Monday, October 25, 2010

NBA Preview - Part 2

and the preview continues…

Western Conference


Denver Nuggets: Swirling around the Nuggets is the status of Carmelo Anthony. Chances are that he will be traded by the deadline this year as he has made it clear that he will not sign Denver’s offered extension. This is really going to hurt the Nuggets this year and keep them from a successful season. Up front for the Nuggets you’ll find the usual suspects in Nene, Kenyon Martin, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen. Joining the Nuggets this year is swing forward Al Harrington. He’s hurt to start the year but when he becomes available he’ll provide some much needed extra scoring as the strength of the Nuggets’ bigs is primarily defense and rebounding. Division Finish: 3rd

Minnesota Timberwolves: This is the team that drafted two point guards in the first round two years ago. This is the team that gift-wrapped star Al Jefferson for the Utah Jazz. This is the team that spent valuable cap room on the likes of Darko Milicic, the human victory cigar. This is a team that is going nowhere (Do look for a nice season from Kevin Love and Martell Webster if and when he gets healthy). This could be the worst team in the league this year. Division Finish: 5th

Oklahoma City Thunder (ex Seattle Supersonics): As much as I love Rumble its still tough to take one the NBA’s great franchises and make them disappear. Seattle still hasn’t recovered. Alright, enough whining, this is a fantastic team. Kevin “DURANTULA” Durant is arguably the best player in the NBA today and he’s got help. Guard Russell Westbrook and forward Jeff Green are great players for a team that gave the Lakers their toughest playoff test in the Western Conference. Look for even more improvement in a team that won 50 games last season. Carefully constructed almost entirely through the draft, the Thunder are a model of a well-run organization that has a bright future. Look for this team to do some damage in the playoffs this year. Division Finish: 1st

Portland Trailblazers: For all the talent they have assembled, the Blazers seem to find a way to screw it up every year. The Blazers struggled with injuries to star Brandon Roy. The center position, manned by Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla was also decimated, leading to the trade for Marcus Camby mid year. The signing of Wesley Mathews over the summer was questionable as he plays the same position as Roy and disgruntled player Rudy Fernandez. If this team can stay injury-free, they have a chance to win a postseason series but not much more than that. Division Finish: 4th

Utah Jazz: Old reliable. That’s coach Jerry Sloan for you, a class act who just finds a way to win. The Jazz shouldn’t miss a beat with the exchange of Carlos Boozer (lost in free agency) for Al Jefferson. Deron Williams makes a strong case for being the best point guard in the NBA (yes, I’m talking to you Chris Paul). The pick-and-roll offense has been working since the days of John Stockton and Karl Malone and shows no signs of slowing down. The Jazz are capable of winning this division if they can stay healthy, and, with the addition of Al Jefferson, could pose some size and matchup problems for the Lakers should they meet in the postseason. Division Finish: 2nd


Dallas Mavericks: The nucleus of the Mavericks has been putting together 50+ win seasons together for some time now. Forward Dirk Nowitzki is still a force to be reckoned with. Jason Kidd is older than the hills but he has some youth backing him up in the form of Rodrigue Beaubois and Jose Juan Barea. The addition of Tyson Chandler up front should help defensively, but can he stay healthy for a full year? The Mavs should have a great season and get to the second round of the playoffs. A trip to the Conference Finals depends on their health up front. Division Finish: 1st

Houston Rockets: The success of the Rockets hangs on the shoulders of a large Oriental man by the name of Yao Ming. His return from injury could ignite a deep group that features guards Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks. This group plays hard and together and will compete on a nightly basis. If Yao can stay healthy, this group will be in the postseason. If not, playing in arguably the best division in basketball might be too much to overcome. Division Finish: 3rd

Memphis Grizzlies: Another team on the rise, the historically bad Grizzlies have the pieces in place to compete. Marc Gasol is continuing to improve up front and makes a very nice combo with temperamental forward Zach Randolph. Rudy Gay and OJ Mayo are as talented a pair of wings as you will find. The key is point guard Mike Conley. If he can deliver consistently and keep the team playing together, the Grizzlies have a shot at the postseason. A big question mark to be sure. They’re competitive now, but in this division, that might not be enough. Division Finish: 5th

New Orleans Hornets: The Chris Paul show is given one more chance in New Orleans. After rumors of a trade, it looks like the guard is here to stay, which means the Hornets will be good this year. It all starts with Paul who needs to stay healthy unlike last year. New addition Marco Bellineli should benefit from the passing of Paul and record a career high in 3-pointers made. Up front, David West and Emeka Okafor are decent, one scoring and the other getting the rebounds to get Paul out on the break. It’ll be a dogfight with Houston and San Antonio for the second spot in the division. Division Finish: 4th

San Antonio Spurs: How long can Duncan do it? We saw the first visible decline in the Spurs dynasty last year. My preseason prediction of a title for San Antonio went over like a lead balloon, and I see no reason to repeat that statement. Duncan is aging, Tony Parker is slowing, Manu Ginobli is balding. New addition Tiago Splitter should inject some new life, and George Hill is a nice young player. Still age is catching up with the Spurs. They’ll push the Mavs this year but will fall short again in the postseason. I put them at second out of respect, but don’t look for this team to go too far. Division Finish: 2nd


Golden State Warriors: No more NellieBall? Whats an NBA fan to do? The team famous for 4-guard lineups just added power forward David Lee to its lineup of shoot-first-ask-questions-later guards. Lee will have all the rebounding opportunities in the world, but hopefully the Warriors will remember to feed him in the post. He’s pretty good. Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis will lead the way for Golden State. They’ll still be fun to watch, just don’t look for them in the postseason. Division Finish: 4th

Los Angeles Clippers: The biggest enigma in the league this year. Will Blake Griffin be healthy? If he is and is all that he’s cracked up to be, look out. Guard Baron Davis is getting old, but he is a gamer when the situation arises. Eric Gordon is coming off a great performance in the World Championships over the summer and could be waiting to break out this year. But can they break the vaunted Clipper curse this year? Not in this conference. Division Finish: 3rd

Los Angeles Lakers: While everybody was watching the Miami SUPERHeat this summer, the Lakers quietly made their roster even better. New addition Steve Blake is the perfect back-up point guard who is capable of starting for an aging Derek Fisher. The addition of Matt Barnes gives the Lakers another lock-down perimeter defender to go with Ron Artest and Kobe Bryant. We all know about Kobe. He’ll be ready and hungry for another title. The perennial question with the Lakers is the health of Andrew Bynum, who should be back on the court by December. I see the Lakers winning it all one more time, giving coach Phil Jackson his third three-peat in 20 years, right before he rides into the sunset of his Montana home. Division Finish: 1st

Phoenix Suns: One of these days Steve Nash will get old, right? Grant Hill too. No Amare Stoudamire makes that a distinct possibility this year. The Suns brought in a motley crew of small forwards (Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick, Hedo Turkoglu) for just a bit less than they would have had to pay Stoudamire. Worth it? I think we’ll see otherwise. However, Steve Nash has a way of proving doubters wrong, and he should make good use of his new toys on the offensive end. Look for the Suns to run up and down the court all year and then crash and burn in the first round. Division Finish: 2nd

Sacramento Kings: Another of last years contenders for the worst team in the NBA, the Kings are on their way back up. I thought DeMarcus Cousins was a great pick for the Kings and he impressed in workouts and the summer league. Forward Carl Landry is as steady as they come up front. Second year Tyreke Evans will have to build on an excellent rookie campaign if this team is to improve. The Kings have some nice young pieces in place, but are still a few years away from contention. Division Finish: 5th

whew... playoff predictions tomorrow!

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