Hardcore Hardcourt Talk:
A Quick Take On The 30 NBA
By Andy Roth
Where Politically Correct Opinions Get Rejected
New York, NY (Sports Network) - Here?s my take on the obvious and not-
so-obvious as the NBA season tips off tonight.
BOSTON CELTICS: The Miami Heat are heavy favorites to win the Eastern
Conference, but with the Celtics having a "Big Four" and a much deeper roster,
especially up front, don't be surprised if Boston makes a second straight trip
to the finals.
NEW YORK KNICKS: Aside from not being able to rebound or defend,
or have anyone outside of point guard Raymond Felton who can create shots for
other players, the outlook is really bright in the Big Apple. Rookie Timofey
Mozgov, who will likely start at center, was nicknamed "the human foul machine"
while playing in Russia. With Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari on the floor at the
same time, there should be plenty of clear paths to the hoops for opposing
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Look for point guard Jrue Holiday to have a
breakout season, but that's where the good news may start and end for new head
coach Doug Collins. Evan Turner, the second overall pick in the draft,
struggled in the summer league and exhibition season, and his game is really
not suited to play off the ball.
TORONTO RAPTORS: With the departure of Chris Bosh, it's going to
be a long and cold winter in Toronto. On the plus side, the Raptors were able
to unload a disgruntled and unproductive Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa, and
got a talented power forward in the draft in North Carolina's Ed Davis. Last
year's number one draft pick, DeMar Derozan, needs to take his game up to
another level this year.
NEW JERSEY NETS: A new owner and new head coach is cause for
optimism in New Jersey, because the roster certainly isn't. Before team
president Rod Thorn resigned, he didn't do the Nets any favors by drafting
Derrick Favors with the third overall pick. Thorn passed on the much more
talented big man in DeMarcus Cousins, and that decision will have a long-
lasting impact on the franchise.
CHICAGO BULLS: The Bulls will be challenged on two fronts early in the
season. They'll be without Carlos Boozer as he recovers from a broken finger,
and they play nine of their first 15 games on the road, including a seven-game
road trip to close out November. That stretch may determine whether or not the
Bulls win the Central.
MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Andrew Bogut may never be 100% this season after suffering
a broken arm and hand and a dislocated elbow in a horrific fall last April. But
this Milwaukee team will still be a serious challenger to the Bulls in the
Central nonetheless, with John Salmons now with the team for a full season and
the addition of Corey Maggette.
DETROIT PISTONS: This is not a good time to be a Pistons fan.
Three starters -- Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince -- are on
the back end of their careers, and there isn't one young player on the roster
to build with. First round draft pick Greg Monroe lacks the athleticism to be
any sort of impact player.
INDIANA PACERS: Team president Larry Bird filled a huge void at
point guard with the acquisition of Darren Collison. The development of
Collison and third-year center Roy Hibbert will be the keys to this season and
the future of the team. First round draft pick Paul George, the 10th overall
selection in June, is a very skilled player who could turn out to be better
than a number of players picked ahead of him.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: "The Decision" is in. The Cavs are going to
be awfully hard to watch following the departure of you know who. Look for a
big season from JJ Hickson, who doesn't have a lot of flash to his game, but
simply gets the job done.
MIAMI HEAT: It's usually very difficult to compete for, let
alone win, an NBA championship when Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers are in your
starting lineup. But when the remaining three starters are named LeBron James,
Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it changes the picture entirely. Miami's big three
will have be to healthy and at their best for the Heat to win it all with some
major holes in other areas.
ORLANDO MAGIC: The Magic usually live and eventually die by the jump
shot and this season shouldn't be any different. Dwight Howard's supporting
cast remains too weak to make Orlando a serious title contender. Nobody on this
team can create easy shots for teammates, with the worst culprit being Jameer
Nelson, who is a shooting guard in a point guard's body.
ATLANTA HAWKS: This season shouldn't be much different from last
year with the nucleus basically intact. The Hawks will have their share of
regular season success, but won't be much of a factor in the playoffs.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: The Bobcats have two high quality players in
All-Star Gerald Wallace (18.2 ppg, 10 rpg) and shooting guard Stephen Jackson
(21.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), and that may be enough to get a second straight appearance
in the playoffs with a lot of bad teams in the bottom half of the Eastern
Conference. Two young players that will have to step up their games are power
forward Tyrus Thomas and D.J. Augustin, who takes over at the point for Raymond
WASHINGTON WIZARDS: There's nothing like winning the lottery and
getting a big-time talent to start turning a franchise around. John Wall should
be able to live up to the hype, but he'll need some help from two young big men
if the Wizards are really going to make some big strides this season. Power
forward Andray Blatche really opened some eyes after moving into the starting
lineup in mid-February. Blatche averaged 22 points and 8.2 rebounds over the
final 32 games, which earned him a five-year, $32 million extension. Center
Javale McGee was also very impressive over that same stretch when his minutes
significantly increased. In just 23.2 minutes per game, McGee averaged 10.1
points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.25 blocks.
DALLAS MAVERICKS: It'll be the usual script for the Mavs. Win
50-plus games but fail to capture that elusive NBA championship. Dirk Nowitzki
remains one of the game's premier players, but Jason Kidd is no longer an
effective playoff performer, with his lack of foot speed hurting him so much in
the half court game.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS: This will probably be the last run at a championship for
the veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. The most
significant offseason addition was 2007 first round draft pick, Tiago Splitter.
The seven-foot power forward/center, who was one of the top players in Europe,
will provide some much needed size up front in playing alongside and backing up
Duncan. Any run at a championship will have to include a significant
improvement from Richard Jefferson, who was a major disappointment in his first
year in San Antonio.
HOUSTON ROCKETS: The big story here is the return of Yao Ming, but
unfortunately for the Rockets it will be in a part-time role. Houston does
possess a potent scoring backcourt in Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, and one of
the game's more unheralded power forwards in Luis Scola, but it may not be
enough to make the playoffs in a very tough Western Conference.
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: The Grizzlies have an All-Star (Zach Randolph) and a
FIBA world champion (Rudy Gay) in their starting lineup, but the key to the
season will be the further development of the backcourt of Mike Conley and O.J.
Mayo, and center Marc Gasol. A very questionable bench may keep the Grizzlies
out of the playoff picture.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: Chris Paul is committed to stay in New Orleans for
now, but he could soon change that tune once the Hornets take the court. Aside
from Paul and David West, there's not much to get excited about on this roster,
and it looks like a second straight season of no playoffs for New Orleans.
OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: The odds-makers and many members of the
media consider Kevin Durant and company to be the Lakers' number one challenger
in the West. But the Thunder lack the size and talent up front playing
alongside Durant to serious challenge the defending champs. There certainly is
room for improvement for this team with all the key players still in the early
stages of their careers.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Greg Oden's health will determine whether the
Blazers will be a good team or one that can compete with the upper echelon of
the league. Oden, who is recovering from knee surgery last season, has no
timeline for his return.
UTAH JAZZ: There were plenty of offseason changes, but the results should
be the same. The Jazz will be a really solid team and make the playoffs for a
fifth straight season, but won't seriously challenge in the West.
DENVER NUGGETS: What's the use of talking about what will happen on the
court, when the only thing that will matter is what happens off the court.
Carmelo Anthony is almost sure to be an ex-Nugget at some point, whether it's
during or after this season. And while Anthony's eventual departure has
dominated the headlines for quite some time, he may be part of a mass exit in
Denver. Kenyon Martin, Nene and J.R. Smith are also unrestricted free agents at
the end of the season, and could be candidates to be dealt away like Anthony.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: It's brief and simple. There is no faith for a team
that gives Darko Milicic a four-year deal for $20 million. Whatever he gives
the Wolves offensively will be more than negated on the defensive end.
LOS ANGELES LAKERS: A healthy Andrew Bynum is the key to the
Lakers' chances of a three-peat. If Bynum is at the top of his game, LA should
cruise to the NBA Finals. The Lakers made a great addition to their bench with
the free agent signing of Matt Barnes. This gives the defending champs a
versatile defender who will really pay dividends come playoff time.
PHOENIX SUNS: With Amar'e Stoudemire, the Suns were a very good
team but never a serious title contender. Without him, they still might be good
enough to make the playoffs, but would probably be a major long shot to get out
of the first round. Phoenix still has one of the great floor leaders to ever
play the game in Steve Nash, but with Stoudemire gone, he no longer has a great
finisher to go to.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: I have two words for Clippers fans to have some cause
for optimism: Blake Griffin. After sitting out all of last season with a knee
injury, Griffin is healthy and ready to challenge John Wall for rookie-of-the-
year honors. He combines off the charts athleticism and strength with a very
high skill level and a tremendous work ethic. I won't be surprised if he turns
out to be better than Wall.
SACRAMENTO KINGS: DeMarcus Cousins was the fifth overall pick in
the draft, but could very well turn out to be the second best player behind
former teammate John Wall. The Kings, of course, struck gold in last year's
draft with rookie of the year winner Tyreke Evans plus late first-round pick
Omri Casspi. If Cousins can live up to his potential, the Kings will have a
young nucleus to build with to eventually return to respectability and beyond.
GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: As usual, there's plenty of offensive firepower, but
very little resistance on the other end of the floor, especially with the
undersized backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. David Lee should thrive
in the Warriors' run-and-gun system, and in the pick-and-roll with Ellis and
Curry, but as Knicks fans know, he won't provide much of an inside defensive
Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and
was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered
many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA
Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.