1.IS MICHAEL JORDAN THE WORST OWNER IN THE HISTORY OF THE NBA?
Not yet, but he’s gaining quickly. Recent success aside, the title still belongs to Donald Sterling, with the Dolan clan getting an honorable mention. However given that Charlotte doesn’t look improved much from last year, His Airness will take the throne sooner rather than later, unless there’s a significant swing.
2.WILL ANTHONY DAVIS BE THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?
Yes, and likely in a runaway. His offensive game is obviously lacking and he may have trouble handling true centers in the post (not that there are many of those able to exploit this), but purely from his ability to block shots, rebound and run the floor, I would be surprised if he isn’t a 15-10-3 guy from the start. Expect New Orleans to make some noise this year with the addition of Davis, Austin Rivers, Ryan Anderson and Robin Lopez.
3.ARE THE NETS EASTERN CONFERENCE CONTENDERS?
Not even close. The Nets made some nice additions and were able to hang onto Deron Williams, but are light years from contending. Joe Johnson is a nice piece, but definitely won’t put the Nets over the top. Gerald Wallace is an over 30 combo forward that relies heavily on athleticism to be effective, which is a recipe for a likely sharp decline in production soon, and Brook Lopez is one of the worst rebounding centers in the NBA. The Nets should have pursued Dwight Howard from every angle, before acquiring either Wallace or Johnson. Had they taken this approach, Howard would have likely been a Net.
4.IS ORLANDO’S TRADE OF DWIGHT HOWARD THE WORST TRADE EVER IN THE NBA?
Not the worst of all time (see Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, and Dirk Nowitzki trades as much worse examples), but it was awful. The Magic gave up the best player and three All-Stars (Howard, Bynum and Iguodala) changed teams, yet the Magic came out of the deal without an All Star and possibly without even a quality starter. Orlando may challenge Charlotte for worst team in the league this year, after being a playoff team last year.
On the other end of the spectrum, Denver has made as good of a deal as possible from the Carmelo Anthony fiasco and jumped in to snatch an All Star in Iguodala , by moving a bunch of spare parts in the Dwight Howard trade. This puts Denver’s GM, Masai Ujiri on the short list of candidates (along with Sam Presti and Pat Riley) for best GM in the business.
5.CAN THE CELTICS MAKE ANOTHER TITLE RUN?
Nope. The Celtics are a better regular season team than last year, but are no better for the playoff run. In the regular season, the Celtics will thrive because of their deep bench, which will allow their older players to not get overworked. When matched against other team’s benches, the Celtics’ bench will usually win the battle. However the playoffs are a different animal, because starters will often play extended minutes. While the Heat and even the Pacers can keep their stars in longer, the age of the Celtics’ stars won’t allow them to match. Suddenly, Jeff Green isn’t matched up on Mike Miller or James Jones, but is instead playing LeBron James, which will keep the Celtics from contending.
6.DID TRADING JAMES HARDEN MAKE THE THUNDER BETTER?
Yes and no. This year, the Thunder may take a very small step back. They are still in the mix for an NBA title, but Martin isn’t as good a defender or as versatile (read ability to play PG) as Harden. This will likely mean a few things that hurt the Thunder: Thabo Seflosha may have to be on the court at the end of games, Russell Westbrook will be relied on even more to be the ball handler, and the Thunder won’t be nearly as good if forced to play small.
As a small market team, the Thunder have less leeway for mistakes (such as allowing an All Star to walk without compensation) than big market teams. So when it became apparent that Harden wasn’t going to resign, the move became necessary for the long-term health of the franchise. With Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka signed for the near future, it was imperative to turn the Harden chip into something. Jeremy Lamb and three draft picks isn’t too bad for a deal that the Thunder felt forced to make. Assuming that Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka stay healthy, the Thunder will be competing for championships for the next several years.
7.CAN THE SPURS MAKE ONE MORE RUN AT A TITLE?
Not very likely. The Spurs may benefit from similar circumstances as the Celtics. A great bench will help you in the regular season much more than the playoffs. If ever there was going to be a year that the Spurs snuck into another title, it was last year. They didn’t take advantage of a down Lakers teams and the Thunder’s youth. There is no reason to think this year will be any different.
8.ARE THE ROCKETS GOING TO GET ANY RETURN ON THEIR INVESTMENTS?
I don’t think there has ever been more money spent on unproven players and backups than the Rockets have dumped into their roster. Consider, there first option is a Sixth Man of the Year, they spent so much money on Jeremy Lin, with his less sparse sample size, that even James Dolan thought it was too expensive to match, and they threw another $8 million a year on Omer Asik, another career backup.
All of these players have shown promise, but outside of Lin’s spectacular stretch of a handful of games, none of them have shown enough to be considered a cornerstone for building a franchise.
9.WHICH ZACH RANDOLPH IS GOING TO SHOW UP FOR MEMPHIS THIS YEAR?
Sorry Memphis fans, but if I was going to bet it would be that Zach is closer to his old JailBlazer days than his 2011 playoff performance. Randolph has approximately $50 million in guaranteed money left, so I’m guessing that partying Zach is going to be back. If you don’t know what I’m referencing, then you should read this:
The Grizzlies will likely make another first round exit.
10.DARK HORSE TITLE CONTENDER?
The Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers quietly added some nice pieces in Lamar Odom (in LA, so he’ll be fine), Grant Hill, and Jamal Crawford. They have the best point guard on the planet in Chris Paul and two young big men (Blake Griffin and Deandre Jordan) that are still improving. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the two Los Angeles teams battling in the Western Conference Finals.
11.WILL THE KNICKS MAKE IT OUT OF THE FIRST ROUND?
Although I’m not sold on Jeremy Lin, for the Knicks to suddenly get concerned with spending money (side fact – I always thought that New York should’ve made Jerome James change his number to 6 or 23 in 2009-10, so the Knicks could’ve recouped some of their wasted money) with regards to one of the few appealing assets on their roster was ludicrous. Instead, New York gets Raymond Felton, who (as if he needed to tell us) candidly admitted to being out of shape last year. Enjoy your stay Carmelo, karma is a bitch.
12.DO THE BULLS HAVE A SHOT?
Yes, but it’s a long shot. The Bulls are another team that thrives in the regular season. I think this will be the year that Tom Thibodeau will start to catch some heat, due to his playing of such heavy minutes on the starters during the regular season. The Bulls still don’t have a very good option at the shooting guard spot, lost a key reserve in Omer Asik, and have to deal with life without Derrick Rose for most of the regular season.
13.OFF THE RADAR TEAM MOST LIKELY TO MAKE SOME NOISE?
The Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are overshadowed by the star power in LA, the Thunder, and even the Spurs, but have quietly built a nice team. Danilo Gallinari and JaVale McGee have to take the next step, but both have the talent to do it. Kenneth Faried was a steal in last year’s draft. Ty Lawson is as fast as anyone with the ball in his hands, and the Nuggets added Andre Iguodala for nothing. Would love to see another Nuggets-Lakers second round playoff matchup again this year, as I think the Nuggets matchup well with the Lakers.
14.DID THE LAKERS DO ENOUGH TO WIN KOBE’S SIXTH TITLE?
Yes, if Kobe can scale it back and accept not always being the alpha dog. Dwight Howard will cure many of the Lakers’ defensive inadequacies that haunted them all of last year. Steve Nash is the perfect point guard to play with Howard and will be a lethal standstill shooter for Kobe to kick to on the wing. However, other than Howard, all of the important players are over thirty, so it will be interesting to see if they can conserve their legs for a title run.
15.WHAT WILL LEBRON JAMES DO FOR AN ENCORE?
Never has a player gone into a season with more pressure to win a title than James did last year. Not only did he win the title, but he did so by having one of the greatest playoff runs in history. Now thart the monkey is off his back and it’s obvious that LeBron, not Dwyane Wade, is the man for the Heat, look for one of the most statistically amazing seasons ever. LeBron has more shooters to pass to this year with Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis added, which should only help his assist totals. He will play more power forward, so his rebounds will likely climb. Given the weakness of the Eastern Conference, it’s hard to envision a scenario without the Heat in the Finals, so LeBron should get his shot at a second title this year.