Anthony Morrow

Three Players to Watch (Atlanta Hawks)

The “Three Players to Watch” series is brought to you by the OuttaTownClowns, covering each of the league’s 30 teams providing you with insight on three guys that should demand your attention next season. As you can always expect at the OTC, not every player noted are a team’s top player, instead it may just be a player’s particular situation that’s worth following if you’re a die-hard NBA fan. Up first, the Atlanta Hawks featuring the Three J’s: Jeff, John, and Josh…

1. Jeff Teague

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Teague’s future in Atlanta after next season is definitely up in the air

A quick glance at Teague’s year-by-year regular season statistics shows steady improvement each year. Naturally his overall statistics also have to do with receiving increased playing time that hit an all-time high this past season as Teague started in all of the Hawks 66 games last season averaging 33 minutes per outing. However it’s likely Teague won’t be seeing yet another improvement in his performances next season due to the Hawks offseason moves. This summer the Hawks’ two biggest additions came at the guard positions adding Devin Harris via the Joe Johnson trade with Brooklyn and signing free agent guard Louis Williams. It’s unclear as to whether or not the Hawks organization are left unconvinced Teague’s their point guard going forward in the future; but this upcoming season surely is a make or break season for Teague that should determine whether he’ll be considered starter quality or one of the NBA’s best backup point guards come next offseason. Unfortunately Teague may be facing a challenge too tough to overcome, as it’s likely his minutes of opportunity will be decreased with both Harris and Williams on board. In order to prove his worth as a starter Teague must continue to improve his three-point shooting percentage (34% last season) and most importantly his distribution rate as he averaged just below 5 assists per game last season. It’ll be tough and interesting task to watch Teague try to improve yet again next season.

2. John Jenkins

ImageUndoubtedly one of the more NBA-ready rookies in this year’s draft class Jenkins will get a chance to shine in the Hawks rotation next season. Reviewing the Hawks depth chart that includes Anthony Morrow and DeShawn Stevenson, there’s a decent chance you may even see Jenkins starting in the shooting guard slot if Head Coach Larry Drew decides to go against the idea of a Teague/Harris backcourt that would lack the 3-point shooting threat that Jenkins certainly provides. Just recently, Jenkins received 48.6% of his peers votes as best shooter in a rookie poll that was released by NBA.com. Jenkins led the nation in three-pointers made per game last season connecting on nearly 4 treys a game. If Jenkins can quickly transition his consistent long range shooting ability to the NBA, he’ll earn a spot on one of the NBA All-Rookie teams.

3. Josh Smith

Last year he was an All-Star game snub, this year he enters a contract year. Watch out folks, Josh Smith is on a mission to get paid! Fantasy basketball players should jump on the opportunity of drafting this guy early into the first round. Last year J-Smoov nearly averaged a double-double putting up 18.8 ppg and collecting 9.6 boards a game, not to mention also averaging 1.4 spg and 1.7 bpg respectively. With the departure of Joe Johnson, Smith will average 20 points and 10 rebounds a game with ease next year. Rest assured he’ll also continue to hold down a 1.5 steals per game average and don’t be a bit surprised to see him get raise his blocks average to 2 per game. With that here’s the first bold statistical prediction for next season: 22.5 ppg, 11 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.5 spg, 2.1 bpg= Josh Smith.                                                       

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J-Smoov will produce eye-popping numbers this season
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2010-11 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics (50-32 last season)

Don't let their age fool you, they still have what it takes.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen

Small Forward: Paul Pierce

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

Center: Jermaine O’Neal

Key Reserves:

Guard: Delonte West

Forward: Glen Davis

Center: Shaquille O’Neal

The Celtics are coming off a great year in which they made it to the finals and lost in Game 7.  They were a surprise to everyone in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed while most people thought the Cavaliers or Magic would make it. The key for the Celtics is to stay healthy.  Five players are 32 years of age or older (Allen, Pierce, Garnett, and both O’Neals) and limiting minutes will have to be in the works for Doc Rivers.  The second unit will also have to be fired up most nights because they are a very important part to the success of the team.  If the Celtics want to make another run at the championship, the entire squad must be healthy and whole in April.

New York Knicks (29-53 last season)

Amar'e is "The Man", but Felton could be the key to the offensive.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Raymond Felton

Shooting Guard: Wilson Chandler

Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari

Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire

Center: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves:

Guard: Roger Mason Jr.

Guard-Forward: Kelenna Azubuike

Forward: Anthony Randolph

Ok, so no Lebron James for the Knicks, but they did acquire Amar’e Stoudemire who will have to carry this team on his back.  Look for Stoudemire to put up better numbers than he did in Phoenix.  Some people think he won’t play better because Steve Nash is what made him good, but I don’t believe that at all.  Another key addition is spark plug, Raymond Felton.  Felton knows how to win basketball games and will be an improvement from Chris Duhon.  Things are looking up for the Knicks and if Amar’e can stay healthy and his knees don’t give out on him, I believe the Knicks will make the playoffs.

New Jersey Nets (12-70 last season)

Harris and Lopez could be that one, two punch that lead the Nets to victory.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Devin Harris

Shooting Guard: Anthony Morrow

Small Forward: Travis Outlaw

Power Forward: Troy Murphy

Center: Brook Lopez

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jordan Farmar

Guard-Forward: Terrence Williams

Forward: Derrick Favors

Avery Johnson is looking to turn things around for this young New Jersey team.  They aren’t going to blow you away with their offense, so defense must show up for them to win games.  Brook Lopez and Devin Harris are the most important players on the team and having them healthy all season will sway this group into a possible playoff berth.  The Nets will need an incredible season to reach the playoffs but anything can happen.  Give them another couple years, let Derrick Favors get some seasons under his belt and be ready for a powerful Nets team in the future.

Philadelphia 76ers (27-55 last season)

A star in college now has to learn to take a supporting role.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jrue Holiday

Shooting Guard: Andre Igoudala

Small Forward: Thaddeus Young

Power Forward: Elton Brand

Center: Spencer Hawes

Key Reserves:

Guard: Evan Turner

Guard: Louis Williams

Forward: Andres Nocioni

The first thing that comes to mind when I look at this starting five is that there isn’t a solidified shooter.  Andre Igoudala is probably their best shooter and he isn’t very reliable from outside.  Either Jason Kapono or Jodie Meeks will need to earn a spot in the rotation and provide for them what Kyle Korver used to.  This is a fairly young team and the faster Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner develop their offensive games, the better the Sixers will be.  Elton Brand is a team chemistry destroyer, and this is why I do not see the 76ers having a great season.

Toronto Raptors (40-42 last season)

Can Bargnani show the fans of Toronto why they drafted him number one?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jarrett Jack

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozen

Small Forward: Linas Kleiza

Power Forward: Reggie Evans

Center: Andrea Bargnani

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jose Calderon

Guard: Leandro Barbosa

Forward: Amir Johnson

The Raptors had a terrible offseason losing Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Bosh.  Their whole team is mixed up and they will most likely be one of the worst teams in the league.  The only positive feeling I can say about this team is that things can only go up after the season starts.  One of their young players will certainly need to step forward with a larger role.  I see that player to be Andrea Bargnani.  He was a number one overall pick and has a really good skill set.  Also look for the Raptors to possibly pick up a star closer towards the trade deadline thanks to their Bosh trade exception.  

NFL Week 3

There are 3 teams that are still 3-0, and few would have guessed them coming into the season. Hell, I had them on a combined 16 or 17 wins for the season with the Chiefs taking 7 of those. Shows you what I know, right? Well we have plenty to cover entering week 4, and not all of it concerns the undefeated, so strap in and get ready for some NFL action coming your way right…………………….NOW.

The Undefeated

Let me start by saying that two of these teams are fortunate to be undefeated. The Bears got away with one against the Lions and were the benefactors of 6,000 Green Bay penalties, and the Chiefs deliberately start Matt Cassel at quarterback every week. I know, they must not have seen him play. All kidding aside, all three teams have impressed so far and none more so than the Steelers. Apart from the Falcons, they have not really been tested, but behind a fantastic defense and Rashard Mendenhall, the Steelers are probably the best team in football right now. Please read those last two words (right now) because they are a HUGE qualifier. They will not be the best team heading into the playoffs, but right now no one is better.

Next on my list of most impressive at the Kansas City Chiefs. Their new stadium is one of a very small number of brand new home fields that still gives the home team an advantage. We are quickly learning that one thing you cannot do is bet against this team at home, though I might have to make an exception when they host the Colts in two weeks. The running game has been good, and the defense has been outstanding under new coordinator Romeo Crennel (yes, that Romeo Crennel) who was always better suited for coordinating than coaching. I think the Chiefs have a legitimate shot at winning the AFC West, but they are going to need some help and they are going to have to fend off the Chargers who always charge (pun not intended, but inevitable) in November and December. They have a shot, but I would definitely not bet on them to win it despite the fact that I did expect a breakout season from them.

The least impressive of the undefeateds (not a bad thing at all), is the Chicago Bears. Jay Culter has looked magnificent in Mike Martz’s offense thus far, and the defense has been great (notice a theme?). The Calvin Johnson catch and Packers penalties aside, the Bears have really impressed me in all phases of the game. I still think they are a few injuries from completely unraveling, but until those injuries come, there is no reason that defense cannot keep them in every game and no reason the offense and special teams can’t find a way to win. I am still picking the Packers in the division, but with the Vikings in near free-fall, I think this could easily be a playoff team.

Ranking time! Note that teams are not listed in order within their groups.

The Outhouse (Ranked 32-26)

Occupied by these teams

And we turn from the penthouse to The Outhouse. And I’m not talking about the structure, I am talking about the contents. Its inhabitants? Buffalo, Cleveland, Carolina, and the entire NFC West. Buffalo started Trent Edwards in week 1. He is no longer on their roster. Cleveland actually showed signs of life against Baltimore, but then again, so would I if the previous owner of your team who sold the entire city out and moved the team to Baltimore still owns the Ravens. Hey God, what did Cleveland do to you? The Panthers are way worse on defense than any of us would have believed and the Jimmy Clausen era got off to an early start. At least Carolina fans know he can take a pounding. He practiced it for three years at Notre Dame. I am going to get sick of talking about the NFC West. Correction: I AM sick of talking about the NFC West, and we are only 3 weeks in. San Francisco should win the division, but the problem is that they are a crappy team away from home and just in general sometimes. And that they are 0-3. The Seahawks are mid-rebuild and might still win the division with table scraps at 7-9 or 6-10. The Rams are incredibly bad and STILL have a shot at the playoffs this year in some sort of planetary alignment with a Rookie QB, wide receivers most teams would cut, and a running back who is due to miss the rest of the season starting around week 8. Then we have the Cardinals, who are supposed to be relying on their defense and the running game, but whom almost lost to Oakland at home and might drive Larry Fitzgerald to suicide, or at least Dancing with the Stars. Yes, ladies and gents, one of these teams is going to make the playoffs. Here’s the twist. None of these teams should want to make the playoffs. If they are making it at 6-10, that would be good for a top 10 draft pick probably, which could pay dividends down the road. The team that makes the playoffs gets bumped to the 20s and will likely not get the playmaker it needs. We might have a race for the bottom and draft pick in the NFC West, however, in this race for the bottom and draft pick, the producers do not win for getting lower prices, everyone loses because we have to watch one of these teams play a playoff game.

Realistically, a few of these teams could be ranked higher, but I did not feel the need to make them feel better about themselves. Go to the corner, NFC West.

The Toilet Seat (25-23)

If the group directly below this in terms of quality is The Outhouse, then this group is the toilet seat. In other words, it is in the neighborhood, just not down with the muck yet. Don’t worry, it will get there. To be fair, a few of the NFC West teams might be more suited for a spot here, but I am not going to ease up on them when they are consistently a weak division. The teams perched majestically on this porcelain throne are the Lions, Jaguars, and Raiders.

If they drop any lower, they'll be sunk and will get flushed.

The Jaguars are probably the worst among these, as after their respectable performance against Denver, they got blown out two weeks in a row. David Garrard has resembled something between Jabba Hutt, except without the Rancor. He is dangerous, but when you think about it he is pretty laughable and could not really hurt you if you do not help him out. He has been that laughable fat fool the last two weeks and the Jaguars are really just not good enough to overcome any serious mistakes he makes. They are probably closest to the bottom of these teams.

The Lions cannot really be blamed for their Toilet Seat status. With Matthew Stafford, I think they win that Bears game, and they would have a much better shot at the other teams without Shaun Hill giving the lions an uphill battle. However, the defense has been bad enough to earn them this label and it does not get much easier. That schedule is brutal and they could easily find themselves sitting on the 4-12 we had them projected at even though we felt they were better than their record.

The Raiders are just a case all their own. They already dropped Jason Campbell at QB, but still should have beat Arizona last week on the road. The defense has seemed alright and Bruce Gradkowski has been pretty good in most of his fill-in stints. However, the Raiders have come to define unclutch, and Sebastian Janikowski is no exception. You know it is bad when you see the Raiders tied in the red zone with 20 seconds left and you remain unconvinced they will win the game, and they usually make you feel smart for not being sure. Not a very good team, but they have a shot at surprising the Texans this week. Things are not nearly as bleak as they seem in Oakland. Though things are pretty bleak for Al Davis. Maybe there is a connection between the two.

The Upset Stomach (22-20)

Is it about to be a trip straight to the Outhouse, or is it just hunger for that next win? Yes, in this bathroom-oriented NFL Recap, the Upset Stomachs are not a positive, but they are not necessarily a bad thing. The bottom line about these teams is that the jury is still out. They could easily end up on in the Toilet Seat group, or the next group up.

Washington Redskins- Are they as good as they looked against the Cowboys and Texans in the 1st half? Are they as bad as they looked int he 2nd half against Houston or against St. Louis? I would lean toward the latter as Clinton Portis has had a hard time finding running room and the Redskins aerial targets are about as talented as Keenan from SNL (not very good, in case you didn’t get that one). Joey Galloway is the 2nd WR. Yes, that Joey Galloway. I have a feeling they are going to get ripped apart against Philly and it will start a nice spiral out of control in Mike Shanahan’s 1st season.

He needs to right the ship before he is thrown overboard.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers- I am almost a semi-believer in this team, but at the same time I know that they secretly suck. Josh Freeman has looked pretty good so far except for the Steelers game, and no one is looking good against them so far. The defense has proven pretty respectable, but let’s not forget that the two wins they have are against two teams (Browns and Panthers) with a combined 0 wins. They have a bye this week so the jury will remain out for another week.

New York Giants- Is this the Super Bowl winning team that had discipline issues that then turned it around, or is this just a team in disarray. I personally do not think Tom Coughlin can pull that off again and I think the Giants’ season could very easily start to spiral downward. I still like all their skill position guys and I think the defense is alright, but they are just doing so many stupid things right now that it is hard to pick them to succeed. I thought they had the look for an NFC East favorite after week 1, but it also turns out that Carolina is not good. The jury is out, but I think this team is going to struggle.

The Change-Up

No, this is not a division, this is where I can’t make bathroom references any more because they are fairly decent teams. However, since we have only covered 13 teams, and I like the idea of splitting the league in half, so we have one more group dedicated to two teams I love to hate on.

The Carlos Zambranos (19-17)

This one goes out to Big Z for one big reason. He was never really that good (one year with a sub-3 ERA, but he always got credit for being one of the best pitchers in baseball, at least around Chicago. Accordinly, these teams are not that good, but people like to get on these bandwagons for no real reason.

San Diego Chargers- When will we learn? They are a genuinely bad team in the first month of the team. Not an underachieving team. A BAD team. They still are without holdouts Marcus McNeill and Vincent Jackson, they are missing Ryan Mathews, seem incapable of putting up a fight on the road, and ar entirely too dependent on Antonio Gates to really be successful. They will probably end up winning the division because their division is pretty weak, but they are really not that good. They will get better as they always do, but let’s not get carried away and call them a really good team.

Dallas Cowboys- Oh, my favorite punching bag, I am glad to have you back. They came out and beat the Texans because they had to, but they will almost certainly disappoint when they are needed. Felix Jones is suddenly incompetent along with the offensive line and the stupid penalties continue to kill them. They too may end up winning the division because it lacks an elite team, but there is not really any way of knowing for sure yet. A big part of me hopes they fall flat on their face so I can point out how bad a coach Wade Phillips is, how bad a coordinator Jason Garrett is, and how every ounce of hype they get is undeserved, but that will probably not happen. Notice how both these teams so far have had truly laughable head coaches?

Minnesota Vikings- Once again, mix a laughable head coach with chemistry issues and age and you get a Zambrano team. Brett Favre is still not really on the same page as his receivers and while the defense has been fairly good, they are probably not elite. If Favre gets things straight and Sidney Rice comes back in the right state of mind in week 8, then they can fight with the Bears for the Wild Card, but otherwise, they could have some issues. The hype on this team, which has a grandfather (literally) for a QB was unreasonable and they have the stench of a crash-and-burn candidate.

These teams are not necessarily worse than those ranked ahead of them, but I have a hard time putting wildly inconsistent teams up with the consistently above average teams.


These 3 are like the Mount Rushmore of Sucking

The Bengals Group (16)

Cincinnati Bengals- I had to really fight the urge to not put them much lower in these rankings. Carson Palmer is playing some of the worst football of his career, the running game is not clicking like it needs to, and the defense is not quite as good as it used to be. They still clearly have the quality, and more time together as a team should cure much of what ails them, but they are just not that good right now. They are just good enough to escape the Zambrano teams, but not really good enough right nwo to go much higher.

Yup, they got their own division for that. Not a good distinction, but it is something, no?

The Anthony Morrows (15-12)

In the right situation (like NJ) he coudl be good. Same for these teams.

These are the teams that could actually be pretty solid in the right situation and could pull off a playoff run with a few breaks.

Chicago Bears- Much has been made of the fact that the Bears could easily be 1-2, but the bottom line is that they are 3-0. The defense is legitimately good and the offense has been fairly efficient so far even though it has hit some definite rough patches at times. I am not sure if this team is genuinely good or just genuinely lucky, but when it comes to looking at the team on the field and wondering if it will win, who cares. They should be able to continue to get wins moving forward even though they are not necessarily that great.

Kansas City Chiefs- We already talked about them, so we will keep this brief. They are not a good team, but they are a great home team, and that is worth something in a somewhat easy AFC West. The defense is solid, the special teams are explosive, and the offense, Matt Cassel aside, is somewhat workable. This team can win the West, but they will need some help.

Denver Broncos- Call it my Colts Kool Aid, but I liked what I saw out of the Broncos last week. Part of the reason I liked it was because they functioned exactly like I said they would in my preview. I thought they could move the ball just fine on offense even without Brandon Marshall (how does 476 passing yards for Kyle Orton sound?), but when it came down to crunch time, they did not have anyone they could go to and be sure they would succeed. It showed as 4 trips to the red zone ended in 6 points and a 14 point loss. They are a pretty solid team, but they do not have anyone to take the last shot, to use a basketball term. If they can keep the game from getting to a point like that, they will be fine. Otherwise, they will find themselves on the unlucky side of the score line too often.

Miami Dolphins- They seem to be perennially disappointing but I have liked what I have seen out of them so far. They had that game against the Jets, but they just managed to throw it away, courtesy of Will Allen’s lack of concentration on 3rd down and his inability to look for the ball on that final pass interference call. They are actually moving it pretty well through the air, which will serve them well against New England, and the defense has been improved, although not that great so far. They could end up being pretty good, or they could end up being just alright like usual.

The Samson and Delilah Teams (11-10)

The problem jsut sticks out like a sore thumb

These teams are Samson, but while wearing a hat that reads “Cut my hair”. In other words, these teams are pretty good, but seem to just have an obvious flaw they will fight all year.

Baltimore Ravens- I am not sure if their clear flaw is the offense or defense, but seems that on any given day, it is bound to be one of them. They just gave up 140 yards rushing to Peyton Hillis. Yes, the 3rd best Arkansas RB in his draft class. Other times, like against Cincinnati, Joe Flacco turns into Joe Ballast and succeeds in sinking the team. Perhaps the Samson does not work so perfectly for them, but they are clearly a team that has not put it all together on any one day so far. i still think they are really good, just not as good as they should be.

New England Patriots- Defensive mastermind Bill Belichick is not looking very happy right now. That is technically a fact since he never looks happy, but even more so now that the defense is so bad. They let Mark Sanchez beat them in week 2, and nearly let Ryan Fitzpatrick bring Buffalo back against the Pats. Ron Jaworski continues to point out how teams are shredding their zone defenses, but I am not sure if they have the chops to go man-t-man either. This is a potentially fatal flaw for the Pats.

Houston Texans- This label was almost entirely named for them. They are a pretty damn good offensive team with balance and toughness. They are perhaps the worst pass defense in the league. They just get absolutely gashed with a fairly scary regularity, and it got so bad on Sunday that they could not even stop Mr. Washed-Up, Roy Williams. They are really really good, except for that one glaring flaw that could cost them a shot at winning the division and will cost them at least a couple games down the line. Ironically, they are not in this next group, which is also named for them.

The Matt Schaubs (8-5)

Once upon a time, Matt Schaub was a backup in Atlanta to Michael Vick. Everyone would say “Oh yeah, Matt Schaub could lead an NFL team and be a good QB”. The amazing part was that they were right. It NEVER works like that. The backup is always a backup for a reason and when you try to turn him into your franchise guy, it just does not work. Except in cases like that. These teams are right up there and part of us knows that they are that backup that really can’t get it done, but they keep showing otherwise on the field.

Sanchez has looked THIS good the last few weeks.

Tennessee Titans- Can I believe in Vince Young? Probably not. But they win and do it regularly, so until I see otherwise, I am going to keep picking the Titans to succeed. Yes, the blurbs are getting shorter because we are above 3200 words.

Atlanta Falcons- The defense remains a concern, but it still looks like a definite playoff team to me. Especially in an NFC where very few teams are asserting themselves. Let’s see if Matty Ice can put a few starts like his last one together or if he goes back to throwing picks too often.

New York Jets- Frankly, I am still getting used to the idea of Mark Sanchez being a potentially good QB. It very well may pass and open the door for the Pats or Dolphins to take the division, but right now the Jets are clearly the best team. I do not especially think the Jets will win this division, but I have to give them credit for beating their two rivals in the division and doing it with offense in addition to the defense.

Philadelphia Eagles- Michael Vick is the MVP right now. He has given their running game life (both through his legs and distracting the defense while LeSean McCoy runs wild), is making DeSean’s Jackson’s haters look foolish (like me this year, though I loved his chances before the season last year), and most importantly winning games. I am not entirely sold on their defense yet, but the Eagles might even be the favorites in the NFC East if a few things happen, and they are big ifs. IF Michael Vick stays healthy and consistent, they will be good, and IF the defense shores up, they could be very good.

The Early September Yankees (4-2)

These are the teams that we know are really good and are just getting settled in sort of with solid 2-1 starts. They are not in full out juggernaut mode, but they will get there.

Indianapolis Colts- Peyton Manning is off to his best statistical start of all time, Austin Collie looks like a Pro Bowler, the defense is suddenly stopping the run (and not the pass, but don’t get me started on that right now), and everything seems alright with no undefeated teams in the AFC South. They will be contenders once again, and that should surprise no one. Expect a close one against the Jaguars this weekend, but that is only because they always play the Colts tough.

New Orleans Saints- They have hit a few speed bumps, but they should be just fine going forward, Greg Williams is continuing to prove people like me wrong that say the defense cannot consistently create turnovers, and as long as they are getting turnovers, they should be just fine defensively. If not for Garrett Hartley’s chunked chip shot, the defending champs are 3-0. Yes, the same kicker who hit all his long field goals in the Super Bowl. God won that Super Bowl for the Saints, not the players. No, I’m not bitter, why do you ask?

Green Bay Packers- They embarrassed themselves on Monday night doing their best Cowboys impression and throwing the game away with stupid penalties, but are still the favorites up north. They could really use Al Harris, but they can make due in the mean time. They will be there down the stretch without a doubt.

THE BEST TEAM RIGHT NOW (#1)

The Pittsburgh Steelers

Again, please read the “Right Now” part of the title. They will be getting Big Ben back after this week and as long as Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith stay healthy, they should be considered the favorites in the AFC North. They have to prove themselves this weekend against Baltimore, but I think they will pull it out and solidify themselves as the team to beat in that division. Again, we already talked about them, so we are going to cut it short here and let you get to your College Football watching this Saturday morning.

Enjoy!

Play Like There’s No ToMORROW

By: Ross Geiger

Morrow's the best signing the Nets made all summer

Each NBA offseason, signings and minor trades happen that quite frankly go unacknowledged and rightfully so. This year was no different with many deals reached based solely on the decision to save money during tough times or to save up for future free agents. But one trade in particular that can be labeled as “minor” demands some note righty involves a team which struck out this summer.

The New Jersey Nets swapped a future second-round draft pick on July 13th and return received Anthony Morrow from the Golden State Warriors. Morrow, a former undrafted NBA prospect has quickly become one of the league’s bright young sharp shooters. A career 47% shooter from long range, Morrow has packed his bags taking his game to a Nets team that was begging for the services he offers nightly.

To top it all off, the departure of Courtney Lee is simple reflection Terrence Williams’s impressive summer improvements and of course the addition of Morrow into their rotation. While Williams is the front-runner for starting shooting guard spot on opening night, there very well could be a change of plans as early as within the first handful of games. As mentioned in a recent post, Williams is an ultimate sixth man off any bench in the league with his ability to play multiple positions. One important ability that Williams lacks is an outside spot-up shot.

Morrow is a volume, shot friendly shooter that stretches the opposing defenses as well as help star guard Devin Harris and even Williams tally up the assists. Nets fans will soon realize and strangely appreciate two things about Morrow brings to the table no matter the opponent. He’s never seen a shot he didn’t like and he plays at such a high level as if there virtually was no tomorrow.

The 24 year-old nicknamed “A-Mo” is a hungry player with a huge chip that continues to rest on his shoulder; even more so then ever after proving himself as a member of the Warriors and being flipped for something as small as future second rounder. The move to New Jersey can be seen as trade that benefits both worlds as both the Nets and Morrow have a land of opportunity to grow together.

Morrow must've majored in "Opportunity" at Georgia Tech

Attending Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Morrow has mastered the gift of opportunities. His first start with the Warriors went from a Don Nelson experiment to memorable night in the NBA World on July 25, 2008. Morrow torched the Los Angeles Clippers that night with a video game type box score, dropping 37 points connecting on an unbelievable 15-20 attempts. It’s impressive enough that Morrow set an NBA record putting up the most points ever scored in a game by an undrafted player in his rookie, but as the cherry on top he also grabbed 11 rebounds to go along with the 37 points.

From that point forward, there was no looking back for Morrow going onto to finish the 2008-2009 season as the first rookie and first Warrior ever to lead the league in three-point field goal percentage, hitting 86 of just 184 attempts.

Heading into next season, the Nets hope and expect much of the same from their newest acquisition. The expectations and production have changed in the matter of just one quick year in the league for Morrow. But one thing has yet to change, he’ll continue to do what he does best. Prove the doubters wrong shot after shot, opportunity after opportunity, and do so playing like there’s no tomorrow.

Morrow lives on in New Jersey next season

Ross Geiger’s NBA Season Predictions

Ross Geiger’s 2009-2010 NBA Regular Season Predictions

What’s up everyone, coming soon is no longer, it’s time for the NBA season, which means it’s time for a entertaining NBA season with Ross Geiger. As for me, I’ve been busy juggling my 6 classes for the semester leaving me not much time for NBA preseason write-ups. But now that the season is here, I’ll be sure to be posting frequently! Other than the season itself, things to look forward too include and are not limited to the following, day to day game predictions from yours truly, nationally televised game recaps, and of course a few interesting articles along the way! But for now enjoy my NBA Season Predictions and I look forward to reading each and every intellectual comment, question, or concern. Without further ado, enjoy!

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division:

Boston Celtics– While they continue to age, throw their team’s youngest talent in trade talks and inked an always-risky chemistry issue star; the Celtics remain to stay atop the Atlantic Division. Boston continues to test the “Luck of the Irish” while both the Knicks and Nets remain patient for the 2010 & even 2011 free agent class. Not only does the addition of Rasheed Wallace help ease those who continue to question the recovery of Kevin Garnett but also allows them to be a very versatile bunch as he’s able to play both frontcourt positions. Truthfully I see Garnett coming back strong, if so I love the idea of Garnett on the block with his back to the basket. It allows the “Ra-Ra” tandem (Rajon & Rasheed) to run the pick and pop up top opening up a sealing Garnett inside on the block. From there KG has his options: make a move, kick it back out to swing the ball a-Rondo-horn or find a slashing Pierce. Don’t rule out the idea of seeing Rasheed at the small forward to matchup up big with a team like the Orlando Magic. Placing Rasheed at the small forward is somewhat of a stretch but remember the wise words of KG, “nothing’s impossible!”

Toronto Raptors– Clearly the city of Toronto is located in Canada making it not a part of the United States. But what’s not clear is if on paper the Toronto Raptors look like an NBA roster. Raptors GM Bryan Conlangelo has strengthened the depth this offseason having solid backups at each position with Jack, Bellinelli, Wright, Johnson, and Nesterovic. Though Hedo Turkoglu was an overpaid free agent whose numbers will slightly drop this season, he provides the “go-to” perimeter shooter down the stretch that the Raptors have lacked ever since Vince Carter left town. Another year under Calderon’s belt only points to positive results and let’s not forget that head coach Jay Triano embarks on his first full season after trying to pick up the mess that Sam Mitchell left behind last season. For the Raptors to cling to second place in the Atlantic, they’ll need a big season from Bargnani who needs to show he was worth the contract extension he received (which will be hard to do earning 50 million over 5 years). With the departure of Anthony Parker, the team will need someone to step up to fill that shooting guard position. I’m excited to see who decides to step up and am hoping it’ll be Marco Belinelli who has always been one of my favorite summer league players to watch. All we’ve ever heard is that he just needs to find the right opportunity, that opportunity is now there; it’s time to shine in Toronto.

Philadelphis 76ers– It was hard not giving the upper edge to Philly over the Raptors but they decided to not fully address their point guard concerns this offseason. After letting Andre Miller walk (one of the NBA’s most underrated PGs), they made no move to improve their point guard position. Drafting Jrue Holiday was a great selection but he’s not ready to be thrown into the fire. Ivey is a decent backup, and the favorite to start at PG this year Lou Williams makes Leandro Barbosa look like a true point guard. I question why they didn’t attempt to bring in a point guard but further question how Elton Brand will comeback. If Brand comes back to full health and Dalembert stays healthy then the 76ers are a point guard away from being a scary team in the Eastern Conference.

New York Knicks– I don’t know the history into how Times Square got it’s name but I can tell you this, time is still square for the New York Knicks. In fact, they’re onto the last and final square 4. One more season of waiting until the LeBron James auction begins which also means one more season of bad basketball in Madison Square Garden. The square heads inside the Knicks management better pray they can recruit LeBron because settling for anything less after this effort would be a shame. It’s sad that instead of even predicting their season, it’s more interesting to predict their next moves, so here we go. In the upcoming season, I predict them to tank again (even if not on purpose), remain interested in Rubio by offering Minnesota expiring players for him in return or if the stink enough that they can offer a high lottery pick for his rights, and I also feel they’ll end up signing David Lee to a one year deal. I’m still unsure how Jordan Hill will pan out for them this season especially after having a not so impressive summer league but he should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do. On closing thoughts I’d also like to note that Brandon Jennings was a perfect fit to run D’Antoni’s offensive game plan being a pure point guard who has the ability to be the future guru of the fastbreak offense if he lives up to his potential. I’d love for the Knicks front office to answer this, what’s the most important position in order to run a successful fastbreak? All in all, get LeBron James (which I feel they will) and all this questioning will fade away as fast as Allan Houston.

New Jersey– Surprisingly I love New Jersey’s offseason moves as their best bet was to work toward the future and put themselves in a position to snag a star free agent in the next two off-season’s that await. Until then they got a nice young nucleus starting with Devin Harris and Brook Lopez, both whom exceeded their expectations with their first year with the club. Courtney Lee will be given a huge role, which will allow him more opportunities to shoot the basketball. Yi will continue to be the Yi that was hyped up but can’t live up to any of it and hopefully Terrence Williams will prevail over Bobby Simmons as the starting small forward. Head coach Lawerence Frank being my favorite head coach in the entire NBA makes it hard for me to put his team in last place in the division but I feel it’s a realistic final standing. The New Jersey Nets should move into their new arena when finished with a bright bunch of young NBA veterans.

Central Division:

Cleveland Cavaliers- GM Danny Ferry will continue to lose some sleep after LeBron turned down the idea of a contract extension, but do you blame him? As he continues to have not the slightest idea which way LeBron’s noggin is swaying, at the very least he’s got to be more than satisfied for his offseason pickups. Ferry added Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon, Leon Powe, resigned Andersen Varejao and I almost forget…he traded for the BIG WITNESS, Shaquille O’Neal. The Cavaliers are more than ready than contend for an NBA championship and anything less than winning a ring, will result in the departure of LeBron James in my opinion. Many sites believe Delonte West will remain the starting shooting guard but I disagree, I feel Anthony Parker is the better shooter to complement LeBron on the wing. Parker was a huge pickup; he may actually have more of an overall impact than Shaq this season. Moon becomes a great substitute when LeBron gets his quick breathers and having Big Z (Ilgaukas) coming off the bench is key, as both Shaq and Z rely on one another to remain injury-free. Staying optimistic on a healthy return for Leon Powe will be big as an additional spark plug next to Varejao. Powe will be invaluable if & when the Cavaliers meet the Celtics in the playoffs. For the last few years Powe has went against both Garnett and Perkins in practice and can offer valuable insight on how to defend both of them to his fellow Cavalier big men. This looks to be the year we’ll finally see Shaq & Kobe matchup in the NBA Finals. If so any chance I can request Nike to create a Shaq puppet and a Ron Artest puppet?

Chicago Bulls- When you surround your team with a player as high of a caliber as the league’s reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose, the sky is the limit. The deadline move to bring over John Salmons and Brad Miller will continue to pay dividends this year. Both Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah showed drastic improvement as the year went on and both should continue to blossom next to the Rose. So you may be wondering what needs to happen in order for the Bulls to be a serious team to compete come playoff time, for the answer listen up and as I put a little twist to Pharrell’s hook in Chicago native Common’s hit, Universal Mind Control, “It’s that Deng, to de-Deng, Deng, Deng, Deng”. Luol Deng’s strong comeback determines just how far the Bulls can climb this year. A healthy Deng allows Salmons to move over the shooting guard position and helps Ty Thomas remain a more comfortable fit at power forward. But bringing back a former Bull in Jannero Pargo returning from overseas could possibly leave some doors open for trade talk for Kirk Hinrich. If Pargo can prove he can be a solid enough backup guard for spot minutes behind Rose, the Bulls should explore trade options for team’s interested in Hinrich. A great situation for Hinrich waits in Philadelphia where he could be their missing link to becoming a very scary team in the Atlantic Division possibly even competing for the top spot with the Celtics. If Philly becomes desperate for a REAL point guard, a package that includes Hinrich could possibly bring over a guy like Thaddeus Young who would help heal the wound at the small forward position if Deng can’t return strong. The Chicago Bulls are by far the best team in the Eastern Conference too not only compete now but to compete in the bright future that lies ahead in the windy city. On top of all the possibilities of making a serious postseason run for an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, even if they fall short, don’t forget that next season Dwyane Wade will be making a homecoming when he signs a long-term deal with the Bulls, giving the Bulls one of the most athletic backcourts in the history of the NBA.

Detroit Pistons- Each year the Detroit Pistons seem to be getting away from what help them be successful in the first place, defense. Yes, I realize players’ age, there’s needed change and some players leave. But why not do your best to replace those players with similar basketball player mentalities? All of a sudden the Detroit Pistons have become obsessed with vortex scorers shying away from their team defense and unselfish play on the offensive end of the floor. It started with Billups for Iverson, then allowing Rasheed and McDyess to walk replacing them with Villanueva and Gordon. At this point, Tayshaun Prince must be dreading the upcoming season having nobody else who takes pride in their defense out on the floor with him. At the end of the offseason it’s almost like GM Joe Dumars realized it and pushed the panic button by trying to revive dead glory bringing back Ben Wallace. There’s no question that the Detroit Pistons won’t have trouble scoring the basketball, but who’s going to rebound? Who’s going to defend the opponent’s big man? Did I mention yet that their depth at the center position has Kwame Brown starting and Ben Wallace backing him up? I’d love to hear Stephen A. Smith’s comments regarding both of those centers and how they’ll impact the Pistons this year. If the Pistons develop a run and gun style like the Phoenix Suns then maybe their new roster can be effective but until then I see tons of problems, maybe even chemistry issues as each player is going to have to sacrifice some touches. Call me crazy, but if the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers focus in on their defense and stay healthy with their players, I see BOTH of them having a good chance at jumping the Detroit Pistons in the win column. But until then, the Pistons have the upper edge.

Milwaukee Bucks- The Milwaukee Bucks offseason moves boggle many NBA analysts as well as tons of NBA fans. Parting ways with three of their starters in Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villaneuva, and Ramon Sessions. The simplest way to put it is that both Villanueva and Sessions didn’t fit the Skiles type player and Jefferson didn’t have the desire to play in Milwaukee. But GM John Hammond did accomplish something big, he got the Bucks barely under the salary cap while acquiring some solid role players in Carlos Delfino and Kurt Thomas that can have big impacts if (and this is a BIG if) Bucks stars Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd return healthy and remain healthy for a full season. Not to mention the Bucks had a successful draft coming away with a steal at pick #10 selecting the potentially great point guard Brandon Jennings and then selecting one of the deadliest shooters in the draft with the #41st overall pick, Jodie Meeks. The question I always get asked, is how can I possibly truly feel the Bucks have the ability to be successful, my answer is it’s starts with their toughness on the defensive end of the floor. While I’d already considered the Milwaukee Bucks to be a Top 15 defensive team last season, parting ways with Sessions, Villanueva, & Jefferson only helps their case into being placed into my Top 10 this year. Coach Scott Skiles is a coach who demands toughness on the defensive end of the floor while also taking care of the ball on offensive end of the court. OPPORTUNITY should be the Milwaukee Bucks’ motto this season, Hakim Warrick is going to get the chance to be a “go-to” guy, an opportunity to not only be a full time starter but also to be called upon to be consistent. For Brandon Jennings, he’ll need to be patient with Skiles because there’s not a chance he’ll earn the starting role immediately but if he can be a spark plug by getting the Bucks out on transition, create open looks for his teammates, and more importantly prove to Skiles he’s not a defensive liability (even though he needs to throw on some more weight), I think Jennings could take over the reigns from Ridnour as early as January. Which would still give him a legit shot (depending on the Bucks’ playoff chances) at Rookie of the Year honors. Bottom line for the Bucks, how Bogut and Redd return, how Warrick accepts a new level of responsibility nightly and how Brandon Jennings pans out this year determines whether or not the Bucks make a claim for that 8th spot in the Eastern Conference.

Indiana Pacers- Like the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pacers’ level of success lingers on the chances that their main players remain healthy. Unfortunately history tells us that just won’t be the case. But if Danny Granger can make history by increasing his scoring output by another five points (which would have to be 30.8) per game this season then the Pacers could be like the Miami Heat of last year. This would be Granger’s fifth straight season of improving his points per game by five or more, something that’s never been accomplished. Is it a reasonable record to break?… who knows, it’s the Indiana Pacers a team that beat five out the six division leaders (Cavs, Magic, Lakers, Nuggets, and the Celtics by 26 pts). Too make even more confusing, last season the Pacers failed to have a winning streak longer than three games last year. Newly acquired Dahntay Jones definitely helps strengthen their defensive efforts but doesn’t help them put up anymore points on the board, which concerns me. There’s still no timetable on whether or not Mike Dunleavy, one the Pacers best scoring options in the past, will play next season or ever again for that matter. Troy Murphy gave his best to produce on the offense but in the end the Pacers don’t have enough legitimate scoring threats to help out the Lone Ranger, Danny Granger.

Southeast Division:

Orlando Magic- The Magic were the last but also the first team to go fishing during the offseason. Losing in five games to the newly crowned world champion Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA finals they became the last team “gone fishing”. During the summer’s free agency period they went fishing once more reeling in a Bass, forward Brandon Bass from the Dallas Mavericks. Along with Bass, the Magic traded for the human highlight reel Vince Carter with Ryan Anderson also coming over in the deal to New Jersey guard that sent Rafer Alston and the young Courtney Lee. Adding Vince Carter gave the Magic a nice replacement for Hedo Turkoglu whom they knew would be a tough signing (eventually Turkoglu signed with Toronto). Then came a shocking move when the Magic decided to match the Mavericks offer sheet to backup center Marcin Gortat. With the little money they had left, they went out and signed forward Matt Barnes and flashy point guard Jason Williams. It’s clear to say that the Magic had a very successful offseason, bulking up their depth for another potential NBA Finals run. Dwight Howard has gained another year of experience and also now knows what it feels like to play in the NBA Finals; he’ll be hungry to make his return to the biggest stage. Vince Carter is craving a chance to play in the NBA Finals falling short to do so way back with the Raptors missing a game winner, which would’ve sent him to the finals in 2001. With Vince you must question how much “magic” is still left in the tank but Orlando is fortunate enough to have above average backups at every position, in Carter’s case it’s Mickael Pietrus. Going into the season, without question the Orlando Magic are the best suited team to challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers for a chance to go to the championship.

Atlanta Hawks- My gut feeling wants to give the Wizards a chance and select them as the second best team in the Southeast Division but I couldn’t pull the trigger due to Atlanta’s unity. Ever since Mike Bibby came to town for the most part the Atlanta Hawks gelled as a team and have kept the same solid structured roster. With the Wizards filled with many new changes as well as big impact players coming off injuries, unless the Wizards have an unbelievable second half of the season, they won’t catch the Hawks. No disrespect to the very solid Flip Murray but for the first year since Atlanta’s been a threat in the East, they finally got a lethal threat coming off their bench in Jamal Crawford. Murray played great for them but logged a ton of minutes at the point guard slot, which wasn’t his ideal position to be successful. Like Murray, Crawford flourishes as a shooting guard but also has the ability to play the point guard spot and is more effective than Murray as the floor general. But don’t get too excited seeing Crawford as a PG because rookie Jeff Teague could also see some spot minutes on the floor to provide a spark. Teague was a potential lottery pick going into the draft and Atlanta lucked out with him falling down to them at #19. Both Joe Smith and Jason Collins give Coach Mike Woodson some new-experienced post options of the bench along with Zaza Pachulia. If Atlanta continues to build upon each year like they have in the past few seasons, the Hawks could be a dark horse come playoff time.

Washington Wizards- Let’s face it, their “wizardry” paid off as Washington basically traded away their rights to selecting Ricky Rubio (whom won’t even play in the NBA for another couple years) in exchange for guards Randy Foye and Mike Miller. The Wizards organization adapted the perfect mentality when the draft approached. While all of last season the Wizards were one of the worst teams in the league, a lot of that had to do with big injuries. Rather than selecting another top prospect and waiting for him to fully develop, the Wizards’ front office decided to take a different standpoint focusing on the present. The Wizards NEED to win now, the current roster situation points to wins. With Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas, and Brendan Haywood seeing the light at the end of the tunnel of their “prime”, it’s a no-brainer you risk the future and give this franchise an opportunity to be successful in the present. Grabbing Fabricio Oberto along with Foye and Miller changes the whole dimension of how “playoff ready” this team really is. If Gil-Zero comes back strong, Haywood can be consistent solid center, grabbing down some boards, and the rest of the team put up numbers they’ve put up in year’s past, the Washington Wizards aren’t a team you want to be reckon’ with. But Wizards fans, you gotta stay patient with your squad, the first 20 games may be just below .500 basketball, but once the Wiz find some signs of momentum, watch out!

Charlotte Bobcats- Head coach Larry Brown has almost completely finished his project of giving the Bobcats a makeover filled with players he’s fond of. In a nutshell I love describing the Bobcats as a team filled with borderline stars who on great teams are solid role player starters. So if we’re talking chemistry-wise then yes, I love the Charlotte Bobcats, but for some strange reason with or without reaching an agreement with guard Raymond Felton, I don’t see the chemistry translating to wins. The Bobcats are one all-star shy of being a very dangerous team even in the Southeast division. Trading away Emeka Okafor’s contract of Tyson Chandler doesn’t necessarily help the team improve but it does improve their chances of inking what I like to call a second tier free agent in these next two off seasons. Charlotte should put up so battles this year but will be that team that is solid but always falls up short in the end in tough games. Same will apply for their 2009-2010 season.
Miami Heat- After Dwyane Wade leaves Miami for his hometown Chicago Bulls this next offseason, the Miami Heat will be crowned the Eastern Conference’s version of the L.A. Clippers. The first half of the season will say it all for the Miami Heat, if the Heat struggle out the gates, it won’t come as a surprise if D-Wade happens to get “injured” having to clock some time on the injured reserve (aka staying healthy for his homecoming). Can anyone give me one reason why Wade should stay in Miami? They didn’t even make the slightest effort to be another big name to town to aid him. Instead they became the 5th team this offseason to receive Quentin Richardson and his all so streaky long-range stroke. I’m sorry, am I missing something? Although Q-Rich and D-Wade have a good off the court relationship both reigning from Chicago (Richardson was actually working out with Wade when the news broke he was traded again) I’m pretty sure the Heat have James Jones who won’t be as effective as Richardson but is at least consistent and Daequan Cook is almost a clone (as a SG) of a young Richardson. With Beasley having off the court issues, Chalmers always leaving you wondering, and never knowing the daily status of Jermaine O’Neal’s knee I don’t like the Heat’s chances of getting out of the gate with a strong start. Like I said earlier and I cannot stress enough how terrible start and awful first half of the season= Injured Wade, but even if I’m wrong, I promise you Wade will be gone in a FLASH at the end of the season, Chi-Town bound.

Western Conference

Northwest Division-

Denver Nuggets- The Nuggets are coming off of a stellar year after acquiring Colorado native Chauncey Billups in exchange for team chemistry cancer Allen Iverson. Since Mr. Big Shot’s arrival the Nuggets have rose to the top of the Western Conference, looking to this year reach the top of the Rockies in first place of not only the Northwest Division but also the Western Conference. While it’s highly unlikely that they’ll earn that top spot, be advised that the momentum built up this past year will continue to build this year. If Coors Light came up with a bottle that turn blue when on you got your swagger, the Denver Nuggets roster is on code blue. The energy and aggressiveness that the Nuggets bring nearly every night is what will continue to drive them to success. While I’m not a fan of J.R. Smith, his play alongside Carmelo and Chauncey will ultimately determine games down the stretch, if he can continue to knock down the open shots, it allows Billups and Melo to operate with open space that will lack help side. In the post, the Nuggets also have one of the best clean up crews around with K-Mart, Birdman, and Nene. One thing to watch out for is the progression of rookie guard Ty Lawson, who should flourish in Denver’s style of play, it won’t take long for him to beat out veteran Anthony Carter for the backup point guard position and with Lawson’s speed, I also see Coach Karl playing Billups and Lawson together if the matchups present themselves. Just like the last year’s playoffs, the Nuggets will be one of the most entertaining teams to follow this year.

Portland Trailblazers- The Trailblazer nucleus now knows what it takes to be a playoff team and have a taste of the playoff experience. With that in mind, the young squad will build upon last year’s success while meshing in the newest addition of veteran point guard Andre Miller, who could become the missing link to the puzzle. Starting center Greg Oden should come out and display drastic improvement to his overall game and it wouldn’t shock me to see him average a double-double with a couple of blocks per game. Portland’s biggest problem comes at small forward where they have multiple guys who equally deserve a chance at that starting role. While Nicolas Batum started the majority of last year’s games, Martell Webster should add his argument with his lethal outside shot. I’ll even throw Travis Outlaw into the discussion; though the Blazers seem very content playing Outlaw in the second unit with Rudy Fernandez who should also blossum some more this year. Even with the addition to Andre Miller don’t look for the Blazers to impress much in the playoffs, but individually the young Blazers should continue to impress throughout the season.

Utah Jazz– I don’t know what it is about Jerry Sloan’s teams, they’re always solid but can’t ever find that extra emphasis to get over the hump in big game situations. While the Jazz will be able to easily find one of the last spots in the playoffs if Deron Williams stays healthy, the overall improvement of this year will lean on the return of Carlos Boozer. Boozer will have the ability to prove to the league, what exactly the Jazz have been missing and how big an impact he actually has in his team’s success. The Jazz will start out the season without two of their main wing players, C.J. Miles and Kyle Korver limiting their strength of depth, giving Kirlenko another shot at not only proving he’s worth a starting nod but worth considering at the small forward on occasions. Millsap, even after getting paid, should continue to be Millsap, their key post man off the bench. The Jazz look as strong as ever on paper, but can they finally find that one extra gear come time to compete for the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder– They’re young, they’re talented, they’re inexperienced, that’s all you’ll hear this year regarding the Thunder’s new and improved young team. Unfortunately this year will not be the breakout season, but there will be stretches this year that this team show signs of what’s to come for many years down the road. Each Thunder player is on a mission this year, a mission to not only gel as a team, but to ultimately prove themselves as elite players for their given roles. Durant has the ability to solidify himself as the 3rd best overall player in this league behind LeBron and Kobe. Westbrook can solidify the league that he’s capable to handle the point guard position though he is not a true point guard. Westbrook could even throw up Kidd-like numbers in the box scores, flirting with a triple-double each game. Jeff Green should quietly continue to prosper from the attention that Durant demands and his ability to blow by slower power forward defenders that have to dread matching up with a guy of Green’s nature. If there’s anyway the Thunder find themselves in the playoffs without another team ahead of them having a star player go down, it’ll be the addition to rookie James Harden. Harden will be given the playing time to have a chance at not only become a member of the All Rookie First Team but also a legit shot at winning Rookie of the Year. Did I forget to mention if the Thunder somehow make the playoffs, who the NBA MVP will be??? Kevin Durant

Minnesota Timberwolves- The season of lessons learned, the motto in which new head coach Kurt Rambis and his team should live by this season. Even if Al Jefferson and Kevin Love remained healthy (which evidentially isn’t the case), the Wolves have no chance winning games this year. Too much inexperience, but filled with players who show signs of tremendous upside daily. Jonny Flynn will gain valuable experience as part of a struggling team and it should ultimately help him become a even better leader out on the floor. For Corey Brewer, this is a big season, a season to shine and prove his worth. Jefferson if healthy would’ve continued to improve as a fantasy owners dream, producing unreal numbers on a nightly basis. The NBA world won’t truly get a sense of the Wolves future until the Love and Jefferson tandem becomes healthy down low. Last but not least, did you think I forgot to mention the addition of Ramon Sessions, no I didn’t but honestly, I probably should have because Ramon will get beat out as the starting point guard and won’t be nearly as effective as he was with the Bucks last season. If Sessions stays with Minnesota he’ll become a player who was overpaid and overrated, but don’t be surprised if come playoff time, teams come calling.

Pacific Division-

Los Angeles Lakers– The question isn’t whether or not the Lakers will be at the top of the Pacific Division that’s already a given, it’s whether Ron Artest helps them repeat as NBA champions. Despite the rest of the league’s attempt to put together a championship contending team, the Lakers once again will have the best-suited team for success. Opposing teams must pray that Ron Artest continues to ruin team chemistry with the teams he’s a member of. This very well could be a transition year for the Lakers with Derek Fisher slowly (and I mean slowly) earning less minutes in order to develop Jordan Farmar, but so far Farmar has yet to show consistently that he’s worthy of the slow changing on the guard. For Bynum, he must bounce back to full strength and become aggressive when given his touches or he maybe ignored on the offensive side of the ball come midway through the season. So far so good when it comes to moving the basketball for the Lakers, each player has seemed to accept their roles with the Artest addition. Odom seems fine providing a spark of the bench if need be and Kobe will continue to be Kobe, no matter who joins the franchise. In the end, if Kobe is Kobe, Artest continues to be Artest, it should be a very interesting year for the Lake Show, but one filled with a lot of promise.

Phoenix Suns– Did I put any bias into this pick? Absolutely not, in fact I’m quite displeased in the way the Suns have managed to put together this team. Lacking a solid back up point guard (sorry the guy who gets paid lottery pick money not a backup) Dragic is no better than Roko Ukic. Now off that rant and on to the next one the Suns have no legitimate backup center, even before the injury of Robin Lopez. While I love that the run and gun mentality is back being that it’s a joy to watch during the season, but historically just awful to watch fail come playoff time. The Suns need such a lucky playoff matchup to even stand a chance in the first round. Do they have the ability to get there? I don’t know, I think Coach Gentry has the right mentality to have a chance, he just lacks the right personnel, simply because the management isn’t willing to spend the money. Channing Frye will prove to be a great management move and will definitely fit the “blue light” special bargain, but his option at the end of the year will be avoided and Frye will be gone, unless the Suns decide to over pay him. I can’t say much about the Suns this year, I just can’t, I’m done buying into the “eyes on the prize” as a supporter because simply that’s not what the management has their eyes set on. In many senses, the management is blind with a future that doesn’t look promising. Most likely Amare will be gone after this year, Frye will be gone (or overpaid), and poor, ring less Steve Nash will continue to descend from his prime. On the bright side, the Suns will potentially have a chance to get back into the playoffs by strictly out scoring teams where I hope they prove me wrong, and make me a believer. Earl Clark will be fun to watch progress and hopefully he’ll be given an opportunity unlike Alando Tucker. Well there’s not much else to say, be on the lookout on an article soon to really go in depth on my opinion regarding the Suns because though many find me a hater, I’m not, I’m just a not a believer in the way this franchise is being handled, I support the product being thrown out there on the floor 95% of the time. That 5% will be shown on January 11th. But in all, Suns will earn one of the last spots in the playoffs but without any emphasis on defending, they’ll be one and done, gone in the first round, then Amare will be gone. Though the Suns team, as I knew it is already gone, I hope we all enjoy what is left of it.

Los Angeles Clippers– Could the Clippers potentially leap the Suns in the Pacific Division? I posed the question earlier this summer, got mixed emotions. In my opinion it’s a close call but I much take the proven Phoenix Suns than a young, unpredictable team filled with many depth questions. Who starts at center? Does Blake Griffin come off the bench? How does Eric Gordon’s role change with the signing of Rasual Butler? Is Baron Davis healthy and ready to go? These are just a few of the many I have for the Clippers this year and not even their biggest fans can truly answer these with complete certainty. I do like what Clipper fans have to look forward too, even before grabbing Griffin in the draft lottery. Gordon and Thornton were both surprising players last year and hope to improve upon that with the aid of a healthy Baron Davis by their side. Camby and Kaman both continue to show their worth with their inside presences and I’m hoping DeAndre Jordan will sprout soon. Jordan could soon be a very good poor man’s Dwight Howard having tremendous potential. The overall success of this team relies on Baron Davis, whether he can do enough to incorporate everyone into the offense and do so in an effective manner. While I think he can do much of that, I don’t feel he can do enough of it to make the Clippers a playoff team.

Golden State Warriors– I’m well aware that Stephen Curry could be up for Rookie of the Year honors, but I don’t think he presence helps the Warriors succeed. His vortex mentality as a shoot first point guard will not improve the young Warriors team it will in fact hurt their chances in becoming a successful team. With the amount of scoring they have, the Warriors need to stress ball movement, getting everyone on the same page is something that should but won’t be done, just by examining the roster’s personality. With Captain Jack being relieved on his position, the Warriors lack a proven leader. No leadership translates into having a bad season. If Don Nelson isn’t willing to give Anthony Randolph his opportunity this season, they should consider trading the young product in exchange for a leader, a guy with the leadership ability of Chauncey Billups could really go far with a team not far from being successful. The Warriors will struggle but play hard to the end like ANTHONY who plays like there’s no ToMORROW. By the way, watch out for him, he could be a potential fantasy stud, especially with an unhappy Stephen Jackson.

Sacramento Kings– With not much too look forward, Tyreke Evans becomes the main attraction in Sac-Town. Evans can at least bring some future hope to what’s to come along with potential double-double machine Jason Thompson and maybe even inconsistent center Spencer Hawes, whose shown signs of success but not enough to be fully bought into yet. But nonetheless the Kings should be back into the running for the #1 pick next year and I can only imagine a backcourt consisting of Evans and John Wall, talk a future backcourt for year’s to come! With a new coach and new point guard in charge of controlling the floor, change is in the air in Sacramento, patience could be worth it Kings fans, could be….

Southwest Division:

Dallas Mavericks– Dare I do it? I shall! The Spurs are great and will be right up there with the Mavs but I’m picking the Mavericks to be the biggest surprise in the NBA. Why? They made some very serious offseason moves, ones that will help the team step up to the next level. The most important was reuniting Shawn Marion with long lost teammate Jason Kidd. In my mind, Marion couldn’t of found a better home outside of Phoenix, being a firm believer I feel he’ll return to the Matrix of old for the most part. Though he’s already on the downside of his prime, he’s still enough left in the tank and enough motivation to seek a title. His slashing game compliments Nowitzki’s game well and don’t be surprised to see Marion play with Josh Howard whom they’ll move over to the shooting guard. With the best sixth man in the game today, in Jason Terry, the Mavericks will be the second best team in the Western Conference by a hair. Drew Gooden is a very legit backup big man able to play both power forward and center. Head coach Rick Carlisie has plenty of lineup options he can experiment with but once he finds the right solution, I believe the Mavs will be rolling from there on out. Dallas is the team to beat in the Southwest Division.

San Antonio Spurs– They’re old, they’re experienced and they’re going to be good, especially come playoff time. But for the season’s sake, I’ll have them finishing behind the Mavs because at some point in the 82 game season, the Spurs will experience a rough injury, it’s just bound to happen. With stars like Ginobili, Parker, McDyess, and Duncan an injury is sitting just around the corner waiting to bite, but will it affect the overall play of the team, no in fact it’ll help the team prepare for the playoff push. Popvich if he’s smart he will start benching his players after clinching a playoff spot, in order for the aging stars to be ready for a dogfight throughout the entire playoffs. Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess were great fits for this ball club, DeJuan Blair could potentially could be the biggest steal in the draft so far showing that his knee is healthy and that he really was lottery pick worthy. The future of this franchise isn’t bright but the present is about as bright as it can get, if healthy.

New Orleans Hornets– After disappointing me in the playoffs last season, eliminated in embarrassing fashion by the Denver Nuggets, the Hornets have a lot to prove to their fan base. There’s no doubt having the best point guard in the game helps but if the streaky shooters around him don’t help out the Hornets don’t stand a chance. With the departure of Rasual Butler, aging shooters Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic must knock down their shots until Julian Wright is fully ready for the responsibility. James Posey wasn’t as impressive as advertised and needs to prove the league wrong this year, by getting back to knocking down big shots. David West like always, will continue to do his thing with the near 20 and 10 each night. Emeka Okafor must find his niche with Paul from the get go of the regular season to become a deadly force for the team as Okafor is very limited with his back to the basket, one on one. Along with Ty Lawson of the Denver Nuggets, Darren Collision could be a very surprising point guard from day one in the NBA. The Hornets should find a way to sneak into the playoffs but will Paul have enough threats surrounding him to help out? Probably not…

Memphis Grizzlies– By far the most confusing team in the NBA. Just when you thought the Grizz had the right idea to go young and build around their talented youth, they go out and find the biggest troublemakers possible. Adding Allen Iverson and Zach Randolph will only serve as role models NOT to follow in the NBA and will also help sell tickets. I really question whether the Memphis front office truly thinks A.I. and Z-BO can really help this team be successful, especially in a division where the should be focusing on the future, as they have no chance in competing now. A few of Rudy Gay’s touches should be taken away and given to Randolph but his scoring output should remain around the same as last year at nearly 19 points per contest. There will be two starting positions that will be interesting to follow throughout the year, Allen Iverson and Mike Conley battling for the starting job along with Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet. In both cases I think Iverson and Thabeet will come about with the starting duties. Sam Young has shown some promise early on, but finding legitimate time could become a problem. The Memphis Grizzles will remain in the spotlight this upcoming year for all the wrong reasons, it’s unfortunate we won’t be able to focus on the positive young future that’s been held up by aging, chemistry issued stars.

Houston Rockets– The Rockets might not win a game this year if Luis Scola doesn’t average 20 plus a game. Just kidding but Scola needs to average 20 points in order to even be competitive. I think we’ll quickly see that Trevor Ariza is overrated when it comes to be a franchise player and Aaron Brooks can only pass so many times a game in order to produce ball movement. I like the Rockets in terms of defense and their scrappy mentality but they have no identity on offense what so ever, it’s going to be an offensive about as confusing as the first few minutes of a pick up game. Coach Rick Adelman has a long season ahead of him and I have much respect for any positives he can get out of this season. As for Tracy McGrady, I almost forgot he’s still an active player in the league. While I hope for a strong return I don’t know how much T-Mac has left in the tank that’s definitely running on empty. For the Rockets 2009-2010 season, the wins will be running on empty as well.

Eastern Conference

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Boston Celtics
  3. Orlando Magic
  4. Atlanta Hawks
  5. Toronto Raptors
  6. Chicago Bulls
  7. Washington Wizards
  8. Detroit Pistons

Western Conference

  1. Los Angeles Lakers
  2. Dallas Mavericks
  3. Denver Nuggets
  4. San Antonio Spurs
  5. Portland Trailblazers
  6. Utah Jazz
  7. Phoenix Suns
  8. New Orleans Hornets