JumpBall

October 25, 2008

Season Preview Part 2

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 9:43 PM

The Most Valuable Player Award is the smartest, most ambiguous award that sports have ever come up with. Nobody has any clue at all how to deduce what the term valuable means in the context of this award, which means we waste countless hours arguing over who we should be. Personally, I probably spend more time thinking about who deserves the MVP for a particular year and whom I would vote for than I do thinking about who I plan to vote for to become President of the United States. How bad is that? I’m a political science major.

So who should win the award? It could be used to reward the greatest player in the game (often a swing player like Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant.) Others say it should be given to the best team leader or floor general (like a point guard such as Magic Johnson or Chris Paul.) Still others wish to hand the award to the most dominating player on the court (often a big man with low post skills like Shaq or Tim Duncan.) In part one of the season preview, we looked at a power rankings of the teams. For the second part, let’s look at the rankings of this years MVP candidates. For the most part, these rankings are not reflective of who I feel deserves to win, but rather who I feel has the best chance to win based on media biases and current trends. For example, Kobe Bryant didn’t win the award last year because he was the best player in the game—someone who led his team to the best record in the most competitive conference despite losing Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum to various bouts of injury all despite playing with a torn tendon in his shooting hand. He won the award because people thought he was ‘due’ for it where as Chris Paul and Lebron were not. First let’s start off with the guys who didn’t make the cut:

Runners Up: These guys didn’t make it because they just aren’t valuable enough to be a true candidate for this list. Some are just huge injury concerns, others lack the requisite amount of depth in their games, and a few just barely missed. They are in no particular order: Baron Davis, Carmelo Anthony, Allen Iverson, Yao Ming, Tracey McGrady, Manu Ginobili, Josh Howard, Monte Ellis, Kevin Durant, Rasheed Wallace Rip Hamilton, Kevin Garnett, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Steve Nash, Tony Parker, Caron Butler, Gilbert Arenas, Chris Bosh, Michael Redd, Vince Carter, Al Jefferson, and Rudy Gay.

The Candidates:

13. Brandon Roy: Ok, he is easily the longest shot here to win the award. He would have to average something like 25 points, 7-8 assists, and take the clutch shots for his team (instead of Travis Outlaw) while leading his team to a top 4 record. There is a 99 percent chance that this is impossible for this season, and in fact many of the people in the runner ups section are more talented and more valuable then him. He’s on this list to give me a chance to expand on my season preview for the Blazers.

I’ll admit I was fairly harsh on them, but that doesn’t mean I hate them. The Blazers are a good young team with an incredible amount of young prospects. It’s like Kevin Pritchard is playing NBA Live against the rest of the league the way he keeps stockpiling picks. They have two talented, young, big men in LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden. Oden has struggled so far in the preseason, but that’s to be expected. In 5 years he will be considered the most dominant big man in the game (yes, better than Andrew Bynum, although I expect Bynum to be better on offense and to thus get the greater media attention.) Still, this team was too hyped up for this season, and needs time to develop chemistry and have their young guys gain a deeper understanding of the game. This is a 500 ball club this season, and that’s not good enough to make the playoffs in the west. If you’re a Portland fan, and you still have the best foundation in the NBA, you shouldn’t care too much about this year anyway. So, if Blazer fans would stop sending me emails involving me, my health, their fists/weapons, and the setting of some dark alley…I would appreciate that very much.

12. Dwight Howard: His athletic dominance is why he’s the first true candidate to make the list. However, that dominance actually comes back to hurt him a bit, because he lacks any polish in his game. That doesn’t affect him when he takes on the dregs of the East or West (which is how he is able to lead the league in dunks and percentage of field goals that’s are dunks year in and year out), but when he plays a contender or even a decent playoff team he will more often face someone who is a good post defender who will shut him down. Still, he is a rebounding machine. Had Howard played in the time of Oscar Robinson, he would have averaged 25-30 rebounds a game. If he develops a hooks shot or learns how to pass out of the double team, he will move up the list.

11. Dirk Nowitzki: Remember him? No one suffered more than Nowitzki after the eighth seed Warriors beat his number one seed Mavericks. He went from MVP and best player on the best regular season team to an unfairly maligned pariah. I’ve never understood why it had to be his fault that he first went up against a team where the coach knew how to exploit all of his weakness and that the next year he got to watch Jason Kidd get decimated by Chris Paul. One could argue that he will never be the same, and is simply too damaged psychologically. They’re wrong.

First of all, this is a good Mavericks team that people are writing off. Last year, they gave up on Avery Johnson and tried to integrate Jason Kidd into a wholly different offense. They still finished with over 50 wins for the eighth consecutive time. This year they have had a full training camp to integrate Jason Kidd and the new energy that comes with a new head coach (Rick Carlisle.) Look for this team, and specifically Nowitzki to bounce back stronger than ever.

10. Chauncey Billups: This was a tossup between Billups and Rasheed Wallace. Wallace is the emotional leader of the team, and when he plays with greater intensity, the rest of the team follows. A very good argument could be made as a result that he is the true MVP of this team.

In the end, it’s the wrong one. Rasheed Wallace takes this team from a very good one to a team that can beat anybody. Yet, the only reason he can take the team to such a high level is because Billups keeps the team at that steady almost as high level in the first place. Plus, there is a reason they call him Mr. Big Shot. Billups is the only one on that team who never shies away from taking (and thus making) the clutch shots at the end of the game. He is starting his decline and is no longer an elite point guard like Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but he still has quite a few miles left and talks of his demise as a good player and the ascension of Rodney Stuckey are greatly exaggerated.

9. Paul Pierce: HE IS THE TRUTH! Seriously, that might be the best nickname in sports. People are going to look at this list and wonder how KG—who finished in the top 3 of voting last year—isn’t even the top player on his team this time around. Those people clearly missed the playoffs. Paul Pierce was not only incredibly more consistent on offense than Garnett who instead seemed much more willing to stay out on the perimeter and shoot up bricks from 15-20 feet. Plus, and this is a big thing for me, he stepped up in clutch moments and made big shots. When watching the Celtics practice on NBA TV, everyone deferred to Pierce. Also speaking of which, I hate Doc Rivers for beating my Lakers and for otherwise being a generally average at best coach. Still, he was very impressive during that practice as he kept practice moving along swiftly and kept harping on the details without getting annoying. Is there a chance he made Tom Thibodeau write all of those down for him since it was a televised practice? Maybe, but for now lets give Rivers the benefit of the doubt.

The end result: the Celtics should once again be the best team in the East, and Pierce should finally get the respect from MVP voters that he deserves.

8. Elton Brand: His media perceived character took a huge hit when he reneged on the Clippers and signed instead with the Sixers for more money. I’m not sure why in this case either. Who doesn’t leave their current job for an easier one with better pay? On the Clippers, Brand would have shared top dog status with Baron Davis and most likely lost in the first or second round of the playoffs. On the Sixers, Brand is the first option always, everyone defers to him, and he will probably lose in the second round (ok so not everything is an upgrade.) Still, going to the East will add years to his career as he won’t have to play against Duncan, West, Boozer, Nowitzki, Al Jefferson, Gasol, Camby, Stoudamire, or LaMarcus Aldridge four times a year.

Who in the East can guard him? Maybe three teams (Cavs, Celtics, and Pistons) have a chance. Other than that, he should be able to dominate his division and lead his team to a top three seed. He was an MVP candidate before he got hurt as a Clipper. Now that he is with the Sixers feasting on easier opponents, look for him to return to his former candidacy. I wish I had more to say, but that’s pretty much it. Brand will average a double-double and return to being a top ten choice for MVP.

7. Amare Stoudamire: I understand that Stoudamire has improved by leaps and bounds, and is going to put up incredible numbers this season. However, if he wins this award, it will be a greater travesty than when his teammate Steve Nash almost won the award three times in a row. That’s because Stoudamire is a product of the teammates he has around him. For one, Shawn Marion was replaced by Shaq which allows Stoudamire to play against power forwards night in and night out. Without Steve Nash, Stoudamire would still be able to dominate his defender on the basis of the simple principal that he is faster, stronger, more talented, and more polished than 99 percent of the power forwards in the league (KG is still the golden standard there now that Duncan is ‘secretly’ a center.’) However, Stoudamire does in fact have Steve Nash on his team which means that he will get even easier shots on offense than his immense talent would normally afford him.

So to sum up, Amare Stoudamire has a real chance to win the MVP if the Suns finish ahead of the Lakers in their division. He’ll win it because Shaq and Nash have facilitated a way for him to get it without having to play as out of his mind as he would have otherwise. Plus, while he is doing it, we’ll get to read numerous articles about how Nash and Shaq are either starting to decline (Nash) or almost completely done (Shaq.) Sometimes the world isn’t fair.

6. Deron Williams: Deron Williams largely flies under the radar for most NBA fans that are more enamored by his quicker counter part in Chris Paul. ESPN’s Bill Simmons has gone so far as to say that there isn’t even a debate between the two of them….WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!!!!!

(Ok, I got that out of my system.)

For what its worth, Chris Paul is ever so slightly better right now, but its closer than most people will admit. I truly believe that at by the end of their careers Williams will actually be the better player even if it is ignored by the larger mainstream media. He is a better shooter, a better rebounder, a better finisher, and just as good a passer (although he lacks the Paul’s flair for Sportscenter passes), but more than that, it comes down to size. Williams is the bigger player, which allows him to post up smaller point guards (like Paul) and in the same vein not be posted up by other point guard and even most shooting guards.

Paul’s huge advantage over Williams is that Paul is faster than a jet and quicker than lightning. I’ve timed him going hoop to hoop in four seconds while dribbling, which doesn’t even seem possible except that he has done it more than once. Still, in the NBA, speed and athleticism in general fades over time. Paul is always one semi serious injury from losing his speed forever where as most of Deron’s attributes are much harder to diminish with time.

The other advantage Paul has over Williams is that Paul’s team is better. Williams does have Boozer, but Paul counters that with both David West and Tyson Chandler. Want to know the difference between driving in on Tyson Chandler and Mehmet Okur in the paint? If you only played one of those two all season, you would be driven to the hospital having to go against Chandler, and driven to the bank if you were lucky enough to go up against Okur.

Anyway, Deron Williams has found himself on a team capable of returning to the conference finals except that this time his team is so loaded with players eager to play well with him and hard for the team during their final year of their contract. They still won’t be quite as good as Paul’s Hornets talent wise, but Jerry Sloan should be able to do his best to make it up with guile and effort. Basic point: this could and should be the year that Williams catapults himself into the conversation of MVP.

5. Dwyane Wade: Wade has had a roller coaster of a career. He went from being an amazing young player who won a championship early in his career with one of the greatest players ever (Shaq) to being bad enough to ‘earn’ the number two pick in the draft while playing alongside side of Chris Quinn whose claim to fame is being one of the first people from the NBDL to make it to the NBA. For a reference point, it’s a lot like Al Pacino going from going from working with Marlon Brando and Diane Keaton in The Godfather to working with Cameron Diaz and LL Cool J in Any Given Sunday. No matter how good you could be, the people around you are what help bring up or down your performance.

Luckily, Pat Riley won’t let Wade’s career go on in the same fashion as Pacino’s (Righteous Kill sucked!) He traded the aging Shaq somehow for Shawn Marion and drafted Michael Beasley. With those teammates falling into line, Wade should lead this team back into the playoffs and potentially the second round. Plus, Chris Quinn is still around…so Wade has that going for him too, I guess…

In any case, Wade looked completely rejuvenated during the Olympics and should finish in the top 5 for MVP.

4. Kobe Bryant: I still can’t believe he won the award last year. Kobe has come a long way since his image took a complete nose dive during his Colorado trial. Hell, his image has taken an complete turn even since this time last year. He has gone from being seen as a selfish, player on a bad team with few endorsements fitting the most talented player in the NBA to an MVP who can be seen acting like a pre-crazy, scientology-loving Tom Cruise for a commercial here.

Anyway, all that being said, there is almost no way Kobe wins this year. His team is considered too talented which lowers his chance of being known as the most valuable player in the league. Still, he remains the most skilled and complete player in the NBA.

3. Tim Duncan: Nobody wants to vote for him, and he really doesn’t seem to care at all. While Kobe is easily one of the most polarizing figures of our generation, Tim Duncan has quietly become another. His game is built on all fundamentals and no flash. He is unguardable one-on-one in the post, gets the tough rebounds, is the best man-to-man post defender in the league today, and is even a willing passer when double teamed. What he doesn’t have is flash. That allows people like my friend and huge Warriors fan J-Chen to dismiss him as boring, and to some degree he is right. Its not particularly exciting to get to watch Duncan methodically break down his defender on one end and shut down his assignment on the other. All fans get to see are a flurry of seemingly easy hooks and bank shots on one end and a whole bunch of misses on the other. Still, if you have seen enough basketball you learn to appreciate that high level of consistency. Duncan will one day go down as the greatest power forward of all time.

However, he isn’t retired yet. This is an important season for Tim Duncan as Ginobili is hurt and the only veterans that will start the season with him who have won multiple championships with him are Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen. Gone are Robert Horry and Brent Barry to hit the kick out three whenever Duncan is doubled. So what does this mean for the Spurs? It means that Duncan has to step up his game, and since he isn’t over the hill yet, I believe he will do just that. Expect more 25 and 12 games from Duncan as he not only keeps the Spurs in contention with Ginobili out, but gives his new teammates time to adjust to their new, bigger roles.

2. Lebron James: This year will be one big test for Lebron James. On one hand the media is praising the Cav’s front office for delivering Jame’s Mo Williams. To the untrained eye that seems like a great addition as Williams should provide the offensively challenged team with a great secondary option.

However, that’s just half the story. The calling card of the Cavaliers is their defense. Quite simply put the Cavs are stifling on that end of the court. Yet the main reason is that they have four very earnest defenders on the court at the same time to hide Lebron’s general apathy towards that end of the court (yes, he is getting better there, but generally only during the 4th quarter which still leaves three quarters for the team to have to cover him up.) When you add Mo Williams to the mix, you only have three players who can adequately and consistently play defense on the court at the same time. That means that in order to make their offense average (slightly above average at best) the Cavs are greatly worsening their defense on paper. So if this team starts off slowly, people will blame Lebron for not doing a better job of integrating his new teammates. The blame should actually go to the front office for destroying the defensive chemistry, but nobody should expect to see an article about that.

So then, how is Lebron ranked ahead of players like Kobe, Duncan, and Amare? Lebron has the most untapped potential out of all the players in the game today. Even without a post game or outside game, Lebron should be good to average 30 points, 7 assists, and 7 rebounds. In addition, he should still carry this team to the second round at which point he has proved time and again that anything is possible. This kid should at the very least go down as the player who contains the greatest amount of talent of all time. If the number one player on this list doesn’t get the award, expect it to go to this guy.

1. Chris Paul: Even with all that immense talent, Lebron isn’t the favorite in my eyes to win this award. Chris Paul is. Because I personally prefer Deron Williams, many people see me as hating on Paul and his game, but that’s not true. Paul is indeed an amazing player and does in fact have a chance to go down as a no questions asked first ballot hall of famer. One thing that sets him apart from Deron Williams that I didn’t mention earlier is the factor of leadership. As good as Williams is, the unquestioned leader on that team is Jerry Sloan. Sloan is a legend so that is fair and warranted, but the difference is quite stark in New Orleans. Sure, Byron Scott has become a much better coach especially if you look back at his days in New Jersey, but this is unquestionably Paul’s team. Everyone follows him in that city. His flair for the dramatic is unparalleled among today’s point guards. Plus, lets face it, the kid is amazingly fast.

Still, that won’t be why he wins the award, or at least not the main reason. Chris Paul has the benefit of being the new Allen Iverson. By that I mean he is a small player in a game for giants. He will continuously drive in time after time to get to the hoop against players a foot taller than him with no care for his own health and safety. Getting back to his leadership for a bit, this is exactly what inspires teammates to play with a greater intensity and play better. Thus, Chris Paul has the most value out of any NBA player today.

October 2, 2008

SEASON PREVIEW PART 1

Filed under: Uncategorized — siddhant2001us @ 1:22 PM

With the NBA opening its training camps all over the place, and the season so close to starting, lets kick things off with:

 

 

 

Training Camp Power Rankings:

1.      Boston Celtics: The champs will always be number one on my rankings, at least during the preseason. The loss of Posey, however, could cause them lose some of their defensive intensity and thus lose this top spot in the future. The signing of Darius Miles was basically Danny Ainge’s way of giving Kevin Pritchard of the Portland Trailblazers the finger. Other than that, there was really no need to sign an older, gimpier version of Bill Walker…especially when the Celtics just drafted Bill Walker in the second round.

 

2.      San Antonio Spurs: They have won every odd year since the Lakers three-peated early on in the decade. The injury to Ginobili could be a blessing in disguise as it will keep him fresh for the stretch run and the playoffs and force other role players to finally step up. This is going to be Greg Poppovich’s toughest year yet, but does anyone really doubt that he will be up for the challenge? On the other hand, their biggest signing was Roger Mason so uh yeah…they have that going for them too I guess.

 

3.      Los Angeles Lakers: On paper there is just so much talent from Kobe to Pau to Bynum to Odom, but the fact remains that there is just one ball. This is a crucial training camp as players are going to have to figure out their roles and how to play along. What is not helping form a new chemistry is Odom already complaining about his role before training camp even starts. I guess it’s never easy in LA. The basic key in my mind then is how much is Pau Gasol willing to sacrifice? If he willingly plays in the high post and racks up assists feeding the ball to Bynum and a cutting Odom while rarely looking for his own offense so as to give the others the touches they so want, the Lakers will return to the finals. If not, look for Odom to be shipped off by the trade deadline or at least for Trevor Ariza to start in his place and bring him off the bench.

 

4.      New Orleans Hornets: This team has a starting five that is on par with anyone else’s, but their depth is shallower than a high school sophomore. They especially have no one to back up Chris Paul or Tyson Chandler as Mike James has been erratic since his arrival to the big easy and Hilton Armstrong sounds like a hotel chain that specializes in gyms.

 

5.      Detroit Pistons: This team has a solid starting five and now has good depth at pretty much every position. Michael Curry however has to get their effort to be more consistent, use his bench much more than his predecessors Flip Saunders and Larry Brown, and emphatically delete the offense installed by the aforementioned Saunders. If he can do all of that, there is no reason this veteran team cannot return to the finals.

 

6.      Houston Rockets: Can Yao Ming stay healthy? Can Tracey McGrady? Can Ron Artest play good soldier and force up too many shots? Can he also consistently guard power forwards? Can the point guards like Rafer Alston run the half court sets more efficiently while also playing defense at a high level? Will Shane Battier be able to adjust once more in order to benefit the team? If even half these answers are yes, then the Rockets will be an emerging force in the west this year. Judging by the high rankings, Rocket fans, I think you will be happy with this season.

 

7.      Utah Jazz: One thing that most people don’t realize with this team is that it is actually quite weak defensively. So to counteract this weakness, Jerry Sloan has his players slow down the pace and limit the amount of possessions the opposing team has in a game. That is really why this team ends up with respectable traditional defensive stats at the end of the year. However, there aren’t that many smokes and mirrors on the offensive side, which remains as potent as ever. Will the fact that it is the contract year of so many of the teams players help or hurt them? It says here that Jerry Sloan will make sure that it helps them.

 

8.      Phoenix Suns: As Bill Simmons pointed out in a column that he wrote during last year’s playoffs, it was really bad luck that this team ran into the Spurs in the first round, and even when they did, it was a much closer series than the five games it took to beat them indicates. The key to having a better year this time around is not Nash staying healthy, because  I guarantee that he will. What will determine this season for the Suns is the presence and demeanor of Shaq. Off the court he cannot undermine Terry Porter like he did Stan Van Gundy simply because he has 4 rings. On the court, the more he plays, the more minutes Amare Stoudamire can play power forward. If you remember, Stoudamire became unguardable the moment he learned how to play along with Shaq. With a full season this time around to create team chemistry, the Suns not only will return to the playoffs, but they have a legitimate shot at toppling the Lakers (who have their own chemistry issues) for supremacy in the Pacific Division.

 

9.      Cleveland Cavaliers: Record wise, this team would have been tenth in the Western conference last year, but once they got to the playoffs they showed that they are more than just Lebron James; maybe not on the offensive end, but this team show a defensive intensity so great that during the finals the Celtics often remarked how open they felt against the Lakers now that the Cavs swarming defense had been dealt with. Thus, the offensive-focused Mo Williams may not be as great an addition as people think if he shows he cannot play defense to the high standard of Mike Brown. After all, the defense is built to withstand one poor defender in Lebron James, (although he has improved into an acceptable defense since the current schemes have been created) but the addition of another average at best defender could end up killing the Cavs in the end.

 

10.  Philadelphia 76ers: This team was one big man away from challenging in the East and then they got one in Elton Brand. A few years ago, Brand was a legitimate MVP candidate who gave the Suns fits in the second round of the playoffs before the Clippers eventually bowed out. If he can regain that form coming off his injury, the Sixers could sneak into the conference finals at which point all bets are off.

 

11.  Dallas Mavericks: Remember that time you had a crush on a hot, award winning actress, and would do anything to meet and date her even if it meant dumping your young, kind of cute girl friend? Well turns out if you had met and eventually dated her, she would have almost immediately gotten old real fast while your ex would start to get better and better. Even if the ex never had a prime like the famous actress where she was drop dead gorgeous, you didn’t date her in her prime anyway while the ex’s prime could have been good enough to keep you competitive enough to win a championship. Ok so the metaphor has stopped working, but you can bet Mark Cuban wishes he had kept his ex (Devin Harris) rather than go after Jason Kidd who looks like he has lost a step on offense and an even bigger step on defense. In other news, the Lakers did hold on to Andrew Bynum (the ex) rather than roll the dice with Kidd. They made the finals, and Dallas did not. Expect more of the same this year.

 

12.  Orlando Magic: While everyone else who has a chance to contend in the east made trades, got a new coach, signed a big name, or won a championship, Orlando decided instead to ignore their weaknesses at point guard and refuse to bolster their depth at big man, but hey they did sign Mickael Pietrus AND Courtney Lee. Somewhere, JJ Redick is getting ready for the upcoming season by getting wasted and crying while watching reruns of his games at Duke.

 

13.  Los Angeles Clippers: They clearly tampered with Baron Davis and no one can tell me differently. Still, for what it’s worth, good for him getting one last, large contract. Many of my friends would have preferred he get it from the Warriors, but as the biggest reason that the team ended their large playoff drought and upset the Mavericks, he deserved to get paid somewhere. With Camby and Kaman in the front court, this team will be good enough to make the playoffs and promptly lose in the first round.

 

14.  Miami Heat: I actually have no idea what to make of this team. With Dwayne Wade back and better than before as well as the additions of Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley, they could be a challenge in the east. However, with no point guard or dependable center, they could also quickly find themselves out of the playoffs. Still, a return to the playoffs is a step forward for this franchise which otherwise mortgaged its future to win one ring with Shaq.

 

15.  Portland Trail Blazers: Everyone thinks that this team will sneak into the playoffs in the uber-competitive west, but you know what? I don’t see it at all. For one, Travis Outlaw is already grumbling about the amount of shots he feels he deserves but doesn’t get. Another thing is that Greg Oden already has hurt his ankle in practice the other day, which is huge because last season their defense got by without an interior presence anchoring the line. That won’t work again this year as more and more teams will get into the paint and score whenever they want unless Oden can play. The last point I want to make is that point guard is a real weakness for them. Yes, they have a ridiculous amount of prospects at the position, but I would actually say that it could backfire as all of them desperately need minutes before they can realize their full potential, but with the current logjam there is a better chance that none of them get the minutes they need and all end up as mediocre. At any rate, they probably will be no help this season, which will put more pressure on Steven Blake who should be a backup. Look for Roy to play a lot of minutes during the season at point as an attempt to solve the situation, but that move would also leave the team weak at the swing man spot with no one to back up Rudy Fernandez. While the talent certainly exists on this team, let’s just say it could be a very long season in Portland if things go down as I see them.

 

16.  Denver Nuggets: The only reason I have them this high is because of my respect for Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony. Other than that all I can say is that the best way to fix a defense is not to trade away your best help defender and perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Marcus Camby. If things go south even faster than I think, then expect a trade for Iverson by another desperate team. One question I have to ask is with all this poor management, why do they think Anthony won’t jump ship as soon he can become a free agent?

 

17.  Golden State Warriors: Last year, had they played in the East, not only would the Warriors have made the playoffs, but they also would have had home court advantage in the first round for the first time in over 15 years. Instead, this offseason they lost their best player and point guard to a division rival, settled for an above average player from said division rival when the star from that rival blew off a huge contract offer to go play in the east, traded for a point guard who has trouble passing in Marcus Williams, lost their best young player for most of the season to a LOW SPEED MOPED ACCIDENT, and basically set themselves up for a top five pick in the upcoming draft which is expected to not be that great or deep. Luckily, for the Bay Area fans their favorite teams in baseball and football project to be just as bad. (Yes, I know the San Francisco 49ers are 2-2 and playing a division so bad that they have a chance to make the playoffs, but let’s be honest, once they make it, they will still be beaten down so badly by whomever they face that people will be turning off their TV sets by the 3rd quarter.) Right now the only thing the Warriors have going for them is that their owner isn’t Al Davis. So, Bay Area fans, how about them Sharks?

 

18.  Washington Wizards: No offense to the Wizards and their players, but the east got a lot tougher this year, and their reaction was to sign their erratic and often injured point guard to a 100 million dollar deal. In other Washington news, the economy is dying, which prompted my former roommate and economics enthusiast Seabass to send me this Facebook message, and since I have nothing else to add about the Wizards I will show it to you:

                                                              i.      : “I’d say its only the beginning unfortunately. We got too used to borrowing what we don’t have or can’t make up for within the fiscal year, whether its Wall Street Execs making 48 mill in a year borrowing against company assets, or John Smith refinancing his home without thinking long term when the rates would reset…  It’ll probably play out like this… Housing Crisis –> Credit Crisis–> Inflation Crisis; then it’ll be over hopefully… “

So uh, to all my loyal readers and their associates…watch out for that

 

19.  Toronto Raptors: It figures that the team from Canada would have their team all backwards. Their depth at the point guard and big man positions are much better than their depth at the swingman spots. Jamario Moon was a nice surprise last year, but I’m pretty sure that Raptor fans would be even happier if Sam Mitchell would pull out a better surprise and be able to bring him off the bench. Their other starting swingman is Candice Parker’s brother, which has to be the first time anyone has been referenced that way with a WNBA player unless you count Cheryl and Reggie Miller.

 

20.  Sacramento Kings: No offense to Kings fans, but this is one of the bleakest rosters in the NBA especially with the fact that they play in the west. Kevin Martin is the only player with any experience who isn’t also past his prime. The rest are either decent prospects who have a long way to go or veterans who are too old to help make a playoff push. Even so Reggie Theus and his zone defense will get this team to play better than the sum of its parts and place somewhere around here in terms of regular season records. You normally don’t want to advocate tanking under any circumstances, but if it happens here…I understand.

 

21.  Chicago Bulls: My cousin Sam in India is a huge Bulls fan who checks up on them daily. He swears that they will turn it around and not only make the playoffs, but cause some damage once they get there. You would think that he is trustable because of how religiously he follows his team, but when you think about it, he’s also the guy who tried to sell me on how Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry were going to be the dominant big men who would return Chicago to its glory days of MJ and company. Also, Sam once told me Marcus Fizer (who recently got cut by his Euroleague team.) would be a decent small forward in the league. So, there is no way I am going to just take his word for it and place them any higher than I have here. Also, on another topic, what the heck happened to Kirk Hinrich? He went from being a candidate for the Olympic squad, and a true up and coming point guard who could score, pass, and get away with blatant holding on defense to being so bad that the Bulls rushed to sign Derrick Rose. I think he desperately needs a change of scenery and with a manageable contract (it actually lowers his yearly salary towards the end) he could and should be gone by February’s trade deadline for his own sake.

 

22.    Atlanta Hawks: Yes, they made the playoffs last year, and yes they made the Celtics sweat it out in a seven game series, but don’t let that fool you. People who don’t follow basketball or the Hawks very closely would say that the loss of Josh Childress wasn’t all that important, but it is in fact closer to crippling than insignificant. According to the people behind the Wages of Wins who have created a formula to determine how much every player on every team contributed to his team’s wins, Childress was easily the best player on that team in terms of importance to winning, and comfortably produced more wins than the more known players such as Josh Smith and Joe Johnson. However, the loss of Childress isn’t the only reason this team will miss the playoffs. As good as Al Horford is as a young player in this league, he is the only big man on this team that deserves more than 15 minutes a game. Josh Smith is a small forward who is forced to play power forward because this team literally has no one else.

 

23.  Milwaukee Bucks: This team could find themselves much higher than this by the end of the season. They have quietly built themselves a quality team, and if Ramon Sessions is given the minutes that he deserves, Joe Alexander has a nice rookie season, and Richard Jefferson, Michael Redd, and Andrew Bogut perform up to their capabilities then this team could sneak back into the playoffs. New coach Scott Skiles should immediately instill a sense of discipline and defense.

 

24.  Indiana Pacers: There isn’t a blander team in the league. With new coach Jim O’Brien it will be interesting to see how he fits his young pieces together. Granger should continue to develop and become quite the player in this league, but this team needs to get at least one more star before they become a perennial playoff team anytime soon. Also, they might as well cut Jamal Tinsley as no one in the league is crazy enough to trade for his contract.

 

25.  New Jersey Nets: Hey remember when you sent your cute girlfriend to New Jersey to play with Vince Carter who three days later admitted to the press that he didn’t even know your cute girlfriend was on his team? I guess the moral of the story is that it sucks to be her, or in this case Devin Harris. There are some decent players on this team, and even a few cornerstones who will lead this team back into the playoffs in a few years (as soon as they add Lebron James), but this year in particular will be a tough one for Nets fans as the team simply won’t or can’t play consistent defense. There will be at least 45 losses for this team, and a real chance for 55. Look for this to be the last season for the hardworking Lawrence Frank as Nets head coach.

 

26.  Charlotte Bobcats: Hopefully, Raymond Felton takes Larry Brown’s drafting of DJ Augustin as motivation and hopefully Emeka Okafor stays healthy. Larry Brown for all his crazy antics is a good coach, but this homecoming may end up a lot like his last job, because simply put, the talent is just not here. It’s going to be a long, painful journey before this team gets into the playoffs for the first time ever, and for that to happen, Bob Johnson the owner will have to be convinced to open up his wallet even more.

 

27.  New York Knicks: You know, if things don’t work out in Miami, Toronto, or Denver, I could definitely see two of Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, or Carmelo Anthony jumping ship and heading to the big apple. That’s about it as far as positives go for this team. D’antoni has his work cut out for him as his high end rookie is already hurt and Eddy Curry, his best scoring big man, could use a month long stay in a Hilton Armstrong to burn off his immense weight gain. Chris Duhon is expected to play Steve Nash and Jamal Crawford is the only shooting guard on the roster, which will force New York to either play small ball in the back court or to play either the gimpy Quentin Richardson more (he already is a projected starter) or the aforementioned rookie Danilo Gallinari who as I said before is hurt. Neither option is something to look forward to. While Isaiah and eventually Marbury will be gone this year, it is going to be a very tough season for New York fans to watch. At least their supremely talented baseball teams didn’t both miss the playoffs or anything… I will say one thing to the owners of the Knicks. They had better hurry up and become good again fast, because the longer they stay like this, the more fans will convert towards the Brooklyn Nets who at least have somewhat marketable stars and players and will more than likely gain Lebron James.

 

28.  Minnesota Timberwolves

29.  Memphis Grizzlies

30.  Oklahoma City Thunder: These three teams are the absolute dregs of the league. All have their young bright spots whether it be Kevin Durant, Al Jefferson, or Rudy Gay, but none play defense and will immediately struggle on offense this year whenever the above players are double teamed unless OJ Mayo plays to a level that will earn him rookie of the year.

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