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