Brendan Haywood

2010-11 NBA Preview: Southwest Division

Dallas Mavericks (55-27 last season)

Dallas needs the Mavericks to play well since their beloved Cowboys have been garbage.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jason Kidd

Shooting Guard: Caron Butler

Small Forward: Shawn Marion

Power Forward: Dirk Nowitzki

Center: Brendan Haywood

Key Reserves:

Guard: Roddy Beaubois

Guard: Jason Terry

Center: Tyson Chandler

The Dallas Mavericks are going to be strong again and the addition of Tyson Chandler to back up Brendan Haywood should help on the defensive end.  Chandler has lost a step in his game, but he still has the skills to be a great reserve big man.  The shooting guard and small forward spot will also be interesting to watch.  Caron Butler and Shawn Marion cannot carry their positions alone.  They will need Jason Terry, Roddy Beaubois and rookie Dominique Jones to figure into the mix and log solid minutes.  Beaubois could even be the eventual replacement to Jason Kidd.  Roddy has an explosive first step, three-point range and has the ability to finish at the hoop.  This team still hinges on Dirk Nowitzki’s success and will prove to be a top team in the West.

Houston Rockets (42-40 last season)

Yao is healthy and ready to take Houston far in the playoffs.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Aaron Brooks

Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin

Small Forward: Shane Battier

Power Forward: Luis Scola

Center: Yao Ming

Key Reserves:

Guard: Courtney Lee

Forward: Chase Budinger

Center: Brad Miller

Yao Ming is back!  This is great news for Rockets’ fans.  Yao has also been playing like his old self in preseason.  With a healthy Yao all season, I have big expectations for this team.  Their leader on defense is back and a huge low post presence will be reinstated in Houston.  Granted, the number of minutes he will play will be low, but he is the key to the Rockets reemergence.  Trevor Ariza is gone and Chase Budinger will be the one to benefit the most from this loss.  Budinger has everything you would want in a small forward.  He can jump, shoot, defend and pass.  Look for a great second season for the man from Arizona.  Kevin Martin will also be poised for another 20+ point season.  I think the Rockets have the best chance to knock off the Lakers if they can make it to the Western Conference Finals.

San Antonio Spurs (50-32 last season)

Take your pick on who gets injured first.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Tony Parker

Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili

Small Forward: Richard Jefferson

Power Forward: Tim Duncan

Center: Antonio McDyess

Key Reserves:

Guard: George Hill

Forward: DeJuan Blair

Forward-Center: Tiago Splitter

For the first time in years, Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are entering the season fit and healthy.  I believe this big three still has some game in them left to be played, but time is running out.  Two-time Spanish League MVP, Tiago Splitter, was brought in to back up Duncan and should provide great defense and rebounding.  If Splitter can provide, Duncan can hopefully be fresh for the playoffs, and this is what head coach Greg Popovich wants.  Richard Jefferson also needs to bury a disappointing last season and be ready to produce for the Spurs on both ends of the floor.  I think this will be a good team, but the greatness of the Spurs has run out.

Memphis Grizzlies (40-42 last season)

Gay will be looking to propel the Grizzlies to greatness.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Mike Conley

Shooting Guard: O.J. Mayo

Small Forward: Rudy Gay

Power Forward: Zach Randolph

Center: Marc Gasol

Key Reserves:

Guard: Tony Allen

Guard: Xavier Henry

Center: Hasheem Thabeet

Rudy Gay is slowly turning into a big time superstar.  By playing with Team USA this summer, Gay will be taking that next step to becoming great and the rest of the Grizzlies must follow suit.  With Gay, O.J. Mayo and Zach Randolph, Memphis has no trouble putting the ball into the hoop, but defense is their major issue.  Centers Marc Gasol and Hasheem Thabeet need to be the catalysts for defensive presence.  Mike Conley also needs to excel his game.  Now entering his fourth season, Conley needs to improve from being just a mediocre point guard for the Grizzlies to be playoff contenders.  This team is very young and has the potential to have a 2009-10 Oklahoma City type season.

New Orleans Hornets (37-45 last season)

CP3's eyes are on the prize, but does he have the team to do it?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Chris Paul

Shooting Guard: Marco Belinelli

Small Forward: Trevor Ariza

Power Forward: David West

Center: Emeka Okafor

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jerryd Bayless

Guard: Marcus Thornton

Forward: Peja Stojakovic

I feel the Southwest Division is very competitive and even though the Hornets will be an improvement from last season, they will still finish last.  Chris Paul is back to being healthy and he has two new exciting swingmen: Trevor Ariza and Jerryd Bayless.  With Paul at the helm, the Hornets are definitely going to push the tempo to take advantage in the open floor.  Ariza thrives off of this style of play, and Bayless could prove to be a great back up for Paul.  Bayless will also get time at the shooting guard position to play with Paul.  Emeka Okafor and David West need to improve the defense which had an open-door policy to the rim last season.  All-in-all, I just don’t see it happening for the Hornets this year.

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4/25/10 NBA Playoff Predictions

Boston Celtics at Miami Heat- 1 ET

Today could mark Wade's last game in a Miami Heat jersey or at the very least it could be his last home game as a member of the Miami Heat

The Miami Heat are down 3 game to none, no team in NBA history has ever come back from such a deficit. Today’s game could very much end up being a historic game for the Miami Heat as it has the possibility of marking franchise’s superstar Dwyane Wade’s final game as a member of the Miami Heat (or at the very least his last home game). Becoming a free agent at the end of the season, Wade could decide to move his career elsewhere, teams that may be ideal include: the Clippers, Suns, Bulls, Knicks, and Nets.

The Miami Heat don’t just look lost trying to find a win in this series, but they seriously look lost as a franchise. HoopsHype.com reported that the Heat may end up trading their future piece in Michael Beasley before the NBA draft if the right options seem to be available. With that being said, the Heat in all likely-hood could lose both their current superstar and their 2nd overall pick of 2008 in Beasley who was supposed to be their future star in the making.

Coach Doc Rivers & "The Truth" should seal the deal in Game 4

In Game 4, I see the Boston Celtics putting the final nail in the coffin. Up 3-0, there’s no reason to put forth a sluggish effort and have to close down the series at home in Game 5. With an aging team like the Celtics, it’s important for them to win series as quickly as possible so that they can rest up and be fully ready to take on their second round opponent. Celtics Head Coach Doc Rivers and the Big Three know and understand they have to take care of business; Celtics sweep the Miami Heat.

Celtics- 98 Heat- 85

Cleveland Cavaliers at Chicago Bulls- 3:30 ET

Vinny Del Negro himself predicting the final outcome of the series, Cavs win 4 games to 1

Everyone and their brother knows that LeBron James didn’t take his Cavaliers’ team loss in Game 3 very lightly. You can be assured that, King James will do a little talking in the locker room before hitting the United Center floor to square off against the Bulls. In the midst of all of this, according to HoopsHype.com, ESPN.com has reported that Bulls Head Coach Vinny Del Negro will not return next year as the Bulls coach. While that’s no surprise, it is surprising that this talks heated up right after a huge Game 3 win in Chicago.

Just as LeBron James didn’t take the Game 3 loss lightly, maybe this was the Bulls way of firing up their head coach for the remainder of the playoffs. Each of the Bulls-Cavs first three games the Bulls have been in striking distance of tying or taking over the lead in games. So I propose the question: What if Vinny Del Negro does the impossible and beats the Cavaliers in Round 1? While I’m just proposing the thought, go ahead call me an idiot, it’s okay because one things for sure, both Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah actually believe they can take down the Cavaliers.

The Bulls are title contenders if they add one of these guys or Joe Johnson

While I’m going to take the Cavaliers over the Bulls in 5 games, that isn’t to say that Game 4 and Game 5 won’t be interesting games. The Bulls will continue to demand respect in the series forcing the Cavaliers to play top notch basketball under the final buzzer sounds. Even if the Bulls end up winning just Game 3 in the series, they exceeded the expectations of the majority of the league. Having put up an impressive fight each game can only help their chances of snagging one of the elite free agents come this summer. Don’t try to tell me Chris Bosh, Amare Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, and Joe Johnson haven’t been watching the Bulls fight in this one seed versus eight seed matchup.

Cavaliers- 102 Bulls- 95

Dallas Mavericks at San Antonio Spurs- 7 ET

Game 3 served as a wake up call for Caron Butler

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Dallas Mavericks will take Game 4. Nowitzki and crew have too much talent and fight to allow this series to go 3-1 heading back home, the Mavericks will force a split 2-2 series. In order to do so, Dallas will obviously have to make some adjustments, but luckily for the Mavericks they’re one of the most versatile teams in the NBA. Head Coach Rick Carlisle’s decision to only play Caron Butler for 14 minutes should be Butler’s wake up call heading into Game 4. I definitely think we’ll see improved play from him and from the Mavericks centers inside. In Game 3, Mavericks big men Erick Dampier and Brendan Haywood played a combined 45 minutes coming up with just 4 points and 8 rebounds. As Charles Barkley would say, “That’s just terrible”, Barkley himself could probably score 4 points and grab 8 rebounds if it weren’t for having to run the length of the floor each possession. Game 3 key to a Spurs victory in a nutshell was that the Spurs came out to play and the Mavericks (outside of Dirk Nowitzki) didn’t. We’ll see improved play by the entire Dallas Mavericks team today. Dallas takes Game 4 and momentum back home for Game 5.

Mavericks- 99 Spurs- 91

Denver Nuggets at Utah Jazz- 9:30 ET

Carmelo continues to battle foul trouble issues

The Jazz won in commanding fashion in Game 3 at home against the Denver Nuggets. Carmelo Anthony yet again ran into foul trouble and for the past two games that’s really been a big key to the Jazz success. Foul trouble for Carmelo Anthony limits his aggressiveness and all the intangibles that makes him the offensive threat that he is when not in foul trouble. When the Jazz are able to contain that aggressiveness, the Denver Nuggets flow on offense suffers greatly.

I don’t know if it’s just me or if Nuggets fans would agree, but I never quite know what to expect from this year’s Nuggets team. While their personnel are uniquely charismatic (to say the least) and are fun to watch, I don’t know how I’d feel if I were a Denver Nuggets fan. Is this group of guys, really a team that you can put your trust in? While I really want to go with my gut feeling and predict a Nuggets win tonight, my logic behind why not to pick the Nuggets seems to be holding me back from doing so.

My logic tells me to take D-Will & the Jazz at home

The Utah Jazz are surprisingly clicking on all cylinders despite the key injury losses. Behind their home crowd at home, I see it hard from them to lose Game 4 and see Head Coach Jerry Sloan leading his team to a commanding 3-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets as the series then heads back to the mile high city. I’m going with my logic over gut feeling on this one.

Jazz- 109 Nuggets- 107

NBA Playoff Predictions 4-18-10

Oklahoma City Thunder at Los Angeles Lakers

A Must-See First Round Matchup

The matchups at every position are intriguing to say the least, but can a young team like the Thunder really compete in big game situations against the team that knows how to do it best? While I’d like to think they can, past history would prove otherwise. Despite the Lakers struggles to put all the talent together on a consistent night-to-night basis along with battling injuries they’ll prevail in Game 1 at home and carry forth as the series moves along. But don’t sleep on the series, this series offers the rest of the league and it’s fan a glimpse of the future in the NBA.

Lakers- 106 Thunder- 98

Charlotte Bobcats at Orlando Magic

The Owner & His Captain: Can they lead the movement?

With one of the best regular season home records in the NBA, the Magic shouldn’t disappoint in Game 1. With that being said, taking a quick look up and down the Bobcats roster that task will be far from easy. The Bobcats will come out ready to play and will make this a very exciting series to watch. It’s also valuable to note that the Bobcats have a variety of SEASONED big men to throw at Dwight Howard. If “Captain Jack” can rally the crew behind his long range three pointer, this series could easily forced a heated Game 7. Center & Point positions are my favorite matchups to watch Dwight/Gortat vs. Ratliff/Chandler & the matchup of two very similar point guards Jameer Nelson vs. Raymond Felton (similar style of play & physique).

Magic- 101 Bobcats- 93

San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks

Mountain Dew is also refreshing but drinking 2 liters before games is just insane

Wait…shouldn’t we typically see this series in a later round? The answer to that question makes me feel so ancient but nonetheless life goes fast. This series will be quite the sight to see and I believe the term “refreshed” sums up the matchup. The Mavericks “refreshed” their roster with the late additions of Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood, and DeShawn Stevenson. On the other hand, the Spurs decided to “refresh” their roster before the ’09-’10 campaign even began adding two important pieces for the playoffs in Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson. But despite the preseason additions, the Spurs are just now feeling like a “refreshed” roster. They’ve battled with injuries of Parker/Ginobili while also battling the sluggish play of Jefferson. The return of Parker/Ginobili is scary one-two punch and with the drastic performance improvements Jefferson’s made lately, this series will be as interesting as it always has been. This year the series is just delivered to NBA a bit early, but hey it’s kind of refreshing!

Mavericks- 94 Spurs- 88

Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns

Umm...yeah self explanatory: Just another day at the office for STAT

Without Brandon Roy, the Blazers will get manhandled in Game 1 in Phoenix but it’s definitely too early for me to commit to a Phoenix Suns sweep. The Bucks and of course the Blazers are two teams that unfortunately seem to always be forced to adapt to key losses but they do so very well. I see that being no different, even if that Blazers loss is the team’s leader and best player. This is a prime opportunity for Aldridge to step up and I’m sure that’s an overused statement that’s dragged on around the city of Portland for years now. Aldridge will continue to be a often forgot about player until he can prove that he should be mentioned along with the league’s best power forwards. Coincidentally, he’ll have to prove that by matching up against arguably the league’s best power forward in Amare Stoudemire. The Suns power forward is on a mission and has his eye on the prize, that prize….(drum roll please)….is a new contract (NOT a championship, sorry Phoenix). But Amare will be an ultimate beast this series and if you don’t believe me just ask Dante Cunningham!

Suns- 112 Blazers- 102