Tuesday, November 4, 2008
[Note From Kay: These Season Preview articles were written before the news of the Billups for Iverson trade. So the comments may be a little outdated. However, I don't see the trade having a significant change to either team's rankings within their division. So I haven't bothered to update the text.]
1. Utah Jazz: An overlooked team, that should be able to win their division yet again. They have a solid core, but I'm worried that Boozer has one foot outside of the door already and that could affect team chemistry and his overall play. Deron Williams is one of the best PG in the league, but gets overlooked because of Chris Paul. Okur is a sweet shooting big man who compliments Boozer well. Kirlenko has great versatility but needs to be willing to accept a bench role for the betterment of the team. On the bench, I like Korver for his outside shooting and also Millsap. If Boozer is injured or leaves the team, he could step and fill admirably. He won't score as much, but has potential to match the rebounds and will play even better defense. Miles, Price and Brewer need to step up to give this team some much needed athleticism and scoring off of the bench. They were dominate at home last year, but woeful off the bench. Will they be able to turn around their fortune and move into elite status?
2. Portland Trailblazers: While the injury to Greg Oden was equal parts predictable and unfortunate, I still think they have enough firepower to make the playoffs this year. Brandon Roy and Aldridge are future stars in the making. Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez off of the bench are explosive and give this team crazy depth. They go 2-deep at every position. This should limit injuries to their star players and keep everyone fresh come playoff time. The key will be everyone buying into the team concept and being willing to sacrifice their stats and minutes. Nate McMillan has his hands full with that task. Bayless looked like a beast in the preseason and summer camp, but he'll rarely get off of the bench. Same goes for Sergio Rodriguez. Webster's injury should give Rudy and Outlaw a chance to solidify themselves in the rotation. I'm not sure where Webster will fit in when he returns, however. Przybilla is a beast on the glass and is a great shot-blocker. Despite his offensive woes, he should fill in admirably for Oden while he misses games. Which could be frequent this season. They are still a young team, so expect some ups and downs this season.
3. Denver Nuggets: It's a crapshoot after Portland and Utah. None of these other teams really stand a chance at making the playoffs. Denver traded Camby away for nothing, which leaves their frontcourt with huge question marks. They can't rely on K-Mart and Nene to play heavy minutes; or to even be healthy for the entire season. Carmelo and Iverson will carry the offensive load for this team. JR Smith and Kleiza are streaky scorers. Anthony Carter might be the worst starting PG in the league. And their bench is full of no-names. They barely made the playoffs last year, and I think they took a step back this year. They don't play a lick of defense, and they will struggle against other Western teams. I don't know why they gave Nene a huge contract last year, coming off of an injury. They put themselves in a huge hole financially that the team may not recover from. That was the main reason why they traded Camby in a salary dump. Team morale has got to be at an all-time low on this team.
4. Minnesota Timberwolves: They should be fun to watch, but I don't think they'll make any waves in terms of the playoffs this year. Al Jefferson and Kevin Love have the potential to be a dynamic scoring duo on offense. Neither of them can defend centers, but their team is not very good defensively anyway. Backing them up they have a slew of stiffs: Booth, Collins, Madsen, and the decent Craig Smith. They have a lot of depth at the SG and SF positions. Miller is a sharp shooter, while Brewer has excellent defensive abilities. Gomes is solid; nothing extraordinary but will compliment this team well. I'm not sure where McCants will fit in; but he can score a lot of points in a hurry and has a nice outside shot. At point guard, they'll rotate between Telfair and Foye. Foye has break-out season written all over him assuming that he can stay healthy. A big If. This'll be a year for the young guns to get some experience under their belt and be ready for next year. I wouldn't be surprised to see Mike Miller traded to a playoff team at midseason.
5. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder will be awful this year. I just don't like their roster at all. Durant and Green are nice players to build around. But Green is still a year or two away from being a consistent threat. Westbrook is a good defender, but needs to prove that he can score and lead a team consistently. Until than, he is stuck in a timesplit with Watson. I'm not sure where that leads either Desmond Mason or Damien Wilkins. They'll get spotty minutes all year, and really aren't a part of their youth movement at all. They have a ton of big men, but none of them are really any good. Petro, Swift and Sene all combined together are not a good player. They can, at best, block some shots, use up some fouls, and get the occasional rebound. That's about it. Wilcox will look to score points, but give up the same number or more on the opposite end. Collison is quality big men; but is better served on a winning team. He is a nice compliment, but not really a dominating big man. This team looks pretty hopeless.
Posted by Kay at 4:39 PM