Tuesday, September 28, 2010

In case you've been under a rock, here's the NBA off season cheat sheet

So you haven't been watching sports central 24/7. You've been catching up with baseball and the start of football. That's cool. Here's a guide to what every NBA team has been up to this off-season and what to look for (bolded) for each team. Starting with the obvious:

Miami Heat - Just signed an entire new team headed by reigning MVP LeBron James, former Finals MVP Dwyane Wade, and a super sidekick Chris Bosh. Miami went all in and expect to win a championship. Lots of things to look for, but look to see how their post defense performs as their centers are Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire, and a rarely used Joel Anthony.

Boston Celtics - Starting center, Kendrick Perkins hurt his knee in last year's finals against the Lakers and will miss a good portion of the start of the season, so the Celtics signed Shaq and Jermaine O'neal to overload their post play in the meantime, and to compete with the probable western conference champion Lakers' size in the finals. Also trying to win a championship, could be the last or second to last year they'll be able to compete for one with their big 4 core of Garnett, Allen and Pierce, and Rondo. Look to see the further strides Rondo has taken and how Jermaine O'neal performs better as a 4th option rather than a 2nd as he was in Miami.

Los Angeles Lakers - They pretty much filled every hole in their team, AFTER winning a championship. Coaching situation? Check - Phil Jackson signed up for one more year. Old point guard situation? Check - Signed Steve Blake, who I'm in love with. Bench player/Depth? Check - Signed Matt Barnes who can play behind Kobe (upgrade from Sasha Vujacic) and Ron Artest, which gives the Lakers flexibility at where to play Lamar off the bench (at small forward or power forward). Shot in the dark but despite all the praise of new rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks, I predict they will barely get off the bench. Phil Jackson gives rookies big minutes. See Andrew Bynum's, Sasha Vujacic's, and Jordan Farmar's rookie minutes (7:24 in 46 games, 11:30 in 35 games, and 15:05 in 72 games respectively), and those were in rebuilding years. But enough about the Lakers. Look to see how the Lakers use Matt Barnes and if/(more like when is my prediction) Steve Blake takes over the starting point guard position.

So those are your high profile teams that you were probably beat to death with this whole summer. Here are some other teams that made the news you may have missed

New York Knicks - Almost an entire new team here: huge signing for them was Amare Stoudemire, formerly of the Suns. Paired with his old Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni and new point guard, Raymond Felton - not an all star but a point guard upgrade from their old PG Chris Duhon. After that, there isn't too much to talk about. This team is a playoff team at best but in the beginning phases of rebuilding mode. Look to see how Amare plays without his MVP playmaker Steve Nash.

Atlanta Hawks - They re-signed their best player Joe Johnson to a max deal so he'll be around for awhile. Coupled with their athletic freak of nature Josh Smith and solid center Al Horford this team is pretty much guaranteed a top 5 seed in the playoffs. But that's probably as far as they'll go... Probably the biggest question mark is around Jamal Crawford and his contract extension. Simply put: he wants an extension, the Hawks don't want to give it to him. Look to see how Mike Bibby performs at point guard as he failed to show up in the playoffs last year against the Magic.

Chicago Bulls - They signed free agent power forward Carlos Boozer, veteran center Kurt Thomas and Guard Ronnie brewer, traded away Kirk Hinrich (for nothing), and traded for guard CJ Watson. This team made some solid moves. Kirk Hinrich was a salary dump to get Boozer. For some reason, this team wanted to package some of their core for Carmelo Anthony. This is a solid team with pretty much no holes. Look for JJ Redick to make a huge contribution despite not having the star power Boozer has.

Alright so those are the huge news getters this summer, now let's delve a little for those who weren't following ESPN, NBA news, and listening to sports radio everyday to see what the other teams have been up to. In somewhat order of relevance:

Denver Nuggets - Main thing here is the future of their franchise small forward, Carmelo Anthony. While he hasn't outright come out and say it, sources after sources have reported that he wants to play for an entertainment industry city due to his new wife, Lala Vasquez's entertainment industry career. Talks are officially DEAD as of September 28, 2010 6:00PM. Who knows if/when Melo will be outta Denver. Look for Chauncey Billups to be stuck on a team of young guys not competing for a championship like HE wants to, if Melo gets traded.

New Orleans Hornets - their franchise player, Chris Paul was disgruntled and their were talks about trading him because they had rookie Darren Collison to take his place. Instead, they did a four team deal that sent Collison away and brought in Trevor Ariza. Chris Paul seems happy. They also got a new coach, 8th pick in the 2006 draft Joe Alexander, and still have Peja Stojakovic and Emeka Okafor. But look for 2nd year player Marcus Thornton to ball HARD this season! (and for some nice fast break dunks from Chris Paul to Ariza on sportscenter highlights).

Charlotte Bobcats - New owner Michael Jordan in. Signed former 1st round overall pick/bust Kwame Brown, lost their starting point guard Raymond Felton, paving the way for DJ Augustin and new signee Shaun Livingston. Main core that got this team to the playoffs last year is still here with Gerald Wallace, Boris Diaw, and Stephen Jackson. Look for coach Larry Brown to put a lot of pressure and responsibility on these young point guards (Augustin and Livingston) and how they both perform.

Cleveland Cavaliers - They lost LeBron James, Shaq and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. We know that, but what did they do after? NOT MUCH: They drafted Christian Eyenga, traded away Delonte West and Sebastian Telfair and received Ryan Hollins and Ramon Sessions, and signed Joey Graham. They almost got Matt Barnes but he chose the Lakers instead, but he wouldn't have made them that much better, honestly. The reigns of this team are now in the hands of Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison. Anderson Varejao will now start at center. What the Cavs fans have to realize is that this team is better than the year before they got LeBron James. Look for Antawn Jamison and Mo Williams to give it their all this season. They're not primadonnas and will continue to work hard.

San Antonio Spurs - Not too much has changed since last season. Richard Jefferson opted out and then opted back in again (for less money, not his choice). But this is the last year of Tony Parker's contract. The team has youngster George Hill waiting in the wings but this may be the last effort of the Spurs "Big 3" of Ginobili, Parker and Duncan. Look for Brazilian Center Tiago Splitter to turn heads as a starter for the Spurs (and for every ABC broadcast of the Spurs to mention the foreign talent the Spurs always seem to get).

Detroit Pistons - Such a fall from grace, this team won the 2004 championship and was in a game 7 of the 2005 finals. Last summer, everyone went crazy because they did the first major free agent signings of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Things have quieted down as they signed Tracy McGrady this summer who is going to try and reinvent himself. Other than that, not much too look for other than how Tracy McGrady plays. Also look for possible trade situations for Tayshaun Prince's expiring 11 million dollar contract.

Memphis Grizzlies - Big news was giving Rudy Gay max deal money. Zach Randolph will be in the last year of his contract, unless he signs an extension. They signed back up SG Tony Allen from the Celtics which should provide some depth. Other than that, look for some possible growth and an expanded role for second year center, Hasheem Thabeet.

Los Angeles Clippers - Probably the biggest news was the hiring of new head coach, Vinny Del Negro. Blake Griffin will be ready to play this season coming back from knee surgery, and new draft picks Eric Bledsoe and Al Farouq Aminu should help get this team headed in the right direction finally. Look to see how Baron Davis has conditioned himself this off season and if THIS coach actually runs some plays for better-than-his-stats-show Eric Gordon (and how Blake Griffin performs).

Toronto Raptors - Complete Makover - NBA edition. This team lost its franchise player, Chris Bosh, and underachieving recent signee Hedo Turkoglu. They traded for yet-to-do-something-amazing Julian Wright and the Brazilian Blur, Leandro Barbosa. That is it. The team still has Andrea Bargnani and secocond year player DeMar DeRozan, but this team looks headed to the lottery and will rebuild around Andrea Bargnani. Look for Bargnani to break out as probably the only offensive threat on this team.

Oklahoma Thunder - Not too much has changed since the 6 game series with the Lakers. Kevin Durant won the MVP of the FIBA World Champion USA Team (Russell Westbrook also on the team). Durant also signed an extension as Oklahoma avoids a LeBron one hour special spectacle somewhere along the line. They drafted a center, Cole Aldrich, and the core remains intact: Durant, Westbrook, Green, and Harden. Look for Durant to win the MVP this season.

Dallas Mavericks - Biggest stories here were Dirk re-signing for four more years, the re-signing of Brendan Haywood and the trade for Tyson Chandler. Relatively quiet summer move-wise but they'll start the season with a pretty stacked team - Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Dirk, Chandler. Look for Rodrigue Beaubois to have a solid season and for Caron Butler to really make an impact, scoring-wise and defensively.

New Jersey Nets - This team won 13 games last season. They got a new billionaire owner who did his best to get LeBron James, but failed. Now they are trying to trade for Carmelo Anthony, but talks have died down. What do the Nets have FOR SURE? A great young center in Brook Lopez, a solid former all start point guard, Devin Harris, #3 draft pick Derrick Favors, and new signees: Anthony Morrow, Travis Outlaw and Troy Murphy (traded for). Besides looking for news regarding major trades, look for Brook Lopez to perform at an all star level and Terrence Williams to make strides in his game at small forward. And look at Jordan Farmar on a new team!

Golden State Warriors - O. M. G. The Warriors finally got rid of Don Nelson. This is huge and I'm very excited for the Warriors. I could do a whole post on this but to make a long story short: run and gun offense with little regard for defense will sell tickets but it won't win basketball games. Baron Davis and solid defense against Dirk is the main reason the 8th seed Warriors beat the top seed Mavericks in 2007. Out with that offense and hopefully the start of a half court offense implementation will begin. Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis are the stars on this team but watch out for newly acquired David Lee to make his presence felt. I'm excited to see how they use him in this new offense.

Houston Rockets - Yao Ming will be back from his injury that took him out for the entire season. Trevor Ariza is gone, but they have Kevin Martin, Aaron Brooks, Luis Scola and Brad Miller. This team can make the playoffs if Yao Ming stays healthy. This team has a lot to work with though and it might take awhile for the chemistry to set in. That would be the main thing to look for, but also look for back up PG Kyle Lowry to play well. People are really high on him and he's a great defender.

Indiana Pacers - There were a lot of things wrong with this team the last couple seasons. This summer they traded for young point guard Darren Collison, who blossomed in the absence of Chris Paul in New Orleans. There are still a lot of holes in this team, however. Their franchise player is Danny Granger at small forward. Then they have Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Brandon Rush to go around them. Next summer though, they'll have a lot of money to throw at free agents as a lot of their big contracts come off the books. But also, look for possible trades as other teams may want those expiring contracts. Also look to see if Tyler Hansbrough and Roy Hibbert worked on any offensive post moves.

Orlando Magic - Not much noise outta Orlando, but they did sign Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon. But yeah, not too much to talk about here. Look for Rashard Lewis to change back to his natural position, small forward instead of power forward.

Phoenix Suns - Lost Amare Stoudemire to the Knicks, gained Hedo Turkoglu from the Raptors, Josh Childress from Greece and Hakim Warrick to fill in for the loss of Amare. Steve Nash, Jason Richardson and Grant Hill still head this team but look for Robin Lopez to play at a high level and a career year from Turkoglu as he benefits from playing alongside Nash.

Milwaukee Bucks - This team low key did some pretty solid moves this summer. Building around Mr.-I-scored-55-points-in-a-game-and-then-leveled-off Brandon Jennings, they re-signed John Salmons, traded for Corey Maggette and Chris Douglas-Roberts, and signed PF Drew Gooden. Is this Michael Redd's last year in Milwaukee? He won't be able to play until JANUARY and they might not even need him at this point. Andrew Bogut will return from his horrific elbow injury last season. Look for this team to make the playoffs but also look for Redd to be mentioned in many trade rumors, and for Bogut to play at all star level (health permitting).

Minnesota Timberwolves - They signed Darko Milicic and Luke Ridnour! They traded for Michael Beasley! They traded away Al Jefferson (the guy they got in the Kevin Garnett trade)! Looks like they're building around Kevin Love and point guard Johnny Flynn. Oh, and Ricky Rubio is still playing in Spain. Not much going for this team. Lots of question marks but uhhh I guess look for Kevin Love and Johnny Flynn try and learn this triangle offense Kurt Rambis has been implementing.

Philadelphia 76ers - #2 draft pick netted them shooting guard Evan Turner and they traded Sam Dalembert to the Kings for Spencer Hawes. They still have Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, but look for Jrue Holiday to take control of this team as the starting point guard.

Washington Wizards - #1 draft pick hooked em John Wall. They still have gun slinger Gilbert Arenas who has played 13, 2, and 32 games in his last three seasons respectively. They also got Kirk Hinrich from the Bulls. So yes, they are well endowed at the guard position. They re-signed Josh Howard to a 1 year deal and have JaVale McGee at center. They have talent and could possibly make the playoffs but the main thing you wanna look for is how Gilbert Arenas comes back and reinvents himself after his gun incident last year that got him suspended for the entire season.

Utah Jazz - They lost Carlos Booozer and gained Al Jefferson. They also got Raja Bell as they outbid the Lakers for him. Other than that, the main core is still intact. Deron Williams, Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, and Paul Millsap. Speaking of which... Look for Paul Millsap to put up big numbers in the absence of Carlos Boozer. This team got pretty big this offseason, could turn some heads in the playoffs.

Sacramento Kings - They got big man DeMarcus Cousins and traded for Sam Dalembert. Reigning rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans will continue to put this team on his back and the Kings have a nice young core to build around going forward. Look for DeMarcus Cousins to compete for the rookie of the year award and for Sam Dalembert to contribute offensively moreso than he did in Philadelphia.

Portland Trailblazers - Remember Greg Oden? Well just in case he goes down again, the team signed Marcus Camby. They also signed Wesley Matthews who came outta nowhere in Utah last season. Other than that, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge will continue to shoulder the team but they'll have help with Andre Miller and Nic Batum. Look for Greg Oden to hopefully finally put a full season together.

And there you have it. Your cheat sheet to this off-season and a study guide for the season ahead for all the teams. Here's to another season!


Anonymous said...

Dude, if you doubt that new rookies Derrick Caracter and Devin Ebanks will barely get off the bench, that means you think they'll get off the bench a lot.

James Haley said...

Don't I feel dumb! Post edited :)