Sunday, October 31, 2004
Big Lo, you are the man.
The 2004-2005 NBA season tips off Tuesday. Shaquille O'Neal is now in Miami, there are 6 divisions instead of 4, and Charlotte has a basketball team again.
And with that, here is my 2004-2005 NBA Preview:
(Italics = Playoff teams)
New Jersey Nets
New York Knicks
The 76ers are the best team of a very weak Atlantic Division. I just can't see Allen Iverson having another subpar season. Jim O'Brien will bring some stability to a franchise that was anything but stable in 2003-2004.
The Nets are on the downswing, but they still have Jason Kidd and Richard Jefferson. They will definitely miss Kenyon Martin, however. Al Jefferson will be a player to watch this year. He's an 18-year old phenom out of Mississippi who originally committed to Arkansas. Boston fans will love this kid.
The Knicks and Raptors will battle it out for the cellar. Lenny Wilkens and Sam Mitchell won't last the season with their respective teams.
The Pistons and Pacers will battle it out all season long for Central Division supremacy. These two teams could very well meet again in the Eastern Conference Finals. I'll give the edge to the Pistons because Rasheed Wallace will be in the Motor City for a full season. He made a huge difference for the Pistons in 2004, leading them to a world championship.
Cleveland should be a playoff team this season. LeBron James is already a superstar and he hasn't even reached his full level of potential yet. Former Oregon star Luke Jackson will be a future Sixth Man of the Year award winner.
Terry Porter has done a solid job in Milwaukee. But unfortunately for him, his Bucks are in the same division as the Pistons and Pacers. However, since they are in the Eastern Conference, they will be a playoff team. Michael Redd is one of the best shooters in basketball.
Da Bulls are in da crapper.
Shaquille O'Neal is on a mission this year. Now, I don't think the Heat will be in the NBA Finals this season. But they will win at least 55 games, simply because they play in the Southeast Division. Dwyane Wade may be the most unselfish player in basketball. This is good, since he's now playing with Shaq.
You want my analysis on the rest of the Southeast Division? The rest of the division sucks. Moving on...
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State Warriors
Los Angeles Clippers
The window is closing in Sacramento. Can the Kings take advantage of a Shaq-less Lakers squad? If I were the Maloof brothers, I'd lock up Chris Webber ASAP. When Webber came back from the injured list last season, the Kings weren't the same team. Peja Stojakovic wanted to be traded during the summer. I would trade Webber before I'd even think about trading Stojakovic.
I remember a few seasons ago when Bill Simmons said that the Clippers were his favorite team watch on NBA League Pass. Well, if I had League Pass this season, the Suns may be the team I'd watch on a regular basis. A team with Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson, and Steve Nash is a fun team to watch. Did the Suns overpay for Nash? Sure. But it isn't my money. And I'd take Nash on my team anyday.
Guess what? I don't think the Lakers will be in the playoffs this season. I'm so ready for the inevitable "Kobe Bryant clashes with Rudy T" story. This is Kobe's team, alright. This Lakers team will be lucky to win 45 games. Laker haters, unite. This is going to be fun.
The Warriors and Clippers, ugh. As far as I'm concerned, just rename the Warriors the "Oakland Warriors" and move the Clippers to Anaheim already.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Timberwolves are the best team in a very competitive Northwest Division. Kevin Garnett is the reigning MVP and I don't see why he can't be the MVP once again in 2004-2005. What will be interesting to see about this team is the attitudes of Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell. They were team players last year. But what about this year? And now Wally Szczerbiak is complaining about playing time. I like this team, but these issues are going to be interesting to watch.
The Nuggets are the most improved team in basketball. I love the Denver frontline of Marcus Camby and Kenyon Martin. Nene is a force as well. Carmelo Anthony had a less-than-stellar offseason, but he will be alright. This team is dangerous.
The Jazz have improved as well. It's funny, I don't hate this team anymore. I used to hate the Jazz with a passion because of Karl Malone and John Stockton. That's not the case now. Like the Suns, the Jazz are going to be a fun team to watch as well. Carlos Boozer was a great pickup for Utah. He will rebound and add toughness to the Utah frontline. Carlos Arroyo was impressive during the Olympics. Mehmet Okur will get a lot more playing time in Utah than he ever did in Detroit. Jerry Sloan is one of the best coaches in basketball. What he did with this team last year was incredible. He will get this team to the playoffs in 2004-2005.
I'm a Blazers fan. I will not hide that here. But the fact is, this team is in transition. I do think that they will be a playoff team in 2004-2005. They will have Theo Ratliff for a full season. Ratliff improved the Blazers' defense big time when he came to Portland from Atlanta last February. Zach Randolph is one of the most talented young players in basketball, but can he stay out of trouble? The Blazers won't sign Randolph to a new deal if he doesn't stay out of trouble. These aren't the Jail Blazers anymore. Oh, and for our Gonzaga fans, Richie Frahm is now in Portland.
The Sonics are not a good team. They did add Danny Fortson in the offseason, but not much else. Well, that's not entirely true. Nick Collison, who was a 2003 first round draft pick, will be healthy this season. Ray Allen is in his contract year. The only way I see him staying in Seattle is if the Sonics somehow make it to the playoffs this season. Boy, are the Sonics ever going to miss Brent Barry.
San Antonio Spurs
New Orleans Hornets
Speaking of Brent Barry, he's now a Spur. The Spurs could have used him last season. If they had Barry last season, I believe they would have been playing in the NBA Finals. But they didn't. This season, they have Barry. This is a championship-caliber team. Tim Duncan is Tim Duncan. Manu Ginobli is coming off of a Olympic gold medal-performance. This season, they won't have to worry about Derek Fisher and .4 seconds.
The Rockets will be a solid team. But how will Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady co-exist. I think McGrady will suck it up and accept the fact that Yao gets the ball as well. Dare I say it, but I think Juwan Howard is going to have a good season. Jeff Van Gundy can coach. On Yao, I just wonder how good this guy could really be if he didn't play so much during the summer.
The Grizzlies are the closest team to me. I saw a lot of Grizzlies games on TV last season. Hubie Brown loves upside and I love Hubie. Who doesn't? The Grizzlies have a new arena to call home, the FedEx Forum. It's adjacent to Beale Street (dammit, I need to get to Memphis soon). They have new colors and unis. Their only key offseason acquisition was Brian Cardinal. While that move isn't too impressive, this team does have a lot of talent. Pau Gasol is the best player you've never heard of. Jason Williams has morphed into a choirboy. James Posey is a solid player. The Grizzlies don't have a real center, but they should be OK. The Grizzlies will be in the playoffs again.
The Mavericks are going to miss Steve Nash in a huge way. I'm still amazed at how the Mavs didn't re-sign him. I'm not impressed with Erick Dampier at all. I think he's going to be the biggest bust of the 2004-2005 season. Hell, I won't be shocked if Don Nelson gets canned during the season. The Mavs are going down. Just like Mark Cuban's show "The Benefactor".
If the Hornets were still in the Eastern Conference, they would be a playoff team. But they're in the Western Conference now. Too bad, so sad.
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2004-2005 PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Detroit Pistons d. Indiana Pacers
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
San Antonio Spurs d. Minnesota Timberwolves
San Antonio Spurs d. Detroit Pistons
NBA MVP: Kevin Garnett, Minnesota
NBA Coach of the Year: Paul Silas, Cleveland
NBA Rookie of the Year: Kirk Snyder, Utah
NBA Defensive Player of the Year: Kenyon Martin, Denver
Coaches to be fired/resign:
Lenny Wilkens, New York
Sam Mitchell, Toronto
Scott Skiles, Chicago
Don Nelson, Dallas
The NBA season is upon us. I'm excited for it. It means that "Inside The NBA" will return to the airwaves on TNT. It's the best basketball-related show on TV, no question.
Here's the NBA National TV schedule.
The NBA, it's still fannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnntastic!