This has to be the best time of the year for sports fans. We got the World Series, professional football, amateur football, professional futbol, hockey –wait, what-, AND the start of one of the most anticipated professional basketball seasons in recent memory. To sum up how excited I am about the regular season, I caught myself watching preseason basketball, preseason, bro … preseasonnn. Being that we are a couple days into the 2010-11 NBA season, I think it is appropriate to give some thoughts on the season, players, and teams. Also, I will reiterate my predictions from the off-season.
I guess the most appropriate way to organize this piece is to offer my own little triple-double. I’ll give you 10 players/teams that will contend, 10 players/teams that will break out but fall short of contention, and 10 players teams that should just pack it in right now and save everyone the time. I’ll start with the latter:
5 and 5 – Players and Teams that will be Fantastically UNexceptional –
Don’t pay attention to them … no seriously you are wasting your time … seriously stop.
These players have some name recognition, and at one time or another were thought to be decent professional talent. I refrained from picking no name players, so don’t get me wrong, these aren’t necessarily the five worst players in the NBA (well Scalabrine is, but that’s a different story). Instead, these five represent players with talent, but for various reasons, will bend toward (and fall under) the curve of mediocrity this season.
- Brian Scalabrine – Seriously, Jackie Moon, aka Will Ferrell is trying to sue this dude for identity theft. http://images.cheezburger.com/completestore/2009/10/11/128997671758307229.jpg We haven’t seen someone this bad survive this long in the NBA since Jack Haley.
- Sasha Vujacic – This clown has his own website, and the lead story reads: What do Richard Branson, Sasha Vujacic and Ban Ki have in common? They all have websites? Or the other two actually excel at their trade? Or that only one of them created their own nickname and used it to title his website “The Official Website of the Machine.” Seriously, with the free agent acquisitions of Blake and Barns, coupled with Shannon Brown poised to have a break out season, Sasha is going to get worked out of the rotation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mOzQnwhqFE&feature=related & http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYzCqe_tglA&feature=related & last but not least http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f-wqhDIg40&feature=related
- Delonte West – Contrary to popular opinion, I do not have it out for this guy, nor do I hate him as a basketball player. I think he is talented, but undersized for the two-guard position. He is a solid defender with decent offensive ability. If he could work on improving his handle and transform into a point guard, he could actually start for a team at that position. BUT, he is too busy getting arrested, hitting his teammates, and chasing LeBron’s mom … (allegedly) … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kojzaxcis4
- Tony Parker – Injuries, lost a step, and he has George Hill stealing his minutes. While he is only 28 years old, the only thing Tony has got left is Eva, and she is not that tight.
- Tyreke Evans – I know, this is more than a stretch. I actually thought he would be great coming out of Memphis, but after watching him last year, I think his time to shine is up. HE CANNOT GO LEFT. I give the NBA scouts a year to figure this out. Much like Lamar Odom, Ty will be forced to use his off hand, and I am predicting it will have noticeable consequences. The problem for him is his team is really bad. So bad that they will not be able to mask his flaws, the way Los Angeles does with Lamar. He will have a decent season, averaging 18 points and 5 assist a game. While those are solid numbers, they do not reflect the hype and anticipation of a monster season, which some have been predicting. Having said that, Ty still has a great hop step and unique offensive skill. If he puts in the requisite work, he has the potential to become an outstanding player. As it stands now, he stops the ball, has poor shot selection, and cannot GO LEFT. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LV6tRO7FL3E&feature=related. They should get him in touch with Beyonce er something.
- Toronto Raptors
- Cleveland Cavilers – If this team makes the playoffs, or wins more than 40 games, I will admit I was wrong about the talent Dan Gilbert put around LeBron. Until then, allow me to continue to dump on an incompetent owner and subpar line-up. In the words of Joakim Noah, “ What’s so good about Cleveland? You like it? You think Cleveland is cool? I’ve never head anyone say, ‘Im going to Cleveland on vacation.’”
- Minnesota Timberwolves – Hi, my name is David Kahn. I am a former J.D. graduate of NYU. I also practiced law for several years at a top firm, but then jumped at the opportunity to manage the Timberwolves. Since getting her, I drafted three point guards in the first round of the 2009 NBA draft. I then traded my best low post player to Utah (not to worry, I signed Darko Milicic.) I then failed to deliver Ricky Rubio to our team. I then posted an advertisement to our fans detailing why we will do absolutely nothing this year. I have a feeling that I will be will be fired after the end of this season. Thanks for the opportunity.
- Indiana Pacers – There are only a handful of things that allow me to enjoy living in Indiana … the Pacers are not one of them.
- Sacramento Kings
5 and 5 – Players and Teams that will “DO WORK”
- Derrick Rose – He is poised to become the third best point guard in the league (although Rajon Rondo will have a lot to say about that.) If he can stop turning the ball over and improve his jump shot, defense, and keep the ball moving, he will be a MVP candidate this year, and league MVP in about two years.
- Chris Paul – Watch out. Everyone needs to stop sleeping on this dude. If he remains healthy, he will jump back into his rightful position as one of the top five best players in the NBA.
- Marc Gasol
- Al Jefferson
- Evan Turner – My pick for rookie of the year. I know, Blake Griffin will probably get it considering he can jump out of the freaking gym. Furthermore, there will be a lot of hype around Griffin and Wall through the first half of the season. Given Evan Turner’s position coming off the bench (expect him to start after the all-star break) he will have a tough time convincing voters he is the best rookie. Regardless, I think he is the most talented player of this draft class, and will gain a lot of steam in the second half of the season as his minutes and shot attempts per game increase.
Honorable mention – John Wall, Blake Griffin, Mike Miller, Shannon Brown, Luis Scola, George Hill
I think the Bulls and Thunder are the 6th and 7th best teams in the league, but not quite contenders yet. Similarly, the Trailblazers will make noise, but fall short of contention. (the only thing that could change this is if Carmelo Anthony gets traded to Chicago for Luol Deng mid season (three way trade – Melo/Deng/Iguodala), in which case, replace the Mavs with the Bulls to round out my top five contenders.
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Chicago Bulls
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Houston Rockets
- Memphis Grizzlies
5 and 5 – Players and Teams will contend
There isn’t really much to explain when it comes to these exceptional players and teams.
- LeBron James
- Dwight Howard
- Kevin Durant
- Kobe Bryant
- Pau Gasol – The only player on this list that might catch one off guard is Pau Gasol. He is the most skilled and fundamentally sound big man in a league lacking big men. He is quickly closing the talent gap between Kobe Bryant and himself as the best player on the Lakers. While he is not there yet, his mastery of the Triangle offense and the tutelage of Kareem and Phil will help him become the Lakers best player within two seasons. While Kobe will be the leader of this team until he retires (with 5 seconds left, he will always be the first option, I don’t care if he is 40 years old, has a beer belly, and cannot jump anymore), Pau will slowly become the first option in a system that is predicated on working inside out.
Honorable mention – Carmelo Anthony (after he gets traded), Chris Paul, Derrick Rose
- Heat – Their biggest weakness is a lack of size in the middle, and what appears to be a lack of coaching on the offensive end. While the basketball pundits are already writing this team off after the Boston loss, mark my words – this team will be a problem for everyone in the league. Once they start clicking and develop a system on the offensive end, they will rack up multiple double-digit win streaks. Having said that, they still need to figure out how their bigs will play and defend the frontcourt’s of Orlando, Boston, and LA.
- Mavs – Again, this pick may surprise folks. I expect this team to get off to a semi-slow start, but really start to click on all cylinders a month before the break. Look for them to make one more move prior to the all-star break. As it stands now, they are the only team in the west that can match LA’s length. Moreover, they have a top-fifteen super star that can close games in Dirk Nowitzki, and solid depth to match the Lakers bench production. While I don’t see this team beating LA in the playoffs, I think they pose a bigger threat to a three peat than the Thunder.
Predictions: 16 playoff slots, plus finals picks:
- Miami Heat
- Orlando Magic
- Chicago Bulls
- Boston Celtics
- Atlanta Hawks
- Milwaukee Bucks
- New York Knicks
- New Jersey Nets (if they make a move before the all-star break – if not Charlotte Bobcats)
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- Portland Trailblazers
- Dallas Mavericks
- Utah Jazz
- San Antonio Spurs
- Houston Rockets
- Memphis Grizzlies (if they stay healthy – if not the Clippers, yea I said it, I guarantee the Clippers are going to make the playoffs… maybe. Either way, it doesn’t matter LA will dispose of the eighth seed in five games.)
LA Lakers vs. Miami Heat
LA in 6 (they celebrate on Miami’s home court).
Finals MVP – Pau Gasol. If the Lakers are going to beat the Heat, it will be because Pau Gasol dominated the interior while Kobe Bryant struggled against Wade and LeBron on the perimeter. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-ej4mlIAXI
While I’m tempted to get into legacy talk, I think I’ll save that for when (if) the Lakers manage to three peat.
For the next two months, sit back, relax, gain some weight, and watch as many games as you can. Don’t worry about the extra fifteen pounds you will put on. It is winter. Layer your clothing and grow some facial hair, no one is going to notice a thing. Then after the super bowl, drop weight like a bird.