Friday, October 28, 2005

Western Conference: THE Prediction

Predictions are lame, for a number of reasons. Especially in basketball where how players integrate their abilities together is very important. Remember how huge we all thought Brent Barry would be for the Spurs last year?

What I've done is organize the conference into three tiers of teams: Contenders, A Player Away, and Wannabes. Without further ado ... BlazerBlog's official Western Conference Predictions.

(note: these predictions are not reflective of playoff seed -- but rather regular season final record.)

Tier 1: Contenders

1. San Antonio Spurs
Starting lineup: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Bruce Bown, Tim Duncan, Nazr Mohammed

Real bold prediction, huh? Add me to the 100% of other "experts" who think San Antonio will repeat. Somehow they have become stronger while the other elite teams in the conference have become slightly weaker. They've got depth added with Michael Finley coming off the bench that they didn't have last year; now Manu can start and they don't lose anything. Unreal.

2. Phoenix Suns
Starting lineup: Steve Nash, Raja Bell, James Jones, Kurt Thomas

Phoenix will likely not win as many regular season games as they did last year, but they're a tougher team. I still don't see them getting past San Antonio (save for an injury to Tim Duncan) but they'll be a very strong club. There's a chance they could drop down to the 3rd or 4th seed but I would still expect them to make the Western Conference Finals.

3. Houston Rockets
Starting lineup: Rafer Alston, David Wesley, Tracy McGrady, Stromile Swift, Yao Ming

It's hard to pick a team who has Rafer Alston as their starting point guard to be the #3, but I truly believe that the Rockets can put it together this season. They won't be the #3 seed anyways because they're in the same division as San Antonio, but look for the Rockets to take big step forward this year. Stromile Swift will be a huge addition for them and I expect him to start at the 4 more than Juwon Howard.

4. Denver Nuggets
Starting lineup: Andre Miller, DerMarr Johnson, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby

Hard team to try and predict ... I debated heavily between Houston and Dalls and which would end up with the league's third best record. Rumor has it that Carmelo Anthony has been working his tail off all summer long and is focused & ready to take the leap. They have a huge hole at the 2-guard and great depth on the frontcourt with Nene as a backup. Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby are very nice players, but are they really strong enough to push Denver in the NBA's elite?

Tier 2: A Player Away

5. Dallas Mavericks
Starting lineup: Jason Terry, Doug Christie, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Eric Dampier

Dallas has lost some of the firepower that they've been known for over the past couple of seasons, but they're also tougher, a better rebounding team (as last year's numbers demonstrated) and play better defense. You know that Terry, Howard, and Dirk will fill up the bucket with points (and don't be surprised to see Marquis Daniels get plenty of starts this season as well) -- the big keys for this team will be Doug Christie and Eric Dampier. Which version of these two players will Dallas get -- the spectacular 03-04 versions or the injured, mediocre 04-05 versions?

6. Sacramento Kings
Starting lineup: Mike Bibby, Bonzi Wells, Peja Stojakovic, Kenny Thomas, Brad Miller

Another tough team to try and predict. They've certainly got talent in Bibby, Wells, Peja, and Brad Miller (few teams have a four-some as offensively potent), but there are too many questions to project them into the top four. Which Peja will show up? How much of a clubhouse cancer will Bonzi become? Can Brad Miller stay healthy through a full season

7. Golden State Warriors
Starting lineup: Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Adonal Foyle

Call me biased because I live in San Francisco, but this one very talented Warriors team that I fully expect to make the playoffs next season. They went 14-4 down the stretch after acquiring Baron Davis, and granted while the games were meaningless, they've got several components to build around: athleticisim, shooting, and depth. Jason Richardson is one of the league's top-10 offensive players, and if he can cut down on his three point attempts should get some recognition for that this season. Their biggest question revolves around the center position -- don't be surprised to see Golden State play quite a bit of small ball when they can based on matchups, utlizing Murphy at center and adding Mickael Pietrus to the starting lineup.

8. Seattle SuperSonics
Starting lineup: Luke Ridnour, Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Nick Collison, Vitaly Potapenko

A very similar team to the Warriors: a blossoming squqd with a great young point guard, fantastic wing players (in Lewis and Allen), and a question at the center position. Nick Collison's second full season of experience should help him tremendously this year, and they've still got depth with Ronald Murray, Reggie Evans and Danny Fortson coming off the bench. They'll drop off a little bit from last year but will still make the playoffs.

Tier 3: Wannabe's

9. Los Angeles Clippers
Starting lineup: Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Corey Maggette, Elton Brand, Chris Kaman

I truly thought last year would be a great season for The Clip. They've got a few solid wing players, a very good power forward, some depth, and a quality coach. But then they proved to us one thing that will never go away: they're the Clippers.

10. Memphis Grizzlies
Starting lineup: Damon Stoudamire, Eddie Jones, Mike Miller, Pau Gasol, Lorenzen Wright

The fact that they'll fall off from last season isn't necessarily a bad thing. They did lose talent, but I'm not sure that the team as previously composed was doing a whole lot anyway. In unloading Bonzi Wells, Jason Williams, and James Posey, Jerry West got rid of a few bad contracts and players whom they didn't want around anyway. They can build around Gasol and Miller, and made a nice draft pick in Hakim Warrick. Plus, Pau Gasol has a beard.

11. Minnesota Timberwolves
Starting lineup: Marko Jaric, Trent Hassell, Wally Szczerbiak, Kevin Garnett, Michael Olowokandi

I just don't see it with this team. Kevin Garnett is still one of the top 3 players in the NBA (and he's bulked up for this season), but there are big weaknesses all over the court for the Wolves. Jaric is a very shakey point guard, Hassell provides very little scoring, Szczerbiak is terrible on defense and a one-dimensional player, and Olowokandi is basically size and that's it. I think Minnesota's window has completely slammed shut and they'll be rebuilding for a while.

12. Portland TrailBlazers
Starting lineup: Sebastian Telfair, Chaz Smith, Darius Miles, Zach Randolph, Joel Pryzbilla

Ah, my beloved Blazers. I truly believe that this team will be very good ... starting in about 2007. It will be a very interesting year watching Telfair and Outlaw develop, seeing what we've got in Webster, Khryapa, and Monia, and monitoring the production of Pryzbilla, Miles, and Randolph. They'll have some fantastic nights and some brutal nights, and you and I will be there for all of it. I honestly expect about 35 wins out of this team.

13. Los Angeles Lakers
Starting lineup: Aaron McKie, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Kwame Brown, Chris Mihm

If you need a goal for this season, look no further: finishing in front of the Lakers. Granted that won't be too tough this season but hey, we take the small victories right?

14. Utah Jazz
Starting lineup: Deron Williams, Gordon Giricek, Andrei Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, Mehmet Okur

At least they have AK-47 back. Unfortunately that's about all they've got. Boozer is a nice player, but everyone else on this team really should be coming off the bench.

15. New Orleans / Oklahoma City Hornets
Starting lineup: Chris Paul, JR Smith, Desmond Mason, PJ Brown, Chris Anderson

They took a crappy team from last season and made it even worse, trading away Baron Davis and Jamaal Magloire. Anderson will now start at center, and although they did need a SF badly, they're still a terrible team who will be giving the Hawks and Raptors a real run for that #1 pick.

Whew ... there it is! I'll do a mid-season and end-of-season analysis to see how close (or far) I got. I'd love to hear some of your thoughts as well -- email me here and I'll post the better reader thoughts/predictions.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Jamaal Magloire

Let me start this off with one statement: have you SEEN some of the piss-poor centers that Eastern Conference teams are rolling out as their starters lately?

Zaza Pachuia (Atlanta)
Primo Brezec (Charlotte)
Jeff Foster (Indiana)
Nenad Kristic (New Jersey)
Jerome James (New York)
Kelvin Cato (Orlando)
Loren Woods (Toronto)
Brendan Haywood (Washington)

... just to name a few. A quick parusal of's depth charts yields those names. Of starters. We're not talking roster-hangers-on here folks (as a few of them should be), or borderline D-League'ers, but starters. Lost in how bad New Orleans (Oklahoma City for this upcoming season, and possibly Las Vegas for future seasons -- we can all dream) has been is how underrated their center is -- Jamaal Magloire. Put that guy in the eastern conference and he'd probably be the third best center in the league (behind Shaq and Eddie Curry). Fortunately for him, we'll get to find that out, thanks to another brilliant move by the Hornets. They traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks for Desmond Mason and a first round pick. Magloire is a great young player -- a bit undersized at 6-11, but he rebounds the hell out of the ball, blocks shots, has some very nice post moves on offense, and lives in the paint -- think Theo Ratliff with a decent offensive game. Great pickup for Milwaukee, as they can now move Andrew Bogut to power forward, complementing those two with TJ Ford, Michael Redd, and Bobby Simmons to form what definitely looks like a playoff team in the East. As for New Orleans, they did fill a desperate need at small forward (I watched Desmond Mason play in Seattle for a full season and he is a very exciting player to watch) and acquired a first round pick. Yawn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Blazers' Preseason

In the words of George Costanza ... "I'm back, baby!!". The NBA season is nearly upon us and BlazersBlog is back in a regular posting rotation. Portland is 2-4 in the preseason, we're already looking shakey, and there are health concerns. All before game 1. Welcome to Portland TrailBlazers baksetball, '06 style!

We've got 8 days until the first regular season game, and what better way to kick off the NBA Preseason than a reader email? I received this from loyal reader and official correspondent "Dr. Michael Mancini" today:
Some serious answers to the big questions were given last night. Nate played his regular season rotation and the team apparently looked pretty solid. People panic early in this town, I’m as guilty as anyone, but this might be reason to be less worried than I was. The starting line up was as predicted, Telfair, Chaz, Miles, Z-bo, and Joel. Z-bo is not going to be playing 40 a night for a while, probably in the 25-28 range so Reuben is getting a lot of time there and the focal point of the offense is Miles. Get him the ball in the low post, 1 on 1 situations, or in transition with Telfair running the break. This isn’t a major surprise, the surprise comes with
the bench rotation. Jarrett Jack and Juan Dixon are the backup guards and Jack a lot of the time looks better suited to the NBA game than Telfair at the point. My theory is that Nate’s going to play the hot hand between Dixon and Webster, but the second team is pretty clearly Jack, Dixon, Outlaw, Reuben, and Theo. The Foreign Legion is a non-factor and Webster will obviously see a little action but that’s still a little unclear outside of my own personal theories. Bottom line, the sky is not falling, they aren’t going to go 10-72, relax and take a deep breath.

A couple of thoughts on this. First of all, if I'm reading this correctly, it appears that our playing rotation is looking something like this:

PG: Sebastian Telfair, Jarret Jack
SG: Charles Smith, Juan Dixon
SF: Darius Miles, Travis Outlaw
PF: Zach Randolph, Ruben Patterson
C: Joel Pryzbilla, Theo Ratliff

Other roster members: Ha-Seung Jin, Sergei Monya, Victor Khryapa, Steve Blake, Martell Webster

Secondly, I'd speculated after the draft and once we saw the lack of trades that the Russian Mafia, Martell Webster, and Steve Blake would all be seeing plenty of "DNP"'s this season and that appears to be the case. By mentioning "Chaz", I'm assuming that Dr. Mike is referring to Charles Smith. I like it; let's go with it for now. Given that we've already got a small point guard, Portland can't start Juan Dixon at shooting guard or they'd have an impossibly small starting backcourt -- and we all saw how well that worked out last year, with our Tiny Tandeom of Damon/NVE. Which means the options for this season boil down to either Chaz or our dear friend Martell Webster. If there's one thing I learned from the three NBA Summer League games I was able to watch, it's that Webster isn't ready yet for consistent playing time; let alone a starting gig. So while he may grow into it this season, I don't think we should count on seeing a whole lot of Webster on the floor for Portland; at least for the first 20 games or so.

Thirdly, I'm still worried about our backup PF. Ruben's a nice bench player. He doesn't execute terribly well but he does provide energy, hustle, and spark to the team off of the bench ... but he does that from the wing and on the break; not on the post. If Zbo truly will only be playing 25-28 minutes per game, we're going to have a big, gaping hole in the post when he's out of the game. Hopefully Theo Ratliff will be able to step in and play some significant minutes, which he hasn't been able to do in a year and a half.


More info coming tomorrow. In the meantime, a bit of site news:
  1. We'll be sending in a full roster evaluation and Western Conference review/prediction column out before the first games; stay tuned for that over the weekend.
  2. Due to the spammers hitting up my message boards (if any of you need a home loan apparently this has become the place to advertise), until I figure out how to stop them I'll have to shut off the readers' ability to post messages. My apologies on that. In the meantime, please email me at and I promise to post as much reader interaction as possible.

After a long hiatus ...

BlazersBlog is back! My sincere apologies for the lack of posting ... a new job, a long vacation, a series of weddings, and several other items have kept me away. But I've got my analysis ready, my NBA Season Pass ordered, and will be back with twice-a-week columns (at least) starting this week.

Stay tuned ...