is still a legitimate center and a fantastic role player at this stage in his career: when he's motivated.  That's the problem.  Amare Stoudemire is a top ten player in this league and if he ever learns how to pass or play defense then he's going to be something special for years to come.  But he's developed a fantastic mid range game to offset what he's lost with those knee surgeries.  Problem is, though, this team is not built around Stoudemire.  In due time, though.

4. Golden State Warriors - The Warriors, last year, were the toast of the town.  Losing Baron Davis and trying to replace his scoring with Corey Maggette will show up in the box score but not in the leadership or win-loss column.  After being burned by Elton Brand and Baron Davis and also losing Monta Ellis for the beginning of the regular season Warriors fans have to be wondering what's going to become of that promise that was there at the end of the 2006 season.  Brandon Wright and Anthony Randolph are very good players to grow with but Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington are just like Corey Maggette and nobody knows who's going to run this team.

5. Sacramento Kings - After last season's surprising season this team will not sneak up on anybody this year.  Kevin Martin looks like this generation's Reggie Miller; in other words he can score and try on defense but not much else.  That's not a knock on him as I think he's better in that role than Michael Redd is and he's somebody good to build around.  I just don't know if they'll win a championship with him as the guy on the team.  Giving Beno Udrih that long term contract is quite the gamble but if he plays like he did last season it will pay off.  If not he's going to just be on the roster for three years until they release him.  This team is still talented and I still love Reggie Theus but the perception is they're not a playoff team, yet.  And I agree.


Postseason Predictions

Eastern Confrence First Round

Boston Celtics vs. 8. Indiana Pacers - The Pacers surprise run to the postseason may end quickly or the Celtics could start off slowly as they did last postseason.  Either way, Kevin Garnett dominates and the Celtics advance.

2. Orlando Magic vs. 7. Washington Wizards - The Wizards string of seasons backing into the playoffs and losing in the first round will be continued this season as Dwight Howard destroys Brendan Haywood and the Magic advance.

3. Philadelphia 76ers vs. 6. Toronto Raptors - The matchup of Chris Bosh vs. Elton Brand will be hyped uncontrollably and this series should be a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, though, the addition of Jermaine O'Neal gives no new result for the Raptors as they bow out in the first round again.

4. Detroit Pistons vs. 5. Cleveland Cavaliers - Rasheed Wallace and company help the Pistons overcome LeBron James despite a valiant effort from the Cavaliers.  Will be the best matchup of the first round.

Eastern Confrence Semifinals
1. Boston Celtics vs. 4. Detroit Pistons - Last year's big matchup will now be held in the semifinals instead of the confrence finals.  The Pistons, though, will suffer the same fate as the Celtics make relatively quick work of the Pistons in five or six games.

2. Orlando Magic vs. 3. Philadelphia 76ers - This will be a great matchup of last year's two surprising teams.  Stan Van Gundy will try to bombard the Sixers with three pointers while the Sixers will struggle to make some.  Elton Brand and company will give a valiant effort but the Sixers will lose in the semifinals.

Eastern Confrence Finals
1. Boston Celtics vs. 2. Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard will show up in the main stage but the Magic's continued improvement will again halt.  Jameer Nelson and Hedo Turkoglu will dissapear in the key stretches and Paul Pierce will carry the Celtics back to the finals.  They lose in the first round in 2007, the 2nd round in 2008, and now the confrence finals in 2009.

Western Confrence First Round
1. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 8. Phoenix Suns - This ridicuously hyped matchup will bring ratings but not much competition.  Andrew Bynum vs. Shaquille O'Neal will be the high profile matchup and Amare Stoudemire will own Pau Gasol but Kobe Bryant will shine again and Lamar Odom will own Grant Hill on both ends of the court.  Lakers advance.

2. New Orleans Hornets vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks - A rematch of last year's first round matchup proves the same result.  Brandon Bass and Dirk Nowitzki will go nuts but Chris Paul will run circles around Jason Kidd and Peja Stojakovic and James Posey will shoot the Hornets past the Mavericks in six games.

3. Houston Rockets vs. 6. Los Angeles Clippers - This will, again, be a very interesting matchup.  The Clippers will steal a game in Houston and everyone will panic and remind themselves Tracy McGrady has never gotten past the first round.  But then when the series shifts to Los Angeles McGrady will take over and Rafer Alston will knock down big shots to help the Rockets win this series in six games.

4. Utah Jazz vs. 5. San Antonio Spurs - A fantastic matchup in the first round will take place but this series will only be for the old school fans.  A lot of tough, inside, rough and tough, physical games will take place but that benefits the Spurs.  Tim Duncan and Carlos Boozer will be a good matchup as will Tony Parker's speed vs. Deron William's strength but Manu Ginobili will out shoot Kyle Korver to help the Spurs advance.

Western Confrence Semifinals
Los Angeles Lakers vs. 5. San Antonio Spurs - The Spurs will come into this series destined to avenge last year's embarassment in the Western Confrence Finals.  The result will be the same, though, as Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom, again, prove to be the difference in this series and allow the Lakers to edge the Spurs in six games.

2. New Orleans Hornets vs. 3. Houston Rockets - This will (until the Western Confrence Finals) be the best matchup of the playoffs as the Rockets size and strength will matchup against the Hornets finesse style of play.  Yao Ming will dominate as the Hornets leave Tyson Chandler one on one against the 7'6" superstar.  Peja Stojakovic will be smothered by Ron Artest and Luis Scola will do his best to stay in front of David West.  The Hornets will panic but James Posey and Julian Wright will slow down Tracy McGrady and eventually Chris Paul and David West will run the pick and roll to perfection to advance in seven games.

Western Confrence F inals
1. Los Angeles Lakers vs.2. New Orleans Hornets - The matchup of what would have been the more entertaining Western Confrence Finals last year will take place this season as these two talented teams will fight to see who advances to face the Celtics in the NBA finals.  Kobe Bryant and company will split with the Hornets in Los Angeles before taking game 3.  But the Hornets will come together in game 4 and gell just in time to take the series in seven games due to Peja Stojakovic's surprising play in a series that actually matters.

Boston Celtics (home court) vs. New Orleans Hornets - The hungry Hornets will come into town to matchup with the defending champions and the prospects of having James Posey try to take the championship away from the team that he left in the offseason will make for fun storylines.  Chris Paul will be slowed down by Rajon Rondo but David West will step up big time and prove to be a key factor in his matchup with Kevin Garnett.  Tyson Chandler will slow down Garnett on the offensive side of the court and although Paul Pierce will light up the Hornets, Peja Stojakovic will out shoot Ray Allen in the matchup of players who do virtually nothing other than rebound.  The Hornets will win exactly one game in Boston but that will be enough to take the series in six games and allow (homer pick) for your 2009 NBA Champions, for the first time in franchise history, to be the New Orleans Hornets.

Category: NBA
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Posted on: May 19, 2008 7:10 pm
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