Saturday, December 31, 2011

12/31: Weekend Viewing Guide

Greetings everyone... no "wrap-up" post from Friday's events... my apologies, but there's a lot to preview for the weekend...

  • College Hoops - Louisville @ Kentucky - Noon CBS - This is a pretty awesome game that lost a tad of its luster with Louisville losing earlier in the week. However, these are two unquestionably top-10 teams, and with the added bonus of their long-lasting rivalry, this is about as must-see TV as it gets for a noon tip-off in December.
  • NBA - Nuggets @ Lakers - 3:30 League Pass - This is only available if you have access to the League Pass preview, but if you do, a 3:30 Saturday afternoon tip is in the offing featuring two upper-echelon West teams.
  • College Hoops - Ohio St. @ Indiana - 6:00 ESPN2 - This has the same issue as the game above because Indiana has had a tough week, but this is the first true road test for OSU at full-strength since they played without Sullinger when they went to Kansas. A really nice game.
  • College Hoops - Creighton @ Wichita State - 6:00 ESPNU - If you need something to watch on commercial breaks of the game above, this Missouri Valley battle features 2 teams that are likely to make the tournament.
  • NBA - Hawks @ Rockets - 7:00 SportSouth - The first legitimate road test for the Hawks as the Rockets present more of an obstacle than the hapless Nets. That said, after seeing the Rockets in person last night, it's pretty clear to me that a) they have no idea what they're rotation is, and b) their 2nd unit can't score.
  • NBA - Jazz @ Spurs - 8:30 NBA-TV - Utah got their first W last night, and Derrick Favors looked to show some of that top-2 pedigree we've all hoped to see, but the Spurs on the road are a different animal.
  • Bowls - 5 games on New Year's eve headlined by Georgia Tech vs. Utah (2:00 CBS) and Virginia vs. Auburn (7:30 ESPN). I can't really say that I'm too intrigued by any of these matchups, but it'll be interesting to see if GT can shed the label that it is easier to play against them after a long layoff, and the Chick-Fil-A Bowl usually provides semi-entertaining football. At any rate, if you like college football, there's a game on from Noon until 11:00-11:30 pm, so enjoy it.
  • NFL - Lions @ Packers - 1:00 FOX - This game means nothing to the Packers, but I heard an interesting theory about that earlier in the week. They only have so many players on an NFL roster, and isn't it possible that Green Bay could beat Detroit at home with Matt Flynn and Randall Cobb? I'm not saying it's likely, but if you're a Falcons fan, you desperately need the Packers to win this game to avoid the Saints on the road in Round 1.
  • NFL - Bills @ Patriots - 1:00 CBS - If the Pats win, they are the #1 seed in the AFC, and they'll win.
  • NFL - Titans @ Texans - 1:00 CBS - This game means absolutely nothing to the Texans because they're locked into the #3 regardless, but with the Titans on the fringe of a potential #6 seed, they'll be invested.
  • College Hoops - Minnesota @ Michigan - 4:00 Big Ten Network - Break in the football action for the default-best college hoops game of the day, and I think Gus Johnson is on the call, so that's reason enough to make an appearance.
  • NFL - Ravens @ Bengals - 4:15 CBS - Baltimore needs to win to ensure the #2 seed (unless Pittsburgh loses), and the Bengals are still very much in the playoff picture, so this is one of the better games of the day. I actually like Cincy here.
  • NFL - Steelers @ Browns - 4:15 CBS - See above. Pittsburgh needs to win to have a chance at the bye and the #2 seed, but with Ben playing hobbled, I'm intrigued as to how they play this against the putrid Browns.
  • NFL - Chiefs @ Broncos - 4:15 CBS - Tebow and the Broncos are playing for their playoff lives, and while KC is out of it, Kyle Orton will certainly be motivated against his old team.
  • NFL - Chargers @ Raiders - 4:15 CBS - Meaningless game for the Chargers, and everything for the Raiders, so wouldn't it make sense for Phil Rivers to go nuts here? or is it just me?
  • NBA - Celtics @ Wizards - NBA-TV 6:00 - If you're looking for a break in the NFL action, this is about the best I can offer you. There are additional league pass games, but this is the only NBA game with "mass" distribution on Sunday. The Wizards are about as big of a trainwreck as there is in the NBA, so that's always fun.
  • NFL - Cowboys @ Giants - NFL 8:20 - By far the best game of the day because it means everything both teams. My gut keeps telling me that the Cowboys are the better team, but both of these teams are so unpredictable that it's really tough to get a read here. If I had a gun to my head, I'd take the 'Boys, but I don't trust that at all.
  • Bowls - Ticketcity Bowl - Houston vs. Penn State - ESPNU Noon - Wall-to-wall bowls on Monday the 2nd this year instead of the customary New Year's Day slate, and this one kicks it off with a nice matchup of ranked teams. Penn State is without it's usual starting QB, so Houston may be able to run away and hide.
  • Bowls - Gator Bowl - Ohio St. vs. Florida - ESPN2 1:00 - This would normally be an awesome game, but this year the storylines are about coaching changes and 6-6 teams. Yeah.
  • Bowls - Outback Bowl - Michigan St. vs. Georgia - ABC 1:00 - The best game of the bowl season to the point at which it's played. I think Georgia is better than MSU, but Sparty is about as jekyll/hyde as it gets so if Dantonio gets them to show up, they can certainly win.
  • Bowls - CapitalOne Bowl - Nebraska vs. South Carolina - ESPN 1:00 - Sensing a Big 10 theme here? At any rate, South Carolina is a top-10 team by ranking by without Lattimore, I'm not sure they belong there, and I actually like Nebraska here.
  • Bowls - Rose Bowl - Wisconsin vs. Oregon - ESPN 5:00 - The Granddaddy of the Them All! Always an epic presentation of football here (all kidding aside), and they have an extremely intriguing matchup. Wisconsin is a legitimate top-10 (I think top-5) team and they could easily be unbeaten behind Montee Ball, Russell Wilson, and that beastly offensive line, but they'll be encountering speed and tempo against Oregon that they've never seen. I like Wisconsin actually.
  • College Hoops - Texas A&M @ Baylor - ESPNU 7:00 - If you're sick of football and like collegiate sports, this is a nice game. Baylor is really talented and fun to watch.
  • NBA - Hawks @ Heat - SportSouth 7:30 - In the midst of all the gridiron, this is a battle of good Eastern conference teams, and I'm obviously ecstatic to watch this one. Really interested to see how the matchups shake out.
  • Bowls - Fiesta Bowl - OK State vs. Stanford - ESPN 8:30 - This is basically the runner-up game for the BCS pitting two high-quality teams together. OK State has a back-door shot at the AP title if they blow doors here and LSU/Bama play an ugly slugfest, but I actually think Stanford is better and they can slow the game down. Give me the Cardinal and Andrew Luck.
  • NBA - Thunder @ Mavs - NBA-TV 8:30 - More hoops, and this is a helluva matchup to the point that I'm curious as to why the NBA put it against the big-time bowl games.
Enjoy it everyone...

Friday, December 30, 2011

12/30: Onions!

Greetings all... I'll save the NBA for last again...
  • Albert Pujols' contract with the Angels is reportedly back-loaded to the point where he'll only make $12 million in year one, and over $30 million in the final year of the deal. This is one of the wilder backload jobs I've ever seen just because of the age he'll be playing at in the final years, and the obscene contract number he'll be receiving, but if the did actually did deliver CJ Wilson, the Angels have taken the calculated risk on this one.
  • Tom Brady has reportedly taken a shoulder x-ray, and of course, this is national news. I'll go ahead right now, and say he's fine. Done and done.
  • Michael Redd is headed to the Suns for 1 year, $1.3 million in a move that makes big-time sense for both parties. Redd needs to be rejuvenated in a huge way after multiple injury-riddled seasons, and Phoenix has a world-renowned training staff, so if there was ever a place (see Grant Hill) for him to do that, it's there. For the Suns, they have a pretty weak bench as constructed since they got rid of Pietrus, and he could flourish if he has anything left.
  • Bowl games! In the early game, Florida State scored 18 straight points in the 4th quarter to knock off Notre Dame in a really weird game. The Irish thoroughly dominated this one for 50+ minutes, but threw 2 interceptions in the end zone including a rally-killer on the final legitimate drive. I don't think there's much to take away from either side, but both are young and talented with a lot coming back. In the late game, Baylor won an insane 67-56 game RGIII doing RGIII things, but the biggest story of the night has to be Washington's Keith Price going for nearly 500 total yards and SEVEN touchdowns in the losing effort. It's not his fault his defense couldn't hold Baylor under 60.
  • In the world of college hoops, Rutgers got a huge double-OT win over Florida thanks to 31 points from G Eli Carter. Florida is a really interesting team, and I don't think this game knocks them off too far. Things happen on the road in college hoops. Elsewhere,Vandy beat up on Marquette on the road in a mild upset. Marquette shot just 33% from the field which was the catalyst for the poor showing.
To the association...
  • Thunder 104, Mavs 102 - If you were wondering about the title of this post, it was simply the word I yelled as Kevin Durant ice-colded the game-winner in OKC last night. With 1.4 seconds to go and Vince Carter just having put Dallas up 1 with a big-time three of his own, Durant buried a deep three to cap a 30/11/6 night where he attempted only 16 shots. On a night where Westbrook was bad again (6 of 15, 7 turnovers), Durant and Harden (15 points on just 8 FGA) carried the Thunder to overcome the best game of the young season from Dirk, who had 29 and 10. At any rate, Dallas played well so any rumors of their absolute demise were premature (as if anyone rational thought they weren't).
  • Box Score Round-up - Houston blitzed San Antonio by 20 led by Kevin Martin's 25 points. This was one of those nights where the Spurs look old on a back-to-back, and while they got a breakout from Blair (22 and 12), it was far from enough. Dwight Howard had 16 points and a ludicrous 24 rebounds in a blowout win over NJ last night. That's about the only basketball-related item worth discussing from that God-awful game. The Blazers are 3-0 thanks to a 70-point outburst from their 3-guard combo of Felton/Matthews/Crawford, and they are playing at a pace we haven't really seen from them under Nate McMillan (and I like it). And finally, the Lakeshow dismisses the Knicks by holding them to 31% FG shooting and Kobe getting his customary 28. I'm really impressed by what Steve Blake is giving the Lakers in the early going, and he's clearly the best PG option on that roster (if you didn't know).
What to watch for on Friday...
  • NBA - Nets @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - The Nets are a bit of a disaster right now, so if the Hawks struggle at home here, it's not a good thing.
  • NBA - Suns @ Hornets - NBA-TV 8:00 - Not a great game in terms of talent, but Steve Nash is worth the price of admission always.
  • NBA - Bulls @ Clippers - NBA-TV 10:30 - Really, really nice late game here, but the headliner is obviously the chance to see Paul and Rose go at it.
  • NCAAF - Armed Forces Bowl - BYU vs. Tulsa - ESPN Noon - Midday sports is the selling point here.
  • NCAAF - Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers vs. Iowa St. - ESPN 3:15 - See the above.
  • NCAAF - Music City Bowl - Miss St. vs. Wake Forest - ESPN 6:40 - I'm rooting for Wake because I'm still angry about January 1, 2011. That is all.
  • NCAAF - Insight Bowl - Iowa vs. Oklahoma - ESPN 10:00 - Late kick, but this is by far the most entertaining of the four bowl games for the day.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

12/29: Red Sox Deal, OKC, etc.

Greetings everyone... a lot to get to today... non-NBA first...
  • The Boston Red Sox have acquired closer Andrew Bailey from the A's along with OF Ryan Sweeney in exchange for OF Josh Reddick and 2 prospects. This is kind of a weird deal for Boston in that they dealt a decent prospect haul (although experts debate Reddick's level) for an injury-plagued closer. On the other hand, their ridiculously cheap bullpen of Bard/Melancon/Bailey may be an advantage if they choose to use the money saved on a starting pitcher. I think the next move for Boston SHOULD be throwing a short-term, high-paying deal at Hiroki Kuroda, but that's just me. For Oakland, this is another future cost-saving move, and they get a guy in Reddick that a lot of people like. Typical.
  • College Hoops Roundup - Georgetown edges Louisville by 3 on the road in the biggest win in a while for that program... 20 points on just 8 shot attempts for Markel Starks to lead the way for the Hoyas... Baylor got a game-winning layup from Pierre Jackson to steal a 2-point win over Miss State last night... he had a rough night (5-13, 4 turnovers), but somehow Baylor won despite shooting just 34% from the field... Indiana falls from the ranks of the unbeaten by dropping a road game to Michigan State... MSU looked like the better team behind Keith Appling and his 25 points, while holding IU to a season-low 65 points... and finally, UNLV scored a ridiculous 124 points last night against Central Arkansas... nothing really to take away there, but my goodness....

To the Association...

  • Before we get to the games, I wanted to hit on the OKC rumor blow-up that hit overnight about an altercation between Westbrook and Durant. These things, as a rule, get blown out of proportion, but if you can think back to when you played basketball or any other sport, did you ever get into it with a teammate? Wasn't it usually fine afterwards? This is going to become a huge story because it's their two best players and it leaked out, but I'm unmoved by it.
  • Heat 96, Bobcats 95 - This was randomly one of the best games of the night, as Charlotte blew a 15-point halftime lead in this one thanks to their 2nd half ineptness. Lebron led the way for Miami with a 35/6/7 line that reminds everyone that he's the best there is, but the highlight play of the night for me was the ABSURD ball-save/full-court assist that he made to Wade with about 2 minutes to go. At any rate, Miami slept walked (sans Lebron) for about 2 and a half quarters, but Charlotte is just bad enough that it didn't matter. I did think it was a curious decision to run the last 2 plays of the game for a struggling Wade when Lebron had done whatever he wanted all night, but it worked out for them. On Charlotte's side, Fat Boris Diaw had a 16/16/8 to help make up for the 1-10 FG performance from Maggette. Yikes.
  • Atlanta 101, Washington 83 - This was an awful basketball game. I watched the game twice, and Washington was just as brutal the second time around. The Wiz shot just 39% from the floor including a legendary 0-6, -22 performance from Jordan Crawford in just 22 minutes, and Andray Blatche going a Blatche-like 2 of 13. Those two are hard to watch. For Atlanta, the big takeaway for me is just how good Marvin Williams looks so far this year. It's an admittedly small sample size, but Marvin finished with 17 and 8 on just 8 shot attempts, and he looked aggressive (10 free throws) and athletic for the 2nd straight night. The bench came back to Earth last night, but I did like what I saw from McGrady (11 points in 19 minutes) and Radmanovic in limited action. One positive note on Washington, JeVale McGee is an absolute freak, and I said this out loud last night, but I honestly believe he may be the best pure athlete in the history of the NBA, because at 7-feet-plus he does things I've never seen before.
  • New Orleans 97, Boston 78 - Trouble for Boston? The Celtics have started the year 0-3 and looked bad doing it, and while some of it can be explained as being without Paul Pierce, they got pretty much dominated on the road here despite NO being without Eric Gordon. Jarrett Jack had a nice debut with 21 and 9, but New Orleans dominated the glass (48-37) and held Boston to a paltry 37% from the field. Oh, and Boston saw "bad" Brandon Bass finally, when he refuses to stop shooting (4 of 13) and notches a -21 in just 24 minutes.
  • San Antonio 115, LA Clippers 90 - Remember when everyone buried the Spurs? The 4-time champs got a breakout 20 point game from DeJuan Blair, 19 from Richard Jefferson, and 24 points (on 10 FGA) from Manu to dismantle the Clips here. In the weirdest stat of night category, Blake Griffin notched a -37 in his 34 minutes despite playing well (11-19 for 28 points and 9 boards). Yeah. It was nice to see Billups stop shooting the ball at will, but LAC got killed on the glass, and allowed SA to shoot 56%. That'll do it.
  • Box Score Roundup - Danny Granger led all five starters in double-figures with 22 points in Indiana's 5-point road win over Toronto... really, really like Indiana... Kyrie Irving had a bounce-back in Game #2 notching 14 points and 7 dimes in just 20 minutes as Cleveland beat Detroit soundly on the road... 6 guys in double-figures for the Cavs including Tristan Thompson and Samardo Samuels off the bench... We talked about the OKC rumor above, but the Zombies actually WON that game last night on the road in Memphis behind Kevin Durant's 32... Westbrook went a near-impossible 0-13 from the field and was visibly frustrated (see the fight), but Durant was splendid and they held Memphis under 40%.... and finally, the Warriors beat up on the Knicks despite being without Stephen Curry... New York was awful offensively (78 points against the Dubs!?!?) and GS got a huge bump from Brandon Rush off the bench (19 points in 26 minutes) to overcome Ellis' 8-22 shooting night and Ish Smith's lack of basketball talent...

What to watch for on Thursday...

  • NBA - Mavs @ Thunder - TNT 8:00 - The Mavs desperately need to show some life here, but OKC is playing really well. I'm really interested to see how Westbrook responds to the 0-13 and the fight, but playing against the immobile Jason Kidd likely helps.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Lakers - TNT 10:30 - LA actually had a day off between games, and New York is on back-to-back this time, so that's interesting. This is the last game without Bynum (for suspension reasons anyway), so look for the Knicks to try to iso Amare on Murphy every time he's in there.
  • NBA - League Pass Free Preview - Please don't forget about this! Nets/Magic, Spurs/Rockets, Nuggets/Blazers (an awesome game), and Bulls/Kings all on the slate tonight. For free.
  • NCAAB - Vandy @ Marquette - ESPN2 9:00 - A really nice inter-conference matchup here, and while Vandy has struggled to an 8-4 start, that's still a tourney team.
  • NCAAF - Champs Sports Bowl - Florida State vs. Notre Dame - ESPN 5:30 - This game sounds better than it is with the two traditional powers, but I actually am semi-interested to see how Notre Dame looks.
  • NCAAF - Alamo Bowl - Washington vs. Baylor - ESPN 9:00 - Robert Griffin III is worth watching, even if that's the only reason to turn this game on for 15 minutes.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Dwight Howard Rumor

I meant to hit on this in the earlier daily post, but I'll do so here instead. My position on the potential acquisition is as follows:

I would trade ANY two players on the Hawks roster for Dwight Howard.

This may strike some people as a surprise given my stated love and admiration for Al Horford, but Dwight Howard is the best center alive by a wide margin and an undisputed top-5 player in the NBA. The widespread speculation that the Hawks have offered Smith and Johnson for Howard could be correct, or it could be false. It almost doesn't matter. I can't possibly see the Magic taking on what could be the worst signed contract in the NBA right now (well, outside of Rashard Lewis) in Joe Johnson, so while on a strictly talent basis, the deal makes some sense for them, it would never happen. The underlying issue here is whether it would be a good idea to trade Smith AND Horford for Howard, and while I would do anything in my power to put a deal together that didn't feature both assets, I would unquestionably do that deal.

One note on the above statement is that the only way I wouldn't do this deal is if it was indeed both Horford and Smith AND Howard refused to opt-in in for next year. Any other package and I don't even think it matters if he opts in. A Hawks roster with Dwight Howard on it (even if he's surrounded by Teague, Joe and nothing else) has a higher upside on day 1 than the current group with no cap flexibility and a core that has (relatively) peaked. Done and done.

12/28: The Norris Cole Show, etc.

Greetings everyone... I won't go as crazy as yesterday with NBA breakdowns... but here we go...
  • Heat 115, Celtics 107 - Have you ever heard the name Norris Cole? If you hadn't before yesterday, he's a rookie point guard from Cleveland State that was a mid-tier draft pick of the Miami Heat this season. Anyway, Cole had 14 of his 20 points in the 4th quarter including repeated mid-rang jumpers to drive the stake into the heart of the Celtics. It was pretty wild that he was even out there in crunch time in his 2nd career game, but he may have Wally Pipped Mario Chalmers. Ray Allen (28 points, 6 triples) and Rajon Rondo (22 points, 12 dimes, 8 rebounds) had good games for Boston, but the big 3 combined for 68 points for Miami and with Cole's 20, that was enough.
  • The Pro Bowl rosters were selected on Wednesday thanks to the begging and pleading of.... absolutely no one. That is all.
  • A-Rod has apparently had an experimental knee treatment in Germany. He's taken a page from Kobe Bryant on this one, and while it's apparently not illegal in terms of sporting law, it's certainly fishy. I have a question though, what about that busted hip?
NBA Stuff...
  • Hawks 106, Nets 70 - This game was about as non-competitive as it gets simply because of how bad the Nets were. New Jersey shot a putrid 31% from the field, and the Hawks won the rebounding battle 51-36. All you need to know about this one is that the Horford/Smith/Johnson trio combined for just 24 points and the Hawks won by 36. The bench was a revelation last night including Radmanovic going for 17 and McGrady looking spry with 12, but PLEASE don't adjust your expectations as a result, as this bench is still bad and won't be above-average at any point as currently constructed. One negative note is the appearance of Willie Green for 22 minutes. He took 10 shots and made 2 of them. This is what Willie Green is.
  • Roundup: Despite Kevin Love's ridiculous 31 and 20, the Bucks got a win last night over the T-Wolves led by Brandon Jennings' 24 point effort. Portland blitzed Sacramento in the second half to result in a 22-point win that saw Gerald Wallace and LaMarcus Aldridge combine for 49 points. Some of the ugliest possible basketball from Sacramento down the stretch, and that's the price of being young I'd imagine. And finally, the Lakers get a win! In a surprise (to me at least), they dominated from the jump on the 3rd leg of 3 games in 3 nights, and finished with a 96-71 win. Kobe led the way with 26 points and 8 boards, and the Lakers defended at a level I hadn't seen from them in the previous 2 games. For Utah, it was kind of a mess, and I can't comprehend what that rotation will look like when it settles in.
  • College hoops still exists. Did you know that!? Anyway, Notre Dame got a surprising win over Pittsburgh by 13, as they knocked down 7 triples including a few late to seal this one. Pitt is a bit of a disaster right now offensively, and they shot just 1 of 14 from 3-point land.
  • Bowls - NC State beat Louisville. Purdue beat Western Michigan. I saw zero minutes of either game. It's bad football.
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • NCAAB - #12 Georgetown @ #4 Louisville - 7:00 ESPN2 - This is a randomly big college hoops game. I don't fully believe in Georgetown because of JT3, but they've been playing really well, and Louisville has been relentless so far this year. Nice game.
  • NCAAB - #14 Miss St. @ #7 Baylor (in Dallas) - 9:00 ESPN2 - Perry Jones vs. Arnett Moultrie. Enough to watch.
  • NBA - Wizards @ Hawks - 7:30 SportSouth - Home opener for the Hawks against the entertaining (if not mind-blowing) Wizards. Interested to see how Teague combats John Wall.
  • NBA - Thunder @ Grizz - 8:00 NBA-TV - Really nice matchup between upper-echelon West teams. Ibaka and Perkins will have their hands full, and I'm intrigued to see the Gay/Durant matchup since Gay is one of the rare guys with athleticism AND length to deal with Durant.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Warriors - 10:30 NBA-TV - No defense to be played in this one. Should be fun at the very least, as David Lee and Amare battle to a 35 point vs. 35 point draw.
  • NCAAF - Military Bowl - Toledo vs. Air Force - 4:30 ESPN - The bright side of this is that Air Force is fun to watch. I'm trying here!
  • NCAAF - Holiday Bowl - Cal vs. Texas - 8:00 ESPN - If you hate basketball, Texas is at least a story-worthy team just to see where that program is.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

12/27: Brees, "Regular" NBA, etc.

Greetings all... lots to cover today... we'll save the NBA for last in case you want to scroll past it...
  • Saints 45, Falcons 16 - I tweeted this last night, but I stand by it... this was pretty much a mirror image of the January '11 playoff debacle against the Packers except with different color jerseys. Numerous misses when trying to get Brees on the ground? Check. Receivers running absolutely free all night? Check. Dropped Interceptions? Check. Stubborn willingness to send Michael Turner plowing into the line (while Darren Sproles looks like the fastest man alive on the other side)? Check. It was all there. At any rate, I'll save the vitriol about the Falcons for a different post, and say that Drew Brees broke the passing yardage record last night. I'm not sure what that means in this particular day and age with the absurdity that has become the NFL defensive rulebook, but 5000 yards is 5000 yards and it's impressive. But hey, Sean Payton, can I get you to get out of the shotgun when you're up by 22 points with 3 minutes left? Thanks! You shouldn't have!
  • Missouri 41, North Carolina 24 - I won't be breaking down bowl games with any passion whatsover until the real games begin about a week from now, but since I saw a good portion of this, I figured I'd comment. Missouri's offense looked virtually unstoppable throughout, and I was very impressed with James Franklin. This was such a typical UNC performance in that I'm pretty sure they had the superior talent, and yet, they managed to get trounced.
  • Yorvit Torrealba receives a 66-game suspension from the Venezuelan league for hitting an umpire. I'm not sure if you've seen the video, but it's pretty disturbing, and I feel like Bud Selig and company should be able to pull him off the field in the US if they so choose. There's no excuse for striking an official, and I'm not sure it matters what continent you're on when you do it when there's widespread video.
  • And the award for craziest story goes to.... Louis Williams. The former South Gwinnett product told the Philadelphia Daily News that he was being robbed at gunpoint, but convinced the would-be robber to let him go based on the charity work he's done in the community. And no, this is not a joke. I have absolutely no idea.

To the Association... There were 12 games, and we'll hit on all of them (albeit briefly on some)... League Pass is a beautiful thing, ESPECIALLY when you can watch games on broadband AFTER the fact...

  • Raptors 104, Cavs 96 - Not a whole lot of excitement with the fact that these teams are pretty terrible, but the debut of Kyrie Irving was lukewarm at best. He shot just 2 of 12 in 26 minutes, and while he finished with 7 dimes, his team was -10 with him on the court. On the Raps side, one positive note is the play of former UNC big Ed Davis who shot 7-7 from the field for 14 points and 7 boards in just 18 minutes of play.
  • Pacers 91, Pistons 79 - It's going to be a long year in Detroit. Okay, it's a bit early for that characterization, but I said it preseason and I stand by it. One bright spot for the Pistons was Jonas Jerebko who showed flashes of the promise he had pre-injury in putting up 17 points despite the curious decision to play him a team-high 38 minutes. On Indiana's side, they had 5 guys in double-figures, and it was encouraging to see Roy Hibbert (16 points, 14 boards, 3 blocks) pretty much dominate a game where he was the biggest man on the court all night.
  • Orlando 104, Houston 95 - Welcome back, Hedo Turkoglu. To be clear, I still can't stand him, but Hedo was pretty darn good last night, shooting 10 of 14 for 23 points, 6 boards, and 5 assists to lead the way for Orlando. Dwight added 23 points, but just 7 rebounds (what?), and they got a huge 20 points on 12 shots from JJ Redick. For Houston, it was a typical across-the-board effort with 5 guys in double-digits led by my man-crush Kyle Lowry who had 20 points, 12 dimes and 7 rebounds. It'll be difficult for Houston to win many games when the ultra-efficient Kevin Martin shoots 1 of 10 from the field, however.
  • Nets 90, Wizards 84 - This was the most hilarious game of the night. Washington led 33-13 after about 15 minutes of game action, and New Jersey was insanely inept early, but the Nets staged a comeback and beat the hapless Wizards. Kris Humphries-Kardashian (his name forever on this blog) put up a monster 21 point/16 rebound effort, and Deron Williams reminded everyone that he's pretty good (23/8/8). The real story of the game IMO was the Nets 53-33 rebounding edge, as it's pretty difficult to get murdered that badly on the boards and even be competitive, much less be forced to blow a 20-point lead. John Wall had a tough night (shooting 3 of 13), and while Jordan Crawford actually shot a pretty nice 7 of 12, it's still clear that he has no concept of what good shot selection is, to say nothing of Andray Blatche and the same issue.
  • Bobcats 96, Bucks 95 - For all of the garbage we've said about the Bobcats already pre-season in this space, it almost hurts that they're 1-0. Five guys in double figures (and seven with 8 or more points) were enough to outlast the Bucks. I was really impressed from what I saw of this game from Gerald Henderson, who finished with 18 points and 9 boards, and he's really a key to the Bobcats being semi-respectable. On the Bucks side, they were without Delfino, but the real issue was the fact that Stephen Jackson (their only wing scorer without Delfino) played just 17 minutes before fouling out. How do you do that as a guard/wing? Anyway, Jennings picked up the shooting slack, taking 21 shots in 37 minutes, but it wasn't enough. One thing to watch going forward was that Paul Silas played both point guards (Augustin and Walker) together down the stretch. They won't be able to do that against many teams because they just can't defend with it, but against teams without a top wing option, it could be an advantage.
  • Zombies 104, T-Wolves 100 - This was probably the most entertaining game of the night, so much so that I DVR'd and watched the game in it's entirety at about 3 am. Durant and Westbrook were typically electric, combining for 61 points on 44 field goal attempts, and that's all you need to know about them. My obsession with James Harden continues as well after an ultra-efficient 16 point, 6 rebound effort (on just 9 shots), but the real intrigue about this game is about Minnesota. Yes, the T-Wolves lost this game at home to one of the West favorites, but I kind of liked what I saw. You know about Kevin Love (22 points, 12 boards, 5 dimes), but he looks to be in the best shape of his life (noticeably slimmed down and cut). I really liked what they got from Derrick Williams (13 points, 6 boards in just 24 minutes), and Rick (no "y") Rubio showed a few glimpses of that now-legendary basketball IQ we've heard so much about (6 dimes in 23 minutes). The key to whether they win more games will probably come down to Beasley (yikes) simply because he seems to content to launch shots from every angle (27 attempts last night), but if that's all he's asked to do, it won't kill them. Oh, the Minnesota point guard rotation is going to be something to watch, as I watched this whole game and I still have no idea. Ridnour played 18 minutes, Barea played 27, and Rubio played 24. Right.
  • Nuggets 115, Mavs 93 - Trouble in Dallas? I won't go that far, but it's a bit disturbing to see them get housed again at home in the 1st half. The half-time score was 69-42, and it was over from there. The Nuggets got a 27-point explosion from Ty Lawson, who, when guarded by Jason Kidd, did absolutely anything he wanted. Denver showed that 10-deep rotation that has pundits giving them a home-court prediction in the West, and they basically ran weary Dallas out of the gym. For Dallas, I'm not sure what you say other than that they need better than 1-10 out of Odom, who is suddenly on the hot seat now that everyone realizes that a) Tyson Chandler was great for them last year, and b) Ian Mahinmi is the Mavs backup center. Okay then.
  • Spurs 95, Grizz 82 - This game warmed my heart. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has forgotten about the Spurs, and potentially for good reason, but when the old guys dismissed the "trendy" Grizzlies with a dominant second half, it was nice. Manu looks healthy and rejuvenated (24 points), and I really liked what I saw from the young guys like Splitter, Kawhi Leonard (who's a beast), and James Anderson (a straight gunner off the bench). It would be really nice for them to have some legitimate young legs off the bench for this shortened season when Pop inevitably sits the big three down. For the Grizz, I can't fathom how OJ Mayo plays less minutes than Sam Young, and identical minutes to Jeremy Pargo and Quincy Pondexter. Get him out of there. Now. One note of encouragement for Memphis fans is that Rudy Gay looked be back at 100% with 19 and 10.
  • Hornets 85, Suns 84 - A Phoenix game in the mid-80's? What? This is a game I chose to pass over on the viewing dial, but it's as simple as the Suns shooting 40% from the field and 20% from three. That'll do it. Pretty impressive for the Hornets to win this one without Jarrett Jack since he's the only legitimate point guard on the roster, and they did it while starting Gordon and Belinelli together. That's interesting.
  • Blazers 107, Sixers 103 - I got in late on this one as well. Six guys in double-figures for the Blazers led by the still-undervalued LaMarcus Aldridge's 25 and 7. Really liked what Nate McMillan did down the stretch going offense/defense with Batum and Crawford, and although that seems to be a blatantly obvious move, I'm not sure half the coaches in the league would do it. For Philly, it's curious that they only played 8 guys when it seems EVERYONE in the league is lengthening their rotations, but that's Doug Collins for you. Lou Williams (fresh off the robbery!) put up a Nick Young-like 25 point, 1 assist, 1 rebound line including 2 huge threes late that kept Philly in the game, and Spencer Hawes nearly notched a triple-double with 10/14/9 here.
  • Kings 100, Lakers 91 - Your 0-2 LA Lakers! This game comes down to one stat and one stat only. LA shot 1-16 from 3-point land, and Sacramento shot 9 of 18. Game. Over. It didn't matter that Kobe put up 29 points (he looks good), and even Ron Artest (yes, Ron Artest) added 19 off the bench. It's simple math at this point. The Kings started Thornton and Evans together, which I find curious, but when they combine to shoot 15 of 26, it won't matter on most nights. Also, I've decided that Chuck Hayes is a pretty ideal fit next to Boogie Cousins. Hayes is undersized, but he's an elite post defender (the reason he's employed) and a top-level rebounder, which frees up Cousins to use more energy on offense, where he's good, and not be forced to guard the opposing team's best post scorer. I like it. It's not time to panic in LA yet, but these 2 games do show much they need a healthy Bynum with this roster composition.
  • Warriors 99, Bulls 91 - I don't know if it was dead legs on the back-to-back or what, but I was not impressed by the Bulls for the second straight day. They can't afford when Rose goes 4 of 17 on most days anyway, but the decision to play Boozer (and Noah) just 26 minutes, and have him attempt just 7 shots? I don't get that one on a night where he was paired against the non-defensive David Lee. The Curry/Ellis/Lee triumvirate combined for 69 points, but that wasn't the stat of the night. Kwame Brown posted a +21 +/- rating last night. Kwame Brown! He actually did play well, notching 4 steals and 6 boards in just 23 minutes, but wow.

What to watch for on Tuesday...

  • NBA - Hawks @ Nets - SportSouth 7:30 - The opener for the Hawks! New Jersey is on game 2 of the back-to-back, and that should help, but there's no rest for Jeff Teague and that banged-up ankle with Deron Williams awaiting.
  • NBA - Celtics @ Heat - TNT 8:00 - Not sure if Pierce is healthy enough to go here, but they'll definitely need him. I think Miami kind of runs them out of the gym with or without Pierce, but if Rondo plays like he did on Christmas, they'll hang around.
  • NBA - Jazz @ Lakers - TNT 10:30 - In a scheduling oddity, LA is playing a back-to-back-to-back to open the season, and this is Utah's first game. Um, advantage Utah. LA is the better team, but I don't think anyone can account for 3 games in 3 nights and with Utah's depth, they could make this a track meet.
  • NCAAF - Little Caesars Bowl - Purdue vs. Western Mich - ESPN 4:30 - If you like live afternoon sporting events on a Tuesday, this is for you.
  • NCAAF - Belk Bowl - Louisville vs. NC State - ESPN 8:00 - If you're watching this, you literally HATE basketball.
  • NCAA Hoops - Wisconsin @ Nebraska - ESPN2 9:00 - Lost in the NBA opening slate is the fact that college hoops is entering the conference schedule, and this is a nice test for Wisconsin in a historically tough road environment in Lincoln.
  • NCAA Hoops - Pitt @ Notre Dame - ESPN2 7:00 - I can smell Notre Dame from here. Sorry Mike Brey.


Monday, December 26, 2011

12/26: Christmas Wrap, etc.

Greetings... I'll lead with this one... if you somehow missed the 30-team NBA Preview... please hit it up whether it's just one team or in it's entirety... now that we have that out of the way, let's go...
  • New York 106, Boston 104 - What a way to start the NBA season... Carmelo Anthony took over the 2nd half with 20 of his game-high 37 points to save the Knicks from a potentially bad loss to the undermanned Celtics... he knocked down 2 free throws with 16 ticks left that proved to be the difference... for Boston, Rajon Rondo was insane (31 points, 13 assists, 5 steals), but it wasn't enough despite a big-time surge for them after a 34-23 first quarter.... on the bright side for Boston, I did like what I saw from Brandon Bass (finished with 20 and 11) and without Pierce, they can't really be expected to beat the Knicks in MSG...
  • Miami 105, Dallas 94 - If you read the boxscore, this game may have seemed competitive, but it certainly wasn't... Miami led by 30+ in the second half before calling the dogs off, and this was a dominant performance from Miami... Lebron led the way with 37, 10, and 6 and Wade added 26, 8, and 6... it's pretty encouraging for the Heat that they crushed Dallas without a single other player notching double-figures (Bosh had just 4 points on 9 shots)... Dallas just didn't show up... getting killed on the glass 51-31, shooting 38% and committing 17 turnovers... Dirk had 21, but wasn't his typical self, and outside of Jason Terry's 23 points, I can't think of a single Mav that had an above-average game... one more note for Miami, the play of Norris Cole, their rookie PG from Cleveland State, was pretty impressive... I could see him stealing minutes from Chalmers
  • Chicago 88, LA Lakers 87 - What a game here... LA led the entire 2nd half, and when Kobe hit an "onions"-type triple late, it looked as though the Lakers had this one won, but after a bad Kobe turnover and a circus layup from Derrick Rose, the final take by Kobe went begging and that was that... I really thought Kobe should've pulled up for a jumper (or dropped it off to Gasol) on the final play, but that's semantics of one play... Derrick Rose had a really quiet 22 points, and Chicago was pretty balanced offensively.... for the Lakers, I thought Kobe looked good (28 points, 7 boards, 6 assists) and proved that, at least in spurts, he's still Kobe despite the wrist injury... This wasn't the best execution offensively on either side, and there were some "what is Mike Brown doing?" moments, but for LA to compete all the way here without Bynum is probably a good sign...
  • OKC 97, Orlando 89 - Kevin Durant is good... 30 points for my MVP pick, and with the 19 points that James Harden added, it proved to be enough... but this game was certainly won/lost on the back of Orlando's poor shooting... 37% from the field and 28% from 3-point land for the Magic, and they just can't win with 4 of 20 shooting from Turkoglu and Richardson... oh, and the Chris Duhon problem reared its ugly head... I've always been a Duhon defender, but it's tough to explain a -17 in the 17 minutes he played... Dwight Howard dominated the first 5 minutes of this game with an array of moves, but finished with just 11 points as he continued his misery on Christmas...
  • LA Clippers 105, Golden State 86 - This was a much closer game than this until Chris Paul decided to end things.... Paul went on a personal 6-0 run, followed by a couple of successful pick-n-rolls with Blake Griffin to end this thing... Paul finished with 20 and 9 assists, Griffin added 22 points and 7 boards, and the Warriors couldn't match... Really weird game from DeAndre Jordan who put up 8 blocks, but shot just 4 for 12 from the line and was the victim of "hack-a-Jordan" in the 3rd quarter... on the Dubs side, Curry and Ellis shot just 8 of 31 and they'll have a hard time beating anybody with that type of production from those 2... one note about the Clippers... Chauncey Billups was flat-out jacking here... 19 shot attempts and 10 three-point attempts... it was visibly weird to see him shut the offense down to hold the ball, jab fake and take contested jumpers... Gonna need that to stop...
  • Green Bay 35, Chicago 21 - This one kind of went how you'd think... Aaron Rodgers went for 283 yards and 5 TDs, and while Josh McCown was better than Caleb Hanie's been, he simply can't match that.... on the bright side? This win by GB clinches a playoff spot for the Falcons... let's get it...
  • With little to no other news, I'll do a blind recommendation... if you like fantasy sports, please check out It's one of the coolest ideas I can remember seeing for a diehard sports/fantasy fan...
What to watch for...
  • NFL - Falcons @ Saints - 8:30 ESPN - All eyes on this NFC South battle, and while the Falcons clinched a playoff spot on Sunday, they are playing for seeding now, and this is always a rivalry worth tuning in for... I think Brees has his way a bit (as usual) with the Falcons secondary, but with Grimes returning for this one, it'll be a bit more difficult... Go Birds, and, as always, throw the ball to Michael Palmer...
  • NBA - Rockets @ Magic - 7:00 NBA-TV - Regular season hoops!!! The first look at the ultra-deep Rockets, and with Orlando on a back-to-back, they could legitimately be looking at 0-2...
  • NBA - Lakers @ Kings - 10:00 NBA-TV - 2nd leg of a back-to-back for the Lakers against the fresh legs of Sacto... Interested to see Jimmer debut, and to see the Cousins/Gasol matchup...
One thing to plug... the NBA League Pass free preview runs through January 8th, so if you like hoops, it's paradise... Enjoy...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

2011-2012 NBA Preview: Finals Picks and Awards

Greetings all... Please do us a favor and check out some of the 30-team preview posted in the last 5 days or so.. it's been a long one... I, again, want to give a shoutout to Ryan for the help... good looks... let's get to it...


6th Man
Brad: OJ Mayo, Memphis
Ryan: Lamar Odom, Dallas

Defensive POY
Brad: Dwight Howard
Ryan: Dwight Howard

Coach of the Year
Brad: Frank Vogel, Indiana
Ryan: Lionel Hollins, Memphis

Rookie of the Year
Brad: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland
Ryan: Kemba Walker, Charlotte

Brad: Kevin Durant, OKC
Ryan: Lebron James, Miami

Finals Pick
Brad: Miami over OKC
Ryan: Miami over Dallas

Alright everybody... it's Christmas Day... go watch some hoops!

2011-2012 NBA Preview #30: Atlanta Hawks

Okay, I've saved the best for last... and by "the best" I mean "the one I care the most about"...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Jeff Teague, Kirk Hinrich (Injured), Jannero Pargo, Donald Sloan
  • SG - Joe Johnson, Willie Green, Jerry Stackhouse
  • SF - Marvin Williams, Tracy McGrady, Ivan Johnson
  • PF - Josh Smith, Vlad Radmanovic
  • C - Al Horford, Zaza Pachulia, Jason Collins

General Thoughts

Where do I even begin? The basic cast of characters returns for yet another run at a middling Eastern conference playoff seed, a possibly competitive first round series, and a near-guaranteed second round exit. Lost from the 2010-11 team are Jamal Crawford, Josh Powell, Damien Wilkins, and the corpse of "the Poet" Etan Thomas, and Rick Sund has acquired Tracy McGrady, Vlad Radmanovic, Willie Green and Jannero Pargo to replace them. At first glance, the Crawford loss is a big one, but I'm actually in the camp that it won't be felt as much as the public believes simply because the increase in Jeff Teague's minutes should be able to off-set the loss of bench production from Crawford, but we'll get to this later.

Joe Johnson was bad last year. He averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 5 assists on a 44/30/80 shooting slash line, which, at first glance, is pretty nice, but let's take a look at his production the year before. How does 21 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a 46/37/82 sound? Much better, right? That contract isn't going away (unless amnesty steps in but that would require the hilariously frugal Hawks ownership group to pay someone for not playing, and that's not happening unless the team is sold) and Joe Johnson will continue to be the #1 perimeter offensive option on this team barring a crazy overhaul, so he needs to be better. Quickly. The Jeff Teague that we saw in the Chicago series last year (16 points, 4 assists per in 37 minutes) is probably better than he actually is, but with the way Mike Bibby "played" last year, a safe assumption of 25-30 minutes a night from Teague should be an upgrade. It was difficult to explain the lack of Teague minutes last year because he was the only guy on the team with the quickness/footspeed to cover opposing point guards, but fortunately, this year, Larry Drew is forced to play him. Kirk Hinrich returns for a second-year, and while he's out for the first few weeks, I've always been high on Hinrich for his defense (very good against 2-guards, average at least against point guards), shooting (career 38% threes), and flexibility. Upon his return, Hinrich is immediately the best backup at both guard spots, and is one of the better backup point guards in the league. The Jannero Pargo move was actually a shrewd one for the Hawks in that, instead of going with a rookie minimum guy until Hinrich returns, they took a flyer on a proven guy like Pargo who's played legit minutes in the league. He's a shoot-first combo guard, but he's capable of handling the ball and provides a little credibility off the bench for the first few weeks, so I liked it. As far as the very late Willie Green signing? I have a long-standing dislike for Mr. Green's work... he does absolutely nothing well, and I can't make the connection between bringing in Green (who can't play point guard) as a reaction to Jeff Teague turning his ankle in practice. Does it show that I'm not in the Willie Green fan club? If I was rational, I'd suggest to you that Green provides another NBA-ish caliber 2-guard in case McGrady gets hurt or Pargo flames out. Donald Sloan and Jerry Stackhouse are still on the roster as of this publish date, and while they should prove irrelevant, I'm good with Sloan being on the roster (young legs, can defend), and anti-Stackhouse simply because I don't think he can play anymore, period. Moving on, the Tracy McGrady move was a gamble that I really liked for a few reasons. McGrady certainly isn't the same player that he used to be, but you can't find a guy with his pedigree, talent level, and relative upside for the veteran minimum too often. He's absolutely an injury risk, but he managed to post a 15 PER rate (league average) in Detroit last year, and if you can get that type of level out of him as the backup swingman, that's huge. One thing to watch, however, are his legs on the assumption that this schedule is a crazy one, and he's a guy with a ton of mileage. The Pape Sy release was a move that completely caught me off guard this week in that they seemed to be banking on him to play point guard, and when he proved he couldn't do that, they cut him. I would ask this question. Was there a person that had ever watched Pape Sy outside of the Hawks organization that thought he was a point guard? Anyone? Are you out there? Then there's Marvin Williams. In draft #1 of this post, I literally didn't reference him at all, and it didn't hit me until the next day. What does that tell you about the Marvin Williams era?!!?! 10 points, 5 rebounds a game in 29 minutes on 46% FG shooting last year. He doesn't do anything exceptionally well, lost a chunk of his athleticism (and draft "upside" in the process) thanks to back issues, and is only aggressive on nights where Joe Johnson is out of the lineup (defies logic). The good news is that offseason back surgery has reportedly worked wonders for him athletically, and that he's even standing up straighter now, but what does it all mean? I think you can bank on league-average small forward contribution from him, and little else, and as much as the Hawks have peddled him in trades over the last 18 months, he's not moving because that contract is flat-out bad and another instance of baseless roster/cap management. Exhale. Up front, the Smith/Horford duo returns for another campaign of being undersized and athletic. Smith improved his rebound rate to an all-time high last year, but had a significantly lower efficiency rating than the previous year thanks to an utterly INEXPLICABLE use of long 2-point jumpers, and the fact that he attempted 154 threes (after only 7 the previous year). You've all heard this story, but if Josh Smith would stop shooting the ball (ever) from 18-feet or further, he would be an exceptionable asset, but until that day, he's an above-average player with limitations offensively.

Breaking news: Al Horford is the best player on the Atlanta Hawks. I know I've mentioned this before in this space, but Horford (while undersized) is a top-5 center in the league, and managed to post a 21 PER last year despite playing out of position. Al led the entire league (guards included) in field goal percentage on mid-range jumpshots, and that is an exceptional part of his game. You may have read in the off-season that he has openly campaigned for help at center (that he didn't receive), but all indications are that he spent his summer working on his back-to-basket game. I see a 16 point/1o rebound/55% FG type season from Horford this year, and while that's not "superstar" level, he's obviously an extremely valuable asset. Behind him, the Pachulia/Collins duo returns to action. ZaZa had his worst season of the last 3 in 2010-11 when his shooting dipped to 46% and his scoring rate fell. His 12 PER rating is about what you'd expect from a backup center, and he's clearly a viable option in that role. The issue has always been that on a team with an undersized starting center and no legitimate backup power forward, he's probably forced to play more minutes than he should (or they go to Collins, but we're getting there). Pachulia is what he is. The re-signing of Collins is for literally one purpose. He's an elite post defender on centers. The problem is that there is a very, very small list of centers that this is valuable against to the point where his only real value is in the handful of games against Dwight Howard each season. Kind of a throwaway roster spot. The new addition on the front line is Radmanovic. Vlad is a dead-eye shooter who doesn't defend anyone, and doesn't provide any other real value, but when used correctly as a floor-stretching rangy big who can shoot, he could be valuable. The Hawks just cut their only 2011 draft pick in the form of Keith Benson, who apparently proved to be of less worth than Jason Collins. I have no idea.

What does it all mean? I think this team is still a middling Eastern conference playoff team with limited upside. The starters are pretty darn good relatively, but the bench is sketchy do the failures of the front-office to build a balanced roster (and the reliance on league-minimum guys). The management situation is well-documented, but the short version is this: The ownership group is terrible, refuses to cross the tax line, and either believes that this core of players is better than they are, or simply doesn't care enough to try to overhaul it into something better. The only way I can see that this team is markedly better than last year? Scroll down...


Teague. There is probably an undue amount of pressure on Mr. Teague this season, simply because the only discernible way that I can see, outside of a blockbuster mid-season trade, for the Hawks to "improve" on last year's team is for Teague to be legitimately good. He put up a league average 15 PER last year in his limited/weird role, and impressed in the playoffs, but is there anyone out there that thinks he's an above-average point guard this year? I certainly don't, but in deference to his obvious talents (speed chiefly among them), I won't totally rule it out, and with that, he's the key for me. Other big factors include health (Hinrich/McGrady chiefly), Josh Smith's shot selection (best of luck), and a full bounce-back from Joe Johnson.

Predicted Finish

6th in the East

2011-2012 NBA Preview #29: Oklahoma City Thunder

Alright, I'm making my lone foray into the West... the Zombie Sonics...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Russell Westbrook, Eric Maynor, Royal Ivey, Reggie Jackson
  • SG - James Harden, Thabo Sefolosha, DaQuan Cook, Nate Robinson
  • SF - Kevin Durant, Lazar Hayward
  • PF - Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison
  • C - Kendrick Perkins, Nazr Mohammed, Cole Aldrich

General Thoughts

If there was a bandwagon, non-Miami Heat title pick, it's been the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Westbrook/Durant duo returns for another season, this time having gone deeper into the playoffs than ever before, and they do so as the 2nd best perimeter duo in the league (deference to the Heat). The lead story is the "power struggle" between Westbrook and Durant, but I don't believe that it's an issue, and the world should know that Kevin Durant is the alpha-dog in OKC. Westbrook threw up a 22/8/5 stat-line with a career high 44% FG and 33% 3-point last year, and emerged as an actual star alongside Durant. For Durant, his scoring took a step back from 30 to just under 28 (as his help emerged), but threw up 29 a game in the playoffs, and is still immersed in the "best alive" discussion with Lebron, Wade, Dirk, Howard, etc. Okay, you know what you're getting with those two guys. The rest of the cast will determine how far this team goes. James Harden is my "breakout" candidate this year in the West (John Wall in the East). After a breakout second half last year in which he averaged 16 a game (versus 10 per pre-ASG), I think he makes the leap to the 18-19 a game range, and that's kind of insane as the third option. Ibaka and Perkins form a formidable front-line duo, and because of the scoring prowess of the other 3 starters, they can concentrate on protecting the rim. Ibaka made a mini-leap last year when he averaged 10 points and 8 boards per, but he's a freak athlete who isn't done getting better, so I don't think a 13/9 type of season is out of the question. Perkins looks to be in great shape (shed 30 pounds you can see it) and that should help take some pressure off that knee issue of his. Depth has been an issue for OKC the last couple of years, but with Maynor and Thabo in the backcourt (with Cook on occasion to bomb away), and Collison and Mohammed up front, that's a decently deep top 9-10 guys. There is some question around Scott Brooks and his end of game offensive tactics in the playoffs last year (i.e. never running anything seemingly), but I've usually liked what I've seen from him. It's a really nice squad.


Ibaka. If I have to pick one, I'm going with Serge just because I think it's a virtual certainty that Harden makes a mini-leap (can you tell I'm all in?), and I think you know what you're getting from Perkins. Ibaka is still very raw, and if he can get some more polish to go along with that freakish athleticism, this is a scary roster.

Predicted Finish

2nd in the West

Saturday, December 24, 2011

2011-2012 NBA Preview #28: Chicago Bulls

The class of the East...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Derrick Rose, CJ Watson, John Lucas
  • SG - Richard Hamilton, Ronnie Brewer,
  • SF - Luol Deng, Kyle Korver, Jimmy Butler
  • PF - Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Brian Scalabrine
  • C - Joakim Noah, Omer Asik

General Thoughts

We've all heard the phrase: Defense wins championships. I've been a long-standing believer of this concept, and it still holds true, but how about this one? Defense wins in lockout-shortened seasons with virtually no training camp. Doesn't really have the same ring to it, but hear me out on this one. The Bulls have an advantage that most teams don't have early in this season in that their entire game is based on fundamental defensive principles, and with basically the entire cast of characters from last year returning, they will have the edge early in the year when the ball is rolled out. Derrick Rose is a top-5 player, the reigning MVP and I'd expect nothing less than a repeat performance this year (not necessarily the MVP, but at the level). The Deng/Boozer/Noah trio returns, and that's a pretty ridiculous 2-3-4. One note on Boozer, I believe that he got crapped on a bit much last year simply because he was saddled with an injury early in the season, the team took off without him, and he never recovered IMO. That being said, he's certainly on the hot seat here. Rip Hamilton was brought in as an extremely shrewd pick-up to start at the 2. They've had a glaring need there for some time now, and he suddenly provides them with a wing dynamic they haven't had in Rose's career. I also think he fits well with a ball-dominating guard like Rose because Hamilton does most of his work off the ball running off screens, and slashing through the lane. The bench is pretty nice now with Watson, Brewer, Korver, Gibson, and Asik forming a legitimate second-unit, and with Gibson, they have a guy that most teams would kill to have play significant minutes up front. This team was the #1 seed last year, and with the Hamilton acquisition, I can see them edging their performance from last year's regular season.


Boozer. With as good as the Bulls were in 2010-11, a "Boozer-like" contribution from him this year could push them over the top. I don't expect the 20 point, 11 rebound guy that he was in the final year in Utah, but a return to the 56% field goal form would be an asset, and if he can team with Noah to own the boards like they should, it would help them.

Predicted Finish

1st in the East

2011-2012 NBA Preview #27: Miami Heat

Greetings... now for the most scrutinized team in the all the land...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole
  • SG - Dwyane Wade, Mike Miller, Terrel Harris
  • SF - Lebron James, Shane Battier, James Jones
  • PF - Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem, Juwan Howard
  • C - Joel Anthony, Dexter Pittman, Eddy Curry (yes, that Eddy Curry), Mickell Gladness

General Thoughts

Let's get to the big three first. You've heard about the Lebron James saga ad nauseum so I won't continue to perpetuate it. I'll say this: I actually BELIEVE that Lebron will get it right this year. I can't tell you why. I have no reasoning other than the fact that I simply don't believe that he's "broken" to the point where he'd continue to shrink. We've seen him take over games (don't forget the "48-special" against Detroit), and he simply isn't as bad as he was in the finals. Okay, that's enough. Wade and Bosh are back to help Lebron, and while I believe the 66-game season could be an issue for the notoriously brittle Wade, I don't think there's too big a question as to what we're expecting from the big three. After that? There's always questions. I'm an unabashed Shane Battier homer so I clearly loved the move to bring in what I consider to be the ultimate role player in the NBA. He defends, knocks down shots, is great in the locker room, and doesn't need the ball in his hands ever. It's simply the perfect move for Miami because of all things listed in the previous sentence AND the fact that they can simply throw Battier on the opposing team's best perimeter offensive player and save Lebron in a way they couldn't afford to last season. The Mario Chalmers experiment continues at the point, and that's clearly an issue in my opinion. He had his positive moments last year in the playoffs, but he'll need to be more solid for them. It's being overlooked that this team will have a full season of Udonis Haslem this year as well, in that he missed the majority of last year and was being reintegrated in the playoffs. That's a huge addition for them because of the giant hole in the middle. Oh, did you forget about that? Joel Anthony is a solid rotation big, but he's currently the only reliable center option since Juwan Howard is 57 years, Dexter Pittman is overweight and young, and Eddy Curry is Eddy Curry. I absolutely believe Miami will sneak a buyout guy mid-season (maybe one of the Chinese refugees? Kenyon Martin?) and that's an important future consideration. Also of note, there is a ton of pressure on Erik Spoelstra this year, but he's already gotten his contract extended, so MAYBE that takes a little pressure off.


Lebron. I know this is the slam-dunk answer, but it kind of has to be Lebron after all that we witnessed (pardon the pun) in the playoff meltdown. Please don't forget this next point. Lebron is still the best all-court player in the league. Thank you. Also in consideration here: Mario Chalmers.

Predicted Finish

2nd in the East

2011-2012 NBA Preview #26: New Orleans Hornets

Aloha... Ryan returns with the suddenly overhauled Hornets...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Jarrett Jack, Greivis Vasquez, Jerome Dyson
  • SG - Eric Gordon, Marco Belinelli
  • SF - Trevor Ariza, Al-Farouq Aminu, Dejuan Summers
  • PF - Emeka Okafor, Carl Landry
  • C - Chris Kaman, Jason Smith, Brian Butch

General Thoughts

Somebody had to be the worst team right?... and trading the best player the franchise has ever had will definitely torpedo the hopes of a playoff spot. Now, New Orleans didn't get the shaft in the Chris Paul trade (also known as the David Stern fiasco). They got a top shooting guard in the league (Gordon), pretty good center(Kaman) and a lottery pick from a year ago (Aminu). Trevor Ariza, Jarrett Jack and Emeka Okafor are the other starters and all average around 10 points a game and play solid defense. This team doesn't suck in my eyes. I've seen some really talentless teams but against the other teams in the league they just aren't as good as most of them. But that's okay, they really aren't playing for anything at the moment, as they are really looking to the future with high draft picks and clearing payroll. But its always good to have a clear plan... even if the league owns the team and is a huge conflict of interest for the time being.


Um... let's say Eric Gordon. He's the player who made the deal for Chris Paul far easier to make so he's going to have to make good on his talent going forward. While I think he may be a tad injury prone (More knicked up than injury though: 78,62,56 games played the last 3 yrs) but his point averages have gone up each year as well. If he limits his 3-point shooting, his free throw attempts will go up and I think he'll be the quiet force that people haven't seen yet.

Predicted Finish

15th in the West

2011-2012 NBA Preview #25: Sacramento Kings

Aloha... Ryan is with you for the entertaining Sacto squad...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Jimmer Fredette, Isaiah Thomas
  • SG - Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Francisco Garcia
  • SF - John Salmons, Donte Greene, Tyler Honeycutt
  • PF - JJ Hickson, Travis Outlaw, Chuck Hayes
  • C - DeMarcus Cousins, Jason Thompson, Hassan Whiteside

General Thoughts

I was back and forth with deciding who was the worst Western conference team (New Orleans being the other) and I picked the young guys as a bit better. (ed: co-sign) I think that the upside of DeMarcus Cousins (14 pts and 9 rebs last year) can be as high as any big man in the league as long as his temperament is in the right place. Tyreke Evans being healthy (Plantar Fasciitis last year) will go a long way for him to get back to being a 20/6/5 player again and getting to the rim at will. Added to the mix is Jimmer Fredette who can shoot from pretty much anywhere on the court. Now it should be noted that Jimmer isn't a "true point guard" but he reminds me of Steph Curry(which isn't a bad thing) and I think if him and Evans' talents can blend (and I think they will) the overall team will take a big step forward...just not this year. There is a fair amount of head-scratching moves, mainly involving the small forward position. John Salmons is the assumed starter (I don't know why he's even there) with Donte Greene and Tyler Honeycutt also there, you also pick up Travis Outlaw, who plays the 4 really bad but plays the 3 really well.... you really didn't need him either but you signed him for a multi-year deal.. great. Then mix in Marcus Thornton... there is no way I could be that coach and determine any sort of division of minutes that also maximizes wins. (ed: I've never seen a weirder composition at the forward spots, and with the Chuck Hayes move as well? What's the plan Sacto?)


I don't know if DeMarcus Cousins is a household name (2nd year..why would it?) but if he cashes in on his talent and focuses... he can really be a special big man which is a rarity in our game. The things holding him back are his mood and his lapses in concentration. I think these are a product of youth (He's 21) but there is always a fork in the road: One side being maturing with age and it "comes all together" or letting those immaturities overtake you and you become a malcontent and other negative connotations... which no one wants. Here's hoping this year will be a step in the right direction. (ed: the "Josh Smiff face" is an issue)

Predicted Finish

14th in the West

2011-2012 NBA Preview #24: Minnesota T-Wolves

Greetings... Ryan's here with the T-Wolves...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Ricky Rubio (ed: aka "Rick"), Luke Ridnour, JJ Barea
  • SG - Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington, Malcolm Lee
  • SF - Michael Beasley, Derrick Williams
  • PF - Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Tolliver
  • C - Darko Milicic, Nikola Pekovic, Brad Miller

General Thoughts

The talent on this team really hasn't changed much from last year but the coaching change I think will be a big difference for the T'Wolves. Rick Adelman is on the bench now and Kurt Rambis has been shown the door. Adelman usually has a pretty good, open offense that emphasizes passing and movement so there's no reason why that couldn't help these guys out. Speaking of passing... Ricky Rubio is going to make his long awaited debut this season. Can he shoot? maybe,maybe not but he gets others involved and on a team with overlapping talent on the wings, that will be his biggest asset. Beasley and Love return and will be the two main go-to guys and both produced about 20 a piece. I think that Derrick Williams will be an interesting forward for them because he can play both spots (and also gets the clock ticking on Beasley's eventual exit). The typical head-scratching move from these guys would be signing JJ Barea while already getting Rubio and already having Ridnour on the roster. One would think you could trade Ridnour down the line but knowing these guys they'll probably keep them all and just bury one of them (Again..Ridnour is the likely guy). Barea is a change of pace from Rubio in that he's more of a scorer and less of a passer so it'll be a good balance I think. Defensive competence was a big red mark for them and I think that they will be improved but not good by any stretch of the mind. In their starting 5 I count one above average defender (Darko of all people) so that should tell you where these guys' downfall will be.


It's Ricky Rubio. He's been given so much hype from the Olympics and his play for Barcelona, everyone wants to see if he can do what he's done overseas here in the NBA. I hope his shooting isn't as woeful as people say it is (Think on the lesser side of Rondo) because that could create an issue for his passing lanes if they are basically challenging him to shoot. Regardless, Minnesota should be interesting on the break if he's out there because you never know what he. might do. (ed: Kevin Love is good at basketball... Just a reminder for the world)

Predicted Finish

13th in the West (ed: KAHHHHHHNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Christmas Weekend NFL Preview

Greetings everyone... let's quickly hit the NFL games of note for the weekend... Most of them are on Saturday...
  • Broncos @ Bills - 1:00 CBS - The Tebow traveling road show heads to Buffalo... the Bills have completely fallen off the wagon (sorry Bernie) and that's a defense that is in the bottom 5 against the run and the pass... yikes... I think Denver gets a solid, balanced offensive attack and wins by 7-10 points on the road here...
  • Cards @ Bengals - 1:00 FOX - If you had to bet your life (without looking) on the Cardinals record, what would you say? 5-9? 4-10?... Try 7-7 folks... I had to look it up myself... John Skelton is winning games somehow, and that's suddenly not a joke of a team... that being said, I think Cincy gets right here and stays alive in the playoff hunt behind Benson and company... One thing to note, AJ Green is banged up a bit, and they're going to need him...
  • Jags @ Titans - 1:00 CBS - I have to mention this because Tennessee is technically alive... but they aren't making the playoffs... and this is an awful game
  • Raiders @ Chiefs - 1:00 CBS - It's amazing that this game has playoff bearing, but the entire AFC West is alive and kicking... I actually think Orton and company hold serve at a suddenly rejuvenated Arrowhead... but that's mostly because Carson Palmer is brutal on the road...
  • Dolphins @ Pats - 1:00 CBS - Pats cruise... that is all...
  • Giants @ Jets - 1:00 FOX - The once-every-four-years "Battle of New York" commences... the hype machine is out of control for this one so I'll keep it short... I think the Jets are the better team, and I can see Eli throwing the ball to the wrong jersey a couple of times... one x-factor for the G-Men would be if they can actually establish the run, but I like the Jets...
  • Rams @ Steelers - 1:00 FOX - No breakdown of this game because St. Louis is awful.... but can anyone tell me why Pittsburgh is starting Charlie Batch instead of Dennis Dixon?... I'm lost...
  • Chargers @ Lions - 4:00 CBS - San Diego is playing for their life.... I don't trust either of these teams at all... but with a gun to my head, give me the team that needs it more, and that is San Diego.... eesh...
  • Eagles @ Cowboys - 4:00 FOX - Philly is alive in the NFC East if they win out (lol), but Dallas is just better... Jason Garrett vs. Andy Reid is worth the price of admission anyway, but I'll back Romo and company... begrudgingly...
  • 49ers @ Seahawks - 4:00 FOX - Beware of Qwest!... I'm taking Seattle... I don't care... Alex Smith is still Alex Smith, and Marshawn Lynch has spawned full-scale beast mode... but it's all about Qwest...
  • Bears @ Packers - Sunday 8:20 NBC - Christmas night is taken over by an old-school battle... NBC is outright furious that the Bears backfield is now Hanie and Barber instead of Cutler and Forte, and really? That's all you need to know... Packers...
  • Falcons @ Saints - Monday 8:30 ESPN - Always a barnburner when these 2 teams take the field... I don't see a legitimate justification for outright picking against the Saints in the SuperDome, but the Falcons will hang around as usual here, and I do think Matt Ryan can put up 24-27 points here... Gun to my head, I'd pick a 31-27 Saints win...
Enjoy it... and please click over to the NBA Previews!...

2011-2012 NBA Preview #23: Orlando Magic

This one could change in a hurry... you already know...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Jameer Nelson, Chris Duhon
  • SG - Jason Richardson, JJ Redick, Von Wafer, DeAndre Liggins
  • SF - Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Earl Clark
  • PF - Glen Davis, Ryan Anderson, Justin Harper
  • C - Dwight Howard, Daniel Orton

General Thoughts

Giving this roster the nod as the #3 team in the East (regular season) is a basic homage to Dwight Howard's brilliance. In the midst of the trade rumor madness, people aren't discussing that Dwight is the best center alive (by the widest margin of any position in the league, by far), and the best defensive player in the entire league. The second he steps foot on a roster, they're a playoff team. It's that simple. Outside of Howard, it's a bit of a mess of roster construction. There are guys I like in Nelson, Redick, Richardson, and Anderson, but none of them are legitimate 2nd options at this point. Hedo Turkoglu is still around thanks to a wildly absurd contract, and Orlando managed to pay twice what Brandon Bass was making to Glen Davis despite Davis being an equal (or worse) player. Big shout-out to Otis Smith on that one. The Jason Richardson signing was a pure "win now" move, and he's a certain upgrade at the 2-guard, but I don't really see the organizational direction. They have 8 legitimate NBA rotation guys (and 9 if you count Duhon, ehhh) and that, along with Howard, should be enough to sneak away with home court in the East for a series.


Did you think I forgot about the Dwight Howard sweepstakes? The clear x-factor on this team is whether Dwight will actually BE on this team in February. For the record, I wouldn't trade Howard for Andrew Bynum, or for Brook Lopez and 107 first-round picks. I'm not saying I wouldn't trade Howard for the right package (because I do think he's leaving), but you better be getting back a legitimate organizational building block (Bynum isn't that for me), or a 3-4 quality player package to do it. Otherwise, offer him way more money than anyone else and make him walk away from that. If I had a gun to my head, I think Otis Smith goes rogue, holds onto Dwight, and pays the consequences in the summer when he leaves, but for this year, his presence gives them this ranking.

Predicted Finish

3rd in the East

2011-2012 NBA Preview #22: New York Knicks

The East starts to take shape....

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Baron Davis* (Injured), Toney Douglas, Mike Bibby
  • SG - Landry Fields, Iman Shumpert
  • SF - Carmelo Anthony, Bill Walker, Renaldo Balkman
  • PF - Amare Stoudemire, Jared Jeffries, Steve Novak
  • C - Tyson Chandler, Jerome Jordan, Josh Harrellson

General Thoughts

There is significant talent on this team. There is no depth on this team. The two previous sentences seem to contradict themselves, but when you have a top 3 of Anthony, Stoudemire, and a currently-healthy Tyson Chandler, you can achieve both things. First of all, I've never been a fan of the Anthony/Stoudemire duo together simply because neither of them defend or create offense for their teammates, but it also can't be denied that the offensive contributions they are capable of can take this team places. The Chandler signing was a curious one for a few reasons. Firstly, Chandler has a pretty checkered injury history so guaranteeing him 4 years of near-max salary at this stage of his career is pretty bold. Secondly, in order to clear space for him, they had to burn their amnesty clause (a big deal when Amare and his uninsured knees are on the team) AND got rid of their previous 3rd option in Billups. All that said, if they are getting the Chandler from the Dallas championship run last year, he's an absolutely perfect fit because he can cover up for the defensive shortcomings (being kind) of the rest of the roster, run the court in the D'Antoni system, and catch potential alley-oops from Baron Davis. Don't worry, we'll get to Baron in the paragraph below. The depth on this team is pretty non-existent because of the way they've used their cap. Toney Douglas is an NBA rotation guy IMO, and he's certainly their best bench option at either guard spot. Mike Bibby runs around with a gigantic fork sticking out of his back and shouldn't be counted on in any way, shape, or form ESPECIALLY in an offense that relies on the point guard to push tempo. Jared Jeffries can be a valuable piece, but it's not the best sign in the world when he's your #1 frontcourt option off the bench. It's pretty weak after the top 3 (or four), but on the bright-ish side, D'Antoni is famous for running his starters into the ground and playing short rotations anyway.


Baron. Davis. This is the biggest no-brainer in the entire league as far as x-factors go. If you had the pleasure of watching Baron work in the 2007 playoffs, you've seen what he's capable of on the positive side. If you had the misfortune of seeing him "work" at times in LA over the past couple of years, you've seen the bad Baron that gets fat, takes entire games off, and launches 23 footers instead of using his immense quickness and strength to blow by unsuspecting guards. I will credit Bill Simmons for this one, but one thing about Baron is that he's clearly taken to another level when he plays in front of lively crowds (watch that 2007 game tape), and MSG will provide that for him 33 times this year. I think signing him was a tremendous move because of the relatively low-risk and gigantic upside, but let's not forget that a) this team actually NEEDS him in order to be a contender, and b) he's legitimately hurt and probably fat right now. I have no idea what happens here.

Predicted Finish

4th in the East

Friday, December 23, 2011

2011-2012 NBA Preview #21: Phoenix Suns

Aloha... I feel bad for Steve Nash (and I know Ryan does too)...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Steve Nash, Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price
  • SG - Jared Dudley (ed: who isn't a 2-guard in any way), Shannon Brown
  • SF - Grant Hill, Josh Childress
  • PF - Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick, Markieff Morris
  • C - Marcin Gortat, Robin Lopez, Garret Siler

General Thoughts

If there was ever one team or one management that really letdown its superstar in recent years, it has been the Suns for Steve Nash. Every year it's been one departure after another and the talent they bring in is nothing like the talent that left. Long gone are the days of Amare and Marion on the break, but now its been Gortat, Channing Frye and Jared Dudley. Steve Nash has withstood the tests of time thus far so it's assumed he can do it another year. Somehow with this roster, he averaged 11 assists and I believe he can do it again easily. The rest of the roster is decent but no one that you really have to fear and take into account other than Nash. Frye and Dudley are knock down shooters and they will relied upon to continue that trend within the uptempo system they've been so synonymous with. They brought in Shannon Brown for some bench depth (I've also heard rumblings that he could start too) and I think he can score by shooting or slashing. I mentioned withstanding the tests of time I'd like to also mention that Grant Hill has only missed 3 games the last three years... I have no idea how thats possible but it happened with him playing 30 minutes a night. His all around play should help fill whatever holes the Suns need (and there are a few). This team is another one that needs to bottom out completely but I would be safe to say that management isn't looking to do that. They are more concerned with their bottom line and bottoming out doesn't help that cause.


Free Steve Nash. He's made that franchise relevant in recent years and I think that management owes it to him to send him along to another time while he has value and start over. His number will be retired regardless and will be in the same breath as Connie Hawkins and Charles Barkley as the greatest to put on a Suns jersey. It is a shame as a basketball fan (as well as fan of Nash) watching him give 100% every night for a management team who has placed subpar talent around him. I don't know who blinks first in terms of starting over but I fear the worst. (ed: on a basketball note, I'd keep an eye out for Gortat, he's been wildly undervalued after his departure from Orlando and should be considered an upper-echelon center... whatever that means)

Predicted Finish

13th in the West

2011-2012 NBA Preview #20: Utah Jazz

Greetings all... Ryan returns with the interesting roster construction of the Jazz...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Devin Harris, Earl Watson, Jamaal Tinsley
  • SG - Raja Bell, Alec Burks
  • SF - CJ Miles, Gordon Hayward, Josh Howard
  • PF - Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors, Jeremy Evans
  • C - Al Jefferson, Enes Kanter

General Thoughts

The Jazz are the ultimate "Are we rebuilding? or are we competing every night?" type team. Don't know what I mean? Okay try this... They drafted Alec Burks and Enes Kanter in the 1st round this year (+1 for rebuilding) but they signed Josh Howard to play semi-heavy minutes despite having CJ Miles and Gordon Hayward already there (+1 competing). You trade your best player (Deron Williams) for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors (+1 rebuilding) and from all reports they have no plans to move Millsap, Raja Bell or Al Jefferson to make room for these young guys (+1 competing)..a bit of a head scratcher right? I personally think they would be better served trading Jefferson and Bell and keeping the rest to completely start over but we have to go with what is currently here. This is a very talented team, but they will take their lumps because they are a pretty young team. The big men, Jefferson and Millsap, don't take a backseat to many frontcourts on any team and they have easily the best rotation of big men in the league. And in the backcourt, they have a good rotation of slashers (Burks, Harris and Miles) and shooters (Hayward and Bell). This is a team that is very well built even though they are in transition and while I don't think they'll scratch the playoffs ,give them a season to figure out the rotation, and I do think they could make noise next year.


Often the forgotten man, I'd say it's Devin Harris. In 2008-09, he averaged 21 pts and 7 asts... in the point guard world, those are elite numbers. Since then?..nothing more than 17 pts and the shot attempts have declined each year since that breakthrough season. He's not getting to the line as many times (maybe the injuries have something to do with that) so its like who is this guy?... which end of the spectrum is he on?... I tend to think that the system in NJ was restrictive with Avery Johnson (ed: Ryan hates Avery Johnson with a fiery passion) and maybe in Utah he can get a little more freedom and be more effective. In terms of the steps the Jazz have to take forward, he's the player to bridge the veterans and the young guys together.

Predicted Finish

12th in the West

2011-2012 NBA Preview #19: Houston Rockets

Greetings all... Ryan returns with the uber-deep Rockets...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Jonny Flynn, Jeremy Lin
  • SG - Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee
  • SF - Chase Budinger, Terrence Williams, Chandler Parsons
  • PF - Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris
  • C - Samuel Dalembert, Jordan Hill, Hasheem Thabeet

General Thoughts

This a team that I would call solid. Not bad, not really good, but solid. Their individual players are all good... but no real guy that has pop when you talk about them. Kevin Martin is their best scorer, but he doesn't do much else and he isn't dominant at all. Luis Scola is the best post player but when you only average 18 pts and 8 rebs it's a little easy to get overlooked. Other than that; Lowry, Budinger, Lee, and Patterson are all guys you can like but none that you love. And you get enough of those guys piled together and that's going to be how your team will perform. I do like the hire of Kevin McHale though but there has to be some new talent infused before I give them a green arrow pointing upward. I guess we can credit David Stern for messing this team up too. They had a chance to land Pau Gasol and had a deal for Nene on the table and pairing those two together would have been something to see. Until then?...maybe more stock piling assets for a big trade later down the line.


I would be personally stunned if this team sneaks its way into the playoffs and there really isn't a young guy to me that has a huge leap to make so i'll use this particular time to make a plea: Please trade or play Terrence Williams and Jonny Flynn. They are too good to be buried underneath another roster. I've grown quite tired of lesser players getting ample playing time elsewhere in the league while these two just sit and rot their playing careers away. I haven't heard one good reason why neither one of these players are getting the burn they deserve. Minnesota and New Jersey don't exactly know what they had on their hands so they shipped them here...Kevin McHale... please don't let these kids just sit. Let them play. Thank you. (ed: Couldn't agree more on Williams and Flynn, but the acquisition of Dalembert could be huge in pushing them toward a potential playoff spot)

Predicted Finish

11th in the West

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011-2012 NBA Preview #18: Indiana Pacers

Okay, I've saved the best for last... and by "the best" I mean "the one I care the most about"...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Darren Collison, George Hill, AJ Price
  • SG - Paul George, Lance Stephenson
  • SF - Danny Granger, Dahntay Jones
  • PF - David West, Tyler Hansborough, Louis Amundson
  • C - Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster, Jeff Pendergraph

General Thoughts

This is really, really nice team that no one outside of inner NBA circles is talking about. With the overhaul of the roster, this is suddenly a team with an extremely strong top 7 (the starters, Hill and Hansborough) with valuable depth guys like Amundson, Foster and Jones. There are no glaring weaknesses, and that's half the battle. I've always been a fan of both Collison AND George Hill because they both defend, don't kill you in any facet of the game, and provide steady enough play. I like Hill as the bench guy because of his size and ability to play a little 2-guard, and that was a heady trade for them. George and Granger form an extremely long, athletic, and talented wing tandem. One of the random notes of the off-season is that Paul George reportedly grew in the off-season (Dunleavy-style) and now is listed at 6'10. By the way, he's the starting shooting guard. If George can improve on his 3-point numbers (just 30% last year) and spring board off of a nice performance down the stretch (playoffs not withstanding) last year, that'll be nice for them. Up front, they swooped in and stole David West at 2 years, $20 million right when it seemed he'd be headed to the Celtics. I absolutely love this move, because they got him at a decent price thanks to injury, and they have the insurance of a guy like Hansborough to limit West's minutes a bit in this shortened season. Also, I think they can play Psycho T (lol) at the 5 a bit to spell Hibbert, and with the savvy trade of Brandon Rush (who was going to be buried) for Amundson, that's yet another athletic guy who plays hard. Roy Hibbert mans the middle, and after a strong start last year, he hit a bit of a wall, and they need the 1st-half Hibbert to make this ranking viable. The bottom line for me is that everybody on this team plays HARD. The only guy with a single motor question is Hibbert, but with professional scrappers like Hansborough and Amundson, it's the perfect team for that market.


Hibbert. He's unquestionably the key to success for them because he's a legit 7-foot-2 and with a limit on the guys who can handle his size, he's an x-factor. In last year's wins, he averaged 15 points and 8 boards on 52% shooting. In last year's losses, that slipped to 11 points, 7 boards and 41% from the field. It doesn't get much simpler than that, right? I think you know what you're getting from Collison/Hill/Granger/West/Hansborough, and while George is a question mark, they aren't relying him in nearly the same fashion that Hibbert is being relied on. Step it up, Roy.

Predicted Finish

5th in the East

2011-2012 NBA Preview #17: Golden State Warriors

Greetings... let's go to Oak Town... Ryan, that's your cue...

Roster Breakdown (Starters in Bold)
  • PG - Stephen Curry, Charles Jenkins
  • SG - Monta Ellis, Brandon Rush
  • SF - Dorell Wright, Klay Thompson, Dominic McGuire
  • PF - David Lee, Ekpe Udoh
  • C - Andris Biedrins, Kwame Brown, Jeremy Tyler

General Thoughts

I want so badly this team make the playoffs and I think that if there was ever a chance for them to sneak in this would be the year. It's a shortened season and everyone wants to conserve energy, but Golden State doesn't play like that at all... even with new coach Mark Jackson (yes that Mark Jackson) at the helm. (ed: Momma there goes that man!) I think the difference is going to be that their interior defense will be much more improved (I feel like the perimeter defense is something completely different). They added Kwame Brown (...yes..that Kwame Brown) and traded for Brandon Rush, both(among many other things) are pretty good defenders. Pencil in around 25pts for Monta Ellis, 18ish for David Lee and around 20 for Steph Curry who is still getting better. I do think the rookie Klay Thompson(who I like) can get the job done eventually but may not be as ready for big minutes as recent departure Reggie Williams was to get the ball and shoot it effectively.


It has to be Andris Biedrins no question. 2 years ago he was averaging 12 pts 11 rebs and almost 2 blocks a game. He suddenly hit a tailspin (or torpedoed, your pick) and he looks almost like a shell of his former self (5 pts, 7 rebs and 1 block last year). I don't know the issue for his 2 season slump so it might be hard to regain that focus, but if this team is going to sneak around the playoff hunt he's going to have to be nearly back to his old self again.

Predicted Finish

9th in the West