16 Teams in One Day!!!!

October 29, 2009

I fell behind due to illness and a trip so the rest of this preview will be short and sour.

Philadelphia 76ers (Last Season: 41-41)

I don’t care if Elton Brand is healthy this season (which he may still not be), the loss of Andre Miller is going to hurt this team.   Want to know how to defend this team?  Three simple words: PACK IT IN.  Seriously,with Jason Kapono  this team’s only three-point threat (and Raptors fans know how passive a player he’s become) this 76ers team should be the easiest to defend in the league.  This team shouldn’t win more than 20 games as it is currently constituted.  The fact they’ll probably win in the mid-30s shows just how dumb this league is.

Predicted 2009-10 Record: 36-46

 

Chicago Bulls (Last Season: 41-41)

Even with the scoring of Ben Gordon and John Salmons and the stellar play of rookie of the year and future super star Derrick Rose this team still managed only 41 wins under rookie coach Vinny Del Negro.  Now Gordon is gone with many of his shots set to be taken by the moderately healthy Luol Deng.  Tyrus Thomas hasn’t become the player the Bulls hoped (and doesn’t appear he ever will) and Joakim Noah has proven a good rebounder and defender but won’t solve Chicago’s offensive woes.  Considering all this, for some reason I don’t think the Bulls will take a tremendous step backwards as Derrick Rose should put in a phenomenal season.  God knows he’ll have to if the Bulls hope to make the playoffs.

Predicted Record: 39-43

 

Miami Heat (Last Season: 43-39)

Last year Dwayne Wade was the runner-up MVP after playing out of his mind basketball, yet the Heat still only won 43 games.  This year Wade’s support cast is arguably weaker with no significant acquisitions joining the team and number two man Michael Beasley literally going out of his mind.  The thought of Wade sustaining the effort he showed last year in another meaningless season is difficult to imagine.

Predicted Season Record: 38-44

 

Phoenix Suns (Last Season: 46-36)

The Suns looked confused last year as they tried to mesh the run-and-gun style of point guard Steve Nash with the slower, more plodding half-court sets Shaquille O’Neal demanded.  Now O’Neal is gone and Amare Stoudemire is back and Phoenix is ready to run again.  Still, questions remain as Nash and starting small-forward Grant Hill are 35 and 37 respectively, and Amare Stoudemire has been ambivalent about his attitude towards his team.  Oh yeah, and they still can’t play defence. 

Predicted 2009-10 Season Record: 48-34

 

Atlanta Hawks (Last Season: 47-35)

Same Hawks team plus Jamal Crawford.  Honestly, I don’t much like Crawford, feeling he has only ever put up good stats on terrible teams, so I’m not so sure how much he helps.  In addition, Mike Bibby is beginning a very noticeable decline in both his offensive and defensive abilities.  Still, I expect a big year from Al Horford and Joe Johnson.  Plus, journeyman Joe Smith is always good to have around.

Predicted Season Record: 50-32

 

Utah Jazz (Last Season Record: 48-34)

The Utah Jazz definitely have a talented starting five, the question is how do Carlos Boozer and Paul  “>Millsap co-exist at the four spot when it is clear that ownership sees one as the future (Millsap) and the other as an obstacle (Carlos Boozer)?  Given the franchise’s history of dealing harshly with malcontents, everything should be fine.

Predicted Season Record: 54-28

 

New Orleans Hornets (Last Season: 49-33)

Get this straight: the trade of Tyson Chandler for Emeka Okafor was just window dressing for the New Orleans Hornets.  Very expensive window dressing as Okafor has about three years and $40 million more on his contract than Chandler, but window dressing none the less.  Until this team addresses its problems on the wings (no Julian Wright, Morris Peterson and James Posey will not suffice) this team will not go too far.  The absolutely astounding Chris Paul will get this team back to the playoffs, but it looks like another first round exit. 

2009-10 Predicted Record: 50-32

 

Dallas Mavericks (Last Season: 50-32)

I’m not sure why everyone in Dallas is talking about the Mavericks as though they can compete with the Lakers, Blazers and Spurs of the West.  Does the acquisition of Shawn Marion really help Dalla’s middle of the pack defense that given their porousness at nearly every other position?  Does the addition of Drew Gooden, consistently one of the stupidest players in this league, really make the Spurs lose sleep at night?  If they stay healthy they might make the second round.

2009-10 Predicted Record: 52-30

 

Houston Rockets (Last Season: 53-29)

The math is simple: no Yao + no Tracy McGrady = no hope. Shane Battier and newly acquired Trevor Ariza will form the best defensive backcourt in the league.  Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes, and Luis Scola will get a lot of rebounds in the front court and pester opposing bigs.  And waterbug point guards Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry will disrupt a lot of teams offensively.  But who is going to score on this Rockets team?  Expect UGLY games.

2009-10 Predicted Season Record: 31-51

 

Denver Nuggets (Last Season: 54-28)

The Denver Nuggets have to enter this season with A LOT of confidence.  Defying all the experts they made it all the way to the Western Conference finals after a superb month of basketball.  Entering the 2009-10 season with the feeling they can beat anyone (except maybe the Lakers who jettisoned them from the playoffs last year) should do wonders for this team so long as they maintain an appropriate fear of their opponents.  George Karl teams tend not to do that after successful seasons.   Thankfully for the Nuggets, this is Chauncey Billups’ team.

2009-10 Predicted Season Record: 54-28

 

San Antonio Spurs (Last Season: 54-28)

This team has it all.  A point guard who causes headaches for opposing teams on both ends of the floor.  A two guard best described as a kamikaze.  A small forward who is the best two-way player the Spurs have had at the three spot in all of their title runs.  A solid bench and a starting power forward determined to beat Shaq and Kobe to title number 5 and cement his position as the greatest player of this generation.  This team may not end the season with the best record in the league, but believe me that a rested Spurs team will be deadly come playoff time.

2009-10 Season Record: 60-22

 

Portland Trail Blazers (Last Season: 54-28)

While it could be expected that the Andre Miller signing could set the Blazers team back due to his incompatibility with Portland star Brandon Roy and his sulking on account of losing his starting spot, I don’t expect the Blazers to take a step back in 2009-10.  I believe the continued growth of LaMarcus Aldridge, a trimmer, faster (read: less foul prone) Greg Oden, and a stronger corps of wings, should keep the Blazers right where they belong – among the Western Conference elite.

2009-10 Predicted Record: 55-27

 

Orlando Magic (Last Season: 59-23)

There are four main reasons why the Orlando Magic are going to be scary good this season. 

Reason number one: Jameer Nelson is back.  After missing the final 39 regular season games the Magic’s sharp-shooting point is back and ready to assert himself in Orlando’s high powered offense. 

Reason number two: Vince Carter is better than class=”mceItemHidden”> Hedo Turkoglu.  Having said that everyone knows that talent hasn’t been Vince’s short coming, it’s been effort.  Sure Toronto and New Jersey fans have been burned by his lackadaisical attitude in the past but Vince is in the best situation he has ever found himself.  He’s essentially tied with Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson as options 2a, 2b and 2c (you pick the order).  The pressure is off on the offensive end and Carter will be bullied enough by his coach AND his teammates to give a crap on the defensive end that he won’t be able to cost there either.  This team is playing for a championship, Vince has never been on a team like that and Howard, Lewis and Nelson won’t let him fuck it up. 

Reason Number Three: this team is deep.  Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat.  Sure beats Courtney Lee, JJ Reddick and Tony Battie.

Reason Number Four: Dwight Howard keeps getting better. At 23 he’s already been defensive player of the year once and there isn’t any reason he can’t continue to be the anchor of a number one rated defence for years to come.  Even without a single post move or exceptional passing skills he’s one of the better scorers in the game and creates acres of space for his sharp shooting teammates.  If he could just shoot free throws at a decent clip he’d be unstoppable.

2009-10 Predicted Season Record: 65-17

 

Boston Celtics (Last Season: 62-20)

Two big causes of concern for Celtics fans.  One: Kevin Garnett’s knee injury.  Forget his relatively young age (33), remember that this guy played in more than a 1000 regular season games, relying on his athleticism and quickness to assert himself on both ends of the floor.  Now he’s got most of the tendons in his right leg stapled to his knee.  That is a recipe for both a slower Garnett as well as reinjury. 

Concern number two: Rajon Rondo might be a bit of a dick.  By playoff time last season Rondo had established himself as one of the best point guards in the league becoming a nightly triple-double threat.  He is an invaluable part of the Celtics if they ever want to compete for a championship again.  Despite this, Boston GM Danny Ainge shopped the 23 year old around in the off season.  What gives?  From a talent perspective there doesn’t appear to be a problem and Rondo doesn’t have a history of injury problems.  The only reason could be that Rondo is a lockerroom problem.  Well, if he was a problem when the Celts were winning 62 games, how’s he going to be this season when he Ainge wasn’t able to come to terms with him regarding a contract extension?

2009-10 Predicted Record: 55-27

 

Los Angeles Lakers (Last Season: 65-17)

The Los Angeles Lakers come back with essentially the same roster that won the NBA title last year minus the Ariza for Ron Artest switch.  Artest is a more versatile player than Ariza, he can score in more ways and is better at defending bigger players, but he’s also crazier than Ariza and many question how (not if) he’ll affect the focus of the Lakers in their quest for back-to-back titles.  Personally, I think Artest can control himself  in public while his teammates will just roll their eyes and continue playing the way they know how.  The bigger issue is how well he’ll share shots with Lamar Odom.

2009-10 Predicted Season Record: 62-20

 

Cleveland Cavaliers (Last Season: 66-16)

Simply put: playing Shaq in excess of 25 minutes per game is a mistake.  On offence Shaq stands to do two things.  First, he’s going to take the ball out of Lebron’s hands, where it belongs.  The guy thinks he’s the same player he was five years ago and can impose his will on offense.  That isn’t the case.  The opposing team is hoping the Cavs run their offense through Shaq on every single possession cause he’s going to stagnate Cleveland’s offense and get 15 points per game for himself for doing it.  No, the key to Mike Brown’s already inept offense is “give the ball to Lebron and get the fuck out of the way”.  Which leads me to the second problem with Shaq – he can’t get out of the fucking way.  When Lebron has the ball there’s one place he wants to go and that’s the rim, and Shaq will be waiting there and more importantly Shaq’s defender.  Why?  Cause Shaq can’t play more than 10 feet from the rim.  Not only will Lebron have to fend off double teams on the perimeter, he’ll be facing a third, possibly fourth defender whenever he gets anywhere near the paint.  This does not help Cleveland.

On the defensive end Shaq is equally worthless.  Shaq is a big body and could bang in the post with any player in the history of the league.  But the league is different now and the 29 teams vying to beat Cleveland understand that he hasn’t stepped out on a pick-and-roll since 2001.  His weaknesses will be exposed on this Cleveland team just as they were on Phoenix where he was also heralded as a defensive savior. 

Don’t get me wrong, Cleveland will remain an elite team because of the skill and court sense of the sublime Lebron James.  I simply feel that unless Cavs GM Danny Ferry locks Shaq in a cell until the Cavs meet Dwight Howard and the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals in May, Cleveland would be better served with their starting center playing less minutes.

Predicted 2009-10 Record: 58-24

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30 Teams in 15 Days (maybe more) Continued…

October 21, 2009

Detroit Pistons (2008/09 Season Record: 39-43)

Key Additions: Ben Gordon, Charlie Villenueva, Ben Wallace, Chris Wilcox

Key Losses: Allen Iverson, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess

The Detroit Pistons took a MASSIVE step backwards last season.  After being a pereniall title contender for the past five seasons (including one championship in 2004) the Pistons qualified for the playoffs by the skin of their teeth and were quickly swept in the first round in 2009.  Much of the blame can be levelled at the ill advised Billups for Iverson trade by GM Joe Dumars (I think Dumars expected the team to take a step back in order to create cap space in 2009, but was surprised when they took a leap) and the internal faction that decision created over the distribution of minutes and shots.  With the team revamped for the 2009-10 season the Pistons should bounce back to their winning ways.

The Pistons’ key acquisition this off season was scoring machine Ben Gordon.  Gordon is an outstanding shooter who is adept at getting his shot off against taller players.  Unfortunately, he plays the same position as long-time starter Richard Hamilton.  Last season both Hamilton and Iverson balked when they were alternately instructed to give up their starting spots to each other causing tension in the Pistons locker room.  It is unlikely that Hamilton will be quite as threatened by Gordon as Gordon was predominantly used as a sixth man in four of his five seasons with Chicago. 

The bigger issue for the Pistons’ backcourt will be the dearth of talent at the point guard position.  While he is admittedly still young, it does not appear that last year’s starter, Rodney Stuckey, will ever be the player Joe Dumars hopes.  In fact, it could be easily argued that Stuckey was out played by backup man Will Bynum, though Bynum is not a long term solution as Detroit’s starting point. Additionally, neither Gordon nor Hamilton possess the skill-set to play the one for more than a minimal number of minutes at a time.  This is a rather large problem for Detroit that will need to be rectified if they ever hope to reach the elite in the Eastern Conference.

In the front court the Pistons have the dependable Tayshaun Prince at the three, free agent signing Charlie Villenueva at the four, and either the over-the-hill Ben Wallace or the disappointing Chris Wilcox at the five.  Charlie Villenueva promises to bring a scoring touch that the Pistons’ front court hasn’t seen in three seasons, however, he does not have the reputation as a stopper and Detroit’s front court is bound to be less effective than the Wallace-McDyess tandem on the defensive end of the floor.

While certain problems persist with this new incarnation of the Detroit Pistons, a relatively controversy and injury free season should see the team improve in 2009/10.

2009/10 Predicted Season Record: 42-40


30 Teams in 15 Days (?) Continued…

October 21, 2009

Indiana Pacers (2008/09 Season Record: 36-46)

Key Additions: Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, Tyler Hansbrough (Rookie)

Key Losses: Jarrett Jack, Rasho Nesterovic, Marquis Daniels

There isn’t too much to say about the Indiana Pacers.  For the past three seasons the team has been a bubble team – not winning quite enough games to make it into the playoffs while winning too many to secure a high lottery pick.  The team has also been unable to sign a decent free agent in years and is capped out till 2011 when Troy Murphy, Mike Dunleavy Jr., TJ Ford, and Jamal Tinsley all come off their books.  Till then it appears Indiana fans will be getting more win totals in the mid-30s.

Mike Dunleavy Jr.’s return to the Pacer’s lineup, after missing all but 18 games last season, has been seen as one ray of hope for Indianapolis.  Dunleavy had scored a solid 19 points per game in 07/08 and some believe that he’ll be a nice complement to All Star Danny Granger.  I personally don’t believe that the return of Dunleavy will affect the team’s win total.  His scoring will probably come at the cost of a few of Granger’s shots and will probably only offset the dip in production the team will see from its reserves with the loss of Jarrett Jack and Marquis Daniels.  Plus Dunleavy isn’t exactly an elite defender. 

The loss of Jack may hurt this team more than any other.  With no one to push the often out of control TJ Ford for minutes this team is going to see a drop in production at the point guard position.  Who is Jim O’Brien going to turn to for some starts when Ford starts sulking mid-way through the season?  Earl Watson? 

The front court doesn’t look any better with the “fine” Troy Murphy paired up with a platoon of stiffs in Jeff Foster, Roy Hibbert, and Josh McRoberts.  Seriously, when your major front court acquisitions are Solomon Jones and Tyler Hansbrough, you can’t expect much from the four and five positions.

I imagine that, under third year coach Jim O’Brien, this team will play at a lightning quick pace but still rank as a slightly below average offensive and defensive team. 

Get ready for another 13th pick come June, Indianapolis!

2009/10 Predicted Season Record: 37-45


30 Teams in 15 Days…

October 19, 2009

Milwaukee Bucks (2008/09 Record: 34-48)

Key Additions: Brandon Jennings (Rookie), Carlos Delfino,  Hakim Warrick

Key Losses: Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villenueva, Ramon Sessions

The 2008/2009 Bucks were hampered by the loss of two of their starters, Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut, to injuries for most of last season.  In 2009/10 it appears that both Redd and Bogut are healthy, however, Milwaukee has seen last season’s other three starters, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villenueva, and Ramon Sessions leave the Bucks either through free agency (Villeneuva and Sessions) or trade (Jefferson) – a definite shakeup to the Buck’s starting lineup.

Honestly, I’m not sure what the Bucks are up to.  In the Jefferson trade the Bucks gave up a 20 points per game scorer who can rebound and defend and didn’t get a single rotation player in the exchange.  Additionally, the team did not shop Villenueva last season despite having no intention of bringing the multi-skilled power forward back, which was evidenced by the fact that the team didn’t even extend the minimal qualifying offer to him when he became a restricted free agent this summer opening the door to some either financially agreeable contract or a sign-and-trade!  Puzzling.

The one positive light for Bucks fans is that Brandon Jennings should prove a definite upgrade over last season’s starter Ramon Sessions.  Jennings is a 19-year-old rookie that took the unprecedented step of forgoing a college career to play one year in Europe.  Jennings, one of the most highly sought high school athletes in the country, made some money in the process but may have fallen under the radar a little bit and slipped to the tenth pick in this year’s draft.  That may have been an error on his part, but Milwaukee should reap the reward.

The return of All Star shooting guard Michael Redd is another positive development for the franchise – the question is, how many games will Redd actually suit up for?  Redd has missed 88 games over the last three seasons due to one injury or another, tearing his ACL and MCL in his left knee last season. 

Healthy or not, the Bucks are going to struggle mightily this season.  Even with Michael Redd’s 20.5 career scoring average the Bucks do not possess strong scorers, or defenders for that matter, at any of the other position.

Predicted 2009/10 Season Record: 25-57


30 Teams in 15 Days…

October 19, 2009

Charlotte Bobcats (2008/09 Season Record: 35-47)

Key Additions: Tyson Chandler

Key Losses: Emeka Okafor

There isn’t too much to say about the Charlotte Bobcats.  They came within four games of their first ever playoff appearance under the stewardship of veteran coach Larry Brown but have been hamstrung by a number of bad contracts and were unable to improve their roster in the offseason. 

The biggest move by the Bobcats was trading starting forward/center Emeka Okafor to New Orleans for Tyson Chandler.  Chandler should slightly improve the Bobcats’s defense,  ranked 7th in the league in defensive efficiency last season, however, he is a slightly inferior scorer than Okafor.   For a team that was third from the bottom in offensive efficiency in 08/09 and desperately needed another scoring option in order to improve this trade does not appear it’ll impact the team’s record in any positive (or negative) way in 2009/10.  This trade was simply a cash dump as Chandler’s contract expires in 2011 while Okafor won’t be a free agent till 2014.

If Charlotte is to improve at all this season the team will have to depend on the improvement of sophomore guard DJ Augustin, and greater consistency from Raymond Felton.  Augustin at 6′ is undersized, however, he’s got a quick first step and can shoot from deep at a high percentage.  The fact that he scored an average of 18 points and dished out six assists per game in 11 starts last season is a positive sign and he should press Felton for additional minutes this season, possibly even the starting spot.  Meanwhile, Felton will be playing for a new contract after failing to negotiate an extension in the offseason.  I expect he will be out of Charlotte by March.

The remainder of the team’s rotational players: Chandler, Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, Vladimir Radmanovic, Desagana Diop and Raja Bell have all plateaud.   With no cap relief coming for two more years, the Bobcats will remain a non factor in the NBA till 2012, a dangerous situation to be in considering the team is ranked 26th in attendance.

2009/10 Season Record: 32-50


30 Teams in 15 Days Continued…

October 19, 2009

Toronto Raptors (2008/09 Season Record: 33-49)

Following a disappointing 2008-09 season, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo spent the offseason remaking the team.  With only three rotational players (sorry Patrick O’Bryant and Quincy Douby) returning to the 09/10 squad and more than $100 million in contracts and extensions handed out by management, the team has gone through a blitz of rebuilding and is hoping to make some noise in the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

Back for his seventh season with the team is multi-timed All Star and team leader Chris Bosh.  Bosh is a versatile offensive player, capable of shooting from 20 feet, beating opposing bigs off the dribble, and he’s grown as a post player.  He’s also plateaued as an offensive player.  Not that this is a bad thing as he’s consistently among the top dozen scorers, not to mention rebounders, in the league.  It just means that he stands to improve in other areas of his game, most notably defence.  Admittedly he isn’t quite as poor a defender as he’s often made out to be.  The Raptors’ perimeter defence last season was so porous that Bosh often had to play out of position so that he could help when, inevitably, a teammate was beaten by an opposing player.  Still, Bosh does leave something to be desired with his post defence though he should improve in that facet of his game this season if he’s bulked up in the offseason as is purported.  Of course the benefit of that additional muscle could be offset by a hamstring injury Bosh has been nursing in the pre-season, should it linger.

Joining Bosh in the front court is fourth year center Andrea Bargnani.  Bargnani certainly hasn’t lit the league on fire since being selected number one overall in 2006 with a career scoring average of just 12.4 points per game.  He did, however, begin to show a consistent scoring touch once permanently moved to the starting lineup in January 2009, where he averaged 18.5 points per game over the final four months of the season.  At seven feet tall Bargnani is a great three point shooter, hitting nearly 41 percent of his shots in 08-09 but offers little rebounding (career high 5.3 per game last season) and often proves indecisive when handling the ball.  Bargnani’s stats might also be somewhat inflated over that four month stretch to end last season as his scoring appeared to be more the result of opposing players neglecting to close out on his perimeter shots than anything Bargnani did.  The fact that even with Bargnani’s increased production the Raptors continued to play sub-500 basketball (21-29 from January 2) is somewhat disconcerting going into the 2009-10 season as the team’s success is somewhat predicated on Bargnani continuing to perform as a borderline All Star. 

Starting at the point will be fifth year guard Jose Calderon.  Calderon missed 14 games last season due to injury and the Raptors went 5-9 in his absence.  Calderon is an excellent shooter, disrupts opposing defences, and possesses one of the best assist to turnover ratios in the league.  The trouble is that Calderon doesn’t play a lick of defence and is better served playing about 30 minutes per night while sharing minutes with another quality point – something the Raptors could not do last season with Roko Ukic and Will Soloman.

Pushing Calderon for minutes will be Jarrett Jack.  Jack, a former teammate of Bosh back at Georgia Tech, had a solid season with Indiana last year and should fill in nicely behind Calderon, and even spend some time at the two spot.  The pairing of Calderon and Jack should provide Toronto it’s best point guard duo since the extremely effective combination since TJ Ford was traded a year ago.  The one concern I have for Jack is his ability to remain consistent playing with the Raptors second unit. Jack averaged 15.6 points per game on 48 percent shooting last season as a starter but was less effective in his 29 games as a reserve where he averaged just 8.8 points per game on 39 percent shooting.

Bryan Colangelo’s biggest free agent acquisition was forward Hedo Hedo “>Turkoglu.  Hedo comes to the Raptors with lofty expectations given his role in bringing the Orlando Magic to the NBA finals last season – not to mention his five year $53 million plus contract.  Hedo has proven himself a good playmaker often being used as a point forward in Orlando.  He can also shoot the three ball at a high percentage with a career average  of 38.5 percent.  On the negative side Turkoglu shoots a mediocre field goal percentage (42.8 percent career) and is a poor rebounder for someone who is 6’10”.  Despite this Hedo should prove a significant upgrade at the small forward position.

Joining Hedo on the wing will be a platoon consisting of DeMar DeRozan, Marco Belinelli, and Antoine Wright (with Jack getting some minutes at the two spot as well).  By all accounts DeRozan is a tremendous athlete and has demonstrated a keen willingness to learn but should still see only about 20 minutes per game in this his first rookie season. Belinelli  is a skilled shooter and should thrive on this team so long as he stays within the flow of the offence (of course I would have said the same thing about Jason Kapono in 2007 and Carlos Delfino in 2006).  Antoine Wright should provide 10-15 minutes of relief at the 2 and 3 spot.

The Raptors also have some front court depth with the well liked Rasho Nesterovic, rebounding machine Reggie Evans, and the athletic Amir Johnson.  The three are a definite upgrade over Patrick O’Bryant, Jake Voskuhl and the basketball genius Pops Mensah-Bonsu.  Overall this could prove the deepest team in Raptors history.

Despite the Raptors’ depth, questions remain.  Rebounding will definitely prove to be an issue.  Though Toronto has an imposing front court in their starting lineup, consisting of the 7 foot Bargnani, 6’11” Bosh, and 6’10” Turkoglu their career per game averages (Bargnani 4.3, Bosh 9.2, Turkoglu 4.2) suggest that this will be one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league.

Another question is whether there will be enough space for everyone to operate on offence?  With their current makeup the Raptors are a jump shooting team.  From point guard to center every one of this team’s starters plays away from the basket.  Bosh is the Raptors’ primary post player but his time down low is minimal as he’s more of a finesse forward than prototypical power forward.  And while Bargnani has the body of a center, he has the game of a guard (and puts up a guard’s shooting percentage and rebounding numbers – not a good thing).  If spacing is an issue it will negate the Raptors advantage in having what should be a top three shooting team.  And this issue begins and ends with Bosh and Bargnani.  Can these two play together and Toronto have a successful team at the same time?  To me this is the fundamental question facing the franchise.  If Bosh and Bargnani cannot share the scoring and defensive load from game to game (one asserting himself on the offensive end and the other on the defensive end based on their nightly matchup), a major decision must be made by the trade deadline in February.

Finally, how will this team gel?  Again, only three rotational players are returning from last year’s squad while coach Jay Triano plans on going nine, maybe 10 players deep – players who haven’t ever played together.  Add to this the fact that both Bosh and Turkoglu have missed all of the team’s training camp and much of the preseason and their could be some chemistry problems early on.  Unfamiliarity causes offensive and defensive breakdowns.  If the Raptors get off to a slow start will they be able to recover in time to make the playoffs? 

Predicted 2009-10 Season Record: 43-39


30 Teams in 15 Days Continued…

October 18, 2009

New Jersey Nets (2008/09 Record: 34-48)

Key Additions: Courtney Lee

Key Losses: Vince Carter

Making a salary dump in the offseason, sending Vince Carter to Orlando for the expiring contracts of Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, as well as young two-guard Courtney Lee, shows that the Nets have no intention of competing for the playoffs this year.  New Jersey’s sole focus is on paving the way for a significant free agent signing in the Summer of 2010.  Thankfully the Nets will have several solid pieces to act as an enticement to free agents. 

Point guard Devin Harris has shown an outstanding scoring ability and has developed a reputation as a tenacious defender, earning his first All Star appearance last season.

The Nets also appear to have their future at the center position shored up with 7 foot sophomore Brook Lopez.  Lopez should continue to demonstrate his efficient scoring, rebounding and shot blocking in his second season.  He may never be a super star but Lopez will continue to provide valuable production at one of the most difficult positions in the NBA.

Courtney Lee should prove another valued piece to the Nets franchise.  Though he doesn’t excel in any one area, Lee should develop into a strong two-way player who’ll act as a dependable backcourt running mate to a scoring wing.  

And signing that scoring wing in 2010, not winning games, is the key goal of this franchise headed into the 2009-10 season.  Bobby Simmons, Rafer Alston, Tony Battie, Trenton Hassell, Jarvis Hayes, these guys may as well stay home – they aren’t coming back next season.  Preserving cap space and developing the team’s young core of Harris, Lopez, and Lee are the keys to this Nets season and if that means losing a lot of games than that only improves the Nets chances in the draft lottery, giving them one more asset to dangle in front of Lebron in July 2010.  And that’s what this season’s all about.

Predicted 2009-10 Season Record: 28-54