2009-2010 NBA Preview
by Ryno of Predictem.com
Atlanta Hawks - The Hawks have established themselves as a perennial playoff team over the past two years. They will be running a lot this season and will be trying to score baskets in the open court. The acquisition of Jamal Crawford along with first round draft pick Jeff Teague gives the Hawks another two players who like to run and put points on the board. With players like Al Horford, Josh Smith, Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby on the court at the same time, the Hawks will very tough to defend. Exactly how good the Hawks are this year will depend on their defense. Horford and Smith can rebound and block shots, but the perimeter players will have to step up and play solid defense against opposing guards.
Boston Celtics - The 2008 NBA champions made a big move in the offseason to try and get back to the NBA Finals by signing veteran power forward Rasheed Wallace. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo and Wallace will form the best lineup in the NBA. Any one of those players could dominate on any given night. The key for this team is staying healthy. Last season, Garnett missed much of the season, including the playoffs, and the Celtics weren’t able to match the fire power that they had in 2008. This year’s team could be even better but there is a lot of competition in the Eastern Conference. Two moves they made that may have been just as important as acquiring Wallace were re-signing vital role players Eddie House and Glen Davis.
Charlotte Bobcats - The big news for the Bobcats was the swapping of Emeka Okafor for Tyson Chandler. With Chandler in the lineup, the Bobcats get a couple more inches of height and some extra offense. The Bobcats have shown flashes of brilliance over the past few years, but they haven’t yet reached the playoffs. If this is the year, it will because the young guys develop into solid NBA players. D.J. Augustin will be a second year player and it will be interesting to see how good he can be. Gerald Henderson, the first round pick out of Duke, could be the future star in Charlotte. He could step in right away at the shooting guard spot where the Bobcats desperately need a quality player.
Chicago Bulls - Reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Derrick Rose is one the best young point guards in the NBA. He is already the star of this team and will likely lead them back to the playoffs. Luol Deng missed much of last season with injury problems, but he should be healthy this year and that will be a huge boost at the small forward position. Rose, Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons have enough offensive ability to score points on the perimeter. The big question mark will be down low, where the Bulls have Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, Brad Miller and rookie James Johnson. The four of them must play physical and rebound well for the Bulls to win games.
Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James has a new best friend, and his name is Shaquille O’neal. The new Cavs center gives LeBron a strong scoring option down low. The team was already tough to score points on. Now, their defense will be that much better. Mo Williams proved to be a viable second option last season, but now everyone will have a little less pressure with Shaq around. The Cavs have the full package now with a superstar, a low post threat, a shooter and depth. It will be interesting to see if Delonte West’s offseason troubles affect this team at all.
Dallas Mavericks - The Mavs added more offensive weapons in the offseason with Shawn Marion, Drew Gooden and Tim Thomas. However, they still don’t have much help down low. Erick Dampier is still the only true center on the team. With Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and now Marion, this team is loaded on offense, but as always defense and rebounding will be the key. Even if the Mavs aren’t one of the elite teams this season, they will at least be fun to watch.
Denver Nuggets - The Nuggets proved to be an elite team last season by reaching the Western Conference Finals. And the reason is simply Chauncey Billups. The veteran point guard carried this team and made everyone else on the team better. Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith, Chris Andersen, Kenyon Martin and Nene became not only better players, but better team players because of Billups. There is no reason to doubt that this team will be one of the best in the NBA once again - as long as Billups is there.
Detroit Pistons - While the Nuggets got better by trading Allen Iverson to the Pistons for Chauncey Billups, the Pistons got worse. Now Iverson is gone and the Pistons are re-loading. There will be high expectations for offseason acquisitions Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. They will have to share the ball with established Pistons stars Rodney Stuckey and Richard Hamilton. Ben Wallace is back in Detroit, but he won’t be the same player he was when the Pistons won the championship with him.
Golden State Warriors - As if the Warriors needed another shooter, Stephen Curry was drafted at No. 7 overall and will join Monta Ellis in the backcourt. Ellis wants to be the star of this team, so he could be a little disappointed in his team drafting Curry. But Ellis will have to deal with it and share the ball. Corey Maggette and Stephen Jackson are two more wings with the ability to put points on the board. With Andris Biedrins, Brandan Wright and Ronny Turiaf as their only real inside players, the Warriors will have some size problems but as long as they’re able to keep running up and down the court, it won’t be too much of a problem.
Houston Rockets - With Yao Ming likely to miss the entire season, it’s unlikely that the Rockets will be contenders. But then again, they held their own against the Lakers in the playoffs without Yao or Tracy McGrady, so maybe this team plays better without them. In the playoffs, Aaron Brooks proved to be a star. Despite not having the talent and size, players like Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes, Luis Scola, Shane Battier, Kyle Lowry and Brooks will outwork their opponents. Trevor Ariza joins the squad this season and could be the new starting small forward with McGrady on the down side of his career.
Indiana Pacers - The Pacers have some promising young talent to mesh with their veterans. Tyler Hansbrough is the newest Pacer and should see lots of playing time right away at power forward. Brandon Rush didn’t shine as a rookie last season, but the Pacers need him or someone else to emerge as a quality shooting guard. Danny Granger is the centerpiece of this team and will be the guy with the ball in his hands at the end of games.
Los Angeles Clippers - Blake Griffin hasn’t played an NBA game yet, but he’s already the face of this organization. The No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft will join Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, DeAndre Jordan and Marcus Camby in a deep frontcourt. Eric Gordon proved last year in his rookie season that he has the potential to be a star in this league. If Baron Davis stays healthy, he and Gordon form a nice tandem in the backcourt. This team has the talent to be a playoff team, but the key will be how well all of that talent meshes.
Los Angeles Lakers - The defending NBA champions are back and possibly even stronger. Trevor Ariza is gone, but Ron Artest is now in Los Angeles. The Lakers were good enough to be the best team in the league last year. Now with Artest, there is no limit on how good this team could be. Kobe Bryant is arguably the best player in the league and he finally was able to prove he could win a championship without Shaq. Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom anchor the frontcourt, and if Andrew Bynum is healthy and effective this season he will make the Lakers even better.
Memphis Grizzlies - Are there enough basketballs to go around for Allen Iverson, O.J. Mayo and Rudy Gay? That’s the big question in Memphis. Iverson joins a young, exciting team, but nobody knows how he will react to sharing the ball with these players. It’s already tough enough for Mayo and Gay to get their share of shots every game. Not only do the Grizzlies have those talented offensive players, but they also now have a strong frontcourt. Hasheem Thabeet, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph will rotate in the power forward and center spots.
Miami Heat - The Heat are officially in rebuilding mode. Dwyane Wade is still an NBA superstar, but he doesn’t have much talent to work with. Jermaine O’neal and Udonis Haslem give the Heat a little bit of an inside game. Quentin Richardson made his way around the NBA during the offseason before landing in Miami, but he won’t add too much to the Heat. Daequan Cook, Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley are promising young talents, but the Heat right now aren’t much more than a borderline playoff team.
Milwaukee Bucks - The Bucks won’t be a very good team this season, but they certainly will be exciting. The Bucks have turned into one of the youngest teams in the NBA. Rookie Brandon Jennings will be running the point and he excels in the open court. Jodie Meeks, another rookie, could be a younger version of Michael Redd. Andrew Bogut won’t have much help down low. With Richard Jefferson and Charlie Villanueva gone, Joe Alexander and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will see more playing time.
Minnesota Timberwolves - Ricky Rubio will not be the point guard for the Timberwolves this season, but Jonny Flynn will be. The rookie out of Syracuse will lead a young team that includes of Al Jefferson, Ramon Sessions, Kevin Love and Wayne Ellington. After that, there isn’t much talent on this roster. Jefferson is an elite big man and there are promising young players, but the Timberwolves won’t be winning many games this season.
New Jersey Nets - The Nets have made it clear that this is Devin Harris’s team. Courtney Lee and Rafer Alston were acquired in the offseason from the Magic for Vince Carter, so the Nets have some talent in their backcourt. Chris Douglas-Roberts and rookie Terrence Williams are both young promising wing players. Brook Lopez is the man down low, but he doesn’t have much help.
New Orleans Hornets - For two years, the Hornets looked like perennial championship contenders, but they took a step back last season. Emeka Okafor replaces Tyson Chandler at center, which should give the team some added defense. Chris Paul still has plenty of offensive options to pass to with Peja Stojakovic, David West and James Posey.
New York Knicks - Not many people expect the Knicks to be a playoff team this season. They are rebuilding and waiting for the highly anticipated 2010 free agent class. The Knicks re-signed Nate Robinson and David Lee in the offseason and drafted Arizona power forward Jordan Hill. Wilson Chandler showed the potential to be a quality NBA player. Now, it’s time to see what Danilo Gallinari can do.
Oklahoma City Thunder - The Thunder are slowly building an exciting young team. Kevin Durant is already one of the better players in the NBA. There is no doubt that he is a star. Russell Westbrook has also proved that he is a quality NBA starter at point guard. James Harden, the No. 3 overall draft pick, is the newest member of the Thunder expected to shine. This team doesn’t have much of an inside game, but they are hoping that Serge Ibaka and B.J. Mullens pan out.
Orlando Magic - The Magic took a big step by reaching the NBA Finals before losing to the Lakers. There’s no reason they can’t do it again this season. The loss of Hedo Turkoglu will hurt, but they did add a proven star in Vince Carter. The scariest part of this team is perhaps that Dwight Howard is still improving. Rashard Lewis proved in the playoffs just how good he can be, and Jameer Nelson is coming off an all-star season before getting injured.
Philadelphia 76ers - Despite signing Elton Brand last offseason, the Sixers opted to go young by drafting Jrue Holiday, a freshman from UCLA. They got a quick fix to their lack of 3-point shooting by acquiring Jason Kapono. Andre Iguodala and Brand can still lead this team to the playoffs, but the future of this team is in youngsters Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, Jason Smith, Marreese Speights and Holiday.
Phoenix Suns - Although the Suns aren’t what they used to be, they are still one of the better teams in the Western Conference. If Amar’e Stoudemire stays healthy, he and Steve Nash one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. Other than Jason Richardson, Nash doesn’t have many shooters to pass to on the perimeter. Stoudemire, Robin Lopez and Channing Frye control the inside game, while Grant Hill, Earl Clark and Leandro Barbosa help out Nash and Richardson on the perimeter.
Portland Trail Blazers - A Blazers team that was already extremely deep and talented added point guard Andre Miller and power forward Juwan Howard to address two crucial needs. If Greg Oden can stay healthy and develop into a legitimate NBA center, this team can go deep in the playoffs. Brandon Roy is already a star in this league, while Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum and Jerryd Bayless all have the potential to be high quality players.
Sacramento Kings - In Sacramento, the reins have been handed to Tyreke Evans, the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA Draft. Evans will run the point for this team but also be responsible for scoring some points. He and Kevin Martin form a big, offensive-minded backcourt. Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes are the future of the team down low. Don’t expect many wins from this team this season.
San Antonio Spurs - Just when it looked like the Spurs were close to the end of an era, they added Richard Jefferson and rookie DeJuan Blair and are now looking like championship contenders once again. Tim Duncan and Tony Parker also have the help of fellow veterans Manu Ginobili, Michael Finley, Antonio McDyess and Roger Mason. Some people may say the Spurs are old, but others will call them experienced.
Toronto Raptors - Chris Bosh is still the centerpiece of the Raptors, but they added some help in the offseason with coveted free agent Hedo Turkoglu, who adds to the European feel of this team. DeMar DeRozan was drafted as the future star for Toronto, but he is a raw talent and likely won’t contribute much as a rookie. The Raptors have two quality players in Bosh and Turkoglu, but they will probably be a bottom tier playoff team at best.
Utah Jazz - This team has been on the verge of getting over the hump and making that leap to a championship-level team for a while now. The Utah roster is as deep as any team’s roster in the NBA. Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko lead the way as a talented trio. Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring, Kyle Korver, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur are all key role players.
Washington Wizards - The Wizards struggled last season without the injured Gilbert Arenas. Now that their star player is back, the Wizards are capable of going deep in the playoffs. To assess a void in the backcourt alongside Arenas, the Wizards acquired Randy Foye as well as Mike Miller from the Timberwolves. If Arenas, Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler stay healthy all season long, this team could be one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.