The air is starting to cool outside. The leaves are starting to change colors. Dwayne Wade is appearing on Sportscenter. You realize, fellow roundball-philes, that all of this could possibly add up to only one thing, right?
The NBA will soon return.
I know. I don’t believe it either. But after Mark awoke me from my cryo-pod deep underground in the But The Game Is On bunker (by poking me with a stick), he assures me it is true.
But what mysteries does the hardwood hold for us in this upcoming season? What surprises await us as we follow the bouncing ball? Ever your humble servant, I am here to help prepare you for what you might see when the curtain opens on the strange show that is the Nation Basketball Association.
Instead of the Predictions and Musings column I did last year for each conference, I have decided to delve a little deeper into my previews this year, opting to do my analysis by division. And in honor of Clint Eastwood looking like a crazy person talking to a chair recently, it will be presented in The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly format. We will start with the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division, which I believe will among the most competitive in the league.
So without further ado, let’s get to the meat of this monster.
Hit the jump for the rest of Jordan’s preview…
The Good: Raptors Head Coach Dwayne Casey had this team looking really good in stretches last year, and with the addition of Kyle Lowry, the roster has the potential to make the playoffs if they could attain consistency. With Lowry, Jose Calderon, and John Lucas III all on the roster, the team is insanely deep at point guard. Landry Fields is a good pickup as a role player, and going through camp and getting a full season to build chemistry with Lowry and Calderon could cause his production to see a fairly significant uptick, and until Lin came out of nowhere, the Knicks were known for their mess of a point guard situation. A full offseason under Casey could be very helpful for guys like Aaron Gray, Linas Kleiza, and rookie Jonas Valanciunas. And of course you have Andrea Bargnani, who looked like an All-Star for the first part of the year, defense and all, before running into some trouble. Overall, if a few things go their way, I could see this team picking up a low seed and sneaking into the playoffs.
The Bad: Speaking of Mr. Bargnani, after an electric start to the season, his numerous leg injuries prevented him from establishing himself as a power forward that you could truly build around. If the leg injuries continue to be a problem, Toronto doesn’t really have other big men with the same unique skillset Andrea has, and they will suffer. Last season was the first time in his career that he played less than 65 games though, so there may not be much of a reason for concern. Another possible concern is shooting guard DeMar DeRozan, who has seen his shooting percentages dip every year he has been in the league, and has never shot above 50%. The Raps will need consistent scoring out of DeMar if they hope to be competing for a playoff spot late in the season.
The Ugly: I love Kyle Lowry. But I do have a problem when NBA players have such heated confrontations with their coaches that their team sees fit to trade them. When a point guard, a player who is supposed to be a leader on the court, butts heads with a guy like Kevin McHale as Lowry did, it raises some concerns about what effect he could have on your locker room. Add in the Las Vegas incident where he threw a basketball at a female referee, and those concerns only get worse. I could possibly be overreacting to this, but if Lowry flies off the handle in Toronto, it won’t exactly be without precedent.
Season Prediction: 38-44
The Good : As you have most certainly heard, the Sixers squad underwent a make-over this offseason, bringing in big names Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, as well as some other nice bench pieces like Nick Young, Dorell Wright, and Kwame Brown. The team had performed admirably in the past couple of seasons, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that had likely taken that roster as far as it could go. With Bynum, Brown, and Spencer Hawes, the Sixers have a luxury that few teams in the NBA can claim: depth at center. In a league that boasts few true difference makers at that spot, this will prove extremely valuable. A guard rotation consisting of Wright, Young, Richardson, and Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner may not have much star power, but all can be solid when used properly. And you cannot overstate the performance that Doug Collins has gotten out of numerous rosters in the past, both in Philadelphia and elsewhere. All of this adds up to a team that will likely be competing with the likes of Boston and Indiana for the higher seeds of the Eastern Conference.
The Bad: In exceeding their expectations in the past couple of season, Philadelphia was something of a case study for just how important something like chemistry can be in the NBA. Bringing in a player like Bynum that can be immature at times could very well threaten some of that aw-shucks blue collar demeanor that the Sixers had going for them. And then you have a player like Nick Young, chucker extraordinaire, who hasn’t passed since I was in high school and never met a jump shot he wouldn’t take. Also while there is enough talent here to compete with Boston and Indiana, one has to figure the road through the East goes through Miami.
The Ugly: If Bynum regresses now that he’s left LA, or gets injured and misses numerous games for approximately the twelve billionth time in his career, or flips out on Doug Collins and starts blaring music and shooting threes, then this team will miss all of the sanity and consistency that Andre Iguodala brought them over the years. Also, Philly fans may stone poor Drew to death with batteries, if Doug Collins doesn’t eviscerate him first.
Season Prediction: 45-37
The Good: You know what the thing about this Celtics team? The more I think about them, the more I like them. Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen may not have gotten along, but do you think for a second that Jason Terry and Rondo will not be friends? Can you think of a single person who wouldn’t love Jason Terry? If Jason Terry showed up at your house right now and wanted to hang, would you turn him away? The Celtics also have the potential for huge upside with draft picks Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo. Also the team can look forward to adding Jeff Green to the roster, a player who may not dazzle anyone but is excellent at filling in the holes in many different line ups. At some point Avery Bradley and his tenacious defense will return, and they they picked up Courtney Lee. With Keyon Dooling and Terry that gives them insane depth at guard. Unless this is finally the year that Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce fall off a cliff (and I’m done making that prediction), then this team could very well be a contender.
The Bad: If the last two members of the Big Three do indeed fall off a cliff, then this roster will be relying an awful lot on Rondo and Terry to make things happen, something that you may not want to ask of a point guard whose jumper still isn’t quite there at all times and a shooting guard who lost his hops long ago. If Kevin Garnett in particular goes down the team still has the same old problem of being pretty dangerous along the front line, with Chris Wilcox, Fab, and Jason Collins being some of the only other options you have. So there is potential for this to go badly, but if the team clicks, this team could give the East at large a run for its money.
The Ugly: As of yet, I don’t believe that Jason Terry has gotten any more prophetic tattoos. Which I am still maintaining is what gave the Mavs their superpowers that won them the title two years ago. Don’t argue with me on this. DON’T ARGUE WITH ME ON THIS.
Season Prediction: 52-26
The Good: There were times during the course of last season that it was thought that this team may be able to go blow for blow with Miami if they stayed healthy, and being completely honest, I sort of believed that. When the Knicks played with a sense of cohesiveness and actually ran plays they looked to be as dangerous a team as there is in basketball. The team did lose a certain Asian Sensation, but they did bring in Jason Kidd to provide some veteran leadership. If Kidd’s arrival can provide the stabilizing presence they need and play together, they could look to bottle the spark they found at times last season and really get a fire going. Iman Shumpert’s return will certainly help Tyson Chandler instill the defensive toughness that the team needs to be successful. You still have Steve Novak and his often frightening perimeter shooting. If Amare can stay healthy and find his place in the offense (something he has often struggled with since Melo’s arrival.), and Anthony can use his talents to have more of an impact on both sides of the ball, then they could still be a tough team for anyone.
The Bad: Though a full offseason under coach Mike Woodson may help, do we really expect one of the most iso-prone players in the league and an aging power forward who had his best years under Steve Nash to become complimentary to each other now when they have very seldom shown any indication that they could be such a thing? And while Kidd can bring good things to a team, his best years and his ability to get into the teeth of the defense are well behind him, something that Lin sort of shocked everyone with last year.
The Ugly: If things do go poorly and the Knicks have a prolonged stumble, we have already seen that it won’t be Carmelo Anthony or his ball stopping that gets blamed. If Woodson for a moment believes he is untouchable at the end of that bench, Mike D’Antoni’s mustache has some cautionary words for him. The Knicks coaching job is about as safe as letting Kidd drive you home from the bar.
Season Prediction: 46-36
The Good: For one thing, the herringbone court that the new-look Nets will be playing on is nothing short of smexy. I want to rub my face on it. For another, even though I do think this roster has to prove something, the more I look at it, the more I think the pieces fit well. Deron Williams is still a top flight point guard, obviously, and CJ Watson proved last year in Derrick Rose’s absence that he is a quite capable backup and spot starter if need be. Joe Johnson gets a lot of crap for his iso-heavy ways, but has he hasn’t played with a point guard of Williams’ pedigree since he was in Phoenix. If those two can develop chemistry, the beautiful music they make may sound like one of the most potent backcourts in the league. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries do a sound job of covering up each other’s deficiencies, and at the small forward spot you still have Gerald Wallace. Wallace is 30 now, and not crashing (see what I did there?) quite as hard as he used to, but he still is a good player to round out the starting five. If MarShon Brooks continues the cooking he had last season, the Nets offense may well be a thing to be feared.
The Bad: Brook Lopez is a very talented player, but he is being asked to man the middle on a regular basis, and his defensive liabilities may leave the Nets open to exploitation there. That’s if the Brooky Monster is even on the court. If he isn’t, the team is a little thin along the front, and will be looking to give extended minutes to Reggie Evans (which I will enjoy immensely for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball) and Andray Blatche (which I will enjoy immensely for reasons that have nothing to do with good basketball.).
The Ugly: Andray Blatche Andray Blatche Andray Blatche Keith Bogans running Andray Blatche Andray Blatche Andray Blatche What the HELL is a Mirza Teletovic?
If the season goes badly, the above will be found scribbled in blood in Avery Johnson’s apartment when police arrive to investigate his disappearance.
Season Prediction: 42-40
Jordan Akin hopes you don’t worry too much about the expenses associated with the BTGIO bunker and cryopod. Mark writes it all off on his taxes. You can contact Jordan on Twitter @jakin1013, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.