By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s NBA ’08-09 Previews: Part One
(Teams listed in predicted order of fnish)
1. BOSTON CELTICS: Coach Glenn “Doc” Rivers will have the Celtics running after the NBA Championship as if they lost it last year in the seventh game at the buzzer. With the Big Three back: Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen and better and healthy, the only thing that can stop the C’s are themselves at this point.
KEY ADDITIONS: Billy Walker KEY LOSSES: James Posey KEY THOUGHT: Can Tony Allen duplicate what Posey did?
PROJECTED RECORD: 60-22.
2. TORONTO RAPTORS: Chris Bosh and the Boys from Canada will be primed to take that next step towards the NBA’s promise land. But, first they have to get out of the first round. Can this be the year that Bosh and head coach Sam Mitchell make it all happen? Well, they should have help in the form of former Indiana Pacer Jermaine O’Neal. If O’Neal can stay healthy and point guard Jose Calderon continues his stupendous play, the Playoffs can get messy.
KEY ADDITIONS: Jermaine O’Neal KEY LOSSES: Rasho Nesterovic KEY THOUGHT: Will Andrea Bargnani ever justify becoming the first overall pick?
PROJECTED RECORD: 51-31
3. PHILADELPHIA 76ers: Coach Maurice Cheeks has a little here to really work with. The addiction of former Clipper Elton Brand to go along with underrated point man Andre Miller and the newly rich Andre Iguodala, the Sixers will be a marked team. If Kareem Rush is able to provide quality outside shooting, something the Sixers sorely lacked in the Playoffs, watch out! .
KEY ADDITIONS: Elton Brand, Marreese Speights, Kareem Rush.
KEY LOSSES: None.
KEY THOUGHT: Will center Samuel Dalemebert ever turn into an All-star?
PROJECTED RECORD: 47-35.
4. NEW YORK KNICKS: The Knicks are about due for some sort of sunshine in this lifetime. Can this be the year? They have a new coach in former Phoenix architect of the run and stun offense, Mike D’Antoni; but they have the same players, save for Chris Duhon and rookie phenom Danilo Gallinari.
KEY ADDITIONS: Donnie Walsh, coach Mike D’Antoni and Chris Duhon.
KEY LOSSES: President and Head Coach Isiah Thomas KEY THOUGHT: Will the Knicks be able to stick together as a team and impose their style onto the Eastern Conference?
PROJECTED RECORD: 37-43.
5. NEW JERSEY NETS: Gone is Jason Kidd and his magical passing, rebounding and overall leadership. Gone are Richard Jefferson and his overall throwback small forward skills. The Nets will be returning only three players from last year’s squad. Seven-foot small forward, Yi Jianlian may be as good as advertised and he will have time to prove himself. And Devin Harris will have the Nets all to himself.
KEY ADDITIONS: Devin Harris, Yi Jianlian, Brook Lopez KEY LOSSES: Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson KEY THOUGHT: If the season goes bad will Vince Carter be the next one to leave?
PROJECTED RECORD: 33-49.
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Now that LeBron James has had his Gold Medal and in the previous season had his his taste of the NBA Finals, his hunger should be at an all time level. That being said, LeBron should be looking at a pretty tight MVP race. Can he win that and overtake the Celtics for Eastern Conference supremacy?
KEY ADDITIONS: Maurice Williams KEY LOSSES: None KEY THOUGHT: Can LeBron pull off the trifecta: Olympic Gold, MVP and NBA Championship?
PROJECTED RECORD: 59-23.
2. DETROIT PISTONS: There’s a new coach in town so there’s no more point the finger at Flip Sanders. The Pistons essentially have the same team with the very same makeup. That means that volatile forward Rasheed Wallace can go off at any time. Can coach Michael Curry handle him?
KEY ADDITIONS: Kwame Brown.
KEY LOSSES: None.
KEY THOUGHT: What happened to the house cleaning that General Manager Joe Dumars promised?
PROJECTED RECORD: 55-27.
3. MILWAUKEE BUCKS: A flyer is being taken out on this one. But, when you have the Cleveland Cavaliers and Detroit Pistons in the same division, the Bucks better see this as a golden opportunity to make it happen. New head coach Scott Skiles and small forward Richard Jefferson will make this team much better. Olympian Michael Redd should feel refreshed knowing that he has help in town.
KEY ADDITIONS: Coach Scott Skiles, Richard Jefferson KEY LOSSES: Maurice Williams, Yi Jianlian, Desmond Mason KEY THOUGHT: Can promising point guard, T.J. Ford return to form?
PROJECTED RECORD: 38-44.
4. INDIANA PACERS: The Pacers had a great run in the 90s, but those days are long gone now. The departure of Jermaine O’Neal for T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic is all one needs to know that this team is in full rebuilding mode. Welcome to LotteryVille boys.
KEY ADDITIONS: T.J. Ford and Rasho Nesterovic KEY LOSSES: Jermaine O’Neal KEY THOUGHT: Can Larry Legend replace Donnie Walsh and have the Pacers respectable once again?
PROJECTED RECORD: 30-52.
5. CHICAGO BULLS: This team is becoming a mess before our very eyes. This team could’ve had Knick coach Mike D’Antoni and went hard after Doug Collins only to settle for the non-experienced Vinny Del Negro. Sure they won the first pick in the draft, Derrick Rose, but did they really need another guard to go with all that they have now? This could be a long year in Chi-Town.
KEY ADDITIONS: Derrick Rose KEY LOSSES: Chris Duhon KEY THOUGHT: Will they trade Ben Gordon to the Knicks for center Eddy Curry?
PROJECTED RECORD: 29-53.
1. ORLANDO MAGIC: Superman aka Dwight Howard, the super Olympian will be ready to take another leap of faith and go deeper into the Playoffs. He has help in the form of Rashard Lewis who will be much more comfy and cozy in the Magic offense and should look to be a little more selfish as he’s a delightful offensive player.
KEY ADDITIONS: Anthony Johnson.
KEY LOSSES: Carlos Arroyo, Keyon Dooling KEY THOUGHT: Will this be the year the Magic dethrone the Celtics?
PROJECTED RECORD: 51-31.
2. ATLANTA HAWKS: Don’t look now but the South is about to rise again! Yes, the Atlanta Hawks led by athletic freak Josh Smith and Joe Johnson will have the Hawks doing the do, this year. If they stay healthy there’s no reason this team isn’t within the fifth or sixth spot in Playoff positioning.
KEY ADDITIONS: Ronald Murray KEY LOSSES: Josh Childress KEY THOUGHT: Will this team let their fans down and let up after a near heroic Playoff series against the Celtics? And will Mike Bibby stay healthy in his contract year?
PROJECTED RECORD: 41-41.
3. MIAMI HEAT: The Bottom three teams in this division will be in essence ‘fish’ food for the rest of the League. The Heat have a new coach in Erik Spoelstra and a healthy Dwayne Wade and rookie stud and star in the making Michael Beasley. But, they also have 3 guys that play the same position in: Beasley, Shawn Marion and Udonis Haslem
KEY ADDITIONS: Michael Beasley KEY LOSSES: Jason Williams KEY THOUGHT: Will Riley return to the bench again if the Heat start slow?
PROJECTED RECORD: 34-48.
4. WASHINGTON WIZARDS: Don’t laugh. I had to pick the Wizards here; they’re injury riddled and they cannot score. Gilbert Arenas is out until probably near the All-star break and by that time this team could very well be out of the Playoff hunt. The injury to center Brendan Haywood for 4 to 6 months won’t help matters much either.
KEY ADDITIONS: Juan Dixon and the return of Etan Thomas KEY LOSSES: None KEY THOUGHT: Will the fans and front office cut good guy and great coach Eddie Jordan some slack?
PROJECTED RECORD: 33-47.
5. CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: The Larry Brown honeymoon will last all of one week. What, it’s over already? Why? Because Coach Brown falls in and out of love with his players like the weather changes in Texas. Go to Texas in April and May and see for yourself. Word is neither GM Michael Jordan nor team owner are as passionate about their duties as they should be and the overall product is suffering. For a new franchise they’re already working on their third coach. That’s not good. Injuries to key player’s hasn’t helped: Sean May, Emeka Okafor and Adam Morrison.
KEY ADDITIONS: Larry Brown and the return of Morrison KEY LOSSES: NONE KEY THOUGHT: Bob Johnson being the first African-American owner of a major sports franchise will vie to instill pride and passion to Charlotte.
PROJECTED RECORD: 25-57.
EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION: BOSTON CELTICS.
Next: The Western Conference.