Monthly Archives: July 2010

Ranking the West

After Ranking the East yesterday, today I’m ranking the Western conference. As I said, these rankings are not how well I think the teams did in the off-season, but rather where I think they may finish in the coming season.

1. Los Angeles Lakers – the defending champs had a great off-season, adding second-round steals Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter in the Draft, then bargain pick-ups Steve Blake, Matt Barnes and Theo Ratliff in free agency. All those moves bolster what was a shaky bench and add to what was already a formidable core of Kobe, Fisher, Artest, Gasol, Bynum and Odom. Looking a very good chance to three-peat.

2. Houston – have a chance to move a lot in the standings if they have a healthy and productive Yao Ming. With talented backcourt duo Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin together for a full season, along with retaining Kyle Lowry (matching Cleveland’s offer sheet), paying big money to keep Luis Scola around, having Jordan Hill for a whole season, adding Patrick Patterson from Kentucky in the draft, quality sophomores Chase Budinger and Jermaine Taylor, and free agent pickup Brad Miller, this team just seems too stacked to not make noise in the Western Conference. That’s without even mentioning one of my favourites Trevor Ariza…

3. San Antonio – Tim Duncan is still around, Manu and Jefferson have been extended, Tony Parker is still around, George Hill should keep getting better, James Anderson was a fantastic draft pick in the late first round, and they convinced Tiago Splitter to bring his game over from Europe (he has long been considered the best big man in Europe, the Spurs drafted his rights in 2007). Dejuan Blair will be there for energy and hustle off the bench and summer league revelation Alonzo Gee should get a spot in the roster. And they still have Tim Duncan.

4. Oklahoma City – I believe the youngsters can make the jump from playoff team to top-4 seed, they have so much talent. Led by Kevin Durant, this team can boast legitimate depth, being at least two deep at every position. Everything they did in the off-season seems to fill a need: need 3-point shooting? Grab Daequan Cook from a Miami team desperate to clear cap space. Need another bog to compete with the Lakers et al? Trade for Cole Aldrich on draft day. Need more experience? Use some cap room to absorb Morris Peterson’s contract and have him around to help the young guys and spot up for threes. The Thunder will be fun to watch this season and will probably continue to be everyone’s second favourite team.

5. Utah – did really well getting Al Jefferson from Minnesota, for little-used Kosta Koufos and two future first-rounders, to deal with the loss of Carlos Boozer. Jefferson has serious low-post skills and was operating as a 20-10 guy before the knee injury. Should form another formidable pick-and-roll combo with Deron Williams and the Jazz will hardly miss a beat. Gordon Hayward will step right into Kyle Korver’s minutes and Raja Bell is a good piece to add after losing an overpriced Wes Matthews. Jazz will be a tough match-up all season.

6. Denver – they will be dealing with injuries when the season starts, with Kenyon Martin and Chris ‘Birdman’ Anderson to be sidelined after off-season surgeries. They went looking for bigs in free agency, pursuing Udonis Haslem most notably, and came away with Al Harrington – not the worst player, but not a guy that’ll hold down the post while the other guys come back. Still, the Nuggets have Billups, ‘Melo (for at least one more year – does he have his eyes set on New York?), J.R. Smith and Ty Lawson, and should have enough scoring to win games while waiting for the big guys to return.

7. Portland – provided they can avoid the horror run of injuries they dealt with last season, Portland are possibly a top-4 team. However, the West is loaded and they may have to settle for playoffs. They have an imposing line-up of centers, with Oden, Camby and Pryzbilla all quality big men in the NBA. If Greg Oden can stay healthy and put together a full season, finally cashing in on the potential he’s been teasing us with for years, the Trailblazers can be a great team. They still have all-world 2 guard Brandon Roy, and while they may have overpaid for his back-up Wes Matthews, the kid can play too. Andre Miller will have a full season as the starter and Jerryd Bayless showed a lot last season filling in for an injured Brandon Roy. If this team can stay healthy they are very dangerous.

8. Dallas – they brought Dirk back with a near-max deal, re-signed Brendan Haywood, traded for Tyson Chandler and drafted Dominique Jones. All good solid moves, a lot of bigs to match up with the Lakers and Rockets, and good scoring from the backcourt now with Terry, Beaubois and Jones. Still need to find some depth at forward behind Marion and Dirk, but there is no reason to suspect the Mavs won’t win 50 games yet again.

Here are the teams I think will miss the playoffs:

9. Phoenix

10. Memphis

11. New Orleans

12. Los Angeles Clippers

13. Sacramento

14. Minnesota

15. Golden State

That’s all from me. Cheers.

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Ranking the East

The league has been kind of quiet for a couple of days now, so I thought it may be a good time to see where teams rank for the coming season. These rankings are an indication of where I think teams will finish, not an indication of how well they did in the offseason. Today, I’ll look at the East, and tomorrow the West.

1.  Miami – there is no reason to have them at anything but number 1 after getting LeBron James to play alongside Dwyane Wade, all while bringing Chris Bosh to town as well. There is a big-time drop-off in talent after those guys plus Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem, but it should hardly matter. These guys will be playing with a target on their backs all season.

2. Orlando – the Magic are still stacked, adding solid role players Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon to the proven core of Jameer Nelson, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard. Keeping J.J. Redick was a great move, as he improved dramatically last season. Capable of winning 60 games next season.

3. Chicago – should rocket up the standings after grabbing Carlos Boozer to play alongside Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Also scored a couple of other ex-Jazzmen in Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer with reasonably priced deals and picked up C.J. Watson on the cheap also. Luol Deng and Taj Gibson are still around so there is no reason they shouldn’t rise in the standings after finishing as the 8th seed in the past two seasons.

4. Boston – have to give the old guys the benefit of the doubt, with the Celtics surprising, well, everyone by making it to the Finals this year.  They kept everyone in the fold, handing Paul Pierce and Ray Allen new deals to continue playing alongside Kevin Garnett and giving the fading stars a couple of final goes at winning it all. May fall from the top 4 seeds if…

5. Atlanta – has a really good season. A lot has to go right for the Hawks to remain in the Eastern elite. Giving Joe Johnson the maximum was an awful decision and severely hinders management’s ability to put a star cast around him. Furthermore, he has never really shown the ability to be a true franchise player, fading horribly against Orlando in the postseason. With the guys they have currently, however, they’ll have no trouble making the playoffs.

6. New York – I really, really like what New York did in the off-season. No, they didn’t get LeBron, or Wade or Bosh. But they still got one of the big fish in Amar’e Stoudemire and surrounded him with quality pieces at reasonable prices. They picked up Raymond Felton on the cheap, who still has time to be a high-quality guard in this league – in fact, his career looks similar to Chauncey Billups’ to this point, and we all know how Billups improved once he found a home in Detroit. Similar to Felton finding the Knicks, perhaps? Also, they got Anthony Randolph from Golden State, and the kid has immense potential. With proper coaching, he could absolutely explode. Keep an eye on him. So despite missing the main prize, they didn’t panic, they added good pieces at reasonable prices and maintained financial flexibility for next year. Well done, I say.

7. Milwaukee – added Corey Maggette for nothing, retained John Salmons and for some reason gave Drew Gooden a ton of money. Overall though, the moves should make the Bucks better and give them a decent shot in the playoffs. Brandon Jennings should be a year better and Andrew Bogut improved immensely last season. They have a shot at 50 wins.

8. Detroit – after the first seven, it’s a bit hard to see who might sneak into the 8th spot. I gave it to Detroit over Philadelphia (new coach, rotations need to shake out and plays need to be learned) and Toronto (despite still having some solid pieces, could take a while to recover after the Bosh departure). With Ben Gordon on board, along with Rodney Stuckey and the newcomer Greg Monroe, this team should surprise a few people provided they can avoid injuries.

Here’s the rest:

9. Philadelphia

10. Toronto

11. New Jersey

12. Charlotte

13. Washington

14. Cleveland

15. Indiana

That’ll do it for now. Stayed tuned for the West rankings.

Team USA

Hey all.

So the Team USA roster scrimmaged yesterday, with the White team (led by Kevin Durant) defeating the Blue team 114-96. Here’s who I think should be among the final 12 to go to the World Championships in September…

Kevin Durant: the obvious choice, he will be the go-to scorer and has an almost unlimited range of offensive weapons in his arsenal. Scored 28 points in the Showcase, attempting just 17 field goals. Seems to be a perfect fit for international ball, being tall enough to slide to the 4 spot while being able to handle like a guard and start fast-breaks off missed attempts. Can stroke it from distance too, making 2 of 3 attempts from beyond he arc.

Chauncey Billups: didn’t have a great showcase, but will be in Turkey for his smarts and experience. Also, he’s a bigger point guard that can shoot and can move to the 2 if necessary.

Derrick Rose: ran the show superbly, scoring 15 points to go along with 8 assists and 5 steals. Not the greatest shooter but will probably more time on the floor with guys who are indeed knockdown shooters (Rudy Gay and Stephen Curry, for example). He’ll also be on the floor to push the pace and be an absolute pest defensively (didn’t think I’d ever be writing that about Derrick Rose).

Rudy Gay: he was on the losing end of the Showcase, but hit for 23 points on just 11 shot attempts and is a guy that can move to the 4 when USA goes small (which will be often). Proved in the last two years that he is more than capable of being the perfect secondary scorer to Kevin Durant, and is freakish enough athletically to get up and down on that break.

Tyson Chandler: will be the only true center, I believe, to make the trip to Worlds. Started off slowly in camp but had a nice showcase scoring 6-6 attempts from the field and finishing with 13 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. His size and agility will come in handy when USA meets up with some teams with quality big men (Spain and Marc Gasol, Brazil and Tiago Splitter). Has also proven in the past to be an extremely effective pick-and-roll partner, and is a good offensive rebounder also.

Andre Iguodala: unselfish, multi-skilled and a good defender. He will be a perfect role-player for the USA team and can give you something offensively if necessary. Thrives on the fast-break and can handle the ball also. Will probably play a role similar to Dwyane Wade did in Beijing, coming of the bench and bringing defensive energy and highlight-reel dunks.

Russel Westbrook: he will be extremely useful to keep on the roster, having the skills to work as a combo guard while also being a defensive pest and getting out in transition. I fully expect him to be the second Thunder player to make the team.

Jeff Green: and on that note, I will now take the time to mention Green, who I believe will make if 3-3 Thunder guys on the roster. Perfect system guy that won’t demand the ball, is versatile enough to play spots 2-4 and can also hit the three ball. Given the lack of size on the roster, he will probably spend brief periods manning the middle also.

Kevin Love: I will be absolutely shattered if Love misses out on a trip to the worlds. I feel that he is the perfect guy for international ball. He is a mobile forward-center that can shoot out to the international three-point line and he gobbles up rebounds the way that pelicans gobble up pigeons. Love is also adept at rebounding the ball offensively, something that is extremely valuable in international ball (there is no goal-tending called if the ball is still inside the cylinder). Can play big minutes at the 4 or 5 and his outlet passes are a thing of beauty. Deserves a spot.

O.J. Mayo: big guard that can shoot and score and defend. He is humble and unselfish but can lead when called upon. Will likely play a lesser role on this team but still put up the sort of numbers that the stars do.

Stephen Curry: will probably play a big role in this team as a combo-guard that can stroke it like few others. Played will in the showcase and hit on 3-7 from beyond the arc. He can sneak in for rebounds and has shown he can lead a team and set guys up, averaging 5.9 assists in his rookie year.

Eric Gordon: the final spot, I believe, should go to Eric Gordon. He can shoot the basketball flat out, gets to the rim and has shown the versatility in his young career to be able to play both guard spots (and is strong enough to play the 3 in international ball, too).

So there are the twelve guys who I think will make the final roster to Turkey in September. At this point, the roster will only be cut to 14 or 15 guys for the exhibitions in New York, so there’s still chance for guys to prove themselves. This is a very early guess of who I think will go. The team is stacked at guard and wing, while lacking at the bigs, with only Love and Chandler being true big men. If the USA team gets out in transition, however, then this is less of an issue.

The other thing I hear is a lot of bellyaching from fans saying ‘oh, the team should have Wade/LeBron/Bosh/Paul etc.’ and ‘look at the guys going, we gonna lose now’. I just don’t see it. These guys may be younger, but most are go-to guys on their current teams and promise to have multiple All-Star appearances in the future. Kevin Durant is All-NBA. It doesn’t seem to me that there will be an issue winning the Worlds for the first time since 1994.

In addition, big names are missing from the powerhouse international teams. Pau Gasol is not playing for Spain, France is without Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is missing for Argentina. Brazil should be a handful with Leandro Barbosa, Nene, Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter, and Spain still have Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and Juan-Carlos Navarro. However, I don’t see the US team having a significant issue facing those teams. There are too many quality players for USA, in my opinion.

That’s about it from me, until next time. Cheers.

P.S. check out John Schuhmann’s thoughts about the roster over at NBA.com.

CP wants out?

Back again.

I was going to write about the New York Knicks today, and how their fans should not be disappointed with missing out on LeBron, but rather optimistic about what the reconstructed roster may be able to achieve next season. However, that can wait. It’s far more important to talk about Chris Paul’s apparent trade demands.

For starters, and I’m sure I’m not the only one that would be thinking this, I don’t even think Chris Paul is the kind of guy that would demand a trade. He’s a good guy, class act, plays hard and helps in the community. It seems totally out of character, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the demand has come from the folks at LRMR, LeBron James’ marketing company that recently recruited Paul (yes, the same ‘brains’ behind LeBron’s ‘Decision’).

But apart from that, it would seem that Paul realises that he’s the one that signed the contract in the first place to be the star of the team and therefore should feel obligated to fulfil that contract. I agree with what Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports has already written about the Paul subject so head over there and have a read.

I actually want to talk less about Paul specifically and more about the whole idea of demanding a trade – publicly at least. All this really does is let everyone know that you’re fed up, that you’ll eventually become a distraction and make your team absolutely desperate to deal you – therefore, severely damaging any trade value that may exist and limiting the assets your current team may be able to get back in a deal.

Why do players do this? Surely is much better for both parties to do this quietly, helping the current team get the best deal available and helping the player to not look like a total jerk. If Paul comes into the 2010/11 season and averages similar numbers to the start of last season, then the Hornets can demand a king’s ransom for him. People forget that when healthy, CP is a top 5 talent in the league and a legitimate MVP candidate.

However, now they may have to settle for cents on a dollar, because it’s been (apparently) made well known he’s keen to get out. These situations don’t normally end well. Stephen Jackson made it known he wanted to get away from the Warriors last season and they had to settle for a deal with Charlotte for an injured Raja Bell and Vladimir Radmanovic. Al Harrington also said he wanted out of Golden State (gee, players tire of Don Nelson, don’t they?), and ended up receiving a superfluous Jamal Crawford in return, who was later moved at the conclusion of the season for – wait for it – Acie Law and Speedy Claxton.

I cannot for the life of me understand why players can’t keep quiet, be patient and work out something mutually beneficial. Maybe it depends on the calibre of player. Kobe Bryant went on a tirade against team management in the summer of ’07, telling them that he wanted more help or he wanted to be traded to Chicago. The Lakers explored some options, including possibly acquiring Ben Gordon and Luol Deng from the Bulls, or getting Kevin Garnett from Minnesota (the Minnesota deal ended up falling through because of the insistence that Andrew Bynum be included, and of course KG got traded to Boston and the rest is history). Eventually, a month before the trade deadline of the ‘07/08 season, the Lakers capitalised on Pau Gasol’s urge to be out of Memphis and made a lopsided deal that has resulted in 3 straight trips to the finals and 2 straight championships.

So we see there that if you are arguably the best player in the game, you may be able to get away with it, somewhat. Therefore, maybe Chris Paul’s (apparent) trade demands can work in his favour and he can force his way to New York for Eddy Curry’s expiring and Danilo Gallinari. I don’t know. I just think it would be more beneficial for Paul’s image to be quiet, sit tight and get optimal value for the Hornets next season. Then again, maybe he can just weasel his way out and then look to LRMR to fix up his image. I mean, I’m sure they’re not that busy trying to fix LeBron’s.

Cheers for reading.

Hello NBA fans

Hello everyone.

Welcome to my very first post. Not surprisingly, I want to talk about the Miami Heat. The team that I have been following for 4 years now; that pulled off one of the biggest free agency coups ever. Getting 2 of the top 5 players and 3 of the top 15 players to agree to [slightly] less money to play together and [likely] win many championships? Amazing, and yet, I’m not sure if I like it as much as a Heat fan should.

Look, LeBron is a phenomenal player, but I would have been happy with just managing to get Bosh. I feel that they may have been able to put a more solid team from 1-12 on the floor by paying just two guys the max. And I’m also extremely disappointed to see Beasley go. I just feel like he has too much potential left to be tapped to be given away for just 2 second-round draft picks.

Keeping B-Easy around would give the Heat another piece, as well as being able to distribute LeBron’s money around to some of the other free agents that were still available at the time. However, now they have the 3 amigos, or the 3 um, egos?, or the supernova team, or whatever moniker shall be bestowed upon them.

Who is behind them, though? I mean, who will actually be able to contribute? Chalmers is solid, the Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem signings were fantastic and both those guys gave up dollars too; although they are still making the kind of money that the average person will ever see in their lifetime. But beyond those three, there is not much. And I wouldn’t be fooled by those media types that try and tell you that because Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard are on board that the supporting cast is better than expected. It isn’t.

I mean, beyond the first 6 guys – LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Miller, Haslem and Chalmers – there is a steep drop-off in talent. Joel Anthony is a superior shot-blocker but cannot really do much else, and he got re-signed for 5 years and $18 million. I mean, it’s not a huge deal, but…it’s quite a lot for what he actually does bring to the table. You could probably sign a D-League guy for the minimum and get similar production. Think Chris Hunter, who was a revelation as part of Golden State’s D-League brigade last season, or Dwayne Jones, the D-League’s leading rebounder who got a late season opportunity with Phoenix. Both guys give you adequate production per 36 minutes, with Hunter at 12.4 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game and 1.6 blocks per game, and Jones at 6.1, 10.8 and 1.6 respectively. These numbers compared to Anthony’s 5.6, 6.8 and 2.9 per 36 minutes (stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com). Either of those guys would come cheaper. That’s not the only problem with the center spot, though. The Heat has also signed Dexter Pittman, the 6’10’’ 290lbs center out of Texas, and he was less than impressive in the Vegas summer league, often being outplayed by both Shavlik Randolph and Garret Siler. Then there is the aforementioned Ilgauskas, who fell off alarmingly last season in the wake of the Shaq experiment. This is nothing against the man personally, he seems like a class act and genuinely cares about the team, but I don’t know how helpful he is at this point.

Moving away from center, Juwan Howard is on board to help out behind Bosh and Haslem. Now, Juwan is, again, a class act, a veteran guy who was extremely solid helping out last season’s injury crippled Portland Trailblazers. But he’s not getting any younger and fans should not expect too much help from him just because they’ve heard of him.

Other than that, James Jones has been re-signed after having his contract bought out for slightly more of that precious cap space. Provided he can avoid the niggling injuries that have dogged him so far in his two seasons at Miami, he should be able to camp in the corner and hit an open three. And should not attempt anything else. At all.

So that’s 11 guys, and I have not nor will not spend much time talking about Jamaal Magloire, yet another center that’s been signed. So beyond that, there is an alarming need for some guard depth. Assuming Chalmers is the starter, and I hope that’s the case and Wade joins him in the backcourt, that’s…it. There has been talk about brining Carlos Arroyo back, but nothing’s been inked yet. And apart from that, there is no-one sitting on the bench ready to sop up some guard minutes and spell Wade. I suppose Miller is a swingman and should be able to back up both, but it couldn’t hurt going after a 2 guard to play some good minutes. I heard that Von Wafer’s agent contacted the Heat, and he’s a guy that can really help a team provided he’s got his head screwed on right. His jumper has a significant hitch but he seems to hit more 3s than he misses a lot of the time and can score in a hurry. Couldn’t hurt if both sides can agree to something.

So the Heat’s supporting cast is still poor, thanks to the three near-max guys. People will argue that with Wade and LeBron it doesn’t matter who is on the floor with them, they will still win. I just can’t help but wonder what might have happened if the Heat had taken a different approach regarding the supporting cast, or if LeBron’s ‘Decision’ was different.

Thanks for reading.