NBA 2009-10 Preview

I feel like the upcoming NBA season is a totalchanging-of-the-guard season. It’s a turning point: We are officially in transition between the last generation of superstars and the new generation of superstars. This will be the last season where Kobe, Tim Duncan, Shaq, and KG (which I will call the millennium generation, because it’s been ten fucking years since that term was used so extensively) really contend for titles. Hell, it might even happen this season, where the new generation (who I will refer to as the Darko generation) finally wins a title aside from Dwyane Wade, Shaq, and Tim Donaghy’s 2006 title run.


The 2006 Miami Heat can suck it

Just look at the top contenders this year, and you’ll notice there are millennium superstars and pseudo-millennium superstars (Vince Carter) on each squad. I believe that the top contenders this season are San Antonio (Tim Duncan), Los Angeles (Baron Davis… alright I couldn’t say that one with a straight face, Kobe Bryant), Orlando (which is an odd combo of the pseudo-millennium and Darko superstars, Dwight Howard and VINCANITY), and Boston (Korpse Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce).

The ones that seem to be on the sleeper contender’s list are where the Darko superstars reside, which include Denver (Carmello), New Orleans (Chris Paul), Porkland (Brandon Roy), and last but not least, the Cleveland Lebrons.

Let’s also not forget the whole disparity between young and old teams. Just look at some of the teams that tried to overhaul this past summer:

Dallas resigned Jason Kidd and picked up Shawn Marion to add to their graveyard of players. If Dirk was not in the middle of a contract season, I would have written this team off years ago.


The Maverick's Cheerleaders are probably young enough to be the player's daughters


In a way, Pheonix got younger (and lighter) by ridding themselves of the Cancer Formally known as the Big Aristotle/Superman/Steel/Kazaam/Diesel. No wonder why the Suns were so eager to get rid of this guy, who the fuck needs that many nicknames? Even Ron Artest goes only by one nickname, which is OJ. Well, that’s the nickname I’m giving him, for I think he will murder the Lakers’ playoff run come May, 2010.

Oh yeah, the Suns. I cannot help but feel that they are still old with guys like Steve Nash and Grant Hill still gimping around.

The Lakers are upping the odometer by adding OJ Artest, while keeping Derek Fischer and Kobe on hand. Kobe isn’t that old, but he is definitely inching past his prime. Jordan was still winning titles at 34. Kobe is 31. However, Kobe has been playing professional basketball since he was 18, which is a much bigger toll on the legs than NCAA.

The Celtics didn’t get any younger by adding Rasheed Wallace, who I have witnessed first hand decline every season since 2006. And now there’s speculation that Rajon Rando, Boston’s biggest hope at having a legitimate future, might get traded.

And finally we come to the Cleveland Lebrons, who added the Cancer Formally known as the Big Aristotle/Superman/Steel/Kazaam/Diesel. Congratulations Cleveland, your core frontcourt players (Verajo, Shaq, and Zeek) have an average age of 34. And everyone thought Shaq was sucha  great addition. Good luck getting past Orlando, Boston, and [insert Western Coinference Champion] with the tread on those wheels.

Those are five teams that seem to be banking on post-prime millennium superstars. I know that Cleveland is counting on Lebron more, but as we saw in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, he cannot do it by himself. The man was putting up 40+ points per game at ease, and Orlando ran them out of the gym every time.

I mentioned the disparity because there seem to be younger, hungrier teams that might make things interesting by ousting some of these Senior Citizen forces (namely Dallas and Phoenix) for a playoff spot. And when it happens, all of these morons like Tim Leigler and Bill Walton will be all shocked because they couldn’t analyze an NBA season if it meant rejuvenating their dead careers.

The main focus is obvious: The Oklahoma City Thunder. They draft James Harden, who draft experts said would make a tremendous “glue-guy”, to add to an already young core of talented players of Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook.

The other obvious choice is the Los Angeles Clippers, who managed to rid themselves of Fat Randolph and won the Blake Griffin lottery. The only major question about the Clippers is coaching, and whether or not the same players who showed little respect for Mike Dunleavy in the past will get over their differences and come together as a team.

As a basketball fan, wouldn’t it be awesome if the Clippers and Thunder got to the playoffs, just to show the world how fucking ridiculous sports GM’s are when they overpay some aging veterans in effort to win a title? When has that ever worked? The New York Yankees used to do it all the time, when they added Randy Johnson and Jason Giambi. The Portland Jail Blazers were the worst with this practice, when they added Steve Smith, Scottie Pippen, and Dale Davis, at a time when all three were past their expiration dates, only to get beat by the Lakers every year.

Anyways, aside from the entire “Young vs. Old” theme that we will all see this upcoming season, I guess I better make some fucking predictions.

First of all, and I’m not sure when it will happen, but I’m willing to bet that we will see at least three “blockbuster” trades. With all of this suspicion of a lockout coming, and teams continuing to bleed from economic hardships, don’t be surprised if the Houston Rockets get some young, upcoming players for cents on the dollar when they have Tracy McGrady and Yao’s contracts coming off the books. However, it may be difficult to tell with some teams, for players may not exercise their early termination option knowing full well that they may not get a raise, as seen this past offseason with Carlos Boozer.

The main players on the trade market to look for are Chicago (Brad Miller, plethora of young players), Charlotte (Tyson Chandler, Nazr Mohammad, Raja Bell, Raymond Felton), Houston (T-Mac, Yao (ETO)), and the New York Knicks (Al Harrington, Larry Hughs, Cuttino Mobely, and David Lee). If there are teams looking for cap relief come trade deadline, you’d better believe that the four teams mentioned will control the trading power.

Coaches to be fired:

Between the four sports, coaches seem to have the shortest life span in the NBA. If I remember correctly, seven coaches were fired last season. That’s nearly 25% of the league’s coaches axed. As a Pistons fan, I have seen three coaches get canned after winning division titles and consistently making it past the first two rounds of the playoffs. Anyone who watched the playoffs last season probably remembers all of the talk about Stan Van Gundy and Mike Brown getting their pink slips if their teams underachieved. More assert that had Chauncey Billups not rescued the Nuggets, Geroge Karl would probably be in line at unemployment. It’s ridiculous. I cannot think of many coaches in the other leagues that get fired after having consistent success with their teams.

Two big possibilities come to mind. The first one is Lawrence Frank. The New Jersey Nets have progressively declined (what an oxymoron) ever since he took over. And now that the metrosexual Joseph Stalin has taken the reins, I cannot see Lawrence Frank making it past this season, considering that he’s

A)    Not a good coach
B)    Has minimal talent on his team


Idiot

The other coach in the hot seat is Byron Scott. I think the New Orleans Hornets have the talent to really make a move in the Western Conference. Looking back at how their season ended, I cannot help but think that anything less than a conference title means Scott’s departure from the Lost City of Atlantis New Orleans (too soon?).

Other high possibilities of getting canned: Erik Spoelstra, Vinny Del Negro, Mike Woodsen, Mike Brown, Rick Carlisle, and Don Nelson.

Which by the way, can I point out how absolutely absurd Golden State’s front office contiues to be? They finally get their shit together in 2007, and create the most exciting team in basketball. They trade one of their key players (Jason Richardson) for an unpromising power forward. They draft Anthony Randolph, who is better than Brandon Wright, and barely play him. On top of everything else, they let the most essential piece of a Nelly-ball style of play (Baron Davis, i.e. an elite point guard) walk out the door. They make up for it by overpaying a scoring swingman (Corey Maggette) when they already had Stephen Jackson. And now their best player, Cappin’ Jack, wants out. They are almost like the Detroit Lions of pro-basketball: a team with a consistent supportive fan base combined with a consistent atrocious front office.

As for how the season will play out…

The Los Angeles Lakers will claim the Western Conferences top spot by winning the Pacific Division. With their frontcourt, featuring arguably the games’ greatest guard, the Lakers are built for regular season success. Even when their starting center is hurt for extended periods of time, this team finds ways to truck along.

The second and third seeds will come down to San Antonio and New Orleans. I really question San Antonio’s ability to stay healthy. Both teams added great pieces, with the Spurs adding San Antonio McDyess (I love that nickname), and Richard Jefferson. The Hornets added Emeka Okafor, who is miles ahead of Chandler is basketball IQ, skill, and maturity. Personally, I’m pulling for the Spurs. I have always admired their style of traditional play, and seeing San Antonio McDyess get a ring after longing for one in Detroit would be nice to see. On top of that, Richard Jefferson became one of my favorite athletes over the summer when he dumped his fiancĂ© just days before their wedding.
I also think Denver could make a run at a top three seed, considering the run they made on the fly after getting Billups. Having him prepared for an entire season could boost their record. I cannot see Denver falling from the top four.

Rounding out the Western Conference playoff picture should be Porkland, Utah, and a combination of two of Dallas, Phoenix, OKC, and Los Angeles.

I think the real site to see in the Western Conference this season is Lionel Hollins, the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Watching him try to win with AI, OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph should be funnier than NotMikeDunleavy’s Twitter updates.


Genius

The Eastern Conference should be up in the air. It will likely be a rerun of last season, with Orlando, Cleveland, and Boston duking it out as the East elite. I say Orlando claims the top seed, for they don’t really have any older legs potentially dragging from game-to-game. Cleveland may have lost a step by adding Shaq and losing John Kuester (several Cavs fans are dreading a season without a Kuester-run offense). And the verdict is still out on KG’s knees.

The only other lock I see in the East is Washington. Even if Gilbert Arenas’s knee explodes nine seconds into the regular season, which is entirely possible, this team got a lot better by adding Randy Foye and Flip Saunders as coach. Flip Saunders does have control issues at times, but if you see his track record, the man rarely misses the playoffs.

Atlanta should make the playoffs. The only two things I’m unsure of are Mike Woodsen’s coaching and Josh Smith’s ethic. I know Horford had injury troubles last year, but this could be the season that he hatches from his shell and becomes a legit big man in the NBA.

The other five spots are up in the air. Many of the potential playoff teams have too many questions marks. The Bobcats took a step back by losing Okafor, and still don’t really have a solid bench. The Sixers really fell off by losing Andre Miller, when the team probably needs a point guard more than anything. The Bulls and Pistons both  lack frontcourt power, the only difference being their guard problems. The Bulls have an overabundance of point guards, where the Pistons have an overabudnance of shooting guards.

In fact, the two closest things the Pistons have to point guards are Tayshaun Prince, who plays the 3, and Will Bynum, who may see limited time with Rip Hamilton, Ben Gordon, and Rodney Stuckey playing in front of him.

The Raptors also added Heo Turkoglu, who might help the offense run smoothly if he can gel with Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon. I still question Toronto's defensive intensity, thus it is difficult to pencil this team into the playoffs.

So, in a nutshell, here's what the playoff picture will look like:

Western Conference:

1) Los Angeles Lakers (Pacific Division Champions)
2) San Antonio Spurs (Southwest Division Champions)
3) New Orleans Hornets
4) Denver Nuggets (Northwest Division Champions)
5) Porkland Trailblazers
6) Phoenix Suns
7) Los Angeles Clippers
8) Dallas Mavericks

Eastern Conference:

1) Orlando Magic (Southeast Division Champions)
2) Boston Celtics (I fucking hate the Celtics)
3) Cleveland Lebrons (I hate spellling out Caviliers)
4) Washington Wizards
5) Atlanta Hawks
6) Chicago Bulls
7) Detroit Pistons
8) Toronto Raptors

San Antonio trumps Boston for the 2010 World Championship.

Awards:

I really don't think it matters anymore. Especially with the Most Valuable Player. The player who deserves it never gets it. I'm not saying that Lebron James did not deserve the award in 2009, but Cleveland's emergence was more of a result of John Kuester's offensive schemes and the addition of Mo Williams. Dwayne Wade carried a terrible Miami Heat team to the playoffs with terrible coaching. In the defense of Lebron James, Lebron is the only othe player in the league that could have carried that Heat team to the playoffs. However, Wade still had the more impressive season, and got snubbed. Bottom line.

I think if New Orleans emerges back to the top, which is possilble, it should definately go to Chris Paul, who actually deserved the award in 2008, but lost it to Kobe based on the "we owe him one" factor. The NBA really needs to cut the bullshit with the MVP award.

Coach of the year should definately go to Lionel Hollins if he manages to not slit his wrists heading into All-Star weekend. I should mentioned that the Coach of the Year award is another award that really does not matter. Don't believe me? Since 1999, six coaches who have won the award (Mike Dunleavy - '99 Blazers, Doc Rivers - 00 Magic, Rick Carlisle - '02 Pistons, Mike D'Antoni - '05 Suns, Avery Johnson - '06 Mavericks, and Sam Mitchell - '07 Raptors) were all fired within the following three seasons. This either means that they were not good coaches, meaning they did not deserve the trophy, or that there is some sort of curse. I would not rule out the latter, considering that two of the other coaches (Larry Brown - '01 Sixers, Hubie Brown, -04 Grizzlies) left their respective teams within the same time span. The only coach who has won the award that is still with their team is Greg Popavich. The last two coaches to win the award? Mike Brown and Byrson Scott. Two guys who are considered by many to be on the hot seat this season. Watch out!


Want a sure way to lose your job? Just accept this trophy!

Rookie of the Year? Thomas Ian Nicholas.

Defensive Player of the Year will probaqbly go to Dwight Howard again, because he will swat another bagillion shots and people will continue to say "OMG DWIGHT HOWARD IS SO AWESOME LOOK AT ALL OF HIS STATS HE IS THE NEXT SHAQ!". By the way Dwight Howard fans, if you need any shred of evidence that Dwight Howard simply is not mature enough to lead a team to a championship, click here, and tell me with  a straight face that you would be comfortable with this guy as your team's leader.

Most Improved Player will probably go to Anthony Randolph if Golden State hires a compitent head coach.

I see Rasheed Wallace, Ben Gordon, James Posey, or Lamar Odom taking the sixth man award.  

That's the NBA 2010 season for you. I will probably have an exclusive Pistons preview coming up, and will probably have an additional half-season analysis and playoffs preview as I always do.


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