Spencer Hawes

NBA Draft Recap 2011

Are you blown away by yesterday’s draft?!?! Yeah, me either, but hey, that’s alright. We had a couple trades, a few interesting picks and a glut of guys who will end up mediocre NBA players getting one step closer to employment, at least for a little bit. We will touch all the bases of the guys who made news, the trades, the steals, the busts, the winners and the losers. And go!

The Trades

Milwaukee-Sacramento-Charlotte Ménage à trois

Bucks Get:
Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, 19th pick from Bobcats (Tobias Harris), Beno Udrih from Kings
Bobcats Get:
Corey Maggette from Bucks, 7th pick from Kings (Bismack Biyombo)
Kings  Get:
John Salmons and 10th pick from Bucks (Jimmer Fredette)

I am biased as a guy who sees a lots of Bucks basketball, but I love this trade for the Bucks. Corey Maggette was a complete drain on that team with his ball-stopping on offense and remarkably bad defense. Even with all those free throws, he was a negative influence on that team. John Salmons was a great Bucks player once upon a time, but that time is over now. Just like his previous stops, the second year of Salmons was a complete letdown, especially in comparison to his first year where he led the charging Bucks to the brink of the 2nd round of the playoffs. Add to this the contract situation with both of these guys, which was ugly to say the least, and everything leaving the organization should be viewed as a positive. Stephen Jackson should be a great leader on a team that seems to lack leadership at times, and can help score the ball (like Maggette while still playing solid defense and being a leader (unlike Maggette). Stephen Jackson and Scott Skiles is going to be one of those weird marriages that just works, assuming Skiles sticks around. Beno Udrih is no superstar, but he is a more-than-capable backup that might remind fans of Luke Ridnour. Livingston is an alright guy to take a flyer on too, and the better news is that it almost definitely means Keyon Dooling getting traded, who I am not a fan of. The Bucks ended up taking Tobias Harris with the 19th pick, who will (insert awesome Arrested Development joke here).

I did not like it for the Kings initially, but I liked what they turned it into. I am not sure how thrilled Sacramento will be to see Salmons again. The following comment was a top comment on a Sactown Royalty thread:

The Sacramento Kings fanbase isn’t happy with the re-acquisition of John Salmons. They would have rather collectively burned out their eyelids with a series of matches then watch Salmons dribble the ball into the floor.  -user VenomySnicket

Yup, think that captures the essence of it. If not, try this. However, I loved what they did with the Jimmer pick, especially with Paul Westphal running the show. Westphal has a run and gun background and with a lineup of Jimmer, Tyreke, Salmons, Cousins/Thompson, and Dalembert, potentially playing Cousins and Thompson side by side, you can run and score all day, which would at least give the tortured Sacramento fans some entertainment value. If Jimmer can learn to play off-the-ball a little, he and Tyreke can be a fantastic pairing in the backcourt. If nothing else, they will be a lot of fun.

I do not love it for the Bobcats, because I really dislike Maggette and his contract, but I liked everything else they did in the draft, so we will focus on those positives a little later. They turned the pick into Bismack Biyombo, who I am not so sure on, but at least can be some defense at the rim. Don’t worry, Charlotte, more Bobcats talk later.

That is my favorite non-brawl related “we ride together” video. You are welcome.

Spurs-Pacers Swap

Pacers Get:
George Hill
Spurs Get:
Kawhi Leonard (15th pick),  Davis Bertlans (42nd pick), Erazem Lorbek (picked in 2005, still in Europe)

Everybody wins! The Pacers gave up a lot there, and I am always scared of trading with the Spurs as they tend to come up roses on trades like this, but the Pacers desperately needed backcourt scoring, and George Hill is definitely better than the upside of a mid 1st round pick, especially when it is a guy like Leonard, who while talented and solid, lacks a real offensive game and does similar things as Danny Granger. Hill will form a nice backcourt quartet with Collison, AJ Price and Paul George, who are all young and pretty solid with upside. If nothing else, Hill will score, and that was desperately, desperately needed last year. The offense had a tendency to just stagnate (watch the 4th quarter of any game in the Bulls series), and Hill can help fix that. Doesn’t hurt that Hill is an Indianapolis kid either. Really like this trade for the Pacers.

The Spurs get a little more athletic, and offload a guy they must have felt had hit his ceiling. I am sure Leonard will be a good player for them, because they seem to win a lot of trades, but what does this mean for Tony Parker? Maybe a trade with the Suns for Steve Nash at some point? I have no idea, but they are probably still going to try and move him, but now it has to get them a PG in return. The Spurs are not done making moves either, but we will see what they do once the lockout fog lifts.

The Draft

Ok, time to get to the actual picks. Just for the record, I would have taken Derrick Williams first, if only because his ceiling is sky high and Irving’s is considerably lower. The home run potential of the Williams pick is absolutely there, and while I do not think he is a lock to be a star, he has a pretty solid shot. Just what I would have done, no idea if it is right or not.

It has been widely publicized that this was a two-man draft with s significant drop-off afterwards. It is true, but there was still plenty of opportunity to mess up or help yourself out within the top 10. We will get to talking about who “won” and “lost” a little bit later, but for now, lets just look at how it played out. So with Irving and Williams off the board, the Jazz went with Enes Kanter at 3, which I think was the right pick and a good one. He has fellow Turk Mehmet Okur to mentor him, and with Favors and Kanter, the future looks bright in the Utah frontcourt. The Cavs then got a little crazy and took Tristan Thompson at #4. It is hard to say that it was a really bad pick when he was a top 10 guy and no one was a sure thing, but he is definitely not who I would have taken. He is athletic and long (thanks Jay Bilas), but without any really developed offensive game. Sounds like a younger, more talented version of Carl Landry to me. I would have 1) tried to trade the pick and 2)  taken Jan Vesely to play with my new PG. See, if you take Derrick Williams first, there are good PGs still on the board here to team him up with, but there are not a ton of really good big men with Kanter gone and Valancunias maybe staying in Europe another year. Regardless, after Thompson, the Raptors had most of their top choices fall in their lap. Naturally, Colangelo opted for a European player in the aforementioned Jonas Valancunias. He kind of has the same game as Bargnani, but when has that ever stopped Colangelo from drafting soft big men who don’t like to rebound? Now he is a lefty, which does mean he will probably be successful and a great shooter, but it might not be enough to overcome the hilarious comparison NBADraft.net made of projecting him as Spencer Hawes/Primoz Brezec. Jonas also set the bar for awkward interviews entirely because of bad English, so he’s got that going for him. Shoot for the stars, Raps!

Look out below

Anyway, the Wizards then made the pick Toronto probably should have made and grabbed Jan Vesely from the Czech Republic. Kid has hops, and how he has John Wall throwing him oops until the slivovitz is gone. That’s a Czech Republic joke for those of you staring blankly. Sacramento (picking for Charlotte because of the trade earlier) took Bismack Biyombo in what was an ok pick, but would soon become a much better one. The Pistons took the best available (probably) with Brandon Knight, though you never would have known he got drafted by looking at him. He made the statues on Easter Island look charismatic, but in his defense, I wouldn’t want to go to Detroit or play for the Pistons. Charlotte then used its next pick on Kemba Walker, which was a terrific pick, especially teamed up with Bismack Biyombo. They are both charismatic guys, which really shouldn’t mean much, but they both just seem like guys who will succeed and lift their team with them. Bismack’s presence also means that they no longer have to use Nazr Mohammed, and can have the best shot-blocking duo in the league with Tyrus Thomas and Biyombo. If Kemba can keep the scoring up just a little, the team should be much improved next year. Hats off to the ‘Cats on these two picks, but there was more to come.

Jimmer went next (to the Kings via the Bucks), and I have already talked a little about how well I think he can match up with Tyreke Evans in the backcourt. If Jimmer can learn to play without the ball, that’s a potentially fantastic scoring backcourt, and while Jimmer’s defense leaves a lot to be desired, he may not be asked to play a ton of it for the Kings, who should probably go up-tempo. I never really got on the Jimmer train when I was in Spain so I am much less attached to all he is than most. Accordingly, he is just a kid who can shoot the lights out and can’t play defense to me, not a phenomenon. I almost wish he had dropped another spot to Golden State where he and Steph Curry could team up to create the worst defensive backcourt of all-time. I can just see it now: Mike Bibby at the top of the key, and he BLOWS BY Curry for the easy layup, and next possession (somehow) Derek Fisher drives by Jimmer, prompting Marc Jackson to say “MOMMA, THERE GOES THAT MAN” and then openly weeping for the next 5 minutes.

Golden State ended up taking Klay Thompson instead, who was, in my opinion, clearly the best player on the board. I would have loved to see him fall to 15 for my Pacers, but he just fits with the Warriors too well (assuming Monta Ellis is indeed moved). He is a true 2 and his game should translate well as long as they run screens for him, and why wouldn’t they? I like the pick, the Warriors, AND Marc Jackson saying the Warriors will make the playoffs next year. Why? Because I think they will and will consider guaranteeing myself after all is said and done this offseason.

Not going to summarize from here on out, but it was cool to see the Morris twins get picked back to back (Siamese picks?) and then watch the Pacers take Kawhi Leonard, a guy who didn’t really fit at all, and knowing they had something in the works. Feels like the Pacers never make good draft-day deals (Jerryd Bayless comes to mind, a guy I would have given a chance), but I really liked what they did with this.

Let's hope he isn't as nuts as the last GT PG in NY.

I also want to defend the Iman Shumpert pick a little. Knicks fans are irrational and sensationalistic so I wasn’t too surprised to see them dying before our eyes when Shumpert’s name was called. He is big for his position (whatever it is), can defend, and can be a solid scorer. That is the kind of guy D’Antoni likes. Shawn Marion wasn’t really a guy that would have gotten cheers on draft day either, but he turned out pretty well under D’Antoni. I am predicting Shumpert is one of the surprise guys of the early part of the 2011-12 season and gets a little cult-following going in NY.

I would also like to criticize the Wolves. You had better have a good reason if you are going to pick up Brad Miller and give away more than you get in return. I would have kept Motiejunas around if I were them, and I think Jonny Flynn can be alright in Houston now that he is free of the Bermuda Triangle offense. It is like the triangle, but you dump it into Beasley and the ball disappears along with any chance of getting into a rhythm. Good deal by Daryl Morey as usual.

Liked the Kenneth Faried pick too, though I think everyone liked the pick, nominating him for the annual “everyone outside draft rooms was so universally sold on him that the GMs knew something we didnt and we forgot about a vital missing part of his game”. Of course, we could just be right too and Denver could be a sneaky contender next year. I could definitely see them getting a 6 or 7 seed and upsetting the Lakers in round 1. That’s all I got for round one apart from congratulating Jimmy Butler on finding a good team and match and congratulating Shelvin Mack on finding a good backup spot where he can play combo guard for the Wizards.

The Winners\

The Bobcars did a good job with this draft after having a pretty crappy roster at the end of last year. Granted, they took a flyer on Jeremy Tyler, which I was lukewarm on at best, but the Kemba-Biyombo synergy is going to pay off. I have to pause a little about MJ’s talent evaluation but it looks like he did a good job here. I think the Bobcats are a playoff team next year, though really that just means I think they will be 7 games under .500.

The Bucks and Pacers were draft-day winners, but not winners in the draft really. Close enough.

I like what the Wizards and Jazz did as well, but with a class like this (which isn’t as awful as it sounds) it isn’t going to transform their teams over night. I see a lot of improvement out of the Wizards, and a Jazz team that is better than you think despite Deron Williams’ absence and the uncertainty without Sloan.


I am going to call the Cavs losers in the draft, but please don’t take it personally, Cleveland. Didn’t love Kyrie Irving and I didn’t like Tristan Thompson, so I guess I am classifying them as the loser entirely on them not agreeing with me, but c’est la vie. I actually liked the players the Timberwolves took, but they are seemingly just automatic losers. They also traded for a washed-up Brad Miller to get rid of a young point guard (they admittedly have a ton) and get rid of a draft pick. Why? I get you had too many PGs, but you don’t just dump multiple talented guys for Brad Miller. The Thunder are also losers, but just because they didn’t pick and that seems like something a loser would do. This section seems way too short, but the column is 3200 words long so you will thank me later.

Grand Theft Lotto

Just to clarify, the steal of the draft doesn’t have to be from the lotto, I just liked the sound of it. There will be many guys who outperform expectations, but my job here is to pick out the one guy who will so vastly outperform the pick that for years down the road, announcers at the draft are obligated to remind you of the good draft pick. Also take note that I am not choosing a 2nd rounder here where any production is seen as a steal, I am going to challenge myself to 1st round guys. I think Kemba has the tools to make it happen, but without quite enough around him he will not be our big steal. Jimmer will be a great offensive addition to the Kings at #10, but will make Mike Dunleavy look good defensively so it isn’t going to be him. Klay Thompson will be an excellent player, but without doing anything really other than what we expected. So who is it?

Iman Shumpert. Part of the logic here is that he was beaten up so badly on draft day by fans and his expectations are so low. I do not think he will be an All-Star in the near future or anything, but I think D’Antoni knew exactly what he was doing with that pick and the kid is going to turn heads. That’s right, the Knicks are going to be excited about someone they drafted! Iman Shmpert is not my pick for Rookie of the Year or anything, but he is going to end up the steal of the draft among 1st rounders.

Accepted to Kwame Brown University

In today’s world, buxom is good. Sadly for NBA players, being a big bust is very different from having a large bust, and one of our higher picks is headed for the House that Kwame Built. It is hard to really find a big bust in a draft like this because expectations are pretty low on almost everyone and most failures wouldn’t be considered overly shocking. In other words, if Marshon Brooks is still shooting off-balance jumpers and suddenly they aren’t falling, people will blink but they will not do too much else. So it probably has to be a top 10 pick that we over-estimated as far as how their skill-set would translate to the NBA game. Valancunias could be a candidate but he might not be in the NBA for a year or so, so it will be hard to tell if I had anything to my argument. Honestly, Jimmer is a front-runner here too given the expectations on him and the possibility that he won’t just be able to get his own shot whenever he wants, but I think Tyreke will open things up and he will learn how to play with the ball just enough.

Sorry, Cleveland, but I am going to go with Tristan Thompson. I don’t think he will be awful but I think that he will get outperformed by just about everyone drafted next to him and he is still kind of a project. The problem with projects in the NBA is that once training camp is over, there are very limited practices, which is really the opposite of college. I think he will be useful but will get off to a slow start and never really recover from it. Tristan Thompson is this year’s bust.

A Few Thoughts

  • Andre Iguodala and Monta Ellis’ names are getting floated around. There has got to be a 3rd party out there willing to take on Ellis to make this 3-way happen. Go, you Trade Machine addicts, and find one.
  • Prediction: Lockout will happen and it will last past January.
  • Derrick Williams is my Rookie of the Year, followed closely by Kemba Walker (assuming there is a season)
  • The Magic might be in the top 5 of most screwed franchises around. Dwight is gone and they have very little besides him. Reminds me of Cleveland, except in sunny and beautiful Orlando.
  • We want your comments! Tell us how you felt your favorite team did below.
Oh, and just because you know you wanted to see it again. Has literally nothing to do with sports, but I will probably get half my hits off it.

2010-11 NBA Preview: Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics (50-32 last season)

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

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Rajon Rondo

Shooting Guard: Ray Allen

Small Forward: Paul Pierce

Power Forward: Kevin Garnett

Center: Jermaine O’Neal

Key Reserves:

Guard: Delonte West

Forward: Glen Davis

Center: Shaquille O’Neal

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

New York Knicks (29-53 last season)

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

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Raymond Felton

Shooting Guard: Wilson Chandler

Small Forward: Danilo Gallinari

Power Forward: Amar’e Stoudemire

Center: Timofey Mozgov

Key Reserves:

Guard: Roger Mason Jr.

Guard-Forward: Kelenna Azubuike

Forward: Anthony Randolph

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

New Jersey Nets (12-70 last season)

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

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Devin Harris

Shooting Guard: Anthony Morrow

Small Forward: Travis Outlaw

Power Forward: Troy Murphy

Center: Brook Lopez

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jordan Farmar

Guard-Forward: Terrence Williams

Forward: Derrick Favors

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

Philadelphia 76ers (27-55 last season)

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

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jrue Holiday

Shooting Guard: Andre Igoudala

Small Forward: Thaddeus Young

Power Forward: Elton Brand

Center: Spencer Hawes

Key Reserves:

Guard: Evan Turner

Guard: Louis Williams

Forward: Andres Nocioni

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

Toronto Raptors (40-42 last season)

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

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Jarrett Jack

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozen

Small Forward: Linas Kleiza

Power Forward: Reggie Evans

Center: Andrea Bargnani

Key Reserves:

Guard: Jose Calderon

Guard: Leandro Barbosa

Forward: Amir Johnson

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

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