This blog is intended to provide solution based commentary on the Golden State Warriors and other NBA teams. I could always complain, but what would that do for the Warriors and other teams that lose?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Warriors Lose to the Defending Champion Lakers

Even with Stephen Curry the Warriors were going to have their work cut out for them against the Los Angeles Lakers. Since he didn't play because of his sprained ankle, they were just cut out. The Lakers were too tall on the glass and the Warriors jump shots were left behind in Oakland as the Lakers won big, 107 to 83.

David Lee was scoreless in 19 minutes of play while Pau Gasol had another Pau Gasol type game; 26 points, 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 blocks. Kobe Bryant chipped in with 20 points and Lamar Odom finished with16 points to go with his 14 rebounds. The Lakers won the rebounding battle 55 to 42 in case you were wondering.

Monta Ellis scored 20 points and Andris Biedrins played well early on but outside of those two the going was pretty tough. In the third quarter Jeremy Lin finally got some extended minutes and he did not disappoint. Even the Laker fans were impressed with his hustle plays that didn't all show up in the box score next to his 4 steals, but hopefully they will in Keith Smart's memory going forward.

Too many things didn't go right for the Dubs tonight but to their credit, they weren't supposed to win this game anyway. The Lakers are the defending champs and the Dubs are just trying to climb out of the lottery this year. We can now lump them in with Dwyane Wade's Miami Heat, who also weren't going 82-0.

Up next for the Dubs will be the Memphis Grizzlies, an important game as they will be competing with them for the 8th seed the rest of the year. I'm going to go out on a limb here and call it a game the Warriors should win if they plan to make the playoffs. In fact, here's a "division" for all of those teams.

Warriors 2-1
Nuggets 2-1
Grizzlies 2-1
Kings 2-1
Timberwolves 1-2
Suns 1-2
Clippers 0-3
Rockets 0-3

This is the division the Warriors should be concerned about and thus far they're undefeated against the teams within. Check back Wednesday to see what happens against their rival Grizzlies! (Trying to build drama).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Warriors Defeat Clippers but Lose Stephen Curry

The Warriors continued improvement was on full display Friday night in a 109-91 domination of the Clippers. Stephen Curry reinjured his right ankle but still managed to produce 16 points and 6 assists on 7 of 9 shooting from the field before he left the game.

Monta Ellis took over the point guard duties the rest of the way and the offense didn't miss a beat with his 11 assists and 6 of 12 shooting from the floor. In fact, the Warriors finished the game with 32 assists on 43 field goals while shooting 53.1% from the field as a team. Dorell Wright continues to be phenomenal on the wing, hitting 6 of 8 from behind the arc and grabbing 8 rebounds. Through two games, he leads the Warriors in three pointers made and percentage.

David Lee played another solid game on the boards (12 rebounds) helping the Warriors win that battle as a team, 46 to the Clippers 40. Blake Griffin finished with 10 rebounds and 14 points, but the team defense kept he and the Clippers under control, holding them to just 38.6% shooting.

After leading by just 4 points at halftime the Warriors came out in the 3rd quarter with more energy than the Clips and a sense of urgency that blew the game wide open. This is where the team has improved the most since last year. They are now executing their game plan for the entire game. They held the Clippers to just 13 points in the 3rd quarter while maintaining their own ability to score. There's no surprise in the Warriors starting the game well but this year they're finishing games and making adjustments as they go on. Keith Smart is truly making a case for himself to get an extension and he needs to be commended.

Not only is he playing his bench, he's putting trust in them and they are responding. I thought they would be a major weakness this season but thus far they have held there own and look to be a reliable unit going forward. The Warriors are off to their best start in over 15 years and things are looking good. The Lakers are up next but it looks like they will be in for a battle on Sunday. Now that the Warriors have proven they can control the boards against one quality team (Rockets) and another that featured a great rebounder in Griffin, the Lakers front line does not seem to be so intimidating. It will be a fun game to watch as the Warriors hit the road for the first time this season and get to see how they compare to the NBA's elite.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Same Old Monta Ellis, Advanced Stats Beware

Monta Ellis looked like a different player to most observers last night, but not to those of us who were watching him last year. He wasn’t playing in the shadow of Stephen Curry on opening night, and he wasn’t pitted against him by the fans and media, at least not yet anyway. Last year it was "Curry's team" as soon as the Warriors could print it and Monta was just taking up space. Monta was labeled a ball hog, gunner, volume shooter and whatever other selfish label you can think of. You can read one of those articles here. He was inefficient, a bad teammate and in the middle of trade rumors for the entire season. That last part might still be true, but if you were watching on Wednesday night you saw the same player that Monta was last year. This time, there was just a different script, but he was still the same performer on the court.

Monta Ellis posted a player efficiency rating (PER) of 45.2 in game one while scoring 46 on 18-24 shooting. The most points on opening night since Michael Jordan’s 54 points on November 3rd, 1989. He was a +9 while on the floor and gave the Houston Rocket defense fits in trying to guard him with their best defender, Shane Battier. This game was a coming out party for Monta and his new teammates. Ball movement and player movement were the hallmarks of the Warrior offense. There was no standing around for extended periods of time watching Monta Ellis try to create plays. Stephen Curry's 25 points and 11 assists fit perfectly with Monta's scoring, whereas last year his great performances just occurred next to Monta's as opposed to melding with his. New acquisition David Lee contributed 6 assists and 15 rebounds, numbers that were also missing from last year's movie that featured Monta running without purpose in the half court sets and tiring from playing too many minutes without breaks.

I bring this all up because not too long ago Kevin Durant was considered to be a bad "advanced stats" guy. Then, almost miraculously, he became great over night! Something must have changed within him, right? Durant has certainly grown as player, but hasn't his team as well? Now articles like this and this are written about him. He averages 30 points a game and that's it. Nowhere near his name will you see or hear the words ball hog or volume shooter. The fact of the matter is that both Durant and Monta had similar situations.

Kevin Durant played in a system that didn’t utilize his strengths his first year in the league. Then after a full training camp with new coach Scott Brooks, and a marked improvement from second year point guard Russell Westbrook, things started to click. Coincidentally, the same circumstances are starting to fall into place for the Warriors. Keith Smart is the new coach and has installed a true NBA offense, meanwhile Curry looks much improved in terms of controlling the tempo and game management. David Lee is the best power forward the Warriors have had since Chris Webber and thus, a far more seasoned version of the versatile Jeff Green. With two willing and great passers around him, how long will it be before Monta Ellis starts eating plus/minus for breakfast? Or, how long before others get their seats and realize, they were just late to the theater and the screen was blurry last season.

Monta Ellis Lights Up the Rockets In Warriors Win

How refreshing it was to see Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee all play well on opening night and more importantly, play together. Monta Ellis tied his career-high of 46 points while missing just six shots the entire game in a well played and well executed game by Keith Smart's new look Warriors.

Stephen Curry added 25 points to go with his 11 assists and David Lee was the all everything Power Forward the Warriors wanted him to be with 17 points, 15 rebounds and 6 assists. The biggest difference in this team as opposed to last year's was the rebounding and execution. The Warriors outrebounded the Rockets 45 to 39 and though Yao Ming wasn't there they are still to be commended. The Dubs also showcased a marked improvement in their offensive sets with great ball movement, flow, and most importantly, no scoring droughts. Keith Smart managed the game perfectly with excellent substitution patterns while calling timeouts whenever the Rockets started to make a push, as opposed to after they were already into one. He even held Monta Ellis to 40 minutes which is like 34 for most players. 

The Warriors gave up a lot of points but not in the way that you might think. The Rockets were sent to the free throw line 52 times and made good on 42 of those trips. Kevin Martin finished with 28 points but Monta Ellis played excellent defense on him as 17 of those points came from the line. Stephen Curry did a great job on Aaron Brooks as well, whom the Warriors kept out of the paint and limited to just 2 of 8 from downtown. The Rockets scored 128 points but the Warrior defense tightened up in the key moments of the game and didn't give up much as the Rockets made only 4 of 16 from behind the arc.

Andris Biedrins was back in a big way with excellent movement on defense and cleaning up whatever rebounds David Lee couldn't get to. A great way to start the season for the Warriors and they should be proud of themselves because they executed beautifully against a team who is considered to be better than them, with or without Yao Ming. The Warriors will be battling it out with the Rockets this year for the 8th and final playoff spot, so this was an important win that also gets them off to a good start. They don't have to take away a moral victory, they can enjoy this one and get ready for the Clippers on Friday knowing that their defensive principles can only improve and that their offensive ones already work.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Warriors Finish Preseason Schedule with Loss to Lakers but Show Improvement

Monta Ellis finished with 41 points and the rest of his Warrior teammates played very well against the defending champion Lakers who were playing at about half speed whereas the Dubs were going full throttle.

If you hadn't been watching the Warriors this preseason, this game showed a lot of promise in terms of style, effort, defensive improvements and ball movement. This review will be more about team analysis as opposed to the game because this was my first time seeing the Dubs with my own eyes.

The Warriors are finally playing NBA basketball again which is very encouraging. Their defensive principles have improved mightily in terms of spacing, help and rebounding. Again, the Lakers did seem to be moving a step slower but the Warriors weren't chasing the ball around in the half court set when the Lakers were on offense. When someone drove to the hoop, Andris Biedrins and or David Lee was there to meet them. After which they would grab the miss and fire a decent outlet pass to one of the guards. That's all you can ask for from those two and Keith Smart needs to be commended for the tactical improvement. 

David Lee's passing is amazing. This has got to be the most underrated aspect of his game. The new sets in the half court look far better than last year's as they are filled with back door cuts and off ball screens. Lee surveying from the post or the elbow will result in plenty of assists for him and easy baskets for others. In the 4th quarter, though, they reverted back to watching Monta Ellis or Reggie Williams go 1 on 5 even when Monta was visibly tired. Perhaps Coach Smart didn't want to utilize David Lee in the pick and roll too much because it will be a big part of their attack this season. Stephen Curry didn't play in this game so I can only imagine how good the team will look operating with a true point guard. Again, it was preseason but the improvements are there and with this brand of basketball the Warriors should finish with far more than 26 wins this year.

Why did Monta Ellis play every minute? That doesn't bode well for his health throughout the season. It would have been nice to see him finish with somewhere around 33 minutes but apparently old habits die hard. Since it was preseason, a few changes for the team need to be made but hopefully they already will be.

1. David Lee needs to get the ball earlier and more often during the games. They weren't even going to him and he still ended up with 16 points. When they do get it to him he needs to be lower on the block because to often he caught it at the free throw line with not much to do when he wasn't looking to pass.

2. Andris looked great but I don't now how good of an idea it is to pound the ball into him so often. Kudos to Smart though for keeping Andris involved in the offense and making the opponents pay attention to him. I just don't know why I felt like Biens received more touches on the block than Lee did. 

For a record of 3-5, the Warriors can still be encouraged because they played well, played together and showed that their new strategies and systems will translate to winning basketball if they stick with it. Can't wait for Wednesday against the Rockets to see how they do when it counts.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Preview of the Warriors Schedule Part II

At the Detroit Pistons

The Warriors have better guards, forwards, and chemistry. They should win this one comfortably even though the Pistons can cause some problems in terms of height and length. Either way Curry should have a big bounce back game and Monta should have no trouble getting around Richard Hamilton and posting up Ben Gordon when he's on the floor. The Warriors defense should also have one of their best showings of the season against this team since they are lacking a true point guard and post presence. Warriors win.

At the Toronto Raptors

This game will provide another opportunity for the Dubs to build some confidence on the road. The Raptors like to run but they just can't match up with the Warriors at any position. Unless Andrea Bargnani has a huge game (think 30 plus points) then the W's should win this one easily and again this is an important game for them because they need to win these kinds of games on the road. They are the better team, period. The Dubs need to be past the point where they play teams like the Lakers and Celtics tough at home but then lose to the Raptors and Pistons on the road. These are the games that Keith Smart should be concerned about. Warriors win.

At the New York Knicks

The Dubs seem to always play well at Madison Square Garden and this night should be no exception. David Lee should have a big game for obvious motivational reasons and just like the teams they will have already met on this road trip, they're just plain better. It would be nice to see the W's come into New York with some confidence and urgency as opposed to being relaxed from their previous victories. The way the team performs in this one will be a good barometer of Keith Smart's coaching performance thus far. Typically, the Dubs play vey well against Mike D'Antoni led teams and that should not change here. Warriors win.

At the Chicago Bulls

At 5-3 the Dubs should be feeling pretty good about themselves heading into Chicago and they should look to sneak out with a win. Carlos Boozer will not be there so once again David Lee should continue to produce. The Bulls will play defense and that might get them over the hump. Coupled with the fact that the Dubs will still be the road team and having played the night before, it would be okay if the Dubs dropped this one. Bulls win.

At the Milwaukee Bucks

I like Milwaukee this year and they will be a force. They're better coached and have far better depth but the Warriors should still be able to steal this one. Stephen Curry didn't start the game last year when Brandon Jennings torched the Warriors for 55 points. Not to say that Curry will be the defensive savior, but I bring it up because more than likely he will take a little pride in the individual battle and come out the victor. Also, lost in the hoopla of Brandon's performance was the fact that the Bucks still only won by four points even though Andrew Bogut had a great game as well. Monta Ellis wasn't too shabby though and the Warriors were without Andris Biedrins. The benches will be the difference makers in this game and I don't see Keith Smart outcoaching Scott Skiles in this one. A tough loss but a close one, Bucks win.

So a 5-5 start should be a reasonable goal for this team and 6-4 is a more than realistic option as well. Since the Warriors start with a long and early road trip it will be interesting to see how they respond to Keith Smart when they face the normal ups and downs of an eastern conference schedule. When they're tired or down by 10, the bench isn't producing, they get a lead early and lose the lead late, someone gets hurt, etc. These are the differences to look for if they plan to be a playoff team. Also, winning the games they should and playing as hard against the elite teams as the mediocre ones. These first 10 games will set the tone for their season on the road.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Preview of the Warriors Schedule

The Warriors have a tough schedule at the beginning of the season but it is still manageable. Even the games they might be expected to lose are winnable. The Warriors will have a great opportunity to build some confidence on the road early on which will be a strong indicator as to whether or not they will be a playoff team. Here is a brief preview and analysis for the first 10 games of the schedule.

At home against Houston, Opening Night.

The Warriors should have tons of energy for this game playing for a new coach in a new system and having defined roles for everyone for the first time in years. The Rockets will be welcoming the return of Yao Ming, but only for 24 minutes of the game. The Rockets look to be a better team on paper based upon their depth and coaching experience so I will concede defeat to this team, but again the energy factor just might be the difference in an upset. Rockets win.

Los Angeles Clippers at home

This is a must win game for the Warriors because we will have to win these 50/50 games if we plan on making the playoffs this year. Blake Griffin has looked ridiculous in the preseason and Baron Davis will probably play well in this game since he's a former Warrior. Nonetheless, Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis and David Lee should win every matchup from a positional standpoint and Keith Smart should be able to outcoach the less than genius Vinny Del Negro in their first meeting. Depending on who you're a fan of you could make the case for either team to win, so of course I will choose the Warriors. Warriors win.

At the Los Angeles Lakers

If Kobe Bryant is not completely healthy . . . this team should still beat us. But with Pau Gasol having to contend with David Lee and Andris Biedrins, there's reason to be a bit more confident than usual for this matchup. Kobe will have to chase Monta Ellis around the floor and Derek Fisher will have to chase Stephen Curry. Watch out for those two battles. The Lakers still play far better defense and have figured out that they need to win these games early in the season so that they can rest for the playoffs. Not to mention that they will have a big advantage in the coaching and matchup departments. Lakers win.

Memphis Grizzlies at Home

The Grizzlies also fall into the "must win" category much like the Clippers and Rockets. It can't be emphasized enough that the Dubs have to win these games in order to make the playoffs. In banking on the idea that this team is now mature enough to realize that then I will have to pick the W's as a winner in this one. David Lee's presence cannot be underestimated as he will now cancel out what most power forwards in the league can or will do to us. That would include Zach Randolph. The Grizzlies do have more depth but the Warriors will have the home crowd behind them to help out in the energy department. Warriors win.

Utah Jazz at Home

So here we are at 2-2 facing a crossroads. If the Dubs win this one they will truly be making a statement. Stephen Curry will be the key to this game because he looked like Deron Williams' little brother every time they played last year. If he can hold his own than the Dubs might pull this one out. Since Deron knows he will have to play like an MVP every game this year I suspect that he will take full advantage of exploiting Curry's defensive weaknesses as well as the team's. Here's to Keith Smart switching Ellis on to Williams and hopefully slowing him down. Otherwise it will be a Jazz victory.

Check back for part II and the next five games tomorrow.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Blogger's Life

This blog is about basketball. I haven't been writing for very long but this blog is hard to maintain while working a full time job and being married. Of course my wife wants to do things on the weekends and they do not include watching me write blog posts. Like you the reader or fellow blogger, I have other interests as well. Probably three times a week I read articles by bloggers who don't write anything about basketball just so that I can find out different ways to increase my blog traffic. Most of them are good reads and are very helpful. If you're a blogger who came across this post, please leave a comment. Usually I find time to post in the mornings before I go to work or on my lunch breaks at work. I find it very difficult to consistently post on my blog, you know 5 days a week at least, so this article and question is to you the reader and or blogger, how do you do it?

A few writers that I read regularly seem to be able to juggle both pretty well. Recently I read an excellent post by Matthew Bunch of where he was discussing the fact that he and his website will no longer be apart of the ESPN TrueHoop Network. It's a sad story and I feel for Matthew and the rest of his writers over there. But what stuck out to me most was this quote in his article: "However, for two guys getting paid $0 for their work and working at least one full-time job (I can’t speak for Surya, I work 60 hours a week),"

60 hours a week! Now I figure that most bloggers have day jobs unless they are in the extremely coveted position of being able to get paid for one of their hobbies. So again, how do you do it and just out of curiosity, what are some of your day jobs? For example, I have a lot of respect for Joshua Russell over at He appears to be a one man operation but he also manages the and All three are updated frequently with brief yet informative articles, very impressive.

Then there's Adam Lauridsen of warriors fast break. Apparently he's a lawyer but also a very good sports writer. His objective, optimistic yet still realistic points of view are a must read for Warriors fans everywhere. I'm sure his Harvard education helps with his writing, but being a lawyer and consistent blogger?

Ethan Sherwood Strauss of seems to be a pretty busy writer as well, penning articles for slate that have nothing to do with basketball.

These were just a few examples that I have sighted so feel free to offer your insights on the challenges of blogging, and juggling life. Or if you are one of these guys whom I just mentioned, thanks for reading and again leave a comment. Or if you just like to read blogs in general, please leave your comments as well. After all that's what I was and still am. Thanks for your time, because obviously it isn't easy to manage.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What can we take from the NBA Preseason Schedule?

I was tempted to write an extended piece on the Miami Heat's first game of the preseason and another on their game last night with the Oklahoma City Thunder. In the preseason everyone says that we shouldn't take away too much from what we see or put too much stock into what the results are. But since the Warriors beat the Clippers by 40 on Friday night I think there are a few things we can be happy about, not without a brief disclaimer though first.

In the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers were not very effective in moving the ball in their preseason slate this year. Now that the regular season has started they still are not very effective in that area and happen to be 0-4 because of it. The 49ers did go undefeated in the preseason but as you know, NFL starters don't play entire halves so typically its backups vs. backups. In the NBA teams typically play their starters between 25-30 minutes a night. In the NFL the plays are very simple and you don't see a lot in terms of adjustments or formations. The same can be said for the NBA but since basketball is more of a free flowing sport with far less structure, I tend to argue that we can and should take some things away from the preseason. And as the 49ers offense has proven, certain things in the preseason carry over into the regular season.

This is a localized study obviously intended specifically for the Warriors. I didn't need to wait to see the Heat in the preseason before I declared them eventual champions as soon as I saw "The Decision". For the W's though, I almost spent the $30 it would have taken to watch them play Blake Griffin and the Clippers on Friday night since the game wasn’t televised. I will be watching them play DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings on Sunday though so check back for some analysis. At any rate, the Warriors have been a bit of a mixed bag over the last few preseason schedules, their records were as follows:

4-4 in 09’-10’
4-2 in 08'-09'
7-2 in 07'-08'
5-1 in 06'-07'
3-5 in 05'-06'

Last year of course we were not healthy, traded our second best player in November and the team was filled with turmoil throughout the season. In 08'-09' we didn't have Monta for the regular season or preseason but we were still successful for those first six practice games in October. I guess you can attribute that success to it being "The preseason!" In 07'-08' we finished the year with 48 wins so the preseason record had some validity to it I guess you could say.

So what can we decipher from the W's successes and failures in their performances that don’t actually count? Since this is a positive blog we will choose from their last successful regular season for a comparison. They put up 111.3 points a game in the 2008 preseason and finished the year scoring at an even 111 per night once the real games started. They ended up giving away 2.1 points per game more than they did on their preseason schedule but their preseason offense was an accurate indication of what came to be.

Now the 06’-07’ season was quite similar to this one in terms of optimism. Hiring new coach Don Nelson then and Keith Smart now are making fans reminiscent of the positive changes that came when Nelson arrived. That team was expected to be decent with an outside chance of making the playoffs, which they did. The same thoughts apply to this year’s team. So since we will now be breaking down the preseason games, let’s take a look at some of the keys from last night’s performance.

Monta Ellis-22 points, 8-11 FGs, 4-4 3FGs, 4 assists & 2 steals

Stephen Curry-18 points, 6-7 FGs, 3-3 3FGs, 6 assists & 2 steals

We all know this will be the strength of this team so it was nice to see that Monta has truly molded his game to fit with Curry’s. Obviously he was in a sharing mood and his efficiency shows that he was taking good shots. As for the rest of the team the Warriors out rebounded the Clippers which will be the stat that should change the most for them this year thanks to David Lee. Since we’re just one game in and I was only able to see highlights we’ll stop here for now.

Tomorrow night they will be playing another team with low expectations and something to prove sot the Kings will provide a good barometer of things to come, in my preseason opinion, take from it what you will?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

NBA Regular Season and Playoff Preview for 2009-2010 Western Conference

The Western Conference will still be a tough place to play this season even though it lost a lot of talent to the Eastern Conference. Kobe Bryant is getting older but the Lakers are getting stronger. Kevin Durant may be a little tired this year but he also got a little tougher. The west could have only one or two teams win less than 35 games in my opinion, so let's get to how the playoff picture will stack up and what we can expect from each team?

1. Los Angeles Lakers

Again, Kobe Bryant is a year older, wiser, better, healthier and so is his supporting cast. Since no one really knows how long Andrew Bynum will be out the Lakers are in jeopardy of losing the number one seed to a team that is younger and cares about the regular season a bit more. But the Lake show still has a big enough edge on talent and depth compared to their fellow conference foes so that should be enough to still carry them to number one. Ron Artest will be even better in the triangle this year and with the addition of Matt Barnes the Lakers will have another ball handler with their second unit that can cause matchup problems. This team is a Swiss army knife that plays basketball. They could play Odom, Barnes, Artest, Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter together for extended minutes and still be a better team than most other units in the league. That's why the Lakers are so dangerous, not just because of their height but also they can matchup with anyone. And you know who I'm talking about when I say anyone. TheFinals are going to be good this year.

2. Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks care about the regular season. They make it a point to do so. They don't feel like going on the road in the playoffs if they don't have to but they will if necessary. This team is a bit of a mixed bag this year because you could write them off as old and say that their window has closed. Or you could say that this team is also one of the deepest in the conference and can matchup with most. The number two seed fits them because you really don't know who will be able to maintain consistency over the course of an 82 game season. The Thunder could take this spot, but last year they were virtually injury free and many weren't expecting much from them so they snuck up on teams for most of the year. By the time the rest of the league knew who they were their playoff position was already secured. The Mavericks know that this is one of their last gasps as a group so they need to ease themselves into the playoffs. They will do that by winning games that they should because they're a veteran team with just the right amount of youth behind them at the guard positions and center spot. Now this also could be the year where Dirk Nowitzki finally breaks down and is out for 30-40 games because of some freak injury. Did you know that Dirk has never missed 6 games in a season? Let's hope his health remains in tact and the Mavs do what they're supposed to.

3. Oklahoma City Thunder

A year wiser, battle tested, deeper and James Harden can only improve. The Thunder is in this spot just because I expect one key player to go down for a while and Kevin Durant to be a little, just a little, fatigued. That's no knock on him; it's just that it is hard scoring 30 points a night for what, 270-300 days out of the year? I've seen charts that show players aren't usually adversely affected from playing in the summer tourneys but Durant is an exception. He was working just as hard in Turkey as he does in Oklahoma. He wasn't coming in for 15 minute stints and just going with the flow, he was dominating. This will be one of the great athletic achievements of the year in all of sports if he is able to keep up this pace for two full seasons, and he probably will. The key for this year's team will be James Harden. After a rookie year in which he came off the bench, his production will be key to the Thunder making it to the second round and beyond. In two playoff wins against the Lakers he shot .535% on his field goals and 5 for 8 from three while scoring 18 and 15 points respectively. In four playoff losses he scored 13 points, total. His regular season numbers were decent for a rookie averaging 9.9 a night and just over 3 extra rebounds a game on .403% from the field and hitting .375% of his threes. Everyone will know what to expect from the Thunder this season but James Harden is still a mystery to most. An improvement from him off the bench will really make this team a contender. And of course good health for the entire team as well.

4. Portland Trailblazers

Brandon Roy is a nice guy on the court, he doesn't really get angry nor does he show too much emotion. One would think that he and the rest of the Blazers are all seeking a bit of vengeance for having such an injury riddled year and having their star player go down at the most inopportune time of the season. This team is still deeper than most and no one will want to play them in April or May. The elephant in the room is still Greg Oden's health but this team has grown accustomed to playing without him. They will be dangerous and will surprise some and will probably push the Lakers in the second round to 7 games. Will they win? That will depend on Greg Oden's health.

5. Utah Jazz

Al Jefferson is an unknown commodity. Most NBA pundits claim to know him but he truly is underappreciated. His presence will help the Jazz even though Paul Millsap is still there. The Jazz might have been better served committing their assets to a proven wing scorer since they had been grooming Millsap to replace Boozer. One was not available though, so they had to settle for yet another potential 20 & 10 big man. This team is not very deep but it is used to dealing with injuries. They will occupy this spot simply because they have more talent in their starting five than anyone else we could put here. We already know about Deron Williams and he just might threaten the 25 and 10 mark this season because he will have to score more this year now that Wesley Matthews won't chip in those extra easy buckets and Mehmet Okur will be out for quite some time. That will be good enough for this team to maybe tie with the Blazers but still be relegated to the 5th seed.

6. San Antonio Spurs

This is a weird spot to put the New England Patriots in, err... I mean Spurs. Tony Parker missed a lot of time last year and Richard Jefferson wasn't what they expected. The Spurs feel like a team that's window has closed but their fingers are still stuck under the window. They're in pain and will need a lot of strength to push it back open. Everyone's older and after seeing how the Suns ran against them in the playoffs last year you just have to wonder how much longer this honeymoon will last. Tim Duncan has lost weight and that should help but Manu is 33 and will have to have one last big year in him for them to contend. Tiago Splitter could be a revelation and put up 15 & 10, which isn't likely but is a possibility. If that happens, then this team will contend for another title. For now though they're good enough for 6th.

7. New Orleans Hornets

Before Chris Paul was hurt last year the Hornets weren't exactly setting the league on fire. They will have a very thin bench this year but their starters will be able to run and play defense. Everyone is expecting Trevor Ariza to return to his championship form but really, the key to this team will be the form of Omeka Okafor. No one knows why he had such a sharp decline in production last year including him. He will be the difference between them making the playoffs and not. Well, maybe it's not that serious because Marcus Thornton will now be a starter and David West will still be running the pick and roll with Paul. When you look at them on paper this team's starting five has no holes in it. In addition, Paul’s strengths will be able to compensate for most of his teammates’ weaknesses. The story of his supposed trade request won’t be an issue. His happiness has nothing to do with this season's prospects because he can't go anywhere for another two years. This will allow him and the franchise to relax and make some progress towards a higher seed next year and brighter future.

8. Golden State Warriors

Call me a homer but this is where I'm hoping they will be. Allow me to show you how a Warriors fan can talk himself into his team making the playoffs. First of all we won 26 games last year but a new coach means new energy for this team which should account for at least 3 more wins. That brings us to 29. We have a new shiny rebounder in David Lee and if Andris Biedrins is healthy then the glass problems of last year will be completely solved, yes completely, which brings us to say 34 wins? Monta Ellis will be far more efficient this year thanks to a renewed since of life and putting aside his rift with Stephen Curry from last year, 38 wins. Stephen Curry should join the 20 & 7 club which will account for another 2 wins, 40. This team will play better defense and we will finish as the 23rd ranked team in points allowed thanks to Dorell Wright and the return of Biedrins. 45 wins. We need maybe a couple more to get to the playoffs and I’m going to say that David Lee and his extra 20 points and 3-5 dimes a night will get us over the hump. 47 wins and the 8th seed baby!

9. Houston Rockets

Yao Ming is back but only for half the games next year. This team is in a very interesting position for the future because Aaron Brooks wants a new contract, so does Shane Battier and they have to work Kevin Martin into the flow of a Brooks, Luis Scola and the return of Yao scoring rotation. I think it will work and this team is deep, but much like last year they're still reliant on the health of Yao. 24 minutes of action is better than nothing but how will his presence affect the chemistry of the team when they feel pressured to try to work him into the game. That will be tough for Brooks and Rick Adelman to manage and we will see how they do. They will be in the playoff hunt until the very end but will fall just short of those new look defensive minded Warriors! Look someone has to bite the bullet in order for my dubs to make.

10. Phoenix Suns

We should know by now that Steve Nash should never be discredited or counted out. At the same time why didn’t the Suns resign Amar’e Stoudemire? Let’s do a little math on the new salaries they will be paying this year.

Josh Childress 5 years/$33 million

Hakim Warrick 4 years/$18 million

Hedo Turkoglu 4 years/$43 million

Channing Frye 5 years/$30 million

That’s $124 million in salary. The Suns supposedly would not guarantee $100 million to Amar’e over the next five years because of injury concerns. Interesting, how would you have spent the Suns’ money? Hedo could end up being the 05’-06’ version of Boris Diaw for the Suns but that will be the only way this team makes the playoffs since it looks like Warrick doesn’t appear to be the starter heading into the season. This team is deep but there starting five will be far less intimidating than it once was. There defense could improve but it could also be countered this year since teams will be expecting their zone now. Unfortunately, it looks like the sun will finally start to set in the valley.

11. Denver Nuggets

Carmelo Anthony will be traded at the end of the year which isn’t really breaking news. Still there were other factors the Nuggets had to consider even before that scenario started to play out. In addition to Melo's future keeping the franchise in limbo the Nuggets have a few other players with expiring contracts on their roster that need to be addressed as well. J.R. Smith, Kenyon Martin and the future of Chauncey Billups all remain in doubt. How will this team play with all of them looking towards the future of not only themselves but each others as well? Once Carmelo gets traded the wheels might fall off because George Karl will also be looking for an extension pretty soon. All of this could change though if Carmelo decides to prove everyone who claims he is not a franchise player wrong and elevate his team to "elite" status. So I guess there is some hope for that, right?

12. Memphis Grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies should not regress this year and they probably won't. With an improved bench they should at least reach the 40 win mark again this season but that will probably be about it. The Western Conference will have so much parody this year that we might have 5 teams in the lottery that won between 35-40 games. Unless Rudy Gay adds 5 assists a night to his nightly performances then I don't see this team being much better than it was last year. Now if Mike Conley turns into a 17 and 7 point guard than this team will challenge for that 8th and final playoff spot. He should have plenty of motivation to do so since he'll be playing for a new contract. The Grizz are at an interesting crossroads as a franchise because they know what they have in O.J. Mayo, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay. The question for them now will be how much longer should they keep Zach Randolph around? This team has the talent to make the playoffs but yet something was missing last year that kept them from doing so. Whatever it is, it still does not seem to be found.

13. Sacramento Kings

You know what's interesting about Tyreke Evans? If you put him on the Thunder or Grizzlies than you could make the argument that the Thunder would have beaten the Lakers and that the Grizz would have made the playoffs last year. Imagine Russell Westbrook, Tyreke Evans and Kevin Durant together. Kobe Bryant would have had to play defense, Jeff Green would have been able to relax a little bit more and then they would have been the team that could cause matchup problems. Kevin Durant could have played the four with Tyreke at the three spot for extended minutes. Back to the reality of the Kings now. With the addition of DeMarcus Cousins who looks like he will be the starter at center this season, the Kings will be dangerous. They have size everywhere, can score inside with ease from multiple positions and will not be losing very many rebounding battles. The only thing holding this team back will be their ability to play together. Very rarely do young teams put it all together so quickly but the Kings have plenty of reasons as to why they can do it this year. Paul Westphal will make a strong push for the Coach of the Year award as they should be penciled in for 40 wins as well.

14. Los Angeles Clippers

Which Baron Davis will show up this year? If it's the Baron who decides he will be the best point guard in the league than maybe Blake Griffin will be hoisting the Co-Rookie of the Year trophy and the Clippers will be the biggest surprise of the season. The Clippers have just as much talent as any team not named the Heat, Lakers, Celtics or Magic. With athleticism coming from every position and a big man who can get easy buckets in the half court via Chris Kaman, this team has all the tools to be in the playoffs. When they run they will be dangerous. When they play pick and roll they'll be dangerous. When they drive and kick they will be dangerous. Why can't they make the playoffs this year!?!??!??!?! We will have to wait and see exactly why.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves

This team is like one big mutual fund right now. Or MUNI bond, there's a lot of talent with big upside but as a whole the annual returns won't be that great right now. This team's roster is built like a Major League Baseball team, on any given night they could start a totally different lineup than from the night before. David Kahn has crafted this team in a way that when a major trade comes along they can be looked to as a team with the assets to pull it off. The only problem with that is in the meantime you still have to play basketball. And with all of the players requesting to be moved lately, their name has not been mentioned. They feel that within their roster portfolio a "star player" might still be lurking, but he will be very hard to find if everyone is playing 20-29 minutes a game. Kevin Love is one player who is universally praised around the league, but other than that this team will have to spend one more season to figure out who they are in terms of style, tempo, strengths and whatever else you want to name. That probably won't happen in just one year though, unless Kevin Love averages 25 points, 12 boards and 7 dimes a night. Then again, Kevin Garnett was doing something like that for awhile too.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Do Ronnie Brewer, Hakim Warrick, Nick Van Exel, Dorell Wright & Shaun Livingston Have In Common?

Hakim Warrick-Phoenix Suns

Hakim Warrick has career averages of 16.9 points per game on .496% shooting from the field. He can hit his free throws, score in the post and he's just four months older than Amar'e Stoudemire. No one is expecting him to duplicate Stoudemire’s production but then again he will be playing with the best pick and roll point guard in the league. Plus, he can catch and finish. He can also shoot from 15 feet off both elbows and has a nice set of post moves. Defensively he won’t have too much of an impact but he might surprise some people with his length and leaping ability. A very fluid athlete who dare I say has an ability to use his length a little bit better than Amar’e does. Again, not saying he will duplicate or be better than Stoudemire but he certainly does qualify as an underrated offseason signing. An Amar’e light if you will. Unfortunately he doesn’t look to be the starter heading into the season for the Suns even though he should be. Remember, nearly 17 a night in per 36 minutes of action, and that’s before he gets to play with Steve Nash.

Ronnie Brewer-Chicago Bulls

Carlos Boozer isn’t going to be guarding Dwyane Wade or LeBron James. Ronnie Brewer will. Ronnie Brewer will be the one actually running with Derrick Rose, catching the alley-oops and finishing the fast breaks. Trailing them will be Boozer’s job. Brewer will be the one cutting back door for easy buckets. He’ll be the one diving for loose balls in the playoffs and tipping them to teammates. He won’t be taking bad shots, he won’t be trying to go one-on-one, he won’t miss steal opportunities and he won’t have to “fit in” with the rest of the team. Every team that plans to win a championship needs a wild card wing player that will make a difference even though the numbers wouldn’t indicate that he does so. Ronnie Brewer is that player. At the end of the season your casual NBA fan friend who is watching the playoffs with you will keep saying “who is that guy?” and you will promptly say “Ronnie Brewer”, the other guy Chicago signed.

Shaun Livingston-Charlotte Bobcats

Shaun Livingston is not expected to start for the Charlotte Bobcats, he is expected to push. They hope his presence makes D.J. Augustin better because it will challenge him, not necessarily overtake him. Even though, he shot a ridiculous .627% from the field in the final month of the season last year, he's still not a guaranteed starter. In a league that has spent literal decades searching for big point guards that weren’t just combo guards or hybrids, one was finally available that had proven he has all the tools general managers had been searching for. Post game, mid-range game, ability to get to the line and a pass first player. Never mind that he would make a bad or even the best defensive team in the league better as a starter because of his height and length alone, disrupting whomever he’s guarding that’s 4-6 inches shorter. Why didn’t any one sign him? I don’t know that’s why he’s on this list. Don’t forget about his athleticism, vision and weakness for only taking good shots. His skills will fit well with Larry Brown and his "play the right way" mind set. General Managers need not fret though because his contract is good for only two years. All those tools will be right back on the market.

Nick Van Exel-Atlanta Hawks

I just found out about this one when I was doing research for this article. No, he's not coming back to play but to coach the young guards on the Atlanta Hawks. Who better to teach Jordan Crawford, Jeff Teague and even Joe Johnson how to fear no one, take and make big shots and have enough confidence to go toe-to-toe with any other guard in the league? This pick might seem as a bit of a reach for underrated signings this year but we can expect to see a difference in the guard play down south. Nick Van Exel always had the perfect balance in his game in terms of scoring and passing. Sure his shooting percentages were never exemplary but in the fourth quarter it didn't matter. With Van Exel on the bench you don't need to worry about Joe Johnson having a playoff series like the one he had against the Magic last year. Why? For the same reason you can expect Jeff Teague to be starting by midseason or sooner because of all the knowledge he'll soak up from the man who branded himself "Hata Proof",

Dorell Wright-Golden State Warriors

Very few of the low key signings this year will actually be starters on their new teams. Dorell Wright will be one of them seeing that he will do what he has always done since he's been in the league; play defense and run. So why would he be on this list since his career numbers are modest at best and he has had some injury problems in the past? Well for one, last year the Miami Heat played at the 28th fastest pace in the league, or slowest depending on how you look at it. The Warriors were the fastest team in the league so naturally Dorell's talents will finally be utilized properly. Now he can reward himself for playing excellent defense by running and finishing on the break, as opposed to just standing in the corner on every possession and waiting to launch from deep. He's also never been a full time starter so with increased playing time increased production should come. His career numbers per 36 minutes; 11.6 points per game, 6.8 rebounds a night 1.1 steals and 1 block. Not bad for a 24 year old just starting to scratch his surface. If Trevor Ariza could do it two years ago for the Lakers, why can't Dorell do it this year for the Warriors?