Another slow day around the office, too much time to think. Toronto Maple Leafs training camp opens today and I can just feel the deluge of hockey coverage from this upcoming season. This is Toronto, a hockey town—for now.
I'm just waiting for this season to start, i miss the "squeak, squeak, swish"—or "clang," as the case may be. I know it's too much to ask to have basketball all year round, but I can't help it. I can live with the gap between the NBA playoffs and the Draft, but this post-summer league waiting is for the birds—er, dinos.
With what appears on paper to be an exciting team this year, the Raptors should impress—and no one is more ready to be impressed than yours truly.
Jermaine O'Neal may be the best addition to the Raptors lineup in years. I know, I know, everything is dependant on his health—but who else in the Eastern Conference can pair up two big men like O'Neal and Bosh?
Atlanta: Horford and J. Smith
As athletic as Smith may be, the combo with Horford just isn't that scary. Maybe in a few years when Al puts on more muscle, we'll have something to fear.
Boston: Perkins and Garnett
Perkins, with his permanently-furrowed brow, is nothing more than a glorified bench center in this league. With Garnett opening the floor for him and keeping him upright, people consider him a real starter? I think not.
Charlotte: Mohammed and Okafor
Mohammed has times where the light bulb is on and he's got an idea—but for the most part, he lacks the drive to win. Okafor is going into another season where he'll be depended on bring the pain.
Chicago: Noah and Gooden
Noah is an emotional roller coaster and a definite leader but still to young and rail thin to push anyone out of the post. Gooden has the swagger but lacks the skill, it's amazing the kind of numbers he's been able to put up with his limitations.
Cleveland: Ilgauskas and B. Wallace
Ilgauskas, another year older and never known for exceptional center play, relies on his outside jumper for most scoring. Wallace is a few years away from being irrelevant. The once-monster defender and rebounder has been reduced to a shadow of his former Detroit self. Made a free throw lately? Hmm.
Detroit: McDyess and R.Wallace
Dice can be a tough cookie inside, but the weaker part of this equation is Wallace, who you don't want to get going with his turnaround jumper from the elbow. But Wallace is such an emotional liability, there should be a clause in his contract that pays him more if he can keep the technical fouls below the league average.
What's more, new coach Michael Curry is already speaking Wallace's name as a player that needs to come into camp in shape. Ouch, tubby.
Indiana: Foster and Murphy
Foster has done more with less than any center in the league. His rebounding and toughness reign supreme, but you can't count on him for scoring or you're in trouble. Murphy in no longer the great rebounder he used to be before he, you know, broke the beak a few times. He's still a good shooter, but more easily defended these days.
Miami: Blount and Haslem
Has Blount ever battled someone under the basket for a rebound? In a year when Shaq was traded and Haslem was hurt, the seven-footer rebounded less than four balls per game. Haslem is over-matched on most nights, simply because defenses collapse on him in the post, and there is no one else down there for opposing teams to worry about.
Milwaukee: Bogut and Villanueva
Nothing wrong with Bogut here. I have to give the man some respect, he's a tough rebounder and can score well. But Villanueva is up and down. Sometimes he's a power forward, sometimes he's a spot-up shooting small forward, and sometimes he gets pushed around.
New Jersey: Boone and Jianlian
Boone is a garbage scorer and tough rebounder, but he doesn't have much help unless he moves to the power forward position when Brook Lopez enters the game. Jianlian is getting his wish and no longer playing for the Bucks—but his issue is consistency. With other big bodies waiting in the wings, will he keep getting good minutes?
New York: Curry and Randolph/Milicic
Curry falls under the category of "lost interest in his own talent"—the guy just doesn't get it. When he entered the league he had potential to rival Shaq, and now he's a 285-lb. pantload, easily outrebounded by any player willing to give it a shot. Randolph or Milicic? Neither can help this front court compete on a high level.
Orlando: Howard and Lewis
Howard is utterly impressive, a true "All-World" player, if there is such a thing. A guy with his size and mobility doesn't come around very often. Lewis isn't too shabby either, but he suffers from the Villanueva virus of a small forward being put in a power forward position, at times capable of rebounding and defending his position, but also prone to disappearing.
Philadelphia: Dalembert and Brand
I've heard many Philly fans complain and complain about Dalembert, so there must be something wrong with him. I see him as a double-double guy and that's what he averaged last season, but I get the feeling people think he doesn't show up every night. Brand is Brand and you know what you have there. He's a tough rebounder and can easily score 20 points every night—but as with O'neal, will he be healthy?
Washington: Haywood and Jamison
Haywood is a hard worker and shows signs of something underlying, but ultimately comes up short due to lack of consistent skills. Jamison is a rare package of good rebounding a good scoring with an inside out ability. He does put his heart on the line.
I don't think any of these duos are going to set the conference on fire this year. Rven Bosh and O'Neal will have their off nights—but if healthy, they will be victorious when the dust settles.
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