Friday, December 30, 2011

Warriors Winning with Defense

Boy, it sure is great to be talking basketball again isn't it? It's been almost a year since the Warriors played a relevant game, sure they played through April, but were out of it way earlier than that. This season, things look much different, and it's because of the defense.

After watching the Warriors hold the powerful offensive New York Knicks to just 78 points at Oracle Wednesday night, I've begun to get a feeling that we're going to see a much different Warriors team this season than we've seen in years past. So far, this team doesn't like to run quite as much as the Warrior teams before them did, they'll still run on you if the time is right, but they're not forcing it. That's where the difference is I think with this club, they realize they have some many different skilled players, from Dorrell Wright to Monta and Brandon Rush and everyone in-between. They have confidence in each other's abilities and they look like they've been playing with each other for years, much like that '06/'07 squad did, that this team is drawing so many comparisons to. So far, leading the defensive charge, has been the front-court play of newly signed center Kwame Brown, who's produced 17 boards, 9 points and 4 steals in 39 minutes of play through 3 games. Both he and Biedrins are defending the middle well and shut down Amare Stoudemire. Epke Udoh and Dominic McGuire also deserve some notoriety for the work they've done off the bench. Although it may not show on a stat sheet, Udoh and McGuire have been key defenders on other team's star big-men thus far.

The other quick point I wanted to make about this post, was just about the Brandon Rush/Lou Amundson deal. All I've been saying watching Rush this last week is WOW! I can't think of a more under-the-radar steal of an NBA trade in recent history. Rush is a star 6th man who, granted it's been 3 games, looks like he's going to make a case for 6th man of the year award, no doubt. I almost just did a whole post on this guy's worth so far, that's how much he's meant to them in their 2 victories, but that got me thinking about the defense and the rest of the bench. With Stephen Curry' bum ankle in question, they have a guy in Rush who's more than capable of stepping in and picking up minutes and points while playing excellent D at the 2-guard, while Monta runs the point. I thought Monta did a more than admirable job doing so against New York. It hasn't only been Rush though, while he's been the star, averaging 12 points/4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks/steals per game (like tha new stat I just made up there?) making contributions on both ends, it's been the guys mentioned above as well as new point guard Ishmael Smith. That kid looks like a high-energy spark plug coming off the bench and flying all over the floor. The Warriors have a strong bench this year, like really strong, something that hasn't been stressed as much in years past, and as long as Steph's ankle holds up, this team's in outstanding shape for the shortened 66-game schedule with this depth!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Playoff and Award Predictions

Here is the way we see the 2012 NBA Playoffs shaking out, our final chapter of our crammed in, 2k12 NBA Preview, now on out, purely Warriors stuff!

EASTERN CONFERENCE

First Round

Miami Heat over Atlanta Hawks (4 games)
Chicago Bulls over Pacers (sweep)
NY Knicks over Orlando Magic (5 games)
Philadelphia 76ers over Boston Celtics (5 games)

Semi-Finals

Heat over 76ers (6 games)
Bulls over Knicks (7 games)

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

Heat over Bulls (6 games)
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WESTERN CONFERENCE

First Round

Clippers over Warriors (5 games)
Mavericks over Trail Blazers (4 games)
Memphis Grizzlies over Oklahoma City Thunders (5 games)
LA Lakers over San Antonio Spurs (5 games)

Semi-Finals

Clippers over Grizzlies (6 games)
Mavericks over Lakers (5 games)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

LA Clippers over Dallas Mavericks (7 games)
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NBA CHAMPIONSHIP

Miami Heat over LA Clippers (6 games)

So, basically, the only real upset I see myself picking are the Clippers flying through everyone. I still think Miami is the best in the East, I don't care how much you hate LeBron. If the Lakers can get a Dwight Howard and another solid wing-man to help Metta and Kobe, then they immediately enter the fold. I just don't see anyone beating the determined Miami team this season folks, and remember, this year will favor younger teams and younger legs and Miami is full of 20-somethings, while a lot of the teams in the NBA don't have that luxury.
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2012 NBA AWARDS

Coach of the Year: Mark Jackson, Golden State Warriors
Most Improved Player: Jeff Teague PG, Atlanta Hawks
6th Man of the Year: Andre Miller G, Denver Nuggetts
Defensive Player of the Year: Amare Stoudemire PF, New York Knicks
Rookie of the Year: Kyrie Irving PG, Cleveland Cavaliers
*NBA MVP: Kevin Durrant SF, OKC Thunder*

Durrant was robbed last year for MVP, and I think this year he's going to get back to the 30-32 ppg., 6 boards, 6 assists. Basically a taller version of LeBron with a better shot, but a lesser ball-handling. As for the Coaching award, had to go with MJ, especially after watching him these first two games, he looks like he's going to have the W's in good shape, plus he's a rookie coach so he gets that much more credit. Improved player and 6th man award both go to point guards, Teague is going to be a rock in Atlanta's back court this year I believe, 15 points and 7 assists a night is very possible for the former bench warmer. For Miller, he's going to get 30+ minutes a night and he's going to produce starters numbers, he's shown it already. Defensive player, had to switch it up from Howard, who probably will get it, but Amare does just about as much for his squad on the defensive end, and with all the uncertainty around Howard, I think it's Amare's time. Finally the Rookie of the year, had to go with the obvious choice in Kyrie Irving. He showed why in game one by going just 2-12 from the floor, yet dishing out 7 assists, you can tell dude is going to be a stud. Very John Wall-like.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2012 NBA Preview: Pacific Conference

Well, before I got into my Pacific Conference prediction, I wanted to do a small section for the Warriors win in Chicago. Now this won't be like a normal post dedicated to the W's, but I just wanted to make a few quick points about the win over Chicago before I got into my Pacific Preview.

First off, good to see Steph get back on track, but then to see that injury at the end of the game had me holding my breath. Luckily, it doesn't appear to be too bad, but he is out for Wednesday night's tilt with New York, a game which they really needed his scoring. Look for Brandon Rush to step in at 2 guard with Monta sliding to PG for the night. Both he and Monta had the team outrunning the slower Chicago team and that's what made the Warriors so good back in 2006. Ellis continues to show why this guy really needs to be considered untouchable in any trade scenario. He's going to score and now he's all the sudden rebounding like a small forward and finally handling the ball like a point guard. The Warriors had excellent perimeter defense, and Kwame/Andris/Lee did a bang-up job controlling Boozer and Noah. Brown showed you exactly why the Warriors hired him for the season last night. That's really all I want to say, I gotta do my preview, but if the W's keep up like that, which I think they can since they're young and can handle these back-to-back games, then look out Pacific!
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Pacific Conference

1st Place: Los Angeles Clippers (#1 seed)

Lineup
PG Chris Paul
SG Chauncey Billups
SF Caron Butler
PF Blake Griffin
C DeAndre Jordan
6th: G Mo Williams

The Clippers have overtaken the balance of power in LA and the Pacific with the add of Paul and Billups, who basically fell on their lap when they needed him the most. The Paul/Griffin connection should light it up for years to come and with DeAndre Jordan in there disrupting shots, the veteran influence and scoring from Butler and Billups, you really have something. Look out Western Conference!

2nd Place: Los Angeles Lakers (#4 seed)

Lineup
PG Derek Fischer
SG Kobe Bryant
SF Devin Ebanks
PF Pau Gasol
C Andrew Bynum
6th: F Metta World Peace (aka: Ron Artest)

I just don't like the Lake show's makeup this year, they just lost too much with Lamar and then pissing off their number 2 by publicly trying to trade Gasol in the Howard offers. They're finally finding out what it feels like to strike out on going after players you covet. I just didn't get the Odom deal though, seems like they could have amnestied someone or something to get below the cap. Kobe will still put up 25/5/5, and if they get Howard without giving up everyone, it should improve their chances. They've also needed a new point guard for about 4 seasons now/DFish is not an NBA starting caliber PG. Actually, he's about 2-3 years away from coaching a team I think!

3rd Place: Golden State Warriors (#8 seed)

Lineup:

PG Stephen Curry
SG Monta Ellis
SF Dorell Wright
PF David Lee
C Andris Biedrins
6th: G/F Brandon Rush

No matter how you shuffle the top-2, most publications have the Dubs no higher than 3rd, where they may even have a shot at playoff basketball. So long as Curry/Monta/Lee/Wright stay healthy, they are going to score a ton, and it looks like they got some new defenders in there in Rush and Kwame Brown. Love how they added Rush 3 days before season and he's becoming their 6th man already! Biedrins still showed his Jekkyl and Hyde ways in the first two games, but he does look a lot better overall. I think Brown will push him to stay on his game. The W's are again fun to watch and should win 35+ if they defend decently.

4th Place: Sacramento Kings

Lineup:

PG Tyreke Evans
SG Marcus Thornton
SF John Salmons
PF Chuck Hayes
C DeMarcus Cousins
6th: F J.J. Hickson

I just love the Kings the depth, and I think Jimmer is going to be Jason Williams (remember him) 2.0, the improved version. Evans really should be a 2-guard and they should have Jimmer running point, but Thornton can play too. Their real star though lies in the center of the floor in DeMarcus Cousins though, as I think this guys is the next Al Jefferson, he's that good. The thing with Sac, like with the W's, will be their defense, but also for them, ball-sharing. They have a lot of guys that like to get their shots on their team, even on their bench, so coach Westphal needs to make sure that locker room stays focused on the goal of winning and not individual numbers. If Freddette lights up like he did in preseason though, this could be a sneaky 8th seed candidate!

5th Place: Phoenix Suns

Lineup
PG Steve Nash
SG Jared Dudley
SF Grant Hill
PF Channing Frye
C Marcin Gortat
6th: G/F Shannon Brown

I'm very surprised the Suns haven't dealt away Nash yet, as they are just inches away from landing into full-blown rebuild mode. They have two guys in Hill and Dudley who have no business starting on an NBA team and their PF Frye (granted he had his moments with Nash last season), is one of the worst starting PF's in a PF-rich league. Their brightest young star too, like with Sac, is their young center Gortat. What Phoenix needs to do is concede this 66-game season, deal Nash to LA or some other contending team lacking a real good point guard to give him his final shot at a Championship like Kidd got his in with the Mavs. He's still probably got 2-3 good seasons left in him, so he's running out of time! Give Telfair the chance to be the next Billups!
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Note: That concludes our divisional previews, now we just have our Playoff/Award predictions next and we're done with our "sped through" NBA Previews! With P/A post only taking a small portion, look for the Warriors Rundown to again start running down the Warriors!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dubs Get CP3'd on Opening Night

They kept it close there for a while, really reminding me of the We Believe team back in '07, coming up with big rebounds, and running the floor like mad men. However, in the end Chris Paul showed the Bay Area why the Warriors and every other team in the NBA wanted the point guard running their offense. I just wanted to make a few points, bullet style, about the opener before we finish off our Divisional Previews.

  • Steph Curry did not look like the same player he was last season. The Warriors so-called "Franchise Player" proved again why Monta Ellis is the player to keep in the Dubs back court. He was so badly outplayed by Paul that it was hard to even watch. He ended with just 4 points and 4 assists and if his ankle was the issue, the Warriors are going to be in for a long season. With the quick-paced game schedule, he's not going to have time to really heal, which means it could hamper him all year, or he has to take a two weeks off, which in the 2012 season means like 12 games! It's a tough situation, hopefully he heals quickly.
  • A big reason the W's lost this game though, besides Steph's in-effectiveness and CP3's game-controlling dominance. The Warriors lost the turnover battle, and shot a horrific 39% as a team (23% from 3 pt.). It's not like they were taking bad shots, they just weren't dropping, and that happens some nights. Obviously the defense is ahead of the offense right now and it showed for the Warriors.
  • Couldn't leave today's mini-post without talking about the positives. Andris Biedrins looked lively on the court again, and if Jackson can get 10 points, 8 boards and 3 blocks with no turnovers each night, he'd take it. Also, the W's bench play did help infuse that late 3rd, early 4th comeback. In my first extensive look at Klay Thompson I see a more agressive version of Mike Dunleavy, can handle the ball and shoot, but isn't affraid to get inside and draw contact. Brandon Rush was also a beast off the bench, as I loved the pick-up, knowing the W's needed another veteran wing player, and he showed why with 12 pts., 3 boards, 2 blocks and an assist in 28 minutes. He does everything and can handle small forwards defensively... Finally Ishmael Smith, who I didn't even know made the opening night active roster, lit it up for 7 points in 5 minutes of play from the point. The W's showed they will have scoring off the bench in these three!

Other than that, things went kind of the way I expected. The Clippers are the better team, and even with the new nucleus, seemed to have gelled rather quickly. The Warriors need to shake it off quick with an even tougher Chicago team in Oakland tonight!

2012 NBA Preview: Northwest Conference

1st Place: Oklahoma City Thunder (#3 seed)

Lineup:
PG Russell Westbrook
SG Thabo Sefolosha
SF Kevin Durrant
PF Serge Ibaka
C Kendrick Perkins
6th: G James Harden

Only think I worry about with OKC is their lack of depth, but they're going to score many points and be outstanding low-post defenders vs. teams like San Antonio and the Lakers when they get Bynum back or move for Dwight Howard. Durrant is slowly becoming the leagues best all-around player, take that LeBron, and should carry this team to an easy Northwest win.

2nd Place: Portland Trail Blazers (#7 seed)

Lineup:
PG Raymond Felton
SG Wesley Mathews
SF Gerald Wallace
PF LeMarcus Aldridge
C Marcus Camby
6th: G Jamal Crawford

Many are picking Denver as the 2nd team out of the Northwest, but I like Portland's depth and young talent. I think Aldridge is in for his best season yet without having to share the wealth with Brandon Roy and him no being "The Man". Wallace brings D and O at the SF and Crawford may end up starting at shooting guard. The only worry spot is at center were they're thin after the 37-year old Camby.

3rd Place: Denver Nuggets

Lineup:
PG Ty Lawson
SG Aaron Afflalo
SF Danilo Gallinari
PF Nene Hilario
C Kosta Koufos
6th: G Andre Miller

The Nuggets are deep, with guys like Miller, Rudy Fernandez and Al Harringon lined up on their bench, which suits them well for the shortened season, but I'm just not overly impressed with their starting five. I think Gallinari will be a stud, and Nene will be good for his 14/10, but still not sold on Afflalo as a starting, full-time SF and have never been overly impressed with the under-sized Ty Lawson at point.

4th Place: Utah Jazz

Lineup:
PG Deron Williams
SG Gordon Heyward
SF C.J. Miles
PF Paul Milsap
C Al Jefferson
6th: F Derrick Favors

The Jazz need to figure out a way to get Jefferson most his minutes at PF where he can just dominate and not need to focus on defending 7+ footers too. Still love Williams at point, even though they'll have trouble finding points in the backcourt outside of him. If Miles finally reaches his potential while Heyward and Favors each improve like they can, than Utah will be looking at playoff hopes!

5th Place: Minnesota Timberwolves

Lineup:
PG Ricky Rubio
SG Wes Johnson
SF Michael Beasley
PF Kevin Love
C Darko Milicic
6th: F Derrick Williams

The T-Wolves are lining up talent left and right, but they just can't seem to put the right pieces together. They draft Williams when they have their SF and PF taken care of well into the future (unless Beasley loses favor). Their success in my eyes though, lies with Rubio. If he can give them 12-15 pts. and 6-8 dimes per night, they may be competitive.

Friday, December 23, 2011

2012 NBA Preview: Southwest Conference

On we move to the Western Conference, which has dominated play the last few seasons when it comes to Championships:

Southwest Conference

1st Place: Dallas Mavericks (#2 seed)

Lineup:
PG Jason Kidd
SG Jason Terry
SF Shawn Marrion
PF Dirk Nowitzki
C Brendan Heywood
6th: Lamar Odom

The reigning World Champs lost a huge piece of their puzzle in Tyson Chandler, but also brought in some very nice replacements. Lamar Odom should be a stud off the bench filling in at 3, 4 and 5. They also inked Vince Carter, who could play a similar role to Manu Ginobili's with San Antonio the last few years, but more importantly help them guard bigger 2 guards that give Terry trouble (a la Dwayne Wade). Nowitzki will again be MVP-like, I don't care if it's a short season and he's getting older. He and Kidd just seem to get more refined with age and I expect no different in 2k12. Also loving the re-birth of Shawn Marrion, who's become an impact forward again at age 31. They just need Heywood to revert back to his 2010 version and they'll be just fine!

2nd Place: San Antonio Spurs (#5 seed)

Lineup:
PG Tony Parker
SG Manu Ginobili
SF Richard Jefferson
PF Tim Duncan
C DeJuan Blair
6th: G Gary Neal

I just don't think the Spurs have the depth or youth to keep up in this fast-paced 2012 NBA season when 3-consecutive game nights will be frequent. Still love Parker at point and Ginobili can score with the best of 'em, but Duncan is aging big time and may need to take nights off or only play 20-25 minutes on back-to-back game days now. He won't be nearly as effective. They need Jefferson to step his game up, I think it could happen but he's looked so out of sorts with the Spurs for some reason because the dude can play he's right in his prime! They still have a winning team though, just the short season hurts them more than almost any other team with their biggest star being a guy who needs his rest and minutes limited already. Should hold off up-and-coming Grizz for #2 in Southwest, but they have to be ready for this fast-paced season to stay there.

2nd Place Tie: Memphis Grizzlies (#6 seed)

Lineup:
PG Mike Conley
SG Tony Allen
SF Rudy Gay
PF Zach Randolph
C Marc Gasol
6th G O.J. Mayo

The Grizz have a really, really talented bunch. I believe they'll finish right with San Antonio, who a lot of experts have as division favorites. I just like their starting five as they have a lot of guys who do a lot of different things for them and it showed last spring when they beat those top-seeded Spurs. It wouldn't surprise me the least to see them leapfrog the Spurs in the shortened season. There really isn't a hole anywhere in the lineup and they're all young players. Conley really arrived last season as an NBA top-10 point guard who had a big 2011 postseason and just turned 24. I think Rudy Gay is one of the most underrated players in the NBA cause he plays in Memphis, but he's a much better defending version with Carmelo Anthony's type of offensive skill. He's their MVP, but Randolph (20/12 in '11) and Gasol are nearly as important and don't get nearly enough credit! Gasol was a key restricted FA brought back and for good reason, one of the best young 7-footers in the game needs to get back to his 2009/10 form.

4th Place: Houston Rockets

Lineup:
PG Kyle Lowry
SG Kevin Martin
SF Chase Buddinger
PF Luis Scola
C Jordan Hill
6th: F Patrick Peterson

The Rockets have a team that can put up some points. Martin is one of the best scoring 2-guards in the league and Lowry and Buddinger are each above average scorers for their positions. Luis Scola is a very good defending power forward who's good for about 18 points and 7-8 boards per night, which is a solid output. PG Lowry is one of the more underrated PG's in the NBA today, as I see him averaging about 18 points and 8 assists this year based on how he finished up last season and surrounded by scoring players. Problem with Houston will be their defense and they have questions with their depth and at center where they'll miss Chuck Hayes more than people think. Still should be better than the Chris Paul-less Hornets though.

5th Place: New Orleans Hornets

Lineup:
PG Jarrett Jack
SG Eric Gordon
SF Trevor Ariza
PF Carl Landry
C Emeka Okafor
6th: F/C Chris Kaman

The Hornets sure are a lot better off after losing their superstar than the Cavaliers were a year back when James left town and left them with nothing but an undesirable place to go and play. The Hornets actually built for the future in the Paul trade and I feel they made out very well. I just think they should have made more of an effort to re-sign David West, who didn't find a home until just recently and seemed like he should have returned to the Hornets where he made his career. Landry is a capable fill-in and should provide about 15/7 per night, but not only will they lose some points and rebounds without West, they take a hit in the locker room. They'll be a fun team to watch this year though to see how they adjust to life without CP3 in a tough division and conference!

2012 NBA Preview: Southeast Conference

1st Place: Miami Heat (#1 Seed)

Lineup:
PG Mario Chalmers
SG Dwayne Wade
SF LeBron James
PF Chris Bosh
C Joel Anthony
6th: F Shane Battier

The Heat didn't upgrade their center position or add a good distributor at point guard like they really needed too, but I absolutely love the add of Shane Battier. I could see a lot of lineups with Bosh at Center and Battier covering active PF's (probably wish they had him for Nowitzki). I expect a determined and focused LeBron and D-Wade will be D-Wade, good for 25/5/5. The wild card for me for this team and their championship aspirations lies in Chris Bosh. They need him to be the Toronto Chris Bosh and not the Bosh that showed up in '11. They need 22/10 at least, not 18/8 like they got in last year. That happens and the Heat are going to be tough. Jose Calderon would be a great add for this team!

3rd Place: Orlando Magic (#6 seed)

Lineup:
PG Jameer Nelson
SG Jason Richardson
SF Hedo Turkoglu
PF Ryan Anderson
C Dwight Howard
6th: F/C Glen Davis

If they end up hanging onto Howard, then move them up to 2nd, but even if they do deal Howard, they still should get enough value in return to at least have them in good position this season. If it were for Bynum and Gasol, I'd do that move if I were Orlando, and if they did, they'll be a playoff team. If they keep Howard, I'd put them as the 6th seed and move everyone back one. Love JRich and believe although Nelson isn't great, he's effective. Great example of a good team, but not great.

2nd Place: Atlanta Hawks (#8 seed)

Lineup:
PG Jeff Teague
SG Joe Johnson
SF Marvin Williams
PF Josh Smith
C Al Horford
6th: G/F Tracy McGrady

Only reason I have them ahead of Orlando is because I firmly believe Howard will be dealt before the end of January. Atlanta has a very nice up-and-coming squad with Smith and Horford finally taking that next step in consistency and the do-it-all Joe Johnson running the back-court. As long as Teague shows up like he did in the playoffs last year (reviews have been good), the Hawks will have a nice little squad. Added some veteran scorers to come off the bench, T-Mac and Jerry Stackhouse, to help put up some points. Still could use another big man as some depth though behind Smith and Horford, should have went after Kwame Brown!


4th Place: Washington Wizards

Lineup:
PG John Wall
SG Nick Young
SF Rashard Lewis
PF Andre Blatche
C JaVale McGee
6th: G Jordan Crawford

I don't know why a lot of critics are so hard on the Wizards, but I love their young makeup they have going. Their nucleus of Wall/Young/McGee/Blatche (all 25 or younger), is one of the better young bunches in the league, although they're still a year or 2 away from gelling and adding their final pieces. It would help their chances this season if Lewis could revert to his old days, but I think he's toast, and we could end up seeing Young at SF with Crawford at SG by mid-season. Wall gets all the hype but this McGee kid is amazing, averaging 13 points, 10 boards and 3 blocks over the seasons last 2 months and he's only 23. Team still lacks depth though.

5th Place: Charlotte Bobcats

Lineup:
PG D.J. Augustin
SG Gerald Henderson
SF Corey Maggette
PF Tyrus Thomas
C Boris Diaw
6th: G Kemba Walker

The Bobcats are a team in full re-build mode as they virtually have projects at every position outside of their strong point guard depth. You know your in trouble when the coach of the team is counting on the 33 year-old Corey Maggette to play big minutes and lead this team in scoring. If the 2nd half Gerald Henderson doesn't show up, they should strongly consider using Walker and Augustin together in the back-court, just to get Walker some minutes. They'll certainly be interesting to watch, but not in the normal sense. Should be one of worst teams in NBA.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

2k12 NBA Preview: Central Conference

Just as we did for the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, here is our prediction for the Central:

1st Place: Chicago Bulls
(#2 Seed)

Lineup:
PG Derrick Rose
SG Richard Hamilton
SF Luol Deng
PF Carlos Boozer
C Joakim Noah
6th: G Ronnie Brewer

The Bulls are the clear favorites in the division with the youngest MVP in league history running the point and a surprisingly strong supporting cast. The key for them remains to me lies in the health of their two big men, Boozer and Noah. As long as those guys give the Bulls 70+ solid games, they're going to give the Heat a run for their money in the East!

2nd Place: Indiana Pacers (#7 Seed)

Lineup:
PG Darren Collison
SG Paul George
SF Danny Granger
PF David West
C Roy Hibbert
6th: George Hill

The Pacers have a nice, deep team that should be perfectly suited for the shortened 62-game season. With Tyler Hansborough, Hill and Jeff Foster coming off the bench, all guys who would be starters on a lot of NBA teams right now. They need Danny Granger to be that top-20 NBA talent like he can be though, and not hold back. West was a huge add which really solidified the group, but he has to stay healthy!

3rd Place: Milwaukee Bucks (runner up if any key injury to top-8)

Lineup:
PG Brandon Jennings
SG Stephen Jackson
SF Luc Mbah a Moute
PF Drew Gooden
C Andrew Bogut
6th: Carlos Delfino

The Bucks could have a really good squad if Jennings can improve his shooting and Bogut gives them a full season. Jackson was a big addition and should be among the leagues leading shooting guards and Moute is a monstrous defender with an improving offensive game. They also are very deep, with Delfino, who could even start somewhere, coming off the bench with a healthy Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih backing up at point.


4th Place: Detroit Pistons

Lineup:
PG Brandon Knight
SG Rodney Stuckey
SF Tayshaun Prince
PF Jonas Jerebko
C Greg Monroe
6th: Ben Gordon

This team is actually deeper than most people are giving them credit for, they just don't quite have the credibility and consistency to keep up with the Bucks or Pacers. They're starting five isn't mind-blowing, but I like Stuckey a lot at 2, and Monroe is a vastly improving young big man. We'll see hoe Knight adjusts to NBA life, but he should be fine. It will probably take this team another year or so before they think about contending again though.

5th Place: Cleveland Cavaliers

Lineup
PG Kyrie Irving
SG Anthony Parker
SF Omar Casspi
PF Antawn Jamison
C Anderson Varejo
6th: Daniel Gibson

The Cavs are still in the early stages of the post-James era, but the Irving pick sure did help this franchise. The kid is the real deal and should be in the class of Rose, Paul and Westbrook before long, he's that talented. They still don't have too much outside of him, though Casspi is an underrated defender and Jamison should give them plenty of scoring.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

2k12 NBA Preview: Atlantic Conference

With the NBA set to tip-off in just a couple short days Christmas night, including a Warriors-Kings matchup, we here at the Warriors Rundown will do our annual NBA Preview, predicting each division winner, playoff winners, champion and award winners. Since the NBA lockout and with the holidays, it we won't finish the full predictions until after tip-off on Sunday, but should have them all up before all teams start their seasons!

Atlantic Conference:

First Place: New York Knicks (#3 Seed)

Starting Lineup:
PG Toney Douglas
SG Landry Fields
SF Carmelo Anthony
PF Amare Stoudemire
C Tyson Chandler
6th: G Baron Davis

As you can see, I like the Knicks this year. I think Carmelo and Amare are going to be like a Shaq and Kobe Part 2. They also have one of the best centers in the game in Tyson Chandler to compose by far the best front court in basketball. If Baron Davis comes back soon and healthy, they'll be even that much better. I even think a perfect fit for them would be a guy like Calderon who could distribute the ball to Amare and Carmelo. The one thing this team does lack, is depth. When Baron heals up in January, they'll be fine at guard, but up front, things are very thin after their starting 3. Al Thornton, AK-47 and Chris Douglas-Roberts (if healthy) are all players I cannot believe aren't employed yet and any one or two would be welcome additions to the Knicks depth-chart. With Ny's expectations this year, I think they'll make that necessary move when it comes time!

2nd Place: Boston Celtics (#4 Seed)

Starting Lineup:
PG Rajon Rando
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Jermaine O'neal
6th: F Brandon Bass

The Celtics are just about everyone's pick for the Atlantic conference this year, but in a shortened, back-to-back-to-back game season, I fear the aging Celtics are going to wilt. They'll still make the playoffs, but I think New York, especially if they can get a guy like Calderon in here who can distribute the ball to Amare and Carmelo, are going to end up the team to beat in the shortened season. If this were 2005, the Celtics would be kings of the univers, but in 2o12, they don't have enough youth, outside of Rando who they're shopping for some odd reason, to run with quicker younger teams night after night.

3rd Place: Philadelphia 76ers (#5 Seed)

Starting Lineup
PG Jrue Holiday
SG Jodie Meeks
SF Andre Iguodala
PF Elton Brand
C Spencer Hawes
6th: F Thaddeus Young

Young's so good they had to pay him starters money to keep him around, prompting all the Iguodala trade-talks. As much as Young helps this team off the bench, I think they would have been better off spending that money on Jason Richardson and an upgrade at center. They'd have done that, they'd be challenging the Celtics and Knicks for a playoff spot. Holiday, in my opinion is the 2nd best PG from the 2009's draft behind Steph Curry. They have a lot of talent on this squad and if they put it together, look out Atlantic!

4th Place: New Jersey Nets

Starting Lineup
PG Deron Williams
SG Anthony Morrow
SF Damian Jones
PF Kris Humphries
C Brook Lopez* (out for 2 months)
6th: G MarShon Brooks

The re-signing of Humphries saved their season in a sense. In the dudes last 30 games in 2011, he averaged nearly 15/15 a night. Very similar to former Knick Derek Lee in my opinion. They also have the exciting MarShon Brooks who they drafted in the first round this summer. He should get plenty of time as a 6th man and could overtake Morrow's starting 2-guard spot by mid-season if he plays like he has this pre-season. What they need is a solid wing scorer, a team a guy like Caron Butler would have been a perfect add for.

5th Place: Toronto Raptors

Starting Lineup
PG: Jose Calderon
SG DeMar DeRozan
SF James Johnson
PF Andrea Bargnani
C Amir Johnson
6th: G Jerryd Bayless

The Raptors are a team in full re-build mode and they really should try and pitch Jose Calderon to a team like the LA Lakers who need a point guard badly. Jerryd Bayless is their future there, and they need him, DeRozan and Bargnani all getting valuable time together this season if they want to eventually become contenders. Bargnani needs to start rebounding too, not 5 a night, more like 8-9, he's 7 feet tall and needs to be down low more often.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Opening Night & Christmas around the corner

The Warriors Christmas night match up against the Clipppers just got extremely interesting with the recent additions the Clip Ship has made, mainly Chris Paul. The other team in LA looks like they have a playoff team on paper. They have a stable of point guards in CP3, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams, and up-and-comer Eric Bledsoe. Blake Griffin should continue where he left off as a dominant post player who commands a double team. Caron Butler is coming back from a serious knee injury and has a history of knee issues, but if he can stay healthy he brings tough defense and solid scoring. And DeAndre Jordan will be expected to play a bigger role after inking a big contract and the movement of Chris Kamen.

I am still not ready to hand the game to the Clippers and jump on the band wagon. I am not trying to be a homer, but I don't think this Clippers team will hold up over the fervent pace of the compacted season. I won't say "same old Clippers", but I have to see it before discounting the Clipper Curse.

Enough Clippers talk, let's shift focus on the Warriors. Kwame Brown is not ideal, but one year for $7 million isn't a bad deal. I agree with Trevor when he said the W's avoided a bad signing in DeAndre Jordan. He's a special player, but they would have overpaid to win his services.

I am interested to see some of the Warriors rookies like Klay Thompson, Charles Jenkins, and Jeremy Tyler. Warriors fans are eager to see how Mark Jackson will use the tools he has in his box. This Warriors team still has the thumbprint of Don Nelson, meaning more scorers than stoppers and non-prototypical players for their positions.

Will Dorell Wright continue to be an elite three point shooter? Will Ekpe Udoh emerge as a dominant rim protector? Will Andris Biedrins rebound after a terrible season? Will the Warriors trade Monta Ellis?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Warriors choose Kwame Brown

It was no secret Warriors wanted a center. They bid for Tyson Chandler, went hard after DeAndre Jordan, even enquired about Nene, but in the end, it's Kwame Brown who will be manning center for the GSW's in 2012.

First off, not a huge fan of the signing although for only a year, I do think they got a player comparable to DeAndre Jordan, who would have broken their bank to sign. I don't get the infatuation with Jordan, he can jump and rebound and cause havoc in the middle, but so can Epke Udoh and Brown will bring just that kind of presence if he's motivated and healthy. Not saying I think Brown's a better player than Jordan, just saying that the W's have overpaid their share for mediocre big men already. I'm glad they didn't waste a bunch of money in order to do so and got themselves a defensive presence in Brown. As a player, Kwame had his best seasons since '03/'04 last year with Charlotte and does seem to be maturing into a player who knows his limitations and is effective because of it. He's never lived up to his #1 pick billing, so people will always look upon him with a frown, but he's a Warrior now and he's got my full backing. If the W's get the player who showed up in Charlotte in the 2nd half (10/7 per night), then he'll probably take the starting job from Biedrins without much of a fight. The only other center being possibly discussed was Samuel Dalembert, so Brown doesn't look so bad considering. What surprised me the most upon hearing this signing was that Biedrins was not amnestied, instead they used it on Charlie Bell. Should make for an interesting short preseason!

So, assuming Brown wins the mini-starting competition vs. Biedrins this preseason, the W's lineup looks pretty set, especially since Chris Paul has been dealt and the Warriors down figure to make any more significant moves before opening night. There lineup is a little stronger overall with the addition of Brown, but I'd have liked to seen them beef up their small forward position a bit as well. Without Reggie Williams, they don't really have a true backup to Dorrell Wright unless they go with Klay Thompson, while also using Wright at 4 and Lee at 5, which could be the plan when they run on teams. There aren't really any wing players left now that everyone signed withing a 72 hours of free agency opening, though Yi Jianlan could be a nice fit as wing with quick outside scoring potential off the bench when Wright is out. But the player, or type of wing especially, this team needs most is a defensive hog like an AK-47 (Andrei Kirilinko), though he'd be a pricey 6th man and may not even take on a non-starting role unless he was paid handsomely. Unfortunately though, that's the kind of player the W's need, a tenacious defender who can shut down a Kobe/Durrant guard or the Lebron/Carmelo-type small forward. I'd go 2 years between $15-20 million for AK, but he probably wouldn't come here with all the players they already have. The W's would have to convince him to be like their version of Lamar Odom, coming off the bench and playing his 3-4 positions and still get 30+ minutes a night, just not as a regular starter. Problem is, you'd still have to pay him starter's money, but that's exactly the type of player they need. They've missed that since JRich has been gone. Brown was a nice, logistic signing that improves the team with an emphasis on defense, now lets see them keep building off that solid move!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Warriors Depth Chart/Free Agent Needs

We're about to hit the NBA's mini-offseason/preseason on December 9th when teams can begin to sign free agents, but don't expect the Warriors to be too active in free agency.

Their has been talks throughout the Bay Area media since the lockout ended that the Warriors could potentially be a sleeper for one of the free agent centers on the market. Although this free agent class pales in comparison to those in the past, the one spot where it is deep is with quality centers. That also happens to be the spot where the Warriors have the biggest question mark. Andris Biedrins has been a major disappointment since signing his big contract extension a few years back, and is in danger of possibly becoming a roster causality do to the new amnesty clause. Basically, the W's could axe Andres without having his salary count towards their salary cap, though they'd still be on the hook for the remainder of his contract. It's going to be a tough decision for Larry Riley and Mark Jackson to make, but if they indeed have a shot at landing a Nene or Marc Gasol and getting a skilled post player in here then it's something that has to be done. Biedrins has become a liability on the floor at times, and unless Mark Jackson can bring something out in him that hasn't been there since early '08, then there really is no place on the roster for him. There's a really good piece on the whole Biedrins/Amnesty possibilities up at the Merc's Fast Break, where they also mention Tyson Chandler as a possibility for Golden State. Chandler is supposedly in the Bay Area right now and will be meeting with the Warriors on the first day of free agency, but I'd prefer someone with more offensive upside like Nene or Gasol. Marc Gasol is a little tricky because he's a restricted Free Agent, but after the postseason he had last year (Avg: 16 points, 11 boards, 2.5 assists, 2.5 blocks) and the fact he's just entering his prime makes him very intriguing.

As they sit now, the Warriors don't really have the financial space to add a premiere free agent, so unless they decide to use the Amnesty on Biedrins, they won't really have any wiggle room. Here is their current depth chart as we get ready to hit free agency:

Guards: Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Klay Thompson, Charlie Bell, Jeremy Lin, Charles Jenkins
Forwards: David Lee, Dorrell Wright, Louis Amundson, Reggie Williams
Centers: Andris Biedrins, Epke Udoh, Jeremy Tyler