Fantasy Draft Results And Predictions

My name is Quentin Haynes, and every week, I’m going to update you guys with some fantasy basketball talk. This past Monday, the members of Hoop City Blog (including myself) took part in an eight team draft. After the picks were settled, It seemed like the smart ideas to throw out some random predictions. First, let’s look at the results of the draft (Click the chart to see the picks):

Best Pick: James Harden (2nd round)

I love James Harden on Houston. Not only should he get an increased workload, but I also feel like Harden’s game will become more balanced. Harden could average around 21 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists this upcoming season, and that warrants a top 6 status to me. Getting Harden in the second round after the Rockets move was a great pick.

Biggest Steal: Blake Griffin (5th round, pick 6)

Blake Griffin isn’t a top 10 player in real life, but man is he a fantasy god. Not only will Blake provide 20-12 this season, but he helps the field goal percentage, as well as gives you 3.0 to 3.5 assists per game. The free throw shooting is a huge concern, but overall, Griffin shouldn’t have fell past the third round, due to all the things he provides.

Biggest Reach: Dirk Nowitzki (3rd round, pick 5)

Dirk is great, but third round? He’s going to give you 20 points and 40% shooting from three, but that’s really it. The next five players after him (Carmelo Anthony, Serge Ibaka, Rudy Gay, Andre Iguodala, and Greg Monroe) all feel like better picks at this point and time. With Dirk missing the first six weeks, that’s not good either. All in all, Dirk feels more like a 5th or 6th round pick.

Now….here’s some predictions for how this fantasy season will play out.

Best Overall Roster: Darkstafarian

I’m not picking my team, due to the fact I have LeBron James. So how about the team with Kevin Durant? Not only does Darkstafarian have Durant, but solid passing (Ty Lawson & Steve Nash), great rebounding (Paul Millsap, Greg Monroe, Joakim Noah, Nene), and some an electric rookie in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If MKG could jump into the rookie of the year race, then this team becomes even better.

Field Goal Percentage: Tip Your Waiters

A team full of post players. There’s a legitimate chance that Andrew Bynum, DeMarcus Cousins, Anthony Davis, and Andrew Bogut all shoot upwards of 50% from the field. With Harden gone from Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook has a chance to increase his numbers as well.

Free Throw Percentage: YellingAtChalmers

Other than Blake Griffin, this team is full of solid free throw shooters. Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, LaMarcus Aldridge, and even David Lee. This stat will be up in the air (FT% is so random, at times) but with four solid free-throw shooters, plus guys like Tony Parker and Arron Affalo, my money is on YellingAtChalmers.

3-point Shots Made: Darkostafarian

Kevin Durant, Ty Lawson, Steve Nash and Paul George should be enough to win this stat. Outside of those four, J.R. Smith will help (or hurt) the stat, and Brandon Knight will quietly provide some threes as well.

Points Scored: Welcome Unibrow

Quietly, this team has a ton of scoring. Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, Rudy Gay, and Pau Gasol could all average somewhere between 18 to 21 points a night. With those four, and two scoring gems in Luol Deng and Mo Williams, I could see this team running away with the points scored title.

Total Rebounds: Melo Fellow

Not to be bias, but LeBron and Iguodala will provide 6-7 rebounds, and after that? My roster is full of double digit rebounders. Marc Gasol, Al Horford, Kevin Garnett, Kenneth Faried, JaVale McGee, and (maybe) Brook Lopez. If my team can remain healthy, the rebounding title should be mine.

Assists: Dac City Bitch

Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, Mike Conley, and Raymond Felton. Those four alone should help Dac win the assists title with ease. If Curry can stay healthy, this should be a lock.

Steals: Dac City Bitch

Again, Chris Paul, Stephen Curry, and Mike Conley. All three could rank 1-2-3 in the steals category this season if Curry decides this is the season to stay healthy.

Blocked Shots : Tip Your Waiters

It’s a size thing. DeMarcus Cousins could block shots, Andrew Bogut could block shots, and Andrew Bynum can also block shots. I picked this team because of Anthony Davis. There’s a good chance Davis averages somewhere between 1.6 and 2.5 blocks per game, and that could have this team sweep through in the blocks department.

Turnovers: Dac City Bitch

The good (assits and steals category) will help this team, but Felton turns the ball over a ton, and Al Jefferson, Kobe Bryant, and Stephen Curry do also.

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Harden’s Stand Is Houston’s Gain

Credit: ESPN.com

You can call it a comeback.

The Houston Rockets finally scored their big fish, landing James Harden from the financially-prudent Oklahoma City Thunder, along with some backup quality talent, for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks (one essentially guaranteed in the lottery) and a second-round pick. Harden will likely get the max from Houston, which the Thunder refused to offer.

Harden brings a second perimeter force to the Rockets, one with much more of a track record than new teammate Jeremy Lin despite coming off the bench for all but 7 career games. He provides a devastating combination of offensive creation and efficiency matched by few others in the league – he finished fourth in the league in true shooting percentage last year, with two of the players ahead of him being Tyson Chandler and Steve Novak, two limited role players. He finished well over the all-star threshold in PER, with a 21.1 rating. And Harden led the Thunder in raw on-court/off-court numbers, according to 82games.com.

In other words: Harden was supremely valuable to the Thunder, and he should be to Houston as well. Oklahoma City’s low-balling of him – and that’s what it was, by the way, as his agent obviously knew teams would line up in a row to give him significantly more money than OKC offered – may have been partially forced by the CBA, but criticizing him for wanting millions of dollars more than he could have received elsewhere is absurd. That decision belongs to him and him alone. Moreover, OKC could have offered one more year and more guaranteed dollars, but they chose not to.

Suffice it to say, based on his production, I disagree with their business decision. While luxury tax issues are very concerning, they broke up a championship core one year earlier than they had to without significantly improving in any area. Martin, while renowned during his prime as an efficient scorer, never had a season as efficient as Harden’s last year. His skill-set seems redundant with Durant’s, but he’s worse and can’t defend anybody. I’m not sure he’s a good fit there. Lamb still has questions, though he could develop into a better offensive version of Thabo Sefolosha. And the two picks are very nice, but they likely won’t help this year, and they may not help matters down the line. There’s no question that this trade lowers OKC’s title chances this season, and possibly beyond.

So Daryl Morey took advantage, using his collection of assets to finally make the big move anticipated for years. While they *had* made one previously, it fell victim to the commissioner’s power of veto. While the Gasol trade would have made the team better, it’s not a coup on the level of Harden – Harden is significantly younger and can be kept under team control for at least the next 5 years. And the Rockets still have a ton of assets at their disposal – they can choose to let them develop and maybe compete in a few years or to swing another deal to make the team more competitive in the short-term.

Meanwhile, Harden and Lin form a dynamic offensive backcourt, with two players that can create for themselves and others equally well. Harden especially seems like an awesome fit in Kevin McHale’s offense, as the high pick-and-roll is the team’s go-to set. While Houston still needs a strong perimeter defender – Chandler Parsons may be that at some point – they have all the other pieces of a fantastic core for the next 3-4 years. While the Rockets may again just be a fringe playoff contender this season if they stand pat (they rarely do), the future now is significantly brighter.

San Antonio Spurs Season Preview: The Beautiful Game

Team Capsule

The Spurs are the most entertaining basketball team in the NBA. They have little competition for this title. But how?

The San Antonio Spurs used to represent the clunky, late 1990s/early 2000s style of basketball to a tee. They defended vigorously, played dirty at times, and ran a clunky offense based on hammering teams down low with arguably the best player in the NBA and perfectly placed shooters. Many fans hated the team because the clunky style of basketball combined with little drama made for a lack of interesting storylines.

Now? The Spurs play with the rhythm and flow of an soccer game: fluid moving, crisp passing, exaggerated flopping, and beautiful shot-making. It’s a scientific art, one that creates more offensive value than any in the league and also more aesthetically pleasing entertainment than any team provides. They run the floor, shoot tons of threes, dribble-drive better than nearly anyone else. They have awesome chemistry, rarely making mistakes with communication. And they all know their roles.

Manu Ginobili is the artist, or even a magician, Euro-stepping left and right and flying all over the place with no regard for his own health. He’s breathtaking when he explodes to the rim with reckless abandon, whether he’s scoring for himself or creating a shot for a teammate that nobody saw coming. He’s the ultimate combination of unpredictability, athleticism, quirkiness, and creativity.

Tim Duncan is the cornerstone, the rock the Spurs were built upon. While he might not play as much as he used to, when he does play he’s almost as sturdy. as ever.

Tony Parker is the general, one who knows what he does well and does it very, very often to great effect. He runs the pick-and-roll as well as any point guard. He also finishes around the rim as well as anyone his size has ever done. And while he has his weaknesses, with a little help and knowledge he can command the court.

Gregg Popovich is the scientist, designing schemes and plays that take ultimate advantage of the rules. He’s willing to experiment but ultimately knows what he can rely upon. His teams take more efficient shots than anyone else, either at the rim or in the corners for threes, because of his grand design. And he mixes the individual elements of team to create a potent formula for basketball success. But there’s a bit of an artist in him too – remember when he sat out Tim Duncan with a DNP – OLD? A scientist with a sense of humor, this one is.

With the pieces in place, The Spurs are a guaranteed source of entertainment this year, one that should be appreciated by all. Especially since we don’t know how much longer this show will go on as Ginobili and Duncan are well past their physical primes, and Tony Parker is getting there too. While they are still competitive, we need to appreciate them while we can.

Biggest Strength: Three point shooting

Wow are the Spurs good at shooting. They led the league in three point percentage last year while taking the 7th most attempts. Really only Golden State has the shooting to contend with them. The difference between the Spurs and Golden State is so massive in roughly all other areas, however.

Some of the players who shot astronomically high percentages last year might regress (I’m mainly looking at you, Danny Green), but they have so many shooters it might not matter.

Biggest Weakness: Time

Time is not on San Antonio’s side – with Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili all 30 or older, the Spurs’ core is slowly rotting. All still provide a ton of value on the court, but the problem comes when facing off with other teams who have multiple superstars. Reliability may also be an issue – Ginobili is oft-injured, Duncan can’t play more than 30 minutes on most nights, and Parker continues to get older and is still relied upon as the center of the offense. While the regular season, with all its kinks and idiosyncrasies, can be managed without all three, during the playoffs the Spurs just cannot rely on those three as much as they used to.

Player to Watch: Kawhi Leonard

Leonard is San Antonio’s next great hope. While he averaged only 24 minutes per game overall, by the end of the season the Spurs relied on him on both ends of the floor, maybe to their detriment in the end. Leonard has excellent defensive tools, with height, length, and quickness to boot. But he never quite put them together yet. But when he does, he should be an absolute force.

The Spurs will rely on Kawhi to improve defensively. Offensively, however, they don’t need him to be more than a role player. The team has enough offensive weapons to not rely on him anyway. But the Spurs are so good with player development and letting players grow in their roles that they might let him do more. I’ve always maintained the keys to player development are giving young players time on the court, letting them make mistakes, holding them accountable for effort, and puttng them in position to succeed.  Doing all of these puts young players in a position where they can test their strengths and bounds. The Spurs do this better than anyone, and Kawhi should benefit.

Coach: Gregg Popovich

2011-12 record: 50-16

Key Additions: Nando de Colo

Okay, so that’s not a key addition at all, but it’s the only addition. Nando struggled in the Olympics but could be good in time.

Key Subtractions: James Anderson

Again, not much. Anderson only played late last year in garbage time or whenever they needed someone to commit a foul on the perimeter. Many expected DeJuan Blair to be moved, but he’s still here.

Team Trajectory: Down

The Spurs will still be awesome to watch and a legitimate contender, but with Miami’s improvements and Oklahoma City’s development and LA’s new foundation, I can’t put the Spurs higher than fourth among the title contenders. Considering they were a bit better than this last year, the trajectory has to be going down, especially since Duncan and Ginobili are further past their primes. But this organization seems to find ways to figure things out, so all hope is not lost.

Projected Record: 55-27

Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview: Almost There

Team Capsule 

Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies lost to the L.A. Clippers in the first round of the playoffs in a series that went seven games. It seemed like another year that the Grizzlies, while a good team, just weren’t good enough. Picked often by many people as a dark horse title contender for the past two seasons, the Grizzlies have come up short both times. This year, Memphis gets the return of Zach Randolph from injury, who only played in 28 games last year (started only 8 of them), to combine with center Marc Gasol as one of the best PF-C duos in the league.

Rudy Gay is an interesting player. Year after year, he produces good scoring stats, around 19 ppg the last few years. However, he has been slightly inefficient while scoring. He has never had a season with a TS% above 54.8%, and last year finished only with a FG% of 45.5. Despite being well known for having a good mid-range jump shot , he only shot 34% from 16-23 feet last year, despite taking over four of them a game. A hopefully improved Rudy Gay will be key to this season’s Grizzlies team. It will be interesting to see if an improved Rudy Gay and getting Randolph back will vault the Grizzlies from championship hopeful’s to serious championship contenders.

Biggest Strength: Defense

The Grizzlies finished seventh in defensive efficiency (98.9), were first in the league in Opponent turnover rate (16.30), and were  seventh in the league in defensive rating (101.8). A large part of this defensive success is because of Tony Allen, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. Tony Allen is a great defender at the wing position capable of shutting down the other teams best scoring options and being a general pest on defense. Marc Gasol, while not a great individual defender, is a huge man that clogs the lane for opposing players and blocks a lot of shots (fifth last year in number blocked shots). Finally, Mike Conley was a big part of why the Grizzlies forced a lot of turnovers last year as he was second in the league in number of steals at 136.

Biggest Weakness: Shooting

They were 24th in TS% last year at only 51.5% and 26th in three point shooting hitting only 32.6%. Just two players on last years Grizzlies team shot over 5o%, Hamed Haddadi and Dante Cunningham, neither of whom got much playing time. This team might have only one true three point threat with the loss of OJ Mayo this off season, Mike Conley. At the trade deadline or next years off season, it would be wise for them to sign a shooter to help bolster the great interior play of Z-Bo and Marc.

Player to Watch: Rudy Gay

As I mentioned above, an improved Rudy Gay would do wonders for this team. They already have a great interior presence with Randolph and Gasol, two good guards who both play good defense, Conley and Allen, so maybe a rise in efficiency in Rudy’s game would lift this team to serious title contenders.

Coach: Lionel Hollins

2011-12 record: 41-25

Key Additions: Jerryd Bayless and Tony Wroten

The Grizzlies largely stayed put this off season, only signing a young journeyman, Jerryd Bayless. Bayless is expected to backup Conley and play alongside him in stretches. He is a capable three point shooter, though he is very streaky. He has never lived up to his draft status, but perhaps can play well in Memphis. They also drafted 6’6″ point guard, Tony Wroten, out of Washington. While he won’t get that much playing time this year, he is a good defender and has been compared to Rajon Rondo. He should be a valuable player for the future.

Key Subtractions: O.J. Mayo

The Dallas Mavericks signed the disappointing shooting guard Mayo this off season. He looked like he could turn into a star after his first season in the league, but unfortunately his play has fallen off the past three years and he has regressed.

Team Trajectory: Flat 

Projected Record: 50-32

David Stern will step down

Image

David Stern commissioner of the NBA will step down as commissioner on February 1st, 2014. The end of an era and in my opinion the best commissioner in sports. Adam Silver will take over as commissioner after being selected by the board. “The Board has selected Adam Silver to succeed me as NBA Commissioner, and I am very pleased with their choice,” said Stern in an email.

Toronto Raptors Season Preview: Navigating the Road to Relevance

Team Capsule

No team last year was more irrelevant than the Raptors.

Even bad teams can be memorable or endearing or relevant. The Warriors spent the entire second half of the season trying to be bad; they hilariously succeeded through starting five rookies down the stretch. The Kings have interesting, if eccentric, young players trying to make names for themselves (as well as sad arena issues). The Timberwolves were a revelation for half the season before falling apart. The Hornets had no owner and little talent, but they tried as hard as anyone from game to game. The Wizards provided a blooper reel no other team in any sport could have matched. The Bobcats were so terrible they could not help but be relevant.

But the Raptors? Totally forgettable – but by design.

The front office designated last year as a waiting year in drafting Jonas Valanciunas despite knowing he wouldn’t come to the NBA for at least a year. They only made one significant move: hiring Dwane Casey, who for my money is one of the ten best coaches in the league. But with a stale roster and no moves, the roster ceiling was low. A shortened season happened, and some players took steps forward (Bargnani when healthy, Amir Johnson) while others took steps backward (DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis).

But now?  There’s something brewing up there which should be fun to watch. Jonas Valanciunas found his way to Canada, while Kyle Lowry forced his way there (but only after the Raptors tried and failed to reclaim Canada’s greatest gift to the United States: Steve Nash). Toronto drafted a wing in Terrence Ross and signed another in Landry Fields – both should fill major holes the Raptors had last season and put more pressure on DeMar DeRozan to perform well. Andrea Bargnani hopes to be healthy this year. Last year, in an admittedly small number of games, he had a huge offensive impact and played decent defense before injuries robbed him of his quickness. Along with the returning knowns (such as Jose Calderon) and unknowns (DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis), the Raptors clearly have some semblance of a talented team. They should be relevant for the first time since Chris Bosh took them to the playoffs.

However, with this newfound relevance comes expectations. The Raptors have a chance to make a playoff run if things go well. But many variables remain. As mentioned above, Bargnani needs to remain healthy. So does Lowry. DeRozan and Fields need to improve significantly. Jonas needs to meet lofty expectations. Dwane Casey needs to work his defensive magic even more, despite still not having the talent to create an elite defense.

The future looks brighter now that the Raptors made some changes and that time has passed. But only more time will tell if the Raptors have made progress; for now, relevance should do.

Biggest Strength: Point Guard Play

Lowry and Calderon compose one of the best one-two point guard tandems in the NBA. I’ll discuss more on the arrangement later. Also: teams can do worse than having John Lucas III as their third point, as well, especially teams who struggle to shoot or score.

Biggest Weakness: Shooting

And as the strength ends, the weakness emerges. The Raptors have no great shooters – they have solid ones in Lowry, Bargnani, and Calderon, and maybe Terrence Ross, but that’s it, and Lowry and Calderon can’t play together to take advantage. DeRozan and Fields are non-entities. Ed Davis is a complete floor clogger, and Amir Johnson isn’t much better. Moreover, they can’t play all their shooters together because the defense will fall completely apart. Floor spacing could be a major issue for the Raptors as the season goes along, which might prompt them to move a player for a shooter sometime before the season ends.

Also, isn’t it ironic the team with the league record in consecutive threes made has a shooting problem?

Player to Watch: Kyle Lowry

KLOE fits almost perfectly with the Raptors, which makes the Raptors’ acquisition of him maybe (maybe) as good as obtaining their original target, Steve Nash. While he may not have the best defensive support, Lowry can disrupt the opponent at the point of attack – in today’s NBA by-and-large that’s the point guard position – better than anyone else at his position. Compared to Jose Calderon, a human chicane, this should be a massive upgrade. Since the Raptors defense ended up around average last year with a chicane at the point guard spot, the Raptors could easily finish the top 10 in the league in defense.

The better question, though, comes on the other end of the floor. Lowry gained a reputation as a solid, largely underrated (yes, underrated is a reputation, which is funny because then in theory you’d rate that person properly with this knowledge, but this is all sematics, and I just wasted your time, so I apologize) offensive player over time. Last year, though, he positively exploded. Lowry set career highs in nearly every counting stat and backed it up with solid rate stats, including an above-average 3-point percentage for the second straight season. But he goes from a point-guard based offense in Houston to less of one in Toronto, so it’s fair to ask whether or not he can match his excellent numbers from a year ago (which were much better than they ended up being before illness and benching).

Coach: Dwane Casey (76-112 career)

2011-12 record: 25-41

Key Additions: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas, Landry Fields, Terrence Ross, John Lucas III

I’ve mentioned all of these players above at some point. Each addition should help in a different way, although only one or two has the potential to be a franchise-changer. But one or two franchise-changers in an offseason is better than what many teams accomplish.

Key Subtractions: Jerryd Bayless, James Johnson

While both played key roles, Bayless and Johnson won’t be missed much with the changes the Raptors made over the summer. Bayless shot a really high percentage from deep but otherwise continued his combo guard tendencies. With Lowry in tow, he became expendable, and they let him go. Johnson, meanwhile, also suffered from broken jumper syndrome, and the Raptors needed to rid themselves of at least one non-shooter. He had grown upset in Toronto, so moving him became a given. Although I don’t understand why the Kings traded for him, as the land of broken jumpers didn’t need another inhabitant.

Team Trajectory: Rising

But with caution: the Raptors aren’t even a playoff team yet. But they have a nice core of young players who all figure to improve at least somewhat, a good coach, and no terrible contracts. They could be relevant for a long while.

Projected Record: 36-46

Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview: Where There’s a Bynum, There’s A Way

Team Capsule

The Sixers finally decided that being average wasn’t good enough. They finally decided to (try to) get better.

Originally, it looked as if the Sixers decided to gut themselves and head in the other direction. The series of moves that kicked off their offseason were puzzling at best, flat-out incompetent at worst. Drafting two players late who would not compete for any open positions nor provide the team with things they didn’t already have started what seemed to be a path to tanking. Letting two of their four best players from last season go to sign Nick Young and Kwame Brown, re-sign Lavoy Allen, and trade for Dorell Wright while paying $10 million along the way seemed like a bold strategy that wouldn’t pay off for them.

They also re-signed Spencer Hawes because he was apparently an integral part of this team’s future and decided starting Hawes alongside Kwame Brown was a fantastic idea. Upon learning this, I gave up on the season, especially when Collins indicated that the team may be done making moves this summer.

But then a gigantic, unexpected bomb dropped that salvaged their offseason and moved the team into a new era. Acquiring a good player for Andre Iguodala was going to be difficult, I believed. For one, Iguodala was a very good but expensive player. In order for the team to rebuild, as has been speculated, the Sixers needed either to acquire expiring contracts or sell Iguodala off in a salary dump. Few expected to get another great player. Even fewer expected a player with the youth and star-power of Andrew Bynum. Even in the weeks leading up to the trade, most expected Pau Gasol to be a more likely trade target.

So to get Bynum and cap filler (Jason Richardson) for Iguodala and 3 first rounders (2nd year player Vucevic, rookie Maurice Harkless – HOW COULD YOU TRADE MOE HARKLESS?! – and a future pick), the Sixers did fairly well for themselves. While this could blow up in the franchise’s face if Bynum skips town, the shot at a franchise center was just too much to pass up. And as it turned out, a lot (but not all) of the previous moves make much more sense in the team’s new context.

The new context? One where each core player, and most of the peripheral players, is 24 years old or younger*. One with an established offensive centerpiece. One with a coach who typically burns out in year 3, but with almost an entirely new roster to buffer against that. And one with a significantly brighter future than it had just 5 months ago.

*This includes Thaddeus Young. Sidenote: how is Thaddeus Young only 24?

But with this new context comes new expectations, new roles, and new pressures. Andrew Bynum gets to be “THE” guy, so to speak. His aloof attitude toward pretty much everything in life will be challenged by his abrasive coach. And his team expects him to show up every night, an expectation he never met in Los Angeles. Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner have run out of excuses. The rest of the roster needs to prove they can be more than just highly limited role players. And Collins needs to prove he can put it all together without making the team turn on him.

The new Sixers have a lot of questions waiting to be solved, but they undoubtedly have taken a step in the right direction. Which is as good of a thing that could really be said about this franchise in a while.

Biggest Strength: Andrew Bynum

Having Bynum makes the rest of the squad seem like it fits. The Sixers have a good amount of shooting

Biggest Weakness: The Turner/Hawes alignment

In last year’s playoffs, the Sixers would have made the East finals had it not been for these two playing obnoxious amounts of time together. The results were disastrous: the Celtics starting five routinely built up huge leads for their team before one of Hawes or Turner fell out of the lineup. Because Hawes had exactly one more good playoff game than Turner, ET got most of the blame. But separate, neither was completely awful. Considering Collins plans to start the two together again, I’m not sure he has learned from their playoff crap-dumping.

Specifically, since he plans to play them alongside Bynum, combined they really clog the spacing on the floor. Since Lavoy Allen isn’t mobile enough to really play the 4 full-time, I don’t see a clear solution here. It should be a problem all season.

Player to Watch: Jrue Holiday

Holiday may be entering his fourth year in the league, but he’s only 22 years old. However, if the Sixers want to compete in any way this season, they’ll need him to play much better than he did last season. While his defense improved from “toolsy but below-average” to a bit above average, his offense took a step back. Mainly, whenever he was given significant play-making responsibility, Collins reigned him in because he committed obscene amounts of dumb turnovers. Unfortunately, because the Sixers were going for wins, Holiday hasn’t been afforded the opportunity to make mistakes and test his strengths. His development stalled out, I believe, because of that.

But this year? Collins may have no choice but to let Jrue do Jrue. Royal Ivey is a wonderful guy, but even Collins should know relying on the Chemist means you’re not going anywhere. The oddly spelled Maalik Wayns should have similar problems to Holiday. Evan Turner makes too many dumb plays himself. Thus Jrue should get ample opportunity to be a primary play-maker. While I think he’ll create more for himself than others, this is a prime opportunity to make a leap.

Coach: Doug Collins (408-359 career)

2011-12 record: 35-31

Key Additions: Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Nick Young, Dorell Wright, Kwame Brown

The Sixers had too many changes to count. The key one is obviously Bynum, but the next three on the list all provide something the Sixers desperately need last year: shooting. While none are lights-out shooters, all have historically been above-average. Richardson can really only shoot these days. All Nick Young ever did was call his number. Dorell Wright, meanwhile, is significantly better than both Swaggy and J-Rich and may see time as an undersized 4.

Meanwhile, Kwame Brown got a player option. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Key Subtractions: Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks

The first three players were three of the four best on the team last year, although somehow everyone missed this during the whole Bynum news thing. Iguodala’s going to scorch the earth in Denver, Brand will surprise in Dallas, and Lou Williams will be Lou Williams in Atlanta. And also, I expect the Lakers will realize sooner rather than later that Jodie Meeks shoots threes from the elbows well but not the corners.

Team Trajectory: Rising

The new context the Sixers have came at a cost. The Sixers lost 3 recent first round draft picks in the Bynum trade, plus they gave one up for Arnett Moutrie. Combined with a lack of cap flexibility, the Sixers have what they can work with for the foreseeable future. Despite that, what they have now puts them in such a strong position going forward that the franchise seriously looks to be moving on up the ranks. After years of stagnation, it’s a refreshing sight, even if the results this year won’t change much.

Projected Record: 45-37

Brooklyn Nets Season Preview: Starting Fresh

Team Capsule

The New Jersey Nets have been the scapegoat of the NBA for most of the past decade or so, with a few exceptions. The idea was tossed around a few times to move the team elsewhere, but the decision finally was made to give the Nets a total makeover and move them to Brooklyn to play in the Barclays Center.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s all welcome your Brooklyn Nets.

The Nets are starting a new season and have a whole new look, and with new players such as Joe Johnson and CJ Watson, the Nets are ready to turn the page.

Biggest Strength: Offense

First, the Nets will have one of the most prolific backcourts in the league with Deron Williams and Joe Johnson. Add in Brook Lopez, Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries, and you have yourself a great scoring team. Not to mention the high-powered bench scoring; CJ Watson, Mirza Teletovic, Andray Blatche and Marshon Brooks will provide much of that. Add that formula all together, and the sum is a high-powered scoring offense. What a relief for Nets fans.

Biggest Weakness: Defense

While Joe Johnson is a good defensive player, the rest of the Nets are a different story. Lopez, Teletovic, Blatche and Humphries all are less than desirable on defense. No one at center is taller than 6’9, so that poses a big problem. Brooklyn’s games this year will be high-scoring.

Player to Watch: Mirza Teletovic

Teletovic isn’t getting much publicity due to the other blockbuster moves that the Nets are making, but this guy’s shooting ability is definitely a force to be reckoned with. The best part? A lot of teams might not pay attention to the skills of Teletovic.

2011-2012 record: (22-44)

Coach: Avery Johnson (240-172)

Key Additions: Andray Blatche, Joe Johnson, Josh Childress, CJ Watson, Mirza Teletovic

The Nets made a lot of big moves this offseason. The biggest, obviously, was acquiring Joe Johnson from the Hawks, a player that will surely make the Nets better this season. Some may forget, however, that Blatche, Childress, Watson and Teletovic are pretty good additions too.

Key Subtractions: Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Johan Petro

In my Atlanta Hawks Season Preview, I raved about the addition of former Nets player Anthony Morrow. While he’s better than people think, he is still nowhere near Joe Johnson.

Team Trajectory: Rising

The Nets organization wants more than an embarrassing team. They made big acquisitions this offseason that will result in a much better team, and will most likely keep moving forward and ultimately try to reach the final destination: an NBA Championship. However, they don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves yet. Right now, they’re playoff bound, maybe not much farther.

Projected Record: 47-35

 

Boston Celtics Season Preview: New Team, Same Goals

Team Capsule

Last year, the Boston Celtics, led by Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Miami Heat in 7 games in a gut-wrenching fashion. That also marked the end of the “Big 3” era of Pierce, Allen and Kevin Garnett. Ray Allen left to join the Miami Heat.

Although the Celtics missed their goal last year of obtaining a Championship, they have re-tooled their roster and are ready for another shot at it. The only question: Will they succeed?

Biggest Strength: Depth

Last year, the Celtics had a pretty bad bench, but the additions of Jason Terry, Fab Melo, and- eeeek- I hate saying this as a Michigan State fan, but former Ohio State player Jared Sullinger add to the bench’s strength, and now with Jeff Green coming back, he’ll be a force off of the bench.

Biggest Weakness: Age

The Celtics are a bunch of old guys out on the court. Jason Terry and Paul Pierce are 35, and Kevin Garnett is 36. The biggest problem might be Kevin Garnett, because he’s prone to injuries, and the depth behind him isn’t so strong (I mean, DARKO MILICIC).

Player to Watch: Jeff Green

Jeff Green missed all of last season with an aortic aneurysm in his heart, but is back this season. He could become a huge asset to the team behind starter Paul Pierce, as Pierce is aging and Green is really skilled with a good basketball IQ.

2011-2012 record: 39-27

Coach: Doc Rivers (546-433)

Key Additions: Jeff Green (kind of), Jason Terry, Courtney Lee

Jeff Green, although this is his second year as a Celtic, is in his first PLAYING season with them, and could be a huge asset. Lee and Terry both are good replacements for the absent Ray Allen, who is now playing for the Miami Heat.

Key Subtractions: Ray Allen, JaJuan Johnson

Allen, the best three-point shooter in NBA history, is a big loss to the team and his hard to replace. Also, JaJuan Johnson was Brandon Bass’ backup, and it’ll be difficult for Jared Sullinger to appropriately fill the role of backup power forward in his first year in the NBA.

Team Trajectory: Flat

The team is having troubles making up for Ray Allen, plus, the missing pieces aren’t there for them to make it all the way to the championship with the Heat as a roadblock. They’re going to need Courtney Lee and Jason Terry to do better than expected if they want to go any deeper into the playoffs.

Projected Record: 55-27

Dallas Mavericks Season Preview: New Faces

Team Capsule 

After getting swept by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round of the playoffs last season, it was clear to both the Mavericks and everyone else that they needed something new, possibly another star player. Last year was largely looked at as a holdover year, as they didn’t resign center Tyson Chandler in an effort to have enough cap space to acquire Deron Williams and/or Dwight Howard. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t get either. However, they did have a sneaky good off season, signing guys like Darren Collison and O.J. Mayo to help inject some much needed youth and energy to this team.

Dirk Nowitzki has recently undergone arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, and while originally prognosticated to be out for six weeks, it is actually closer to three weeks according to  http://espn.go.com/dallas/nba/story/_/id/8535277/sources-dallas-mavericks-hope-dirk-nowitzki-return-closer-3-weeks-surgery. Dirk’s health will be critical to this teams success. In what looks like will be a tough race for a playoff spot in the west, the difference between Dirk missing only two weeks of the regular season as opposed to five, is huge.

Biggest Strength: Dirk

Although usually I would try and come up with this part of the preview using a statistical analysis of what the team as a whole does well, this one was different. Dirk has a very high usage rate (29.2%), and that should only go up with the loss of Jason Terry to the Celtics. The offense flows through him and falls upon the shoulders of his big German frame. He is the difference between this team making the playoffs or getting a possible top five draft pick.

Biggest Weakness: Offense

They finished last year 20th in offensive efficiency, 22nd in Offensive Rating, and were just average shooting the ball (15th in TS%). With only a few legit scoring options on the team last year, the offense often times struggled to create points and thus created the inefficiency.

Player to Watch: Dirk Nowitzki

I have talked a lot about Dirk in this article, including how his health will determine the Mavs’ season. It will be interesting to see how he returns from surgery.

2011-12 Record: 36-30

Coach: Rick Carlisle

Key Additions: O.J. Mayo, Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman, Jae Crowder

Mayo is a solid pickup for the Mavs because he can shoot and brings athleticism and youth to the team. Even though he only shot 40.8% from the floor last year, he is a solid three point shooter hitting in the upper 30%s for his career. Darren Collison replaces veteran point guard Jason Kidd, who signed with the Knicks this off season, and brings okay play-making and solid shooting to the table. Elton is a veteran big who will be used off the bench, not so much an offensive player anymore, but still the best defensive big on the team. Chris Kaman will start next to Dirk this year creating a really white good offensive front court. Kaman is a good scoring option out of the post. Jae Crowder is a rookie SF that plays like the energizer bunny with a three point shot. He is expected to see okay playing time this year. (@Ian_Segovia) compared him to a more sane Metta World Peace, so there’s that.

Key Subtractions: Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Ian Mahinmi, Lamar Odom(?)

The Celtics signed the former 6th man of the year to a multi year deal that will take away a big part of the Mavs’ offense. JET did so many things for them, including providing a lot of fourth quarter scoring. He was one of their only offensive creators last year aside from Dirk, so it will be interesting to see if O.J. Mayo can provide that sort of play. Jason Kidd is both declining and aging fast so him leaving isn’t really all that big of a deal, especially with the signing of Darren Collison. Ian Mahinmi was a backup big that provided good defense off the bench, but was replaced with Elton Brand. I threw Lamar in there for his name only, as he was terrible last year.

Team Trajectory: Flat 

With so many new faces, and it being unclear how they will mesh and how Dirk returns from injury, we really don’t know if they will improve or decline, so how about some place in the middle. 

Projected Record: 44-38