Tag:LaMarcus Aldridge
Posted on: June 7, 2010 8:19 pm
 

GoHornets21's 2010 NBA Mock Draft

What's up folks?  I've actually never done a mock draft before, but I did a lot of reading up on prospects for the Hornets appearance in the lottery and I'm goign to give it a shot now.  Forgive me if you think this totally sucks.  Don't be afraid to criticize, definitely don't be afraid to praise and I hope this generates some conversation heading forward on this dead day in between NBA Finals games.  So here goes out. 

By the way, I'm only going to mock draft the first round.

1) Washington Wizards - John Wall, PG, Kentucky - Seems to be the no brainer pick here.  I'm not really excited about Wall's prospects going forward, but I've been wrong on his type before (Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade) and he could continue to prove me wrong.  Overall, though, front offices are in love with him and he becomes the new face of a team that really needs a new start.

2) Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner, SG, Ohio State - I'm aware of the comparisons to Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young, but with the consensus being that Wall and Turner are the two can't miss prospects from this draft, I think Philadelphia has to stay at this place and take their chances with him.  Also, if they have to move Young or Iguodala then I don't think they'll hesitate.  It's not as if those guys did anything for team success this season.

3) New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors, PF, Georgia Tech - The Nets rebuilding process may be slow and tedious, but he fits in nicely with Brook Lopez, Devin Harris and Courtney Lee.  It continues to give New Jersey a nice little core with a lot of promise going forward, which may make them a more appealing destination next offseason.

4) Minnesota Timberwolves - Wesley Johnson, SF, Syracuse - Sorry, BNW, but this looks like the pick here.  Unless the team parts ways with Al Jefferson or Kevin Love going into the draft, the necessity of taking DeMarcus Cousins here just isn't necessary.  Even though he's the better prospect, Minnesota would have a complete logjam without any fluidity in their frontcourt.  Johnson also allows for Corey Brewer to go to the bench for Minnesota where he can be more of an impact player.

5) Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins, PF, Kentucky - The Kings wind up with the most promising player in the draft at the 5th spot.  Cousins has a lot of upside but there seems to be questions regarding his attitude.  Some think those red flags are unfair, but they do exist.  Cousins will have to work on staying out of foul trouble and on his conditioning (he didn't play a lot of minutes his one year in college) but he should be great if he doesn't become a problematic player.

Now we have a general idea of how the top 5 is going to play out.  The rest of it is all subjective.

6) Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe, PF, Georgetown - I see the Warriors taking Monroe here to fit in nicely with their frontcourt.  They already have the athletic big men in Brandan Wright and Anthony Randolph, they have their explosive frontcourt with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis and Monroe can fill in at either PF or C (in a pinch) for the Warriors. 

7) Detroit Pistons - Al Farouq-Aminu, SF, Wake Forest - Probably the best player available at this point, Aminu will be able to step into Detroit (a team largely in need of talent) and contribute immediately.  He could be the eventual replacement for Tayshaun Prince (who may not even be with the team by the start of the season) and could turn into a nice player at a big position of need.

8) Los Angeles Clippers - Xavier Henry, SG, Kansas - I don't think Henry deserves to go this guy, but the Clippers could use a conventional shooting guard that allows for Eric Gordon to come off of the bench.  With Blake Griffin debuting next season and with Chris Kaman under contract, the need for a big guy isn't huge but they could take one here.  However, I see them taking Henry at this spot. 

9) Utah Jazz - Cole Aldrich, C, Kansas - The Greg Osterag comparisons are entirely unfair (and, I would claim, racially motivated).  Aldrich is a great shot blocker and tough defensive presence that the Jazz sorely need at their center position.  He's a legit center who may never star in this league, but he can make a big difference right away for the Jazz.

10) Indiana Pacers - Epke Udoh, PF, Baylor - While picks like Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough haven't payed immediate dividends, a pure shooting guard or point guard would be a better fit for the Pacers at this point.  However, there really isn't one available.  For this reason, I could see the Pacers trading down (I know a lot of mocks have Heyward going here, but Indiana won't reach that high) but if they stay here, they'll Udoh and he can be a big upgrade over Hibbert right away.

11) New Orleans Hornets - Patrick Patterson, PF, Kentucky - The idea of taking a small forward here is really intriguing, but the Hornets probably draft for need and take a big man here.  Since I don't want the team to end up with Ed Davis or Larry Sanders, I'm going to pencil in Patterson here.  Patterson has drawn a lot of comparisons to David West in that he wants to be a conventional PF but lacks the size to do it.  However, being similar to David West is alright in this poster's eyes and, with West likely to opt out next summer, Patterson could wind up starting by next year for New Orleans.

12) Memphis Grizzlies - Donatas Motiejunas, PF, Lithuania - The Grizzlies probably don't need to add another big man, but I think the recent investigations with Zach Randolph are going to scare the team off of giving him the reported contract extension.  For that reason, they may want to start looking for a replacement.  Motiejunas is a complete opposite of Zach Randolph, but with Marc Gasol around the basket, the team can afford to take a chance on the sharp shooting, smooth 7 footer Motiejunas.

13) Toronto Raptors - Hassan Whiteside, C, Marshall - With Chris Bosh likely leaving, Toronto may start to look forward for its frontcourt.  Who knows where they'll be selecting depending on what trades they do or don't make involving Hedo Turkoglu, but there's no doubt the team needs a big man.  For that reason, the Raptors take Hassan Whiteside here, who's a big project but worthy of the risk at this selection.  Also, he's a legit center which would allow for Andrea Bargnani to play at his more natural power forward position. 

14) Houston Rockets - Paul George, SF, Fresno State - I don't think that Yao Ming is healthy and nobody can say certainly that he is.  However, the Rockets will go into next season with the idea that he'll be the team's starting center.  As a result, the team isn't in need of drafting another power forward.  Therefore, I see the team taking one of the fastest rising stars in the draft in George and plugging him in alongside Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin to form an explosive offensive trio.

15) Milwaukee Bucks - Ed Davis, PF, North Carolina - Although the Bucks aren't in desperate need of a big man, Davis can be plugged in to the rebuilding Bucks right away and immediately contribute for the team.  Whether as a starter or backing up Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Davis would a nice compliment to Andrew Bogut in the frontcourt and would join an already young and impressive Bucks squad.

16) Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson, SG, Oklahoma State - Ideally, the Timberwolves would love George to be here at 16th.  Because he's not, the team goes for another wing man here with the 16th pick.  Anderson has a nice offensive touch and can immediately step in as the team's starting shooting guard next season.  He'd bring a long range shot that was missing in Minnesota last season and can even become an eventual solid man defender at the NBA level.

17) Chicago Bulls - Avery Bradley, SG, Texas - Regardless of which route Chicago goes in free agency, Bradley could step in and play the Ben Gordon role in Chicago.  Kirk Hinrich may be better coming off the bench and, although similarly undersized, Bradley would be a better compliment in the backcourt with Derrick Rose than Hinrich is.  Anderson would be a great fit here as well if I didn't have him going to Minnesota.

18) Miami Heat - Daniel Orton, C, Kentucky - Rumored to be a potential lottery pick, the size starved Heat will take a chance on the promising but largely unproven Orton.  Although he only produced in spots last season for Kentucky, there seems to be a lot of potential for Orton.  His lack of colleigate production will cause him to drop out of the lottery, but Miami will quickly take him here. 

19) Boston Celtics - Gordon Heyward, SF, Butler - Although not your prototypical shooting guard, Heyward would be able to contribute in Boston right away.  Really promising and possesing a really good fell for the game, Heyward would fit in with Boston and could eventually be groomed to supplant Ray Allen's shooting guard position, or be the eventual replacement for Paul Pierce.  Either way, the Celtics could use a young, talented wing player and Heyward fits the bill.

20) San Antonio Spurs - Damion James, SF, Texas - The Spurs will get a smart, four year senior who can contribute right away in Damion James.  Needing an eventual replacement for Richard Jefferson (either this season or next season), James can play the small forward position and, while lacking the ball skills for the two guard spot, could play in that position in a pinch. 

21) Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders, PF, VCU - Joining former VCU teammate Eric Maynor, Sanders could step in right away and contribute for Oklahoma City.  Needing a legit PF, Sanders could join Serge Ibaka as a very promising front court going forward for Oklahoma City, which may be forced to let Jeff Green go due to financial limitations after they give the money to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

22) Portland Trail Blazers - Kevin Seraphin, PF, France - Without the necessary roster spots, Portland may seem content with drafting a foreign prospect and stashing him overseas for a couple of years.  A talented big man, Seraphin won't take LaMarcus Aldridge's spot anytime soon but he could be a contributing piece for a thin Portland frontcourt.

23) Minnesota Timberwolves - Luke Babbitt, SF, Nevada - Seen as a possible lottery talent, Minnesota will be extremely happy that Babbitt fell to them at 23.  Babbitt is different from the earlier picks in that he can play a front court position if necessary (although his skill set is more natural for a SF). 

24) Atlanta Hawks - Eric Bledsoe, SG, Kentucky - With Joe Johnson probably leaving and with Mike Bibby no longer blowing anybody away, Atlanta needs to turn its attention to the backcourt with the 24th pick.  Bledsoe may be very similar to Jamaal Crawford in that he's an undersized two guard who likes to score a lot, but the team may not have a long term need for Crawford either after this season.

25) Memphis Grizzlies - Willie Warren, SG, Oklahoma - Seen as a possible lottery pick last season before deciding to stay at Oklahoma, Warren will be able to step in and be a nice combo guard off the bench for Memphis.  Jamaal Tinsley isn't going to lock down any spots on the bench, so the guard spots should be wide open and Warren's scoring would fit rigiht in with what the rest of the Grizzlies are doing.

26) Oklahoma City Thunder - Devin Ebanks, SF, West Virginia - Joining Sanders, Ebanks looks like a solid second first round pick for Oklahoma City.  He may be too similar to Kevin Durant, but he can be a nice back up for Oklahoma City at both the SG and the SF positions.  He's a really smart player that's a fine rebounder for his position and also shoots a high percentage from the field.  That'd fit right in with what Oklahoma City's doing.

27) New Jersey Nets - Lance Stephenson, SG, Cincinnati - There have long been attitude issues with Stephenson and questions about his character, but Stephenson is an extremely talented player who can shoot from NBA range and has great size for a shooting guard or small forward.  It's a risky pick for New Jersey, but his upside has impressed scouts thus far and he may be worth the risk at 27.

28) Memphis Grizzlies - Craig Brackins, PF, Iowa State - Another player whose stock dropped after he decided to stay in college instead of entering last year's draft, Brackins is a hard workign big man who could provide some grit and toughness for the Grizzlies. After having taken two prolific scorers with their other first round picks, Brackins is the kind of low post, hard working presence the team could use.

29) Orlando Magic - Elliot Williams, SG, Memphis - Although Orlando would like to take a big man here to move Rashard Lewis to his natural SF position, they take Williams with hopes that he can become the eventual replacement for Vince Carter.  Although lacking a great midrange game, Williams is a fantastic open court player and has no problem finishing around the basket.  He's also a great on ball defender and can learn even more in the Magic's system. 

30) New Jersey Nets - Armon Johnson, PG, Nevada - A tough point guard who could give the Nets another young, promising player, Johnson can step in and give New Jersey depth at the point guard position right away.  He's a solid, solid pick this late in the first round as well.
Posted on: May 19, 2010 1:38 pm
Edited on: May 20, 2010 3:17 pm
 

Top Ten Drafts Last Ten Years: # 8

I figured since I didn't do a playoff preview this season for each team as I did last year, I'll do a fun little countdown to this year's draft, since that's where my team is going to be instead of the postseason.  Well now that we got our debates about whether or not 2007 was worth the #9 selection, I'm going to give in to my loyal readers and say I was probably wrong by putting the 2007 draft so low.  I was so deadset on proving that it was a bad draft, that I let some really bad drafts off the hook.  Be that as it may, I stand by my journalistic pride and proclaim that this draft was better than 2007, regardless of what I'm about to say.  But here it is, ladies and gentlemen, the number 8 draft on our list is the 2006 NBA Draft which features some really bad trades (sorry Chicago and Minnesota fans), really questionable selections (I'm looking at you Atlanta) and overall, just not a deep talent pool.

Top Ten Drafts of the Last Ten Years
#10: 2000 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/

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#9: 2007 NBA Draft: http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/

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#8: 2006 NBA Draft:

Round One:
1) Toronto Raptors - Andrea Bargnani, C, Italy
2) Chicago Bulls - LaMarcus Aldridge, PF, Texas (traded to the Trail Blazers)
3) Charlotte Bobcats - Adam Morrison, SF, Gonzaga
4) Portland Trail Blazers - Tyrus Thomas, PF, LSU (traded to the Bulls)
5) Atlanta Hawks - Shelden Williams, C, Duke
6) Minnesota Timberwolves - Brandon Roy, SG, Washington (traded to the Trail Blazers)
7) Boston Celtics - Randy Foye, SG, Villanova (traded to the Trail Blazers, then traded to the Timberwolves)
8) Houston Rockets - Rudy Gay, SF, UConn (traded to the Grizzlies)
9) Golden State Warriors - Patrick O'Bryant, C, Bradley
10) Seattle Supersonics - Mouhamed Sene, C, Senegal

Looking at this list, I'm now aware of my 2007 mistake.  Tihs is not a very impressive list at all.  Morrison and Williams have already made all time busts lists and Morrison continued a rough stretch for Michael Jordan in terms of his ability to draft players.  Morrison struggled his rookie season before tearing his knee up and is now sitting on the far end of the Lakers bench.  Williams never showed hope in Atlanta and was eventually traded to Sacramento and somehow found his way to Boston's bench this season and may have found a home as a nice utility big man for the Celtics.  Bargnani showed a lot of potential his rookie season, had a sophomore slump, showed a lot of promise last year but didn't take that step forward this season as expected.  Aldridge and Roy are the best out of this bunch and Portland was able to snag both on draft night with slick trades.  Conversely, the guys they were traded for, Tyrus Thomas and Randy Foye respectively, are no longer with the teams they were traded to.  Thomas kept Bulls fans waiting for a few years before he was traded to Charlotte this season.  Foye frustrated Minnesota fans with his inconsistency and then frustrated Washington fans with the same problem this season.  Rudy Gay was traded for Shane Battier on draft night and has become a great scorer for the Grizzlies and will be a sought after free agent this season, but has yet to achieve much in his short career.  Meanwhile, O'Bryant and Sene (who continued Seattle's trend of drafting centers just to draft centers; ironically not one of them worked out) are no longer in the league at all and looked out of place everytime they were on the court.  Not exactly what you're looking for out of your top ten draft selection.

11) Orlando Magic - J.J. Redick, SG, Duke
12) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets - Hilton Armstrong, C, UConn
13) Philadelphia 76ers - Thabo Sefolosha, SG, Switzerland (traded to the Bulls)
14) Utah Jazz - Ronnie Brewer, SG, Arkansas
15) New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets - Cedric Simmons, PF, North Carolina State
16) Chicago Bulls - Rodney Carney, SF, Memphis (traded to the 76ers)
17) Indiana Pacers - Shawne Williams, PF, Memphis
18) Washington Wizards - Oleksiy Pecherov, C, Ukraine
19) Sacramento Kings - Quincy Douby, SG, Rutgers
20) New York Knicks - Renaldo Balkman, PF, South Carolina

Another group of ten very mediocre players.  When Redick is the best out of the bench, you know it doesn't look good.  In fact, the Magic were largely criticized when they drafted Redick, but the team was patient with the Duke star and he eventually paid dividends this season.  Both of the Hornets two picks in the top 15, Armstrong and Simmons, are no longer in the league.  As far as the Sefolosha for Carney trade that went down between Chicago and Philadelphia, neither player is going to blow anyone away but Sefolosha has developed a reputation as a terrific defensive player.  Carney, on the other hand, is a dime a dozen scorer but has found a way to stay on rosters in the league.  Brewer was a high flyer who could play defense and was welcome for the usually grounded Utah Jazz.  However, they traded him to Memphis this season to get under the luxury tax and then Brewer injured himself, leaving it unknown if he'll ever reach his true potential.  Meanwhile, Williams was talented but too much of a head case to make it in Indiana while Pecherov was a big man who could shoot from long range but hardly found his way on the court in Washington and is struggling to do the same in Minnesota.  Douby (the 2Pac look a like, google it) struggled to stay in Sacramento's rotation and is now playing overseas.  Balkman was a blasted pick for Isiah Thomas and the Knicks, but he had a fine rookie season.  After that, though, he's done nothing and is sitting on Denver's bench now. 

21) Phoenix Suns - Rajon Rondo, PG, Kentucky (traded to the Celtics)
22) New Jersey Nets - Marcus Williams, PG, Uconn
23) New Jersey Nets - Josh Boone, PF, UConn
24) Memphis Grizzlies - Kyle Lowry, PG, Villanova
25) Cleveland Cavaliers - Shannon Brown, PG, Michigan State
26) Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Farmar, PG, UCLA
27) Phoenix Suns - Sergio Rodriguez, PG, Spain (traded to the Trail Blazers)
28) Dallas Mavericks - Maurice Ager, SG, Michigan State
29) New York Knicks - Mardy Collins, PG, Temple
30) Portland Trail Blazers - Joel Freeland, PF, United Kingdom

The Phoenix Suns continued their trend of drafting players and then trading them to other teams that they seemingly did the entire decade.  Rondo became the second coming of Christ in Boston and has turned into one of the best point guards in the league.  Rodriguez, on the other hand, never quite caught on in Portland, Sacramento or New York and may go back overseas this offseason.  Williams and Boone were supposed to finally replace the duo of Jason Kidd and Kenyon Martin in New Jersey, but neither worked out at all.  Lowry turned out to be a really nice player for Memphis and was eventually traded to Houston last season where he's continued his strong play.  Brown bounced around the league for a little bit before being traded to the Lakers last season and then breaking out as a bench player for the league champions.  Ironically, he joined Farmar, the 26th pick, in Los Angeles.  Farmar looked like the point guard of the future in Los Angeles before Derek Fisher rejoined the Lakers.  Farmar now is in and out of the Lakers rotation and will probably be playing elsewhere next season.  Ager was a great shooter in college but never cracked the rotation in the NBA.  Collins is a tough, defensive minded point guard who's still on someone's roster but I'm not sure why.  Meanwhile Freeland is an extremely talented prospect but he still doesn't look to be in any hurry to come join the NBA.

Round Two Notables:
32) Houston Rockets - Steve Novak, PF, Marquette
36) Minnesota Timberwolves - Craig Smith, PF, Boston College
42) Cleveland Cavaliers - Daniel Gibson, PG, Texas
47) Utah Jazz - Paul Millsap, PF, Louisiana Tech
49) Denver Nuggets - Leon Powe, PF, Cal (traded to the Celtics)
50) Charlotte Bobcats - Ryan Hollins, C, UCLA

Novak and Hollins just make this list because they're still in the league.  Novak emerged as a really nice three point shooter last year with the Clippers but struggled to crack their rotation this season.  Hollins got a really nice deal with Minnesota this season but still has yet to put his athletic talents to use as an NBA player.  Smith was a really nice hustle player for the Timberwolves and made the All-Rookie second team and is now playing for the Clippers.  Daniel Gibson was terrific his rookie season, becoming the second best player for a Cleveland team that wound up making the NBA Finals.  Gibson was rewarded for that breakout postseason with a big contract but has done nothing of note since signing that deal.  Millsap has become a bonafide stud for Utah and is their PF of the future once Carlos Boozer leaves.  Leon Powe struggled to crack the rotation with Boston his rookie season but eventually found his way in the lineup for the Celtics 2008 championship team.  Injuries have halted his career but the jury's still out on him.

Notable Undrafted Players:
Jose Juan Barea, PG, Northeastern - Signed with the Dallas Mavericks
Walter Hermann, SF, Argentina - Signed with the Charlotte Bobcats
Chris Quinn, PG, Notre Dame - Signed with the Miami Heat

Quinn, like Novak and Hollins in Round Two, makes this list because he's still in the league.  He was a third string point guard for the 12-70 New Jersey Nets this season and doesn't look to have much of a future in the NBA, but for now he's still there.  J.J. Barea has become a nice rotation player for the Mavericks the last couple of seasons and shows glimpses of being a solid player in the league although Dallas fans hate him.  Hermann broke out his rookie season and looked to become a solid player for, eventually, the Detroit Pistons before signing overseas this past offseason. 

2006-2007 NBA Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy
All Stars from the 2006 NBA Draft: Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo

2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie First Team
Brandon Roy
Andrea Bargnani
Randy Foye
Rudy Gay
Jorge Garbajosa (who signed with Toronto in the 2006 offseason after a successful Euroleague career) and LaMarcus Aldridge tied for the fifth spot

2006-2007 NBA All-Rookie Second Team
Paul Millsap
Adam Morrison
Tyrus Thomas
Craig Smith
Rajon Rondo, Marcus Williams and Walter Hermann all tied for the fifth spot

Seriously, NBA, what's with the ties?  Grow a set.

Posted on: April 16, 2010 2:05 pm
 

GoHornets21's 2010 First Round Playoff Preview

It's playoff time!  At this point, the stakes are high and offseason paychecks and inseason acquisitions are expected to be rewarded with postseason success and jobs will be secured and won with big playoff appearances.  There are a ton of great matchups and the NBA really got it right with the sixteen teams that made it.  There's not one matchup, maybe outside of Cleveland, that looks like it won't be a fantastic matchup.  But here we go, this is GoHornets21's 2010 First Round Playoff Preview.

Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Chicago Bulls - A really intriquing matchup here.  The Cavs ended this season with the most wins in the league for the second consecutive season.  The Bulls looked dead a few weeks ago, only to experience a resurgence and have straked their way into the postseason.  The Cavs have coasted for awhile now and LeBron James hasn't even played in a couple of weeks.  Likewise, the team will be integrating Shaquille O'Neal back into the lineup after missing two months with a right thumb injury.  The Bulls, though, are experiencing their own bit of inner turmoil after a reported confrontation between head coach Vinny Del Negro and VP of Basketball John Paxson dominated the headlines in Chicago.  The Bulls are playing great basketball, but they don't have the horses to keep up with Cleveland.  The fact that they have a head coach that, in all likelihood, won't be there next season doesn't do much to help the team's psychi.  Derrick Rose will make things interesting, this won't be a sweep, but Cleveland has time to get their players back, figure out their rotation and still win this series.
Predicton: Cavaliers in six.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Shaquille O'Neal - As mentioned earlier, the Cavaliers will be bringing Shaquille O'Neal back to the lineup in this series and his play is vital to the team moving forward.  How effective he is and how he plays will speak volumes about how things will unfold for the team in this series and in future series.  The team has played well without him, but his presence is still necessary down the road.  He must be effective.
Bulls Player to Watch: Kirk Hinrich - With Derrick Rose assuming a lot of responsibility for the team's chances of winning the series, the Bulls will look to Kirk Hinrich to step up and play huge this series.  His defense on Mo Williams will be important but he has to show a more consistent jump shot this series for the Bulls to have a chance to win.  It's not enough for him to just be out there on Williams.  He has to keep the Cavs honest on the offensive end and that will begin and end with him rediscovering his jumpshot.

(4) Boston Celtics. vs. (5) Miami Heat - A tough matchup to predict here.  Both teams have glaring weaknesses and considerable strenghs.  The Celtics have the championship experience from 2008 and say they're healthy for the first time this season.  However, they've really struggled the last two months of the regular season and if they didn't have their name, they'd receive no championship consideration.  Conversely, the Heat struggled earlier this season but, led by Dwyane Wade, the team looks to have its feet back under them.  They took advantage of a significantly easy stretch of games at the end of the season and can carry that momentum forward.  The home court would come into play in a 4/5 matchup, but the Celtics have lost 17 games at home this season.  They've never been more vulnerable.
Prediction: Heat in six
Celtics Player to Watch: Nate Robinson - A lot of the Celtics problems this season have had to do with the team's considerable age and thinning depth.  Robinson can play a huge role off the bench if given the chance and if he were to have a big series, there's no doubt the Cetlics would win.  He's been really inconsistent since going to Boston in February, but if he can find his stroke and some regular playing time, the Celtics will be a formidable team.
Heat Player to Watch: Michael Beasley - Beasley has been so aggravatingly inconsistent this season that a lot of people have just given up on him in Miami.  The Heat need that consistent second option that can help Wade and lead this team to victory.  Not only is Beasley the most talented option for the Heat, he's the only player the Celtics have no immediate answer for.  Paul Pierce will likely be busy with Dwyane Wade, which leads him matched up with the smaller Ray Allen or the slower Kevin Garnett.  If he takes advantage of that, the Heat will win this series.

(3) Atlanta Hawks vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks - Picked by many to be among the worst teams in the league this year, the Milwaukee Bucks surged this season under the guidance of Scott Skiles and are in the playoffs for the first time since 2006.  The franchise now has an identity in rookie guard Brandon Jennings and have responded well to added expectations as the season's progressed.  The Hawks, meanwhile, continue to steps towards becoming an elite franchise.  After making the playoffs for the first time in nine years in 2008, they won a playoff series last year and look to expand on that this season.  Their play all year gives no indication that's going to end.  The Bucks are at a huge disadvantage without center Andrew Bogut in the lineup and the team's lack of experience in the postseason together will give them troubles enough.  Skiles will keep his team competitive but it will catch up to them.
Prediction: Hawks in five
Hawks Player to Watch: Al Horford - With Bogut out, Horford will be matched up with the aging Kurt Thomas and the underachieving Dan Gadzuric.  With that kind of advantage inside, Horford can make it easier for the Hawks perimter shooting which will take the Bucks out of any game.
Bucks Player to Watch: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute - Most likely will be assigned the dutie of guarding Joe Johnson.  His ability to do this well will allow John Salmons to conserve himself for the offensive end which is where he can really shine for the Bucks.  Considering the Bucks will need any offensive production they can get, it's important for Mbah a Moute to spell Salmons defensively.

(2) Orlando Magic vs. (7) Charlotte Bobcats - For the first time in the franchise's history, the Charlotte Bobcats are in the NBA postseason.  Their reward for making it, a date with the red hot defending Eastern Conference Champion Orlando Magic.  The Magic boast the league's deepest team top to bottom, but that may not always be a good thing in the postseason.  Coach Stan Van Gundy barely set on a rotation entering the postseason whereas the Bobcats have had to go with the best players available night in and night out.  Both teams have played well down the stretch and both have a ton of momentum heading into the series.  I expect Charlotte to play to its full potential this entire series and push the Magic to the limit.  But I still expect the Magic to advance.
Prediction: Magic in seven
Magic Player to Watch: Rashard Lewis - Always a matchup problem with his size and outside shooting, Gerald Wallace will probably be given the assignment of guarding Lewis which could really negate a lot of double teams down in the post on Dwight Howard.  Lewis has really struggled with his shot all season, but we saw last postseason that if Lewis is hitting his shots, the Magic are almost impossible to defend.
Bobcats Player to Watch: Tyson Chandler - Banged up the entire season, Chandler is the only big man capable of staying in front of Howard one on one defensively and will likely be given that assignment throughout the series.  He will be spelled by other big men on the Charlotte team but he's the best option for them offensively out of that group.  If Chandler has a big series, then the Magic could really be in for a fight.


Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Oklahoma City Thunder - A classic matchup of youth vs. experience here.  The Thunder are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2005 (when the team was still in Seattle) and are in the playoffs as the youngest team in the NBA.  Facing them are the defending NBA Champions; who struggled in the last month of the regular season.  The Lakers are banged up across the board and look vulnerable here in the postseason and the Thunder are young, fearless and dynamic across the board.  But what is the Lakers biggest strength, size, is the Thunder's biggest weakness.  Unfortunately, the Thunder are a bit overmatched in their first playoff series going up against the champs.
Prediction: Lakers in six
Lakers Player to Watch: Andrew Bynum - As mentioned earlier, the Lakers biggest strength is their size, but that's only true when Bynum's in the lineup.  Expected to play in the playoffs, Bynum's production will be all gravy for the Lakers as the Thunder have nobody to matchup with him inside.  Coming off an injury, though, he may struggle (as he did last postseason) so his production is still important to the Lakers success.
Thunder Player to Watch: James Harden - If Harden continues to be effective off of the bench for the Thunder, he gives the team what the Lakers don't have, and that's someone over the bench who can take over games offensively.  With Bynum expected to be brought along slowly form his injury, Lamar Odom will get a lot of minutes and that leaves the rest of the bench largely ineffective.  Because of this, Harden alone can make all the difference in the second units which prevent the Lakers from every running away with a game. 

(4) Denver Nuggets vs. (5) Utah Jazz - Two really tough teams to figure out go to battle in this series.  The Nuggets have really struggled ever since George Karl's unfortunate cancer diagnosis back in February and have gone through moments where they looked like the same, immature, selfish Nuggets of years past.  The Jazz have gone through stretches this season where they look great, stretches where they look bad, and stretches where they just look lost.  Add Carlos Boozer to the team's indecisiveness, as he's a game time decision for the playoff opener.  However, I think the Nuggets longer spell of mediocrity is a sign of things to come with Dantley at the helm, and unfortunately they really miss their general.
Prediction: Jazz in six
Nuggets Player to Watch: Kenyon Martin - If he's matched up against Carlos Boozer or Paul Millsap, Martin, still recovering from an injury of his own, will be important to stopping the Jazz pick and roll and containing their best big man.  Martin did fantastic in the playoffs last year and was a huge reason why the team went to the Western Conference Finals.  For them to advance, they need Martin to have a similar impact this season.
Jazz Player to Watch: Mehmet Okur - With Boozer's injury in question, Mehmet Okur's production will be important for the Utah Jazz.  Because Martin will get the assignment down low, Okur will be left alone offensively mainly with Nene guarding him, which gives him a quickness advantage to go along with his lethal shooting ability.  Okur showed last season that he can produce with Boozer out of the lineup, and if he struggles the Jazz will look to him for big buckets.  He's played well during the home stretch of the season, and the Jazz need that to continue into the playoffs.

(3) Phoenix Suns vs. (6) Portland Trail Blazers - Probably the NBA's hottest team, the Phoenix Suns finally look like a formidable team again for the first time in a few seasons.  Now with an added attitude on defense, the Suns look as complete as they ever have since the seven seconds or less days.  Still lethal on offense, the Suns will follow Steve Nash's lead in hopes of taking advantage of a Bradon Roy-less Trail Blazers squad.  Without Roy, the Blazers will look to other players to step up; as they have all season long battling the injuries the team has.  However, they look to be too overmatched against Phoenix at this point in time.
Prediction: Suns in five
Suns Player to Watch: Louis Amundson - With Roy out for the series, LaMarcus Aldridge becomes the only consistent offensive threat for Portland and Phoenix will have a tough time matchup up with him.  Amar'e Stoudemire, even though he's playing fantastic ball of late, is still poor defensively and Robin Lopez's injury limits what the team can do to slow down Aldridge.  Because of this, Lou Amundson's production off of the bench defensively will be counted on in this series.  Anything he can do to rough up Aldridge or limit second chance points will go a long way towards helping the Suns advance.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: Jerryd Bayless - Earlier this season with Roy out, Bayless had the best game of his young career while spelling Roy.  Bayless was a huge prospect when he was drafted by Portland, but has struggled to find his niche yet with the team.  With Roy out again, the onus will be on Bayless to take the responsibility and live up to his lottery selection.  If the Blazers continue to get poor production out of him, this will be a quick series.

(2) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) San Antonio Spurs - Another intriguing matchup, the Mavericks and Spurs face off in a rematch of last year's playoff series, where the Mavericks upset the Spurs in five games.  The Spurs have battled injuries all season long but finally look to have everyone, minus a hobbled George Hill, back for the playoffs.  The Mavericks, meanwhile, made a huge deal at the all star break to acquire Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood in hopes of finally winning that elusive championship.  Division rivals matching up in the postseason always leaves a bit of a mystery as to how the games will play out.  Both teams are stacked top to bottom, but the Spurs are the one team with the size to match up with the Mavericks.  Who on Dallas has an answer for Manu Ginobili?  This should be a fun series but I see the Spurs shocking Dallas in game seven on their home court.
Prediction: Spurs in seven
Mavericks Player to Watch: Jose Juan Barea - Last postseason, J.J. Barea was my player to watch for this series and was a huge difference maker for the Mavericks as the Spurs had no answer for him without Ginobili in the lineup.  Now that the Mavericks have added Butler to the lineup, not a lot is expected out of Barea and I think the lack of pressure will help him.  Along with Jason Terry (who you know will produce), Barea can make the difference in the second unit for Dallas and can really help separate the Mavericks from the Spurs if he plays well. 
Spurs Player to Watch: Matt Bonner - Last season, Bonner was a starter for the Spurs team that fell in five games to the Mavericks as he and Roger Mason Jr. struggled with their shot the whole series and the Spurs just couldn't get production offensively.  Now on the bench, Bonner has found his groove shooting the ball as of late and can make a huge difference for the Spurs if he's knocking down his shots.  They'll count on him again and I think last year's struggles will help him this season.  Look for Bonner to make a difference off the bench for the Spurs.

Posted on: January 5, 2010 5:00 pm
 

GoHornets21's End of the Decade Awards

It all started with us running to wal mart to buy tuna fish and bottled water.  It ended with us cursing the Lakers and Cavaliers and those darn puppets.  The years 2000 to 2010 were full of exciting basketball, break through players and broken hearts.  Scandal erupted when it was discovered that an NBA official was found gambling on games that he was officiating.  Fans were dazzled for Michael Jordan's return to the NBA when he donned the Washington Wizards jersey.  A city was revived in 2008 when the Boston Celtics landed Kevin Garnett and returned to the NBA's elite.  With so much happening, it was pretty difficult to narrow down what awards I was going to give and who or what I would give them to.  But all in all, I'm pleased with it so here goes: GoHornets21's NBA End of the Decade Awards.

Player of the Decade - Tim Duncan - When the Spurs lucked out and drafted Tim Duncan in 1997, I'm sure few envisioned that the very next season the team would win its first championship in franchise history.  That's how special Tim Duncan is.  Entering the decade, Duncan suffered a hyperextension in his knees on the road to defending his championship in the 2000 season, and Greg Popovich made the controversial decision to rest Tim for the 2000 postseason and the Spurs quickly lost in the first round.  A move like that would probably be routinely criticized in today's scrutinizing age, but it allowed Duncan to rehab and heal on his own time and the Spurs reaped the benefits.  The team would never win less than 50 games, was able to bring in pieces and jettison players at a rapid rate while building completely around Duncan.  He won the NBA MVP award in 2002 and 2003.  He brought home three NBA Championships this decade and was named NBA Finals MVP for two of those championships, in 2003 and 2005.  He won a Bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics but always stayed loyal to his coach, to his team and to a city that adores him.  Last season's loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the first round was the Spurs first first round defeat since Duncan did not play in the 2000 postseason.  That's insane consistency and it's all because of the player of the decade, Tim Duncan.
2nd Place - Kobe Bryant
3rd Place - Shaquille O'Neal

Team of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers - Let's face facts, the first champions of this decade were the 2000 Los Angeles Lakers.  The last champions of the decade?  The 2009 Los Angeles Lakers.  A lot happened in Lakerland this decade, from the initial three peat, to Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant's continued spats, to O'Neal being traded to Miami, to Phil Jackson retiring, to the tough losing season, to Phil returning, to the two consecutive first round exits, to Kobe pubicly demanding to be traded, to Pau Gasol winding up in their laps and culminating in last year's title.  It was a fantastic voyage for Los Angeles, who won four championships this decade in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2009, and the made the finals two other seasons in 2004 and 2008.  They routinely defeated the closest challenger for team of the decade, the San Antonio Spurs, when the team's would square off in the postseason, with Duncan and company only beating the Lakers in the 2003 semifinals.  Through it all, Kobe Bryant was celebrated, jeered, villifed and eventually dignified when he won a championship in 2009.  Through it all, the Lakers were always either the team you loved to hate, or the team that everybody was hitchin' their bandwagon to.  And that's why they win the team of the decade.
2nd Place - San Antonio Spurs
3rd Place - Detroit Pistons

Team of the Decade (in a season) - the 2007-2008 Boston Celtics - Entering the 2007 offseason, the Celtics were a team with a very storied past but with a rocky recent few seasons.  Coming off a ridiculously bad 2006-2007 season, Paul Pierce openly accepted the possibility of being traded from the only team he's ever played for, and Doc Rivers was viewed across the board as someone who just couldn't coach.  Looking at it now, those would stand as blasphemous statements now.  But that's was widely accepted percepetion then.  Then the team tried to pry Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves, who were looking to trade their superstar to begin their rebuilding process.  Garnett initiall refused to go to Boston and the deal looked dead.  But when the Celtics pulled off a draft day trade to land Ray Allen in a Boston uniform, Garnett changed his mind, and Boston still had enough pieces to convince Minnesota to trade Garnett and the Big Three became the hysteria of the league.  Coming into the season with all kinds of expectations, the Celtics would fill their roster with unwanted veterans like James Posey, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell and Eddie House and would start young, unproven players such as Rajon Rondo and Kendrick Perkins at point guard and center to stand alongside the Big Three.  What happened was some of the best basketball of the decade.  The Celtics accepted all expectations and soon exceeded them.  They would start off the season hot and never look back.  With Garnett winning the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year award, the Celtics would be transformed into a defensive juggernaut, almost impossible to score against and extremely efficient on the offensive end.  They would survive a scare from the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the postseason and then survive an equally scary Cleveland Cavaliers team in the semifinals, before convincingly defeating their arch rivals all season long, the Detroit Pistons in the Conference finals and then the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals. 
2nd Place - 1999-2000 Los Angeles Lakers
3rd Place - 2002-2003 San Antonio Spurs

Rivalry of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings - If you were alive during and thriving in basketball during the early portion of this decade, you were enthralled by the Lakers and Kings rivalry.  They had an Southern California vs. Northern California hatred for one another.  They were both finesse teams that could really play some exciting basketball.  They both had terrific coaches in Phil Jackson and Rick Adelman, and one team always beat the other.  The early Sacramento Kings, espcially the 2002 Sacramento Kings, are easily the best teams I've ever seen that didn't win a championship.  Led by Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby, there would be on court fights, off court ridicule and constant playoff matchups with the Lakers for the Kings that would eventually force Sacramento's hand in dismantling the team.  Whether it be the classic seven game 2002 Western Conference Semifinals, the classic slugfest between Doug Christie and Rick Fox or Shaq's classic boast that "Los Angeles is the new capital of California", this rivalry had everything you could ever want.  Not only was it two teams that detested eachother, it was two wonderfully talented teams that hated eachother and would routinely put on some of the best basketball of the decade.
2nd Place - San Antonio Spurs vs. Phoenix Suns
3rd Place - Detroit Pistons vs. Indiana Pacers

Fans of the Deace - the Portland Trail Blazers - The Rose Garden has always been an exciting place to watch an NBA Basketball game.  The fans in Portland truly embrace and love their franchise and have for a very long time.  When the Trail Blazers suffered early success in the beginning part of this decade, they truly were a fantastic group of fans who supported their team.  When things got rough with off court problems, the fans let their frustrations be known, and the Trail Blazers were eventually forced to follow public desire and shed the "Jail Blazers" monicker.  Through it all, the Rose Garden was routinely sold out and finally became the place to watch basketball again in 2007, when the new Brandon Roy led Blazers burst onto the scene.
2nd Place - Sacramento Kings
3rd Place - Utah Jazz

Upset of the Decade - the Detroit Pistons over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 NBA Finals - Coming into the 2003-2004 season, the Lakers were a team that already had won three championships and had Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal manning down the roster.  In the offseason, the team added veterans Karl Malone and Gary Payton, both eager to win a championship and both future hall of famers as well.  A lot was made of the Lakers four eventual Hall of Famers on one roster, and the team overcame injuries and Kobe's sexual assault allegations to peak in the postseason and take their rightful spot in the NBA Finals.  Over in the Eastern Conference, a solid team with a coach who never could win the big one played solid basketball all season long, acquired Rasheed Wallace at midseason and looked poised to make a nice run in the postseason as well.  When they eventually made the NBA Finals, not a snowball's chance in the Devil's residence was given to Detroit to beat the Los Angeles Lakers.  What followed was one of the most convincing five game victories in NBA postseason history.  After taking game 1 in convincing fashion, the Lakers would need late game heroics by Kobe Bryant to steal game 2 away from the Pistons.  But when the series shifted to Detroit for the next three games, the fantastic Detroit fans and the cohesive Pistons unit routinely thumped the Lakers and would win all three games in Detroit to take the NBA Finals in five games.
2nd Place - Golden State Warriors over the Dallas Mavericks in the 2007 Western Conference First Round
3rd Place - Chicago Bulls over the Miami Heat in the 2007 Eastern Conference First Round

Playoff Series of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Sacramento Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals - As documented earlier, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sacramento Kings hated eachother.  Largely, the Kings were viewed as a soft team incapable of beating Los Angeles.  But they acquired Mike Bibby in the 2001 offseason and won home court advantage throughout the postseason and looked as poised as ever to finally defeat their arch nemisis.  After the Lakers shocked the Kings in game 1 at Arco Arena, all of the ghosts and skeltons came out of Sacramento's closets and things looked bad for the Kings.  But then the Kings would take back game 2 and then win game 3 at Staples Center in convincing fashion.  With a 2-1 lead, the Kings entered the pivotal game 4 focused and ready to take full advantage of the series.  With the lead late, the Lakers through up a myriad of attempts to take the lead but were unable to, when the ball was tipped out to Robert Horry who hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history at the buzzer to give the Lakers the win and to tie the series at 2-2.  Even with their spirits hurting, the Kings were resilient in winning game 5.  Game 6 will be forever covered in mystery over whether or not the referees intentionally gave the Lakers the victory as was hinted by Tim Donaghy, but the Lakers used those free throws to their advantage and took game 6 at home.  This set up the fantastic game 7 in Arco Arena, where the Kings had every opportunity to win the game but uncharacteristically missed free throw after free throw, allowing the game to go into overtime where the Lakers eventually won.  The Kings never reached the conference finals again that decade and eventually jettisoned Chris Webber, then Peja Stojakovic, then Mike Bibby before entering the rebuilding stage that they're in now.
2nd Place - Los Angeles Lakers vs. Portland Trail Blazers in the 2000 Western Conference Finals
3rd Place - San Antonio Spurs vs. Detroit Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals

Steal of the Decade - Los Angeles Lakers receive Pau Gasol and a 2010 2nd Round draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton, Aaron McKie, the rights to Marc Gasol and 1st Round draft picks in 2008 and 2010 - At the time of this trade, Lakers franchise center Andrew Bynum had just gone down to a knee injury and was done for the season.  After not making it out of the first round of the playoffs the previous three seasons, the Lakers looked stuck in mediocrity before they pulled off the trade of the decade.  Seeing Memphis desperate to unload Pau's contract and begin rebuilding.  The Lakers were all so eager to give the Grizzlies cap relief in Brown and McKie, a young guard in Crittenton and a promising prospect in Pau's brother Marc.  Along with some 1st round draft picks that will wind up being in the late 20s, the Lakers were able to get their second star to Kobe Bryant and immediately took off.  They have been to the NBA Finals both seasons with Gasol on the roster and are favored to do it again this year.
2nd Place - Boston Celtics receive Kevin Garnett from the Minnesota Timberwolves for Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff, cash considerations and two 2009 1st Round Draft Picks
3rd Place - Portland Trail Blazers receive draft rights to Brandon Roy from Minnesota Timberwolves of the NBA for the draft rights to Randy Foye and also receive draft rights to LaMarcus Aldridge and a conditional 2nd Round Draft Pick from the Chicago Bulls of the NBA for Viktor Khryapa and the draft rights to Tyrus Thomas on the same night; 2006 Draft night

Blunder of the Decade - Chicago Bulls sign Ben Wallace to 4 year, 60 million dollar deal - (taken from my Worst Contracts of the Last Decade blog) A four time NBA Defensive Player of the Year award winner and even the reigning 2 time DPOY, Ben Wallace entered the 2006 offseason as the prize of a very weak free agent class.  A defensive specialist who was always known to give max effort at the center position, the Bulls, looking for a player to hold down the center position and take the team to the next level, gave all of their free cap space to Ben Wallace to lure him away from the Detroit Pistons.  Outside of his comfort zone in Chicago, and playing on a team that didn't preach defense like the teams in Detroit did, Ben Wallace severely struggled in Chicago.  His numbers went down across the board, his defense slipped and he was exposed big time.  Facing expectations for the first time his career, Ben Wallace crumbled under pressure.  He was eventually shipped to Cleveland where he started on some successful Cavaliers teams but was never the player he used to be, and the player he used to be had no business making that kind of money.  He was eventually traded to Phoenix last offseason and after being bought out by the Suns considered retirement, but Ben has rejoined the Pistons and has found some of his old youth in Detroit.  But Ben Wallace still tops the list of the ten worst contracts of the last ten years.
2nd Place - Indiana Pacers trade Ron Artest to the Sacramento Kings for Peja Stojakovic
3rd Place - Anything the New York Knicks did during Isiah Thomas' reign.

All Decade Teams
1st Team:
G:
Jason Kidd
G: Kobe Bryant
F: Kevin Garnett
F: Tim Duncan
C: Shaquille O'Neal
Coach: Phil Jackson

2nd Team:
G:
Steve Nash
G: Dwyane Wade
F: LeBron James
F: Dirk Nowitzki
C: Yao Ming
Coach: Greg Popovich

3rd Team:
G:
Allen Iverson
G: Tracy McGrady
F: Paul Pierce
F: Chris Webber
C: Ben Wallace
Coach: Rick Adelman

Anything I missed?  Anything anyone wants to add?  Anything people want to critique?  All conversation is welcome.

Posted on: May 28, 2009 2:20 pm
 

Ranking No. 2 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era

After the extremely positive feedback I received for ranking the No. 2 draft picks of the draft lottery era, I found it fitting to continue on and now rank the best No. 2 draft picks of the draft lottery era.  Going over this list, there are plenty of dissapointing players and a lot of names that people will scratch their heads at.  Unfortunately, everything from death, to injury, to immaturity and lack of talent has affected this crop of players and that's why this list was much toughter than the list of No. 1 draft picks.  Everyone always remembers No. 1, but hardly anyone remembers who goes 2nd.  Well here it is: Ranking The No. 2 Draft Picks of Draft Lottery Era.

24) Len Bias, F, Boston Celtics out of University of Maryland in 1986 NBA Draft (Did Not Play) - A lot of people will view this pick as "what could have been," but Bias drew many comparisons to Chicago great Michael Jordan and looked like one of the most promising prospects in years.  Drafted by the aging Boston Celtics, Bias was supposed to be the stopgap that would allow the current Celtics to play out their years and then he would carry the team into the future.  However, less than 48 hours after being drafted by the Boston Celtics, Len Bias was found dead of a coacaine overdose back at his college campus.  He's one of the glaring casualties of the drug era in the NBA of the 1980s, joining David Thompson as one of the saddest stories.

23) Jay Williams, G, Chicago Bulls out of Duke University in 2002 NBA Draft (75 Games, 9.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 SPG) - While in college, you had to watch Jay Williams to understand how great he really was.  Leading Duke to a national championship as a sophomore, Williams would go on to win every player of the year award imaginable in his junior season before graduating with honors and entering the 2002 NBA Draft.  Taken after Yao Ming, Williams was viewed as the sure bet of the two but really struggled in his rookie season.  He did show flashes of brilliance, including a fantastic triple double against the New Jersey Nets, but he was largely inconsistent his rookie year.  However, in the offseason, Williams' life almost came to an end after a brutal motorcycle accident that left Williams with a severed main nerve in his leg, a fractured pelvis, and three torn ligaments in his left knee including his ACL.  The Bulls, a week later, drafted a point guard (Kirk Hinrich) to replace him and Williams' career was done.  In a class move by the Bulls, they continued to keep Williams on the payroll through his rehab but then settled for a buyout with the player.  Unsuccessful attempts to get on board with his hometown Nets followed, and Williams has now given up on getting back to the NBA.

22) Darko Milicic, F-C, Detroit Pistons out of Serbia in 2003 NBA Draft (337 Games, 5.5 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 BPG) - There were a lot of great players in the famed 2003 NBA Draft, and going into the draft it was obvious to all that Darko Milicic would be the first player selected after LeBron James.  The Detroit Pistons, fresh off of a conference finals appearance, were able to land the No. 2 pick after a prior deal with the, then, Vancouver Grizzlies for Otis Thorpe.  Milicic arrived with much fan fare in Detroit, but was never able to get off of the bench.  Viewed as too young by coach Larry Brown, the 18 year old Milicic sat on the bench for two Pistons teams that went to the finals, and won a championship in his rookie year with the 2004 Pistons team.  However, midway through his third year with the Pistons, still unable to get off of the bench, Milicic was traded to the Magic and showed the promise that people saw when he was drafted by Detroit.  However, his inconsistency shined through again when Milicic signed with the Grizzlies, and it looks as if he'll never be the player he was capable of being.

21) Danny Ferry, F, Los Angeles Clippers out of Duke University in 1989 NBA Draft (917 Games, 7.0 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.3 APG) - A colleigate legend for the Duke Blue Devils, the sweet shooting Danny Ferry immediately refused to go to the Clippers when they drafted him and played in Italy his rookie year in order to get out of having to go to Los Angeles.  After going to Italy, Ferry's rights were traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ron Harper (in a good move for the Clippers) where he then signed a guaranteed ten year contract.  It was immediately known after he got on the court that Ferry would never be a graceful athlete or a great player.  All of the poise and posture he displayed at Duke quickly turned into decency on the court in Cleveland.  He eventually won a championship on the 2003 San Antonio Spurs team and is, ironically enough, currently the general manager for Cleveland.

20) Shawn Bradley, C, Philadelphia 76ers out of Bringham Young University in 1993 NBA Draft (832 Games, 8.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 2.5 BPG) - An imposing presence at 7'6" tall, Bradley entered the league as the tallest player in the league's history.  After blocking five shots a game as a freshman for BYU, Bradley declared for the 1993 NBA Draft following his freshman seasons.  Drafted 2nd overall by Philadelphia, Bradley immediately showed a knack for blocking shots due to his height but an inability to due much else.  Looking at the build of his body, it should have come as no surprise that Bradley never developed as an athlete but that didn't stop the Philadelphia media from torching Bradley when he was routinely dominated by more physical centers.  After two and a half horrid seasons with the 76ers, he was traded to the Nets and eventually found his way on the Dallas Mavericks.  Bradley spent the last eight and a half years of his career with Dallas before calling it quits due to knee problems in 2005.

19) Stromile Swift, F-C, Vancouver Grizzlies out of Louisiana State University in 2000 NBA Draft (547 Games, 8.4 PPG, 4.6 RPG) - A fantastic athlete, Swift bounced onto the scene in the NCAA Tournament during his sophomore season with the LSU Tigers.  After being selected as one of many 2nd draft picks by the Vancouver Grizzlies, Williams sat on the bench in their last season in Vancouver before leaping onto the scene in Memphis.  Paired with young point guard Jason Williams, Swift's athleticism and crowd pleasing dunks made him a fan favorite in Memphis.  For reasons unknown, after signing a nice deal with the Houston Rockets, Swift's career took a huge nosedive as he was traded back to Memphis after one season with Houston, was then traded to New Jersey who promptly waved him.  He currently finished the year as a non factor reserve on a Phoenix Suns team that missed the playoffs.

18) Michael Beasley, F, Miami Heat out of Kansas State University in 2008 NBA Draft (81 Games, 13.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.0 APG) - After a tremendous freshman season for the Kansas State Wildats, Michael Beasley shocked absolutely nobody by declaring for the 2008 NBA Draft.  Long viewed as a lock for the number one draft pick, Derrick Rose's fantastic tournament play catapulted him to be selected first overall by the Chicago Bulls.  Questons about Beasley's character and maturity then started to arise but the Heat still selected him 2nd overall.  Starting off the year with many struggles, Beasley was criticized by many at the beginning of his rookie season but really caught stride the last two months of the regular season.  Helping the Heat get into the postseason, Beasley's stellar play continued in the postseason and it looks as if he'll be a very good player as he continues to develop.

17) Marvin Williams, F, Atlanta Hawks out of University of North Carolina in 2005 NBA Draft (284 Games, 12.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.4 APG) - After a fantastic freshman season as a reserve on the famed 2005 North Caronlina national champion team, Williams shocked a lot of people when he declared for the 2005 NBA Draft.  Viewed as a can't miss prospect, Williams was quickly snatched second overall by the Atlanta Hawks and hasn't yet took off.  The last two seasons he has really come into his own as a player and looks as if he'll be a fine contributor for many years to come in this league, but because he was drafted ahead of Deron Williams and Chris Paul, Williams will long be a criticized pick by experts and fans alike. 

16) LaMarcus Aldridge, F-C, Chicago Bulls out of University of Texas in 2006 NBA Draft (220 Games, 15.4 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.1 BPG) - Immediately traded by the Bulls to the Portland Trail Blazers for the draft rights to Tyrus Thomas, Aldridge eventually took the Portland fans by storm with his demeanor, work ethic and production.  After a solid rookie season, Aldridge developed into a fantastic player for Portland before this season, teamed with Brandon Roy, helping lead Portland to the playoffs for the first time in six seasons.  The future is extremely bright for the young Aldridge, who looks like a centerpiece for something special for the young Portland franchise.

15) Kenny Anderson, PG, New Jersey Nets out of Georgia Tech University in 1991 NBA Draft (858 Games, 12.6 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.1 RPG, 1.5 SPG) - As a local prodigy on the streets of Queens, Anderson went on to impress supporters with two spectacular seasons with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets before declaring for the NBA Draft.  After being drafted by the somewhat local New Jersey Nets, Anderson looked like he had a fantastic career ahead of him.  However, inconsistency and immaturity plagued Anderson for his entire career.  Despite showing flashes of brilliance, including four seasons where he averaged above 16 points a game, Anderson never developed into a great player in any area of his game.  After famously refusing to report to Toronto during a midseason trade from Portland, Anderson was then shipped to the Boston Celtics where his criticism of being "injury prone" followed him and he never materalized past being a solid player in Boston.  He finished out his career with the Los Angeles Clippers.

14) Keith Van Horn, F, Philadelphia 76ers out of University of Utah in 1997 NBA Draft (575 Games, 16.0 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 APG) - A 6'10" player with an incredible shooting touch, Keith Van Horn's was drafted behind Tim Duncan in the 1997 NBA draft before his rights were immediately traded to the New Jersey Nets.  He took the league by storm his first three seasons, routinely scoring above 19 points a game all of those seasons before signing a very lucrative extension with New Jersey.  However, after the extension, Van Horn started to be bullied by players on the Nets team and after showing signs of being injury prone he was shipped to Philadelphia.  This would start a chain reaction for Van Horn.  Due to his immaturity and injuries, he was traded a total of four times in four seasons after signing that extension.  He's probably most famous, now, for coming out of retirement to receive a one year guaranteed deal with the Mavericks to make the finances work in the Devin Harris for Jason Kidd deal in 2008.  Horn was promptly cut by New Jersey and now has gone back into retirement.

13) Tyson Chandler, C, Los Angeles Clippers out of Dominguez High School in 2001 NBA Draft (537 Games, 8.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG) - A fantastic 7'1" athlete, Chandler was viewed as a great prospect throughout high school before being drafted by the hometown Los Angeles Clippers.  Chandler's rights where immediately traded to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand so that he could be partnered with fellow high school prodigy Eddy Curry to form a dynamic front court for the Bulls.  Neither Chandler nor Curry materialized in Chicago due to inconsistency and injuries and Curry was traded to the Knicks and Chandler was traded to the New Orleans Hornets.  After arriving in New Orleans, Chandler immediately showed the promise that he displayed in high school that prompted the Bulls to trade for him.  After being plagued by injuries and inconsistency again, the Hornets attempted to trade Chandler to the Thunder before injuries to Chandler's ankle and toe forced the Thunder to fail his physical and rescind the trade.  Chandler is currently looking to be shipped around again and it is unknown whether he will ever become the player that he potentially could have been.

12) Armen Gilliam, PF, Phoenix Suns out of University of Nevada in Las Vegas in 1987 NBA Draft (929 Games, 13.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.2 APG) - As an intregal member of some fantastic Runnin' Rebels teams of the late 80s, Gilliam reached the final four in 1987 before graduating and entering the NBA Draft.  After being selected by the Phoenix Suns, Gilliam turned out to be a solid scorer with Phoenix and turned out 13 solid seasons in the NBA.  A fantastic low post scorer, Gilliam played some impressive basketball for the Hornets, Nets and Suns before finally calling it a career in 2000 after spending a season with the Utah Jazz

11) Kevin Durant, G-F, Seattle Supersonics out of University of Texas in 2007 NBA Draft (154 Games, 22.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG) - After taking the nation by storm following a fantastic freshman season with the Texas Longhorns, Durant declared for the 2007 NBA Draft and battled with Greg Oden as to who the number one overall draft pick would be.  After the Portland Trail Blazers selected Greg Oden, the dying Seattle Supersonics franchise selected Kevin Durant, who promptly took the NBA by storm.  Viewed as a player that was too small and not talented enough of a jumpshooter, Durant came into the league and averaged over 20 points a game in his rookie season, winning the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year award.  Before his second season, the Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder and Durant immediately became a superstar.  Averaging over 25 points a game, Durant has shown that he has the potential to be a fantastic player and dynamic scorer in this league for the foreseeable future barring injuries or any other setbacks.

10) Wayman Tisdale, PF, Indiana Pacers out of University of Oklahoma in 1985 NBA Draft (840 Games, 15.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.3 APG) - A dynamic scorer for the Oklahoma Sooners, Tisdale took the big eight by storm in his three seasons with Oklahoma by winning the conference player of the year all three of his seasons with Oklahoma.  He was a member of the famed 1984 USA Olympic Basketball Team as well before being drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 1985.  Tisdale remained a productive scorer in the pros, immediately becoming a nice post presence for the Pacers before being shipped to the Sacramento Kings.  Once in Sacramento, Tisdale's career really developed as he became Sacramento's best scorer inside for nearly six seasons.  After finishing out his career as a reserve with the Phoenix Suns, Tisdale became a budding jazz musician, even releasing a score of CDs.  However, in 2007 Tisdale fell down his steps and broke his leg and during an observation of the leg it was shown that he had cancer in his knee.  After working to recover from the injury, he had his right leg partially amputated and went on a 21 date concert tour shortly after.  On May 15, 2009, Tisdale was taken to the hospital after having trouble breathing where he was then prounced dead.

9) Steve Francis, G, Vancouver Grizzlies out of University of Maryland in 1999 NBA Draft (576 Games, 18.1 PPG, 6.0 APG, 5.6 RPG, 1.5 SPG) - After being drafted by Vancouver, in a sign of things to come in Francis' career, Francis immediately refused to go to Vancouver as a result of the distance from his Maryland home and citing that it was "God's will" that he not play in Vancouver.  After being routinely criticized in the media, all was forgotten and forgiven when "The Franchise" was shipped to the Houston Rockets in a humongous 11 player deal.  Once in Houston, Francis took the league by storm, becoming co-2000 NBA Rookie of the Year award winner (along with Bulls forward Elton Brand) and quickly becoming one of the more popular players in the league.  After pubicly criticized Houston coach Jeff Van Gundy, who wanted to slow down the offense in favor of Yao Ming, Francis was shipped to the Orlando Magic where all looked to be forgiven again.  However, after the Magic's quick start started to slow down, and the Magic traded Francis' friend Cuttino Mobley, Francis' pouting continued and he was then traded to the New York Knicks.  Once in New York, Francis looked like a shell of his former self and was traded to Portland before they ate the remaining two years and 30 million dollars on his contract.  Francis returned to Houston but has only played 10 games in two seasons with the Rockets and Grizzlies after suffering a quadriceps injury.

8) Emeka Okafor, F-C, Charlotte Bobcats out of University of Connecticut in 2004 NBA Draft (330 Games, 14.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG, 1.8 BPG) - After receiving every accolade imaginable in a fantastic colleigate career with the UConn Huskies, Okafor graduated and immediately was entered in the 2004 NBA Draft.  After almost being assured the number one draft pick due to his defensive prowress and colleigate production, Okafor was passed over by the Orlando Magic (who selected Dwight Howard) and was promptly drafted by the expansion Charlotte Bobcats to be their franchise player.  Okafor has never developed into that franchise player role due to injuries and going largely unnoticed in Charlotte.  However, Okafor's career may be silent but it's been routinely productive.  He won the 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year award and has manned down the center position for Charlotte for the duration of his career.  He recently signed a six year 72 million dollar deal to remain in Charlotte last offseason, and looks to be a staple of the team for years to come.

7) Antonio McDyess, F-C, Los Angeles Clippers out of University of Alabama in 1995 NBA Draft (865 Games, 13.2 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.1 BPG) - A fantastic athlete for his size for the Crimson Tide, McDyess left college after his sophomore season to enter the 1995 NBA Draft.  After being selected by the Los Angeles Clippers, McDyess' rights were immediately traded to the Denver Nuggets for Rodney Rogers and the draft rights to Brent Barry.  While in Denver, McDyess established himself as a dynamic scorer and tremendous athlete.  After spending a year with the Phoenix Suns, McDyess agreed to resign with Denver in 1999 and picked up his game to new heights.  He routinely posted averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds for the otherwise unsuccessful Denver franchise and won a Gold Medal as a Unitd States Olympian in 2000.  However, McDyess suffered a crippling knee injury early in the 2001-2002 NBA Season.  Those knee problems would follow McDyess for that season and also for the next two seasons, as he played 52 total games out of a possible 246 from 2001 to 2004.  After signing on to be a reserve for the Detroit Pistons, McDyess was a contributor to a team that went to the 2005 NBA Finals and has refound some of his old glory in Detroit.  While never reaching the level of success he once had in Denver, McDyess has overcome the knee injuries to turn in a very successful comeback.

6) Marcus Camby, F-C, Toronto Raptors out of University of Massachusetts in 1996 NBA Draft (757 Games, 10.7 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG) - As a fantastic player for the Hilltoppers at UMass, Camby declared for the famed 1996 NBA draft after his junior season and was selected second overall by the Toronto Raptors.  After two inconsistent years in Toronto, Camby was traded to the New York Knicks where he turned into a fantastic player.  While as a member of the Knicks, Camby went to the 1999 NBA Finals and was promptly given a huge contract.  However, after receiving that contract from the Knicks, Camby developed a knack for being injury prone after missing 277 games throughout his career.  When on the court, though, Camby's play is extremely stellar.  After being traded by the Knicks to the Denver Nuggets for fellow injury prone star Antonio McDyess, Camby would win the 2007 NBA Defensive Player of the Year award and would help lead the Nuggets to the playoffs for five straight seasons.  He was the subject of much controversy when he was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers primarily for a trade exemption for the Nuggets, but continued his stellar, if not injury prone, play in Los Angeles.

5) Rik Smits, C, Indiana Pacers out of Marist College in 1988 NBA Draft (867 Games, 14.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 BPG) - After playing at Marist College shortly after coming over from the Netherlands, the offensively gifted 7'4" Dutch center was snagged by the Indiana Pacers in the 1988 NBA Draft.  Shortly after coming over. Smits was teamed with Pacer great Reggie Miller and helped lead the Pacers to a string of successful seasons although the team always seemed to suffere postseason defeat.  After spending his entire 12 year career with the Pacers, and routinely performing past expecations in the postseason individually, Smits and the Pacers made the 2000 NBA Finals where they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.  After those finals, though, Smits prematurely retired from the game due to immensely painful foot injuries.  Smits would later be named to the Pacers 40th Anniversary Team.

4) Mike Bibby, PG, Vancouver Grizzlies out of University of Arizona in 1998 NBA Draft (802 Games, 16.4 PPG, 6.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG) - A coach's son, Mike Bibby would win a national championship as the starting point guard for the Arizona Wildcats in his freshman season.  After following that up with a stellar sophomore season, Bibby declared for the 1998 NBA Draft, and after the Clippers selected Michael Olowkandi, Bibby was taken 2nd by the Vancouver Grizzlies.  Bibby turned in three very solid seasons in Vancouver although the Grizzlies routinely were among the worst teams in the league.  After a trade to the Sacramento Kings, Bibby became one of the most recognizable players in the league.  His performance, with Sacramento, in the 2002 NBA Postseason made Bibby a legend in Sacramento and he was rewarded with a 7 year 80 million dollar contract.  Bibby continued to be a great player for Sacramento for the next few seasons, although the team never got as close to a championship as it did that 2002 NBA Postseason.  Bibby has, as of late, become a routinely injured player and was shipped to the Atlanta Hawks at the 2008 NBA Trade deadline.  He has since lead the Hawks to straight postseason apperances and is now a free agent.  His future in the league looks to be solid, although he may never reach the level of success he obtained in Sacramento.

3) Gary Payton, PG, Seattle Supersonics out of Oregon State University in the 1990 NBA Draft (1,335 Games, 16.3 PPG, 6.7 APG, 3.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG) - After being selected by the Seattle Supersonics out of nearby Oregon State Payton was slowly brought along in Seattle before being given the reigns and taking the Supersonics to some of their most successful stretches in franchise history.  Nicknamed "The Glove" for his fantastic defensive presence, Payton teamed up with Shawn Kemp to routinely help the Supersonics make postseason appearances for 12 straight seasons.  In 1996, Payton won the Defensive Player of the Year award, made it to the 1996 NBA Finals and won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.  He would win one more Gold Medal in 2000 but success would become harder to obtain in Seattle and Payton was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks.  After signing with the Lakers for the famed 2003-2004 team, Payton would struggle in coach Phil Jackson's pattented Triangle Offense and his production would take a huge hit.  After initially refusing to go to Boston and then going, Payton would play for five teams in five seasons to end his career before winning that elusive championship as a reserve on the 2006 Miami Heat squad.

2) Alonzo Mourning, C, Charlotte Hornets out of Georgetown University in the 1992 NBA Draft (838 Games, 17.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.8 BPG, 1.1 APG) - A bragadacious player with game to back it up, Mourning took the league by storm even though he entered the NBA the same yaer that Shaquille O'Neal did.  He helped a young and upstart Charlotte Hornets team make the semifinals in his rookie season before butting heads with fellow supertar Larry Johnson.  After having contractual disputes with Hornets owner George Shinn, Mourning would be traded to the Miami Heat where he enjoyed the most consistent success of his career.  Routinely posting averages of 20 points and 10 rebounds, Mourning would lead the Heat to the playoffs for five straight seasons, although they routinely lost to the Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks every season.  During that stretch, Mourning would win the 1999 and 2000 NBA Defensive Player of the Year awards and would also win an Olympic Gold Medal with the 2000 USA Olympic Baskeball Team.  In 2003, Mourning started to suffer from kidney problems and his long estranged cousin eventually donated one of his kidneys to Mourning, and Mourning became the second player, after Sean Elliott, to play in the NBA after receiving a kidney transplant.  After trying to win a championship with the New Jersey Nets, Mourning would return to Miami to back up Shaquille O'Neal and would be the backup center on the Miami team that won the 2006 NBA Championship.  He retired in 2008 after suffering a crippling patellar tendon tear in his knee. 

1) Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas Mavericks out of University of California in Berkeley in the 1994 NBA Draft (1,107 Games, 13.8 PPG, 9.2 APG, 6.7 RPG, 2.0 SPG) - After jumping out onto the scene in the 1993 NCAA Tournament, Kidd would enter the 1994 NBA Draft a successfull follow up sophomore season for the Cal Golden Bears.  After being drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Kidd would be coupled with Jamaal Mashburn and Jim Jackson and the "three J's" would bring Dallas immense hope for the future.  After taking the league by storm with comparisons to Magic Johnson and routinely picking up triple doubles, Kidd would win the 1995 Co-Rookie of the Year Award with Detroit Pistons forward Grant Hill.  However, Kidd quickly grew unhappy in Dallas and was shipped over to the Phoenix Suns.  His play took off while in Phoenix and Kidd would routinely be named to all NBA teams.  After a public battle with his wife, though, Phoenix shipped him to New Jersey where his career would finally reach its peak.  Kidd would finish second in the MVP voting in 2002 to Tim Duncan with the Nets and would lead New Jersey to two consecutive Eastern Conference Championships, being swept by the Lakers in 2002 and losing in six to the Spurs in 2003.  Kidd, though, would routinely demand trade request adn then rescind those request with New Jersey and would also have a falling out with coach Byron Scott who was fired as a result of the disagreement.  After being traded back to Dallas, Kidd has continued his stellar play although more critics of his have emerged overtime.  It's unclear whether he will ever win that elusive championship, but his greatness on the court should never be underestimated.
Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:54 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2009 7:45 pm
 

2008-2009 NBA Postseason Predictions

 Team By Team Previews
Western Conference:
1) Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

2) Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

3) San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

4) Portland Trail Blazers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14386245

5) Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

6) Dallas Mavericks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14440073

7) New Orleans Hornets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14427724

8) Utah Jazz - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14393609

Eastern Conference:
1) Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

2) Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

3) Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

4) Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

5) Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

6) Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

7) Chicago Bulls - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14504657

8) Detroit Pistons - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14467742

1st Round Matchups
Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Detroit Pistons - The Pistons bring their experience to Cleveland to stand opposite the Cavaliers. The Cavs are really riding a huge wave of momentum into the postseason, the complete opposite way which Detroit is entering the playoffs. The Cavs have beaten the Pistons the last time they played in the postseason as well, and there's no reason for Detroit's intimidation factor to affect Cleveland. This is a solid matchup for the Cavs, because their lack of size won't affect them as the Pistons, likewise, lack significant size in their frontcourt.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Mo Williams - It will be interesting to see how Williams, the Cavs' second option, responds to having that kind of pressure on him in the postseason.
Pistons Player to Watch: Kwame Brown - With the Cavaliers lack of size, Brown can continue his solid play down the stretch with solid defense on Zydrunas Ilgauskas if called upon. He can really help the Pistons if he elevates his play.

(4) Atlanta Hawks vs. (5) Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade and the Heat are a tough out for anybody in the postseason, including an unproven playoff team like the Hawks. The Hawks are still a tough team to take seriously, although we all should, and they can look at that as a rallying cry. This is the most even matchup in the entire Eastern Conference, and the Hawks fantastic play at home should help this squad get out of the first round for the first time since 1999. Dwyane Wade and company will put up a fantastic effort, but I look for every home team to win in this series.
Prediction: Hawks in seven.
Hawks Player to Watch: Al Horford - The Heat's lack of a true center should speak for a good series for Al Horford. Also, the Hawks are nearly unstoppable when Horford averages over 15 points a game. So his play is critical for the advancement of Atlanta.
Heat Player to Watch: Michael Beasley - Beasley is entering the postseason on a tear, and if he can continue to be that consistent second option for Miami then the Heat have the chance to pull off the upset.

(3) Orlando Magic vs. (6) Philadelphia 76ers - This is a matchup of slumping teams running head to head and will probably provide the least interesting of all of the playoff matchups in the NBA. The 76ers, even though they'll throw Samuel Dalembert and Theo Ratliff at him, really have no answer for Dwight Howard. Andre Iguodala will have to do it by himself and I don't believe he's the kind of player capable of doing that. Also, his dissapointing performance in last season's playoffs has to weigh on his mind. However, Hedo Turkoglu's injury is something to look for in Orlando.
Prediction: Magic in six.
Magic Player to Watch: Hedo Turkoglu - It will be intersting to see how he plays with this injured ankle. This team can really take off if he can somehow go back to the style of play and consistency he showed last season.
76ers Player to Watch: Samuel Dalembert - His defense on Dwight Howard will be critical for the 76ers chances to advance. However, he's had moments where he dissapears.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Chicago Bulls - Without Kevin Garnett, the Bulls lack of inside scoring can really be masked in this first round matchup. These two units play spectacular basketball at home and can really put points on the board. The key will be which team can make the defensive stops when it's necessary to get them. The defending champions, even without their defensive leader Garnett, have experience doing so and can really put the inexperienced Bulls on the ropes. I look for the Bulls to put up a great fight, and push the C's to seven but I look for the Celtics to somehow prevail.
Prediction: Celtics in seven.
Celtics Player to Watch: Rajon Rondo - Rondo's play in this series is going to be crucial for Boston. Without Garnett, the teams are very evenly matched and Rondo's defense on Derrick Rose will be key for the Celtics.
Bulls Player to Watch: Derrick Rose - The Rookie of the Year will have a lot of pressure playing point guard in his first postseason against the defending champions. He can really blow skeptics away or he can struggle against the insurmountable odds.

Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (8) Utah Jazz - The Lakers get the unfortunate task of facing the inconsistent Utah Jazz in the first round. The Lakers should be confident, seeing as how Utah simply cannot win on the road, but the Jazz always give the Lakers fits. Kobe Bryant and company, though, should replicate last season's conference semifinals and really look to push Utah to the limit. Nobody outside of Deron Williams is really playing consistently for Utah, and he simply cannot do it alone. The Jazz will put up a fight in every single game, but they don't have the weapons or the confidence to pull games out.
Prediction: Lakers in five.
Lakers Player to Watch: Lamar Odom - Odom always plays well against the Jazz, and coming off of the bench he can match up against Andrei Kirilenko and really take it to the Jazz. Without pressure Odom always seems to shine, and this is a perfect chance for the Lakers to develop a playoff rotation that includes Odom on the bench.
Jazz Player to Watch: Carlos Boozer - Boozer struggled mightily last season against the Lakers and without him scoring inside, the Jazz are simply a jump shooting team. That plays well into the Lakers' hands, so it's on Boozer to improve from last season's (and mainly this season's) performance.

(4) Portland Trail Blazers vs. (5) Houston Rockets - The Rockets were coming into the postseason on a huge positive note, but stumbling to the 5th seed and having to face Portland is not what the Dr. ordered for a team looking to make it out of the first round for the first time since 1998. It's all mental with the Rockets, and Yao Ming should really be a force, but Joel Przybilla and Greg Oden are big enough to stay in front of Yao and really alter his shots. With that being negated, the Rockets must rely on Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks and Von Wafer and none of the three shoot consistently enough to match the late game heroics of Brandon Roy.
Prediction: Trail Blazers in six.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: Greg Oden - He's dissapointed all season long, but his defensive capabilities give the Blazers a lot of hope in their matchup with Yao Ming. If he can stay out of foul trouble, he can give the Blazers a good 20-25 minutes of solid defense on Yao and has the best size to matchup with the Rockets center.
Rockets Player to Watch: Kyle Lowry - Aaron Brooks is the better offensive player, but Lowry will most likely draw the assignment of guarding when he's in the game. His defense will be critical if he can slow down Roy for stretches and affect his confidence for the late game situations when Roy will be forced to take the shot for Portland.

(3) San Antonio Spurs vs. (6) Dallas Mavericks - The Spurs pulled off an amazing run to win the Southwest Division, but if there's one team that always troubles the Spurs it's the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have peaked at the right time and are entirely capable of winning games in San Antonio. Tim Duncan always plays fantastic ball against Dallas, but the same can be said for Dirk Nowitzki matching up against San Antonio. The role players will be huge in this matchup, as will Tony Parker, but the Mavs role players (Jason Terry, Josh Howard, Brandon Bass) should give the Mavericks the edge they need to pull the upset.
Prediction: Mavericks in seven.
Spurs Player to Watch: Roger Mason Jr. - With Manu Ginobili out, Mason's contributions will be critical. After an unbelievable first half to the season, he's been rather inconsistent as of late. If he can provide good minutes and consistently hit his jump shot, the Spurs will be in great shape.
Mavericks Player to Watch: Jose Juan Barea - Coming off of the bench, Barea has the speed to really give Tony Parker fits when the Mavs have the ball. If he can come in and play well alongside either Jason Kidd or Jason Terry, the Mavericks will really have a leg up in the matchup.

(2) Denver Nuggets vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - This is a fantastic matchup here as the Hornets and Nuggets engage in a tightly contested head to head battle. Chris Paul may be too quick for Chauncey Billups to guard one on one, and if the Nuggets go to Anthony Carter that will give the Hornets the advantage defensively seeing as how Carter struggles with his shot. The Nuggets frontcourt could provide a lot of problems for the Hornets, especially Chris Andersen, who can really provide problems for Tyson Chandler and Sean Marks. When called upon, though, the acquisition of James Posey will pay off with his defense on Carmelo Anthony in this tough matchup.
Prediction: Hornets in six
Nuggets Player to Watch: J.R. Smith - Coming off of the bench, J.R. Smith gives the Nuggets a huge advantage with his ability to take games over with his shot making ability. However, he takes possesions off on defense and can also shoot the Nuggets out of games, so he has to one day his erratic play to be fully helpful to the Nuggets.
Hornets Player to Watch: Tyson Chandler - Coming off of an injury, Chandler should be monitored. If he doesn't play many minutes then that could prove to be a huge problem for the Hornets. However, the Hornets are infinitely better when Chandler plays and it will be crucial to see to it that he contributes as much as possible.
 


Conference Semifinals
Eastern Conference

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (4) Atlanta Hawks - The Cavaliers will still be riding that wave of emotion heading into the semifinals after their dispatching of the Pistons. However, they're going to run into a tough, battle tested Hawks squad that could steal a game in Cleveland. Joe Johnson and LeBron James give the fans quite the one on one matchup and fans will be tuned in to watch those two go at it. However, Cleveland's role players outshine Atlanta's in critical spots and the Cavs will escape in seven.
Prediction: Cavaliers in seven.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Zydrunas Ilgauskas - There's no reason anywhere near his height in Atlanta, and he can really pull defenders away from the basket with his jump shot. If he has a big series, the Cavaliers will undoubtedly advance.
Hawks Player to Watch: Ronald Murray - Murray is the best player on a shallow Atlanta bench, and he can really jumpstart Atlanta's role players and give the Hawks a ton of energy in spots where they least expect to receive it.

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (3) Orlando Magic - Without Garnett, Dwight Howard looks to dominate against Boston and may very well do so. These two squads meet head to head and give a fantastic first four games in this series and the series should head back to Boston tied at 2 apiece. However, the Celtics will miss Garnett as they look fatiqued from a tough series with the Bulls. That gives the Magic an opportunity to steal a game and close out the series in Orlando. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen will really shine in this series, but Boston's lack of options will do them in.
Prediction: Magic in six.
Celtics Player to Watch: Glen Davis - Assuming he'll be playing the power forward position without Kevin Garnett in the lineup, he can really get his shot off against the smaller Magic. His ability to knock down the 15 footer could really help open the floor up for Boston.
Magic Player to Watch: Rashard Lewis - With the Celtics throwing out a bigger, slower lineup Lewis can really put the Magic over the top. He'll create the fantastic offensive mismatch for Orlando if he remains aggressive and looks to take it to the basket more than settling for his jump shot. Furthermore, he's long and quick enough to guard Davis and Powe if he stays out of foul trouble.

Western Conference

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Portland Trail Blazers - Coming off of facing the Jazz, the Lakers match up with another hated rival in Portland and have to be worried about this contest. The Lakers struggle against Portland, especially at Portland, and the Trail Blazers are one of the dangerous teams playing with no expectation to win. The Trail Blazers should give the Lakers lots of fits, but the Lakers have the best player on the court in Kobe Bryant, and have players outside of Kobe who can hit the big shot to win crucial games. The Blazers really will give the Lakers all they can handle and should take them to seven games.
Prediction: Lakers in seven.
Lakers Player to Watch: Andrew Bynum - Portland has very servicable big men, so Bynum's effort, play and intensity level should speak volumes on if the Lakers will advance or not. If he isn't as commanding as he can be, then the Lakers may have to go small with Odom and Gasol in the lineup instead.
Trail Blazers Player to Watch: LaMarcus Aldridge - Going up against Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom, Aldridge is talented enough to get his points against either of those defenders. If he takes to the basket more often and stays aggressive, then the Lakers will be hard pressed to find options to stop him. However, he has a tendency to fall in love with the jump shot and that could hurt the Blazers more than help them.

(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - In this matchup of underdogs to advance, the Hornets and Mavericks both should count their blessings to be so close to the conference finals. These two teams will meet up for the second straight postseason, providing a lot of intense moments of basketball. However, the Mavericks have always struggled with the combination of Chris Paul and David West. Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and Brandon Bass always give the Hornets trouble, but Nowitzki will be guarded closely by James Posey and the Hornets can allow Peja Stojakovic to run relatively free, giving the Hornets the series victory.
Prediction: Hornets in six.
Mavericks Player to Watch: Brandon Bass - Bass has always given the Hornets fits since signing as a free agent from New Orleans a few years ago. His strength, speed and ability to hit the mid range jump shot give the Hornets plenty of fits and he really can take over games if given significant minutes by Rick Carlisle.
Hornets Player to Watch: Peja Stojakovic - Peja's struggled mightily against more physical teams, but the Mavericks usually throw Josh Howard at Peja, and Peja generally gives the Mavericks problems. If he's able to run free and hit his jump shot, like he did last postseason, the Hornets will dispose of the Mavericks.


Eastern Conference Finals

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (3) Orlando Magic - LeBron James should really dominate in this matchup, as the Magic simply have no answer for him. Courtney Lee will provide the best line of defense, but having to rely so many minutes to a rookie could hurt the Magic on the offensive side of the basketball. Dwight Howard may go off in this matchup as well, but his role players will be hard pressed to knock down the jump shot consistently against the fantastic defense of Cleveland's.
Prediction: Cavaliers in five.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: LeBron James - When times get thick, your best player is the one that can carry you out of tough situations. The Cavaliers will all feed off of the play of their MVP and if he plays well, the team will play well.
Magic Player to Watch: Courtney Lee - His defense on LeBron will be crucial, and if he can stay in front of and attempt to contain LeBron then the Magic can allow Howard to really take adavantage of Cleveland's lack of strength inside.

Western Conference Finals

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (7) New Orleans Hornets - The Lakers, after two extremely draining matches will now be faced off with the postseason's cinderella team. However, the Hornets will be vexed from their two tough series as well, and their lack of size will finally come back to hurt them. Players like Odom and Bynum always perform well against the Hornets lack of height and the Lakers have more options to turn to than the Hornets do. They'll both be tired, but the Lakers have much more talent than New Orleans does and that will be enough for the Lakers to advance.
Prediction: Lakers in five.
Lakers Player to Watch: Pau Gasol - The Hornets have no option to defend Pau Gasol. He can basically get his shot off at will against David West or Tyson Chandler and can really take over the series and give the Lakers the easy victory.
Hornets Player to Watch: James Posey - Posey was brought to this team for critical spots like these, and he will be assigned the task of guarding Kobe Bryant. Posey will look to feed off of last season's finals to get into Kobe's head, and if he can stay in front of Kobe and keep him around a percentage near 40%, the Hornets will be in contention.


NBA Finals

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (1) Los Angeles Lakers - And now for the matchup that the nation, David Stern and ESPN want and that haters across the world will despise. Kobe Bryant and LeBron James will match up head to head in a battle between the two best teams in the NBA all season long. Coming into the finals, both teams will have been tested although the Lakers will have had the tougher time getting there. The Cavaliers can use Los Angels' fatique to their advantage for at least the first game of the series, but after a co uple days rest, the Lakers should shock Cleveland in game 2 on their home court. Once the series returns to Los Angeles, the Lakers should really use their size to their advantage and pound it into the paint against Cleveland's smaller lineup. LeBron's heroics will be tested against the defense of Trevor Ariza and the Lakers bench will do just enough to send the series back to Cleveland with the Lakers ahead 3-2. With a fantastic sixth game being held in Cleveland, the game of the year will come down to the wire but the Lakers prove to be too much for Cleveland and take the series.
Prediction: Lakers in six.
Cavaliers Player to Watch: Daniel Gibson - Gibson can be the true catalyst for a Cavaliers bench that is deep in body's but shallow in terms of point production. If he can come in and hit the three point shot consistently, that should bring more to the table nightly than anybody the Lakers can throw off of the bench. He also can spell either guard in critical moments and has hit big shots in the postseason before, and should be comfortable taking them when called upon.
Lakers Player to Watch: Trevor Ariza - His athleticism and defensive prowress will really come into play here against the Cavaliers. He's quite possibly the best option to defense LeBron as he is strong enough to where LeBron can't entirely muscle Ariza and Ariza's quick enough to stay in front of him as well. If he makes the open jump shot as well, that makes things all the better for the Lakers.

Posted on: April 16, 2009 11:42 pm
Edited on: April 16, 2009 11:56 pm
 

Final 2008-2009 NBA Power Rankings

1) Cleveland Cavaliers - The Cavaliers were the best team throughout the entire season, expressing dominance at home, boasting the greatest player in the game and a fantastic group of shooters that could really spread the floor. Their commitment to defense, though, is what's been the true reason for their elevation of play.

2) Los Angeles Lakers - Kobe Bryant really was in neutral all season long, letting Pau Gasol carry the brunt of the responsibility, and for that reason the Lakers are dangerous come playoff time. Now that Andrew Bynum is back, it'll be interesting to see who finishes the games in Los Angeles. With Bynum out last postseason, Odom and Gasol finished games and it looks as if Odom may very well be the odd man out this year.

3) Boston Celtics - Losing Kevin Garnett is killer if that's really true. Hopefully he comes back and the Celtics can defend their championship at full strength. Doc Rivers and Paul Pierce did a great job righting the ship this season regardless of who was out due to injury, and players like Glen Davis, Kendrick Perkins, Rajon Rondo and Tony Allen as of late have really given the Celtics a nice core of young players as well.

4) Portland Trail Blazers - The Trail Blazers provided one of the most exciting seasons among any team in the league this year. Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge were the catalysts for a team that boasts just some spectacular role players and two legitimate centers. With the best home fans in the league (sorry Utah) the Blazers are poised for a tough run in this year's postseason.

5) Denver Nuggets - Chauncey Billups arriving really provided the spark this team needed to get out of their mediocre ways. A new effort on defense was shown, and Carmelo Anthony was able to, quietly, have the best season of his young career. The return of Chris Andersen, though, is the best story on this team full of characters and talent.

6) Houston Rockets - The Rockets were able to overcome the losses of Tracy McGrady and Rafer Alston with some fantastic play in the second half of the season. They're one of the better defensive teams in the league and they make up for their defeciences with an unbelievable display of effort on the court.

7) San Antonio Spurs - The loss of Manu Ginobili is critical in the postseason, but the Spurs have overcome injuries all season to all of the big three to give themselves the Southwest Division Championship. Quite a season by the Spurs when you consider all that happened to the team.

8) Orlando Magic - The Magic faded down the stretch, but still boast the game's most dominant center and a fantastic array of shooters. Hedo Turkoglu's injury is critical (as was Jameer Nelson's back in February) but the Magic still found a way to win 59 games due to their new commitment on the defensive end spearheaded by Dwight Howard.

9) New Orleans Hornets - Another team that was decimated by injuries this season. By the visual test, the Hornets really underachieved and regressed this year, but all things considered they did a fantastic job masking their weaknesses this season to get into the playoffs and put themselves in position to make a run. Health, though, could really do them in.

10) Dallas Mavericks - The Mavericks peaked at the right time, at the end of the season. Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry had fantastic seasons and Jason Kidd headed a very effecient offensive group. They're fantastic at home and can really score the basketball.

11) Atlanta Hawks - Mike Woodson deserves some recognition for the job he did getting this Hawks team to build off of last season to emerge into the squad that they currently are. They have a team full of talented, unselfish players and can really make a run in the postseason.

12) Utah Jazz - Unfortuantely, one of the most talented teams in the Western Conference cannot win on the road and that simply puts too much pressure on them to win at home. Deron Williams has done it by himself the last month of the season and the Jazz have to hope they haven't exhausted their star point guard. The Jazz's decline, coincidentally, can be traced back to the return of Carlos Boozer and the shift of Paul Millsap back to the bench.

13) Miami Heat - Dwyane Wade really carried this team to new heights this season. However, the contributions of rookies Michael Beasley and especially Mario Chalmers shouldn't be overlooked, as these three give the Heat a dangerous unit heading into the postseason. Wade is head and shoulders above everyone on the team, but there's not a bunch of scrubs lacing it up with Wade.

14) Chicago Bulls - A fantastic midseason trade helped the Bulls pull of a spectacular run at the end of the season to get them into the playoffs. A bad loss at home helps people forget the fantastic basketball the team was playing en route to their run. Vinny Del Negro did a mighty fine job considering his lack of any experience coaching at any level.

15) Philadelphia 76ers - Losing Maurice Cheeks really hurt this team. I know they posted a better record without him, but they surged in last season's second half and faltered in this season's second half. Elton Brand was heavily criticized, but he'd help in the half court game they may have to play in the playoffs.

16) Phoenix Suns - A pathetic defensive display is what keeps Phoenix out of the postseason for the first time since 2004. Shaquille O'Neal had a very nice bounce back season for the Suns and it was nice to see Grant Hill play all 82 games. However, this team is a mediocre assortment of aging and average players and look to be heading in the wrong direction for the future.

17) Detroit Pistons - Who would have thought the trade that brought in Allen Iverson would have that much of an affect on this team's chemistry (besides me, of course)? The Pistons emerged as shells of their former selves this season and moonwalk into the postseason hoping to flip the switch on again.

18) Indiana Pacers - The loss of Mike Dunleavy really hurt this team, and having to reacclimate Danny Granger right in the middle of their surge to the postseason made the Pacers stumble a bit and is the biggest reason they didn't make the postseason. However, if Dunleavy can come back next year and mix well with the good draft picks this team has ,Brandon Rush and Roy Hibbert, then the Pacers (my presseason pick for the 8th seed) can make a run at the playoffs next season.

19) Milwaukee Bucks - Richard Jefferson emerged as a really solid player this year. He's always been good, but holding this depleted squad in playoff contention for as long as they did speaks wonders for Jefferson and still underrated coach Scott Skiles. They have quite the find in Ramon Sessions and this team is headed in the right direction with the right offseason moves.

20) Charlotte Bobcats - The Bobcats made a push for the postseason before faltering down the stretch. However, looking at the players that they acquired simply for the playoffs, this is no longer a team on the rise. They have good, young players but they have a mixture of solid veterans as well. There's no excuse for them to not make the postseason next year.

21) New York Knicks - Mike D'Antoni's refusal to play defense kept the Knicks out of the playoffs this year. David Lee, Nate Robinson and Wilson Chandler emerged to become fantastic players for New York and it's nice to see Madison Square Garden care again. The moves they make this offseason will be critical to the future of this team.

22) New Jersey Nets - They had a great first half to the season, but their lack of raw talent came back to hurt them as the season progressed. Vince Carter did a great job as the leader of this team, but he is the most likely candidate to be moved this offseason for New Jersey. They have to like what they saw from Devin Harris and Brook Lopez this year, and this is a team headed in the right direction.

23) Golden State Warriors - Injuries to Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins and Corey Maggette this year didn't help matters this year and if you couple that with the fact that the Warriors were the youngest team in the league, their record shouldn't come as a surprise to you. However, this team is really talented and with the right seasoning could be poised for another playoff run next year or the year after. They still could use a true point guard.

24) Toronto Raptors - Unfortunately, the acquisition of Jermaine O'Neal and the midsesason trade of O'Neal for Marion did nothing for the Raptors postseason hopes. Chris Bosh, after a hot start, had a really average finish and Jose Calderon did not elevate his game as expected following the big contract. This is a team that has a very interesting offseason approaching them, but they have to like the improvement of Andrea Bargnani this season.

25) Oklahoma City Thunder - Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and company give that fantastic fan base a lot of hope for the future. They're another big man and, possibly, a legitimate shooting guard away from the playoffs as early as next season. Keeping interim coach Scott Brooks was the right thing to do, as well, seeing as how that team responded to him at the end of the year.

26) Minnesota Timberwolves - Losing Al Jefferson killed their season, as before that Minnesota was really starting to play solid basketball. I still don't know how they're going to play Kevin Love and Jefferson together, but Jefferson and Randy Foye give Minnesota a nice one-two combination for the future. Mike Miller was a huge dissapointment this season, and Minnesota should look to make a few moves in the offseason including finding something to do with Miller.

27) Memphis Grizzlies - O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have the Grizzlies heading in the right direction. They still didn't take the step forward that I was expecting from them, but they showed moments of cohesiveness. If they can somehow land Blake Griffin, this team will be set to really leap forward next season. However, Rudy Gay didn't progress as much as what was to be expected this season, and he needs to bounce back next season.

28) Washington Wizards - Injuries ruined this team but unfortunately, they're not very talented even when healthy. This is a team heading nowhere in a hurry with all of the money they have tied into Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison. The Wizards are probably going to give it another run next season, fully healthy, but I wouldn't expect anything more than a possible appearance in the postseason.

29) Los Angeles Clippers - Expectations and an insurgent of talent in Clippers couldn't keep the Clippers from being the Clippers this season. Everyone on the team missed significant time due to injury, and they never meshed as a unit. Even though they have fantastic individual pieces, you have to wonder if this team will work well as a unit at all. They'll probably get another shot next season.

30) Sacramento Kings - Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and company should be embarassed at the effort put up in Sacramento this season. The lack of talent on the team cost a good coach, Reggie Theus, his job and Martin couldn't do much to salvage any kind of hope for even next season. This team is a long way from any kind of contention and they have holes at every single position on the floor. It doesn't look good for a struggling franchise, and it's a shame to see all of those empty seats at Arco Arena on a nightly basis.
 

 

Posted on: April 6, 2009 12:48 am
 

2009 NBA Playoff Preview: Portland Trail Blazers

Previous Previews:
Western Conference:
Los Angeles Lakers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14206197

Houston Rockets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14288379

Denver Nuggets - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14321911

San Antonio Spurs - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14346631

Eastern Conference:
Cleveland Cavaliers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14152907

Boston Celtics - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14220509

Orlando Magic - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14229507

Atlanta Hawks - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14238342

Miami Heat - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14373942

Philadelphia 76ers - http://www.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/
entry/5993128/14376757

Well now that teams are clinching divisions and spots in the postseason I thought it would be cool to go ahead and preview each team that is going to be a part of the 2009 NBA Postseason. I will do one for each team as they clinch a playoff spot and since we already have teams that have clinched, we will start with them. Now we will continue with a proud franchise making its first appearance in the postseason since 2003: the Portland Trail Blazers.

Strengths
When you look at this Trail Blazers team, there isn't a really staggering amount of holes.  They're young, deep, hungry and versatile and can really attack you from all areas of the floor.  They have one of the most underrated players in the league in Brandon Roy and he is the catalyst for a squad that drives to the basket, shoots the three well and can really get hot at any given moment.  In Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge the Blazers have two consistent players who can score inside and outside and who really provide the leadership and energy for their teammates to feed off of. 

The Blazers are an energy, hustle team that really flourishes playing at home in Portland and that never takes their foot off of the pedal.  Rudy Fernandez and Travis Outlaw spearhead a really talented bench and give tremendous energy whenever they step onto the court.  Coach Nate McMillan really has this team playing together as a unit, and they know how to attack the opposition and where to attack the opposition.  They're very well prepared, so even with their youth and reckless abandon, they're still organized and put their skills to good use.  Whenever the Blazers play at home, they're almost unstoppable and they can really put pressure on you to win at home.  If they steal a game on the road, they're in prime position when they return to Portland.  Also, this team is very good at rebounding the basketball, which helps start off on the breaks for the offense and limits second chance opportunities to the opponent.

Weaknesses
All things considered, the Trail Blazers don't have a true point guard or a truly dominant center.  Greg Oden has fought injuries for two seasons and still doesn't look like a very effective post player, although his presence on the defensive end of the floor can really affect opponents on their drives to the basket.  However, he's proved to be just average on offense and although he's not a liability, he's far from an asset with the offense is set into motion.  Joel Przybilla is basically the same story.  He's fantastic at rebounding the basketball and playing defense, but they're not going to go to him in crunch time and expect points in the paint.  That wouldn't be a problem if Aldridge didn't fall in love with the jump shot as often as he does.  So many times he forgets that he's needed under the basket, and teams can really cut off his moves to the paint and force him to be a jump shooter.  Then, it's just a matter of if Aldridge is on or not.

Steve Blake is solid, but he's not going to blow anyone away at the point guard position.  Brandon Roy is more effective with the basketball anyways, so this hasn't been a problem as of yet for Portland, but teams will really attack Roy in the postseason and the onus will be on Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriguez to not be liabilities out on the floor.  They're going to be relied on to hit big three pointers and Blake has shown that he can do it (even being the starting point guard on a Denver team that went to the postseason a couple of years ago).  Also, youth and inexperience can pose a huge problem for Portland.  As always, there seems to be a learning curve in a team's first season in the playoffs.  That doesn't mean a series victory or two is out of the question, but usually teams have to learn how to win in the postseason and nobody on this squad has any experience at being successful in the postseason.  So that could pose a problem when the squad is on the road and in tough situations in the postseason against teams that know how to win on an opponent's home floor.

Why They Will Win It
The Trail Blazers play a fun brand of basketball and have depth at every position.  They're young but they're hungry and they can play an up and down style of basketball and even have the shooters to succeed in a half court game.  They like to dictate the pace, but if push comes to shove and they can't, they won't be knocked out of contention because they can settle down and match up with what the other team is bringing to the table.  Brandon Roy is a huge asset in close situations, and the Blazers have a star that they can turn to in crucial situations of close out games.  That's a huge asset that a lot of teams just don't have.

Why They Won't Win It
Experience will be the biggest hurtle for this squad.  With inexperience comes a perceived lack of ability to win on the road and people just assuming that you will struggle in close situations.  The fact that the Blazers may become jump shooters could hurt them in the end, as a developed Greg Oden would be huge this year.  However, that's not the case and the Blazers may become overreliant on the jump shot.  Also, they have a tendency to struggle on defense in spells and that could really come back to haunt them in the postseason.

Conclusion
The talent is there in Portland for a big run and they could win a playoff series or two without surprising anyone.  However, they need to experience that learning curve like every other team does and inexperience may do them in in the postseason.  Top to bottom this is one of the deepest teams in the league but struggles on defense and in other team's home courts may prevent Portland from making a serious run at a championship.  They're a team on the rise and this year could be a year of surprises for fans in Portland (who really deserve it), but the Trail Blazers are still a year of growth away from having the Larry O'Brien Trophy being a realistic end goal.

Coming up next: the Utah Jazz.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com