It’s late October so you know what that means. Every basketball website /blog /magazine /podcast on the planet feels the need to look at every team and try to predict what’s going to happen in 08-09. Here at NBAMate we thought we’d do things a little differently. Rather than look at each team and try to predict what’s going to happen, we thought we’d tell you what is actually going to happen.
Teams fighting for that last playoff spot… or the #1 pick in the ‘09 Draft
These guys have got to be the most unluckiest team on the planet. They lose Arenas just before the start of last season, it looks like they’ll lose him for maybe half of this season, and to top it off Antawn Jamison injures his knee in the pre-season and probably won’t be 100% for another month or two. It’s frustrating because as much as I love ragging on Arenas and Deshawn Stevenson and the Wizards comical attempts at trash talking in last year’s playoffs, I actually think they’d be a really decent team if everyone was healthy and they played a full season together. Decent as in 48 wins and a second round exit decent.
Best that could happen: Another first round match up with the Cavs that they win. I’m sure Wizards fans wouldn’t care what happens after that
Worst that could happen: Missing the playoffs
Jobba says: “Supposedly the Wizards are the first team to officially ban the MC attempting to get the crowd to chant “De-Fence”.
Made a lot of off-season noise with the Jermaine O’Neal trade, which could potentially prove to be one of the biggest steals in recent years (I said potentially). I’m not so sure he’s a natural fit for Chris Bosh – you could argue they’re exactly the same type of player, but I do think he’ll bring a lot more interior defense to the party and allow CB to avoid the dirty work a little more. JO blocked five shots against the Clippers in a pre-season game in 33 minutes, to go with 20 points and 15 rebounds. That’s almost JO a la 2004 (who was an MVP candidate). Lets not also forget our man Nathan Jawai. While I expect he’ll be buried away on the bench somewhere, if O’Neal goes down with any injuries (and based on track record, he will) then coach Mitchell might be calling the big Aussie off the bench for some energy and hustle inside. Jawai won’t see any action for a few more weeks at least though, due to the cardiac problem he was diagnosed with in early October.
Best that could happen: 6th or 7th in the East, and some decent PT for Jawai
Worst that could happen: Raps backcourt depth is seriously exposed (pulling Ford out of that team will hurt) and they miss the playoffs.
Jobba says: “Jobba’s official ‘Days from start of the season to Bargnani trade’ countdown will start this Wednesday in U.S EST”.
Two schools of thought here: 1) The Hawks overachieved last year by stretching the Boston Celtics to seven games in the first round, and their inflated egos combined with the loss of Childress (last season my Atlanta supporting friend told me he was the most underrated guy on that team) means they’ll only go backwards this season. Or 2), last year’s playoffs was the confidence booster this team needed, Bibby will have settled in with a full season behind him, Al Horford will continue to rise into stardom and maybe.. just maybe… Josh Smith has developed a jump shot. I find myself siding on the positive for this Hawks team. They’re just too young, too exciting, with too much upside. Plus seeing them stun the Celtics in last years playoffs was one of my personal highlights of the season. If they don’t improve on their 37 wins from last year I won’t only be shocked, I’ll be really really angry.
Best that could happen: 42 wins and another first round exit
Worst that could happen: Missing the playoffs and Josh Childress breaking out for the Greek League MVP
Jobba says: “What a great way to start your term as GM. Rick Sund made no draft picks, loses Childress and Stoudamire and gains nothing except for Mo Evans. Great work”.
Can TJ Ford possibly hope to fill the shoes of the super awesome Jamal Tinsley this season? The answer is a resounding FUCK YES. For the first time since Mark Jackson the Pacers now have a real point guard. A point guard to team up with… umm… Rasha Nesterovic! In all seriousness, the Pacers are at least another year away from competing for the playoffs, because I don’t think TJ Ford will last an entire season, and I don’t think guys like Rush and Hibbert are ready to contribute. Having said that Coach O’Brien seems very committed to giving them minutes; “Brandon, in particular, has got to be a guy that’s going to be able to really impact the basketball team at both ends of the court.” Which is why I think I’ll like this team in another year or two, but for now I still think they kinda suck.
Best that could happen: 40 wins and a mention or two in the All-Rookie Teams
Worst that could happen: TJ Ford breaks his leg and Jamal Tinsley becomes The Man, because he is awesome.
Jobba says: “The Official car of the Indiana Pacers: the Ford Granger”
I almost put the Bucks in the Pretending Contenders category… and then I woke up. I think they’ve got a well rounded starting unit featuring a poor man’s Big Three with Redd, Jefferson and Bogut. In the East that trio is good enough to put them in playoff contention. But then I forgot that their bench sucks and their starting point guard is probably going to be Luke Ridnour. Still, I have faith in the Bogey Man. Bogut seems recommitted after a big new contract, and I think the Bucks players and coach Skiles realise their future success depends on this guy being able to lead them. That means he’ll get a lot more of the ball, provided Ridnour can get it to him.
Best that could happen: A playoff spot and a heap of 20-10 games from Bogut
Worst that could happen: Missing the playoffs again, which would be really disappointing for this franchise considering they were in the playoffs two years ago.
Jobba says: “I think they’ll Bucking suck”
I don’t wanna even talk about my prediction for the Miami Heat last season. Before last season started I was whispering in people’s ears telling everyone I thought the Miami Heat were a championship dark horse. I don’t know if I’ve been more wrong about anything in my life, ever. Which is why I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the Heat could make the playoffs. Wade looks revitalized, Beasley has been impressive in his few pre-season games so far, Haslem is still an underrated player in my eyes, rookie Mario Chalmers looks ready to contribute (nailed the buzzer-beater against the Spurs today) and this is probably Marion’s last chance to prove himself as someone who can help a team win. Ultimately it’s all about D-Wade though. The guy lead his team to a championship in ‘06 with a shadow of a Shaq and old guys like Payton and Antoine Walker by his side. You’d be crazy to think he can’t lead this current Heat team to at least 40 wins with the young talent that is surrounding him.
Best that could happen: Low playoff seed and seeing D-Wade return to the elite of the NBA
Worst that could happen: Spoelstra struggles in his first year as coach, Wade struggles to remain 100% healthy and the Heat bomb again (though there’s no way they touch their 15-win record from last season)
Jobba says: “No funnyness here, congratulations need to be given to Shaun Livingston. I just hope his tale does not go the same way as Penny Hardaway’s (similar players)”.
It’s weird how for a team we all picked to be Eastern Conference Finalists a year ago, just making the playoffs this season would be seen as a major step. If Derrick Rose can keep playing like he has been in pre-season (his 30 point game against Dallas was huge) then the Bulls might find themselves competing for the 8th seed, but nothing more.
Best that could happen: 8th spot out East and a ROY Award for Rose
Worst that could happen: Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng all have crappy seasons again, and in a knee-jerk reaction John Paxson pulls the trigger on a Ben Gordon for Vince Carter trade late in the season.
Jobba says: “Am I the only one praying that the intro music for the Bulls is Seal’s ‘Kissed by a Rose’?”
While I know Jobba is going to passionately disagree with me, I still see no chance of this Bobcats squad making the playoffs. Their starting unit is strong (providing guys like Okafor and May can stay healthy), they have some depth at the center and forward positions with Nazr Mohammed and Adam Morrison coming off the bench, and you just know Larry Brown is going to have them playing more disciplined, defensive basketball. Ultimately their lack of big game experience and big game players means they are going to lose a lot of close games, and I can see Larry Brown’s patience running thin with this young team similar to how it did with the Knicks in ‘06 (which we all know ended horribly).
Best that could happen: Steady improvement over the season, and staying in the race for 8th spot out East (which lets face it, is always a VERY wide open race)
Worst that could happen: A similar record to last years and a realisation that Larry Brown is not suited to this young run and gun team
Jobba says: “Sean May is still considered a rookie right?”
New Jersey Nets
Oh man the Nets are going to suck this season. Not only did they lose the best two players they’ve had for the last half-decade (Kidd and Jefferson), but they’re now reliant on a guy who is completely unreliable (Vince Carter), a 7-foot “power forward” who grabs 5 rebounds a game (Jianlian Yi), a guy who can’t hold his own against street ballers (Devin Harris) and a supporting cast that would have sounded really good three years ago but now just plain sucks (Bobby Simmons, Stromile Swift and Trenton Hassell). You can’t help but feel a lot more changes are headed New Jersey’s way, including the possibility of Vince moving late in the season.
Best that could happen: Vince Carter plays at an All-Star level, takes over a few games, and gets credit for leading one of the shittest teams in the league to 28 wins… praise he will gladly settle for.
Worst that could happen: See “Best that could happen” above.
Jobba says: “I agree with Rob on this one. They’ve been supposedly running a lot of blood drills, which I assume will make my eyes leak out that very substance.”
New York Knicks
I know Tizzle is going to passionately disagree with me, but the Knicks have even less chance of making the playoffs this year than the Bobcats. Yes Isiah Thomas is gone but the lingering effects of the franchise and culture he built will remain. Will guys like Zach Randolph, Eddy Curry, Stephon Marbury and Jamal Crawford really change their tune under a different coach? I don’t think they can, not at this stage of their careers. I still like David Lee, I like Nate Robinson’s energy, and we know Mike D’Antoni loves Q Rich from his Phoenix days. But I think there’s still too many question marks hanging over this team and a little more clean up left to do before MSG sees any glory in May.
Best that could happen: The start of the D’Antoni era brings about a refreshing change in attitude and commitment from the players, and about 33 wins (which is still 10 more than last season).
Worst that could happen: I don’t think anything could be worse than last season for the Knicks. The only way is up… right Tiz?
Tizzle says: “I think some of the negative symbols from the Isiah era like Marbury and Randolph will actually flourish in this system, and Wilson Chandler and Nate Robinson are going to be huge. Already in the off season D’Antoni is preaching accountability, so things will surely be different in NYC. Things can only get better? I’ve told myself that for each of the last four seasons, yet I always get it wrong. 37 wins. Trust me people.”
Jobba says: “Stephon Marbury”
Golden State Warriors
A lot of people I spoke to after the Baron Davis trade seemed to think the Warriors wouldn’t drop off all that much, probably because of the rise to stardom of Monte Ellis (the guy was 25th in the league in scoring last season at 20.2ppg) and the potential we all know Corey Maggette brings. But cancel out Ellis thanks to injury and you have a seriously deficient team that is going to frustrate itself – I say that because their nature is to run and gun, yet without that engine (sorry but Marcus Williams isn’t cut out to be a starting point guard yet) they are going to run into difficulties. They will still be entertaining to watch because they still have Stephen Jackson (who is insane), and everyone forgets how good Maggette really is (I haven’t), but they won’t even be a .400 team without Ellis.
Best that could happen: They remain competitive enough for Ellis to help them fight for the playoffs when he returns late in the season
Worst that could happen: There’s a chance these guys could really bomb over the first couple of months… like really bomb, especially considering 19 of their first 30 games are on the road.
Jobba says: “Was the actual reason Monta Ellis got suspended because he owned a mo-ped?”
Los Angeles Clippers
I do feel sorry for Clippers fans. Their emotions quickly went from ecstacy at the thought of teaming Baron Davis with Elton Brand, to despair after learning they’d lost Brand, to confusion after the acquisition of Marcus Camby. And confused I still am, because I really don’t know how this team is going to gel on the court. I’m interested to see if the Camby-Kaman front line will prove to be as defensively menacing as it sounds, and I’m interested to see what kind of tempo the Clippers will employ. Baron has been used to running and gunning in every team he’s played with, yet his aging teammates in Cuttino Mobley (33) and Camby (34) might not be cut out for this (Kaman isn’t exactly lightning either).
Best that could happen: The Clippers win more games than last year (about 33) and BD injects a little more life into a franchise that has struggled for identity the past ten years
Worst that could happen: Finishing below the Warriors in the Pacific Division (a hard pill to swallow for Baron), and the glaring lack of a low post scorer (i.e. someone like say, Elton Brand)
Jobba says: “Chris Camby sounds like an All Star players name. And maybe, a player who could score on the interior”.
The Kings are going to suck. They won’t be the worst team in the league because Kevin Martin can score enough points to keep them half-competitive, and Brad Miller is still a serviceable center in this league (which is as good a reminder as any that there is a lack of quality centers in this league). But really, every single player on that Kings starting five – barring Martin – would find themselves on the bench on most other teams. Which would make the Kings’ bench players handy backups for an NBDL squad.
Best that could happen: 28 wins and Spencer Hawes establishing himself as a cornerstone of the franchise (his 25 point, 16 rebound game against Yao and the Rockets in the pre-season was a nice little glimpse)
Worst that could happen: A win record that is topped by the Oklahoma City Thunder
Jobba says: “Beno Udrih broke Kobe’s ankles this pre-season. Not many people have ever done that before, though Josh Powell did hyper-flex Kobe’s knee”.
The T-Wolves had a couple of nice moments last season where you could really sense the bright future ahead of them. Moments like that game against the Celtics they almost stole, with Al Jefferson absolutely ripping apart Boston’s defense late in the game. This year there will be a lot more of those moments with AJ rising into undeniable All Star status, young guns like Randy Foye, Sebastien Telfair and Ryan Gomes all set to improve, rookie Kevin Love looking to play a big part, and the addition of the very handy Mike Miller. These guys remind me of the Bulls a few years ago, a young and exciting team with a strong nucleus and a very bright future. Here’s hoping they don’t screw it up like Chicago did.
Best that could happen: Winning enough games early to give their fans false hope they’ll be playoff contenders, but realistically finishing with around 32 wins
Worst that could happen: Another 20-25 win season, but I honestly can’t see this team NOT improving
Jobba says: “Mike Miller = Unluckiest guy on the planet. Always the good player for a trade to a crap team.”
The Grizzlies are going to be simultaneously a lot better and a lot worse than last season. A lot better because they have added a young future star in Mayo, they will be extremely fun to watch, and their future is exceedingly bright (similar to the T-Wolves). But a lot worse because they’re just so damn young and don’t know how to win yet, and they have no interior offensive or defensive presence. All that means their win total might match last season’s of 22, but those 22 wins will be a hell of a lot more fun.
Best that could happen: The OJ Mayo-to-Rudy Gay alley oop becoming known as the “Gayo” (my formal suggestion) and Marc Gasol showing enough talent to dismiss Grizzlies fan’s fears that Darko will need to play any minutes
Worst that could happen: Marc Gasol gets injured and Darko needs to play minutes
Jobba says: “Odds of the first NBA analyst to use the term “Gay Mayo” are in. Bill Simmons 12/1, Charles Barkley 8/1, and NBAMate’s own Robd 4/1″
Oklahoma City Thunder
Even looking at their logo now it still looks more like a Mighty Morphin Power Ranges movie than a basketball team emblem. The Thunder are in a similar boat to the T-Wolves and the Grizz in that their future is bright and they’re going to lose a lot of games in the short term. I would argue that a core of Durant, Green and Westbrook is better than anything the Wolves or Grizz can put together in 2-3 years, but unlike the Wolves and Grizz, the Thunder are lacking a reliable scorer to steady the ship when things go pear shaped. Durant is a scorer don’t get me wrong, but unless his percentage moves a little closer to 46%-48%, I think the OKC are going to lose too many games figuring out where their offense is going to come from.
Best that could happen: 25 wins and seeing Russell Westbrook on the NBA.com Top 10 every day
Worst that could happen: Worst record in the league
Jobba says: “Should have been the Oklahoma City Curtains – cause that’s what they did to the Seattle Sonics! Damn it I’m funny.”