Rudy Gay

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.

Advertisements

USA Basketball v Lithuania Recap

By Zach Silvernail

One day before the young and inexperienced USA team was set to face off against international powerhouse Spain, they geared up for what was sure to be an easy victory over Lithuania. Unfortunately, the US team proved to be exactly what we feared they were: young, inexperienced, and sorely lacking the ability to score in the paint.

Without most of these guys, new players will have to step up.

The red, white, and blue got off to a dismal start, shooting an atrocious 3-21 from the field, while committing six turnovers in only ten minutes. We looked shocked and overwhelmed by the physical play of Lithuania, and were often looking around for help from the referees after no-calls on drives to the basket. The poor first quarter was capped off by a wide open lay up blown by Rudy Gay, one of the few opportunities the US team had to get an easy bucket. At the conclusion of the first, Lithuania was in the lead 14-7.

The quality of play picked up a little bit in the second quarter, thanks in large part to a much needed spark provided by the bench, led by Russell Westbrook. By applying more ball pressure, and jumping the passing lanes, the US found themselves capitalizing on more turnovers, and creating more frequent fastbreak opportunities. But, Linas Kleiza, Lithuania’s one NBA player, carried his team through the second quarter, finishing the half with ten points. Despite playing better in the second, the US found themselves trailing by 1 at half, while still shooting only 10-34 from the field.

Despite his missed layup, the 84 Million Dollar Man did well.

At the beginning of the second half, we finally began to assert ourselves. Behind the leadership of Kevin Durant, the US team started to work more cohesively on the offensive side of the ball, and slowly began to build a little cushion. The surprising play of Eric Gordon and Russell Westbrook off the bench played an enormous role in propelling the otherwise sluggish US squad. Both guards were able to penetrate at will, as well as knock down the three. Heading into the fourth with an eight point lead, one could sense it was only a matter of time before the US pulled away.

And that is exactly what they did. The team started off the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run, essentially putting the game out of reach. As the final buzzer sounded, the scoreboard read 77-61 in favor of the USA, a score that wasn’t exactly indicative of how close the game was. Kevin Durant led the team with 15 points, although he shot poorly from the field and disappeared in many other aspects of the game. Rudy Gay played solid all the way through, finishing with 14 points, while Westbrook added 12, and Gordon added 9.

Probably the most worrisome of the many US struggles against Lithuania is that the Lithuanians appeared to be a team tailormade for the US to blow out. With little to no skill or experience at the guard position for Lithuania, it was assumed the the heavily guard loaded USA team would quickly take advantage of their opponent. Also, with no effective inside presence for Lithuania, the US should’ve been able to hide what is supposed to be our achilles heel: lack of size. But, their gritty guards and forwards continued to get in the lane, and converted on too many easy lay ups.

A Gasol without a neckbeard? Impossible. A Gasol that could give the US problems? Definitely.

These are two areas of particular concern heading into the game vs. Spain tomorrow. With great guard play in the extremely reliable and sure-handed Jose Calderon, as well as Ricky Rubio off the bench, it will be difficult to rattle and frustrate the two. Even more frightening is the fact that Spain actually has a true, low-post power in Marc Gasol. Gasol is much bigger than Tyson Chandler, and is very skilled around the basket. To beat the Spanish tomorrow, the US will have to get their veteran guards out of their comfort zone, and slow down the much bigger, more physical Spanish big men. Hopefully the US comes out more prepared than today, for such a performance will not produce the same result against Spain.

Top 10 Poster-ers

By: Zach Silvernial (OTC Contributor)

The OuttaTownClowns would like to welcome Zach Silvernail to the blog, we’re happy to announce he’s the newest edition to our growing blog. Zach will primarily focus on contributing to our NCAA Basketball and NBA content on the page. Along with his well-written work, Zach has a great knowledge and high level understanding of the game at both the collegiate and pro levels of play. But don’t take us from us, follow his work on our blog and you’ll see for yourself. Without further ado, I bring you Zach’s debut post on the OTC…Enjoy!

There is nothing more exciting, and often times amusing, than watching a guy get dunked on. With so many incredible athletes now in the NBA, it’s something that seems to happen almost every game. Nothing gets a crowd going, a bench going, and most importantly a player going like taking off full speed, going body to body, and putting his you-know-what in an opponent’s face. If you’re not too familiar with the term “getting postered”, ask Shawn Bradley to describe it to you. I’m almost positive that’s what his role was throughout his stint in the NBA. Or ask guys like Stromile SwiftJames White, or Gerald Green…who only got to the NBA because of their high flying ability. But, before you escape to YouTube, allow me to present the list:

The Kobe Bryant Mini-Fro Days....

10. Kobe Bryant
I know, I know. He’s getting older now, and does a lot less high flying than he did during his mini-fro days, but he is still one of the more explosive and acrobatic players in the league. Don’t think so? Dare you to tell him otherwise.

9. Derrick Rose
Talk about a FREAK athlete. Rose is one of the most, if not the most explosive two-foot jumpers in the NBA. He might not belong in the top 10 based on his quantity of posters, but certainly for his quality and capability. Goran, what were you thinking?

One of the best dunks in All-Star Weekend's history

8. Andre Iguodala
Following in the footsteps of former Wildcat high-flyer Richard Jefferson, “Iggy” comes in at number 8. With deceptively long arms, incredible athleticism, and an underrated array of dunks (as illustrated in his dunk contest appearances)…Andre had to make the list.

7. Russell Westbrook
This guy might be my favorite one on the list. He became known for his ability as a youngster at UCLA, and has continued to humble opponents in the NBA. One of the top five quickest and fastest players in the league, he is beyond dangerous in the open floor.

6. Rudy Gay
Now the ranking becomes a little bit more difficult. It’s hard to put Rudy as low as number 6, but he has about 84 million reasons to make himself feel better. Almost impossible to stop above the rim because of his length, and probably best known for his always fully extended, and picture perfect windmill.

"Mr. Tolliver, will you sign my poster?"

5. Amar’e Stoudemire
Amare is certainly one of the most ferocious and powerful dunkers on the list. He may not always have the most “spectacular” posters, but he seems to have about a million every year. His number of dunks might go down without “Stevie” to thread the needle this year, but he’ll still manage to embarrass a few opponents and their families. Somewhere Anthony Tolliver is tweeting: “SMH”.

4. Dwayne Wade
Alright, now it’s almost impossible. Having to put maybe my favorite player at 4 was not easy, but the top 3 are too good. “DW3” is as relentless as anyone when it comes to taking the ball to the rack, and epitomizes the clique: “attacking the rim with reckless abandon”. Just ask Anderson Varejao.

3. Josh Smith
“J-Smoov” needs no introduction. Only fitting that he would play for the Hawks. Probably the only guy capable of filling out all Top 10 plays on SportsCenter in one night. He’ll pin you at one end and then catch a lob on the other. Always fun to watch.

2. Dwight Howard
Superman comes in at number 2 strictly because it happens so often. Had the list been called Most Likely To Dunk on You…Dwight would probably be number 1. Not only one of the most incredible athletes currently in the NBA, but of all time.

Back When D-Wade Was "A Witness", No Wonder He Wanted To Unite

1. LeBron James
Are you surprised? Possesses every possible attribute of a good poster-er. Size, speed, strength, quickness, jumping ability. You name it, he’s got it. Well, except for a ring.

Well, that concludes my list. But, before I go, just want to give a shout-out to the All Underrated Poster Squad: Will Bynum, Ronnie Price, Von Wafer, Shannon Brown, Dahntay Jones, Chase Budinger, Rodney Carney, Trevor Ariza.

Follow Zach on Twitter: @love4thegame3


Ross Geiger’s NBA Mock Draft 3.0

1. Washington Wizards- John Wall, Kentucky

Oh how a year changes things.

2. Philadelphia 76ers- Evan Turner, Ohio State

3. New Jersey Nets- Wesley Johnson, Syracuse

4. Minnesota Timberwolves- Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

5. Sacramento Kings- DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky

6. Golden State Warriors- Ekpe Udoh, Baylor

7. Detroit Pistons- Ed Davis, North Carolina

8. Los Angeles Clippers- Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

9. Utah Jazz- Luke Babbit, Nevada

10. Indiana Pacers- Greg Monroe, Georgetown

11. New Orleans Hornets- Gordon Hayward, Butler

12. Memphis Grizzlies- Paul George, Fresno State

13. Toronto Raptors- Cole Aldrich, Kansas

14. Houston Rockets- Patrick Patterson, Kentucky

15. Milwaukee Bucks- Xavier Henry, Kansas

16. Minnesota Timberwolves- Lance Stephenson, Cincinnati

17. Chicago Bulls- Avery Bradley, Texas

18. Oklahoma City Thunder- Damian James, Texas

19. Boston Celtics- James Anderson, Oklahoma State

20. San Antonio Spurs- Craig Brackens, Iowa State

21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Kevin Seraphin, France

22. Portland Trail Blazers- Hassan Whiteside, Marshall

23. Minnesota Timberwolves- Larry Sanders, VCU

24. Atlanta Hawks- Solomon Alabi, Florida State

Kentucky is well represented in the 1st round.

25. Memphis Grizzlies- Daniel Orton, Kentucky

26. Oklahoma City Thunder- Elliot Williams, Memphis

27. New Jersey Nets- Jordan Crawford, Xavier

28. Memphis Grizzlies- Dominique Jones, South Florida

29. Orlando Magic- Devin Ebanks, West Virginia

30. Washington Wizards- Quincy Pondexter, Washington

31. New Jersey Nets- Keith “Tiny” Gallon, Oklahoma

32. Miami Heat- Gani Lawal, Georgia Tech

33. Sacramento Kings- Ryan Richards, England

34. Portland Trail Blazers- Stanley Robinson, UConn

35. Washington Wizards- Willie Warren, Oklahoma

36. Detroit Pistons- Eric Bledsoe, Kentucky

37. Milwaukee Bucks- Jarvis Varnado, Mississppi State

38. New York Knicks- Terrico White, Mississppi

39. New York Knicks- Trevor Booker, Clemson

40. Indiana Pacers- Da’Sean Butler, West Virginia

Butler was the heart of WVU, and he now goes to the city where Butler University plays ball. Coincidence??? Yes.

41. Miami Heat- Armon Johnson, Nevada

42. Miami Heat- Dexter Pittman, Texas

43. Los Angeles Lakers- Greivis Vasquez, Maryland

44. Milwaukee Bucks- Samardo Samuels, Louisville

45. Minnesota Timberwolves- Nemanja Bjelica, Serbia

46. Phoenix Suns- Thomas Heurtel- France

47. Milwaukee Bucks- Dwyane Collins, Miami

48. Miami Heat- Tibor Pleiss, Germany

Radford is also represented...

49. San Antonio Spurs- Art Parakhouski, Radford

50. Dallas Mavericks- Latavious Williams, USA (D-League)

51. Oklahoma City Thunder- Derrick Caracter, UTEP

52. Boston Celtics- Manny Harris, Michigan

53. Atlanta Hawks- Sylven Landesberg, Virginia

54. Los Angeles Clippers- Sherron Collins, Kansas

55. Utah Jazz- Jon Scheyer, Duke

56. Minnesota Timberwolves- Artem Zabelin, Russia

Looks like Kahn is going to steal Zabelin from Prokorhov

57. Indiana Pacers- Ben Uzoh, Tulsa

58. Los Angeles Lakers- Alexey Shved, Russia

59. Orlando Magic- Mikhail Torrance, Alabama

60. Phoenix Suns- Lazar Hayward, Marquette

Hey, Phoenix! DRAFT ME!!!!!!!!

Ross Geiger’s NBA Mock Draft 2.0

With the 2010 NBA Draft  just 2 weeks away, I give you my updated NBA Mock Draft 2.0. A lot has changed since my first mock draft: NBA Draft Combine was held, team scheduled workouts are underway, and player evaluations have improved. For the past two weeks, I’ve been staying up on my research of the top prospects: from their completed workouts, interested teams, to all the rumors. From everything I’ve compiled through the web, daily newspapers, magazines, and of course my own sources here’s how I feel this year’s NBA Draft will shakedown if the draft were to be held tomorrow. Enjoy!

1. Wizards- This pick is going nowhere, John Wall will be a Washington Wizard next season, I can assure you that.

Selection: John Wall, Kentucky

2. 76ers- As I mentioned in my mock draft, the 76ers aren’t 100% certain they’ll hold onto this pick. There’s definitely a possibility that the #2 pick could be sent away if I the trading partner is willing to take on Elton Brand and his long-term contract. Unless Brand is included in a deal, I see Philly keeping the pick, don’t see them involving Iguodala unless they’ll receive a high 1st round pick in return.

Selection: Evan Turner, Ohio State

3. Nets- There has been some outside interest from around the league regarding their 3rd pick in this year’s draft but as of now don’t expect any deals involving the pick to happen.

Selection:  Derrick Favors, Georgia Tech

That's Right DeMarcus, you're draft stock is rising

4. Minnesota Timberwolves- Minnesota is all but satisfied with this pick and are exploring their options on moving up as well as out of the draft with their fourth pick. With two other first round picks in this year’s draft, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get rid of the 4th pick if the right deal was on the table. The fourth pick is definitely available to all teams, if the price is right. If they don’t move the pick, I now see the Timberwolves selecting DeMarcus Cousins here at #3. Many would scratch their head to where exactly he fits in, but let’s not forget the Wolves kept surprising us last year, stocking up with point guards in each of their three first-round picks. They shipped off one of them in Ty Lawson and I see the selection of Cousins allowing them to ship off either Kevin Love or Al Jefferson (the more likely to be moved).

Selection: DeMarcus Cousins, Kentucky

5. Sacramento Kings- Each year it seems like nobody has a clue what the Kings organization has up their sleeve on draft night and once again the NBA world is kept pondering their options here. What I can tell you is that the Sacramento Kings have no interest in trading this pick. The question that remains unknown is whether or not they’d select Greg Monroe over DeMarcus Cousins. While Cousins is regarded as the player with most potential, Monroe is the safe pick who reminds Sac-Town of a young Chris Webber. I see Sacramento not rolling any dice and taking the safe pick with Monroe.

Selection: Greg Monroe, Georgetown

A sign & trade deal could point Wesley Johnson in a different direction come July

6. Golden State Warriors- If Wesley Johnson falls to the Warriors here at #6, there’s no chance they’ll pass him up. But I’m going to throw you a Oakland-like Zito curve ball to ponder, could the Phoenix Suns do a sign-and-trade Amare Stoudemire to Golden State in exchange for Wesley Johnson. No truth behind this happening, but I like the proposition. Amare gets his max contract with a good fit in Golden State, while the Suns get a nice piece to move towards the future with, just saying.

Selection: Wesley Johnson, Syracuse

7. Detroit Pistons- While the Pistons have been reportedly aggressively trying to move up into the 4-5 range, I just don’t see it happening unless they strike a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves. I wouldn’t have the slightest idea what the Pistons would be willing to offer and what the Timberwolves would be willing to accept but I’d say Rodney Stuckey and/or Tayshaun Prince would be included in any deal. If Detroit doesn’t deal, expect them to take Al-Farouq Aminu. He’s a young, up and coming small forward that allows them to continue to shop Tayshaun Prince who they’re more than willing to get off their hands.

Selection: Al-Farouq Aminu, Wake Forest

8. Los Angeles Clippers-Lots of hype around the Web say the Clippers are hot on Gordon Haywood and that isn’t a surprise to me. He’s versatile, he’s a winner, and could pan out to be a great pick, even here as high as eight. I find their interest in Hayward comical because I see a lot of Mike Dunleavy in Gordon Hayward as an NBA prospect. Hayward will definitely be mentioned inside the Clippers draft room when on the clock but in the end I see them passing on him and going with Xavier Henry instead.

Selection: Xavier Henry, Kansas

9. Utah Jazz- ESPN’s Chad Ford wrote that the Utah Jazz have been high on Luke Babbit longer than most and they’ve continue to remain high on his potential. But do I really see them using their 9th pick on Babbit? Absolutely not, maybe this is just my own bias here, being that I’m not high on Babbitt as a top ten pick, but I see the Jazz going power forward. They know they’re losing Carlos Boozer this summer so why not go with a power forward with high potential to back-up the new starting power forward in Utah, Paul Millsap? I see Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz taking none other than Ed Davis as big with a high potential and basketball intellect.

Selection: Ed Davis, North Carolina

10. Indiana Pacers- Maybe the scenario is too perfect but if Gordon Hayward is still on the board, we all know the talk will be how in the world could Indiana pass up on him? I see them buying into the idea of selecting him for a variety of reasons. Not only will he help sell seats and be a great fit building toward the future, but it gives the Pacers the ability to unload Danny Granger. I remain high on the idea that the Timberwolves will strike out in snagging restricted free agent Rudy Gay and will elect to trade for Danny Granger. Pacers then get either Kevin Love or Al Jefferson in return which replaces departing free agent Troy Murphy (after next year) and they’re future finally gets on the right track.

Selection: Gordon Hayward, Butler

N.O. could be a perfect fit especially as Whiteside draws the Tyson Chandler comparisons

11. New Orleans Hornets- The Hornets could go any direction outside of drafting a point guard at the eleventh position. But of all their immediate needs, I see them selecting a center with this pick. With Okafor everything but impressive in his first season with the Hornets, it’d be wise that they take the opportunity to draft a big man to develop. If there was a time to do it, the time is now. This year’s draft at pick #11 offers a variety of attractive centers that could potentially blossom into stars. The three top candidates for this pick if they decide to look inside would be Cole Aldrich, Hassan Whiteside, and Daniel Orton. Though it’s pretty clear that Aldrich is the most NBA-ready center to step right in to contribute I see the Hornets drafting on overall potential and athleticism. With that being said, I see New Orleans taking Hassan Whiteside, a prospect often compared to Tyson Chandler type player around the basket. Last time I checked, Chris Paul played pretty well with the real Tyson Chandler, maybe Whiteside can tandem to do much of the same down the road. But there is some definite concern, it has been reported that Hassan Whiteside and Daniel Orton both got schooled recently by Rockets center (& former Hornet draftee) Hilton Armstrong, take it for what it’s worth. I know that hearing that kind of concerns me, but I’m still a buyer on Whiteside’s potential.

Selection: Hassan Whiteside, Marshall

12. Memphis Grizzlies- I don’t hear much drift out of the Memphis Grizzlies camp but credible sources around the league have said that the Grizzlies are set on selecting Luke Babbitt if he happens to fall into their hands at twelve. Personally, I don’t like the pick nor Babbitt as an NBA prospect, but this is the same team that drafted Hasheem Thabeet 2nd overall last year.

Selection: Luke Babbitt, Nevada

How is he not a perfect fit in Toronto if he falls to them at #13? Can he play for the Maple Leafs too?

13. Toronto Raptors- With Chris Bosh departing, drafting a power forward is a must for the Toronto Raptors this year.  Or do they? Last year Toronto signed their former first pick Andrea Bargnani to a 5 year, $50 million dollar extension. If Cole Aldrich is still on the board, I see them picking him in a heartbeat; they’d not only select the most NBA-ready talent, but add toughness at the center position. This selection is also key in allowing Bargnani to move over to the starting power forward position. Obviously losing Bosh will be a huge loss, but having the ability to take Aldrich with the 13th pick should help Raptor fans restore some sort of optimism looking towards the future.

Selection: Cole Aldrich, Kansas

14. Houston Rockets- Even after acquiring Jordan Hill near the deadline last season, the Rockets need to invest in drafting another power forward to turn too next year. I see their man being Ekpe Udoh at #14. Udoh bring the long, defensive minded power forward they’d love to have down low. Never underestimate Rockets GM Darryl Morey and his “numbers” system, Udoh might solve his math problem with what to do at the 14th pick.

Selection: Ekpe Udoh, Baylor

15. Milwaukee Bucks- If all goes as planned in this mock draft, the Bucks are left scratching their heads on what to do here with this pick. All of their favorite prospects have been taken, not one of them has slid down to them at the midway point of the draft. Even I, as someone who covers the Milwaukee Bucks am left confused on what to do here with Ed Davis, Hassan Whiteside, and Xavier Henry off the board. So I see them taking the best available player which at this point is easily Paul George. While George is labeled a small forward, I think the Bucks would experiment with placing George at the shooting guard position since it’s such a slight change as far as the Milwaukee Bucks offense is concerned. George could very well end up being a blessing in disguise for the Brew City, could it be two straight years of successful draft picks for the Milwaukee Bucks?! We’ll have to wait and see….

Selection: Paul George, Fresno State

Ross Geiger’s 2010 NBA Mock Draft

2010 NBA Mock Draft (1 Month before Draft Day)

Wall definitely holds all the "Wizardry" that's needed to become a star in the NBA

1. Washington Wizards- John Wall

One of the most hyped up draft picks in recent history, John Wall has a lot challenges awaiting him in D.C., but behind the luck of Mr. Abe Polin’s championship ring Wall is everything the Wizards organization could ever ask for. Skills aside, his marketability alone will help change the face and image of the Wizards’ franchise as it moves forward from their past nightmare of a season. While I feel as though, Wall maybe a little overhyped, my only concern with his development are those influences around him. Being so young is great, but the Wizards must keep a close eye out on Wall, keeping him on his steady path towards being successful. Wall in Washington offers a variety of challenges on and off the basketball court, hopefully he can keep a level head, stay smart, and can continually grow as a professional. With Gilbert Arenas and Josh Howard on board, the smartest thing the Wizards could do is go grab a long-time veteran point guard that can lead Wall by example. A great example of this can be seen with the Chicago Bulls going out and grabbing Lindsay Hunter when the Bulls drafted Derrick Rose, a player Wall is often compared too.

This Year's National Player of the Year

2. Philadelphia 76ers- Evan Turner

It’ll be interesting to see what shakes down next season in Philly. Turner very well could be the key to the 76ers being able to make some trades. Many are already pondering whether or not Turner and Andre Iguodala can coexist together. While I think they can definitely work together I wouldn’t be surprised to see Philly keeping Iguodala out on the trading block. One team that really stands out as a possible trading partner would be the Memphis Grizzlies. If the Grizzlies are unable to resign Rudy Gay, they may be interested in acquiring Iguodala, a player so similar to Gay that it wouldn’t be a completely change in offensive strategies next year in Memphis. The 76ers can’t go wrong with drafting Turner, from his overall potential to the decisions he immediately allows the franchise to make, this great situation for both Turner and the 76ers.

3. New Jersey Nets- Derrick Favors

So what if the New Jersey Nets weren’t rewarded with the first overall pick for their horrendous play last season, this very well could be a blessing in disguise. Drafting Derrick Favors is the best fit for New Jersey anyways. Drafting Wall would’ve led to having to make a tough decision on Devin Harris’s future with the franchise, Favors on the other hand, helps them avoid the unneeded headache. He’ll compliment Brook Lopez very well and gives them a drastic improvement at the power forward position. For Favors there’s not a better situation available, if all goes as planned he should be a starter from jump. He’ll be given plenty of minutes and will have the chance to gain valuable exposure and experience; Nets fans should be looking forward to the progression he’ll make immediately. Looking down the road, I like Yi Jianlian being my sixth man off the bench, a foreigner whose not always consistent but should be much better off not having to deal with as much expectations. Derrick will do both the Nets and Yi a big Favor (pun intended) even as a rookie.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves- Wesley Johnson

With the Timberwolves under the leadership of General Manager David Kahn, you never quite know what to expect on draft night as we all found out this past year. Despite what many mock drafts around the Web suggest, I’m not so sure the Timberwolves take Johnson here. Even before NBA draft workouts, my gut tells me not to count out the Timberwolves selecting DeMarcus Cousins. Whether or not Kahn decides to pull the trigger on Cousins depends on how patient he’s willing to be. Earlier this past season, the Timberwolves and Pacers came extremely close on deal that would’ve sent Al Jefferson to Indiana in exchange for Danny Granger. Cousins is often compared to Al Jefferson in terms of size and abilities. It’s not out of the question that Kahn selects Cousins, then attempts to pull the deal for Granger offering up Al Jefferson and Corey Brewer. This trade would immediately improve both teams, the only road block that may stand in the way is Pacers forward Troy Murphy. But for the Timberwolves, adding Cousins and Granger instantaneously makes them no laughing matter next season. Don’t forget that the sooner the Timberwolves become successful, the sooner Ricky Rubio may decide it’s time make the move over to the join the team. But that’s a lot of speculation on my part and until the draft talk continues to heat up I’ll stand pat with the majority of mock drafts and take Wesley Johnson here at number four.

Whichever team takes Cousins must monitor the amount of times he calls to order pizza

5. Sacramento Kings- DeMarcus Cousins

The last thing the Sacramento Kings need is another young big man, but unfortunately for them, the best players availiable are in face big men. Sac-Town will choose between taking DeMarcus Cousins or Greg Monroe here at five. With the Maloof brothers all to familiar with gambling owning their luxurious Palms hotel in Las Vegas, I got to say they’ll go with Cousins. His definitely the risky selection but I see his overall potential too hard to pass up. As Jason Thompson continues to develop, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to take Greg Monroe here, even when he’s by far the safest pick. You cannot have Thompson coming off your bench, especially now that they have sixth man of the year candidate Carl Landry after the trade with Houston. If Cousins can live up to his potential, stay in shape, and improve his game the it’s scary to envision what Sacramento’s future may have in store with the combination of Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.

6. Golden State Warriors- Greg Monroe

Monroe has arguably has the highest basketball IQ out of all the projected lottery picks. After snagging the very intelligent basketball player in Stephen Curry in last year’s draft, it makes perfect sense to put Monroe alongside their future point guard. The two would work very well together, having too very young and wise talents inside and outside. If Anthony Randolph can bounce back from injury, the Warriors future big three can consist of Curry, Randolph, and Monroe.

7. Detroit Pistons- Cole Aldrich

The Pistons desperately need a big man and Cole Adrich is the next best option left on the board once Cousins and Monroe are off the board. A good shot blocker, Aldrich can continue to help Detroit basketball have a strong defensive presence down low. This year the Pistons went with Ben Wallace as their starting center and Big Ben has just never been the same since deciding to leave Detroit to sign with Chicago a few years back. Aldrich is Mo-Town’s new future at the center position.

8. Los Angeles Clippers- Al-Farouq Aminu

Considering that the Clippers traded away Al Thornton, it makes me feel much better predicting them to take Aminu here at number seven. I realize they have Travis Outlaw and I’d fully expect him to fulfill the team’s starting role, but Aminu will be their work in progress. I see Aminu being a instant energy guy coming off the Clipper bench next season and a guy you can count on taking over in the next couple years to go along with Blake Griffin

9. Utah Jazz- Patrick Patterson

With the likely departure of Carlos Boozer, Patterson would be a nice addition to the Jazz young core group of guys. The Jazz main concern will be his ability to knock down the open mid-range jump shots that are very important in the two-man game with Deron Williams. But Patterson’s lack of a NBA ready jumpshot should be the least of Utah’s concerns, he posses a lot of intangibles you just can’t teach. He has soft hands and even more importantly a high basketball IQ, something that will go a long way with Head Coach Jerry Sloan.

The Pacers most likely regret trading away Jerryd Bayles, their 2008 draft pick, Bradley has the same type of game as Bayless

10. Indiana Pacers- Avery Bradley

While Xavier Henry most likely is the best player availiable on the board, they Pacers don’t need another shooting guard, they need somebody to fill the void at the point guard position. Bradley isn’t close to ready to handle the starting duties, but can be immediate spark plug the Pacers are missing. One of the worst defensive teams in the NBA, Avery won’t help them improve in that department but in the NBA if you cannot play defense, you can always try to out score opponents. Avery has a knack for putting the ball in the basket and can contribute some points off the bench.

11. New Orleans Hornets- Xavier Henry

The New Orleans Hornets had a very successful draft night last year, adding Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton both whom raised eyebrows throughout the league with their rookie season performances. Henry is a deadly shooter who can do all the things Morris Peterson isn’t able to do anymore. This young prospect has the size and strength to play both the shooting guard and the small forward position which is extremely valuable to the Hornets. Next season they’ll look to play point guards Paul and Collison at the same time and being able to place Henry in that small forward can help both of the Hornets’ penetrating point guards tally up some assists with his perimeter game.

12. Memphis Grizzlies- Paul George

The issue isn’t whether or not Rudy Gay decides to stay because George will be a work in progress throughout his entire rookie season. But his upside is worthy of being selected at number 12. He’s long, athletic, and has a quick release on his shot. If selected by the Grizzlies, he may find a few spots minutes to prove his rookie worth but don’t expect to see him out on the floor much more than Suns fans saw Earl Clark this season.

13. Toronto Raptors- Donatas Motiejunas

With Chris Bosh leaving soon, the Raptors definitely need to add a big man here. Though Ed Davis and Ekpe Udoh remain on the board, I see Bryan Colangelo intrigued by the Motiejunas who has all the potential to make him a steal at pick 13. Always the biggest concern with young international players is whether or not they’ll be able to fully transition their games to the NBA style of play. In Toronto, Motiejunas has best chance to transition his game moderately fast with a team consisting of many international sensations with the likes of Jose Calderon, Hedo Turkoglu, Marco Belinelli, and Andrea Bargnani (the player Motiejunas is often compared to).

Whiteside's Size & Length is Unmatched

14. Houston Rockets- Hassan Whiteside

Unfortunately it looks as though my favorite draft prospect won’t be available when it comes time for the Milwaukee Bucks to be on the clock. The Houston Rockets would get a steal here if Whiteside happens to fall into their laps at 14. I start salivating just hearing the comparisons of Whiteside being a young, raw talent that is comparable to Marcus Camby. He would be a good fit in Houston due in large part that he won’t be expected to contribute much his rookie season. So if you’re an NBA fan looking to catch a glimpse of Whiteside, get to the game when the gates open up one and half hours before game time, you can be sure he’ll be putting in a lot of work in pregame workouts. If Whiteside pans out to be just 70% of the player he has the potential to become, this selection will be well worth it.

15. Milwaukee Bucks- Ed Davis

While I’d love to see Bucks General Manager John Hammond and the Bucks attempt to trade up for the rights to Hassan Whiteside, I see them ultimately sticking with their pick here at 15. That pick is looking like it’ll be Ed Davis, the power forward out of North Carolina. My favorite description of Davis can be seen on NBADraft.net where these words fall under his strengths section: “live” legs, high motor, excellent touch, and tremendous footwork for his age. Then one last description on Davis drops louder than a bomb in the eyes of anybody who understand the Milwaukee Bucks team mentality: He “does not have a superstar attitude, he has a workman’s approach to the game that is refreshing to see.” The Bucks will love every bit of that characteristic, the thought of developing two gym rats in Brandon Jennings at point and Ed Davis down low could definitely be something to look forward to in the future.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves- Ekpe Udoh

Udoh can help add to the Timberwolves strength down low. He’s a tremendous shot blocker and should end being more of a defensive minded player in the NBA. Udoh could learn a lot practicing with Kevin Love and Al Jefferson on a daily basis.

Anderson's Stroke is a Thing of Beauty from the Outside

17. Chicago Bulls- James Anderson

Could end up being of the better steals in the draft if he does slide past the lottery picks. Anderson brings the outside shooting presence that the Bulls lacked all season long from the perimeter. Don’t sleep on the Big 12 player of the year who averaged 22.3 points last season, he offers a lot of upside, and would fit in nicely in Chicago.

18. Miami Heat- Damion James

Considering that Heat only have five players under contract next season, the possibilities at this pick are endless. The Heat’s hope is to sign a big name PF/C and hope to also persuade Dwyane Wade to remain with them as well. So I’d see the Heat looking to add a small forward with high energy. Big 12 Conference’s all time leading rebounder fits the profile and is one of the more athletically gifted talents available in this draft. The Heat wouldn’t go wrong with taking James here at 18, even when many NBA analysts may find this a little too high for James.

19. Boston Celtics- Larry Sanders

Who knows how many more seasons Kevin Garnett’s knees can handle. Sanders is a very late bloomer who never played organized basketball until the 10th grade. A very strong defensive player, Sanders could learn a lot from of the best defensive power forwards in the business in Garnett. He has a lot of room for growth and could end becoming a very solid player in this league.

Hayward may rock a very similar black and silver jersey soon in San Antonio

20. San Antonio Spurs- Gordon Hayward

Though I must say it’s hard picturing Hayward in a Spurs uniform, I think he’d be a nice pick here at 20 for the Spurs. He provide a little bit of everything and could potentially be a huge boost of the Spurs bench. With Richard Jefferson, all but impressive after his first year with the Spurs, Hayward might find a fair amount of time to play. If I’m Gregg Popovich, I love having to young talents in Hayward and DeJuan Blair to turn too off the bench.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder- Luke Babbitt

We’ll just have to wait and see how Babbitt’s future pans out in the NBA but if it’s anything like it’s projected to be, the Thunder have find another great piece that fits with their future. Babbitt at 6’9 is a lethal shooter with the ability to play both the small forward and power forward positions. For his own sake, he better prepare to play the power forward position with Kevin Durant occupying the majoring of the small forward minutes. Realistically, if Babbit lands in Oklahoma City I see him being a bonafide sixth man that could potentially be a sixth man award candidate down the road.

22. Portland Trail Blazers- Kevin Seraphin

It’d be silly for Portland to even consider any prospect outside of the power forward and center positions. With their luck with injuries, they could always improve their support system down in the paint. The popular options here are Solomon Alabi and Daniel Orton, but I see Blazers General Manager Kevin Pritchard taking his chances on Kevin Seraphin, the young product out of France. Already having Nicolas Batum on board, Seraphin would have French companion to help aid his adjustment to the NBA if the Blazers decide to bring him over to play next season. Seraphin’s upside is worth the gamble as the first round gets into it’s later selections.

There's No Debate: Stephenson Definitely Has the Size

23. Minnesota Timberwolves- Lance Stephenson

Once again you must pop the question, do you go best player available or do you go immediate needs? I see the Timberwolves opting against taking the best player available (either Orton or Alabi) and rather choosing a shooting guard. Heading into the NBA Draft Combine I would’ve put Elliot Williams ahead of Lance Stephenson in my rankings, but after missing the NBA Draft Combine due to injury, Stephenson jumps him in my book. It was very costly time to get injured and allowing teams to get a look at you in the pivotal pre-draft camp is so important for anyone’s draft stock. But in the long term, Stephenson is the more promising player of the two shooting guards, he’s got an NBA ready body who’s a guy that needed one more year of college to fully blossom. Depending on what happens during free agency, Stephenson may have a outside chance of starting next season for the Timberwolves if they’re willing to endure another long losing season.

24. Atlanta Hawks- Willie Warren

The Hawks have so many questions left unanswered at the shooting guard position, what will all pan out with Joe Johnson? Nobody has the slightest idea but the chances of Atlanta holding onto him looks all but promising. With that being said, they need to look at drafting a shooting guard with this pick. I see Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford becoming the Hawks starting shooting guard next season so he’ll need a backup. Warren has an NBA ready body and has the offensive skills to be a highly productive scorer in the future. He’s a very interesting prospect who was listed as a lottery pick in many mock drafts before last season.

25. Memphis Grizzlies- Daniel Orton

Both Orton and his agent will finally be relieved to know he’ll be coming off the board in the first round after being a guy who fell way past where he’s currently projected to be drafted (in the high teens). This is a great pickup by the Grizzlies here with the 25th pick and Orton hopefully can develop his game having to defend Zach Randolph each day in practice.

26. Oklahoma City Thunder- Armon Johnson

Not very well known, Johnson could very well be a big sleeper in this year’s draft class. He’s quick and crafty which could be the perfect player to back up Russell Westbrook. While Eric Maynor will still find his own opportunities to find minutes at the backup point guard slot, Johnson will give him a run for his money next season.

27. New Jersey Nets- Solomon Alabi

His size alone is very intriguing, but he’s a work in progress. If the Nets are willing to gamble, stay patient then this is a wise pick with Alabi being one of the best available here at 27. If not, expect the Nets to go get a better-known college player like Devin Ebanks.

Wait is that John Wall? No folks, that's the 6'1 Eric Bledsoe

28. Memphis Grizzlies- Eric Bledsoe

He was very much hidden behind the play of John Wall last season with Kentucky and I definitely feel Bledsoe may be one the this year’s best keep late first round secrets. He’s very athletic and has the strength that allows him to absorb contact while finishing around the rim. Nice backup to Mike Conley next season and he could potentially take over Conley’s starting job in the coming years.

29. Orlando Magic- Elliot Williams

This highly explosive young shooting guard needs to improve his perimeter shooting, but has the leaping ability you just can’t teach. A year under the wing of Vince Carter could really benefit Williams during his rookie season and it’s worth the Magic taking him here this late in the first round.

30. Washington Wizards- Gani Lawal

Much like Eric Bledsoe, Lawal was hidden behind Derrick Favors this past year at Georgia Tech. While still raw, Lawal has a lot of potential to become solid down the road. Wizards need some help in the frontcourt and Lawal is the best available.

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