Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 2

The NBA Season starts TODAY and I can’t wait! Shout out to Bart Scott. It promises to be another exciting season as we’ve had player move here and there. There’s been a lot of chirping from all over the League. We’ll get to see how it all plays out over the next 8 months. Today I’ll layout the moves made in the NBA’s Western Conference and share a few thoughts on each team. The teams are listed in the order in which they finished at the end of the 2015-2016 regular season. At the end I’ll list who I think the 8 playoff teams will be.

Golden State Warriors – Hard to imagine that the team with the best regular season record in NBA history, first ever unanimous MVP, and 3 All NBA performers would get better but they did. After blowing a 3-1 lead in the 2016 NBA Finals to Cleveland; the Warriors went and signed Kevin Durant. GSW also brought in Zaza Pachulia and David West. As expected Harrison Barnes left the team and Andrew Bogut was traded away. The Warriors are the favorites to win the championship. We’ll see if they can seal the deal this season.

San Antonio Spurs – The Spurs had an excellent season but got trounced in the playoffs by OKC. As a result we saw the retirement of legendary power Forward Tim Duncan. Boris Diaw was traded to Utah for a future 2nd round draft pick. The Spurs signed Pau Gasol as a replacement for Duncan. It’ll be interesting to see how Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge play together. They also signed David Lee. Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are back but look for Patty Mills to see his role increase. We’ll get to see if Kawhi Leonard can shoulder the load this season. Keep an eye on Aldridge to see if he remains happy in San Antonio.

Oklahoma City Thunder – You’d have to be very unfamiliar with the NBA to not know that they lost one of the best players in the current era. Kevin Durant got tired of Russell Westbrook and went to Golden State over the summer. Golden State knocked them out of the 2016 Playoffs. OKC blew a 3-1 series lead and the rest is history. Serge Ibaka was traded on Draft Day for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis(11th pick of 2016 NBA Draft). Westbrook signed a contract extension but the Thunder will need to lock up big man Steven Adams too. The Thunder will fall in the West without KD…we’re just not sure how far.

Los Angeles Clippers – The Clippers were the 4th best team in the Western Conference but got bounced in the First Round by Portland after injuries to Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The core of the Clippers roster is still the same. They still don’t have a small forward to rely on as Paul Pierce revealed that he’s finally retiring at season’s end. Doc Rivers gave new contracts to Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford, Luc Mbah a Moute and his son Austin. Mo Speights, Brandon Bass, and Raymond Felton joined the team via free agency. They drafted Brice Johnson – who will be out with a herniated disc in his lower back – and Diamond Stone. This is a make or break season for the Clippers. If they don’t reach the Western Conference Finals this season then it’s time for some players to move on.

Portland Trail Blazers – Portland had an unexpected run to the Playoffs after a slow start last season. Terry Stotts was able to get his squad to the 2nd Round before they bowed out to Golden State in 5 games. Dame Lillard leads the way sidekick C.J. McCollum. McCollum rode his Most Improved  Player Award – season to a new contract. Portland also resigned Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Allen Crabbe. Crabbe was given  a whopping 4 year – $75 million dollar deal. Evan Turner joined from Boston and Festus Ezeli from Golden State. Unfortunately Festus is out with a knee injury and his return is unknown. Expect a big season from Lillard as the Blazers will look to ride their successful wave.

Dallas Mavericks – Dallas had an average season that concluded by getting thumped by OKC in the Playoffs. Dirk Nowitzki got a 2 year – $50 Million dollar deal over the summer. Harrison Barnes signed with the team and Andrew Bogut joined via trade. The Mavs resigned Dwight Powell and Deron Williams too. Seth Curry and Quincy Acy were some under the radar signings. No clue what to expect in Dallas. On paper it doesn’t look exciting.

Memphis Grizzlies – After being torn apart by injuries last season the Grizzlies hope to have better luck. As it stands today, they’re off to a bad start with a list of players injured. New Head Coach David Fizdale will have his work cut out for him. Memphis gave Mike Conley a max deal over the summer and signed Chandler Parsons. Zach Randolph will come off the bench and seems to be OK with that idea. It’s hard out here for a pimp. Good luck Memphis.

Houston Rockets – Squeaked into the Playoffs after a season full of turmoil. They exited the Playoffs quickly. Dwight Howard is gone and the team hopes to have better chemistry. Mike D’Antoni takes over as coach and they want to get up and down the court. Free agency saw the addition of – two former New Orleans Pelicans – Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson. James Harden restructured his contract and hopes to get back to the level of play he displayed in the 2014-2015 season. Nene joined Houston and Michael Beasley was traded to Milwaukee for Tyler Ennis. Houston will score a lot but not sure how much they’ll defend.

Utah Jazz – Utah is an up and coming team that was close to making the Playoffs last season. The Jazz ended their season giving up 60 points to Kobe Bryant in his final game. In hopes of making the Playoffs, Utah brought in some veteran players via free agency and trades. They acquired Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw via free agency. Utah was able to bring in George Hill via a 3 – team trade. The Jazz will be without Alec Burks(knee) and Gordon Heyward(finger) to start the season. Derrick Favors, Rodney Hood, and Diaw are also battling injuries. Big man Rudy Gobert is poised for a breakout season and 2nd year player Trey Lyles is ready to show his vast skills. The Jazz will bring Dante Exum along slowly as he continues to recover from ACL injury.

Sacramento Kings – Boogie Cousins is excited about new head coach Dave Joerger who joins them after his time in Memphis. During a Draft Day trade the Kings picked up Bogdan Bogdanovic, Skal Labissiere, Georgios Papagiannis and a 2020 2nd round draft pick from Phoenix. They signed an array of wing players after trading away Marco Belinelli to Charlotte. Those players are Arron Afflalo, Anthony Tolliver, Matt Barnes, and Garrett Temple. The Kings also signed point guard Ty Lawson after Rajon Rondo left town. Rudy Gay and Ben McLemore are both looking to play their way out of Sacramento. The team’s management still leaves a lot to be desired. But many fans are hoping the new arena is a sign of new things to come.

 

Denver Nuggets – The Nuggets are another team that I’m not sure where they’re going. They have some young talented players – Will Barton, Gary Harris, and Emmanuel Mudiay – but do they have enough veterans to balance out the squad. Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari have battled injuries. Kenneth Faried has been rumored to be on the trade block but still remains in Denver. Rookie Jamal Murray will be looking to score buckets and get  teammates involved. The Nuggets will fall into a funk again this season and struggle to make progress.

New Orleans Pelicans – How many games will Anthony Davis play? Start there and you’ll get an idea of what kind of season the Pelicans will have. In his 4 year career, Davis has never played more than 68 games. That season marked career high statistics for AD and coincided with New Orleans making a playoff appearance. Jrue Holiday is out after his wife gave birth to their child before having brain surgery. Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon left the team via free agency but some new players arrived in return. The Pelicans drafted Buddy Hield and Cheick Diallo. The team acquired Solomon Hill, Langston Galloway, E’Twaun Moore, Terrence Jones, and Lance Stephenson in free agency. With Holiday out, Tim Frazier and Galloway will need to step up. And as I stated above, Anthony Davis needs to stay healthy and on the court if New Orleans wants to be in the Playoff race.

Minnesota Timberwolves – Minnesota jumped from “cool team to watch” to “cool team expected to make the Playoffs” when they hired Tom Thibodeau to be Head Coach. Thibodeau will have a team full of young players to choose from. Most notably the last two Rookie of the Year Award winners, Karl Anthony-Towns(2015-2016) and Andrew Wiggins(2014-2015). In the 1st round of the 2016 NBA Draft Minnesota selected Kris Dunn. Dunn was a prolific scorer in college but he’ll be expected to distribute more in the NBA. The Timberwolves also bring back Shabazz Muhammad, high flying Zach LaVine, and Ricky Rubio. Nikola Pekovic will be out all season due to an Achilles injury. That means Gorgui Dieng and Adrien Payne will have to step up. Minnesota brought in Brandon Rush, Cole Aldrich, and Jordan Hill over the summer. The Timberwolves will improve but not enough to make the Playoffs. They’re still missing a few veteran pieces.

 

Phoenix Suns – The valley of the sun was very hot last season after team chemistry and injuries caused things to go awry. Jeff Hornacek was replaced by Earl Watson. The Suns will lean on their guards to carry the load. They’ll need Eric Bledsoe to stay healthy after he only played 31 games last season. Brandon Knight had a decent season while he was healthy but that was for only 52 games. Devin Booker was the lone bright star for the team. Booker started in 51 of the 76 games he started in and posted 13.8 points/game, 2.6 assists/game, and 2.5 rebounds/game to earn a spot on the NBA Rookie 1st Team. T.J. Warren was solid last season and Alex Len showed flashes of what he can do. P.J. Tucker, Tyson Chandler, and Leandro Barbosa are all seasoned vets but that won’t be enough to move the Suns up in the West.

Los Angeles Lakers – Kobe is gone but the Lakers now have Luke Walton as Head Coach. The Lakers won’t win much but they’ll be fun to watch. Walton will have the team playing at a pace that suits the team. The team re-signed Jordan Clarkson and brought in Luol Deng, Timofey Mozgov, Metta World Peace, and Thomas Robinson via free agency. They drafted the skinny but talented Brandon Ingram 2nd overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. D’Angelo Russell should thrive the most in this new style of play. Julius Randle will see his role increase while Nick Young and Lou Williams will still be able to get up a decent number of shots each game. The Lakers will reach the 24.5 wins mark but that’s about it.

Western Conference Playoff Predictions (in order):

Golden State Warriors

Los Angeles Clippers

San Antonio Spurs

Portland Trail Blazers

Houston Rockets

Utah Jazz

Memphis Grizzlies

Oklahoma City Thunder

Close but no cigar: Sacramento, Dallas, New Orleans, and Minnesota

Rookie of the Year – Buddy Heild, New Orleans Pelicans

Most Improved – Jabari Parker, Milwaukee Bucks

Defensive Player of the Year – Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors

6th Man of the Year – Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors

Most Valuable Player – Paul George, Indiana Pacers

All stats, rosters, team transactions and more courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/

Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 2

Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 1

The NBA Season starts on Tuesday and I can’t wait! Shout out to Bart Scott. It promises to be another exciting season as we’ve had player move here and there. There’s been a lot of chirping from all over the League. We’ll get to see how it all plays out over the next 8 months. Today I’ll layout the moves made in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and share a few thoughts on each team. The teams are listed in the order in which they finished at the end of the 2015-2016 regular season. At the end I’ll list who I think the 8 playoff teams will be.

Cleveland Cavaliers – While winning the NBA Finals, LeBron James re-established himself as the best player in the League. Fully expect them to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals again this season. The Cavs will coast through the regular season. Look for improved play from Kevin Love.

Toronto Raptors – Finished 2nd in the Eastern Conference – the most successful season in team history – after taking the Cavs to 6 games in the Eastern Conference Finals. They were able to re-sign DeMar DeRozan and acquire Jared Sullinger via free agency. In the draft they snatched the 7-footer Jacob Poetl (9th overall from University of Utah). He’ll be needed to sure up the loss of Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola.  The Raptors also need Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarre Carroll to stay healthy if they want to replicate last season’s success.

Miami Heat – Are you ready for Waiters County? This team has a lot of questions to answer. Dwyane Wade walked to Chicago during free agency and Chris Bosh’s career is in limbo due to complications from blood clots. Dion Waiters took a gamble on himself and took a one year deal in hopes of cashing out next summer. Miami dished out big contracts to Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson. Whiteside’s new deal was expected but no one and I do mean NO ONE saw the Heat matching Brooklyn’s 4 year – $50 Million dollar offer to Johnson. The Heat will be much younger after seeing Joe Johnson, Loul Deng, Amare Stoudemire, and “Birdman” Chris Andersen leave. Newcomers include Wayne Ellington, Derrick Williams, James Johnson, and Luke Babbitt. Holdovers Justise Winslow, Goran Dragic, Josh Richardson, and Udonis Haslem round out an interesting squad.

Atlanta Hawks – During free agency the Hawks brought in Dwight Howard and saw Al Horford fly north to Boston. They handed the team over to the charismatic point guard Dennis Schroder after trading Jeff Teague to the Indiana Pacers. Atlanta will need role players to step up (hello Kent Bazemore, Mike Scott,  and Tim Hardaway, Jr) while a few vets  – Millsap(knee) and Tiago Splitter(hamstring) –deal with injuries. Kyle Korver will need to improve on his sporadic Playoff shooting. I don’t look forward to the survivor’s remorse that comes with Dwight Howard shooting jump shots.

 

Boston Celtics – The Celtics haven’t had these expectations – of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals – since Doc and the gang left town. Boston was solid last season before fizzling out in the First Round against Atlanta. Head Coach Brad Stevens had all the role players one could ask for but no “top dawg” to get them over the hump. They acquired Al Horford in the summer but look for them to make another splashy move. Isaiah Thomas should continue to improve and Avery Bradley will hound opposing guards as usual. Rookie Jaylen Brown has already flashed glimpses of greatness that may come.

Charlotte Hornets – The Hornets finished last season getting smoked by Miami in Game 7. This season I don’t see much changing. Charlotte finished last season with the same record as Miami, Atlanta, and Boston but as those teams improved; the Hornets stayed the same. Kemba Walker is back and so is freshly re-signed Nicolas Batum. The likes of Al Jefferson, Courtney Lee, and Jeremy Lin all left town. In return Roy Hibbert and Marco Belinelli strutted in. Think that’s enough talking about the “Crying Jordan Faces”.

Indiana Pacers – The Frank Vogel Era ended on a sour note after a tough Game 7 defeat to Toronto. The Hick From French Lick tasked Nate McMillan with the duty of bringing exciting offensive play to Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Nate will do so with an exciting mix of players. There’s recent Team USA Gold Medal recipient Paul George who has been tabbed by a few (including myself) to have a MVP caliber season. Promising big man Myles Turner returns with the sharp shooting C.J. Miles and volume scoring guards Monta Ellis and Rodney Stuckey.  In the off season Indiana picked up Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, and swapped out fellow Indianapolis native George Hill for Jeff Teague. Indiana lost Ian Mahinmi, Jordan Hill, and Solomon Hill to free agency. The Pacers are expected to be one of the top 4 teams in the East. In order to make that happen they’ll need to gel quickly and get that expected MVP – level play from Paul George.

Detroit Pistons – Detroit returned to the playoffs last season after a 6 year hiatus. Andre Drummond was 3rd Team All-NBA and received a new contract as a result. The Pistons did the opposite of what I mentioned about Charlotte. Detroit brought in Boban Marjanovic, Jon Leuer, and speedy point guard Ish Smith. The acquisition of Smith is huge because Reggie Jackson will be out 2 months with knee and thumb issues. Detroit had no major departures and is loaded with wing players as Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Marcus Morris, Stanley Johnson, and Tobias Harris return. Stan Van Gundy is expected to lead this group to more than a First round cameo.

Chicago Bulls – Chicago Bulls management went NBA 2K and cleaned house. After taking a sip of their favorite beverage they picked up the controller and went straight to the random rosters mode. The results were hilarious as Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, E’Twaun Moore, Aaron Brooks, and most recently Tony Snell are all out of the Windy City. In are Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, Michael Carter-Williams, Robin Lopez, Jerian Grant, Denzel Valentine, and a few others. Fred Hoiberg had to think he was back at Iowa State when this recruit…I mean group of NBA players walked into training camp. No clue what to expect from this team other than Rondo showing his ass at some point. If the Cubs win the World Series then this NBA season won’t even matter. Go Cubs!

Washington Wizards – The Wizards had a disappointing .500 season and wound up firing Randy Wittman (it was long overdue). Now they have former Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks. Brooks gets to coach another set of clashing young players. This time it is John Wall and Bradley Beal. Both often injured guards have made their feelings known and it appears that Wall is waiting on an opportunity to bolt. He’ll have to wait on his knee to heal before doing so. Beal inked a new contract over the summer has missed a season worth of games over his four year career. Bradley will be expected to carry the load while waiting on Wall’s return. Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris will help too. Ian Mahinmi should provide solid defense. It’s also make or break time for Otto Porter while Kelly Oubre Jr will look to avoid the sophomore slump after a less than stellar rookie season.

Orlando Magic – Orlando’s summer included bringing in Frank Vogel to be the head coach and trading for Serge Ibaka. Ibaka came to Orlando via a draft day trade that sent Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and Domantas Sabonis(11th pick of 2016 NBA Draft)  to OKC. They also signed the most confusing player in the league – Jeff Green – and re-signed Evan Fournier. The always active Bismack Biyambo joined the Magic via free agency and the “Hungry Husky” Shabazz Napier was traded to Portland for those good ole cash considerations.

Milwaukee Bucks – Before trading Michael Carter-Williams, the Bucks had to have players with 3 of the longest last names in the NBA. The talented Giannis Anteokounmpo remains and they brought in the Curry Stopper Matthew Dellavedova this summer via free agency. They’ll be without the much needed shooting of Khris Middleton for 6 months due to a torn hamstring. Looking at their roster I have no clue where they’ll find shooting. The additions of Tony Snell and Jason Terry won’t be enough. Jabari Parker has looked strong as he continues to build strength from his ACL injury. Rookies Thon Maker and Malcolm Brogdon will see some time. O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for 2 seasons after problems with substance abuse. Jason Kidd has a lot of work to do.

New York Knicks – Super Team in the house! At least that’s how Derrick Rose feels. After a dismal 32-50 record last season; the Knicks revamped their roster. They sent away Jose Calderon, Jerian Grant, and Robin Lopez in return they got Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday, and a 2017 2nd round pick. New York added more via free agency when they signed Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings. The new signings coupled with the return of Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis has Derrick Rose feeling “super”. Jeff Hornacek is the new head coach but he has Phil Jackson ringing a triangle in his ear. The Knicks find their way back into the Playoffs with anything beyond the First Round being a surprise to all.

 

Brooklyn Nets – Terrible last season and the forecast looks to be the same this season. Jeremy Lin was brought in over the summer along with a bunch of other players they needed to fill the cap and make a team. We know A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but what about some wins?

Philadelphia 76ers – “Trust the process” they said. Trusting the process has landed them with another Top 5 pick injured before the season starts. The overall number 1 pick from the 2016 NBA Draft – Ben Simmons – is out for 3 months with a broken foot. On the bright side, Joel Embiid is back on the court…dancing. But that means the log jam of young power forwards has reached maximum capacity. Nerlens Noel has already hinted at wanting to leave. Jahlil Okafor was rumored in various trades all summer. Add Croatian rookie Dario Saric to the mix. Somebody has to go and Elton Brand who decided to retire isn’t who I meant. The team is still incredibly young – 17 players with 4 years or less NBA experience – were listed on the preseason roster. I can’t trust the process but I definitely trust them to lose a bunch of games.

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions (in order):

Cleveland Cavaliers

Indiana Pacers

Boston Celtics

Toronto Raptors

Atlanta Hawks

Detroit Pistons

New York Knicks

Orlando Magic

Close but no cigar: Washington, Chicago, and Miami

Look for the Western Conference preview on Monday.

All stats, rosters, team transactions and more courtesy of http://www.basketball-reference.com/

Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 1

Daily Prompt: Clumsy

via Daily Prompt: Clumsy

Been a few weeks since I wrote something and it’s too early for me to be talking the upcoming NBA season…so instead I’m doing one of the one word prompts from The Daily Post. Today’s word is “clumsy”. How often have you felt clumsy? If you’re like me that has probably been plenty of times. But surprisingly what I’ve found as I’ve gotten older is that I wasn’t being clumsy. Now I’m not talking about the times I’ve tripped over something or spilled food/drink because yeah that is clumsy. I am referring to those moments when I’ve had to get up and demonstrate something or talk in front of a group of people. A recent memory was a few years ago when I had to talk to a group of incoming college freshmen (Jackson State University). I was scheduled to talk to the group on a Friday. I’ve always been one to take full advantage of “Casual Friday”. That Friday was no different because there I was with a short sleeved button down shirt, jeans, and some j’s. I felt clumsy at first because my coworkers had on business casual attire. I didn’t let that feeling last too long though and when my time came to speak I did a good job (I think). It was especially rewarding because a few of the students were from my hometown and my former high school. It gave the kids a chance to see someone from the area they’re from in an attire familiar to them. I wouldn’t call that clumsy at all.

 

Daily Prompt: Clumsy