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NBA Preview Part 5 & 6: Northwest and Pacific

October 29, 2010

Due to running out of time as the season is officially underway, I will rapid fire the last two divisions of our NBA preview.

Northwest Division

Denver Nuggets
Last Year: 53-29, lost in first round
Additions: Al Harrington, Shelden Williams, 
Subtractions: Linus Kleiza, Carmelo Anthony
O/U: N/A

Yeah I added Carmelo to the subtraction list, as there is no doubt in my mind that he gets traded during the season, probably to the Knicks.  Mix that with injuries to Kenyon Martin and Birdman to begin the season and the uncertainty with George Karl, who is the glue that keeps these volatile personalities together, and I see a freefall for the Nuggets. 
Prediction: 37-45

Utah Jazz
Last Year: 53-29, lost in 2nd round  
Additions: Al Jefferson, Gordon Hayward, Raja Bell
Subtractions: Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, Wesley Matthews
O/U: 49.5

The Jazz got worse in the offseason, as they loss their best outside shooting threat with Korver going to the Bulls and their best perimeter defender in Wesley Matthews to the Blazers.  Mehmet Okur is also still recovering from an Achilles injury and will miss the beginning of the season.  They still make the playoffs as they have Deron Williams and they will be able to score inside, but I will be going with the under.  
Prediction: 48-34 5th place 1st round exit

Portland Trail Blazers
Last Year: 50-32, lost in first round
Additions: Wesley Matthews, Luke Babbit, Greg Oden
Subtractions: Martell Webster, Steve Blake, Jerryd Bayless
O/U: 51.5

After a injury-riddled season last year where they still won 50 games, the Blazers come back deeper and better then ever.  The frontcourt consist of Greg Oden, LeMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Joel Pryzbilla, and first round pick Luke Babbitt.  Nicolas Batum is a rising player on the wing who can shoot 3s.  Brandon Roy is a star.  Only weakness I see right now is this:  Can you win the West with Andre Miller as your point guard?  I bet they trade for something better during the season.  
Prediction: 53-29 4th place Western Conference Finals

Oklahoma City Thunder:
Last Year: 50-32, first round exit
Additions: Morris Peterson, Cole Aldrich
Subtractions: No one of note
O/U: 51.5
The rise of the Thunder the past few seasons will continue as they climb the next rung of the ladder in the West. With Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook rising to another level during the World Championships, the Thunder have two franchise players they can build around.  If the rest of the young players on the roster improve from last season, which you would expect from a young team, and they are not devastated by injuries, they will compete for the one seed in the West.   But they a still a year away from major playoff success. Side note: Serge Ibaka's real name is Sergeballu LaMu Sayonga Loom Walahas Jonas Hugo Ibaka. Fitting since he is known for his length on the court.  
Prediction: 58-24, 2nd place, semifinal exit

Minnesota Timberwolves
Last Year: 15-67
Additions: Wes Johnson, Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, Luke Ridnour
Subtractions: Al Jefferson, Ramon Sessions
O/U: 23.5

After a disastrous season, the Timberwolves reconstructed their roster and placed their future in the hands of unbridled youth. They only have two players over the age of 25 on their roster.  They will be bad again this year, although improved from last year,  but with the youth movement comes potential for growth like the Thunder have done, and sometimes it better to be in rebuilding mode (as the Wolves have been since KG left) than stuck in no man's land like Dallas and Atlanta.  
Prediction: 26-56

Pacific Division

Los Angeles Lakers
Last Year: 57-25, NBA champs
Additions: Steve Blake, Matt Barnes
Subtractions: Jordan Farmar, Josh Powell
O/U: 58.5

Clear favorite again to win it all.  I really liked the Steve Blake signing, as he is much better than Jordan Farmar and will replace Derek Fisher in the starting lineup eventually. If Kobe Bryant stays Kobe Bryant,  I predict back to back titles.
Prediction: 60-22 1st place, Champion

Phoenix Suns
Last Year: 54-28, Western Conference Finals
Additions: Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick
Subtractions: Amare Stoudemire, Leandro Barbosa, Lou Amundson
O/U: 41.5

Had a great playoff run, at one point tied 2-2 with the Lakers in the West Finals. But the offseason wasn't as kind.  They decided not to pony up the money for Stoudemire in the offseason, and used the money to sign mediocre players to big contracts, which they could have used just to resign Stoudemire.  They will still score points with Nash running the point and great shooters on the outside, but the defense still isn't there and they will be a terrible rebounding team with their two best rebounders from last year gone.  If the Clippers don't achieve my expectations, then the Suns will probably take their spot.  Otherwise they are on the outside looking in.
Prediction: 42-40

Los Angeles Clippers
Last Year: 29-53
Additions: Blake Griffin, Eric Bledsoe, Ryan Gomes
Subtractions: Marcus Camby, Al Thorton, Drew Gooden
O/U: 36.5

My surprise team from the West that makes playoffs.  Blake Griffin is already a Top 20 player in the league.  Eric Gordon is proven to be a top shooting guard in the league. Chris Kaman is a solid interior player. Capable players off the bench  The key will be Baron Davis. If he plays within the team, gets his teammates involved, improves his shot selection, which therein improves his efficiency on offense, then they improve dramatically and will sneak into the playoffs.
Prediction: 45-37 8th place, 1st round exit

Golden State Warriors
Last Year: 26-56
Additions: David Lee, Dorell Wright, Lou Amundson, Epke Udoh
Subtractions: Corey Maggette, Anthony Randolph, Anthony Morrow
O/U: 30.5

This team will be fun to watch offensively with two great guards in Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis playing pick and roll with newly acquired David Lee.  But the defense and rebounding will continue to struggle and the bench is worse than last season. Warriors will be slightly better this year and is a young team on the rise with playoff potential as soon as next year,  but not this year.
Prediction: 32-50

Sacramento Kings
Last Year: 25-57
Additions: DeMarcus Cousins, Samuel Dalembert,
Subtractions: Andres Nocioni, Spencer Hawes
O/U: 27.5

Sacramento has some good young pieces in Evans and Cousins that if they keep out of trouble and focusing on improving their games, then they could be an exciting team that possibly flirts with the playoffs down the road.  But I'm skeptical to say the least that both will stay on the straight and narrrow.  At least now there is hope and striking gold with their last two 1st round picks will possibly prove dividends in the years to come, just not this season.
Prediction: 26-56


Langston said...

Russ, your selling the Lakers short, it would be back-to-back-to-back titles. But seriously, they somehow got better and thanks to the Heat, this went under the radar. You covered the Steve Blake signing, but getting Matt Barnes (a tenacious defender and decent shooter) and Theo Ratliff (Can still rebound and defend at his age, and a huge upgrade from DJ Mbenga) was a major coup.

October 29, 2010 at 10:39 AM
Langston said...

Also, you missed that the Jazz added Al Jefferson. A pretty big addition, if he can get back to his all-star/pre-injury caliber level.

October 29, 2010 at 11:19 AM
Russ said...

Yeah I'm an idiot they already won back to back. I'm not sure Al Jefferson is all that much of an improvement over Carlos Boozer except he plays more than Boozer, and everybody plays more than Boozer. I'm not sure where he fits in with the pick and roll offense and he needs to be the player he was before the injury.

October 29, 2010 at 7:17 PM
Teach said...

Al Jefferson is a step up from Boozer because of his size and his youth. The Jazz never had a shot with Boozer because he couldn't guard or score against a frontline like the Lakers and partnered with a center like Okur, who's always on the perimeter, that was a problem.

Langston: I went down the hoping in Theo can still do at his age rails the last year or so when he was with the didn't end well. But I do agree about Barnes.

October 30, 2010 at 9:11 PM
Langston said...

Theo Ratliff and all that comes with him is still a major upgrade over DJ Mbenga.

October 31, 2010 at 2:38 PM
Deckfight said...

ratliff is fascinating. remember when simmons just referred to him as an expiring contract? he can actually play basketball again?

and i'm wondering how many games in it takes for vinny del negro to get the axe.

November 2, 2010 at 9:28 PM
Russ said...

Yeah I didn't realize Theo Ratliff was still a viable NBA player. I feel like Simmons was bringing him up as an expiring contract for trades in 2004.

November 3, 2010 at 5:14 PM
Langston said...

Viable NBA player and major upgrade over DJ MBenga don't really mean the same thing. So far he's helped eat up minutes, rebound, block, and all the other things you expect your backup center to do. The thing that really helps is that around the time he will need a break, Bynum comes back and Theo goes back to playing garbage time.

November 3, 2010 at 6:39 PM

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