Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Division by division preview: Pacific Division

I apologize for the brief hiatus in the S&C. The NBA season is rapidly approaching (now less than 1 month away), and I'm getting very excited.

Anyway, it's on to the Pacific division as the previewing continues.

L.A. Lakers: At this point do the Lakers really need a preview? I mean seriously, everyone knows what's in store for this team. The biggest off-season move was bringing in Ron Artest, so myself, along with millions of other writers/analysts believe that will make Western Conference dominant Lakers only better. As much as I hate the Lakers, I'm man enough to admit they're amazing. There's your preview.

Phoenix Suns: Suns' GM Steve Kerr has made some questionable calls in recent years. He completely revolutionized the team when he fired Mike D'Antoni last summer and replaced him with Terry Porter. But the Porter experiment didn't work at all, and he didn't even last to the second half of the year. Alvin Gentry took over his duties, and while the Suns showed improvement, they were just short of the playoffs. Not to mention the powerhouse Shaquille O'Neal now resides in the state of Ohio. While I like the Earl Clark draft, I'm not ready to put the Suns in the playoffs until I see better decision making by Steve Kerr.

L.A. Clippers: The Clippers had an awful 2008-2009 and fell short of all expectations. The tides may be changing however with the #1 draft pick of Blake Griffin. Griffin has the potential to be one of the best big men in the NBA, and I think he'll improve the Clippers dramatically. If Marcus Camby can stay healthy, Baron Davis actually gives a damn, and Blake Griffin performs how I think he'll perform, the sky's the limit for LA. The chances of making the playoffs next year are slim, but the potential for the Clippers in the future (IF all works out) is endless.

Golden State Warriors: Larry Riley, Warriors GM, likes offense. He REALLY likes offense, and it shows when the Warriors put up nearly 150 points on the Suns. But it appears Riley doesn't have an interest in defense--and that's a huge problem. I LOVE the Stephon Curry draft, and it adds to the limitless offense in Oakland. But the lack of defense is a big issue for the Warriors, and it will probably keep them out of the playoffs in 2009-2010. But I fully expect an improved Warriors team, and I'm liking them as the dark horse in the West.

Sacramento Kings: The Kings were the worst team in the NBA last year, but they'll have a ton of money to spend in the summer of 2010. Unfortunately Sacramento fans, don't expect much, if anything, out of the Kings this year. In no way, shape or form, will the Kings make it past 30 wins and the playoffs are a very distant possibility. However, Kevin Martin continues to emerge as a superstar, and I really like the Tyreke Evans draft. But all in all, expect the Kings to have a very busy July 2010 and in bring much needed help to revamp the team.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Division by division preview: Northwest Division

The Eastern Conference is covered, and now it's on to the West. From top to bottom, the Western Conference is better than its counterpart, but without a doubt, the East continues to make strides of improvement. Today, I'll be previewing the Northwest Division, so without further adieu...

Denver Nuggets: By drafting Ty Lawson, the Nuggets add more youth, as well as a reliable back-up point guard when Anthony Carter retires. Yeah, the Nuggets didn't make any major summer moves, but so what? This is still the same Nuggets team that made the semi-finals last year. Don't fix it if it's not broken, right?

Portland Trail Blazers: The Blazers' young core continues to gel stronger, and it showed by the impressive #4 seed in last year's West. In 2009-2010, the Blazers will only be better, led by their man Brandon Roy whose emerging as one of the better players in the NBA. I also love the Andre Miller signing, because the Blazers needed a pure point guard. Not only will Miller fill that void, but he'll add a veteran leadership to an extremely young team.

Utah Jazz: Following the disappointing '08-'09 season for Utah, I realized something: The Jazz are just an average team. Considering Carlos Boozer's situation, I expect the same thing next year. Boozer's requests of leaving Utah weren't met, and I have a feeling he won't give his best effort for 82 games. Call me crazy, but I think the Jazz are just a small fish in a big pond.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Thunder GM Sam Presti reminds me so much of the Blazer's GM Kevin Pritchard. Neither worry about the short term, but rather build for the future. James Harden could very well win ROY, and I love the development of Russell Westbrook. I expect a monster year out of Kevin Durant in 2009-2010, who by the way just turned 21. I doubt the Thunder will be playing post-April 2010, but don't worry Thunder fans. Good things come to those who wait.

Minnesota Timberwolves: In what was supposed to be a successful 2009 NBA Draft for the Timberwolves, turned into a complete fiasco. Ricky Rubio, the 5th pick, will stay in Spain next year, leaving Jonny Flynn in complete control of the point guard position next year. While I love Flynn's game, the Wolves are still far away from the playoffs. But hey, the team's in rebuilding mode, so...look out for them in the future.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Division by division preview: Southeast Division

The previewing continues. I've covered the Atlantic and Central. Now it's on to the Southeast, a division which I believe is arguably the most competitive in the East. All 5 teams have the potential to be playing basketball post-April, and it'll be interesting to see it whose in and whose out.

Orlando Magic: The Magic surprised people last year when they made the finals, and I believe the they're poised to make another push. Losing Hedo Turkoglu was a bummer, but the team made up for it by bringing in Brandon Bass, Matt Barnes, "comeback kid" Jason Williams, Ryan Anderson, and of course Vince Carter. Carter's best years are behind him, but he can still create his own shots and demands a double team. The powerhouse D-12 will only be more dominant, and Jameer Nelson is fully healthy again. The East is getting stronger against their counterpart and certainly the Magic are at the top of the food chain.

Atlanta Hawks: I believe the Hawks are one of the bigger underdogs in the East. Led by Mike Woodson, the Hawks won 47 games last year, and made it to the 2nd round of the playoffs. I love the additions of Joe Smith and Jamal Crawford, who can play the 1 or 2 position, as well as drafting a nice backup point guard in Jeff Teague. The Hawks have one of the better front-courts in the East, and it's a big reason why I'm loving them in 2009-2010.

Miami Heat: There's a reason why the Heat are limited to 2nd round picks, and Jamario Moon-less. Pat Riley is preparing to offer Dwayne Wade the big bucks come July 1st, 2010, and praying the superstar will stay in Miami. The Heat signed Quinten Richardson, but I am a little concerned about their not-so-busy summer. The core of the Heat is definitely solid, and there's no doubt a playoff appearance is in the future. Nonetheless, the ball is in Dwayne Wade's court...and 2010 is just around the corner. Brace yourself for a anxious summer, Heat fans.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards have a chance to be the most improved team in 2009-2010. But when dealing with the Wizards, it's all about the health of "The Big 3", Jamison, Butler, and Arenas. I like the additions of Mike Miller and Randy Foye, who will be a nice backup if Arenas goes down again. But at the end of the day, injuries will make or break the Wizards.

Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats were oh-so-close to making the playoffs last year, and I think it'll be the same way next season. The Emeka Okafor-Tyson Chandler trade confuses me, and it leaves Gerald Wallace as the only remaining Bobcat since it originated (talk about rebuilding). I expect Wallace to be a vocal leader this year, and take a "this is my team" approach. I like the Gerald Henderson draft, but keeping in mind the recent busts of Duke Alumni. The Bobcats continue to make strides of improvement, but it'll be tough to keep pace with the rest of the competitive Eastern Conference.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Division by division preview: Central Division

In my previous post, I previewed the Atlantic division. Now let's take a look at the Central.

Cleveland Cavaliers: With the way the media portrays the Cavs, LeBron in particular, I sometimes feel like they're the only team in the NBA. With this being a contract year for "The King", the Cavs front office needed to bring in more talent. So what'd they do? The team signed a 37 year old, 325 pound big man, a guy we all call Shaq. Shaq had a rather impressive year in Phoenix last year, but how will that work this year? Who knows. It could go either way. The Cavs are hoping Shaq is the final piece of the puzzle to go reach the next level.

Chicago Bulls: The Bulls certainly surprised people last year when they went to game 7 against the Celtics. As for next year, I think the momentum will continue to be on their side. Bulls GM John Paxston has been preaching defense, and it showed when he dealt Ben Gordon and kept Kirk Hinrich. In June, the team drafted 6'8 forward James Johnson, and 6'9 former defensive player of the year, Taj Gibson. Chi-town was also able to acquire PG Jannero Pargo, an up-tempo guy who will be a nice piece off the bench. Overall, I think the Bulls can be the dark horse in the East, and very well may sneak up on people once again.

Detroit Pistons: The biggest off-season move for the Pistons was choosing to not re-siging Allen Iverson. Rather, the team signed Ben Gordon, which could come back to bite the front office. Charlie Villanueva was also added, a big man the Pistons have been missing for a while. I believe Austin Daye was a big sleeper, and with his agility and lankiness, he reminds me of a poor mans Tayshaun Prince. Following a disappointing 2008-2009 season, the Pistons are hoping their busy summer will pay off.

Indiana Pacers: Tyler Hansbrough was drafted back in June. Contrary to critics, I think Hansbrough, with time, will develop into a decent big man in the NBA. The Pacers also didn't bring back Jarrett Jack, which I think was very smart. Now, it's officially T.J. Ford's spot, which avoids conflicts, and ultimately makes T.J. a better player. Dahntay Jones was signed and will help at the 2 man position considering Mike Dunleavy's recurring injury. Will the Pacers make the playoffs next year? Probably not. But I like the direction they're taking.

Milwaukee Bucks: Despite the atitude, there's no denying the talent of Brendan Jennings. But with the coaching system Scott Skiles has, Jennings has to learn the fundamentals of defense having no college experience. I also like the Carlos Delfino signing, but I am a little concerned about the surplus of wingmen the Bucks have with Delfino and Jodie Meeks. The Bucks lack of big man will also hurt since Andrew Bogut has turned out to be nothing but a bust. I'm a little confused by the Bucks, but come to think of it, it's not like their a playoff team anyway.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Division by division preview: Atlantic Division

Finally--the NBA season is approaching us. With now just 37 days until the Raptors tip off the 2009-2010 season, I'm getting very excited. I can't wait to see what's in store for the Raptors, but in general the NBA itself.

In spirit of the NBA season getting closer, I've decided to preview each division. On Day 1, I'll be checking out the Atlantic Division (the teams are in order of which I believe they will be ranked). Let's check it out.

1. Boston Celtics: I hate the Boston Celtics. But as much as I don't want to say it, the Celtics are a very solid basketball team. However, I think age will start to catch up with this team in 2009-2010. By the start of the season, the average age of the "Boston Three Party" will be 33. That's a pretty old age, especially considering the Celtics are going to be relying on the "party" for at least 6 months and 82 games. Don't get me wrong, the Celtics will still be a good team, and win the division crowd. I just think their dominance is over.

2. Toronto Raptors: To make a long story short, this is pretty much a brand new team. Only 3 of the 5 starters from 2008-2009 will be back this year. I think DeMar DeRozan could have been one of the bigger sleepers in June's draft. DeRozan's athleticism is sky high. Since the team has 8 new faces, gelling may be a slight concern. But with training camp, I don't think that will be problem.

3. Philadelphia 76ers: By losing Andre Miller, the 76ers are able to focus all their attention on the still maturing Louis Williams. Williams will be entering his 5th NBA season, and still has a ton of potential. Jrue Holiday, the newly drafted rookie, will complement Williams nicely in the backcourt. I also love the addition of Jason Kapono--with Philadelphia's spread offense, I think Kapono will flourish. But remember, Phillie fans--it all stems back to the all-star Elton Brand and his health. Quick fact: Brand has never played a full 82 game schedule.

4. New York Knicks: LeBron, LeBron, LeBron, right? Well, if the Knicks have any shot of getting LeBron (which I don't think they do), they need to at least make strides of improvement. I love (that's right, love) the additions of Jordan Hill and Toney Douglas. But at the end of the day, you have to question the Knick’s unlikely choice parading a number of power forwards and center positions like Eddy Curry, Al Harrington, Chris Hunter and Darko Milicic. Luciky, the Knicks brought back David Lee though, so I do think the Knicks will be much improved.

5. New Jersey Nets: By parting ways with Vince Carter, the Nets now have extra money floating around for the 2010 off-season. This gives the Nets a chance to pursue guys like Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James. But getting a marquee player is down to a small chance, with the big names getting more inclination in signing a championship caliber team. By dealing away Carter, the Nets are clearly in rebuilding mode. I do, however, like the Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston pick-ups, as well as the Terrance Williams drafting. Not to mention Devin Harris is starting to emerge as one of the better point guards in the league.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Allen Iverson signs with Memphis

Roughly 9 weeks ago, the 2009 NBA free agency began. Allen Iverson, who was once a star in the league, has still been without a team since then.

Finally, that all changed today. According to Iverson's Twitter, he will be joining the Memphis Grizzlies next season. He reportedly signed a 1 year deal for $3.5M, much less than the $21M he made last year in Denver and Detroit.

In his prime, Iverson was one of the best in the league. At this point in his career, his dominance has taken a dramatic drop. His numbers have fallen, and he's turned into a "chucker" on the court. The Iverson experiment in Motown didn't work at all, and I think it's one of Joe Dumars' biggest mistakes.

Who knows how his next experiment will work. The Grizzlies are a team FULL of chuckers...OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, and AI need to realize there is going to be 1 ball on the court.

And rumor has it Iverson may come off the bench. How's that going to work? Will he be happy with taking a reserve roll?

Many questions are still surrounding this signing...but hey, at least the guy signed with a team.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

ESPN.com predicts Western Conference Standings

On Wednesday, the same 53 ESPN.com panelists who you've grown to know in the S&C predicted how the Western Conference would pan out. Without a doubt, the West is the more dominant conference, but I believe the East is continuing to improve.

ESPN.com's predictions (the number on the side predicts the win loss-record):

1. Lakers 62-20

2. Spurs 54-28

3. Trail Blazers 52-30

4. Nuggets 51-31

5. Mavericks 50-32

6. Jazz 47-35

7. Hornets 47-35

8. Suns 42-40

Outside looking in team (9th seed): Rockets 35-47

With the exception of a few minor tweaks, I pretty much agree with these predictions. However, I truly believe the Warriors will make some noise next year in the West, but ESPN.com has them winning only 31 games next year. Yes, Steven Jackson wants a trade, but so what? It's not like the Warriors won't get someone good in return if a trade were to happen. In my opinion, I think the Warriors young core may blossom into something special.

About a month ago I posted my own Western Conference predictions. Be sure to check them out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Can the Toronto Raptors get any credit?

It's funny--one day the NBA is silent, the next day it's crazy.

Yesterday, 53 ESPN panelists (the same ones who voted for Rookie of the Year) predicted where Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudamire, Dwayne Wade, and LeBron James will be come July 2010.

38 believe LeBron James will stay in Cleveland, 8 believe he'll play with the Knicks, 3 believe he'll land in Miami, and 2 think he'll be with the Nets.

35 believe Dwayne Wade will stay in Miami, 8 believe it'll be Chicago, and 6 believe he'll land in New York.

13 believe Amar'e Stoudamire will sign with New York, 10 believe he'll stay in Phoenix, 5 think Golden State, and 4 think he'll play with Miami.

Now for Chris Bosh...

19 believe he'll sign with New York, 13 think Miami, 4 for Chicago, and 3 a piece for Dallas and Toronto. That's right folks--of the 53 votes, 94% of them believe he will leave Toronto. But does this worry me? Not really, it's just a prediction. But it's interesting to see where others believe he'll go.

I do want to know one thing--what's this big obsession with the New York Knicks? Yes, they'll have money to spend, and yes the markets big, but doesn't the team suck? I can't read the minds of these athletes, but I know I'd want to take a pay cut and play for a good team, rather than getting more money and losing on a nightly basis. I've heard people say "Well Eddy Curry and Jarred Jefferies' contracts will clear up $18M". That's true, but not until 2011. So if Donnie Walsh can somehow trade these ridiculously priced players, it appears the Knicks will have to spend that money in the summer of 2011.

And besides--Chris Bosh mentioned in an interview today that he's willing to sit down with Bryan Colangelo and talk about an extension. Now, will this actually happen? Probably not. But the fact that Bosh said he's willing, speaks volumes as to how happy he is with the off-season the Raptors have had. Raptor fans have every right to think Chris Bosh may stick around with Toronto. He seems very happy his new teammates, and depending on how well the team does, it's anyone's guess..

I'm not saying Bosh will stay with Toronto, nor am I saying he won't--I'm going to wait it out, and see how the first few months of the season go.

Alright now, you're probably wondering why the headline of my blog is "Can the Toronto Raptors get any credit?". Well, here's why....

Today, ESPN made their Eastern Conference playoff seeding predictions. ESPN believes the Raptors will be 39-43 next year, and be just shy of the playoffs. This shocks me, and frankly doesn't make sense. You're telling me, ESPN, a team whose had a fantastic off-season like the Raptors isn't going to make the playoffs? Yet, a team like the Heat, who won 43 games last year, and didn't make any off-season moves WILL make the playoffs? It infuriates me, because this team flies under the radar every year. I can't wait for the Raptors to silent these critics. Check out the rest of the predictions here.

What's your stance? How do you guys think the Raptors will do next year? I'd love to hear feedback.