It's almost Halloween meaning... it's time for an NBA Preview to start as the season starts a week from Tuesday! Almost every team has had major changes due to a combination of teams keeping flexibility to try to hit the jackpot in NBA Free Agency.
3-Boston- (major moves: added Shaq, J. O'Neal, and Delonte West, lost Tony Allen)- Celtics should be able to survive the regular season with Shaq and Jermaine at center until Perkins gets back in February?
8-NJ- (major moves: added rookie PF D. Favors, SF T. Outlaw, SG A. Morrow, PF T. Murphy, PG J. Farmar, ; lost Yi, Courtney Lee, and Chris Douglas-Roberts) - I like the Nets to surprise people and make the playoffs. I think coach Avery Johnson is going to provide an immediate improvement defensively. Plus, Center Brook Lopez is very underrated. Add in the 3-point shooting of newcomers Morrow and Troy Murphy and I think this team should make the playoffs assuming PG Devin Harris starts playing in control again. And he should, because him and coach Avery Johnson are friends from their days together in Dallas.
NY- (major moves: added PF Amare Stoudemire, PG Felton, C Timo Mozgov (from Russia), SG Azubuike, PF A. Randolph, SG R. Mason, ; lost PG C. Duhon, SF A. Harrington, PF D. Lee)- I realize the Knicks got Amare and that's very exciting. However, it's hard to forecast this team. The new starting center, Mozgov, looked pretty good during the summer world championships but I couldn't tell you how good he will be once the NBA grind begins.
Philly- (major moves: added rookie SG E. Turner, C S. Hawes, SF Nocioni,; lost C Dalembert) - They dumped out Dalembert who was in his last season. It was a really dumb trade I thought... as they could have gotten a lot more for Dalembert who is a top-5 defensive center and one of the few people on the planet who was able to go toe-to-toe with Dwight Howard and actually be effective. Oh well. Should be an interesting team, assuming they keep Iguodala alongside Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner... I just think they are so soft inside with crappy centers and a past-his-prime Elton Brand that I can't forecast playoffs.
Toronto- (major moves: added SF L. Kleiza, rookie SF E. Davis, PG Barbosa, ; lost PF/C Bosh, SF/PF Turkoglu) - This is not going to be a good team. Not in the least.
4-Chicago- (major moves: added PF Boozer, SG Brewer, SG Korver, PG CJ Watson, lost PF Hakim Warrick, C B Miller, SG Hinrich) - Boozer mysteriously broke his hand at home and no one knows exactly how. His current explanation is that "it was dark and he tripped over a gym bag, resulting in him breaking his hand." I don't believe it. You need more details for me to believe it. Like Brandon Marshall, the WR. He gave an explanation once of how he was wrestling with his brother and fell through a glass coffee table. See, that's believable! Anyways, this is a great team with PG D. Rose, Center J. Noah, PF Boozer, and SF L. Deng. Still can't matchup with Orlando as Howard owns Noah. However, against Miami??? That would be an interesting matchup if it happened in the playoffs.
6-Milwaukee- (major moves: added PF Drew Gooden, SG/SF Corey Maggette, SG Chris Douglas-Roberts) - This was a fantastic team down the stretch last season... until Bogut got injured. Bogut is back and should be ready to go. I'm not sure who will be starting and who won't be now that they added Maggette, but this team should not be taken lightly.
7-Indiana- (major moves: added PG D. Collison, rookie SG L. Stephenson, SG/SF J. Posey, lost PF T. Murphy) - Collison is a major upgrade at PG. Tyler Hansbrough is now the starting PF. Should be a much improved team based on Collison taking over at PG and in the East, this addition should be enough to get the Pacers in.
Cleveland- (major moves: added PG R. Sessions, C R. Hollins, lost Shaq, Z, LeBron, PG/SG Delonte West) - I think the Cavs will be battling for the last playoff spot all season long (assuming they don't deal out Jamison and Mo). This team is much better than the forecast everyone else is saying, i.e. this is not the worst team in the East. Not by a long shot. They should be just below .500 and hit around 40 wins because a) they are going to be running all night long in their new system under Byron Scott and b) they still have some solid players in Jamison, Varejao, Mo, JJ Hickson and super fast PG Ramon Sessions.
Detroit- (major moves: added the corpse of Tracy McGrady, lost the soulless body of Kwame Brown) - It's just an older team (Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton) with some players who don't play defense (Villaneuva, Ben Gordon) and then a few interesting younger players (Jerebko, R. Stuckey, W. Bynum). This is not actually a winning formula.
1-Miami- (major moves: added LeBron, PF Bosh, SG Mike Miller, C Zydrunas Ilgauskas) - Yes, they have Bosh, Wade, and LeBron. Mike Miller is the best player after that. At Center, they are in trouble. It's their only weakness... but it could really only be exploited by teams that have offensive centers (i.e. Orlando and the Lakers).
2-Orlando- (major moves: added PG Duhon, SF Q. Richardson, ; lost SG/SF Matt Barnes) - Still a great team. I think they are off people's radars for some reason, but they are my pick to wreak havoc in the postseason.
5-Atlanta- (major moves: added rookie SG J. Crawford from Xavier)- Sadly, the worst decision by anyone in free agency may have been ATL's decision to sign Joe Johnson to max money. He's older and he really isn't that dominant. The Hawks will now be stuck for a while with a good team, but I'm not sure they can beat anyone in the top (heat, magic, celtics, bulls) unless they play the celtics.
Washington- (major moves: added rookie PG J. Wall, SG Hinrich, SF Yi, ; lost PG Foye, SG M. Miller) - let's not forget they got Josh Howard for Caron Butler last season, but then Howard tore his ACL 3 games in. Howard is due back in the end of November supposedly. I think they could battle for a playoff spot if Wall plays in control. I'm just not sure because he was rather erratic with his ball control at Kentucky.
Charlotte- (major moves: added PG S. Livingston, lost PG Felton, C Chandler, C Dampier) - Undersized DJ Augustin becomes the starting PG and Nazr Mohammed becomes the starting center. Major downgrades from last year (Felton, Chandler). They still have Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace but that won't be enough to make the playoffs this year.
3-Ok City- (major moves: added SG D. Cook, SF M. Peterson, rookie C Aldrich,) - All-World Durant plus super awesome PG Westbrook should bring a division title. Still have some questions at the other positions. Sadly, Jeff Green is a talented PF, but he's outclassed against most PFs. They got some nice play at center at the end of the season from rookie Serge Ibaka and I expect his growth to continue with nice results.
4-Portland- (major moves: added SG W. Matthews, ; lost M. Webster, J. Howard) - Marcus Camby is still prepared to be the starting center while Oden and Pryzbilla return from torn ACLs. Fantastic stacked team otherwise (Roy, Aldridge, Batum, Matthews, A. Miller).
7-Utah- (major moves: added SG R. Bell, C A. Jefferson; lost PF Boozer, SF/SG K. Korver, SG W. Matthews, C Koufos) - because this team is confusing with all of their moves, here is the new starting lineup:
PG - D. Williams, SG R. Bell , C - A. Jefferson, SF - Kirilenko, PF - Millsap. Note that Okur blew out his achilles tendon in the playoffs and probably is not returning until January. I realize they got Al Jefferson, but I'm only putting them in the playoffs, despite losing 3 major players, because Coach Sloan always finds a way to the playoffs.
Denver- (major moves: added SF A. Harrington) - I'm just going to assume Carmelo gets traded and this team ends up falling out of the playoff race.
Minnesota- (major moves: added SF M. Beasley, PG Ridnour, rookie F W. Johnson, C Darko, C Pekovic, C K. Koufos, C/PF A. Tolliver, ; lost C A. Jefferson, PG Sessions, SF Gomes) - Honestly, GM David Kahn is completely insane. Of all the trades he could have made, he swapped out Jefferson for cap savings and for K. Koufos. He could have gotten so much more! I'm not sure what the plan is for this team.
4-Dallas- (major moves: added C Tyson Chandler) - Dallas is a confusing team for me. They have the two of the best defensive centers in the league (Haywood and Chandler). However, they are really old! Here are the starters: PG Kidd, SG C. Butler, C Haywood, PF Dirk, SF S. Marion. I wish they had some younger players. I don't think PG Beaubois is that good because he was just awful defensively. They also still have SG Jason Terry off the bench. I'm only having them win the division by default, because Houston isn't planning on playing Yao enough during the regular season (no back-to-backs) to win enough games.
5-Houston- (major moves: added C B. Miller, SG C. Lee; lost SF/SG T. Ariza) - Well... the Ariza experiment only lasted one season. Putting Lee in the rotation is good for them though because he won't just keep shooting... and this team was able to get SG Kevin Martin at the trade deadline to score points. Yao is planning on playing but no in back-to-backs. I have no idea what will happen with Yao but that will certainly increase or decrease their win production.
San Antonio- (major moves: added PF T. Splitter, ; lost SG R. Mason) - I can't belive I'm doing this... but I'm not putting the Spurs in the playoffs. I'm expecting them to struggle during the season with their age and end up trading PG Tony Parker to rapidly begin their rebuilding process.
Memphis- (major moves: added SG T. Allen, SG X. Henry; lost SG R. Brewer) - This team fought for a playoff spot last season and should be in the mix again this season. I'm just not sure though, will newly anointed All-Star Zach Randolph still play like an All-Star this season?
New Orleans- (major moves: added SF/SG Ariza, SG Bellinelli, ; lost SF M. Peterson, PG D. Collison, SF J. Posey, ) - Sadly, I don't see Chris Paul's team making the playoffs. I love Chris Paul but just adding Trevor Ariza can't be enough.
1-Lakers- (major moves: added PG S. Blake, SF M. Barnes, C T. Ratliff; lost PG J. Farmar) - Lakers are very good. They've won 2 in a row and have been to 3 straight finals.
2-Phoenix- (major moves: added PF Turkoglu, SF J. Childress, ; lost PF Amare, PF L. Amundson) - I really like this team still! Turkoglu is a great fit for this team and so is Childress (who is just returning from Greece). Surrounding Nash with all of these 3-point shooters should work yet again this season, and they still have big-man 3-point shooter Channing Frye, and let's not forget about the emergence of Goran Dragic as another scoring option (and as someone who can let Nash rest more during the season).
8-Sacramento- (major moves: added C Dalembert, rookie C D. Cousins, ; lost C Hawes, C Brockman, SF Nocioni) - This is my SUPER-DUPER SLEEPER team. Tyreke Evans is entering his 2nd season and should be even better. Plus, picked up Samuel Dalembert, one of the best defensive centers, to go along with Demarcus Cousins, their lottery pick. Last season, this team started out really well before falling flat. In addition, PF Jason Thompson had a solid 2nd season with 12.5 ppg and 8.5 rebounds. SF Omri Casspi also provided immediate help last season. They also have Carl Landry (from the Kevin Martin trade) and he put up crazy numbers for Sacramento (18 ppg and 6.5 rebs). I'm expecting big things from this young team, especially because I'm expecting Tyreke Evans to make the leap to All-Star status.
Clippers- (major moves: added SF R. Gomes, PG Foye; lost PG S. Blake, SF Outlaw, PF D. Gooden) - The Clippers are another team that should be fighting for a playoff spot all season long. I just have no idea what kind of shape Blake Griffin is in, since he hasn't played competitively in 1.5 years.
Golden State- (major moves: added PF D. Lee, rookie C Ekpe Udoh, SF D. Wright, PF L. Amundson; lost SF Maggette, SG Morrow, SG Azubuike, PF A. Randolph, C A. Tolliver, PG CJ Watson) - This team is very hard for me to evaluate as they changed almost all of their players and their coach. I think their new lineup is: PG S. Curry, SG M. Ellis, C Biedrins, SF D. Wright? PF D. Lee. I just don't know what to make of David Lee on this team or if anyone on this team will bother playing defense. Best move of the offseason was firing Coach Don Nelson who literally wasn't trying the last few years!
1-Miami over 8-New Jersey - Not a contest.
4-Chicago over 5-Atlanta- Should be fun to watch Noah vs. college teammate Horford.
2-Orlando over 7-Indiana- Could Dr. Hibbert actually annoy Dwight Howard? This could be a fun series.
3-Boston over 6-Milwaukee- I think Milwaukee can give Boston trouble, but Jennings probably won't be able to stop Rondo. (not many people can).
1-Lakers over 8-Sacramento- Will be interesting only because of Dalembert and Cousins. They actually have the big-men to matchup with the Lakers. I have no idea who will guard Kobe though. However, the Lakers' Steve Blake probably can't keep up with Tyreke Evans.
5-Portland over 4-Dallas- No one on Dallas can guard Roy. The defensive centers all cancel each other out in this one (Camby/Oden/Pryzbilla vs. Haywood/Chandler).
2-Phoenix over 7-Utah- Phoenix should crush them.
3-Ok City over 6-Houston- This is an interesting matchup actually.... but I'm going with Durant to continue his dominance.
1-Miami over 4-Chicago- Exciting 7-game series.
2-Orlando over 3-Boston-Exciting 7-game series.
1-Lakers over 5-Portland-Exciting 7-game series, if Oden is healthy.
3-Ok City over 2-Phoenix- Phoenix has no answer for Durant, though Turkoglu may give him some trouble perhaps.
2-Orlando over 1-Miami - Heat has no answer for Dwight Howard. Orlando can use Pietrus on LeBron, Nelson on Wade. Not sure how they guard Bosh. I hope this series happens, I'd be more excited for this than a Boston-Miami matchup.
1-Lakers over 3-Ok City - Ok City doesn't have the size to handle this.
2-Orlando over 1-Lakers - Howard destroys all!
PF - Amare, NY (I'm assuming he puts up silly numbers w/o winning).
SF - Durant, Ok City
C - Dwight Howard, Orlando
SG - Kobe, Lakers
PG - LeBron, Miami