A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
BASN’s NBA ’08-09 Previews: Part Two
(Teams listed in predicted order of finish).
1. NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: The Hornets are all abuzz after a coming out party in last years grueling seven game Playoff series against the former champion San Antonio Spurs. They were 7-0 during the preseason, so they didn’t take anything for granted. With the addition of two-time champion James Posey in the fold and with Olympian Chris Paul getting better by the minute, don’t be surprised if you see the New Orleans Hornet parading down Bourbon Street this year or next.
KEY ADDITIONS: James Posey KEY LOSSES: Bonzi Wells KEY THOUGHT: Are the Hornets really ready for the Big Time?
PROJECTED RECORD: 61-21.
2. HOUSTON ROCKETS: The Rockets took a huge chance on Ron Artest. Who could blame them? McGrady has Hall-of-Fame talent but has a brittle body. And although gifted athletically, he’s not exactly known for playing much defense. Yao Ming falls into that category also, but he’s not a gifted or fluid athlete and he like McGrady will spend time on the injured list. But, if that dynamic due can play 80 percent of the Rockets games along with Artest and solid forward Shane Battier, there could be trouble brewing in the great state of Texas.
KEY ADDITIONS: Ron Artest, Brent Barry KEY LOSSES: Bobby Jackson KEY THOUGHT: Can this finally be the year that McGrady makes it out of the first round of the Playoffs?
PROJECTED RECORD: 55-27.
3. SAN ANTONIO SPURS: As steady and cool a customer as there is in the basketball biz. The Big Fundamental, Tim Duncan will again lead his team into the land of plenty. The only question is the health of Manu Ginobili and can they overcome the stinging Hornets again? Otherwise like it or no, the Spurs are the class of the west.
KEY ADDITIONS: Roger Mason KEY LOSSES: Brent Barry KEY THOUGHT: The Spurs will be competitive and championship quality for as long as Tim Duncan laces them up.
PROJECTED RECORD: 53-29.
4. DALLAS MAVERICKS: Yes, they have a new coach in Rick Carlisle so they can no longer blame anything on Avery Johnson. Mavs are picked fourth, although they do have talent. The Mavs have virtually a new system but, they still have to learn to play defense. The re-addition of center DeSagana Diop should help matters defensively in the middle.
KEY ADDITIONS: Resigning of DeSagana Diop and a full season of Jason Kidd KEY LOSSES: Avery Johnson KEY THOUGHT: If the Mavs don’t win it all this year, what will Mark Cuban do with the team? And will Kidd start to really show his age?
PROJECTED RECORD: 47-35.
5. MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: Will the Grizz improve enough this season to help save head coach Marc Iavaroni’s gig? Will the team make a Playoff push or stay stuck in perpetual LotteryVille? There’s talent there but there’s also far too many little guards with talent.
KEY ADDITIONS: OJ Mayo, Marc Gasol KEY LOSSES: A full season without Pau KEY THOUGHT: Will Mayo be concerned more about team wins or winning the coveted Rookie of the Year award? And will Marc make the Memphis fans forget about older brother Pau?
PROJECTED RECORD: 26-56.
1. UTAH JAZZ: Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer will have Coach Jerry Sloan and the Utah faithful playing a sweet tune this year again. Unfortunately the tune won’t be in the NBA Finals, but another Division Championship won’t be bad for Boozer, especially in a contract year.
KEY ADDITIONS: Morris Almond for a full year.
KEY LOSSES: None KEY THOUGHT: Will Boozer stay in the cold of Utah or go for the warmth of Miami?
PROJECTED RECORD: 59-23.
2. PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS: The Blazers had the NBA’s second longest winning streak last season at 13. And they still weren’t able to make the Playoffs in the tough Western Conference. Of course they didn’t have Mr. Oden to man the middle, but they will have him this year. And once he learns the ins and outs of the League and gains confidence in his surgically repaired knee, watch out. Brandon Roy is a stud.
KEY ADDITIONS: Greg Oden, Jerryd Bayless KEY LOSSES: James Jones KEY THOUGHT: Will the Blazers feel as if they’ve arrived or will they remain humble and hungry? And can Oden remain injury free?
PROJECTED RECORD: 46-36.
3. DENVER NUGGETS: The Nuggets dumped their best defensive player and rebounder when they shipped Marcus Camby the LA Clippers for a mere second rounder. And this is after they have been blasted out of the first round of the Playoffs for the last umpteen years. Dumping salary is one thing but you have to wonder what the Nuggets are wondering.
KEY ADDITIONS: Renaldo Balkman KEY LOSSES: Marcus Camby KEY THOUGHT: How long before they decide to dump Allen Iverson?
PROJECTED RECORD: 43-39.
4. MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: Now that the ghost of KG is gone and this in now fully Al Jefferson’s squad. He has help however in future star, rookie Kevin Love and sharpshooter, Mike Miller. But, in the talent laden West, the T-Wolves will remain in LotteryVille for the foreseeable future.
KEY ADDITIONS: Mike Miller, Kevin Love KEY LOSSES: Antoine Walker KEY THOUGHT: The Frozen Tundra will be thawed in time, but how long?
PROJECTED RECORD: 20-62.
5. OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: The Sonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. One entity comes from the sky, the other goes up to the sky. Which direction will this team head in? The rabid fans of OKC will be staunchly behind the beloved Thunder but for how long if they’re averaging only 20 wins per season?
KEY ADDITIONS: Joe Smith, Russell Westbrook KEY LOSSES: The City of Seattle KEY THOUGHT: How long before Kevin Durant gets tired of P.J. Carlesimo?
PROJECTED RECORD: 19-63.
1. LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Kobe elected not to have surgery on his precious pinkie. And for good reason because after the Olympics he was informed that it would be newly 12 weeks from surgery to full recovery. If Kobe is out that long, say ‘so long’ to a return to the title series. Coach Phil Jackson has chosen to bring Lamar Odom off the bench. Smart move consider Odom is the most versatile player on the Lakers team.
KEY ADDITIONS The return of big Andrew Bynum and a full season of Trevor Ariza KEY LOSSES: Coby Karl KEY THOUGHT: Can the Lakers make another run with Pau Gasol and PROJECTED RECORD: 57-25.
2. PHOENIX SUNS: Coach Mike D’Antoni is in Gotham and Terry Porter is in Phoenix. However, Nash is still in town and so is a rejuvenated Shaquille O’Neal. But, the Suns are changing their style -concentrating more on defense– in an effort to placate general manager Steve Kerr and fit more into what Shaq is more comfortable with.
KEY ADDITIONS: Shaq at the start of the season KEY LOSSES: The run and stun style of Coach D’Antoni KEY THOUGHT: Can new coach Terry Porter and a full season of Shaq be enough for the Suns to rise in the West?
PROJECTED RECORD: 52-32.
3. GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: They gave Monta Ellis a $66 million contract and he rewards them in bad judgment by riding a moped and crashing and subsequently crushing his ankle to where he may not ever be the same player again. Not a good move to say the least. Not to mention the defection of Baron Davis to his hometown Clippers.
KEY ADDITIONS: Corey Maggette KEY LOSSES: Baron Davis.
KEY THOUGHT: With Al Harrington now wanting out, this could be a very long year for the Warriors.
PROJECTED RECORD: 40-42.
4. LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: The Clippers are a mess as a team and organization. One minute, Elton Brand was staying to team up with Baron Davis; or so Coach Mike Dunleavy thought and had hoped. But, then agents got involved and other messy things happen so Brand ended up with the Sixers in Philly and Davis came home to much of, well, in a word, well, he came home to much caos. They obtained a very grumpy Camby and they also bring in Ricky Davis. Yikes! LotteryVille has a name plate for this organization.
KEY ADDITIONS: Marcus Camby, Ricky Davis, Eric Gordon KEY LOSSES: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette KEY THOUGHT: Will the Clippers ever get it together and keep it that way? And will they ever get over how they mis-treated Elgin Baylor?
PROJECTED RECORD: 37-45.
5. SACRAMENTO KINGS: Coach Reggie Theus and former King Ron Artest had a rocky relationship. Artest is now with the Rockets and this has become guard Kevin Martin’s team. Martin is a star in the making. But, the Kings are in the West and there isn’t too much help now that Artest is gone. The land of the Lottery has a reservation for this squad yet again.
KEY ADDITIONS: Bobby Jackson KEY LOSSES: Ron Artest.
KEY THOUGHT: Will this team truly progress further without Artest?
PROJECTED RECORD: 27-55.
WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPION: NEW ORLEANS.
NBA CHAMPION: BOSTON CELTICS.