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/

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Thoroughly Unthorough NBA Preview Part 1

NBA Update

We’re almost a month into the NBA season and the excitement is already building. We have the Golden State Warriors out here making sure no one makes excuses that anybody is injured. Today the Houston Rockets fired Kevin McHale – after starting the season 4-7 – and handed the team over to 36 year old interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff. At the top of the Eastern Conference you’ll find the teams we all expected to see (Cleveland, Chicago, and Atlanta). Surprisingly the East has been quite competitive. It’s still very early so we could see things change up.

 

Surprises

The Detroit Pistons have been a nice surprise so far this season. The Pistons have gotten outstanding play from Andre Drummond (averaging 19.1 points/game and 18.9 reb/game) who has already posted three 20-20 games. He fell two rebounds short (25 points and 18 rebounds) last night after Detroit battled back to defeat Cleveland. Other key contributors include Reggie Jackson (leads team in scoring), Marcus Morris, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. In order to make a bigger they’ll need Ersan Illyasova and rookie Stanley Johnson to pick up their games with shooting guard Jodie Meeks out. Meeks is expected to be out 3 more months after having foot surgery. They’re also waiting for Brandon Jennings to return from his Achilles injury that occurred last season.

Three teams from the Western Conference have been a nice surprise – Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets, and Minnesota Timberwolves – to most NBA fans.   Each team is in the top 10 of the “too early to be reading” conference standings. According to Hollinger’s NBA Team Stats, each team is in the top 15 for PACE (number of possessions a team uses per game). This comes as no surprise due to the talented young players that each team has. Danilo Gallinari leads the Nuggets but is helped out by a number of players. Will Barton who came over from Portland is 2nd on the team in scoring. Rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay has shown flashes that he can run the show but he’ll need to cut down on his 4.5 turnovers/game if Denver wants to remain relevant in the West.

Phoenix is led by guards Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight who both are averaging 20 plus points and 5 assists through the team’s first 10 games. Markieff Morris seems to have gotten over his twin brother no longer being Phoenix and Tyson Chandler is providing a solid force on the defensive end.

Finally the Minnesota Timberwolves round out the surprising teams. 2nd year wing player Andrew Wiggins leads the team in scoring at 20.9 points/game. Four other Timberwolves are averaging double figures so far this season. One of those four is rookie big man Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds. The youngster has been under the guidance of veteran power forward Kevin Garnett.

 

Disappointments

Three playoff teams from last season – New Orleans Pelicans, Houston Rockets, and Milwaukee Bucks – pop up in this category so far in the early season. The common theme amongst the 3 teams is no effort or urgency, which has led to the trio being terrible defensively. All 3 teams are in the bottom of the league for Rebound Rate and Defensive Efficiency. The Pelicans have been hit by injuries but that’s still no excuse for the poor performances they’ve put out this season. The Pelicans are 1-10 at the moment and could end up 1-19 after the first 20 games!!

Houston’s trade for Ty Lawson isn’t going as planned. The Rockets haven’t seen the point guard look comfortable yet. His 5.8 assist/game average is well below his career numbers. James Harden’s need to have the basketball in his hands could be one of the problems but a change may be needed seeing how he’s averaging 4.8 turnovers/game. Dwight Howard has played in only 7 of the 11 games so far since he’s resting because of injuries. Remember Trevor Ariza’s 3-point shooting ability? The small forward is only shooting 31.5% from long range and a dismal 33.6% overall. For what is worth, James Harden is only shooting 37.2% overall and an ugly 26.2% on 9.4 attempts/game from 3-point range (luckily he seems to shoot 35 free throws every night). Terrible defense and poor shooting numbers as a team (42.3% FG and 29.0% 3-point FG) are a couple reasons why Kevin McHale is already “Gone Fishing”.

Milwaukee’s defensive struggles are most surprising because they were 2nd in Defensive Efficiency last season only behind the Golden State Warriors. They’re also last in PACE. Those factors along with what appears to be a stronger Eastern Conference and trying to mix in new players and guys returning from injury could continue to cause problems. But I expect the Bucks to turn things around as they’ve only played 11 games.

 

Quick Hits

How long before the triangle runs through Kristaps Porzingis and not Melo? Porzingis matched up very well against Anthony Davis on Sunday. AD dropped 36 but KP was able to bother him at times & moved well on both ends of the court. He’s constantly making an impact by blocking or altering shots. Once he finds his game offensively that will give Melo more room to operate.

On Twitter, the homie QB asked “Sixers win or GS lose…Which one happens first?” I went with GS loses first. Clippers will beat them Thursday. As for the Sixers, they play the Pacers tonight and then have a 6 game road trip. They’ll beat the Lakers on December 1st to get their first win.

I mentioned the New Orleans Pelicans injuries earlier and sadly, one of the players is Anthony Davis. So far in his young career AD has yet to play a full 82 game season. Last season he was able to play 72 total games – 68 in the regular season and 4 in the postseason – for the Pelicans.

STEPH CURRY…I think that’s all that is needed.

All stats via:

http://stats.nba.com/

http://espn.go.com/nba/statistics

http://espn.go.com/nba/hollinger/teamstats

NBA Update