Tag Archives: Josh Smith

The Detroit Pistons: on the Cusp

Hope again (The Associated Press)

Hope again (The Associated Press)

Summer League brings with it a new sense of hope. It alleviates the summer doldrums that occur after the Finals have ended, the NBA Draft, and the start of training camps. This renewed feeling of enthusiasm is especially true for teams that have been mediocre or worse for a number of years. Perhaps the sense of renewal will never completely pan out in the long-term. However, for a time, it allows for a glimmer of what might be, new heights, and a new beginning.

The Detroit Pistons have not had a winning record since the 2007-08 season. Detroit’s fall from grace mirrored the fall of the city’s overall economic collapse, though basketball had nothing to do with the underlying issues that the city succumbed to. Nonetheless, as often is the case, sports teams are symbols of a city or region. They serve as an escape from the realities of everyday life. For Detroit, though, the Pistons are not an escape. The team and city have been through so much since the Pistons won the NBA Championship in 2004 that it is a distant memory. With Summer League in full swing now, the Pistons, and their fans, may actually have something to look forward to.

With the eighth pick in this summer’s Draft, the Pistons selected Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, a guard out of Georgia. Caldwell-Pope’s best asset is his ability to pull up and make pump shots. With the frontcourt duo of Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe clogging the middle and drawing double-teams, Caldwell-Pope’s opportunities, should he be on the court with one or the other, to get open looks should be frequent.

In the second round, Detroit selected North Texas’ Tony Mitchell. If ever there was a pure athlete, Mitchell is it. (I wrote about him in detail here.) What he brings to the table is an NBA body combined with phenomenal leaping ability. He is also adept at finishing at, but more than likely above, the rim as well as blocking shots.

The Piston’s also selected point guard Peyton Siva, from Louisville, in the second round. Silva is more of a defender than offensive threat, however he manages the pick-and-roll well. This skill will come in handy with the aforementioned frontcourt players as well as Mitchell. Of course, as with all rookies, his skills will only be in service if he sees playing time. Nonetheless, the Pistons hauled a promising young group of players in this year’s Draft.

Perhaps, though, the biggest addition to the Detroit roster is the free agent signing of Josh Smith. Smith has proven time and again that he has the capability of playing at an extremely high level and was one of the most coveted free agents this summer. The Pistons now have a star to build around and many pieces are already in place. However, Smith is not the most refined player. He is prone to taking jumpshots all to often, as shown here. Where Smith is most efficient and effective is within nine feet of the basket. Therefore, his role in Detroit is a tricky one to figure out.

With Monroe likely remaining as the starting power forward, Smith will move into the small forward spot. Drummond and Monroe do much of the heavy lifting inside. With his propensity to take so many ill-advised and low percentage jumpers, Smith could once again drift from the paint with it occupied. If this happens, it could turn out poorly for the Pistons. It will take a degree of ingenuity on the part of new Head Coach Maurice Cheeks to open up lanes and allow Smith to get his shots on the inside.

A solid model to study would be that of last year’s Denver Nuggets. That team took the vast majority of their shots, 55.74 percent, within eight feet of the basket. With so many big men, Mitchell included, who can score well inside, it would behoove Detroit to attempt something similar.

There are still a lot of uncertainties with the Pistons. It is a new new for all respects. Yet, there is reason to believe that this could be the start of Detroit’s turnaround. They had a solid draft and brought in a big-name All Star. Not only that, but a member of Detroit’s last championship team, the beloved Rasheed Wallace, has joined Cheeks’ coaching staff as an assistant. That in and of itself should be reason to take interest in this year’s team.

Summer League has a funny way of leading to the “what-ifs” of the season to come. Detroit’s team has shown promise, especially the play of Drummond. While nothing may pan out, we can all  hope for the best. Right now, that is all Detroit has but at least  the pieces are there to make things interesting until opening day. And that is the joy of Summer League.

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Beef Stew: After the Trade Deadline

So beefy

After a flurry of moves that came down just prior to the trade deadline all the way up to the 3 P.M. Eastern Time cutoff, the NBA has seen quite a dramatic shift. Now that it is over teams are still jockeying to shore up their assets and acquire role players for a deep playoff push. Of course every team wants to enter the playoffs healthy, but that may be easier said than done. On to the Stew!

Money, money, money

The Oklahoma City Thunder have signed newly acquired big man, Kendrick Perkins, to an extension. It is a four-year deal that will net him $34.8 million. As an added incentive, the deal also includes bonus clauses that can increase Perkins’ pay. Furthermore, the Thunder have increased his 2010-11 salary from $2.3 million to $6.7 million and based the extension off the new salary. Perkins had been hesitant to sign an extension with the Celtics this season which factored into the team trading him. It looks as though the Thunder’s General Manager, Sam Presti, is playing for keeps.

In the epic saga that is Troy Murphy’s life, he now faces his greatest decision ever: what team does he want to chase a ring on? After being bought out of his present contract by the Golden State Warriors (he was traded to them at the deadline for Brandan Wright and Dan Gadzuric) it looked as though Murphy was well on his way to Beantown. That is until the most shrewd operator in the business came calling. Gordon Gekko, er…Pat Riley and the Miami Heat have shown interest in Murphy. Decisions, decisions. Miami would have to free up roster space to add the power forward, however, it would seem that there are plenty of players on their roster who are expendable outside of their marquee three. The only thing for Murphy to do now is to sit back, wait, and quote Cuba Gooding Jr. BREAKING: As this piece was being written, Marc Stein of ESPN reported that Murphy has chosen to play in Boston. The terms of any deal between the two parties are not yet known. I hope ABC was filming this, there was certainly potential for a bad reality show in there. Throw in some roses and you have a hit.

Everyone knew that the Washington Wizards really did not want to take Mike Bibby. He is old and that team is young. He likes to mall walk and they like to sleep in. It just was not going to work. Therefore, the Wizards did everyone a favor and bought out the remainder of Bibby’s $6.2 million salary for the season. Bibby had chosen to waive the final year of his present contract so that he would be able to be bought out. He is set to clear waivers on Wednesday. Once that occurs, it is widely believed that he will become a ring chaser on the Heat. Now, that Murphy has decided on Boston, Miami’s push for the veteran point guard will likely be stronger than ever as they do not have the best point guards in the league. Bibby is by no means the player he once was with the Sacramento Kings, however, he would be a positive offensive upgrade over both Mario Chalmers and Carlos Arroyo. UPDATE: reports are saying that Arroyo has been cut to make room for Bibby.

After the New York Knicks swung their deal for Carmelo Anthony, they also acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves Corey Brewer. However, Brewer has not seen a single minute of playing time with his new team as Mike D’Antoni prefers to play Renaldo Balkman instead and the team deactivated Brewer. Now, the Knicks are in the process of buying him out. In the hunt for him now, according to various reports, are the Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, Thunder, and Dallas Mavericks. He is expected to meet with several coaches from interested teams on Tuesday including mavericks’ coach Rick Carlisle.

Pain, pain, pain

Somehow, the Spurs have managed to stay healthy all season. Did they make a deal similar to Robert Johnson’s? Was it pure luck? Is it still the revenge of the small market? Whatever it was, it came to an end. Tony Parker is likely to miss two to four weeks with a sore calf muscle. In the long run this injury will not hamper the Spurs’ playoff quest. They already have 49 wins this season. However, they may seed some ground to the Mavericks, who are looking at catching the Spurs for the number one overall seed in the Western Conference.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are not going to make the playoffs. They would not even get an invitation to the NIT this year. They are awful. Yet, somehow they know how to beat the Los Angeles Lakers and the Knicks. They have beaten the Knicks twice. Ouch. However, the team may have just suffered its biggest loss of the season. Antawn Jamison will likely miss the rest of the season with a broken finger. The Cavaliers just cannot catch a break. Cleveland was actively engaged in trying to move Jamison to Golden State at the trade deadline but the two sides could not reach an agreement. After that news sunk in, Jamison’s left pinky decides to ruin the rest of the season. Poor guy.

Fresh off his recent arrival to the Denver Nuggets, Danilo Gallinari has fractured his left big toe in a game against the Atlanta Hawks. According to the team, the injury will keep him sidelined for a week to ten days.

In the same game that Gallinari was injured, Josh Smith left midway through the game with a stiff knee. Smith will be re-evaluated once the team returns to Atlanta.

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Hawks impersonate Icarus against Hornets

David West and the Hornets pushed the Hawks around all night.

The Atlanta Hawks suffered an embarrassing loss at the hands of the New Orleans Hornets on Friday night. Atlanta managed only 25 points in the second half as they were destroyed 100-59.

Only Josh Smith and Jamal Crawford scored in double figures for the Hawks with 13 and 14 points respectively. The next highest scorer was Joe Johnson who had nine. As a team, the Hawks shot 23-79 for a lowly 29.1 percent on field goals.

Combined with the pathetic scoring output, Atlanta was also outworked on the glass as New Orleans out rebounded them 55-32.

Leading the charge for New Orleans was Chris Paul who had 16 points as four Hornets reached double figure scoring. Paul also had eight assists.

The Hornets shot 48 percent for the evening including making eight of their 15 three-point attempts.

Atlanta was without Al Horford who missed the game due to sore right ankle. It was very apparent how important Horford is to the Hawks as they were carved up by the Hornets offense. The loss snaps Atlanta’s two game winning streak.

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Power Rankings

It's good to be undefeated

It’s only a handful of games into the season but it’s these games that can set the pace for teams.  Some have started the season off well.  Some haven’t.  Some are building what could be formidable playoff teams while others are already snowballing into what will turn them into lottery teams next summer.  However they are starting the season, every team is setting a theme for both the best and the worst.

1. Los Angeles Lakers (7-0)

Being the No. 1 scoring team in the league should be at no surprise for the defending champs.  Point guards Derek Fisher and Steve Blake are both averaging only four assists per game and they are putting up 22 a game (9th in the league).  They are spreading out the ball and utilizing their depth very appropriately.  We could still question parts of this bench but Blake and Matt Barnes give them a lot more to work with.  As long as Pau Gasol is playing well both defensively and offensively, sky is the limit for the Lakers.

2. New Orleans Hornets (6-0)

The Hornets are only scoring 97 points a game.  This stat comes to no surprise when you look at who can really score in New Orleans but the fact that they are still undefeated really sticks out.  A team built around arguably the best point guard in the league in Chris Paul would be thought to be perfect this far into the season around offense.  Instead, it’s the defense that is propelling this team forward.  While giving up only 91 points a game, the Hornets have held Milwaukee to 81, Miami to 93 and San Antonio to 90.  This is the best start in franchise history for the Hornets but how long can the winning last?

3. Boston Celtics (6-2)

The pieces are coming together nicely in Boston.  Rajon Rondo is averaging 15.5 assists a game and has surely won over the respect of both his teammates and the pundits.  Scoring distribution will keep this team fresh and a good man running point will definitely help.  Five of their six wins are over teams that were in the playoffs last season.  We have yet to see Shaquille O’neal and Kendrick Perkins both active on this roster.

4. Atlanta Hawks (6-2)

It’s balance that is keeping these Hawks afloat and that’s the best thing to build a season on.  Josh Smith is making a case for early MVP consideration and will just get better over the course of the season.  It’s also looking like extending Al Horford’s contract is looking like a good decision.  They are averaging 104 points a game while still collecting 32 defensive boards a game. However, this team needs to recover from its recent two game slide.

5. Miami Heat (5-2)

For those of you that expected the Heat to win 82 games, sorry but that can’t happen now.  In addition, loses to both Boston and New Orleans should be nothing to be embarrassed about right now.  Erik Spoelstra needs to figure out the best rotation of the bench that wont hurt them too much.  Right now, the bench is being outscored and outplayed.  It’s a long season and three players cannot carry a team by themselves.

6. Orlando Magic (5-1)

Orlando should technically be 6-1 but issues at Madison Square Garden caused the Knicks to postpone their inevitable loss to the Magic.  Regardless, their one loss to the Heat is warranted and Rashard Lewis needs to put up more than 2 points for the Magic to win such a statement game.

7. Denver Nuggets (4-3)

Nene, Chris Anderson and Kenyon Martin are out with injuries.  They beat the Mavericks in Dallas with Sheldon Williams starting and that speaks volumes about how this team will perform when their big men return.  Their depth will increase tremendously.  If Denver keeps winning, it may translate to a happy Carmelo Anthony and when Melo is happy, everyone is happy.

8. Portland Trail Blazers (5-3)

Holding Phoenix to just 92 points and later Milwaukee to only 76 is what is helping this Trail Blazers team make the point that they are serious about defense.  Marcus Camby can defend well but Nate McMillen will need to figure out how to get some more scoring from his frontcourt.  His starting forwards only scored nine points against the Lakers on Sunday and they aren’t even breaking 100 points per game. It was, however, their fifth game in seven days.

9. Dallas Mavericks (4-2)

Dallas has seven players that will show up every night on the court. Jason Kidd is showing almost no signs of age while the frontcourt is stacked with Brendan Haywood and Tyson Chandler.  Dallas narrowly beat Denver last Wednesday just to lose to them Saturday.  The Mavs will rebound once Caron Butler and Shawn Marion hit their strides.  However, Dallas needs to clean up its turnovers that are at 16 a game and their bench is ranked second to last in scoring. Although there are no “statement” games in November, beating Boston is the closest you can get to having one.

10. San Antonio Spurs (5-1)

Their record is impressive until you see that they have only beaten one team that made the playoffs last season in Phoenix.  They are fourth in the league in scoring with 109 a game and their next three games are easy wins against the Clippers, Bobcats and the 76ers.  The youth in San Antonio surrounded by a mix of good coaching and veterans will spell out an interesting season.  However, Greg Popavich needs his young guys to get the minutes they need to grow.

11. Oklahoma City Thunder (3-3)

It’s funny that a team with Russell Westbrook is ranked 30th in the league in assists per game but when you look at the depth in OKC, it begins to make sense.  The ball isn’t being spread out enough and sheer depth may haunt the Thunder again this season.  Again, it’s 82 games and it takes more than an sixth man to get through a season and make the playoffs out West.

12. Memphis Grizzlies (4-4)

Rudy Gay became the first player in franchise history to score at least 25 points a game in five consecutive games.  However, it’s their defense that needs to step up since they are allowing their opponents to score 107 points a game.  They are undersized and young which is a bad place to be in the Western Conference.  It’s going to a long season with hopefully some growth.

13. Utah Jazz (3-3)

Deron Williams and company are obviously hurting from loosing some of their star players.  With Mehmet Okur out, the Jazz are limited in size and they are obviously having a hard time scoring when they can only muster up 78 points against the Warriors.  It wont get any easier with them playing Miami, Orlando and Atlanta this week.

14. Phoenix Suns (3-4)

Steve Nash entered the season with reservations about the Suns’ chances this season.  Losses to Portland, San Antonio and LA aren’t something to be ashamed of this season.  In all three of their loses, Hedo Turkoglu has scored six points twice and nine points once.  Maybe it’s time to put some production into this starting lineup. Alvin Gentry is going to get to the point where he no longer asks permission to yell at his team.

15. Chicago Bulls (3-3)

Derrick Rose and the Bulls really took it to the Celtics last Friday in a come back that forced overtime.  They fell short in the extra minutes but the play of both Rose and Joakim Noah should keep Bulls fans optimistic.  If Tom Thibodeau and company want to win, Ronnie Brewer needs more minutes and Carlos Boozer needs to return from injury.

16. Golden State Warriors (5-2)

The Warriors have started the season off 4-0 for the first time in 20 years.  Subsequently, three of those four wins are against teams that failed to reach the postseason last year and Utah isn’t the beast it once was.  Monta Ellis has already had two very impressive outings of 46 and 39 points and the return of Stephen Curry will greatly help this backcourt.

17. New York Knicks (3-3)

A win in Chicago could or couldn’t be a big deal this early in the season since we have yet to see them form.  Their other two wins were against Toronto and Washington which both paint a better picture of what this team is truly capable of.  We all know that Mike D’antoni teams can get worn out and that Amar’e Stoudemire’s heightened level of play wont last.

18. Cleveland Cavaliers (3-3)

Cleveland has the fourth best bench as far as scoring in the league.  That same bench never got LeBron James a ring so we don’t really expect the same to pan out for Antawn Jamison and friends.  Byron Scott is letting them grow but that’s about all we expect from this season.  An initial win over Boston is impressive until you see that they lost to Toronto and Sacramento the following days.

19. Sacramento Kings (3-3)

The Kings are scoring but still allowing their opponents to rack up 107 points a game.  DeMarcus Cousins has yet to record a 10-rebound game and Tyreke Evans is still trying to do too much on the court.  Good news is that their both young and when they click, it could mean a lot to wherever the Kings end up playing next.

20. Milwaukee Bucks (2-5)

Scott Skiles is having a hard time getting the Bucks rolling into this season.  They are 30th in the league in scoring at only 89 a game and it’s mainly due to their depth.  Drew Gooden is giving them some more power up front but with just Corey Maggette producing off of the bench, it may be a long road for the Bucks.

21. Houston Rockets (1-5)

All five of Houston’s losses came from very formidable teams this season (Lakers, Warriors, Spurs, Hornets and Nuggets).  Aaron Brooks will be missed and Kyle Lowry will not be able to carry the load by himself.  Luis Scola and Kevin Martin are working out well with all the injuries but Rick Adelman needs a healthy roster in order to compete.

22. Philadelphia 76ers (2-5)

Philly started the season off with losses against Miami, Atlanta, Indiana and Washington.  If you are surprised, close this window immediately.  Evan Turner’s scoring has been up and down but what can you expect from a rookie surrounded by a bunch of trash?  Surprisingly, their bench is ranked first in scoring.

23. Indiana Pacers (2-3)

At first, it’s looks like Darren Collison may be a little in over his head at running Indiana’s point.  Then again, look at who this young man is passing to.  He filled in when Westbrook went down at UCLA and stepped up last season when Paul went down in New Orleans.  However, the talent is pretty thin in Indiana.  Danny Granger seems to be approaching a nice stride but there isn’t much other good news coming out of Indiana.

24. Detroit Pistons (2-5)

The Pistons are bottom feeders in almost every statistical category. This does not bode well for a team that is striving to achieve mediocrity. However, they have won their last two contests. Pistons fans should take any small achievement as good news because there will not be much this season.

25. Los Angeles Clippers (1-6)

At least one team in L.A. has a tough start to their schedule. The Clippers have faced the likes of Portland, Dallas, San Antonio, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Utah in their first seven games with their only win coming against the struggling Thunder. It must be hard to be the bastard child of the Staples center and see the Lakers with a sugarplum and lolly pop schedule until late January.

26. New Jersey Nets (2-4)

Right now the Nets are on a better winning pace than last year. That is the upside. It doesn’t look like Avery Johnson is ever going to let third overall draft pick, Derrick Favors, into the starting lineup anytime soon now that Troy Murphy is back. In their most recent loss, the Nets did their best Washington Generals impersonation to the Heat’s Globetrotter act.

27. Washington Wizards (1-4)

John Wall and Gilbert Arena will be reunited again. That’s good.  Their one win however, well, that’s not so good. December is going to be a rough month for the Wiz so now is their best opportunity to get some wins under their belt. Hopefully, the Republicans won’t try to filibuster their next win.

28. Charlotte Bobcats (1-6)

They were in the playoffs last season and had the number one rated team defense in the league. Now, they have a defensive rating ranked 20th. Not good. Maybe His Airness can breathe some life into this franchise. Something needs to happen, and quick, if they want another playoff birth.

29. Toronto Raptors (1-6)

The Raptors are bad. We knew they would be. They were bad last year even with Chris Bosh on their roster so what are the expectaions of them now that he is gone? Right, there are none. One thing that Raptors fans can take delight in is that the so-called Young Gunz on the team will put on a decent show every night. Jose Calderon needs to be back in the starting lineup otherwise the team’s assists will continue to be dreadful.

30. Minnesota Timberwolves (1-6)

We wrote an open letter to David Kahn. This is something we normally wouldn’t do. However, the T-Wolves are terrible. Kurt Rambis coaches like a chicken with his head cut off and has no sense that Kevin Love is their best player. They are ranked last in most every statistical category. They only thing that Minnesota fans have to look forward to is the high draft pick that the team will get next summer…which Kahn will promptly waste on yet another point guard. KAAAAHHN!

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The Kobe Beef indulges a Fantasy

Our fantasy does not exist on an island

Soon everything will be right with the world again. The NBA resumes on Tuesday night. Once again we will be treated to the poor calls of referees especially on the quick on the draw technical fouls, the media will continue to sweat everything Miami, Los Angeles (not the Clippers), Boston, and Oklahoma City, and the league and the players union will grow ever closer to an impasse and eventual lockout. Yes, the world will be right. What this time of year also means is that fantasy basketball is here too. Our draft was Sunday night. Here at the Beef it will be our third nonconsecutive year that we have played together. There are eight other teams in our league. We figured that we would share our opening day rosters with you.

First, the roster spots:

Rosters consist of 15 available slots with only 12 players being able to be played on a given night. The positions are point guard, shooting guard, guard, small forward, power forward, forward, two centers, and four utility players.

Statistics are as follows:

Field Goals Attempted (FGA) -.25; Field Goals Made (FGM) 2.25; Free Throws Attempted (FTA) -.25; Free Throws Made (FTM) 1.25; 3-point Shots Attempted (3PTA) -1; 3-point Shots Made (3PTM) 4; Points Scored (PTS) .25; Offensive Rebounds (OREB) 2; Defensive Rebounds (DREB) 1.25; Assists (AST) 2; Steals (ST) 1.75; Blocked Shots (BLK) 2; Turnovers (TO) -2

Now without further adieu, our rosters:

TruWariers 5.0 (this will be the fifth season of the TruWariers; one championship, two third place finishes)

Dipset (this will be the third season of Dipset; two second place finishes)

We’ll keep you updated (albeit infrequently) on how our teams do this season. If you have a team, good luck to you as well.

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Beefy Power Rankings

The preseason is underway and it’s time to rank these teams accordingly.  There are some obvious picks in the mix but there will be some surprises this season.  It’s our power rankings.

1. The Miami Heat

This is a no brainer.  Imagine the Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen signings happening 10 years before they did.  A mixture of three All-Stars built behind Pat Riley’s ego doesn’t spell CHAMPIONSHIP.  It spells DYNASTY.

2.  The Los Angeles Lakers

The defending champions will have the ability to compete for another title as long as Kobe Byrant Stays healthy.  The acquisition of Matt Barnes gives this defense a lot more bite and they finally have a backup point guard in Steve Blake.

3.  The Dallas Mavericks

They may be a little too high on this for some people but we need to consider how they faired after last season’s trade with Washington.  They have had an entire offseason to mold together as a team and their best pickup of free agency, Tyson Chandler, is coming off a gold performance with team USA.

4.  The Orlando Magic

Even though Stan Van Gundy can no longer sport those turtlenecks, the Magic will contend.  Yes, they lost a good defender in Barnes but their contract with Vince Carter expires at the end of the season and he could be very valuable trade bait.  If they could compete last year, they should compete yet again this season.

5.  The Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are both coming off of a great summer with team USA.  Their leadership has grown exponentially and we expect it to show on the court.  There will be thunder in Oklahoma City.

6.  The Boston Celtics

Age has always been this team’s Achilles heal and the Shaquille O’Neal signing didn’t make them any younger.  Rajon Rondo proved that he is one of the best point guards in the league last season.  Jermaine O’Neal will give some more depth to the frontcourt but Ray Allen and Paul Pierce need to prove their worth yet again.

7.  The Chicago Bulls

The Bulls had probably one of the most impressive offseasons outside of Miami.  Carlos Boozer and Ronnie Brewer alone will improve the depth on this fairly young squad.  Tom Thibodeaou’s defensive mindset will work well in Chicago and Derrick Rose is proving to be a top player in the league.

8.  The Phoenix Suns

Last season’s Western Conference Playoffs were a definite surprise for everyone.  After losing Amar’e Stoudemire, don’t expect the Suns to stumble.  Hakim Warrick will score less but accomplish a lot more under the basket with his ability to actually play defense and hustle.  Goran Dragic knows what he is capable of as well as Robin Lopez.  Don’t expect anything from Hedo Turkoglu since we really don’t know what we’re going to get.

9.  The Utah Jazz

Yes, Loosing Boozer will affect the Jazz but Al Jefferson will spark that frontcourt.  Deron Williams is getting better and better and has stated that he will turn Jefferson into a better player than he already is.  We don’t expect a veteran coach like Jerry Sloan to trip up over loosing a few key players.

10.  The Atlanta Hawks

Head coach Larry Drew is expected to ease off of the isolation offense that implemented Joe Johnson so ineffectively last postseason for the Hawks.  Expect more balance on this team now that they don’t have to worry about a deal with Josh SmithAl Hortford is turning out to be a pretty decent basketball player and hopefully Jamal Crawford will play with the same intensity as last season despite contract issues.

11.  The Denver Nuggets

The only thing keeping Denver at 10 is the situation with Carmelo Anthony.  Contract issues can be very distracting.  However, Kenyon Martin should rebound from last season’s injury and the backcourt is stacked with Chauncey Billups and Ty Lawson.  George Karl’s presence alone should revamp this team.

12.  The Milwaukee Bucks

Buck fever hit the nation last season with utter surprise.  Hopefully they can maintain the same level of competition this year.  Andrew Bogut finally has some help in the frontcourt with Drew Gooden and Corey Maggette will offer some veteran leadership on the squad.

13.  The Portland Trailblazers

Health is the main issue for the Blazers this season as both Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla are both coming off of serious injuries.  Luckily, Marcus Camby signed a two-year extension with Portland in April and will be able to hold down the frontcourt until both return.  They must get a full season out of Brandon Roy as well if they want to compete next summer.

14.  The San Antonio Spurs

Age will slowly kill this dying dynasty but until then, plan on one more run by the Spurs.  It’s time for Popavich to put in the young fellas and let DeJaun Blair and George Hill do their thing.  It’s their only hope with such a geriatric squad and an 82-game season.

15.  The Memphis Grizzlies

It may be time for this young Griz team to make the playoffs in the post-Gasol era.  Rudy Gay has shown that this is his team and his time with team USA will hopefully payoff.  It’s a solid core and with Zach Randolph in the mix, anything can happen.  They have several options on who to start at point guard but they really need to figure it out fast since that will determine if they are ready for the playoffs.

16.  The Charlotte Bobcats

They really took a step backwards by losing both Tyson Chandler and Raymond FeltonStephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace are the best players on the team but they need to stay healthy (Wallace is injured all the time).  D.J. Augustin says he is ready to be this team’s point guard while it’s Tyrus Thomas’s first full season in Charlotte.

17.  The Sacramento Kings

It’s weird putting them up this high (yes, 17 would be high for some of the more recent Kings’ teams) but it all depends on the development of these young kings.  Tyreke Evans has shown that this is his show and hopefully he wont hit a sophomore slump.  Demarcus Cousins has the potential to be a great basketball player if he keeps his head on straight.  Samual Dalembert will hopefully aid in his growth as an NBA big guy.

18.  The Houston Rockets

By limiting Yao Ming’s minutes and Brad Miller already showing signs that his career is dwindling, Houston has a big problem at the center position.  Yes, they may make the playoffs but it depends on a lot of things.  Kevin Martin has already shown that he has trouble adjusting to new offenses and new players from his time in Sacramento (even he has injury problems).  He needs to kick the old habits and start scoring if the Rockets want a chance.

19.  The Indiana Pacers

It all revolves around the point guard position this season for the Pacers.  Darren Collison is good but he really needs to prove his worth.  He is going from a very deep backcourt in New Orleans to a very shallow one in Indiana.  Danny Granger needs to play with the same intensity and injuries need to be kept to a minimum.  If all this works out, the Pacers may be seeing the postseason for the first time in years.

20.  The New Orleans Hornets

An unhappy super star on the squad never helps a team.  This is exactly what is going down in the Big Easy and signing Trevor Ariza will not be a catalyst in making Chris Paul stay.  It is Monty Williams first full season in New Orleans but we have seen that this team’s problems run deep.

21.  The Washington Wizards

Over the past few seasons, we have seen that it takes a lot more than a first round pick to turn a team around.  John Wall is good but something is stirring up in Washington.  Gilbert Arenas has said that it is no longer his team and is eying an exit.  Good luck Gil.  Washington signed you to a maximum six-year contract in 2008.  You aren’t going anywhere.

22.  The Golden State Warriors

The Nelson era is over but we have yet to see if his style of ball with depart as well.  Keith Smart is going to have to implement some defense but that may be hard with a crew that is so used to running and gunning.  We will see some upsets and good games from these young guys but it’s going to take a little more than David Lee to turn it around for the Warriors.

23.  The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin Love is coming off of a productive summer and Corey Brewer improved a lot last season.  Michael Beasley has said that he wants to turn his life around and get serious about the game and what better place than the frozen tundra (sarcasm).  Drafting both Wesley Johnson and Lazar Haywood were steps in the right direction but it isn’t the Wolves time… yet.

24.  The Cleveland Cavaliers

Don’t feel sorry for them.  They did this to themselves.  LeBron James had no incentive to stay and management did very little to make him feel welcome by not including him in the coaching decision.  Byron Scott has a lot of work on his hands.  Antawn Jamison will be leading this team now and that wont be enough.  The only glimmer of hope for the Cavs is J.J. Hickson who showed a lot of potential last season.

25.  The New York Knicks

Amar’e Stoudemire and Eddy Curry spell out maybe one of the laziest frontcourts in the NBA.  They will win more games but Mike D’antoni has his work cut out for him.  We have already seen that he has a tendency for pissing his players off with his limited rotations.  Let’s see how that rotation works with a bunch of out-of-shape washouts.

26.  The New Jersey Nets

We have seen what Avery Johnson can do with a team that is already built (The Dallas Mavericks in 2005) but we have yet to see what he does with rebuilding.  He does an excellent job of implementing defensive schemes and the players in New Jersey will prove to be good students.  They finally have some depth with Anthony Morrow, Troy Murphy and Travis Outlaw but a reunion of Devin Harris and the little general could prove disastrous.

27.  The Philadelphia 76ers

It will take more than Evan Turner to turn this team around.  Andre Iguodala has proven that he isn’t a primary scoring threat and Allen Iverson and Andre Miller attributed to his early career success.  There isn’t much else in Philly to take the attention away from him.  Don’t expect much.

28.  The Los Angeles Clippers

Baron Davis showed up for the season out of shape.  Eric Gordon played well in the FIBA Championship but has shown that he is injury prone.  Blake Griffin is showing signs of promise but do we really expect a rookie to turn it around for the other team that plays at Staples Center?

29.  The Detroit Pistons

They are being sold.  That’s about all that they got going for them.

30.  The Toronto Raptors

They will be athletic with Leandro Barbosa, Julian Wright and the growth of DeMar DeRozan but Toronto will suck.  General manager Bryan Colangelo has shown that the Raptors are not done dealing but there really isn’t much for them to offer or even acquire that can turn this franchise around.

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Erick Dampier: the Most Wanted Man in the NBA?

All this attention took Dampier by surprise too

What a strange world we live in. Maybe this is the ‘Bizarro NBA’ finally taking its grasp on reality with Commissioner Tim Donaghy handling the most profitable and fair league in history. What, you do not believe me? Then you try and explain all the recent interest in signing Erick Dampier. Yes, you heard right. Teams (multiple) are legitimately interested in bringing Dampier into their locker rooms next season. This is the same Dampier that was lambasted over the past six years for inconsistent play, dismal production, being lazy, and overpaid. Those are just a few of the complaints leveled against him during his time with the Dallas Mavericks. Nonetheless, teams are knocking on his door. Bizarre indeed.

As of right now, Dampier is hammering out his finalized list of suitors that he plans to meet with in the near future. The major players in the Dampier sweepstakes so far are the Miami Heat, Houston Rockets, and the Atlanta Hawks (almost typed Falcons, wrong bird/sport). Utah had also been a rumored pursuer of all things Erick, with Mehmet Okur missing the majority of the season with a tentative return scheduled for December or January, but the signing of Francisco Elson will likely end the Jazz’s interest.

Miami being on the short list should surprise no one. They have scoured the league in their hunt to surround the Miami Thrice with mediocre and subpar talent. Why would Dampier not fall into this category? The last time Dampier did anything significant in South Beach he out played Shaquille O’Neal only to see the league and its officiating goons strip a title away from the Mavericks. #NeverForget (Yes, that last sentence deserves a Twitter hash tag. We are still bitter.) It seems like everybody wants to be a part of the Heat bandwagon as they have been prematurely crowned unbeatable. Rings for everyone! Just remember that the Titanic was unsinkable.

Many feel that Atlanta is a dark horse in the Dampier sweepstakes. It is well known that they would like to move Al Horford to power forward and Josh Smith to small forward more often this coming season. That would allow them to play their natural positions. However, the Hawks up-tempo style does not bode well for Dampier’s lumbering body. It is only by sheer luck that he ever finds himself on the fastbreak. Usually it is because he is still around halfcourt trying to get back on defense when a transition opportunity occurs. Atlanta must also deal with issues of cap room after signing Joe Johnson to a max contract this summer.

The most interesting prospect of the three teams at the forefront are the Houston Rockets. As we reported yesterday, the Rockets are limiting Yao Ming to 24 minutes a game no matter what. What Houston wants is for Dampier to step into the role as Yao’s backup and have Brad Miller, who they signed this summer, be the third string center. A frontcourt pairing with Luis Scola would also make for an interesting duo. Other than the possible Atlanta scenario, Dampier could see the most minutes in Houston. He could see 15-20 plus minutes a game. Plus he would get to play against in-state rivals and former team, the Dallas Mavericks. That alone could be incentive enough. However, are they on the same level as Miami is when it comes to title contention?

Other teams are likely to throw their hats and money into the ring so as of now nothing can be a certainty. What is certain is that this is the same Erick Dampier who averaged 7.6 rebounds, 6.6 points in 424 of a possible 492 games over the past six years. He is now 35 years old and only played in 55 games last season has he found himself battling lingering injuries.

The off season will begin even odder that it began for Dampier. He was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats by the Dallas Mavericks this summer, in what equates to a salary dump of his unguaranteed $13 million contract next season, in return for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. Charlotte mulled around the option of trading him for a while before releasing him. Now, he finds himself one of the hottest free agent commodities on the market. Where once Dampier’s field was barren, he finds it is now fallow. Oh how free agency is truly bizarre. A new fan base will soon be giving “Daps of Damp” on the off occasion he does something right on the court. (We averaged 1.2 “Daps for Damp” per game over the last six years.) Enjoy the attention while you can, Dampier, it will not last for long.

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