NBA 2009 Preview: A Who's Who For Next Season
The class of 2008, or should I say the freshmen class of 2008, decided to throw out its education and declare for the NBA Draft. Honestly, though, if it wasn’t for new rule forcing basketball players to finish at least one year of college, half of this class would have been drafted last year.
Instead this draft class was one of the strongest draft classes in recent memory. With this draft class it’s only going to make the NBA better for next season. With a bunch of fresh new faces entering the league this season it looks like the NBA might be getting a new face lift when it comes to different teams making the playoffs.
Last year in the Eastern Conference we saw two teams make the playoffs with a losing record. The Philadelphia 76ers and Atlanta Hawks are very thankful to play in the Eastern Conference. However, will they be able to make the playoffs this year with faces like Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley the top two picks in the NBA Draft heading to the Eastern Conference?
Free agency hasn’t started yet but this draft class might be the reason why some teams will be playing in May and other teams will pull a Miami Heat of 2008 by losing the rest of the games in hopes of landing someone like Blake Griffin, BJ Mullens, Demar DeRozan and Brandon Jennings to say good-bye to their college careers and go to the NBA (that is if Jennings does in fact go to college and not play in Europe next season).
Despite winning 4 of their final 25 games they only landed the second overall pick the NBA Draft. Which proves once again having the worst record in the league you will not get the top pick in the draft. At least the Heat won their final game of the season.
This brings up an interesting observation, who will be the worst team in the NBA next year? My opinion, it is the New York Knicks. I’m sorry for you Knick fans but I think your team is just doomed.
The one good thing the Knicks have done was getting rid of Isaiah Thomas, however, that is not enough. You have to clean up the mess that he has made and that isn’t going to be overnight. I have never seen someone dismantle a team so badly than what Thomas did.
Thomas was like the European version of the black plague where everything he did was wrong and not just wrong but god-awful. Whether it was the signing of Jared Jeffries, the trade of Eddy Curry, which helped the Bulls draft LaMarcus Albridge (who was then traded to Portland in exchange for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa) and Joakim Noah both players could turn out to be better players than Eddy Curry.
Then there was the sexual harassment case involving a team employee, which led to the eventual firing of Thomas.
Let’s face it there was nothing good out of the Isaiah Thomas' tenure with the Knicks and because of that the Knicks are in trouble. The hiring of former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni is a sign of good things to come but not next season.
And with the sixth pick in the NBA Draft the Knicks drafted Danilo Gallinari whom not a lot of people are sold on. Then again the last thing the New York Knicks need is another guard.
With that said what does the rest of the Eastern Conference look like? The Eastern Conference looks to be making some changes next year as we might see the return of the Chicago Bulls making their return to the playoffs.
Didn’t everyone say last year that the Bulls were contenders in the Eastern Conference? So that didn’t happen but look at what they got in reward, Derrick Rose.
Rose said prior to getting drafted that he wanted to win the MVP award in his rookie season.
I don’t even think that Rose will win Rookie of the Year Award thanks to Greg Oden coming back. Then again I do salute Rose for his confidence but the closest person to win the MVP award as a rookie was Chris Paul and he didn’t even come close to winning the award.
The reigning NBA champions Boston Celtics looks to be the team to beat not just in the Eastern Conference but also in the NBA alone. The Celtics look to have another good season left in them including the Detroit Pistons who are not getting any younger. The Pistons youngest starter is Tayshaun Prince who will be turning 29 after the all-star break.
The Pistons are also interested in acquiring Baron Davis who will be 30 by the end of the season. If the Pistons want to win they have to do it next year, but they will have to get past the Celtics and let’s not forget about the Los Angeles Lakers who will have Andrew Bynum back on their team after missing most of the second half of the season due to injury.
What does the rest of the league look like? Let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference first.
1) Boston Celtics—Nobody will be able to compete with the Celtics in this conference who went 14-2 last year in Atlantic conference. With the return of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce the possibility of three peat doesn’t look that difficult.
2) Toronto Raptors—The addition of Jermaine O’Neal is either going to be a hit or miss for the Toronto Raptors. In my opinion the Raptors got the worse end of this trade. Although they got better in size they got nothing at the guard position. I don’t think Jose Calderon is the their man at point guard but if O’Neal can stay healthy whether he comes off the bench in replacement for Bosh or starts, he could help guide the Raptors to another playoff berth.
3) New Jersey Nets—I can see why the Nets traded for Richard Jefferson as they are saving money for the future. They did have a rather successful draft if Brook Lopez does in fact succeed for them. Lopez averaged 19.3 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game, I don’t think he’ll be able to match those stats from Stanford but he could be a nice addition to the roster as well as Ryan Anderson and Chris Douglas-Roberts.
4) Philadelphia 76ers—The 76ers didn’t have any secret going into the draft they needed a big man and they got one in Marreese Speights the big man from Florida. I expect the 76ers to slip a little bit this year in the rankings as they are not quite ready to be a playoff team.
5) New York Knicks—Enough said…
1) Detroit Pistons—This could be the last year that you see the Pistons in the top spot as they are the fountain of youth that they once were six years ago. Cleveland will be chasing them for the top spot in the conference not like last year when Cleveland was 14 games behind the Pistons for the top spot in the conference.
2) Cleveland Cavalries—LeBron James and company need to get back to the Eastern Conference finals. They acquired J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson in the NBA Draft, which could help find their replacement for Ben Wallace a man of no offense.
3) Chicago Bulls—The baby Bulls look like they will be outsiders sneaking into the playoffs this year. The only thing that will hurt the Bulls once again is inexperience. They have the talent but is it too soon?
4) Indiana Pacers—I truly believe the Central Conference is the toughest division in the Eastern Conference. If the Pacers played in the Atlantic Conference they would have been the second best team in the conference. Instead the Pacers will see Detroit, Cleveland and Chicago ahead of them.
But that isn’t a bad thing, they have the talent to be something in the future. I really think high of TJ Ford and with Brandon Rush on the team they could make a real nice combo in the coming years.
5) Milwaukee Bucks—Well we know that they have enough small forwards but what else do they have? They still have Michael Redd and a potential NBA bust in Andrew Bogut. One player I do like on their team is Charlie Villanueva who I think is on the brisk of breaking out.
If the Bucks want to do something this year they will have to look for Villanueva to have a good season. Either that or they will be drafting in the top 10 once again next season.
1) Orlando Magic—The Orlando Magic team will be the third best team in the Eastern Conference thanks to the Southeast division. I expect this division to play a game of musical chairs when it comes to rankings but Orlando will keep their spot on top of the division and can raise some eyebrows in the playoffs.
2) Atlanta Hawks—Did everyone forget that the Hawks took the Celtics to Game Seven in the first round of the playoffs? Then again everyone will remember how badly they were defeated by the Celtics in Game Seven.
But I think it was only the beginning for the Atlanta Hawks they should make the Southeast Conference very interesting to watch this season. They will have to prove that last year was not a fluke.
3) Miami Heat—The trio of Dwayne Wade, Shawn Marion and Michael Beasley will have to play well right away if they want to have a good season next year. They should struggle as they have nobody else besides the two on their roster and I repeat they have nobody else on their team including Alonzo Mourning and Jason Williams. Although with the addition of Mario Williams I might end up eating my own words by the end of the season.
4) Washington Wizards—The Wizards are on the verge of offering Gilbert Arenas a six-year contract worth more than $100 million. Why? The guy is coming off two knee surgeries within the past year. Obviously he is the face of the Wizards but a $100 million is a little too much. The free agent period starts this week and the Wizards do not want to see neither Arenas nor Antwan Jamison playing for a different team next year; for example the Philadelphia 76ers.
5) Charlotte Bobcats—Well at least last year they didn’t finish in last place. With the addition of Larry Brown to their coaching staff they could fight with Washington for the second to last spot in the division.
1) Utah Jazz—The combination of Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer might not be John Stockton and Karl Malone but they are getting the job done. They also have talent surrounding the team with Kyle Korver, Mehmet Okur, Andrei Kirlilenko, Ronnie Brewer and now Kosta Koufos on the team.
This could be the most talented team the Jazz has ever had. The only problem is that the Los Angeles Lakers are one step better than them. Although a trip the Conference Finals is a fair argument for them this year.
2) Portland Trailblazers—Although this might be a little too soon it might also be now. The Trailblazers are on the verge of taking over in a few years. They are one of the youngest teams in the NBA and despite not having Greg Oden last year they still were 41-41. With that record they could have been a sixth seed in the Eastern Conference.
With the addition of Jerryd Bayless the Blazers look to earn a spot in the playoffs this year. Also, they will continue to get younger as they will be loaded with draft picks next year. Then again the draft class won’t be that strong as last year’s class.
3) Denver Nuggets—I thought the combination of Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson was going to be money in the bank for the Denver Nuggets. I thought they would be at least a fourth seed but for some reason that just didn't happen. They are one of those teams that look great on paper but can’t supply the demand that many are expecting them to do.
4) Seattle Supersonics—I’m not sure where this team will be playing in a few years but they will be interesting to watch. The addition of Russell Westbrook raised some eyebrows as every draft analysis thought Jerryd Bayless was coming here, but hey what do sportswriters really know?
5) Minnesota Timberwolves—Not a lot of people favored the trading of OJ Mayo but does Kevin McHale know something that they we don’t know?
1) L.A. Lakers—The odds on favorite to win the West next year has to be the Lakers. Even without Bynum they advanced to the NBA Finals. But what team is satisfied with losing in the NBA Finals.
I’ve never met a coach in my life that is satisfied with losing. Look for next year to be the year of the Lakers. I’m making a bold statement right now saying that they should win over 60 games.
2) Phoenix Suns—What it is like to the leftovers of the L.A. Lakers? The Suns will not be able to compete with the Lakers next year as Shaq will continue to make fun of Kobe at clubs. Perhaps if Shaq wasn’t too busy rapping about Kobe and practicing his free throws and defense the Suns would be able to do something next year?
3) L.A. Clippers—I am very interested in seeing what Eric Gordon can do in his rookie season. In my opinion he could be the steal of this years draft and Gordon landed in a very interesting position as the Clippers fell in love with Gordon and believe he is their future. If he can produce, who knows perhaps the Clippers can steal the eight seed in the playoffs?
4) Golden State Warriors—Oh, what went wrong? A few years ago they were the talk of the league and now they are back to their usual position right near the bottom of the Southeast Division. Well at least they are not in last place.
5) Sacramento Kings—This team might win the lottery next year. I think next to the Knicks that they will be the worst team in the NBA. I love what they did in drafting Jason Thompson but they need more than Thompson to help their team.
Too bad they drafted Patrick Ewing’s son and not Patrick Ewing in general. I also see this being the year that they trade Ron Artest as they have more forwards than the Toronto Raptors.
1) San Antonio Spurs—Everyone is tired of the Spurs, including the Spurs themselves. They are the oldest team in the team. They might be losing some players. In fact they will be losing some of their players but I think the Spurs still have enough gas in their tank to make one final run in the playoffs before they hand off the division to New Orleans.
2) New Orleans—Last year was a wonderful season for New Orleans. However, was it too soon? Will the winning of last year translate well into next year? Or will they slump somewhere during the season?
I expect a minor slump towards the beginning and the end of the season. I think they are a very talented team that will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming years but teams like the Utah Jazz and the Lakers are not going away anytime soon. But one team I did leave out was the San Antonio Spurs…
3) Dallas Mavericks—For a team that slipped so badly last year I’m surprised I’m even putting them back up here. Then again I do think the world of Jason Kidd. I think Kidd has two years left in him before we say goodbye to a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
4) Houston Rockets—They had one hell of a run last year. However, that was during the regular season. They haven’t done anything in the playoffs since Charles Barkley was on the team. Tracy McGrady in my mind is the most over-rated player in the NBA.
5) Memphis Grizzles—The Grizzles are playing the toughest division in the NBA hands down. You cannot argue that. The addition of O.J. Mayo will raise some eyebrows however they did trade Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown and I don’t think the Grizzles will be able to do anything this year…What else is new?
(1) Boston Celtics over (8) Indiana Pacers, 4-1.
(2) Detroit Pistons over (7) Atlanta Hawks, 4-2.
(3) Orlando Magic over (6) Toronto Raptors, 4-1.
(4) Cleveland Cavalries over (5) Chicago Bulls. 4-2.
(1) Boston Celtics over (4) Cleveland Cavalries, 4-2.
(2) Orlando Magic over (2) Detroit Pistons, 4-3.
(1) Boston Celtics over (3) Orlando Magic, 4-1.
(1) L.A. Lakers over (8) Dallas Mavericks, 4-2.
(2) Utah Jazz over (7) Denver Nuggets, 4-1.
(6) Portland Trailblazers over (3) San Antonio Spurs, 4-3.
(4) New Orleans Hornets over (5) Phoenix Suns, 4-1.
(1) L.A. Lakers over (4) New Orleans Hornets, 4-3.
(2) Utah Jazz over (6) Portland Trailblazers, 4-2.
(1) L.A. Lakers over (2) Utah Jazz, 4-2.
(1) L.A. Lakers over (1) Boston Celtics, 4-3.
In my opinion if Andrew Bynum was not injured during the second half of the year I think we would have seen the Lakers winning the NBA Championship. Instead the Lakers have to wait a year for a rematch that everyone would love to see once again.
Could you imagine what Game Seven of the NBA Finals would do for the NBA? With two legendary teams going at it one more time? Game Seven of the NBA Finals doesn’t happen very often.
The last time it happened was back in 2005 when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons. Prior to that the last time Game Seven happened was during the 1994 NBA Finals when the Houston Rockets went on to defeat Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks.
The Lakers haven’t won the NBA Championship since 2002 if you can believe it or not. That’s quite a drought for Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers but it looks like that drought will end next season.
What else is going to happen next year? Here are some of my ideas in bullet points.
· Ron Artest will be traded before the trade deadline.
· Kobe Bryant will win his second straight MVP award.
· Greg Oden will win Rookie of the Year and be on the NBA All-Star Team.
· Los Angeles and Boston will win more than 60 games.
· The New York Knicks will not…
· People will draft Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose way to high on their fantasy basketball teams.
It’s never too early to talk about next season. Training camp is set to open on Oct. 1st but that’s too far away for me. However, we will be seeing several NBA players starting on Aug. 8th.
That’s right the Olympics are coming and 2008 looks to be the year that Team USA brings back the gold medal back where it belongs. However, one thing that is bound to happen is injuries. Will an injury affect Team USA this summer? Only time will tell as they say, time is an allusion.
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