The Definitive NBA Preview:
1) The Indiana Pacers and the Caucasian frontcourt: According to Sports Illustrated the Pacers are starting Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, and Greg Foster this year. Why is no one talking about this? An entire frontcourt of white players?! This can't work, right? What must TJ Ford and Danny Granger be thinking? Who will this team guard? Granger is good on defense but he's a natural small forward and he's going to be defending the other team's best perimeter player every night? But, this also makes the Pacers a legitimate threat to go with an all-white team at some point this year. It's a stretch, but Diener, Dunleavy, Murphy, McRoberts, and Foster? It could happen.
2) LeBron James? Just another year for him this year. 30 8 and 8. A couple 50 point explosions, a few 15 assist games, and a top 3 MVP candidate. So why stay down on the league's most unique talent of all time? Because he still misuses his talents. If there was anything the Olympics showed us, it is that LeBron can be an absolute monster defending the rim and the post. It also showed his main flaw: How terribly uncomfortable he is playing off of the ball or with his back to the basket. With a playmaking and great shooting point guard that demands the ball in his hands, (Mo Williams) LeBron will have to find ways to be a force without running every play. The question is, can he?
3) Wade, Marion, Beasley, Haslem . . .and???? Wade should give the Heat another 60 games this year of being the most terrifying offensive force on the planet, Beasley should give them a surefire second option, and this team will be an outstanding rebounding team thanks to the four of these guys as well. Unfortunately, the East is officially back and they have zero other players. At least in the backcourt there is some potential with Banks, Chalmers, and Livingston to pair with Wade. But, in the front court, you only have spindly Dorell Wright (incidentally, another great rebounder), the awful Jamal Magloire and Mark Blount. I think they make the playoffs if these 4 stay healthy. But if even one goes down? . .You just can't win with Mario Chalmers, Mark Blount, Marcus Banks, and Jamal Magloire playing 30 minutes a night. . . can you?
4) The Hornets: Here is what I don't get about the Hornets.. Chris Paul has one of the greatest years ever for a point guard; David West stays healthy and has a career year; and Chandler realizes his full potential. Why do people think this team can be better than last year? There are only three ways it can get better: Julian Wright makes a leap and can back up 3 positions effectively or Paul morphs into a top 5 all time player. Those people that think Posey is making the difference is mistaken. Every year James (my 3rd favorite NBA player) gets a little worse at defending perimeter stars, and they need a guy who can guard guards, not forwards. Also, there is not a backup PG on the team worth even mentioning.
5) Gilbert Arenas: Yeah, Bill Simmons basically stole my whole point about Gil. He's a fun player to watch, but the Wizards would just be better with Andre Miller in this spot. They need someone to distribute and play some defense. They have all the scoring they need.
6) The Chicago Bulls are officially 11 deep, and might not make the playoffs: D-Rose, Captain Kirk, Luol Deng, Drew Gooden, Joakim, Ben Gordon, Larry Hughes, Ty Thomas, Noc, Thabo, and Aaron Gray. Fine, I hate Aaron Gray, but other people are high on him. But they have 10 guys who could be in the rotation on a championship team, but not 1 could be a top 2 guy on a championship team. I have been high on this team for so long, but damn, unless Rose turns out to be a legit star, I see them fighting for a playoff spot again.
7) For the 5th consecutive year, taking umbrage with Chubbs' "surprise" picks: Here is a hard and fast rule. In the NBA, to call a team a "surprise" you have to predict them to make the playoffs. And to call a team a "dissapointment," they need to actually be predicted to make the playoffs. Chubbs, however, has picked the Nuggets (playoff fringe contenders for 3 years and lost Camby) as his dissapointment, and the Knicks as his surprise with the disclaimer that HE DOESN'T THINK THE KNICKS WILL MAKE THE PLAYOFFS. This is a signficiant problem.
8) Ladies and Gentlemen: The softest starting 5 in NBA history: I present to you, Devin Harris, Vince Carter, Bobby Simmons, Yi Jianlian, and Brook Lopez. For those of you keeping track at home, the Nets front court averaged a total of 16.5 rebounds per game last year. . . Their center was in college. . . Just random teams from SI in the East .. Knicks averaged 24, Heat 31, Bucks 20, Hawks 22. . . I can keep going, but I'm willing to bet that every other starting frontcourt in the NBA averaged at least 20 rebounds in a game. . .
9) The Durantuala v. Oden part Deux: No one was more dissapointed by Durant's first year than I was, most notably his abominable shooting percentage from beyond the arc (29%). However, he still finisehd with 20, 4, and 3 - all this while being played as a SHOOTING Guard. . . Wait, so a 6'10" player with killer post moves and averaged a rebound every 3 minutes in college shouldn't be playing 30 feet from the hoop and going one on one with shooting guards when his handle is the ONLY FLAW IN HIS GAME! Durant is not a guard. He has never been a guard, he has never been a good enough ball handler or defender to be a guard... Yet, for the second consecutive year, he is starting as a shooting guard.
Whatever. The point is, that this is Durant's absolute floor as a player. 20 points a game on 42 percent shooting without much other statistical contribution.. Which is MUCH higher than Oden's floor. And always was.
Again, in college, Durant was a better rebounder, shooter, passer, ballhandler, on the ball defender, and leader than Greg Oden. Oden was and is better at one thing: blocking shots. He is great at it, and will be good at it in the NBA. But this debate will not end well for the Blazers.
10) Early Prediction: Spurs over Magic...