Posted on: October 3, 2010 6:37 pm
Okay, so it is time to start blogging again with the preseason starting this week and all. I am so happy the season is finally here and what a great season it could be for many teams that made big moves this summer. I think it goes without saying that the Miami Heat made the biggest moves but a few other made some solid moves as well including my Bulls. So where do the bulls stand in the East now? How many games should we expect them to win in the regular season? How well will each player perform? Will the Bulls make it out of the first round tis season? There are a lot of questions to answer so let us get started. I will first break down each player and then the team as a whole. I hope you enjoy.
Derrick Rose. Rose is certainly the new face of the Chicago Bulls and the first Allstar we have had since MJ and this being his third season we should get an idea of what we have here in Chicago. Most Superstars become superstars in the third season. Will Rose? Maybe. I do not think he will enter the ranks of Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Dwyane Wade, But I think he will become a bigtime player. A seond tier Superstar if you will. Last season he ranked 14th in point per game and I see him moving into the top 10 even with the addition of Boozer. Derrick has had to holes in his game in the past. One being his ability to hit from downtown which looks to be vastly improved, but the other issue, his defense, is still a big question mark. Rose has the size, strength, and speed to be a very good defender, he just needs to get there mentally. Coach T is a good fit to help Rose become the best player he can be and I think Rose will shine this season. His assist numbers should move up a bit with the addition of Boozer and Korver who both hit a high percentage from the floor and his scoring should increase a bit if he is sharing the backcourt with Brewer who is more defense minded.
Stat Prediction: 23 ppg, 8 apg, 3.5 rpg, 1 spg, .475 FG%, .350 FG3%
Carlos Boozer. The Bulls finally have their back to basket player that they have been seeking since Elton Brand was traded away nearly a decade ago. If healthy Boozer is the perfect fit in Chicago. I know I was pro-Chris Bosh before but that was mainly do to the fact that Bosh was younger and healthier. Boozer is really the better player if healthy and a great teammate. his ability to make the pass in the post and his pick and roll skills are a great match. If he gets the double he can pop it out to an open Korver, a driving Rose, a slashing Deng, or simply bounce pass it to Noah on the block. There really is not a player out there with his skill set that the Bulls could have snagged and the Bulls also got him at a bargin with teams like the Knicks overpaying for Amar'e Stoudemire and the David Lee deal. I am happy with this pickup as it does put the Bulls close to contention. The big looming storm cloud is Boozer's health. Last season he put up great numbers, but I am not sure the Bulls will see those kind of stats from him. He will not be great but he will be just what the doctor ordered.
Stat Prediction: 17.5 ppg, 3 apg, 9.5 rpg, 1 spg, .5 bpg, .525 FG%
Luol Deng. Here we have another player that is known to get hurt, but he had a solid rebound season last year and I think he is a perfect fit for a third option on any offense. I understand he is being paid like a number 1 or 2 option, but with Boozer and Rose taking the big shots, Deng can focus on defense with his long frame and he can also keep defenses honest with his ability to hit the open jumper. Deng is at his best when he is slashing and moving and we saw a lot of that last season and I think we will only see more. Luol is far from great at creating his own shot, but with Boozer drawing in defenders Deng could see more open shots in stride. Overall, I think the addition of Boozer will hurt Deng's numbers but I think he will be a more effective player with open lanes and looks.
Stat Prediction: 14.5 ppg, 2 apg, 6 rpg, 1spg, .485 FG%, .375 FG3%
Joakim Noah. I am a huge fan of Joakim Noah and his ability to get under the skin of other players and play nasty defense, but to be honest I am not sure he is going to get all that much better stat-wise as a player. I think he is close to his ceiling. He is a double double machine that can shot block and rebound like nobodies business. I simply cannot see him becoming a better scorer and he already is a good ball handler and passer for a bigman. Having Boozer in the paint could hurt his rebounding numbers a bit but his scoring could go up slightly. I think we all know what we are going to get from Noah when he steps on the hardwood. Energy, energy, and more energy, and he is just the type of player that most Championship teams have in the fold in one way or another. The Bruce Bowens, James Poseys, Dennis Rodmans, Ron Artests of the world. The players that are not affraid of anyone or anything and are willing to roll up their sleeves and get dirty.
Stat Prediction. 12 ppg, 2.5 apg, 10.5 rpg, 1 spg, 2 bpg, .500 FG%
Ronnie Brewer. I remember a few years ago when Brewer was getting a lot of hype as an up and comer. Those ideas have faded as Brewer has never been able to turn into the complete player that many thought he would become. He is very athletic and a good finisher, but his jumper is off and he is scary bad from downtown. However, Brewer has change his game and now focuses on being a defender first. In many ways he is a lot like Hinrich with his ability to matchup with the other teams elite player and slow them down or shut them down, but Brewer is bigger, stronger, and much more athletic then Kirk was and should fit in nicely even if he does come off the bench which I would prefer. A Brewer/Watson Combo off the bench would have defense and firepower. I am not expecting much from brewer this season, but think his defense will be a big part of the Bulls chances of advancing in the Playoffs.
Stat Prediction. 8 ppg, 2.5 apg, 3 rpg, 1.5 spg, .475 FG%
Kyle Korver. Korver was a great backup plan to J.J. Reddick and perhaps an even better fit for the Bulls. He Knows his place and his job is clear. Hit open threes all night long. Kyle is an average deffender at best but I like him as a starter for the Bulls at the shooting guard and splitting minutes with Brewer. I think his ability to spread defenses has to be utilized as much as possible with Derrick and Boozer. Having him come off the bench kills the whole reason we brought him in. He needs to be out there with Rose nailing threes and driving other teams coaches mad. With him in the starting lineup the Bulls would have a nasty starting offense that could blow up a big lead in a hurry and then the Bulls could slow it down a bit and bring in Taj and Brewer to play defense.
Stat Prediction. 9 ppg, 1.5 apg, 2 rpg, .5 spg, .480 FG%, .450 FG3%
Taj Gibson. With Boozer on board Gibson's minutes will be cut bigtime and thus so will his numbers. Gibson will continue to be a great defender and should have his way in the paint with most other teams bench power forward. Gibson is a jack of all trades kind of player in the mold of P.J. Brown. He is fundamentally sound but lacks the talent to be a star in this league. He will have a long career as a backup and a darn good one at that, but he just lacks the flash and skills to be a huge threat. He can be brought in to be a pest on defense or to slow down another teams bigman and he is always good for a shot block or two. The best thing about Gibson is his basketball IQ, which is very very high and he always makes great choices with the ball or without the ball. He will have a few games this season were he will put up big numbers but Boozer is the man now and Gibson needs to keep on adding bulk and perfecting his jumper which is not bad as it stands.
Stat Prediction. 6.5 ppg, 1 apg, 5 rpg, 1.25 bpg, .510 FG%
C.J. Watson. I think the Watson pickup might be the sleeper pickup for the Bulls this season. He is a great firecracker off the bench and he should do what the Bulls were hoping Pargo would do last season and that is to be a spark off the bench. Watson is fast and can score very well from within 18 feet or so. His 3 pointer is not great but he can get hot. His defense is a question mark but with Brewer sharing the floor with him the burden is less. I think he could be a great pickup but I will try and keep my hopes in check and wait to see what he looks like in the Bulls system. Scoring a lot of points for the Warriors is not hard to do. I think he will do just fine with the 10 minutes or so he sees every game.
Stat Prediction. 6.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 1.5 rpg, 1 spg, .450 FG%, .350 FG3%
The Others. Past the players that I have listed are some solid roleplayers that will not see many minutes unless there are injuries and the players that could see some action are:
Omar Asik. Will see minutes behind Noah and sounds like he has some offense in the post and is a decent blocker and rebounder. Must see him play on the NBA hardwood to see how good he really is.
James Johnson. Will see minutes perhaps behind Deng, but from what I have heard the Bulls brass are not liking JJ's work ethic. We need no drama so I hope this guy settles down.
Keith Bogans. 6 teams in 7 years is never a good sign, but he could see minutes if there is an injury and he is a solid vet and a consistant player.
Kurt Thomas. Yes, this guy is still in the league. He is a locker room vet that will be a nice to have sitting on the bench and keeping the guys focused. He is also good for 3 minutes a night during a blowout. lol.
Brian Scalabrine. The golden horseshoe himself is now a Chicago Bull so mark your calendars for June because we are going to the Finals baby!
The addition of head coach Tom Thibodeau was a fairly bold on the Bulls part and I liken him to Scott Skiles who we never should have gotten rid of in the first place. From what I have heard Tom has been pushing the Bulls hard in training camp as has made his place known and the players seem to have fallen suit. We all know that Thibodeau is a defensive wizard but I think we are all holding our breath to see what the Bulls offense looks like. To me it is simple. push the open floor with Rose on fast breaks for as many easy buckets as you can get. The Bulls will be quick and with Noah on the floor dangerous. If the fast break is stopped then set up the half court slow down game with Rose and Boozer utilizing the pick and roll or rune a series of high screens but leave Noah in the paint for rebounds and easy buckets. Noah no longer has to set those high screens with Boozer on the team and Noah never could hit the jumper or drive to the basket anyways. Keep Joakim were he belongs. The Bulls could also try to get Boozer down low in position first and run the offense through him. Let him decide with the ball in his hands. He has plenty of options. On any fast break were Noah or boozer are in the paint and Korver is standing on the 3 point line make the pass to Kyle for the 3 in stride.
What I am getting at is that the Bulls players pretty much spell out what needs to be done on offense and I think Tom knows this. Hand the ball to Rose and let him work his Magic. I really feel that the Bulls are a very balanced team and their chemistry should work out just fine. I know there are a lot of new faces, but they are all vets for the most part and everyone seems to know their roles. There really are no headcases on this team and a starting lineup of Rose, Korver, Deng, Boozer, and Noah is very explosive. If the Bulls want more defense then the starting lineup could be more conservative with Rose, Brewer, Deng, Boozer, and Noah. This linup has few holes. The Bulls bench is fairly deep. Not the best in the league, but solid with Korver/Brewer, Gibson, Bogans, Asik, and Watson.
I think the Bulls will be a top 4 seed. The Heat should lead the pack and the Magic and Celtics will most likely be ahead of the Bulls, but it could be close with those two. The Celtics cannot be counted out. I thought they were done last season at this time only to see them back in the Finals again. The magic could go either way. They do not look quite as sexy on paper as they did before the Heat and Bulls trades. The Bucks and Hawks will be in the mix as well. I could see the Bulls winning as many as 56-58 games this year and I would not be shocked. On the other end we could be looking at a team just above .500. I have to believe the Bulls are better then last season and even better then the team that won 49 games and swept the Wade/Shaq Heat in the first round and few years ago. Injuries will play a big part for sure with players like Boozer, Deng, and even Noah playing. The Bulls lost 10 game in a row last year late in the season when noah was out with his foot injury. The Bulls were playing great basketball at the time and could easily have had won 5 or 6 of those games and finished the season with 46 or 47 wins. Subtract Kirk Hinrich and add Boozer, Korver, Brewer, and Watson and the Bulls are a better team.
My Prediction. Record: 52-30. Advance to the second round in the Playoffs and push either the Magic or Celtics to a game seven but ultimately lose.
Possible Bulls Regrets. Not signing Tracy McGrady if he goes off with the Pistons.
Midseason Trade? Most likely not unless the Bulls can move Deng. The Carmelo Anthony for Joakim Noah trade talks will continue until the Bulls lock up Noah. If the Bulls do not lock up Noah then he could be part of a big trade of some sort. If the Bulls resign Noah and are above .500 by 5-8 games come the deadline then the Bulls will not be making any moves.
Thanks for taking the time to read through this preview. Please reply with your thoughts on my predictions or your perdictions for the Bulls or the east in general. I tried hard not to be bias so let me know what you think.
Posted on: January 1, 2010 4:21 pm
Welcome everyone to the new year and I thought I would write my 1st Blog on the 1st of the year. For a topic I thought we should tackle amazing single season stat lines for currently playing players. There have been some crazy numbers put up by the superstars of the past decade and I am sure we will continue to see some insane season stat lines from our younger players like Kevin Durant, Brandon Roy, and Dwight Howard as we kick off this new decade. Now none of these stats compare to the likes of what was seen back in the early years of the league, but time are different and nobody will ever average 50 points a game or 20 rebounds. Those days are clearly in the past. So let us take a look at some standout seasons by some standout players. In no order.
Shaquille O'Neal 99-00. Shaq has had many great seasons and if you ask me he should have at least 5 MVPs on his self at home. Nobody could stop Shaq in his prime, not even a triple team. He was a force and this was the season that stands out to me. Flat out crazy stuff.
29.7ppg, 13.6 rpg, 3.8 apg, and 3 bpg while shooting .574 from the floor.
Allen Iverson 04-05. The very next season AI would go on to average 33 points a game but it was in this season that I believe he played his best basketball and he averaged his career high in assists.
30.7ppg, 7.9apg, 4rpg, and 2.4 spg.
LeBron James 07-08. One thing that can be said about LBJ is that he is very consistant and every season has been very good for him, but this season jumps out with his career high in rebounds.
30ppg, 7.9rpg, 7.2apg, and 1.8spg while shooting .484 from the floor.
Kobe Bryant 02-03. Sure there was 04-05 when he averaged 35.4ppg but t was in 02-03 that Kobe shined as an all-around great player as he averaged career highs in rebounds and 3p% and almost in assists as well.
30ppg, 6.9rpg, 5.9apg, 2.2spg, while shooting .383 from the arc and .451 overall.
Tracy McGrady 02-03. In the same season that Kobe was at his best he was not alone and at the time many even thought McGrady was the better of the two and the best in the league. Sad to see him fade.
32.1ppg, 6.5rpg, 5.5apg, 1.6spg, while shooting .386 from the arc and .457 overall.
There are many more great season out there that i have left for you to reply with. So what other great single seasons can you offer up and am I wrong with the selections I made for the players above?
Posted on: December 29, 2009 2:03 pm
In a few days we will all be in the new year. The year 2010. With that change comes a shift in focus in the NBA for us fans. No longer are we trying to gauge were are teams stand because we have a good idea by now if they are contenders or pretenders. Now is the time to think about the wonderful thing called the deadline. For a team like my Bulls this is a very important time. Teams will begin making calls and deals will be discussed. Bad teams with little chemistry like my Bulls might make a move and add that player they have longed for. Contenders might add that veteran that puts them over the top, and some teams will dump contracts. The idea of this thread is to allow you to reply with your "Grand Delusion" trades for your team. Make them as crazy or realistic as you want. The only rule is that they work money-wise. Use the trade Machine if you need too. So here is my Dream senario for my Bulls.
As it stand the Bulls are about 15+ million under the cap for this upcomming summer. I have two blockbuster trade ideas for the Bulls to make before the deadline that will setup a offseason signing of Dwyane Wade or LeBron James and make the Bulls an instant contender just like the Celtics were thrust into glory a few seasons back. Here are the two trades.
1. Kirk Hinrich, Brad Miller, and future pick for Tracy McGrady. I must stress this right off the bat that McGrady would only be signed for cap space this summer and would not be part of the Bulls longterm plans. The Rockets would get Hinrich which could start at the shooting guard spot and would add a great defender to the already gritty Rockets. Miller is an expiring contract that would give the Rockets 12+ million in cap space to make their own offseason moves. The future pick would be next season 1st rounder. The Bulls will be a very good team next season if my next two moves happen so a 1st rounder next season would most likely be in the 20-25th pick range. Hopefully.
2. Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas, and this years 1st rounder for Chris Bosh. I understand that the Raptors already have Turk at SF, but I can see Turk and Deng on the floor at the same time at the forward spots or Deng could slip down and play the 2 spot with Turk and Thomas at the forwards. That could be very interesting with Calderon running things. The Raptors also would land a 1st rounder. With Bosh on board the Bulls would be a much better team and should make the playoffs, but they could still miss them giving the Raptors a lottery pick. Bulls would have their scoring bigman finally. Now if the Raptors say no way then the Bulls could make a similar trade offer to the Jazz for Carlos Boozer or the Timberwolves for Al Jefferson. Bulls would also not have their cap effected by this move as there would just be contracts moved around.
3. Sign Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. With around 25 million in cap space and Bosh/Boozer/Jefferson on board the Bulls should be able to attract one of these two superstar. Chicago is a much bigger market then Cleveland or Miami and with a star bigman and young talents in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah they should be in the hunt for one of these two. Wade is the hometown hero but LeBron is a freak and is still very very young. Also, LeBron James is changing his number after the season right? He cannot wear #23 in Chicago right? James would be the perfect fit alongside Rose and Bosh. Now that is a contender. Bulls make the max offer and leave it up to LeBron and Wade. Also the Bulls would be able to offer a MLE to a player like Marcus Camby. I all could happen and the numbers work.
0. Get a new Head Coach. I must backtrack a bit here and fire Vinny Del Negro. No player will want to sign with the Bulls if he is running things. Jerry Reinsdorf need only dish out the cash to his close friend Doug Collins. While Collins may not be the best coach out there he is a players coach and that should attract a Wade or LeBron.
Next seasons lineup:
PG Derrick Rose/Pargo
SG John Salmons
SF LeBron James
PF Chris Bosh/Taj Gibson
C Joakim Noah/Marcus Camby
Are you scared yet?
So what is your "Deadline Dreams and Delusions" for your team?
Posted on: December 28, 2009 6:02 pm
I will keep this one short, but this one has to due with events of the past few days. So let us take a look.
Why Tracy McGrady? In my eye a trade for McGrady would be for cap space only. The Bulls would be fools to resign him this summer unless for some reason he would consider a MLE contract. I think McGrady thinks he is still worth a max contract. He is not worth more then 5 mil per season for no more then 3 seasons if you ask me. He is way to injury prone.
The Bulls would make this deal strickly to free up even more cap space for this summer. If the Bulls can put together another run into the playoffs this season and can land a new coach then they may be able to attract a superstar or two. Now on to the trade.
The Rockets will want a good starter in return along with an expiring contract and perhaps even a pick. I say the Bulls offer Luol Deng, Brad Miller, and our first rounder for McGrady. McGrady's contract is worth over 22 million and the Rockets would get a expiring contract in Brad Miller worth 12+ million and a solid young player in Deng that can play the 2-4 spot. The Bulls would be freeing up 10+ million more in cap space for this summer. The Bulls would then have more then 25 million in cap if not more.
With that kind of money they could go after a superstar scorer like Joe Johnson or Dwyane Wade and perhaps be able to attract a player like Carlos Boozer to sign. The Bottomline is the Bulls would have the Money to sign a max deal for a superstar be it Wade or Bosh and still have money to spare to add players to create depth and to compliment Derrick Rose. Maybe sign Chris Bosh and a star level shooter/scorer.
I will leave you to spend the cap money in your replies. Who should the Bulls go after if they made this deal and freed up all that money?
Posted on: February 3, 2009 9:47 pm
I thought it would be quite interesting to cronicle the rise and fall of some of the NBA Allstars of the recent past. Part 1 of "Fallen Stars of the NBA" will take a look at Antoine Walker, Larry Johnson, and Steve Francis. All three have a lot in common. They all played very well for the team they were drafted by and all three of them went down hill by the age of 28. Injuries did play a part in Francis' and Johnson struggles, but all three had issues with their teams on and off the floor. Their problems were not limited to injuries, but to attitude. Let us break them down.
Antoine Walker. 6th pick in the 1996 draft by the Boston Celtics. 3 time Allstar.
What happened to this guy. With the Celtics he was an animal. He had a post game and could frive the lane pretty well for a big man. He was a 20 point and 8 rebound machine. He was never known for his defense but was a terror on offense and caused all kinds of problems for other teams. He was a member of the Allstar team in 1998, 2002, and 2003. It was after his last allstar season that he was traded to the Dallas Mavericks. He had a problem fitting in on the team and his numbers dropped. He also started to gain a bit of extra weight and some started to question if he was even dedicated to the game of basketball anymore.
After one season with the Mavericks Antoine Walker was moved to the Atlanta Hawks were he put up his best numbers as a player ever. 20.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg, and 3.7 apg. To be fair the Hawks were not a very good team at the time and he was the go to guy. A midseason trade saw him return to Boston.
The downward spiral begins.
After a season and a half away from the Celtics Walker returns to the shock of NBA fans. He left on bad terms and there was quite a bit of bad mouthing going on. At the young age of 28 Antoine Walkers game really begins to slip. Slowly he had been turning into a pure shooter and now he seems just flat out affraid to drive the lane. All his stats dropped across the line and he was traded yet again to the Miami Heat in the largest trade in NBA history. With the Heat he was but a role-player on a Championship team. His battle with staying in shape and his desire to live on the three pointer had truly stripped him of the star badge. He was a 5th or 6th option now and he just got worse and worse.
After two seasons with the Heat he is dealt to the Timberwolves were he plays only 46 games and averages 8 points and 3.7 rebounds. He then got traded to the Grizzlies were he never even played. As a fan of the NBA I really felt that he faded as a players way to quick. that is not to say that I was a fan of his, but to have your game turn downhill at 28 is quite strange. Most players are starting to hit there peak at this time. Walker was just sitting on the couch and eating chips.
Larry Johnson. 1st pick in the 1991 draft by the Charlotte Hornets. 2 time Allstar and Rookie of the Year Award winner.
There was high hopes for Larry Johnson when he entered the League. Many thought he was going to not only be a great player but a legend. He was hyped more then Greg Oden and almost as much as LeBron James. He led UNLV to a championship in 1990 and was drafted with the firts pick. During his playing time with Hornets he put up great numbers. He was a 20-10-4 player night in and night out. The only problem was that he just could not get along with other players. He had to be the main man. One of the great ego problems the NBA has seen. Grandma-ma was in conflict with Alonzo Mourning and thing spun out of control and the Hornets Dealt ZO to Miami for Glen Rice. That did not seem to even make a difference and LJ was traded him self the very next season to the New York Knicks. Looking back on it is insane to think the Hornets traded away Mourning, but hey they did trade away Kobe Bryant for Vlade Divac. Could you imagine if the Hornets had kept Mourning and Kobe. Scary.
The downward spiral begins.
LJ had been suffering from back problems and his game started to include a lot of jump shots. His 5 seasons with the Knicks were aerage at best and the once "next best thing" was struggling to average 10 points a night. He let all his frustrations be known. He also let his mouth get him into trouble. A series of off color comments and disputes with NBA legend Bill Walton only brought unneeded attention to himself. In the end his ego and mouth made him a villain in most fans eyes and he retired at the age of 32 do to ongoing back problems. Yes, injuries were a major factor but he really did a fine job of making his retirement welcome.
Steve Fracis. 2nd pick in the 1999 draft by the Vancouver Grizzlies. 3 time Allstar and Rookie of the Year Award winner.
If there has ever been a fall from grace this is it. Stevie "Franchise" is a sad tail indeed. Like Walker and Johnson he had very good success with the team that drafted him. While with the Rockets he was considered a top 3 point guard. He put up great numbers. 19 points 6.5 assists and 6 rebounds a night is about as much as one can ask from a franchise player. But wait. How did he become a Rocket? Did not the Grizzlies draft him? Thats right he made a big stink and forced the Grizzlies to trade him for 5 garbage players. That is how he began in the League and that attitude followed him thoughout his short career.
The Rockets felt they were heading nowhere with Francis as the center piece of the team. His selfish play was starting to rub management the wrong way and he was traded to the Magic in a blockbuster trade for Tracy McGrady. Steve-o was not happy and went into shut down mode in the begining of the season. He then went on a terror and posted his best season averages ever. 21.3 ppg, 7.0 apg, and 5.8 rpg. Everyone thought that he was the real deal again. Then the Magic went and traded away his close friend Cuttino Mobley and Francis shut down again and the Magic missed the playoff dispite the great numbers Steve put up for the season.
The downward spiral begins.
Trade rumors began to swirl the next season after Francis got suspended by ownership. Nobody knew were he would end up but everyone knew that the once great point guard had lost all his value. Nobody really wanted to give up much for him. In the end he was traded to the New York Knicks for Trevor Ariza and an expiring contract. In less than two seasons he went from the centerpiece in a trade for Tracy McGrady to a has-been that only the Knicks would want. Sorry Knicks fans, but you have to admit you guys love to trade for headcases. Do not make me write a list of all the players the Knicks traded for in the last 15 years.
Francis, troubled with knee issues, really was never a factor again in the NBA and has played for the Rockets and the Grizzlies and is now a free agent. Of all three players I wrote about Steve Francis stands out the most to me. What a waste. It was like he just imploded over night.
Well that concludes part 1 in this series. What are some players that you think just faded over night? I am sure there are a few even worse cases then the ones I wrote about. Please list the players you think faded the fasted and why. Thanks for reading.
Posted on: October 12, 2008 11:49 pm
Edited on: October 27, 2008 4:36 pm
A person would have to be the captain of the championship debate team in order to convince me that the Southwest Division is not the best and deepest division in the NBA right now. With four teams that won more that 50 game apiece last season and each of those four look to win as many if not more again this year, it is hard to argue against the Southwest. Some of the best players of the past decade along with some of the brightest future stars reside here. The Hornets, Mavericks, Rockets, and Spurs are all but locks to make the playoffs again this year. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies they are still the blacksheep of the division, but there lies hope in some of their young talent.
It is a difficult task for one to attempt to wrap their mind around this season and just how the Southwest will play out. The Spurs have made no real roster changes, but are always a threat to make a run for another title as long as Tim Duncan is still wandering in the paint. The rags to riches team of last season, the Hornets, look like they will be even better with the addition of the gritty James Posey. This could be the Rockets' season to return to the Finals with the risky acquisition of Ron Artest, or will major injuries to either Yao Ming or Tracy McGrady hold those dreams in check? Will the Jason Kidd trade look like a great move as the Mavericks make it to the final dance, or will lack of defense and passion make the trade look like a mistake?
The only way to get to the bottom of these questions and many more is to take a good look into each team and try to seperate fact from fiction. Let the breakdown begin:
1. The New Orleans Hornets (60-22) (2nd Seed)
The only true challenge that faces the Hornets this season is if they are good enough to have another great season after surprising the league last year. They are no longer off the radar. Will they be able to step up and play against harder competition? I think they will take that step. My reasoning is simple. They have Chris Paul. To me Paul is the second best player in the league this year and if the Hornets are as good as they were last season, I think he will take home the MVP. Who is the best player you ask? Well, he is not in this divison so I will refrain from that agrument. Chris has that special talent that makes everyone on his team better. He is the ultimate team player. The Hornets also have a balanced team with David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Tyson Chandler. West is now considered one of the top low post players in the game and Tyson is a great defender and put-back man. The player that is standing out this preseason is Mike James. I understand that it is only the preseaon, but having another scoring threat on the floor only makes Chris Paul more dangerous. I also love the addition of James Posey. The Hornets will only benefit from having the tough as nails Posey around. Every great team has that player who can get under the opposing players skin. Think Rodman or Bowen. Posey will not put up big numbers, but will be responsible for more then a couple of wins. Overall, the Hornets have a great chance to go all the way, but so do three other teams in the division. I just think they have the most complete team with a superstar handling the ball.
2. The Houston Rockets (57-25) (3rd Seed)
I would love to see everything work out perfectly for this team, but something deep in the back of my head says something will happen to take the glory from McGrady's hands. I do not believe in curses, so I do not think that some force from the outside is toying with poor Tracy. What I do believe in is injury reports and history tells me not to put too many eggs in the Rockets' basket. With that being said, If the Rockets stay healthy, both Tracy and Yao, then they could very well make it to the Finals. Yao Ming is a top center and Tracy McGrady is one of the best players in the NBA period. With the addition of Ron Artest the Rockets could finally have all the parts needed to take that next step. I think Artest is a great player for the Rockets. He can drive a fan and a coach crazy at times, but if his talent is harnessed correctly he could be the key. The Rockets also have some other interesting players to consider. Brent Barry is a solid pick-up. He can open up the offense with his sharp-shooting. Luis Scola will only get better, and Shane Battier will always play smart ball whenever he is on the floor. Rafer Alston is a solid Point Guard and is able to run the team on the floor. Overall, The Rockets could be the best team is the league if they suffer no major injuries to McGrady or Ming.
3. The San Antonio Spurs (53-29) (5th Seed)
As much as I love to watch Tim Duncan and the Spurs, I truly feel they are starting to fade. It all started last year when they were pushed to seven games against a much younger and less experienced Hornets team. However, I can not just write them off. I think they will still be a top team and cause a lot of problems for other teams. At the end of the day though, I am not sure they have enough left in the tank to win another Championship. If somehow I am a fool and they do win another ring, then Tim Duncan will be the best Power Forward that the NBA has ever seen. Many already make that claim now, but nobody would be able to refute it if they win it all again. The other key factors on the team are also getting older as well. Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Michael Finley are all about ready to sign up with AARP. I thought the Spurs would make a splash in the offseason, but it never happened and now they face the season one year older. Tony Parker is the young guy on the team and he is certainly a superstar in the league, but he can only do so much. Manu Ginobili is now 31 and his body might start slowing him down. Will manu still have his quickness and in turn still be so effective? I am not sure. In many ways that is a good way to look at this team now. "I am not sure". In the end however, I can think of really no team that would want to face them in a seven game series. I just hope they get some more talent around Duncan before it is too late.
4. The Dallas Mavericks (52-30) (6th Seed)
Yes, I think the Mavericks will be a better team this year. Not a lot better, but a little better. I do think they will edge out the Suns for the 6th seed as well. Sorry Suns fans. Jason Kidd has much to prove and will play quite well this season. The thing is is that the Mavericks still just have so much talent that they can not lose. Will they play hard defense under new Head Coach Rick Carlisle? No. Will they score a lot of points and out run most teams? Yes. Dirk Nowitzki will do what he has always done. He will score like crazy from all over the floor. Jason Terry and Josh Howard will also just flat out score. This will work in most cases. This will get them into the playoffs. However, the Mavericks will never win the Finals without some more defense. The Mavericks are the best team in the NBA on paper, but only the tenth best on the floor. The Mavericks really should have made the trade for Ron Artest, even if it meant losing Josh Howard. The NBA is full of Josh Howard type players, but there is only one Ron Artest. Say what you want about Artest, but he would have been a nice fit on the Mavs. A bright spot in Dallas however is the young Brandon Bass. He looks like he could turn into a real monster down low. Overall, I really do not see the Mavericks making it out of the first round. That is sad because they ooze talent.
5. The Memphis Grizzlies (24-58) (miss playoffs)
This brings me to the bottom of the pack. The Grizzlies have a few parts, but let's face it, they are a long way from being any good. To top it off they are in the best division within the best conference. I gave them two more wins this year simply out of pity. Rudy Gay is the star of a one man show. Sure there is Hakim Warrick, Mike Conley, and the rookie O.J. Mayo to make things interesting and entertaining form time to time, but really this team is in a rebuilding period. Maybe even a promising one at that, but they are far from competing. The Grizzlies fan must sit back and not look at the wins and loses. He must look to see if the young guys are getting better. He must make a fist pump when Marc Gasol slams one home and jump out of his seat like a madman if Gay hits a buzzer beater. Take it from a Bulls fan, you must find some joy in the little things. The real doom of this team can be found on the roster. His name is Antoine Walker. I predict that he alone will account for at least 50 of the 58 loses. All kidding aside Grizzlies fans, you are the underdogs, so stand up and have some pride in yourselves. You are going to need it.
Well I hope this was half as fun for you to read as it was for me to write. I really like the Hornets this season to go all the way. They are the one team that really stands out to me from the rest of the pack in the Southwest. However, Anything can happen, as it often does, in this wonderful game we call the NBA.
Tags: Brandon Bass, Bruce Bowen, Chris Paul, David West, Dirk Nowitzki, Grizzlies, Hakim Warrick, Hornets, James Posey, Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Kurt Thomas, Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Marc Gasol, Mavericks, Michael Finley, Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rafer Alston, Rockets, Ron Artest, Rudy Gay, Shane Battier, Spurs, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Tracy McGrady, Tyson Chandler, Yao Ming