Monday, October 25, 2010

2010 - 2011 NBA Preview

It seems like only a year ago that I was lazily floating along, debating whether or not to devote myself to making this blog an actual entity with different kinds of content; that was actually updated frequently.  It seems like only a year ago that I was writing a belated preview of the 2009-2010 NBA season about a month after the season had already started.  Oh, wait, all of that really was a year ago. Look how far we’ve come: tons of different content, a variety of stupid and interesting podcasts and posts that are on time and actually before the events that they are written about.  If that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.  You should be thrilled you follow this blog.

All of this is just a long preamble to stating how much this blog has changed as well as how much the NBA has changed.  You would be extremely hard pressed to find a time when the NBA changed this dramatically from one season to the next.  Perhaps you could make the argument for the 1993-1994 season, which was the season immediately following Michael Jordan’s first retirement.  You could also make an argument for the 1998-1999 season, which followed M.J’s second retirement and was also the strike-shortened season that saw the birth of the Spurs dynasty.  And I would also possibly listen to an argument for the 1979-1980 season when Bird and Magic came into the league, though there was still a slow climb to make out of the cocaine/tape-delayed Finals games-era.  However, none of those years can come even close to the shift over this past summer.  Just a few highlights:

-       The Miami Heat becoming the nWo of basketball.

-       Amare coming to the Knicks.

-       The Bulls becoming the “Team that makes sense.”

-       Kevin Durant playing like the best player in the world at the FIBA World Games.

-       The Lakers becoming deeper.

-       The Celtics becoming deeper and bigger.

-       Ticket prices being raised all around the league because of the Heat factor.

-       Carmelo Anthony basically saying that he will only come to the New York Knicks.

-       Dwight Howards’ training sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon.

-       The Miami Heat.

There have been a ton of roster changes league-wide and there is definitely a shift in balance of power to the Eastern Conference.  We are entering a league where there are once again a handful of elite, dominant, deep teams, rather than many watered down teams.  This isn’t the NFL.  The NBA prospers on the strength of memorable teams that go extraordinarily deep.  Now, we have a chance to remember the following teams: ’10-’11 Heat (for obvious reasons), ’10-’11 Lakers (three-peat and Kobe matching Jordan),  ’10-’11 Celtics (vindication for KG, cementing legacies of Big Three, Shaq pulling even with Kobe), ’10-’11 Magic (Dwight’s first (only?) title), ’10-’11 Thunder (far-fetched, but Kevin Durant’s first title and coup for smart management).  That’s five potential memorable/historic teams.  That kind of potential is never there at the beginning of a season – not at least in recent memory.

So, as you can see, there is a lot to look forward to this season.  Now, I am going to take you team by team, through the entire league in order to tell you why you should care about each team in the NBA and what will happen to them.

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics

Why You Should Care:  There are plenty of reasons why you should care.  They are poised to be the main competition to the Heat in the East. Garnett looks healthy and has a spring in his step that he seemed to have lost the last two years.  Shaq is in shape.  They picked up Delonte West to pair with Nate Robinson has part of their second team, which will be explosive.  Big Baby and Shaq on the court at the same time.  Rondo pulling off two to three moves a game that make you question everything you knew about basketball.  Pierce looking to cement his legacy as one of the best lifetime Celtics.  Allen looking for redemption from the 2010 Finals.  And finally Rondo playing with a huge chip on his shoulder because he was kicked of the 2010 FIBA gold medal team and looking to destroy every point guard (read Derrick Rose) he faces.  This is going to be a fun team to watch.

What Will Happen To Them: They have a chance to win over 60 games and will most likely play the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals.  That series will most likely go six or seven games.  However, I think the Heat take them.

New Jersey Nets

Why You Should Care: They have perhaps the best owner in the league in Mikhail Prokhorov bringing mysterious Russian vibes. Brooke Lopez is the second best center in the league and is poised to make a leap.  Derrick Favors as tremendous upside as a rookie. Avery Johnson is a passionate coach and this team was terrible last year so that all want to win.  They have young intriguing talent in Travis Outlaw, Anthony Morrow and Terrence Williams. They might be Carmelo’s backup plan.

What Will Happen To Them:  The Nets were terrible last year, so they can only go up.  They will get out to a slow start, then get frisky right before and after the All-Star Game, leading to some “eighth seed” attention that will die out as the team loses steam at the tail end of the season. Avery Johnson comes in second place in the Coach of the Year voting.

New York Knicks

Why You Should Care:  Amare Stoudemire is one of those rare athletes who relish playing in New York.  He is dying to prove he is the man and that his success wasn’t only because of Steve Nash. He is going to be playing with a lot to prove, which will motivate him – big year.  The New York crowd will be revitalized. The Garden will be relevant again.  Ronny Turiaf and Anthony Randolph will be huge fan favorites that we remember fondly years from now as slightly watered down Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley type figures.  Danilo will have a big year and they will get Carmelo Anthony right before the trade deadline in February.

What Will Happen To Them:  The frenzied crowd at the Garden, Amare’s big year and the late addition of Carmelo will ride them to a strong seventh seed in the East where the Celtics will prove too much for them in the first round of the playoffs. Mike D’Antoni gets Coach of the Year honors and the Knicks fans can look forward to a big step forward in 2011-2012 with a full year of Carmelo and Amare.  Unless there is a lockout.

Philadelphia 76ers

Why You Should Care:  Elton Brand is supposed to be healthy so he may make them friskier than expected.  Maybe Andre Iguodala will recognize his true strengths as a basketball player after the great role he played on the 2010 FIBA team.  Maybe Evan Turner won’t be pouty and will live up to expectations as a rookie.

What Will Happen To Them: Realistically, this team will not be very good.  They will be at the bottom of the conference and are definitely looking lottery.  Their best option is to figure out some kind of trade scenario and blow this team up.  It’ll be hard with Brand’s contract, but they can’t build around Iguodala – he needs to go to a good team and be their defensive stopper on the wing and third or fourth scoring option. They will have some painful, painful games to watch.

Toronto Raptors

Why You Should Care: Because they might literally become the worst team of all time.  There is no one on this team – absolutely no one.  I can’t believe that more people aren’t pointing this out.  They do have Reggie Evans and his Twitter Feed for humor, but that’s it.  They need to move a lot of pieces around and try to become a mediocre team built around Demar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani – maybe Ed Davis if he pans out as a rookie and puts on more weight. 

What Will Happen To Them:  They will be the worst team in the league. This will not be pretty. I’m very serious about this team.  They are going to stink.

Central Division

Chicago Bulls

Why You Should Care:  Derrick Rose is going to make a big leap this year as a point guard and as possibly a Top Ten/Top Fifteen player in the league. Joakim Noah is going to be a revelation down in the post on offense and especially on defense and open a lot of eyes.  Once they get Carlos Boozer back you are going to see a new dimension to their offense that they have not had – possibly ever.  Rose and Boozer will run some great pick and rolls.  Deng will have a good year and remind people why he was overvalued back in the 2005-2007 days.  They will play great team defense and will fit together as a team.  This team just makes a lot of sense. You will learn about basketball watching them.

What Will Happen To Them: They will finish as the fifth seed in the East.  Since Boozer will be out the first month or so of the season, they will be playing catch up to the Bucks and I think it will be close but the Bucks will take the division.  That means that they’ll play each other in the first round of the playoffs, which will be a classic series that the Bulls will take in seven.  Then, they will fall to the Heat in a “hard fought, but the Heat are just too good” five game series. You can mark my words on that one. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Why You Should Care: Have you ever been in a long-term relationship that seemed to be going so well; the girl was your high school sweetheart and it seemed like the two of you were going to get married and live happily ever after but then all of a sudden you were getting ready to propose and she told you she was in love with someone else?  Well, that is what happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers and we are going to watch an entire team and city sort through that sort of depression and mess for much of the season.  It’s completely unprecedented.  And the reaction to LeBron returning to Cleveland? I don’t know if we can even begin to fathom what that moment will actually be like.  Plus they have Jamison, Mo Williams, Varajao, JJ Hickson and some other role players that made get traded to interesting places and might make good teams even better.

What Will Happen To Them:  Many of the pieces of this team will be traded away during this season as they try to rebuild the team.  Hopefully Cleveland fans will have patience and not try multiple suicide attempts or homicide attempts on LeBron when he visits.  This team will be bad, but they won’t play horrendous basketball.

Detroit Pistons

Why You Should Care: If you don’t like basketball, there is really no reason why you should care about this team.  They are going to be bad.  The only reason to be interested in them is that they have so many weird parts that there is a way they might be so whacky that they actually confuse teams and beat them. 

What Will Happen To Them: If Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva try hard there is a chance they can make a run at the eight seed.  However, that scenario is pretty much unlikely and they will be showcasing some brutal basketball.

Indiana Pacers

Why You Should Care:  The Pacers always trot out a lot of white guys for the race purists out there (is that offensive? And to who?).  Danny Granger is a terrific scorer and always entertaining to watch. They made a big trade to get Darren Collison as their point guard and that could pay off.  They have Tyler Hansbrough who could put in a productive sophomore season and become one of the more likeable hardworking guys in the league.  Uh, well, I’m really stretching here, but there is something about this Pacers team that I kind of like.  I want them to do well.

What Will Happen To Them: The best case scenario is that Collison plays like he did last year and his ability teamed up with Granger’s scoring and Roy Hibbert’s jump from an average center to a good center could provide them with some options on offense that might lead to a run at the eighth seed.  Their fate is similar to the Nets: some possible eighth seed gossip, but most likely a fadeout.  They will not play completely awful basketball.

Milwaukee Bucks

Why You Should Care: One of the best stories of last season was the Bucks’ surprising run into the playoffs as well as their fan’s adopting the “Fear the Deer” slogan invented by Andrew Bogut. Unfortunately, the Bucks were too inexperienced and Bogut was injured and they weren’t able to beat the Hawks in their first round series.  The Bucks with Bogut would have put up more of an effort against the Magic than the Hawks did.  Well, the band is back for this team (what?) and Bogut will look to build on his season last year so that more people notice that he is actually a very solid center.  Jennings will look to raise more eyebrows after his impressive rookie season and contend with Rondo, Rose and Wall as the most exciting young point guard in the league.  They have some wild card additions in Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette that could very well pan out.

What Will Happen To Them: I’m thinking nothing but best-case scenario for this likable team and their great fan base.  I think the Bucks will actually surprise a lot of people and get to the four seed in the East.  The fans will feel a bit of a setback when they lose to the Bulls in seven games in the first round, but the Bulls are going to be hot going into the playoffs. The wild card is that Scott Skiles is a hard ass coach that can grate on players. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this year or next year so we can see a little Bulls/Bucks rivalry develop. 

Southeast Division:

Atlanta Hawks

Why You Should Care: For the past three years the Hawks have boasted a young, dynamic, exciting and talented (?) roster.  You never know when Josh Smith is going to throw down a ridiculous dunk or make a fantastic block.  Al Horford is one of the best young big men in the league.  Jamal Crawford is an erratic Sixth Man who is capable of putting up big points.  Joe Johnson is a boring, solid and unremarkable star.  Oh, that last one’s not drawing you in? Well, its not like the Hawks spent 127 million dollars signing him to a new contract in the offseason.  Oh, wait, they did.

What Will Happen To Them:  The Hawks are such an erratic team there is no true way to tell what will happen to them.  They are dangerous one moment and then lackadaisical the next.  That’s what you get with a team of borderline head cases (well Josh Smith is a head case).  They are going to take a step back this year as the Bucks and the Bulls are much more cohesive teams and have better coaches.  The Hawks will fall to the sixth seed where the Magic will dispatch of them in the first round as easily as they did last year (although that may not be possible as the way the Magic whipped the Hawks last year was ridiculous).  Then, the Hawks try to retool the roster but realize they paid Joe Johnson 127 million dollars. Oopey.

Charlotte Bobcats

Why You Should Care: Any team with Stephen “Captain Jack” Jackson on it will be worth watching.  Captain Jack has developed into one of the better league personalities we have had in the last few years. Jackson may be dynamic or he may be a head case and demand a trade.  There are some interesting prospects with Jackson, Gerald Wallace and Ty Thomas (poised to make a big leap from what I hear) all playing together.  There’s also the fact that Michael Jordan is the owner and he might make bold statements during the year and also that they are paying Boris Diaw and Dasagna Diop a combined 15 million dollars.  Trust me, that is absurd.

What Will Happen To Them: The Bobcats lost a lot of small pieces from their playoff team and they don’t seem to resemble a team that will play very good basketball.  All this being said, that may just be enough for them to sneak into the eight seed in the East.  The Heat will sweep them in the first round.

Miami Heat

Why You Should Care: They are drawing hate only matched by the nWo in the heyday of the WCW.  The two best players in the league are playing together for the first time ever and the two best perimeter players are playing together for the first time since Baylor and West.  You will get to know Chris Bosh as a player. This is an experiment in unselfishness and suppression of ego that is unprecedented in sports history.  Their team coming to any U.S. city will be an event. They may save the economies of some failing cities and the raised ticket sales for ALL OF THEIR AWAY GAMES may help prevent the lockout (although this is not really plausible, it is still very fun to think about).  LeBron is playing with a huge chip on his shoulder after all the insults he took in the offseason. We will finally get to see Dwyane Wade play with a team that resembles an actual pro basketball team.  I could make up a million more reasons why you should care, but really, this is historic stuff.

What Will Happen To Them: I am on the side of optimism for this team.  I think they constructed the bench and supporting players very conservatively and practically. Everyone on this team will have their role and will not be asked to stretch more than they can do.  Dwyane and LeBron will anchor and guide everything and each one of those guys is capable of pulling a team through an off night.  They will get everyone’s best shot, but I am predicting 66 wins and they win the title over the Lakers.  Next year (if not lockout) is the year they go for the Bull’s wins record.

Orlando Magic

Why You Should Care: They are a perennial contender in the East.  They have Dwight Howard.  Dwight Howard spent the offseason in private training sessions with Hakeem Olajuwon that you can view on YouTube, so you can expect his post game to show visible signs of improvement. Vince Carter may play like a man who has balls at one point in the season. Stan Van Gundy has lashed out at Pat Riley and LeBron for all the offseason moves.  The Magic genuinely seem to have a chip on their shoulder for being overlooked and could surprise the Heat or Celtics in the playoffs, although that scenario is not very likely.

What Will Happen To Them:  They will finish as the three seed and meet the Celtics in the second round of the playoffs.  Unless Dwight has really improved his post moves, they will face the same fate that met them in the Eastern Conference Finals last year.  I’m thinking history will repeat itself.

Washington Wizards

Why You Should Care:  They drafted John Wall who will eventually become one of the best point guards in the league, who will perform freakish feats on a Rondo-scale, except that he is more athletic and perhaps more of a freak than Rondo is.  Gilbert Arenas has possibly lost his mind.  If Gilbert Arenas actually buys into playing the two-guard position and focuses simply on making shots, he and Wall could form a potent backcourt. JaVale McGee will be receiving tons of alley-oops from John Wall. They are slowly putting pieces into place to have a good team.

What Will Happen To Them: John Wall will carry them to a few surprise wins and will deliver some fantastic highlight reel plays. I have heard his on-court aura is already being compared to Iverson’s rookie year, which is a big compliment.  However, it seems like Gilbert has really lost his mind and may end up undermining this team.  If not, there is a chance they could make some kind of weak run at the number eight seed, but that is unlikely.  They will have some moments of good basketball.

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets

Why You Should Care: They have Carmelo Anthony – for now.  Carmelo Anthony might get traded.  They have a roster full of head cases who do and say crazy things (i.e. JR Smith popcorn trick on Kenyon Martin’s car).  They are talented.  They could make a run at the West if they keep their dysfunction in line.

What Will Happen To Them: They won’t keep their dysfunction in line and will most likely self-destruct right around the All-Star Break. Carmelo trade rumors will weigh the team down until Carmelo is actually traded to the Knicks, which will keep the Nuggets out of the playoffs.  If Carmelo stays, they are a dysfunctional team that lands the seven seed and matches up with the Mavericks in the first round – that could be an interesting upset special.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Why You Should Care: Because their owner, David Kahn, is an idiot who lacks any form of self-awareness. Because David Kahn has made a million head scratching signings and trades. Because David Kahn had one of the most awkward interactions ever with Chris Weber during the offseason.  They have a lot of young talent that could work if they were assembled on a team with an actual plan.  Mike Love is one of the most underrated players in the league.  Michael Beasley may or may not be stoned for all of their deep winter games when he can’t leave his home in Minneapolis.  They might actually surprise some people and win a few games.

What Will Happen To Them: They will most likely not surprise and will be one of the worst teams in the league.  They have a lot of nice pieces, but until they figure out how they actually want to build this team - form an identity on offense or defense, the roles of the players they have, the roles of players they need to get – they will not be playing enjoyable basketball to watch.  I’ll watch it, though, because they do have some good young players.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Why You Should Care: Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant. Kevin Durant. Russell Westbrook is one of the most exciting young guards in the game and throws down some of the most ridiculous dunks as well.  He took a big leap at the FIBA Games and his poised to do the same this season. Jeff Green needs to prove his worth after disappearing against the Lakers.  James Harden will improve in his second year.  KU alumni Nick Collison and Cole Aldridge will form a hilarious white boy mentor-pupil duo on the front line.  Serge Ibaka will open your eyes at least once a game.  They are a well-built, hard playing, very likable young team.

What Will Happen To Them:  They surprised some teams last year, but they were really that good.  Durant has taken it to another level, as has Westbrook so they will keep up with the good teams and the teams that aren’t surprised any more.  Their role players all look to improve as well.  I see them as the number three seed (long season still catches up to them), but they will get past the Mavericks in the second round and make it to the Western Conference Finals.

Portland Trailblazers

Why You Should Care: Greg Oden might play a full season.  Brandon Roy is a good player.  Brandon Roy and Andre Miller might fight each other.  They are always competitive and have a lot of nice role players.  They have great fans and a great jersey.  I can’t think of anything else to really get you excited about the Trailblazers.  I like them as a team and they will not play bad basketball.  They will actually play some very good basketball at times.  There, that’s my endorsement.

What Will Happen To Them: This is a tough one to pick.  If Denver bottoms out, then either they or the Suns will finish as the seventh seed in the West.  If Denver doesn’t bottom out, then it is very likely that they will not make the playoffs.  It sounds strange to me as I’m writing it because I think they are a good team, but seeds two through seven in the West will be tight.  To be fair, if they make the playoffs, they can definitely pull up an upset. Also, they can’t have any more injuries than they did last year.

Utah Jazz

Why You Should Care: Jerry Sloan always coaches his team well. Deron Williams is one of the top three point guards in the league.  The Jazz got an absolute steal when they took Al Jefferson from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Jefferson is a quality big man with legitimate low-post moves who has never played on a good team or a competent coach (one year with Doc Rivers doesn't count because Doc didn't gain competence until the 2008 Finals when he somehow turned on a coaching switch).  Jefferson is actually an upgrade over Boozer. They usually trot out a dynamic team with the likes of Okur, Kirilenko and Fesenko.  They always seem to play people tough.  They have switched back to their old jersey's with the music symbols - definite plus.

What Will Happen To Them: They will finish as the six seed in the West and face Oklahoma City in the first round. They will play Oklahoma City tough and this is a series that should potentially go seven games.  You have to like the Westbrook vs. Williams matchup as well as the Oklahoma City big men trying to match up with Jefferson, Okur and Fesenko.  However, the Jazz really have no match for Kevin Durant and that will prove to be the difference.  A very enjoyable series, though, with two well coached and good chemistry teams.

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors

Why You Should Care: Stephen Curry is a really good and exciting basketball player who will be even more comfortable in his second NBA season.  David Lee will enjoy playing with another player who can pass and play good basketball.  They changed their uniforms and they look cool – I think. Don Nelson is not the coach anymore and they actually have a coach who cares about what happens to the team.  They have a versatile roster that could surprise a few teams (hint: this is my code for there are a lot of random players that I know about and that most people the don’t really follow the NBA know about.  These players are not really worth following or knowing about, but I do: Louis Amundsen, Ekpe Udoh, Andris Biedrins.). And, finally, they have a fantastic home crowd.

What Will Happen To Them:  They will most likely not surprise many teams and will finish at the lower portion of the standings.  However, it will be entertaining to watch Curry and Lee play together.  With some lucky, they may end up getting a top spot in the lottery.

 Los Angeles Clippers

Why You Should Care: Blake Griffin may actually get to play his rookie season.  This is important because he has looked insane in the preseason.  He could be one of the most exciting players this year.  His play could inspire Baron Davis and you always want to watch a team with an inspired Baron Davis.  Griffin and Kaman in the post could be extremely formidable.  Eric Gordon took a huge leap forward during the FIBA Games and could be your Most Improved Player.  You will become more familiar with his name.

What Will Happen To Them: If Blake Griffin does not get injured, I see the Clippers landing the eight seed in the West and facing the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs in the Staples Center Showdown (better name?) This will be a series with some serious Golden State/Dallas 2007 potential.  All of L.A. is watching. Lakers are going for a three-peat.  Baron in front of plenty of Hollywood stars.  Blake Griffin’s playoff debut.  This could be huge. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Los Angeles Lakers

Why You Should Care:  Kobe Bryant.  Pau Gasol (one of the most amazing players in the game to watch). Ron Artest. Andrew Bynum (and his knee). Lamar Odom. Derek Fischer. Phil Jackson.  The two-time defending champs are looking for a three peat. This would give Phil twelve rings (four three-peats). This would give Kobe six rings (two three-peats) and would draw more Jordan comparisons.  Artest is on the team for the love of god.  Odom loves candy.  They are deeper this year than they were last year.  This team will play very good basketball and it may be the last time to see some of these players playing at this level.

What Will Happen To Them: They will cruise through the West much like the 1992-1993 Bulls cruised through the East. They will try to keep their energy and strength for the playoffs. It will be a tougher road through this year because of the matchup problems, but they will get to the Finals.  I believe they will take Miami to seven games in “The Series That Saves the NBA,” but will lose.  Cue the downward slope of Kobe’s career.

Phoenix Suns

Why You Should Care:  Steve Nash is a freak of nature and he eats a very healthy diet that promotes energy and strength – you should follow it.  They have some great chemistry role players like Jared Dudley.  You should always enjoy watching Grant Hill play and appreciate how he has made a career even after his body was ravaged by injuries (one of the greatest in the game pre-injury). They always score a lot.  They are never not entertaining to watch.

What Will Happen To Them: They lost Amare to free agency, which is a big blow. They also lost a few good role players and may have too many small forwards.  They may not be able to get their same chemistry back from last year where it seemed like everyone cared and understood what to do.  If the Nuggets don’t self-destruct, I see them sneaking into the seventh seed (Why not the Clippers? I don’t know, my logic is flawed.) as the best possible scenario.  Otherwise, there is a good chance this likable team misses the playoffs.

Sacramento Kings

Why You Should Care: Tyreke Evans was the Rookie of the Year last year.  He is poised to improve this year.  He drove his purple car 120 miles per hour over the offseason.  They drafted DeMarcus Cousins who is potentially the biggest head case with the most potential since Rasheed Wallace (that is a huge compliment as ‘Sheed was one of the most talented players to come out of college in the past twenty years.  He had every tool and every move and he just chose to waste so much of it because he was a head case.). They have a good young turk in Omri Casspi (actually Turkish). Ah, that’s about it. The rest of the team is kind of garbage.

What Will Happen To Them: They will be an exciting team and hopefully the duo of Evans and Cousins works out because they are both freaks and could anchor that team for the next decade if all goes right.  Unfortunately, they will play some terrible basketball when they are not making you stand out of your seat.  If they draft well next year (if there is a draft) they could possibly sneak into the eight seed in 2011-2012.

Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks

Why You Should Care: Dirk Nowitzki is one of the most underrated NBA players of all time.  He is on his way to a Hall of Fame career and is reaching some big statistical milestones.  They are always competitive. They are big enough with the addition of Tyson Chandler to provide a legitimate challenge to the Lakers.  Roddy Beaubois is one of the fastest players in the league.  They are one of the deepest teams in the league and could make a surprise trade near the trade deadline in February to make a legitimate run at the Finals.

What Will Happen To Them: They will be the number two seed in the West.  I don’t see them actually making a trade at the deadline, because for all of his talk, Cuban is usually conservative when it comes to making trades.  They will make it all the way to the Western Conference Finals.  After winning the first game of the series and putting a scare in the Lakers, Kobe will win Game 2 at the buzzer and shift the dynamic of the series.  The Lakers will win in six games.

Houston Rockets

Why You Should Care: Yao Ming is a good player. They have a deep and well-rounded team that fits together well.  Kevin Martin is an overlooked player because he played on so many bad Sacramento teams.  Shane Battier is always one of the top defenders in the league. Luis Scola showed the world what he is capable in the FIBA World Games this summer.  They are a big, physical and dynamic team that can surprise people.

What Will Happen To Them: They will have a solid regular season and finish as the fourth seed in the West.  They will meet the Spurs in the first round, which will be a bruising series that will definitely call to mind some early-90’s Eastern Conference battles.  The Rockets will unfortunately lose that series in seven games.

Memphis Grizzlies

Why You Should Care: They have a young core of good players like O.J. Mayo and Xavier Henry.  They showed signs of progress last year. Marc Gasol is becoming one of the best low post players in the league.  If Zach Randolph tries, they can be seriously dangerous down low. Zach Randolph is a head case.  Hasheem Thabeet apparently improved from “awful” to “not so terrible” over the summer, which could help them.  Rudy Gay just got overpaid during the summer and has to try and live up to his contract.  They have some random pieces that could make them competitive. They have an unpredictable, wild card feel.

What Will Happen To Them: The West is full of so many good teams that are hard to get a definitive read on.  I think that the Grizzlies will challenge for the eight seed, but with teams like the Suns, Nuggets and Clipper lurking around, it may be tough for them to break back through into the postseason.  I don’t see it happening.

New Orleans Hornets

Why You Should Care: Chris Paul.  They have a “not terrible” starting lineup now that they’ve added Trevor Ariza who will hopefully add a little toughness to the team.  Emeka Okafor might not be a total stiff as their center.  Jerryd Bayless can help spell Chris Paul when they need him to.  Quincy Pondexter might be a surprising rookie.  Let’s face it, Chris Paul is the only reason to care about this team and there is still a chance he could get traded this season.

What Will Happen To Them:  Although Chris Paul is a good guy and will try to put this team on his back, I don’t really see them going anywhere.  They won’t play terrible basketball mostly because of Paul, but also because Ariza will be a nice running mate and David West is always solid.  Okafor only needs to finish alley-oops and stay healthy like Tyson Chandler did in the 2007-2008 season, when the team made it to the second round of the playoffs.  I think they will miss the cut of the playoffs, though I believe Paul will finish the season with the team.

San Antonio Spurs

Why You Should Care: Tim Duncan will not be in the league for many more years and I’ve come around on him as a player.  The Spurs are always dangerous with Parker and Ginobli.  Dejuan Blair is a tough player and rebounder inside and an excellent chemistry/glue-guy.  People are very high on Tiago Splitter’s capabilities as a rookie.  Richard Jefferson has been with the team for a year and will hopefully have better chemistry.  George Hill is a nice player. Antonio McDyess is always reliable and can knock down clutch jumpers. They are the Spurs and they never really die.

What Will Happen To Them: The Spurs always hang around.  Even last year when everyone thought they were dead in the water, they were able to upset the Mavericks in the first round.  This year, they finish as the five seed in the West thanks to one last solid Duncan season.  They take the Rockets in an epic seven game first round series and then push the Lakers to six games in the second round.  They are just too old in general and not quite big enough to handle the Lakers and their depth.  You can put that one in the books.

So, there you have it.  An exhaustive wrap-up of every team in the league.  I may be an NBA freak, but this season, there are legitimate reasons to care about every team and that is a good thing.  This will be one of the best NBA seasons in history, so please sit back and enjoy it.

No comments:

Post a Comment