Friday, October 20, 2006

NBA Preview

The NBA season is nearly here. As all 6 (has it jumped to 7? I think it has) of our readers know, I love predicting things, especially when it comes to sports. However, given my propensity to completely fuck up my sports forecasting, I invited two of my close friends to help me out. They very kindly agreed, and so we divided the NBA's six divisions equally among the three of us.

Here then is fiverupees' NBA preview. Nikhil Lalwani's contributions are in orange. This is because in college, Nikhil used to wear the same orange t-shirt every weekend. He also happens to be Indian, and since one-third of the Indian flag is orange, I thought the symbolism might resonate with our readers. Zeyd Sheikh's contributions are in red. This is because red is the colour of anger, and both Zeyd and I were very angry with what happened this summer on Pakistan's tour of England. We thought at the time that it was a complete and utter disaster, and things couldn't possibly get worse. Little did we know.

Actually, I just chose orange and red because they show up nicely on our background. Onwards we march.



1. Phoenix Suns

With Amare back, the question for this team seems to be: can they win it all? And the answer is: no, they cannot. Don’t get me wrong, they’re going to challenge Dallas and San Antonio all year for home-court in the playoffs. They might even get home-court in the playoffs. But there’s just something about this team that strikes me as “not a championship winner”. Maybe it’s the fact that Nash is due a serious injury, given his age, his style of play and his injury history. Maybe it’s the fact that they’re going to have totally revamp their style of play for the second time in 2 seasons, this time working Amare back in. Maybe it’s the fact that, when it comes down to it, they still don’t have anyone to stop either Dirk or Tim Duncan in the last 2 minutes of a playoff game (no Kurt Thomas does not count). Or maybe it’s just that the whole “the 80s Lakers will be the last running team to ever win a title” theory is actually true. Hey, at least they’re fun to watch!

2. L.A. Clippers

Wow, what a season these guys had, huh? I don’t think anyone foresaw Elton Brand becoming a legitimate MVP candidate or Sam Cassell displaying his 2004 Minnesota form. As Dunleavy said in the playoffs, they can beat you in different ways: they can play fast, they can play slow, they can run and shoot threes, they can throw it in the post to Brand. Plus, I love their trio of wing players (Mobley, Maggette and Quinton Ross). You just have to wonder, though, if they’ve reached their ceiling. I mean, do you really think they’re better than any of Dallas, San Antonio or Phoenix? Given that the answer to that question is a resounding “no”, how are they going to get to the conference finals, or beyond? Right, they’re not.

3. L.A. Lakers

There are very few people in the world I hate more than Kobe Bryant, but even I have to admit some of the stuff he did last season was somewhat unreal. And there seems to be a great deal of positive energy around this team: they think that the Radmanovic signing was big for them (it wasn’t that big) and that Kwame is ready to step up and be a real force this season (uh, no) and that the Phoenix series will stand them in good stead this year (I guess). But when it comes down to it, with the West as loaded as it is, they’re going to be battling for a 6/7/8 spot, if that. Which serves Kobe right for being a prick.

4. Golden State Warriors

So Baron Davis says he needs to be more selfish this year. I don’t think there’s a comedian in the world who can add a punch line to that one, so I won’t even bother trying. The big story with the Warriors is, of course, the return of Don Nelson to the sidelines as coach, who says he wants to institute a running game and play small-ball. Which guarantees that at least they’ll be more interesting to watch. But a playoff spot? Forget about it. This is an underwhelming team with been-there-seen-that talent. Baron, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy do not add up to a playoff team. Not in the West. Not this year.

5. Sacramento Kings

They lost probably their best playoff player (Bonzi). The guys fighting for the starting power forward job are fighting in every sense of the word (Shareef and Kenny Thomas). And their leader is a completely deranged lunatic (do I need to say?). More fun than trying to figure this team’s prospects out is trying to figure out what would happen if it doesn’t win as many games as Ron Ron thinks it should. Would he “accidentally” stab a referee? Spit in a teammate’s face, then apologize and say he only meant to spit at the coach? Perhaps he’d record an album and hold the PA guy’s family hostage unless he played his songs before, during and at the end of each game. For the record, I’d like to state that I think Artest is a fantastic player, just great to watch when he’s on. But that doesn’t make him any less crazy. And when your best player is crazy, and I mean literally crazy, it’s only a matter of time before something seriously bad happens.


1. Utah Jazz

First time back to the postseason after the end of the Stockton-Malone era, and they deserve it. All they need to do is stay healthy (not helped by Fisher falling in his first preseason game for the Jazz and breaking his collarbone – nice). They have a great frontline and soon-to-be-great PG. The plan basically is to play Boozer at a more anchored 5, let Okur get on the perimeter a little at the 4 spot, have Kirilenko running around wreaking havoc as he is wont to do, find a shooting guard – come on Ronnie Brewer (please be good, please be good…pretty please), and have Deron Williams run the point (he’s going to be really good, maybe never Chris Paul brilliant, but definitely an All Star). The bench is deep – Fisher, Harping, Collins, maybe even Araujo – you never know. I can’t wait to watch these guys – Nov. 8th at the Meadowlands, they should be entertaining.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves

I mulled over this one for quite a while, and couldn’t decide between the Wolves and the Jazz, and it may have been the fan in me that finally picked the latter [Ahsan’s note: you think?]. However, that should take nothing away from this team and their re-energized superstar. They drafted a really good guard who should have an impact right away; they acquired a score-first PG not scared of taking big shots – exactly the kind of player KG needs to play with – in Mike James (or Cassell Lite, whichever you prefer); Ricky Davis is going to do his thing; Hassell will do his (defensively); Eddie Griffin is not in prison; Troy Hudson is finally healthy; and the NBA is embracing a quicker, smaller kind of basketball that should help the Wolves, as it lets them play KG at a mobile 5 and have 4 guards running around on the perimeter, slashing and shooting. I think they make the playoffs.

3. Denver Nuggets

This team is primed for an implosion. Reasons listed below:

  1. Kenyon Martin and George Karl don’t like each other. Karl has a history of crap like this, and it never ends well. Just ask Cassell or Payton. Martin’s also got two bum knees and an $80 million dollar contract – all he does now, is make Rod Thorn look good.
  2. Marcus Camby has played over 30mpg in the last 3 seasons, with at least 55 games a season. He’s going to suffer some sort of season ending injury 25 games in. Write it down.
  3. Andre Miller can’t shoot. Earl Boykins is 5’5”.
  4. J.R. Smith is their starting shooting guard. He couldn’t get along with Byron Scott and you’re telling me Karl is going to be okay with this guy? 15 games and he’s in the doghouse. I like Dermarr Johnson though – feel good story and everything. On a somewhat related note – I hope Jay Williams gets to play in the NBA again someday.
  5. I’m pretty sure no one’s hyping Melo-Lebron as the next Magic-Bird. Lebron laid that to rest last season.

I don’t like Melo – not his game, his attitude, his DVD (no snitching!), his hairstyle, or even his girlfriend. And while he’s apparently worked his ass off this off-season and looks like a better player (as seen at the World Championships, where incidentally, Darko looked pretty good too), he’s still, at best, the third best player from the draft with a drop to fourth very possible (watch Bosh this year, he’s going to be really, really good).

4. Seattle Supersonics

Have a better chance of being in Oklahoma City next year than making the playoffs. Pretty much the same team as last year with a couple of marginal improvements – signed Wilcox to a 3-year contract (he came over in a midseason trade for the wildly overrated and quite useless, Vladimir Radmanovich), and Nick Collison is healthy. When one of the top two things to look forward to for your team is having Nick Collison healthy, you should probably focus on other sports – the Seahawks are Superbowl contenders, no? [Ahsan’s note: I don’t know; American football is for chootias]

5. Portland Trailblazers

Not much to say about these guys – they’re clearly rebuilding. Drafted a nice inside-outside combo in Brandon Roy (favorite for Rookie of the year) and Lamarcus Aldridge. Unfortunately, Darius Miles and Zach Randolph are still with the team, and may stunt Aldridge’s growth – by their mere presence, even if they’re not taking playing time away from him. The sad thing about this team is that I don’t think they’ll be very fun to watch either – depressing all around.


1. Dallas Mavericks

The Mavericks are coming off an historic season where Avery Johnson won the award for Coach of the Year in his first full season as a head coach in the NBA. The Mavericks lost in the NBA Finals to the Miami Heat in a tightly contested series which saw Dallas take the first two games before losing four straight and with it all hopes of a first NBA championship. In the hope of going one step further, the Mavs had a busy off-season addressing various needs and concerns, netting them Anthony Johnson, Devean George and Greg Buckner. With an ambitious management led by the effervescent Mark Cuban and a talented roster epitomized by Dirk Nowitzki, look for the Mavericks to be a serious title contender.

2. San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs had the best record in the West last season at 63-19 and looked good to defend their championship before losing in a classic see-saw, seven-game, second-round, series versus the Dallas Mavericks. Head coach Greg Popovich immediately began to form plans in order to reclaim their championship and despite losing centers Nazr Mohammad and Rasho Nesterovitch, the Spurs still have a very strong core in Duncan, Parker, Ginobli, Finley, Horry and Barry and their chemistry and collective talent will continue to make San Antonio one of the best teams in the league.

3. Houston Rockets

Houston entered the 05-06 season amid great hype and expectation and they were considered as one of the true contenders for the title. The result was ugly: Injuries to Mcgrady and Ming reduced them to 31 games combined and a team record of 34-48; a personal low for head coach Jeff Van Gundy in a complete season. Heading into the 06-07 season, there is equal, if not more hype than last year and the Rockets have every reason to be excited; they made several moves to get better with the trade for Shane Battier and the signing of Bonzi Wells as the two stand-outs. If the Rockets can manage to keep their key players injury-free there is no reason why they can’t be a true title contender. For that reason I see them as being a real threat to their main division rivals, the Spurs and the Mavs, and I have them finishing third in the Southwest.

4. New Orleans Hornets

With the signings of Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson as well as the trade for Tyson Chandler which saw P.J Brown and J.R. Smith go to Chicago, the New Orleans Hornets have substantially upgraded from last year and on paper look like a team to be reckoned with. The development of Chris Paul will be imperative to the team’s progress throughout the season and he will be the engine that runs the team. Head coach Byron Scott manufactured a 20 win turnaround from his first season with the Hornets and he will be looking to make similar progress this season. The Hornets created a buzz last year and that tune continued to hum in the off-season, making them a team to look out for.

5. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies had a strong season in 05-06 with a record of 49-33 and a berth in the NBA playoffs when they ran into a rampant Dallas Mavericks team who swept them with the minimum of fuss. Memphis was strangely quiet in the off-season with their only move consisting of trading forward Shane Battier for forwards Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift from their division rivals, the Houston Rockets. With their star center Pau Gasol sidelined for the first few months of the season, the Grizzlies will be hard-pressed to compete with the rest of the teams in their division; a division which is the most competitive in the West and could possibly be the most competitive in the league. I can only see the Grizzlies finishing last in the Southwest.



1. New Jersey Nets

I was going to be stupid and put Toronto as my prospective Atlantic winner, but then I realized that would have less to do with my appraisal of the Raptors and more to do with my hatred for the Nets. I do think Jersey is poised for a slide though; Kidd’s a year older (will be 34 in March), Vince is still a prick (and the prick can opt out of his contract at the end of this season), Nachbar completely disappeared in the playoffs and Richard Jefferson still has too squeaky a voice for me to take him seriously. Just as they’ve done the last two years, NJ will win this division by default (everyone else sucks too much) and then whimper out of the playoffs, as teams shut down their running game and make Jersey beat them with Kidd hoisting threes or Vince throwing up fade-aways. And we know that won’t end well for them.

2. Toronto Raptors

This team is my sleeper in the East. I’m telling you, they’re poised for a breakthrough season. The two new European bigs will help (Bargnani and Garbajosa) and Bosh is ready to take the next step. They’re going to be a mix-and-match type team – they’ll be able to run now that they traded for T.J. Ford and will also be able to control the paint with their frontline. If you don’t want to believe me, that’s fine. My record on predictions certainly doesn’t warrant any confidence. But if they’re challenging NJ for the division in April, you’ll know who to call Nostradamus. (Disclaimer: all bets are off if Sam Mitchell, at any point during the season, has a Sam Mitchell moment).

3. Boston Celtics

Poor Paul Pierce (what do you think of my alliteration?). He signed a three-year extension this summer for something like $60 million. But other than the money, why would he choose to stay with the Celtics? The young guys (Tony Allen, Al Jefferson, Kendrick Perkins) didn’t improve as much as the team hoped they would, Gerald Green didn’t live up to the hype and Wally was Wally. Plus, they signed Michael friggin Olowokandi, which can never be a good thing. There are 2 x-factors on this team, however: Sebastian Telfair and Rajon Rondo. Telfair just looked like he needed to get out of Portland and their cancer-like atmosphere. He’ll enjoy playing for Doc Rivers (the ultimate player’s coach) a lot more than he did for the Blazers. As for Rondo? I’ve never seen him, but Bill Simmons (one of my favourite columnists) rates him highly. So I’ll take his word for it.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Every year, AI sounds like he’s seriously pumped for the season. Every year, his preseason interviews are filled with quotes like “Once you’re in a 7-game series, anything can happen” and “I just want us to play hard, and leave everything out on the floor”. This year’s press conference (yes, I downloaded it. Shut up, Nikhil) was so depressing I don’t know what to tell you. He sounds like he has absolutely no idea what else he can do. What’s sad about this is that Philly has absolutely wasted the 2 finest seasons of AI’s career. 2 years ago, he averaged 31 and 8 as Philly ran into Detroit in the first round. Last year, he averaged 33 and 7.5 and they didn’t even get to the goddamn playoffs. 33 and 7.5! No one batted an eyelid, however, because his team sucked so bad. If Webber buys someone else’s knees in the limbs-market, if Igoudala develops a consistent jumpshot, if Willie Green contributes significantly, and if Dalembert can somehow avoid picking up a foul every 3 minutes he plays, Philly will push 50 wins. Which basically means pencil them in for 38. And you have absolutely no idea how difficult it was for me to write that last sentence.

5. New York Knicks

Well, everyone seems to agree on one thing: they can’t be worse than last year. And even I subscribe to that philosophy; I just don’t get carried away with it. Really, other than the coaching change, what is so different about this team? And since when is Isiah Thomas considered a Gregg Popovich as far as coaching ability is concerned? In their euphoria over getting rid of Larry Brown, has every Knicks fan forgotten that Isiah’s teams consistently underachieved in Indiana? The atmosphere and chemistry on this team will be much better. The team itself won’t be. 35 wins, tops.


1. Miami Heat

They won last year, and everyone’s back.

2. Orlando Magic

My favourite team in the East, and no, this preview is not biased in any way. Jameer is going to get a whole year to run the point, with no poisonous Stevie Francis to ruin team chemistry. Dwight Howard is going to average 20 and 10 – at least. They have a decently deep bench (by East standards at least) – Arroyo, Ariza, Turkoglu, Bogans and Battie. But the TWO MAIN REASONS the Magic WILL make the playoffs:

(1) Darko – the human victory cigar is finally getting his shot, playing next to Howard will make it really easy for him to get offensive rebounds, block from the weak side, and get him lots of easy 12-15 footers; their inside-outside game is going to be great.

(2) Grant Hill is back. Trust me he’s back. 60-75 games, 17, 5 and 4. More importantly, veteran leadership, playoff experience (somewhat), locker room presence, and all round nice guy. No potentially fatal infections or sports hernia or ankle injury or ripped calf (I could go on and on and on). If he gets hurt, for whatever reason, then I will KNOW there is no God (currently I just suspect there isn’t).
One reason to worry – J.J. Reddick: stop drinking and driving, fool.

3. Washington Wizards

While Gilbert may be new favourite player simply because he’s rarifying the air in house to build stamina, and he’s going to have a phenomenal season (30, 6 and 5), the Wizards did nothing to get better. In fact they lost Jared Jeffries (although this will probably be offset by Jarvin Hayes’ return from injury).Unfortunately for them, a few of the teams they finished ahead of last year got a lot better, Chicago and Orlando to name two. Do I think they’ll make the playoffs? Probably, but not higher than the 8th seed.

4. Charlotte Bobcats

Marginally beat out Atlanta for a few reasons, but mainly because they were ravaged by injuries last year, this year they hope to be healthy and they’re a year older and they drafted the ‘Stache. So that all adds up to them being better than the Hawks.

5. Atlanta Hawks

Yes, they finally have a point guard. No, they still won’t make the playoffs. Possibly the worst team in the East (still) simply because they’re still too young, their coach still sucks, their GM is still a moron, and their fans still don’t care. They will be a more fun team to watch than in years past though, since they finally have someone to run the ball up the floor (aptly named Speedy), competent/really good wing players (Josh Smith/Joe Johnson), and an athletic forward (with plenty of Hubie Brown attributed “upside”) who may or may not have a significant impact (Marvin Williams). On the flip side, their centers are still shaky at best (Zaza and L. Wright), and their bench quite thin (Childress, Shelden Williams…awful, awful pick), all of which leads to my predicting them finishing worst in the division and probably the conference.


1. Indiana Pacers

Plagued by persistent injury problems and seasons of Artest-induced tumult, the Indiana Pacers enter the 06-07 season with a healthy and re-organized roster. The major signings which should make an immediate impact was the trade of Austin Croshere for Marquis Daniels from the Dallas Mavericks, and the acquisition of Al Harrington from the Atlanta Hawks. The Pacers lost Peja Stojakovic to the New Orleans Hornets but that should not stop them from making it to the playoffs where they have always been a force to contend with. If Indiana can remain healthy I believe that Rick Carlisle will lead them to the top of their division.

2. Detroit Pistons

Despite reaching the Eastern Conference finals, the Detroit Pistons may have considered the 05-06 season a failure after leading the League with a record of 64-18. The forecast for the 06-07 season is bright as the Pistons managed to add Nazr Mohammad and Ronald “Flip” Murray to their roster making up for the loss of Ben Wallace to their division rivals: Chicago Bulls. Wallace, the 3-time Defensive player of the year, may prove to be a costly loss; however, the Pistons still have the rest of their roster intact and head coach Flip Saunders will be entering his second season with the team—so look for them to make another deep run into the playoffs. In what is possibly the strongest and most competitive division in the NBA, the Pistons should have enough to be second.

3. Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls enter the 06-07 season amid a great degree of expectation and optimism stemming from the signing of Ben Wallace from their division rivals Detroit Pistons. The trade bringing P.J Brown and J. R Smith from New Orleans in exchange for Tyson Chandler will also give the Bulls veteran leadership and depth at the forward position. The frontcourt of Wallace and Brown will give the “Baby Bulls” some maturity and sustained defensive intensity which they have lacked at various stages over previous years. The Bulls are all set to make a run at the playoffs and are the team to look out for in the Central.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers are coming off a successful season where they reached the second round of the playoffs eventually losing in a closely fought series to the defending Eastern Conference champions Detroit Pistons. There is much optimism leading into the 06-07 season with most of the focus once again on prodigal wonder Lebron James. James is coming off his most successful season as a pro with averages of 31.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.81 steals per game, whilst starting in 79 games and averaging 42.5 minutes per game. Look for the focus to be on Lebron again as he strives to propel his team into the playoffs and make a run at the championship.

5. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks entered the playoffs last season as the number 8 seed and they were promptly disposed by the Detroit pistons in 5 games. The result was a hectic off-season where they engaged in numerous trades and acquisitions, the biggest of which involved the acquisition of Charlie Villanueva. Milwaukee will be looking at Michael Red to lead them back into the playoffs and he will be ably supported by a young and talented roster that should create problems for the serious championship contenders. Despite their off-season activity, I see the Bucks finishing last in this division.


Anonymous said...

What about Michael Jordan?

Erlend said...