Friday, October 12, 2012

NBA Preview: Southeast Division (The Heat's Division)

Finally we have our third and final division of the Eastern Conference featuring the defending champions and a Dwight-less Magic team.

Atlanta Hawks
     How long are we going to ignore the fact that Atlanta cannot make it out of the first round of the playoffs? Not sure that will change this season either. The Hawks have added several players this season. The biggest additions are Lou Williams and Devin Harris at the PG positions and Kyle Korver at the SG. Al Horford will hopefully be healthy for an entire season which will give them possibly the best offensive Center in the East. All of this is good, but there’s something deep inside me that says that Josh Smith is going to be gone by the trade deadline this year. Offensively, Smith is a liability. But defensively he’s one of the best rim protectors in the NBA and not someone that can be easily replaced.

Charlotte Bobcats
     The best news for the Bobcats is that MJ has given up all of his basketball related decisions (one step closer to The Comeback). Looking over the Bobcats roster, it’s not the worst in the NBA. They have a very defensive roster with guys like Bismack Biyombo, Brendon Haywood, rookie Jeff Taylor, and Rookie of the Year candidate Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. As soon as the Bobcats drafted MKG, he became the best player on the roster. Almost all of the scoring on this team will have to come from Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon. Gerald Henderson emerged as a solid NBA player last year (as long as he keeps his elbows to himself), but that feels like it was more a product of being the best player on an awful time. If you’re a Bobcat fan (and I’ll admit I kind of am because of the MJ comeback that we all know is going to happen) the good news is you won’t have the worst team in NBA history anymore. The bad news is that you’re still several years and players away from contending for the 8 seed.

Miami Heat
     There is nothing I can tell you about this team and the Big 3 that you do not already know. The rich got richer this year (on paper) by adding Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. This team still has no legitimate starting Center and a PG that looks better than he is because LeBron is a PG in a SF body. But you, and anyone who has watched basketball over the past two seasons already know all of this so I’ll take this opportunity to voice my opinion on LeBron vs. MJ. He is not, will not, cannot, ever be Jordan. He is a Magic Johnson type player that can get all of his teammates involved and take over a game when necessary. Jordan was a hyper competitive monster that had something mentally that LeBron will never have. The closest thing we will see to Michael for a long time is Kobe, and he still won’t come close. If Michael comes back tomorrow wearing a Bobcats uniform, I’m redoing this whole preview and moving the Bobcats up to at least the 6 seed in the East. If LeBron or Kobe joins the Bobcats, I still have a hard time putting them above 7 or 8.  Back to the preview, the Heat are still the best team in the East and LeBron is the best player currently in the NBA.

Orlando Magic
     The most dominant C in the NBA has left Orlando to go play with Kobe in LA. I’m not sure how much it will help the Lakers with Stockton and Malone still in their prime in Utah. Oh, sorry. I thought it was 1996 again when Shaq left Orlando for LA. That Orlando team still got into the playoffs as a 7 seed. This Orlando team will be lucky to finish in the top 3 of their own division. Getting Arron Afflalo was a big positive for the Magic and netting Moe Harkless in the draft is something I really like for them long term. The team wasn’t left in complete shambles with the departure of Howard, but they definitely are not the same team that we have grown accustomed to the past several years. The Magic will be in the playoff picture, but I see them being one of the first two teams out.

Washington Wizards
     Say hello to the surprise team in the Eastern Conference this season. That is after John Wall comes back at the end of November. My guess is when the Bobcats took MKG second, the decision makers for the Wizards literally jumped and screamed with excitement that they had the guy they wanted in Bradley Beal. Beal is a freak of a SG. He’s undersized for his position, but still led his team in rebounding last season at Florida. He was my favorite player going into the draft last year and dramatically helps the Wizards right away. In addition to Beal, the Wizards also landed Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor this summer. Those two guys going along with last season’s trade deadline acquisition of Nene and Jan Vesely’s explosive athleticism will make them one of the better frontcourts in the East and possibly the NBA.

The top and bottom of this division are pretty clear cut with Miami and Charlotte. The 2-4 spot should be interesting to see how it shakes out. I can’t see the Magic continuing their success without Howard. The Wizards and Hawks are the only two teams in the division with a reliable C. Here are my standings. Next time I’ll put the playoff teams in order 1-8 and give you my pick for who will represent the East in the Finals.
1. Heat
2. Hawks
3. Wizards
4. Magic
5. Bobcats

Sunday, October 7, 2012

NBA Preview: Central Division

The second installment of my NBA Preview. Today I go through the Central Division. The highlighted teams are the playoff teams from the division.

Chicago Bulls
     The Bulls have owned this division the past two season thanks in no small part to Derrick Rose. Now Rose is sidelined until at least December with an ACL. In to replace Rose is the trio of rookie Marquis Teague, veteran Nate Robinson, and former Bull Kirk Hinrich. The three of them together will almost equal one Derrick Rose on a bad day. Luckily for the Bulls, they have plenty of talent everywhere else and Tom Thibodeau is still the head coach. Without Rose, the Bulls will hover around .500 which is good enough to stay in the thick of this division. When/if Rose returns they’ll enforce their will and wind up on top.

Cleveland Cavaliers
     This team will go as Kyrie Irving goes. Tristan Thompson just doesn’t seem like the answer at the PF to me long term. The Cavs are headed in the right direction but right now they are just too young to be a playoff team. They’ll be competitive and a tough out on the schedule for teams, but are still a couple years away from being a legitimate playoff contender.

Detroit Pistons
     This could be one of the weaker, if not the weakest roster in the NBA. Louisiana native Greg Monroe is the best player in a lineup of guys past their prime and guys that will never have a prime. Don’t expect a lot out of first round pick Andre Drummond since he’s only 19 years old and still trying to figure out basketball.

Indiana Pacers
     This is such a fun team. Not a lot of people knew about the Pacers last year because they were never on national television, but they silently had a great season and pushed Miami in the playoffs. The one thing this team is missing is a superstar player to take over in clutch moments. Right now Danny Granger is attempting to fill that spot, but he’s not quite that level of player anymore. They have a guy in Paul George that could develop into a freakishly scary SG in the NBA, almost a poor man’s Kevin Durant except more athletic.

Milwaukee Bucks
     Want a team that’s going to be a ton of fun to watch every night and score often? That would be the Bucks. The combination of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis at the guard spots will make for fireworks offensively. Defensively, it’s a good thing they drafter John Henson because there’s going to a lot of guys going to the rim. The Bucks have a lot of different, solid pieces but not a group that seems to really gel together that well, at least not on paper.

This division is relatively weak after you get past the top two teams. Really the only question is will the Bulls stay close enough to Indiana to catch them once Rose is healthy.

Central Standings
1. Bulls
2. Pacers
3. Cavaliers
4. Bucks
5. Pistons

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

     Two conferences, six divisions, 30 teams, and less than one month until the start of the NBA regular season! Everything you need to know for this NBA season you’ll find right here written for yours truly, and if you have a question about something I neglected, I’m always more than happy to talk hoops with anyone that will pretend to listen.Today we start in the Eastern Conference with the Atlantic Division. The teams that are highlighted are the teams I think will be the playoff teams from the division.

Boston Celtics

     The Celtics are a team in transition. They still have old timers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, but also have Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley who are young and are going to want to push the pace. That could create some problems offensively if the old guys can’t run with the young guns. The addition of Jason Terry doesn’t make the team any younger but he hasn’t appeared to slow down any over the past few seasons. Brandon Bass will be a very consistent player that gives you 12-15 and 10 every night this season.
     The presence of Doc Rivers makes the Celtics a playoff team still. They’ll be as solid as ever on defense. This season starts the beginning of the end for Paul Pierce and could be KG’s last.

Brooklyn Nets

     To me, this is the most improved roster in the NBA. Even more so than the Lakers since the Lakers were already good last season, they just got better. The Nets were bad last year. Really bad. Add Joe Johnson and C.J. Watson, a healthy Brook Lopez, another year of experience for MarShon Brooks and that improves them right there. Then you get Gerald Wallace (one of the more underrated guys in the NBA) and the former Mr. Kim Kardashian to resign and all of a sudden you have a lineup that can compete to be one of the top teams in the East.

New York Knicks

     The Knicks have made a lot of noise this offseason with several big name additions. I’m not sure how much better any of those additions actually make the Knicks though. I would say Jason Kidd is a shell of himself, but that would be an insult to the actual shell of him. I would say you can count on one vintage J-Kidd game this season. Outside of that he’ll just look like the old guy out there trying to hang on to the glory days. Ray Felton had his best year as a pro in New York, then proceeded to get fat after he left. My guess is he’ll be better than he was in Portland, but not up to the level he was during his first go around as a Knick. The Knicks also added Marcus Camby and Rasheed Wallace. Camby is still an NBA rotation player that can contribute at the center position. As for ‘Sheed, I think Joey Crawford just gave him a technical.
            Bottom line, as long as Mike Woodson and Melo are together in New York, this team has a very limited ceiling.

Philadelphia 76ers

     The Sixers overachieved last season by making the playoffs. Doug Collins did a fantastic job in getting the most out of the team that he had. This year, the front office has done him the favor of trading away his team leader and bringing in one of the biggest cry babies in the NBA. In order for the Sixers to return to the playoffs, Bynum is going to have to grow up. A lot! Also, Evan Turner is going to have to play like the #2 pick in the draft. Lou Williams is also gone, meaning Jrue Holiday will be the man at PG instead of sharing minutes.Two guys I really like on this roster are Thaddeus Young and Nick Young. Nick Young will come in and help fill the Lou Williams role of scorer off the bench without having to take Holiday out. Thaddeus Young is a real spark and plays hard on every play. He’s the kind of guy I’d like to have on my team as a role player.

Toronto Raptors

     Not sure where to start with the Raptors. They have a really random assortment of players. Last year’s first round pick, Jonas Valanciunas, is coming over from Lithuania. Many people said last year that he would be the best long term player from that draft class and now we’ll get a chance to see it. He played in the Olympics with his Raptors teammate Linas Kleiza which should give him a certain level of comfort. Kleiza had a really strong Olympics so the Raptors will hope that he can carry that over to this NBA season. Ed Davis has to have a good season for this year otherwise he will start to be labeled a bust. The two most important players on the Raptors roster are Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan. With the addition of Valanciunas, it will allow Bargnani to play more out on the perimeter as a SF where he is more comfortable than as a center. DeRozan must develop an outside game in order to take that next step as an NBA player.

     I think this division will wind up with three playoff teams, but the question is will the third be Philly or New York? I can see the Knicks finishing anywhere from 3rd to 5th depending on how the season goes. Below are my standings on how i think the division will shake out.

Atlantic Standings
1. Nets
2. Celtics
3. 76ers
4. Knicks
5. Raptors