The 2010-11 NBA season is almost upon us and I for one am pumped about the new year!
I will do a mini preview on each team and predict where they will end up in their division. At the end I’ll pick my playoff winners and the 2011 NBA Champion (see Lakers, Los Angeles).
Sunday: Eastern Conference
Monday: Western Conference
Tuesday: Playoff Predictions
Boston Celtics: The Celtics are coming off an NBA Finals appearance where they very nearly won the title. A bitter Game 7 loss will keep this group hungry and motivated. They add fresh (old) faces up front in Shaquille O’Neal and Jermaine O’Neal. These two relics will provide some beef up front to offset the size problems Boston encountered last year against the Lakers when Kendrick Perkins went down. Rajon Rondo has become one of the best point guards in the NBA and will lead the charge as the threesome of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are another year older. The window is closing fast for this group; this is their last chance at another title. Division Finish: 1st
New Jersey Nets: Ah yes, the new era of the NBA, where Russian billionaires happen. New Jersey spent a lot of time and effort to create cap space for the 2010 free agency bonanza and wound up with Jordan Farmar and Travis Outlaw. Nothing says excitement like a new backup point guard and a serviceable small forward. On the positive side, the Nets still have a couple of nice players in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez to build around. I loved rookie Derrick Favors at Georgia Tech and he could develop into a star. The Nets also made a nice trade to bring in hometown hero Troy Murphy. This team will be much improved over last year, which isn’t a lot to ask for. There’s nowhere to go but up. Division Finish: 3th
New York Knickerbockers: Another touted loser in the Lebron James sweepstakes at least got a nice consolation prize in Amare Stoudamire. The Knicks made some other nice acquisitions in Kelenna Azubuike, Raymond Felton and super-sleeper Anthony Randolph. These players should fit well in Coach Mike D’Antoni up-tempo offense. Look for a team that’s fun to watch sneak into the postseason and then get destroyed. Division Finish: 2nd
Philadelphia 76ers: Philly is still trying to recover the magic of the Allen Iverson era. New coach Doug Collins find a team with a lot of young talent that just can’t seem to perform together. Andre Iguodala will lead the way as usual, but he is not the type of player you can build a championship around. Elton Brand is a stud when healthy, but he can’t stay on the court for enough of the season to make an impact. Rookie Evan Turner hasn’t looked all that impressive in preseason and will have some difficulty getting meaningful playing time as he plays the same position as Iggy. Division Finish: 5th
Toronto Raptors: Ah yes, the NBA’s lone team based in Canada. The Raptors took a big hit in the departure of Chris Bosh to join the SUPERHeat. In his wake we find Andrea Bargnani and little else. The Raptors big offseason signing was Amir Johnson, a player all good Detroit fans will remember quite well. I’m more interested in the acquisition of Linas Kleiza, an underrated small forward who played in Europe last year. He should produce at a high level for the Raptors, getting an opportunity to contribute that he didn’t have when he played for the Nuggets behind Carmelo Anthony. Look for the Raptors to be competitive, but there just isn’t enough talent here for a postseason appearance. Division Finish: 4th
Chicago Bulls: My favorite team for as long as I’ve cared about basketball (aka: since I’ve been functioning as a cognitive entity), the Bulls are poised for a fantastic season. The team has been reworked around star guard Derek Rose and center Joakim Noah. Carlos Boozer was the big offseason signing for the Bulls and should fill the void at power forward that has existed since the Bulls traded away Elton Brand in 2001. Other acquisitions such as Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer filled shooting and defensive needs on the team. Some of the excitement has been dampened due to Boozer’s hand injury but he should be back within a few weeks. Look for the Bulls to start a little slow and round into form with the return of Boozer. I see a division title and a deep run into the postseason for this group. Division Finish: 1st
Cleveland Cavaliers: Will the team formerly known as the LeBronettes please stand up? What a mess. The Cavs have been building around LeBron James for several years now and since he took his talents to South Beach they are looking pretty sorry. Mo Williams and an aging Antawn Jamison will have to rally the troops for the Cavs to amount to anything this year. New coach Byron Scott is capable and young forward J.J. Hickson has some upside. Cleveland will spend most of the year adjusting to the post-LeBron hangover and struggle to win 30 games. Division Finish: 5th
Detroit Pistons: Of course, everyone wants to know about the local team. The Pistons feel like they’re stuck in the twilight zone. We still see some holdovers from the ’04 championship team in Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Ben Wallace. General Manager overpaid last summer for guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villenueva, both of whom are now in and out of the starting lineup. The Pistons won’t be going anywhere near the postseason until they get some more balance on their roster. No team with an arsenal of small forwards (i.e. Prince, Villenueva, Jerebko, Summers, Daye, and now McGrady) and four barely serviceable big men will ever succeed in the NBA. Drafting Greg Monroe this summer was a step in the right direction, but the Pistons have a long ways to go. Division Finish: 4th
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have been quietly developing some exciting young talent. Forward Danny Granger is one of the best in the NBA if he can stay healthy. New guard Darren Colison will provide an immediate upgrade in the backcourt for the Pacers who haven’t had a good facilitator since the playing days of Mark Jackson. Center Roy Hibbert has looked very good in the preseason. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is finally healthy and should be an asset for the Pacers. If this team can stay healthy it could sneak into the postseason as first round cannon fodder for the Miami Heat or Boston Celtics. Division Finish 3rd
Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks are very underrated. They have the best center in the NBA that nobody knows about in Andrew Bogut. They’ve made some nice additions in Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette. This is a scrappy group that reflects the mentality of their coach Scott Skiles. Second year point guard Brandon Jennings will continue to improve off of a great rookie campaign and could create something of a rivalry with Derrick Rose in Chicago. We know this, the Bucks will come to play every night and compete with better teams. They should push the Bulls for the division crown. Division Finish: 2nd
Atlanta Hawks: A new coach, a vaunted new motion offense, what can we expect for the Hawks this year? The core of last year’s team remains intact with the re-signing of Joe Johnson. Look for Al Horford and Josh Smith to improve down low this year as more of the offense runs through them. Guard Mike Bibby is beginning to show signs of slowing down. Johnson has his max contract now, which will cast some doubt on his motivation going forward. His ability to be “THE MAN” has not been proven and he will have to show that he is worth the money. This team got destroyed in the second round of the playoffs last year and they show no signs of being able to do much better this year, especially with the improvement of teams like Miami and Chicago. The same personnel will most often yield the same result. Division Finish: 3rd
Charlotte Bobcats: The greatest player in NBA history, Michael Jordan, is officially running his own show in Charlotte now. He doesn’t have the best track record as a decision maker in the NBA though, a quality highlighted byAnd the cupboard is looking kinda bare. The Bobcats lose Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton from a team that got swept in the first round last year. This year isn’t looking much better. Gerald Wallace will continue to lead the way for the Bobcats as a physical if undersized presence up front. Point guard DJ Augustin will get his chance to run the show with Felton gone. The only reason I won’t completely discount this team from a playoff appearance is coach Larry Brown. He has a way of putting things together. But don’t kid yourselves Charlotte, its gonna be a long year. Division Finish: 5th
Miami Heat: Ah yes, the SUPERHeat. The arrival of Lebron James and Chris Bosh has triggered a firestorm of opinion to say the least. This team has the absolute best lineup in the league at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward. Can’t be beat. However, basketball is a game that requires five players on the court at a time. Your 2010-2011 Miami Heat point guards: Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. You haven’t heard of them for a reason. At the center postion they are trotting out Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. This won’t do against the size of the Lakers and Celtics, not to mention Dwight Howard in Orlando. During the regular season this team should be running up and down the court at will and will probably enter the playoffs with a bunch of wins and maybe a #1 overall seed. Just expect their lack of size to catch up with them deep in the playoffs. Division Finish: 1st
Orlando Magic: The Orlando Magic begin and end with Dwight Howard. Period. He is capable of singlehandedly destroying the SUPERHeat. He is the most physically gifted athlete in the NBA. He’s also a big, fun-loving goofball. The knock on Howard has always been his ability to focus and be more aggressive. He worked out with Hakeem Olajawon over the summer to develop his post game. Perhaps we’ll see him step it up this year. The Magic surround Howard with good players in Jameer Nelson, Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter. If Howard comes through, this team will still be playing come June. Division Finish: 2nd
Washington Wizards: The Wizards are making some great strides in spite of the Gilbert Arenas debacle last year. I love their size with Andray Blatche providing the scoring and JaVale McGee getting blocks and rebounds. John Wall will start right away as a rookie and will emerge as a star in this league. The wild card will be Arenas as nobody knows how he will react to a subsidiary role this year. Felv favorite Kirk Hinrich is a Wizard now and should provide good minutes of the bench. The Wizards have some great pieces to build with but they are not ready to compete yet. Looks like another trip to the draft lottery. Division Finish: 4th
Tomorrow I'll have the Western Conference Preview!