The Moonball Blog

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Celtic Support Group - First Impressions

After watching the new look Wolves for a few games, I figured I was finally ready to watch some of the newest next-big-thing they call the Boston Celtics. So I invited Shithouse and JLX over for Friday's game v. Wade and the Heat, thinking we could have kind of a support group for the event. But that sounded like a big downer, so last night I found the Celtics v. Cavs game on TV, and decided to just have my support group right here.

As soon as the game started I was surprised to find myself rooting for the Cavs. I am a KG fan for life, but I realized that I didn't want to see Danny Ainge or the people of Boston just get a free pass through the regular season because they made a few trades, and capitalized on the mistakes of the Timberwolves front office. I wanted to see the Cavs give Boston a run for their money. Even thought Cleveland started the season cold, LeBron and Co., didn't disappoint last night, jumping to an early lead before letting the C's creep back for a competitive 2nd half.

It was exciting to watch the big 3 putting it together with the role players, especially Perkins as he keeps growing into himself. I finally went green towards the end, and couldn't believe Ray Ray missed those free throws in the final seconds of regulation.

But an overtime matchup and subsequent Celtics loss was a palatable result for someone who has to watch last year's Boston Celtics lose on a regular basis. Now I realize that KG and Co. will have to battle for everything they get this year. Other teams will be trying hard to knock them off. I think having a team with its share of proven stars is good for the East. I think it will elevate everyone's play (like I felt the Cavs did tonight), which will make the whole league more interesting. Can't wait to see what happens when Boston has a rematch with the Cavs this weekend, and eventually takes the show on the road out West later this season.

And I have to admit, it was also refreshing to watch basketball that felt like it meant something again. I can even dig seeing KG with a clover on his back. I hope that it is a lucky one, and that this is his time.

One other thing I appreciate is that Scot Pollard toned down the hair, and is sporting the retro Bill Waltony leprechaun look that is part of the Celtic tradition. (And he gets bonus points for looking like Tommy A too! As good as the youngest Newton boy's game was this summer on Mt. Tabor, even he and the C's had trouble containing Dwight Howard. Who wouldn't?)

Anyway, I'm on the road to going Green.

Bulls Poetry

Are there reasons not
To soon fire Coach Scott Skiles?
No not in my book

Paxon's mess for sure
Need 8 to be .500
after 20 games

Skiles may find 8th play-
off spot but will lose quickly
Make a statement now

Players are to blame
All are underperforming
Skiles still must leave

Williams the Wrecker

Deron Williams is going straight nuts. I was among the mystified that when Utah selected Williams over Chris Paul. I knew that Illini’s finest was good, but he is now making the case to be the best pg in the game. Dude is so competitive. His offensive game gets deserved headlines. His defense is what is beginning to separate him from the game’s other elite guards.

Sure he just got lit up by Marbury tonight and Baron Davis on opening night, but check these lines from some of top pg versus DWilliams.

TJ Ford (11/14) 13pts, 5r, 8a, 3TOs, 5-17 fg-fga
JKidd (11/19) 2pts, 2r, 8a, 6TOs, 1-9 fg-fga
CPaul (11/23) 15pts, 6r, 6a, 4TOs, 5-12 fg-fga
CBillups (11/25) 15pts, 1r, 6a, 4TOs, 5-14 fg-fga

In these same four games, Williams averaged 18.8pts, 3.5r, 8a, 3 TOs and shot a blistering 58%. Going back to his opening night battle with Baron Davis, in which Baron had 25 pts, 10 assists and five steals: The two met a few games later and Williams held Davis to 11 pts, 1 rebound and 8 assists. Williams went for 30pts, 3 rebounds, 11 assists and 4 steals.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Big Al or LMA?

Cool post from Tom Ziller over at the Fanhouse, asking which young Western Conference big you'd rather have, Aldridge or Al Jeff. Basically, Ziller uses some Hollinger-ology to side with Aldridge. I have to say I agree with him, but not for any of the reasons he puts forth (though I agree with the basic point that Aldridge's inside/outside versatility is impressive - it can have a dark side of turning him into an outside chucker as his career progresses). No, the main reason to bet on Aldridge instead of Al is that one plays for the Trail Blazers, and the other plays for the worst run franchise in the league. If anyone has any doubt on the later, check out Britt's latest.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

This Must Be Heaven: 3 Questions in Week 4

I finally went whole hog and got League Pass. . . the Celtics are just too good this year. Tonight was my first night. Wow. What fun. Ray Allen's buzzer beater was a thing of beauty. He could not hit the side of the barn for most all of the game, and then he drains a game winner like he has done so many times throughout his illustrious career. Mmm, mmm, good.

Beyond the necessity of watching Boston play, I am excited for so much of what is transpiring before are eyes: Orlando's ascension, Miami's demise, San Antonio's usual ass kicking, and Houston's roller coaster in the win-loss column. In all the action in the first four weeks, three questions have emerged for me. The first two are about supremacy in the East and Beyond. The third that hard to grasp concept oft referred to as 'intangibles'.

1) Just how good are the Celtics?

2) Are the Bulls this bad?

3) Is it fair to say that Stephen Jackson is one of the biggest 'gamers' now playing?

Zeke watch

I vote for Meadowlark to replace Isiah.

We need more Moonball blog posts.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Draft Analysis

I did a quick analysis to see how we did. The difference between the draft order and the rank (as of 11/12) tells us how early/late we were in drafting based on performance to date. The High (and Low) Lights:

Player Team Diff Draft Rank Actual Rank
Amare Stoudemire Shithouse Gang -96 13 109
Ben Wallace CelticGreen -82 58 140
Pau Gasol Hello Shooters -78 6 84
Kirk Hinrich Shithouse Gang -73 37 110
Jason Richardson Hello Shooters -72 43 115
Gerald Wallace 15 Angry Rabbis -66 32 98
Nenad Krstic CelticGreen -66 82 148
Nene Hilario Ironwood Flash -64 77 141
Luol Deng CeeWolves -61 28 89
Gilbert Arenas CelticGreen -60 10 70
Sam Cassell CelticGreen 57 130 73
Zydrunas Ilgauskas Huskers 58 94 36
Hedo Turkoglu Shithouse Gang 65 109 44
Earl Watson Knick30 65 168 103
Brendan Haywood JLX 71 146 75
Chris Kaman Shithouse Gang 72 84 12
Damien Wilkins CelticGreen 73 154 81
Cuttino Mobley Hello Shooters 83 163 80
Jason Williams Monkeyshoes 94 153 59
John Salmons Knick30 105 144 39

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Late But Not LEast: The Rest of the 07-08 League Preview

Last few weeks I have been lucky enough to have friends and family in town. . . great fun. . . so I took a little longer than expected to get the Eastern Preview up. The season has well started. But since I already wrote the thing, here is the second half of the League Preview.

For the first time in years, enough of the League's power teams reside the East that this part of the Preview actually has some relevance. Clearly the Celts are a Championship contender. Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Chicago and maybe even Orlando all have a legitimate shot to beat Boston or whoever else in the Conference Finals. New Jersey, Indiana and Washington are all good teams. There is some new excitement in the NBA. Not all of the best reside in the West.

Atlantic Division: Boston Restores Order on the Eastern Seaboard

Central Division: Toughest Top to Bottom in Conference

Southeast Division: The Weakest Squirrel

Western Conference 07-08 Preview: We Ain't Dead Yet

Oh, yeah, you might miss it cause these posts are so damn long, but TV Dave had a nice entry on the new look Wolves. Sorry to bury you Dave.

Behold the (ahem) Present: 07-08 Atlantic Division

The Atlantic Division has got some big dogs with KG, Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Chris Bosh, and Ray Allen.

Boston Celtics

F Paul Pierce F James Posey F Brandon Wallace
F Kevin Garnett F Brian Scalabrine F Glen Davis
C Kendrick Perkins C Leon Powe
G Ray Allen G Tony Allen
G Rajon Rondo G Eddie House G Gabe Pruitt

The arrival of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Boston immediately vault the Celtics to the top of the East. Though they gave up a lot of young talented players, and though the Eastern Conference as a whole is much stronger this season, the level of excellence that both KG and Allen have demonstrated throughout their careers is Hall of Fame stuff. Ditto Paul Pierce. These dudes know what time it is. Though their supporting cast is unproven, the GAP Band are used to working with young players. Their regular season play will be strong. Their post-season play will be stronger.
What can you even say about KG? Every aspect of his game is superlative. His physical gifts are ridiculous, his court sense impeccable, and yet it’s his intensity and quest for greatness that separates him. KG is gonna go freaking nuts this year. Ray Allen is another unbelievable player. Practically the prototype for All Star shooting guard, Allen has labored in obscurity since his heyday in Milwaukee. His pure stroke and aggressive dribble drives make him a perfect compliment to KG and Pierce. As for Paul, he may well have his finest all around year. And all three of these cats want so bad to win it all. The chemistry will be instant.
As for the other Celtics, some folks are going to have seriously elevate their games for team success. But Boston has some good candidates for the job. Point guard is probably the biggest question. Rajon Rondo has superior defensive skills and amazing hands, but in his second year finding consistency will be key. Eddie House is a good scoring third guard, but if Rondo is not effective, the Celtics have a problem. Kendrick Perkins, a highschooler Boston drafted in 2003, will bring great energy and physicality in the pivot. He will thrive alongside with the talented trio. So will the other young bigs off the bench. James Posey and Tony Allen offer solid depth. This is serious team. Assuming the young players fill their roles, the Celtics will play for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

Toronto Raptors

F Jason Kapono F Joey Graham F Maceo Baston
F Chris Bosh F Jorge Garbajosa F Kris Humphries
C Andrea Bargnani C Rasho Nesterovic
G Anthony Parker G Carlos Delfino G Juan Dixon
G T.J. Ford G Jose Calderon

The defending Atlantic champs have gotten little respect for their unheralded barnstorming of the League’s weakest division. Perhaps this makes sense, considering the magnitude of the achievement (some team had to win). Or perhaps it is easy to overlook an unknown quantity. Led by the sensational Chris Bosh, the NBA’s only Canadian franchise receives hardly any airtime stateside. Rumors of their Euro-style and free flowing offense are read but not seen.
Know this: The Young Raptors are for real, and their 07-08 squad is even better than last year’s. Bosh has become a portrait of dominance in the mode of the modern power forward. The ease at which he faces the basket from 18-20 feet is frightening. He patrols the paint on the defensive end, and he is a top shelf rebounder. T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon are the best point guard combo in the League. Both have the ability to maximize their running mates’ offensive efficiency. They spread the ball around, while at the same time keeping Bosh as the focus of their half court sets. The emerging Andrea Bargnani teams with Bosh to lead a deep and experienced group of bigs off the bench. Bargnani is poised to take a major leap forward in his second year. Even if he stumbles, with a motivated Rasho and the heroic Garbajosa behind him, Toronto will be fine. On the perimeter, Toronto has a balance of shot makers and hustle guys. Chemistry runs strong North of the border.
With a juggernaut in Boston, an improved Toronto may not be able to win consecutive Division titles. But assuming that Bosh’s leg troubles are not a big liability and that Bargnani flourishes, the Raps may well being playing in the Conference Finals.

New Jersey

F Richard Jefferson F Bostan Nachbar
F Jason Collins F Josh Boone F Sean Williams
C Nenad Krstic C Jamaal McGloire
G Vince Carter G Antoine Wright
G Jason Kidd G Marcus Williams G Darrell Armstrong

With the 34-year-old Jason Kidd at the helm and the spectacular Vince Carter on the wing, all that stands in the Nets way is their health. Richard Jefferson and Nenad Krstic have the offensive tools to make the Nets a serious threat in the East. Though they will likely keep the scoring challenged Jason Collins as a fifth starter, he sets good picks and stays in the flow of the Nets movement oriented offense. Bostan Nachbar looked great for stretches late last season, and he appears ready to be a solid 6th or 7th man for the Jerse. Second year pg Marcus Williams and the ageless Darrell Armstrong give coach Lawrence Frank an opportunity to limit the 34-year-old Kidd’s minutes. With Jamaal McGloire, Josh Boone and Sean Williams, the Nets even have talented beef off the bench.
But health is a huge thing for these Nets. Krstic is returning from ACL surgery and has just started playing full contact basketball in the last three-four weeks. Marcus Williams is out four more weeks with a broken foot. Jefferson has missed 80 games over the past three seasons. Kidd has already been sidelined by a back problem. . . and did I mention that he is 34 years old?
On the plus side, Vince Carter is playing possibly the best basketball of his storied career. With visions of the Next Mike long ago discarded, VC has found himself a Superstar reborn in the swamps of Jersey. Always an otherworldly offensive player, he has discovered how to explode with in Frank’s offensive scheme. Assuming good health for Kidd, Krstic and Jefferson, Vince makes the Nets a very tough out come Playoff time. If Kidd’s back gives him trouble over the 82, or they lose either of their other primary scorers for 20 plus games, its lights out for NJ.

New York

F Quentin Richardson F Renaldo Balkman F Jared Jefferies
F Zach Randolph F David Lee
C Eddy Curry C Randolph Morris
G Jamal Crawford G Fred Jones G Mardy Collins
G Stephon Marbury G Nate Robinson

Hopelessly over the salary cap and strapped with players earning much more than they are worth, the Knicks opportunities for a serious make-over were quite limited over the summer. To the extent that they were able to move Steve Francis’ albatross contract, gain the also over-paid but highly talented Zach Randolph while only losing young big Channing Frye, NY had a good off-season. Looking at the squad as it stands, however, reveals only continued mediocrity in an improving East. Marbury is clearly on the downside of his career (and perhaps his sanity). Crawford has yet to reach his so-called potential. Much has been said about the redundancy in the Knicks power duo of Z-bo and Eddy Curry on the offensive end. Neither is a facilitator. In order for Zach and Curry to play well together, their teammates need to execute a game plan revolving around the big fellas. With chuckers like Marbury, Crawford and Richardson as likely starters, the road ahead for the New Yorkers looks rocky.
More important to the Knicks fate than finding an offensive flow is their ability to apply any defensive pressure. No one in the Knicks starting five will ever be remembered for their defense. David Lee and Renaldo Balkman are probably their two best defenders. The two young forwards bring an energy and relentlessness that helps any good team. Lee had a knack last season of bringing the best out of Curry, in part because his hustle helped cover for Curry’s lack of hustle.
The Knicks backcourt is highly suspect, starting with Marbury at the point. Without any shot blockers protecting the rim, Steph is going to have to stay in front of his man the majority of possessions--an unlikely prospect to say the least.
The Knicks may be better than last year. Despite their shortcomings, a lot of the guys on this roster are pretty tough-minded. Further, Isiah seems to have them all believing that they are good. At what point does it become clear that what Isiah believes is unrelated to reality? Curry was recently quoted that he knew his shoulder injury wasn’t serious because he was killing Jerome James in practice. Talk about unrelated to reality. Knicks have another bad year.


F Andre Iguodala F Rodney Carney F Thaddeus Young
F Reggie Evans F Jason Smith F Herbert Hill
C Samuel Dalembert C Shavlick Randolph
G Willie Green G Kyle Korver
G Andre Miller G Louis Williams

Do not let that hot finish last year fool you: Philly is gonna stink it up big time in 2007-08. From a young star to a younger supporting cast, Philadelphia is dangerously green in key positions as they embark on the 82. Vets Andre Miller and the already banged up Samuel Dalembert must step up as major leaders, or Philly could drift into irrelevance by the winter holidays.
I am not sold on Andre Iguodala as a featured player in the NBA. True he is incredibly skilled and freakishly athletic. But with his current supporting cast and with opposing defenses trying to keep the ball out of his hands, Iguodala is going to struggle to produce the huge numbers Philly is expecting from him. Miller is the Sixers second best player. An above average point guard entering his early 30’s, he is a skilled distributor, rebounder and scorer. He is not a game changer. Dalembert roots the entire Philadelphia D and is crucial for Philly’s success. But injuries have often been a problem for the 7’0 Haitian. If he goes down, the Sixers will free fall.
Despite the high likelihood of a horrible record, Philly does have some intriguing young talent: Korver is a proven bomber, Willie Green and Louis Williams are explosive third-guard types, and several of their young forwards show promise. Rookie Jason Smith may have even won a starting job while Dalembert heals. Considering the improved East, many good things could happen this season in Philly and the team still fall short of 30 wins.

Central Division: Milwaukee and Indiana are loaded with young veterans entering their prime

Southeast Division: If Washington were for real, they would have this Division in a walk

Behold the (ahem) Present: 07-08 Central Division

The Central Division is home to three teams that could make a run to the Finals


F LeBron James F Sasha Pavlovic F Ira Newbill
F Drew Gooden F Donyell Marshall
C Zydrunas Illgauskas C Cedric Simmons
G Larry Hughes G Shannon Brown
G Daniel Gibson G Damon Jones

I can hardly remember a defending conference champ that has been so overlooked in pre-season rankings. True, winning last year’s East doesn’t say much. More true, the Cavs put forth an all-time dismal showing in the Finals. Most true, without Anderson Varejo, a team with already thin talent got thinner. But here are some more things that are true: LeBron clearly got better over the summer. . . that is scary. Mike Brown has crafted a defensive powerhouse, and defense never gets its due in pre-season prognostications. The core of this team has been together for three years, and continuity can do wonders for team success.
Big Z has been fairly healthy for the past 5 seasons. Although the 7’3 center has seen a dip in production, there is no substitute for skilled size in the NBA; playing against such a massive dude wears people out. The ever-wacky Drew Gooden may only have the sense of a pea, but as he has matured, his focus on defense and rebounding make him very effective. The fragile Larry Hughes is an interesting X-factor for the Cavs. Though he has yet to find his offensive sweet spot playing alongside the King, Hughes is top shelf talent. If he improves this season, the Cavs can weather the loss of Pavlovic. The explosive Daniel Gibson is another unknown entering his second year. More than anyone on the Cavs, his game seems to play off LeBron’s. A year younger than LBJ, Boobie will go places if he keeps stickin that J.
Cleveland will face much stiffer competition this go round the East. The retooled Celtics join the Bulls and Raptors as emerging powers, and Detroit appears poised to make another run for glory. But the reality of LeBron suggests that the Cavs just might be up to the challenge. Kid turns 23 in December. His reign has just begun. The road to the Finals must go through Cleveland.


F Luol Deng F Andres Nocioni F Victor Kryhapa
F Tyrus Thomas F Joe Smith
C Ben Wallace C Joakim Noah C Aaron Gray
G Ben Gordon G Thabo Sefolosha G JamesOn Curry
G Kirk Hinrich G Chris Duhon

Talk about a cohesive unit. The Chicago Bulls are an excellent team featuring a core of players entering their prime who have played together for three seasons or more. Defense is their calling card and combined with sterling guard play, the Bulls are capable of competing with any team in the League. Though their bigs lack offensive talent, the combo of the veteran Ben Wallace and youngens Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah is fearsome on D. Chicago has outstanding depth at forward and in the backcourt. Their major shortcoming--lack of a so-called super star—may be remedied from within with the maturation of Luol Deng and /or Ben Gordon.
So why are the Bulls not my favorite to win the East, or even the Central Division? Because they have been in a holding pattern as burgeoning power for several years now without making a significant post-season run. In the NBA, the proverbial ‘window of opportunity’ can open and close quickly. In the weak East of the last few years, Chicago seemed to be primed for making a deep run, if not a Finals showing. No dice. Now the East has greatly improved, with Cleveland, Boston, Toronto all arguably a step ahead of the Bulls. Chicago has yet to surpass their rivals in Detroit.
Speaking of Detroit, Chicago should take heart in their Superstar-less championship run of 2004. As long as everyone plays their role and one or two guys steps up and play big when their name is called ala Chauncey Billups, the Bulls still have the potential to make a run all the way to June. Or maybe LeBron, Chris Bosh and the GAP Band have already closed the window.


F Tayshaun Prince F Jarvis Hayes
F Antonio McDyess F Jason Maxiell F Amir Johnson
C Rasheed Wallace C Nazr Mohammed
G Richard Hamilton G Rodney Stuckey G Aaron Affalo
G Chauncey Billups G Flip Murray

In the years that followed the 1986 World Title, the Boston Celtics front office made annual pre-season proclamations of added bench depth and young legs to spell the All League workhorses in the starting line-up. Never really happened except when dictated by injuries or foul trouble—and when the bench did play there was a negative impact on the scoreboard. The problem with exceptional players is that they are essentially irreplaceable. Now four seasons removed from their Title run, Detroit’s core of Billups, Sheed, Rip and Prince remains as tight a core as there is in the League, with only rumors of new help from the bench separating them from the middle of the pack in an improved East.
I actually am quite fond of Jason Maxiell and Flip Murray. The former is an under-sized energy rebounder-banger type at power forward. The later a disappointing free agent from 07 that may thrive in 08. Jarvis Hayes is another for real player, with the versatility to back up both Prince and Hamilton. The rookie Stuckey and wild card Amir Johnson could possibly make contributions. But I somehow don’t see this bench help lifting the Pistons back into that rare air of Championship competition.
But more important than the bench is the failure of the Pistons to have found a viable replacement for Ben Wallace since losing him to the Division rival Bulls. Joe Dumars has rightfully been praised for his early front office successes. But considering that three of his talented quartet are nearing the end of their prime years, Joe D’s failure to find the next Big Ben (no diss to McDyess, Webber, etc) puts a ceiling on Detroit’s prospects. Capable of beating any of the East elite, Detroit will not survive the second round.


F Danny Granger F Shawne Williams
F Jermaine O’Neal F Ike Diogu
C Troy Murphy C Jeff Foster C David Harrison
G Mike Dunleavy G Marquis Daniels G Kareem Rush
G Jamaal Tinsley G Travis Diener

Jim O’Brien sorta looks like an elf to me. The pointy ears and nose. The gleam in his eye. Liken to the elf kin, he seems to possess some magical powers when it comes to get guys to play for him. The Celtics team he took to the Eastern Conference Finals in 01 was not good. Antoine was in his prime and of course there was the Extra P. But an aging Kenny Anderson, Tony Battie and Eric Williams as starters? Quality. AI says O’Brien was his favorite pro coach.
Twas for this magic the Pacers brace brought in Lucky Jim: To enchant this group of rag tag Pacers to rally around Jermaine O’Neal and the coach’s game plan. The spell in powerful: You get incredible freedom to jack up shots, especially threes, as long as you bust your ass on defense, execute the defensive schemes to perfection, and then bust your ass on defense more. With personnel like oft disgruntled but ultra talented Jamaal Tinsley, the unproven Danny Granger, the disappointing Dukie Mike Dunleavy and the perimeter oriented big Troy Murphy, O.B. already has players with the skills to excel in his system. Jermaine is matured into one of the dominant defensive bigs in the League. He has a versatile offensive game that will blend well with the spread floor in the half-court sets. All of the other Pacer starters can stroke the three. Jeff Foster and Marquis Daniels bring great defensive energy off the bench.
But before we get to happy about B-Ball in Indiana, let’s remember that virtually this same cast of characters sucked last year. With the exception of O’Neal, the Pacers do not have bona fide star. Tinsley has some tools, but between injuries and seeming lapses of intensity, he is on no one’s short list of top playmakers. Dunleavy and Murphy are proven losers from their Warrior daze. In all likelihood in the tough Central, the Pacers will struggle to win half their games. In the event of Elvin magic, Indiana will be the surprise story of the East by beating out a good Washington or Orlando for the 8 spot.


F Desmond Mason F Bobby Simmons
F Yi Jianlian F Charlie Villanueva
C Andrew Bogut C Dan Gadzuric C Jake Voskuhl
G Michael Redd G Charlie Bell
G Mo Williams G Royal Ivey G Ramon Sessions

Milwaukee is a hard to figure. They have a real good young center in Andrew Bogut, one of the League’s purest scorers in Michael Redd and a fine emerging point guard in Mo Williams. Though Yi Jianlian and Charlie Villanueva represent a certain redundancy, given their relative youth and lack of experience, the competition between the two may be ideal. Desmond Mason and Bobby Simmons are solids vets on the perimeter. Charlie Bell is a prototypical third guard. All these positives, and yet I cannot imagine the Bucks winning more than 35 games.
One of the Bucks challenges is the team composition in terms of experience and veteran leadership. Desmond Mason is the team elder at 30. With the exception of Bobby Simmons, all of the Buck’s ‘vets’ cut their teeth developing alongside one another. And with one another they have finished under .500 every season since 2003-04. Winning more than you lose is uncharted territory for these fellows. Another challenge is going to be the minutes crunch at the two forward positions. The story that Milwaukee promised Yi minutes could come back to haunt the Bucks if Villanueva reacts poorly to his own reduced role. Assuming Simmons can rediscover his game, he and Mason are both going to want to play big minutes.
I like Bogut’s game. I think he is going to have a break out year. Redd’s game is beauty. Williams is damn tough. If Yi can somehow play at a high level in his rookie season, who knows? Maybe Milwaukee could make some noise for a playoff spot. More likely however, the Bucks will simply have more losing streaks than winning ones in a roller coaster season of promise and frustration.

Atlantic Division: Are the high priced Knicks the Division's 4th best team?

Southeast Division: With the end of the Shaq era having arrived, who will step up and grab regular season crown?

Behold the (ahem) Present: 07-08 Southeast Division

The Southeast Division improved the least of any in the League over the offseason.


F Hidayet Turkoglu F Trevor Ariza
F Rashard Lewis F Pat Garrity
C Dwight Howard C Adonal Foyle C James Augustine
G Keith Bogans G Keyon Dooling G J.J. Redick
G Jameer Nelson G Carlos Arroyo

Mickey’s minions may be on to something down in the FLA. Dwight Howard is an unquestioned beast—he has perhaps the most explosive package of size, quickness, strength and agility since Shaq got old. A serious Ned Flanders, Howard is goofy in love with basketball and that means a whole lot of problems for the rest of the League. The addition of Rashard Lewis to the young nucleus of Howard, Jameer Nelson, Hidayet Turkoglu greatly improves Orlando’s talent level. Though overpaid and not quite the rebounder you might expect, Lewis is a great fit. Orlando has turned a corner.
The Magic have a solid bench, including a young trio of shooting guards in Keith Bogans, Keyon Dooling and JJ Redick. Look for all three to cycle through the starting line up. Trevor Ariza is very talented at the forward. Pat Garrity, Adonal Foyle and Carlos Arroyo are established veteran role players.
What Orlando lacks is much experience winning. In an improved East, their quest for the post season will be difficult. But the Southern Division in the weakest squirrel in the conference, and the Magic have a great frontline with Howard, Lewis and Turkoglu. All 6’10 or taller, the will be a defensive menace. The versatility of the forwards matches well with the sheer inside dominance of Howard. Though the Playoffs will be one and done, Orlando wins the Division. We will hear much more from this team in years to come.


F Caron Butler F Dominic McGuire
F Antwan Jamison F Andrae Blantche F Darius Songaila
C Brendan Haywood C Olexsiy Pecherov
G Deshawn Stevenson G Donell Taylor G Nick Young
G Gilbert Arenas G Antonio Daniels

Washington is the team most likely to slip as result of the overall improvement in the conference. Eddie Jordan has a great group of guys as far as putting points on the scoreboard. But it is going to be harder to get in a scoring race and win for the Wiz in this year’s East. They are highly suspect in the paint. Antwan Jamison is one of the best opportunistic scorers, but his ability to influence the game defensively is questionable at best. Brendan Haywood is junior varsity. Caron Butler is sorta a secret beast, but he lacks length.
The strength of the Wizards, of course, is their perimeter play. With Gilbert Arenas leading the charge and Butler and Jamison waiting eagerly on the wings, Washington wrecks havoc on the offensive end. Arenas is brilliant with the ball in his hands. A volume shooter, he automatically puts pressure on the opposing defense just being on the floor. Butler is an outstanding small forward. Rugged inside but with the skills and agility to do serious business from all parts of the floor. DeShawn Stevenson has a sweet stroke and young legs. Antonio Daniels is a solid veteran backing up Arenas at the point.
Washington is going to offer Orlando a good chase for the Division title, but that does not mean they will be sporting a winning record. With Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Toronto, Chicago, New Jersey and Detroit all locks for the Playoffs, Washington is going to be battling the likes of Miami, Indiana, New York and possibly Atlanta for the 8 spot.


F Ricky Davis F Penny Hardaway F Dorell Wright
F Udonis Haslem F Alexander Johnson
C Shaquille O’Neal C Alonzo Mourning C Mark Blount
G Dwyane Wade G Daequan Cook
G Jason Williams G Smush Parker

The Miami Heat are in big trouble. An aging Shaq has become somewhat of a defensive liability and worse yet lost his dominance on the glass. Do everything Dwyane Wade has not yet recovered from last season’s wounds. Until the brought in Ricky Davis, Pat Riley had not made one significant addition to the Heat roster since the Championship. The Heat are in the salary cap log jam they created to get the Daddy and win a ring. Riles mortgaged their future for the present and were rewarded handsomely. Now it is time to pay the piper.
Aside from Wade and Davis, the Heat perimeter play is suspect at best. Jason Williams is on the decline big time. Though Smush Parker has some game, he makes poor decisions. As much as I am rooting for Penny, his comeback seems ill fated. Dorell Wright and Daequan Cook are nowhere near ready for prime time. The Heat got stronger up front with the addition of Mark Blount, but if he really has to play (aka Shaq is missing games) the Heat are screwed anyways.
Wade is obviously one of the best players in the game right now. Practically un-guardable, he has and will carry the entire Heat team to victory. His defense and court savvy are special. An electric shot blocker, superb rebounder, and exceptional distributor, he may be able work a miracle if his buddy the Big Fella has anything left to give. But that is where it all falls apart: For all practical purposes, the days of Shaq the Destroyer are done. The pace of the game around the League has picked up. Many centers are losing weight and many more are facing up from 15 feet rather than posting on the block. Miami will struggle mightily before Wade returns. They will battle back in contention but fall short of the 8 seed.


F Marvin Williams F Josh Childress
F Josh Smith F Al Horford F Shelden Williams
C Zaza Pachulia C Lorenzen Wright
G Joe Johnson G Salim Stoudamire
G Anthony Johnson G Ty Lue G Speedy Claxton G Acie Law

As bad as Atlanta has been so far in the Era of Ownership Uncertainty, the number of young talented players on this roster suggest that things gotta turn around some time soon. Joe Johnson, their high priced ‘star’ is in his prime. Josh Smith has emerged as a wrecking ball of a forward. Marvin Williams and Josh Childress have demonstrated legit NBA tools. Draft pick Al Horford seems of a quick track to Impactville. Aside from the fact that you can argue that all these guys (excluding Horford) are natural small forwards, the Hawks are nicely stocked for the next several seasons.
Their challenge remains that in the NBA that the two most consistently important positions on a team are point guard and center. Point guard is major question mark for the Hawks. Despite having three proven journeymen in Anthony Johnson, Ty Lue and Speedy “except when I am sitting on the bench” Claxton, none of the trio has elevated themselves as a consistent floor leader for the young bunch. Rookie Acie Law seems to have similar tools as Salim Stoudamire, i.e. a lead guard with an eye for scoring—but not the point need in the ATL. Center is a bit of a better situation. Zaza Pachulia is a decent young big, and Horford has already displayed the rugged game necessary to play the pivot despite being a bit short for your ideal center.
Atlanta is part of the story of the improved East. Though 2008 is doubtful to wind up a playoff year for the Hawks, they will escape the realm of basement dwellers and maybe even stay in the post season race until March.


F Gerald Wallace F Jared Dudley
F Walter Hermann F Jermareo Davidson
C Emeka Okafor C Primoz Brezec C Othella Harrington
G Jason Richardson G Matt Carroll
G Ray Felton G Jeff McInnis

The Charlotte Bobcats, like their fellow lovable losers in Atlanta, have acquired a decent young core of talented players. Also like the Hawks, the Bobs have yet to see dividends in the Win-Loss column. The draft day trade that brought in Jason Richardson was intended to anchor Charlotte’s youth movement with an established scorer and veteran. But an injury depleted frontline, rookie coach and an improved East may spoil the party before it begins.
JRich is first rate NBA shooting guard in his prime. His ability to get his own looks, as well as his sheer athleticism, help Charlotte improve upon some of their primary weaknesses. As good a year as Matt Carroll had last year, the Bobcats perimeter play was deeply in need of an upgrade. Whether Richardson meshes with young lead guard Ray Felton remains to be seen. Felton loves the ball in his hands. With his talented backcourt mate, Felton will need to balance his own desire to dominate the ball with the team offensive flow. In other words, if Charlotte’s offense devolves into Felton and Richardson talking turns pounding the ball on the hardwood, the season will get long fast. If Felton can subvert his dribble attack and pick his spots to break down the defense himself, Charlotte may have their best season since entering the League.
As important as the ability of Felton and Richardson to play off one another without excluding their teammates is for the Bobcats, at least of equal importance is an injury free season from Emeka Okafor. Okafor is the key to the Bobcat defense. With the injury to Sean May and the instability in Primoz Brezec home life, Okafor is now carrying the weight of Charlotte’s season on his broad shoulders. Gerald Wallace is another Cat that needs to stay injury free, though if he goes down for his requisite 10-15 games, Charlotte can more reasonably withstand the hit. Look for Charlotte to play well in fits and spurts. If they avoid any 2-8 slides, they could challenge through March for the 8-spot. Regardless, expect a return to Lottery.

Atlantic Division: On the rise after years of misery

Central Division: Can the Pistons make another run, or has the reign of King James already begun

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Wolves Order

Now that the Timberwolves organization and KG are moving on (C.I.P - compete in Peace, dawg) the rest of us left to finish our careers in Minnesota are trying to move on too.

It's been hard to get worked up about so far. The fantasy draft was the only game for me this preseason. Being in Europe. I hadn't seen any Wolves yet this year. But we unexpectedly got last-minute tickets to the season opener at Target Center vs. Denver. Before we got our car towed from in front of the fucking Fine Line, it was a pretty good time. Here's what I saw.

Since the last hope for a championship had taken the edge off, we took our time and got there late. I was pleasantly surprised to find the Wolves up by 10 in the first quarter and Rashad McCants showing up this year. Very cool. The seats in the Target Center were also full enough, even in the upper deck. Apparently, the marketing department was doing their job creatively, enough to make it a scene (at least for now). And it's always fun to see AI. But I don't see Carmella and Co. beating Utah for the division title, even though Denver's supposed to be good.

For the Wolves, even without Foye, there were a bunch of hustling young dudes out there and Denver was feeling the pressure. Gomes was glue, Brewer was disruptive, Craig Smith was bowling people over. McCants had the shooting touch. Even Theo Ratliff was finding new life and doing the Ervin Johnson thing...providing stability in the middle alongside Al Jefferson, who is now putting on the show in lieu of the Big Ticket. No expectations really. No pretentions, no disappointments. Just hooping it up for the crowd. It's the NBA, still alive in Minnesota.

One Al Jefferson move even got me out of my chair. A double pump, then "oh I'll do another pump off the ground and dunk on your head instead" thing. Boom! Now, KG got me out of my seat all the time...but Jefferson had many other solid plays, and this was a start. Plus, he and Ratliff are pretty big on the offensive glass. We had fun, and I will be down for the next home game vs. Orlando tomorrow. It is done.

On a side note, Minnesota can also turn another page -- on former Timberwolf Anthony Peeler. As though rapping KGs chopps for Sucktown in the playoffs a few years back didn't wipe away all those great Peeler "shoulda beat Seattle" memories...there is a new AP in town, people. Adrian Peterson in the backfield, for real!

True Blue and now Purple, rebuilding in the North. Don't forget how he looked going by you...