Nene Hilario

2010-11 NBA Preview: Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder (50-32 last season)

How could I not put up a picture of Kevin Durant? MVP? I think so.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Russell Westbrook

Shooting Guard: Thabo Sefolosha

Small Forward: Kevin Durant

Power Forward: Jeff Green

Center: Nenad Krstic

Key Reserves:

Guard: Eric Maynor

Guard: James Harden

Forward-Center: Serge Ibaka

The Thunder are still so young, yet so talented.  They can’t get ahead of themselves though.  This new success needs to be handled correctly and it cannot get into their heads or else they could possibly have a massive meltdown.  For example, take the 2008-09 New Orleans Hornets.  They are the perfect example of that.  They biggest concern I have for the Thunder is their shooting.  Other than Kevin Durant, it was an adventure for them last season.  Hopefully the additions of Daequan Cook and Morris Peterson can help in that department.  OKC is a lock for the playoffs and look for them to make a deep run.

Portland Trail Blazers (50-32 last season)

Will Oden ever last through an entire season?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Andre Miller

Shooting Guard: Brandon Roy

Small Forward: Nicolas Batum

Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge

Center: Marcus Camby

Key Reserves:

Guard: Wesley Matthews

Guard-Forward: Rudy Fernandez

Center: Greg Oden

No team ever avoids injury, but no team is ever stung as bad as Portland was last season.  With a complete lineup, this team has the potential to be the best in the West.  They allowed the fewest points of any team in the West (94.8) and defense is definitely their calling card.  Wesley Matthews was brought in for his defense and also to provide a spark off the bench.  Marcus Camby is still a great defensive center, even at 36-years-old.  Nicolas Batum has the length to block shots and get a couple of steals per game.  The great thing about the Trail Blazers is that they are also very young as well.  I realize that Camby and Andre Miller are not, but the rest of the team is.  This team will be good for years to come, as long as Brandon Roy is still hanging around in the future.

Utah Jazz (53-29 last season)

I think Hayward has a potential to be another Kirilenko.

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Deron Williams

Shooting Guard: Raja Bell

Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko

Power Forward: Paul Millsap

Center: Al Jefferson

Key Reserves:

Guard: Sundiata Gaines

Guard-Forward: C.J. Miles

Forward: Gordon Hayward

Deron Williams might be the best point guard in the NBA thanks to last season.  His playmaking ability is getting to a ridiculous feat and with the players around him it could even get better this year.  Getting the additions such as Al Jefferson, Raja Bell and Gordon Hayward acclimated quickly is crucial.  Williams and Carlos Boozer were the second coming of Stockton and Malone (obviously not as good as these two) and I believe Jefferson can fill the shoes of Boozer and put up 20 points and 10 rebounds for the season.  Jefferson is also going to have to find chemistry with Paul Millsap.  Both will want to control the paint, but each have to pick and choose when to make their moves.  The Jazz will most likely be a middle of the pack playoff team, but I see them losing first round.

Denver Nuggets (53-29 last season)

Will he stay or will he go?

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Chauncey Billups

Shooting Guard: Arron Afflalo

Small Forward: Carmelo Anthony

Power Forward: Kenyon Martin

Center: Nene Hilario

Key Reserves:

Guard: J.R. Smith

Forward: Al Harrington

Forward-Center: Chris Andersen

Most people probably are wondering why I have the Nuggets finishing fourth in their division, and the reason is because Carmelo Anthony will either be gone from the team or not focused enough to lead.  Carmelo is an elite player, and if he gets traded the Nuggets will turn into another run-of-the-mill team not making the playoffs.  We all saw the breakdown this team had without head coach George Carl, and without their superstar, all hell might break loose.  J.R. Smith is a hothead and even though he is in a contract year, his play will still be very streaky.  Kenyon Martin is always getting hurt, so the play of Al Harrington will be a huge part to the success to this team as well.  In the end, with Carmelo or not, I just don’t see it this year for the Nuggets.

Minnesota Timberwolves (15-67 last season)

A world of potential and only 21-years-old

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Luke Ridnour

Shooting Guard: Corey Brewer

Small Forward: Michael Beasley

Power Forward: Kevin Love

Center: Darko Milicic

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jonny Flynn

Guard: Wayne Ellington

Forward: Wesley Johnson

The Timberwolves are going to be even worse this year.  With the loss of Al Jefferson to division opponent Utah, Minnesota has no “go-to” scorer.  Michael Beasley is their best bet, especially since in 2008, he was projected and considered to be a better prospect than Derrick RoseKevin Love is developing into a great player but he does most of the nitty-gritty work.  Rookie Wesley Johnson has the skill set to be great and he will definitely get ample amounts of playing time with this team.  Darko Milicic has ANOTHER chance and again it will be a failure.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this team finishes with less wins than they did last season.

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Top 3 Teams in Play for Carmelo Anthony

Despite the fact that the New York Knicks “were” the favorable destination for 2011’s top free agent in Carmelo Anthony it looks as though the Nuggets aren’t interested in becoming trading partners. As Sam Amico reported via Twitter this past Saturday the Nuggets will try to trade Carmelo to three teams: Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, and the New Jersey Nets.

Which team will I pick?

There’s no doubt in my mind that Melo will in fact be traded before this year’s trade deadline. For one Carmelo has pretty much painted a clear picture to the Nuggets organization that he doesn’t have much interest in signing an extension. For two Carmelo continuously speaks to the media discussing his future plans in which he recently just expressed his interest in possibly joining the Houston Rockets.

But the third and final reason has to deal with the team that currently holds the rights to their franchise player, the Denver Nuggets.  Don’t forget they have their own agenda, their own goals, their own future to look forward too, as does Anthony. I can assure you the Denver Nuggets will take notes and examine what just happened to Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers with “The Decision”. There’s no way Anthony will depart from Denver without the Nuggets receiving some valuable compensation.

While Anthony may in fact have his own preferences of teams, the Nuggets also have their own. In which case brings up a very interesting story to follow: How will the Nuggets successfully pull off a blockbuster trade to their liking?

It begins with narrowing down the teams you’re interested in doing business with and they’ve already established that in the Timberwolves, Kings, and Nets. It’s been noted all offseason long that the Denver Nuggets have been out searching for a young power forward to replace their current aging and overpaid power forwards in Nene Hilario and Kenyon Martin. Each of the three teams mentioned as Denver’s favorite trading partners can offer the ideal young power forward the Nuggets have been searching for.

Love could be the piece to bring Melo to Minny.

In Minnesota it’s Kevin Love, a young post man currently a member of the young Team USA team participating in Turkey. Love’s a player who has expressed mixed emotions upon being a member of the Timberwolves. Most recently told reporters at Team USA camp that he felt “unappreciated” by the Timberwolves organization.

Meanwhile in Sacramento, the Kings have put themselves in a great position to be attractive trading partners by having successful draft nights the past few years. They have an oversized load of young post players that show tons of potential. With the variety of different big men they’re able to offer, there’s no question they’ve got the best chance of landing Carmelo Anthony.

In New Jersey, it comes down to the vision and decision-making of new owner Mikhail Prokhorov. After Prokhorov struck out on reeling in a big name star in this year’s historic free agency, he may become impatient, and make an over-the-top offer for Anthony’s services. If he does that I can promise you he’ll be doing the Nuggets some favors (pun intended).

So let’s review each of the Nuggets’ preferred trading partners and evaluate the talent they’re willing to offer in return for Denver’s superstar. It’s important to consider that it’s not likely ANY of these trades go down without Carmelo accepting a rarely used (in mid-season) what’s called an extend-and-trade.

Each of the three teams listed will want assurance that they’re not trading young big man for a “rent-a-player”. In most trade circumstances, the NBA is not like Major League Baseball where you give away a top prospect in exchange for a star you’re unlikely to resign (cough…Brewers…cough). With that in mind, Anthony will basically have an artificial no trade clause. So in the end, can the Nuggets REALLY pull a trade off with one of the following teams? Let’s examine:

Minnesota Timberwolves: While Sacramento is clearly the favorite for Carmelo Anthony in terms of the Nuggets’ preferences, let’s not forget that for Wolves GM David Kahn it may not be tough throwing him into a deal. With the additions of Anthony Tolliver, Michael Beasley, and Darko Milicic this offseason, it’s likely Love won’t even be returning next season. The Timberwolves can offer a below average package for Anthony most likely sending Kevin Love, Corey Brewer, and probably a future first round pick that can be sweetened if Kahn makes it not lottery protected.

Favors could be the big man to bring New Jersey a big piece.

New Jersey Nets: As mentioned above, if Prokhorov does get desperate, the Nets may have a nice shot at landing Melo. Not only can they off a variety of young pieces, but New Jersey is a place that Carmelo may have interest in signing and staying long term. While the Russian man may gamble & goes all in with his young talented chips, the question that arises is if Denver is willing to gamble as well. The Nets have already come out and said they’re not willing to add Brook Lopez into any kind of deal for Anthony. So even if it sounds outrageous the Nuggets would have to acquire Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, Terrence Williams, and maybe more. If a deal anywhere close to this nature, consider it a done deal, and it could be realistic “IF” (a big “if”) Carmelo agrees to do a extend and trade scenario.

Cousins is one guy who will not be included in any deal for Melo.

Sacramento Kings: Much like the Nets, the Kings also have a ton of potential pieces. But make no mistake, the Kings may be able to offer more variety of bigs, but there’s no way they’ll be willing to include DeMarcus Cousins in any trade talk. It’s clear newly acquired Samuel Dalembert will play a big role along with Jason Thompson, Donte Greene, Carl Landry, Omri Casspi and Hassan Whiteside being potential guys sent in the proposal. The Kings would love the idea of a Tyreke-Melo-Cousins trio heading towards the future. And the Nuggets may have enough interest in Dalembert’s huge expiring contract , along with Carl Landry’s. Also, don’t rule out Omri Casspi and Kings rookie Hassan Whiteside. Casspi can fill the starting small forward position and Whiteside is a young Marcus Camby in the making (Camby won 2007 Defensive Player of the Year with Denver).

This is obviously all speculation and nobody knows what may happen this upcoming season in the high country. But I’m willing to bet NOTHING HAPPENS until at least December 15th which other newly signed free agents become available for trade. That gives plenty of other teams possibilities to get involved and who knows, maybe even the Nuggets’ preferred three teams will get together to and work out a three team trade of some sort.

Until then, take this situation for what it’s worth, embrace the hype, the hoopla, and the rumors.

NBA Playoffs Predictions Game 2’s 4-19-10

Chicago Bulls at Cleveland Cavaliers

LeBron James & The Cavs just too strong for Chicago to handle....

In my Game 1 preview post, I mentioned an important part about the Bulls rallying behind their young superstar’s guarantee of a playoff berth, that support was non-existent in the opening game of the series. Outside of Joakim Noah, no Bull was able to be effective on both ends of the floor to help out Rose. Particularly, Luol Deng needs to step up his game on the offensive end, I understand most of his energy is being spent trying to contain the league’s best player in King James but 5-15 FG & 2-5 FT just won’t cut it. Deng’s offensive production is the deciding factor in whether or not the Bulls can keep this series reasonably interesting. In all reality, Game 1 was much closer than expected and the game turned out to be one worth watching until the final buzzer. Eliminate the Cavaliers strong first quarter and the Bulls actually beat the Cavaliers by 1 point when tallying up the remaining three quarters. Not saying the Bulls are going to have even the slightest chance to win this series but it’s definitely something worth consideration. As we prepare for Game 2 there’s three points I’d like to propose that should make this matchup appealing for you to tune into on your Monday night.

  1. Shaquille O’Neal: Does he really positively affect the Cavaliers? Shaq’s effectiveness out on the floor is something worth grading yourself. To me in Game 1 he clogged the lanes on offense and his defensive transitioning is terrible which encourages Derrick Rose (one of the league’s fastest guards) to push the ball in transition. Which leads me to my next point.
  2. The One Man Show, Always Worth Watching

    Derrick Rose: Without a real shooting guard or a real post presence on offense, Rose is a dazzling one-man show. In Game 1, Rose took full advantage of transition opportunities in which allows his unmatched athleticism (at the point guard position) to be put on display. The speed, quickness, agility, balance, poise, explosiveness, handles, touch, and demeanor are all reason to watch Derrick Rose. The young superstar didn’t disappoint in the opening match.

  3. Watch the Cavs Chemistry Come Together

    Cavaliers Chemistry: I feel it’s always worthy to tune into the league’s most prime candidate to win it all. Why not watch how they’ll set the tone for the rest of the series and for the remainder of the playoffs? This is a significant time for the Cavaliers group to put it all together. Big time teams, can make adjustments on the fly in big time situations. NBA fans should be interested in watching the chemistry come together.

Cavaliers- 104 Bulls- 91

Utah Jazz at Denver Nuggets

Do the Jazz have a solution to containing Carmelo Anthony?

Losing Mehmet Okur for the remainder of the playoffs, leaves a huge hole at the center position. Without Kirlenko and Boozer already playing through a rib injury the Jazz look to be in a world of trouble down low. Paul Millsap will be relied upon heavily and will be the key to the Jazz chances of advancing. Millsap must be able to play 35-40 minutes a night and do so while avoiding foul trouble. The Nuggets would be foolish not to attack the basket early looking to go inside early and often to Kenyon Martin and Nene Hilario. If the Nuggets can remain patient before getting to trigger-happy with that long-range three ball, they can close out this series quicker than they expected. For the Jazz success, it’s hard to ask much more from star guard Deron Williams so they expectation is directly pointed towards his wing companions (Matthews, Miles, Korver). If Wesley Matthews can figure out how to contain Carmelo Anthony (who dropped 42 in Game 1), the Jazz should give more time to Kyle Korver. The Jazz must rely upon more perimeter shooting in order to preserve their big men down low and keep them out of foul trouble. Jazz looked to be in some more trouble come Game 2.

Nuggets- 117 Jazz- 102