2009-10 NBA Preview: Part 2

Here is part of my “preview” for the NBA – only four game into the season.  I decided to highlight about half of the teams after I wanted to do all the teams, but then I remembered I have a life outside of this blog.  I know, crazy right?

What I have put together are my “Points of Interest” – I know, great name – of teams, players, situations, that may be a little under that radar – or not – but are worth giving more attention and will give another layer of intrigue to the NBA.

Shawn MarionDallas Gets All Maverik-y with Marion

The Mavericks have been lacking the old-school Charles Oakley type power forward.  While, Mark Cuban may not have gotten the toughness, they did get Shawn Marion who is a life time 17.8 ppg and 9.9 rpg player.  Marion’s scoring average has gone down since a career high of 21.8 ppg in ’05-’06 in Phoenix, but I would expect Marion to get plenty of east basket from Jason Kidd like Marion did from Steve Nash.

Here is there stating line-up: PG – Kidd, SG – Josh Howard, SF – Shawn Marion, PF – Dirk Nowitzki, and C – Erick Damiper.  And then off the bench you the have Sixth Man of the Year, Jason Terry.  Not too shabby.

The Heat In Miami

Going into the fourth season removed from winning the Championship, the Heat are not as bad as I remember , having won 43 games last season.  But the heat did not add much to the roster, minus the often traded Quentin Richardson, and lost Jamario Moon and traded away Mark Blount.

Dwayne Wade must be tired, seriously!  Not only has he played an average of 37.9 minutes a game and over 38 minutes in four out of the six seasons, he averaged 30.2 last season which was 31% of the points per game.  Wade turns 28 and you have to wonder how much longer his body can perform and continue to endure the beating he gets every game.

Mr. Michael Beasley’s 13.9 ppg and 5.5 rebounds must creep closer to a 15 ppg and 10 rpg average for him to be consider a legit No. 2 option.  And with his recent trip to rehab will only add to already intense lens that will be on his every move.

Daequan Cook is the wild-card for the Heat.  While his scoring average did not increase much – 8.8 to 9.1 ppg –  his shooting improved from behind the three-point line – 33% to 39%.  Along with Cook, the Heat brought Carlos Arroyo over from Orlando and those two will be key in providing scoring and steady guard play off the bench.

Houston, We Have A Problem

The Rockets lost Ron Artest to the Lakers and Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady to injury.  This is a major hit to Houston and it’s attempt to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.  Those three players totaled 52.4 ppg and 19.5 rpg, and were the three best players in a Rocket uniform.

This season could be a season similar to the Spurs of 1997, when David Robinson was out for the season with back issues.  The Spurs had a 20-62 record and the ended-up with the No. 1 pick, which turned out to be Tim Duncan.

I am not sure there is a Duncan type players in next years draft, but with the Rockets lacking quality veteran leadership, this team will end up with a lottery pick.  This could add some quality next season when Yao will be healthy.

Aaron Brooks, Trevor Ariza and the crew will get plenty of playing time as this team must look past the McGrady era and plan on a rough road this season.

Cleveland RocksLeBron and Shaq

The elephant in the room is  Shaq.  Shaq has won titles as Batman and as Robin, and was committed to his role as Robin to Dwayne Wades Batman.  But is seems that everywhere else (i.e. LA and Phoenix) Shaq still considered himself the headliner.

Well in Cleveland, there all ready is a headliner.  Without question – the Cavs were called “the LeBrons” for crying out loud.  So Shaq buying into his role and his new team should lead to at least one appearance in the Finals.  Cleveland was close without him before running into the Orlando Magic.

Three Other Points of Interest

  1. Delonte West – Apparently wants to play the Antonio Banderas role in Desperado.  Hopefully, that was a onetime deal.
  2. Jemario Moon – Can get easy baskets and guard players that only LeBron could guard before.
  3. Can Mo Williams have another All-Star caliber season?

San Antonio Spurs – Just One More Time

Tim Duncan (19.3 ppg, 10.3 rpg, and 1.7 blocks – 33 years old) + Tony Parker in his prime + Manu Ginoblli (playing time >44 games at 32 years old) + Richard Jefferson (17.7 career scoring average and playoff experience) + better than advertised bench (George Hill, Roger Mason, Matt Booner, Theo Ratliff, Keith Bogans and DeJuan Blair) = at the very least, a trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Chicago Bulls

There are two major questions facing the Chicago Bulls.

  1. Is Derrick Rose able to continue to improve from his performance last season.
  2. Can Luol Deng get back to his ’06-’08 form?

Let’s start with Deng.  After playing 78 and 82 games in the ’05-’07 season, the following two seasons had been cut short to 63 and 49 games.  Deng had a career year in ’06-’07, scoring 18.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg and 2.5 apg and for the Bulls to take the next step, Deng will need to stay healthy (he is the only true SF on the roster).

Now to Mr. Rose.  Rose had a good rookie season and an even better playoff with his epic battle with Bostons Rajon Rondo.  Rose is an amazing athletic, but has room to grow as a basketball player.  In his rookie season, Rose shot 79% from the foul line.  His biggest weakness is his shooting – he shot 22% from deep – that’s sad.  But like I said, he has room to grow.

Minnesota Brand New Roster

Name the three Timberwolves who have been on the Minnesota roster the longest.  I will give you five seconds to think about it.  5…4…3…(quick)…2…1…0.

Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes and Al Jefferson.

Al Jefferson and Kevin Love

Since new GM David Kahn was hired on May 23rd, Kahn has destroyed the roster.  Here is a list of transactions from CBSSports.com.

  • 9/22 Chucky Atkins PG Waived
  • 9/17 Sasha Pavlovic G/F Signed as Free Agent
  • 9/11 Ramon Sessions G Signed as Free Agent, Four-year contract
  • 9/9  Antonio Daniels  PG Traded, Part of three-player deal
  • 8/13 Mark Blount F/C Traded, for Quentin Richardson
  • 8/10 Ryan Hollins F/C Signed as Free Agent
  • 7/27 Chucky Atkins PG Traded, Part of three-player deal
  • 7/27 Damien Wilkins G/F Traded, Part of three-player deal
  • 7/20 Quentin Richardson G/F Traded, Part of four player deal
  • 7/10 Wayne Ellington G Signed as Draft Pick
  • 7/10 Jonny Flynn G Signed as Draft Pick
  • 6/24 Darius Songaila F/C Traded, Part of 6 player deal
  • 6/24 Etan Thomas F/C Traded, Part of 6 player deal
  • 6/24 Oleksiy Pecherov C Traded, Part of 6 player deal

The Timberwolves  have no one on their potential starting line-up that has played in the league longer than 5 years.  If Rammon Sessions starts over Johnny Flynn, you would have Brewer and Session with two years in the league, Kevin Love with one year, Ryan Gomes with four years, and Jefferson with five years.  The player with the most NBA experience – Antonio Daniels with 12 years in the league.

This season may be long and ugly at times, but it is necessary for this team to grow.  They will be a lottery team in next years draft, but if they can keep this core of young talent and add a few more pieces through the draft and free agency, this team should be fighting for the playoffs in 3-4 years.

Take Me To Your Leader

The Warrior’s draft Steph Curry to add even more fire offensive power to a team that is not lacking points, but is lacking leadership.  When the best player on the team demands a trade, that is not a good start to the season.

Golden State seems like a train wreck waiting to happen.  Wait, that is every moment when Stephen Jackson is on your team.

Every single moment.

Don Nelson can reload with players after player who can fill the box score but I am not sure they have any player who can provide more leadership then the rookie star Curry.  That is a sad state of affairs.

Look up and down the roster and try to find a relevant player – other than Speedy Claxton – who has any leadership skills or experience that would make other players look to them for guidance.

Golden State Side Note:  Look for break out years from Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike (who averaged 14.4 ppg last season).

Elton BrandRe-Branding

Do you want to know why the Clippers let Elton Brand go?

After a career high in scoring of 24.7 ppg in 2005-’06, Brands scoring dropped to 20.5 ppg in the following season, to 17.6 ppg in ’07-’08, then to a career low last season with 13.8 ppg and his second lowest in rebounding with 8.8 rpg.

The Clippers were “rewarded” with the Mr. Griffin, but the 76ers are still looking for a return in their investment and get more value in the $14M of Brand contract this season.

The silver lining in this whole ordeal is that the 76ers made the playoffs last season without Brand.   Even with the loss of PG Andre Miller, Philly has talent and a full roster, so managing Brand’s minutes should be easier.

Don’t forget that Thaddeus Young – he is in line for a break out season.  His scoring jumped from 8.8 ppg to 15.4 ppg and his rebounds per game jumped from 4.2 to 5.1.  I am just saying.

Indiana Pacers

Did you that Duke has a campus in Indiana?  With three former Blue Devils on the roster, the Pacers have more than the league quota with Mike Dunleavy, Josh McRoberts and Dahntay Jones.  The also may have the most white players 6’9″ and taller on a single roster in the NBA over with five.

Here we go; Jeff Foster, Tyler Hansbrough, Troy Murphy, Dunleavy and McRoberts.  Travis Diener is only 6’1″.

Oh bye the way, that Danny Granger guy is pretty good.  One must wonder how high the ceiling is for Granger.  Since his rookie year, 2005-’06, he has improved his scoring every year.  From 7.5 ppg his first season, to 25.8ppg last season.  But he has also become a better shooter from distance and the foul line.  Granger shot 23% his rookie to 40% from beyond the arc and 77% from the foul line to 88% in the same time.

The biggest question mark is Mike Dunleavy.  He played in only 18 games last season, missing the time due to a serious knee injury.  And reports have him out because of the same knee  at least the next month.

Side note: Before playing in only 18 games – which was a career low – Dunleavy had averaged 80 games a season.

Laker’s Repeat?

Congrats Laker’s, you won the NBA Championship.  Not only are you going to resign Lamar Odom (aka Mr Khloe Kardashian), but you also get Ron Artest – and all the crazy that comes with this rapper player.

I have no idea why the Lakers brass let Trevor Ariza leave – besides money.  As the player that made crucial plays during the Lakers playoff run, Ariza was the perfect counter part to Kobe.  A defensive hound that makes big plays and can hit the open shot, but did not demand the ball or force bad shots – both are traits that come with Artest.

All that said, you still have Kobe and Pau and one of the deeper benches in the league.  And of course there is the “Zen Master” in Phil Jackson.  But major concern for the 2009-10 Lakers is that is does not turn into the 2003-04 Lakers with Kobe, Shaq, Karl Malone and Gary Payton, who lost in the Finals to a better “team” in the Pistons.  But a line-up of Derek Fischer, Kobe, Artest, Odom/Andrew Bynum and Gasol; is the best starting five in the league.

Next Trick, Please

After a playoff run that exceed all expectations, the Orlando Magic thought they had a good thing going.  Well, they did.  But they did not know it was going to Toronto.  After Hedu Turkoglu signed in Canada, the Magic needed to add offense, and since Hedu didn’t really play defense, there was nothing to worry about when trading for Vince Carter.

Even though signing Carter was important, the added value that came with the signings of Brandon Bass and Matt Barnes will give the Magic even more toughness.  Bass will start at PF and will pull down his share of rebounds, while Barnes will come off the bench with Mikael Pietrus to add grit and even more match-up problems.

Having Jameer Nelson back to be the spark plug for the Magic offense.  His skill and scoring ability was missed in the playoffs.  Plus, a pick and roll combo of Nelson and Dwight Howard is more feared than the 2009 playoff model (i.e. Rafer Alston).  Add Carter and Rashard Lewis – my secret favorite player in the NBA – and the Magic is going to be exciting and do have enough talent to make another run deep in the playoffs.

The New Boston Celtics 3.0boston-celtics-big-three

If the Celtics in the championship, everyone will point to the fact the Kevin Garnett is healthy.  But there are more reasons than “The Big Ticket”.  While the Celtics took a hit losing Leon Powe to the Cavs, Boston added much-needed depth.

  • SG: Marguis Daniels
  • PF: Rasheed Wallace
  • C: Sheldon Williams

Also off the bench you have Eddie House at point,  but Daniels can, and will, handle the ball when needed.  Tony Allen and Glen Davis are young players, but have played in big games.  And Bill Walker adds athleticism and a spark that no one else on this team can.

While Wallace is the biggest name that the team picked-up, there were other players who may prove to be more important to the teams overall success.

Is Toronto Turning Into Phoenix Lite?

Well, look at the line-up.

  • PG: Jose Caldoron
  • SG: Marco Belinelli
  • SF: Hedu Trukoglu
  • PF: Chris Bosh
  • C: Andrew Bargnani

Not only is the line-up very offensive minded, it is very European – which would lead to a more offensive game.  But this team will be able to give you multiple looks that will keep opponents are their heels.  You have Turkoglu and Bosh who can score from the post, but every single player can run and shoot a solid jumper.  Bargnani had the best percentage from 3-point range with 40.9% – he attempted 209 last season.

The Raptors also have some talent off the bench in DeMar DeRozan, Jarrett Jack and a few players who can give the team a lift: Sonny Weems, Quincy Douby, and Amir Johnson.

This team is young, but should fun to watch and could give some of the big boys with match-up issues.

Rose City

How quickly we have forgotten the “Jail Blazers” and now this team is the favorite young team that everyone expects to break through and make a run deep in the playoffs and shock a contender.  Baby steps.

This team is stacked with talent, but I am not sure of what kind of playing time is going to be available for some players. Example: Point Guard – Steve Blake is the starter, Andre Miller is the back-up and Jerrod Bayless is the star in waiting at third string.  Just take a look at the project depth chart from ESPN.com.

POS STARTER 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
Point Guard Steve Blake Andre Miller Jerryd Bayless    
Shooting Guard Brandon Roy Rudy Fernandez      
Small Forward Nicolas Batum Travis Outlaw Martell Webster    
Power Forward LaMarcus Aldridge Juwan Howard Dante Cunningham Jeff Pendergraph  
Center Greg Oden Joel Przybilla    

I guess that is a great problem to have.  Finding time for so many good players – and Juwan Howard.  I want to see Greg Oden turn into a force, but this team is lead by Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, and has some many players that some of the pieces are interchangeable, especially at center and small forward.

Side-Note: Brandon Roy is the 7th highest paid player on the roster behind: Oden, Przybilla, Aldrige, Blake, Miller, and Martell “I am the third string small forward” Webster.  That will not last past this season!

Atlanta = Joe JohnsonAtlanta Hawks

Let me first state that this team has talent.  But without Joe Johnson, the Hawks would not sniff a playoff berth.

While Johnson does not get the marquee billing that certain superstars get, his production is defiantly worthy of being mentioned in the class of LeBron, Kobe, D-Wade, etc.

His scoring averaged dipped, mostly due to other Hawks stepping-up, but his stat for last seasons: 21.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.1 steals a game.  Johnson also shot 44% from the floor, 33% from distance and 83% from the foul line.  He also played 39.5 minutes a game.  Johnson is skilled, tough, and can perform in the clutch.  He has also proved durable as player – playing an average of 78 games a season.

For the Hawks to improve and go further in the playoffs,  Josh Smith must show that he is reliable option.  Smith’s scoring has decreased over the last three season, but his shooting has gone up – from 44% to 49%.  But Smith’s free-throw percentage gone down faster that the Titanic.  After floating in the 69% to 72% range in his first four-year, last season it sank to 59% – and I am rounding up.  Smith is a crazy athlete who adds another dimension to the Hawks, but he can not yet be trusted at end of games.

   
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