I can't resist doing another NBA Preview. The 7 days of free agency have been insane, with David Stern completely overstepping his bounds, vetoing a trade, and then eventually letting Chris Paul go to the Clippers. More importantly we have like 66 games in 123 days approximately, and every team has about 3 back-to-back-to-backs. Let's take a look at what we have:
4-NY- (major moves: added C Tyson Chandler, PG Mike Bibby; Lost PG C. Billups)- The Knicks have a huge whole at PG. Bibby is too old to be a successful PG. But yes, they have a nucleus of Stoudemire, Carmelo, and Chandler. Should be good enough for a low seed in the playoffs. The backcourt is ridiculously weak though now, but if Baron Davis comes back healthy that will be huge for them.
6-Boston- (major moves: added two Purdue rookies (j. Johnson, E. moore), PF B. Bass; Lost: D. West, PF big baby Davis, Jeff Green (heart surgery - hope he has a good recovery))- Well, the bench got shorter than last year. Jeff Green being out for the season does not help, as there's no way Pierce, KG, and Ray Allen are going to be able to make it through this sprint of 66 games in 122 days. Should be a middling seed, and a tough out in the early rounds... but this could be the last hurrah for this bunch.
7-Philly- (major moves: lost Kapono, 3-point specialist) - I think this young team (outside of Elton Brand), with two young PGs (Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams), along with Evan Turner and T. Young is the kind of team that may be athletic enough and deep enough to survive the sprint through the season.
NJ- (major moves: amnesty of Outlaw, who they just signed last year) - The team is thin now. Traded most of the assets to get PG Deron Wiliams, may trade C Brook Lopez still to get Dwight Howard, though they got Mehmet Okur, who's coming off a major injury. I can't expect much from them this season.
Toronto- (major moves: added a bunch of spare parts; rookie #5 pick Jonas V. not here yet) - This is not going to be a good team. Not in the least. I said it last year, and it still holds true this year!
1-Chicago- (major moves: added Rip Hamilton; ) - This is still a great team. MVP Derrick Rose trained hard all summer again with the same guy as last year, alongside his buddies R. Westbrook, K. Love, and A. Horford. Sky's the limit again for these guys. The best thing about them, is that they have Taj Gibson, and Omer Asik, to help soak up minutes in this sprint of an NBA season, who are more than capable of succeeding.
3-Indiana- (major moves: added PF D. West, Lost: Dunleavy, PF McRoberts, PG TJ Ford and waived Posey) - This is a great team, and they got a nice upgrade in PF David West, assuming he's recovered from his knee injury. With the East being so incredibly weak (relatively) after Chicago/Miami, it's not out of the realm of possiblity for the Pacers, yes the Pacers, to grab the 3rd seed.
Milwaukee- (major moves: added Mike Dunleavy, Stephen Jackson (yes, the guy who throws haymakers!), ; Lost Corey Maggette) - I think their crazy coach, Scott Skiles has once again lost his team. This happens in every stint (Phoenix, Chicago). First, he overachieves, then they do around .500, then the bottom falls out and he gets fired. This year's team, as far as I can tell, has PF-gooden/ilyasova; C-Bogut, SF S. jackson, SG Dunleavy, and PG B. Jennings
Cleveland- (major moves: added rookie PG Kyrie Irving, rookie PF T. Thompson, SF O. Casspri; Lost PF Hickson, PG Baron Davis) - 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 rookie PG B. Knight, ; Lost Rip Hamilton) - It's just an older team (Ben Wallace, Tayshaun Prince) with some players who don't play defense (Villaneuva, Ben Gordon) and then a few interesting younger players (Jerebko, B. Knight, A. Daye). This is not actually a winning formula. (note, I used the same recap as last year!)
2-Miami- (major moves: added rookie PG N. Cole, SF S. Battier; the corpse of Eddy Curry; Lost Mike Bibby, Z, and Magloire) - 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).
5-Atlanta- (major moves: added T. McGrady, V. Radmonovic; Lost J. Crawford)- The Hawks have seen their best days already I think... though I do think they have more athleticism than other teams, so surviving the regular season is more likely.
8-Orlando- (major moves: added Big Baby Davis, Lost PF Bass; Arenas) - It's hard to handicap them since traindg Howard is still possible... I still think they eke out a playoff appearance, though I have no idea who will be on the team by that point.
Washington- (major moves: added rookie J. Vesley (not sure if he's in the states though); PG S. Mack; LOST Josh Howard) - This team smartly decided not to amnesty Rashard Lewis, because it would have forced them to spend additional money to get back to the minimum. Instead, they can suck it up this year, get a good draft pick, then move forward with getting some free agents in next year's better class to surround John Wall with some talent (and hopefully not as crazy as A. Blatche).
Charlotte- (major moves: added PG Kemba Walker; SG R. Williams; SF C. Maggette; LOST SF S. Jackson) - May be one of the worst teams... they just have Kemba Walker and Maggette, and Maggette breeds losing.
1-Ok City- (no major moves) - All-World Durant plus super awesome PG Westbrook plus C Perkins and defensive force Ibaka plus Harden means they are the prohibitive favorites out West.
6-Denver- (major moves: added rookie PF K. Faried (he's got dreadlocks and was huge in that NCAA upset in the 1st round over Louisville); PG A. Miller; SG R. Fernandez, LOST (JR Smith, Wilson Chandler,); PG R. Felton ) - Interestingly, they were the top team after the Carmelo trade in offensive AND defensive efficiency. Granted, that team had Felton, JR Smith, and Chandler (all gone). So... I know they won't be the best team, but they should be good enough to mak the playoffs still. Ty Lawson is now the starting PG, they still have Nene, Afflalo, and Gallinari.
8-Portland- (added PG R. Felton, SG J. Crawford; lost PG A. Miller, B. Roy (retired), Oden (knee? - should I even mention this, or do we assume it?)) - This is a solid team, amazingly, despite all of the losses. They have PF Aldridge, SF G. Wallace, C Camby/ K. Thomas, SG W. Matthews, and PG Felton; plus Batum, and J. Crawford off the bench.
Utah- (added SF J. Howard, rookie SG A. Burks; LOST SG R. Price) - this is a retooling time... but if D. Favors pans out, they should be ecstatic about he D. Williams trade last year.
Minnesota- (major moves: added rookie stud SF D. Williams; PG R. Rubio; PG JJ Barea, C B. Miller ) - #2 overall pick Derrick Williams is coming off the bench. Rubio is finally here, so it will at least be interesting for these guys.
2-Memphis- (major moves: lost SF Battier (it's not that big a deal because he's old)) - I suppose this team has more athleticism and more weapons than Dallas, so they edge them out for a division title.
3-Dallas- (major moves: added PF L. Odom, SG V. Carter, SG D. West; LOST C T. Chandler, PG JJ Barea, ) - I think they will fall short of the division title, but will still be a tough out in the playoffs.
7-Houston- (major moves: added rookie PF Marcus Morris; PG J. Flynn; LOST PF/C C. Hayes, Yao; C B. Miller) - I still think Scola, Kevin Martin, and the defensive presence of Samuel Dalmbert should be good enough to make the playoffs!
San Antonio- (major moves: added rookie SF K. Leonard; PF TJ Ford; LOST PG G. Hill ) - Last year, I thought the spurs were done and took them out of making the playoffs. Instead, they got a #1 seed... then promptly got stomped in the 1st round. This year, I just think their stars will be injured and they won't have enough frontcourt depth to make it through the season.
New Orleans- (major moves: added C Kaman, SG E. Gordon; LOST PG C. Paul, PF D. West) - I think this division is brutal. The Eric Gordon, Kaman, Emeka Okafor team shouldn't be that bad... but they won't be that great either.
4-Lakers- (major moves: SG J. Kapono, PF McRoberts; LOST PF Odom, SG S. Brown) - This is the end of the Lakers, in its current form. I'm just not sure how far they can go with their old players in this abbreviated season.
5-Clippers- (major moves: added PG C. Paul, PG Billups; SF C. Butler; LOST C Kaman; SG E. Gordon) - The Clippers are exciting, yes. However, it's all contingent on Chris Paul's knee holding up.
Phoenix- (major moves: added SG S. Brown, SG R. Price; LOST SG V. Carter; PG A. Brooks (in china)) - I'm guessing this is the year the Suns trade Nash to a contender? Not sure what will happen, but outside of Gortat dominating suddenly, I don't think they can make the playoffs.
Sacramento- (major moves: added rookie PG Jimmer (i hate him); PF/C C. Hayes; PF JJ Hickson; SG J. Salmons; LOST SF Casspri; PG. Udirh; C Dalembert) - If Tyreke Evans is healthy and re-finds his rookie year, this team could be dangerous. No idea if they will play defense (Tyreke, Jimmer, JJ Hickson, Salmons, Thornton), which will be a problem.
Golden State- (major moves: added rookie Klay Thompson; C Kwame Brown; LOST Radmonovic; Al Thornton; SG R. Williams) - This team is very hard to evaluate. They also don't play defense. They also wasted their amnesty on a $4 million player , in hopes of getting a big center. Instead, they chose backup Kwame Brown over Dalembert. Why is the entire league black-balling Dalembert? I don't get it.
1-Chicago over 8-Orlando
4-NY over 5- ATL (Baron davis should be good by then)
3-Indiana over 6-Boston
2-Miami over 7-Philly
1-Ok City ove 8-Portland
5-Clippers over 4-Lakers (oh boy)
3-Dallas over 6-Denver
2-Memphis over 7-Houston
1-Chicago over 4-NY
2-Miami over 3-Indiana
1-Ok City over 5-Clippers
2-Memphis over 3-Dallas
2-Miami over 1-Chicago- The biggest question I want to know is this: why can't the Bulls beat the Heat? Everyone remembers the fact that the Heat steamrolled the Bulls last year 4-1, but during the season, the Bulls went 3-0 against the Heat. Unraveling this matchup is the key to determining this year's NBA champion I believe. The Heat are the favorite, but the Bulls in my opinion, might be the only team capable of beating them. Luol Deng is one of the few players who can, for whatever it's worth, hang around with Lebron. Derrick Rose gives the Heat problems. Plus, the Bulls have lots of size which is a problem for the soft Bosh, Anthony/Haslem frontline. The 1st game took place on 1/15/11, but Chris Bosh got hurt during the game in the 3rd quarter and Lebron didnt play, and the Bulls won by 3, while outrebounding Miami 42-30. The 2nd game was another close one - a 4 point Bulls win. The Bulls outrebounded Miami 53-39. The Heat played a short 8-man rotation, but were missing Udonis Haslem. The Bulls Omer Asik caused many problems, getting 11 rebounds, going +17, in 21 minutes of play. The Bulls won the 3rd game, played 3/6/11 by only 1 point. In this game, the Bulls only outrebounded the Heat 36-30. Udonis Haslem was still not in this game either.
In game 1 of the playoffs, the Bulls won by 21, behind a 45-33 rebounding edge, Deng, Noah, and Taj Gibson all had huge games. In game 2, the Heat won by 10, won the rebounding advantage, played great defense, and shot well. It was pretty perfect. In game 3, the Heat won by 11, In game 4, the Heat won a nailbiter in OT. In game 5, the Heat won by 3. I also computed the following stats... the Bulls somehow had Chris Bosh chipping in at 60% FG% during the playoff series (well above his 47% for the playoffs last year). However, they held Lebron and Wade slightly below their playoff averages: Lebron was down from 46.6, to 44.6, but averages more assists (6.6 to 5.9); Wade was really down - from 48.5 to 40.5 and averaged even less assists than normal (4.4 to 3.7).
However, none of this information really matters. What does matter? The Heat and the Bulls have each shed one of their top 8 (Bibby, Bogans). The scary thing is, I wante to ask the question of whether Bibby's performance in the Heat relative to the rest of the team. If you throw out his garbage time in game 1's blowout, the Heat were exceptionally worse with Bibby in the lineup (i.e. Bibby always had a worse +/- compared to the team's performance for that day). Bogans? Other than the strange game 1, he did performed rather consistently with the outcome, if not slightly better. The most fascinating thing is this - Bibby posted a NEGATIVE win/shares in the playoffs last year (-0.029), despite his team winning most of their games! This is really hard to do. Bogans? He posted a respectable 0.117 w/share per 48 (where 0.1 is considered the average player). The question then becomes this - the minutes lost by Bogans are now taken by Rip Hamilton. Is Rip, at his age, going to perform that much better than Bogans? I'm not sure. However, the minutes lost by Bibby, are now taken by rookie PG Norris Cole. Is Norris Cole going to play better defense than Mike Bibby? I can answer that emphatically and say yes. Is Norris Cole going to help the Heat run even more fast breaks? I can answer that emphatically and say yes - because he's much faster than Bibby at this point. So, the switch of Norris Cole for Mike Bibby seems to help the Heat even more than the one of Rip Hamilton for Bogans. Now, one could argue that the addition of Omer Asik will really turn the tables for the Bulls. However, I don't think that's going to be the case because Asik, even though he was great for rebounding and defense last year, can probably only help with Bosh and/or the center position. So, sadly, I'm left with the outcome I dread, which is that Lebron overcomes his stagefright and wins the NBA Championship.
1-Ok City over 2-Memphis
2-Miami over 1-Ok City
PF - B. Griffin, Clippers
SF - Durant, Ok City
C - M. Gasol, Memphis
SG - Wade, Miami
PG - LeBron, Miami