Saturday, October 23, 2010

Utah Jazz Season Preview (10-11)

Another perfect preseason. That's right. ANOTHER. The 1976-1977 New Orleans Jazz went a perfect 4-0 in the preseason. Is this year's team destined for greatness? That previously perfect New Orleans Jazz team went on to a dominant 35-47. So maybe not. Still, there is plenty of reason for the wild optimism spreading throughout Jazz land.

The Carlos Boozer regime had grown stale. The Jazz had clearly reached a plateau with their current lineup. As long as Carlos Boozer was the power forward of the Jazz, the Jazz would be a solid playoff team that would never be able to beat the Los Angeles Lakers. Many of the other players on the roster (Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver) were nice players, but undoubtedly one-dimensional. The already surly Deron Williams was getting grumpier by the day. The team needed to mix things up.

And management did. In spades. Many of the new players have made favorable impressions on Jazz fans on and off the court. However, this does not mean that this team is without valid question marks. We have no idea how all of these pieces will fit together was teams start scouting the Jazz. Nor do we know how well various players will accept their role once the team starts playing for keeps. The team will also remain without Mehmet "Mr. Big" Okur for the forseeable future. Once he returns, the role of many of the Jazz's front court players will change drastically. Transitions like those are never without major bumps in the road.

All we know for sure is that it is going to be an exciting, different, and must watch season. So here now is the 2010-2011 Utah Jazz player by player preview:


Deron Williams - The Godfather. The best PG in the league. No player in the NBA hates reporters more. He is going to be great and grumpy all season. And I love him. I love his musk. I want to eat breakfast with him. He is going to be an all-star again. If the Jazz are a top team in the West is going to make first team All-NBA this year. Book it.

CJ Miles - On Bill Simmons' NBA preview
episode of his podcast, he called CJ Miles a "crater" sized hole in the Utah Jazz. People who watched CJ during last seasons post-season disagree. All signs point to this season being THE season. The season in which CJ fulfills his destiny of becoming a legitimate NBA scorer. The only thing I worry about with CJ is going to be how does he perform without Deron on the court? Last season CJ played almost exclusively alongside Deron. This season he is going to be playing with Ronnie Price or Earl Watson as the point guard. I am not sure if CJ is ready to become a creator for himself and others. I fear with Jazz's second unit he is going to revert back to being more of a spot up three point shooter.

Mehmet "Monet" Okur - Poor Memo. He has been one of the healthiest Jazz players of this era. He seems really bummed about not playing. We wont see him until December at the earliest. By that time the Jazz will probably be in some form of a rhythm and his return will no doubt throw a wrench in the situation. This season will not be Memo's finest hour. However, he will be crucial if the Jazz face the Lakers in the postseason for the 56th straight year.

Paul Millsap - Paul did it. He finally rid himself of Carlos Boozer to take what he felt he deserved. The starting PF spot. However, I fear for Paul this year. Watching the preseason, he seems to be the one guy on the team out of rhythm. He doesn't look comfortable in the offense. He looks like he is having a hard time finding his spots to score. Part of this could be that Deron has missed half of the preseason (despite the preseason's CRITICAL IMPORTANCE) and he relies on Deron so much, but we will see. I don't think Paul is going to have the year that people think he will.

Andrei Kirilenko - I had a funeral for AK when he was on the verge of being traded but a few short weeks ago. Now zombie AK looks like AK of old. And I couldn't be more thrilled. He looks energetic. His shot looks great. AK is going to have a big year I think. If the Jazz trade this guy mid-season to save money, I will be devastated.

Ronnie Price - Ronnie is quietly having a great preseason. He is causing havoc on both ends of the floor. He hates the Lakers more than I do. He is good for one "HOLY ****" play a week. He always shows up to play in big games. He has one major problem, which I will get to later.

Kyrylo Fesenko - FESENKO! He looks awesome. I want him to play. This could be his last year with the team. He only has problem. And it's the same as Ronnie Price's.

Do we really only have this many returning players?

Al Jefferson - He says all the right things. He has been dominant offensively during the preseason. His pump fakes and spins are beautiful to watch. He is going to have a monster year. I went through the complete range of emotions with Al. I never liked his game at Minnesota. He put up the numbers he did because once the ball goes in, it does not go out. I love him now. He has been open to passing the ball and has been scoring with ease. The greatest thing about Al? He doesn't need Deron to score. Boozer was incapable of creating plays for himself or others. As long as you can get the ball in Al's hands he can score. Its going to be different. My main concern, AND IT IS A GREAT ONE, is the playoffs. Al has never made the playoffs and I wonder if he is going to be able to score. As mentioned earlier Al relies heavily on pump fakes to score the ball in the post. In the playoffs, he is going to be heavily scouted and players who will defend him will be coached not to go for any of these fakes and to shade him away from the baseline. I worry he will not be effective in the postseason, which is where we will need him most.

Raja Bell - One of the times I have been the most bummed in my Jazz fandom was the day I picked up the morning paper to find that the Phoenix Suns offered (and Raja accepted) a contract within minutes of the 2005 free agent period opening. I loved Raja when he was here. We have not had a team badass since he left. He will be useful for many reasons, but chief among them is that Kobe is going to want to score on him. When Kobe shoots a lot, that means Gasol shoots very little. This is a good thing.

Jeremy Evans - Here is a quote from my Twitter account immediately following the drafting of Jeremy Evans "HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!". Seriously. That was what I tweeted. I would just like to apologize to Jeremy Evans and the Utah Jazz. I was wrong. Here's to the many alley-oops he will throw down in his Jazz career. The Jazz need to give him a deal identical to the one they gave Paul Millsap when he was a rookie. 1 year guaranteed with team options for year 2 and year 3. I am still bitter that they did not give Wesley Mathews that deal. WHAT IS THE HARM IN NON-GUARANTEED YEARS 2 and 3!??!??!?!? ACK!


Gordon Hayward - Hated the pick when it was made. Still don't love it today. He has struggled to find his shot during the preseason. He recorded TOO BIG YO during spring break ... OF 2010. If you here him talk he thinks he is black. This is never good. Good luck to you Gordon. To quote Principal Skinner: "Prove me wrong kids! PROVE ... ME ... WRONG!"

Earl Watson - The leading candidate of the Milt Palacio Memorial Award for the guy who plays a lot for a guy who shouldn't be playing on a good team. No offense to Earl. He seems like he has a good feel for the system and defends well. However, he is not a good shooter but shoots too much. The Jazz do this every year. Milt, Jason Hart, Brevin Knight, Howard Eisley (2nd stint), etc. Ronnie Price should be playing the backup PG, but I am convinced it will be Earl. He would be a great 3rd PG, not 2nd.

Francisco Elson - See above. Again, awesome 11th, 12th guy. However, I just think Fesenko is better. I never thought I would write those words, but I think Fesenko does the most good for us. Again however, I think Jerry is going to give the backup C minutes to Elson. Too bad.

All I know is I am excited for this thing to get going. How excited?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Team By Team (except for the Jazz) Preview of the 10-11 NBA Season

As I watch the Yankees’ season tremble in the hands of A.J. Burnett, I decided that it may be time for me to fully turn my attention to the coming NBA season.

As many people, including the commish, have stated, the 2010-2011 season of the National Basketball Association is becoming, or perhaps has become, the most anticipated NBA season of all-time. It’s easy to see why this is the case. For the first time since the early 1990’s the league is loaded.

The NBA, like everything else, is subject to a cycle. The NBA had it’s first golden age in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s under Russell and Chamberlain. The league then struggled until Magic Johnson and Larry Bird entered the league followed closely by Michael Jordan, Hakeem, Stockton/Malone, etc. As the Jordan era drew to a close, the league was noticeably lacking a broad talent base, allowing the Shaq/Kobe Lakers to roll through the early part of the decade. LeBron and Dwyane Wade soon become the pseudo Johnson and Bird, part of the soon to be legendary 2004 NBA Draft. Like Johnson and Bird, they were followed closely by a new generation of super-talented players like Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, CP3, and now Kevin Durant.

As a side note: Who is who in that analogy? It’s pretty clear cut I think. LeBron is definitely Magic 2.0. He is basically a super athletic version of Magic right? Wade is definitely Larry Bird. Unstoppable scorer, only guy from his generation with a championship, constantly injured. Dwight Howard is David Robinson. Alien like athlete, limited offensively, will never win a championship until he gets an A+ teammate like when Robinson got Duncan. Durant? Durant is Jordan. Inexcusably not drafted number one overall in his draft, once in a generation scorer. Once he develops a focused defensive game he will win championships. Many.

Point is we have reached another golden age. 2010 is 1990. Right? Uh ... right. Seemingly this season will be spectacular. But if this season is the most highly anticipated season ever, doesn’t that also mean that it has the chance to be the most disappointing season ever? Here are some ways I see that happening:

-The Heat are too good: LeBron, Wade, and the others are too good and roll through the season and go virtually unchallenged in the postseason. I don’t see this happening, but I definitely think it COULD happen.

-Injuries: Top players go down. The Lakers are aging and have played more games in the last three years than any other team. What if Kobe and Gasol go down which would hypothetically take away the Heat’s biggest threat. What if Durant goes down? The Thunder tank and wind up with another top 5 pick (shudder). Wade goes down and the Heat become no different than the LeBron-led Cavs. What if ... gulp... Deron goes d.... I can’t even type it. (If you have wood ... knock it.)

-The Lakers win again. I puke. LA burns ... again. Everyone but Lakers fans would find this incredibly anti-climatic.

Having said that, I am wildly excited for this season to begin. Cannot wait. Here is my team by team (except for the Jazz) preview of the NBA Season. Who will underachieve, meet, or exceed expectations? Here are my shots in the dark.

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics - UNDERACHIEVE
Just when you thought it was impossible, the Celtics got older and more bionic (Jermaine O’Neal) this offseason. I think this is the year that the wheels come off. Four more rounds of playoffs on Garnett’s knees? Ray Allen’s descent into blindness? Rondo also got exploited against the Lakers and I think is due for a tough year. Not to mention his difficult personality mixed with the fact that Shaq has never left a team on good terms and is slowing being exploited as a jerk. The Celtics get an underachieve despite how pysched I am that Shaq and Big Baby are most definitely going to wrestle multiple times this year.

New Jersey Nets - MEET
It will be pretty tough for this team to underachieve considering no one expects them to do anything this year. I do like the additions of Travis Outlaw and Jordan Farmar (my dream backup PG for the Jazz), but those guys are not franchise changing. I think Avery Johnson is going to lose this team, and quickly. Derrick Favors also looked terrible in the Orlando Summer League.

Toronto Raptors - MEET
Holy hell. Is there a desirable player on this roster? Barbosa has dissappointed since he got into the league, Bargnani is a poor man’s Mehmet Okur, and DeMar DeRozan is one dimensional. This a team that I would be happy for if they got the number one pick if there even is a draft next year. Like the Nets it will be impossible for them to underachieve this year. Every win is gravy.

New York Knicks - EXCEED
This is a classic case of the team that is going to win a bunch of games at the beginning of the year, spinning NYC into a frenzy, before ultimately falling apart as the season progresses. They will be fun to watch. Anthony Randolph could not have gone to a better situation for him. Same goes for Raymond Felton. Amare is going to find life to be a little different without Steve Nash though. I think they will compete for a low playoff seed, but will fall short.

Philadelphia 76ers - UNDERACHIEVE

Andre Igoudala has been getting a lot of praise this summer for his play at the World Championships. I am not buying. I still saw a lot of 3’s jacked up from him and he should never jack up 3’s. Evan Turner is struggling thus far in the preseason and looks to have a less than stellar rookie year, and as former teammate Mark Titus pointed out on the BS Report might have some Rondo-like personality issues. They really should have taken DeMarcus Cousins with the number 2 pick.

Central Division

Cleveland Cavaliers - EXCEED
Hey Cleveland, it will be okay ... I think.
But in all seriousness, I think this team has a lot of 2003-2004 Utah Jazz potential. People are claiming this team will be one of the worst it history. Teams always play hard for Byron Scott in his first year coaching them. They still have a little talent (JJ Hickson). Hey! They also have Mo Williams in common! Though Mo seems to have gotten the memo since he left the Jazz to shave his strange shoulder/arm hair.

Milwaukee Bucks - UNDERACHIEVE

Love me some Andrew Bogut (get well soon Andy!) not so much on Brandon Jennings. His personality has self-combustion written all over it. He’s like a less talented Allen Iverson. We all saw how that ended. They overachieved a bit last year. I think this is going to be a down year for them.

Indiana Pacers - EXCEED
I am frisky on Indy this year. Very frisky. I like their starting lineup a lot. Darren Collison matched CP3’s production with NO last year. Dhantey Jones is there crazy in the head defender that every team needs (ask Deron Williams who visibly hates being defended by him). Danny Granger is underrated and if the Jazz couldn’t have traded up to get Deron in 2005 would have picked him at 6. Pyscho T is going to be a solid hustler, rebounder, defender. Roy Hibbert was clearly overlooked a couple of drafts ago and is a solid post scorer that protects the rim. They have TJ Ford, Mike Dunleavy, talented scorer Paul George, underrated Josh McRoberts off the bench. I am calling it now. The Pacers are making the playoffs this year. Plus, I really do think that Gordon Hayward was really bummed the Jazz picked him just ahead of the Pacers.

Detroit Pistons - UNDERACHIEVE
This might be Joe Dumars last stand. I hate the makeup of this team. Rodney Stuckey is overrated. Rip Hamilton’s best years are behind him. Tayshaun Prince snuck onto the Redeem Team despite being unable to score effectively. They signed Tracy McGrady. Desired by Jazz fans, Greg Monroe is not going to see the ball. Still wish the Jazz would have gotten him.

Chicago Bulls (Jazz) - UNDERACHIEVE

Boozer is already injured and he hasn’t even played in a game. Ronnie Brewer is going to miss Deron Williams dearly. Can you remeber one memorable game from Luol Deng? Derrick Rose is overrated, but he and Kyle Korver will benefit from each other. Joakim Noah cant score. The Bulls will make the playoffs in the weak East, but they will not be anything special.

Southeast Division

Orlando Magic - MEET
Orlando will not be any different from last year. I am willing to wager they will have the exact same record. I still wish they would have traded Vince for Gilbert Arenas. For some reason, I saw that working. Dwight still can’t score? Yawn. Moving on.

Washington Wizards - MEET
John Wall looks awesome. This is truth. However, I think people are expecting a little too much from this team. They need to get rid of Gilbert. Seriously. I do like the Javale McGee-John Wall combo. They will be a better version of the CP3-Tyson Chandler combo from a few seasons ago. They do not have enough around them right now though. I see them competing, but ultimately not making the playoffs.

Miami Heat - MEETThey will not be the ‘96 Bulls, but they will be freaking good. I have little to no doubt they will be the top team in the East and will blitz through the playoffs. The Finals will be their only big test I think. I cannot wait to watch this team though. It’s gonna be fun.

Charlotte Bobcats- MEET
This team is going to stink. Again. Quick, name me their starting roster. Yeah, thats what I thought. They get a meet because I don’t think people expect much from them. Atleast Gerald Henderson will have fun playing pickup games with MJ.

Atlanta Hawks - UNDERACHIEVE
I fear that Joe Johnson is going to become too bloated with money to care. Recently, the Hawks have said they are unsure if they will offer Al Horford a contract extension. Thank you! I would love the Jazz to get Horford to team with Big Al using their freed up AK money. Oh my. That makes me very happy. Are you kidding Atlanta? Al Horford is a legit scorer/defender at the center position. You can count those on one hand. Pay dude! I think this team has a little bit of tension boiling under the surface, also how much longer can they keep playing Mike Bibby’s corpse Weekend At Bernie’s style?


Northwest Division

Minnesota Timberwolves - MEET
Oh boy. This may be the worst team in the league. The will meet expectations for a Top 5 pick ... which they will screw up. I just hope Kosta gets a lot of burn. Boom. The Jazz truly owe the Timberwolves many favors.

Denver Nuggets - UNDERACHIEVE
Chauncey Billups believes the myth of Chauncey Billups. He should be Ty Lawson’s backup. Watching him jack up 3’s against the Jazz in the playoffs last year no wonder Melo wants out. Birdman looks more crazy than ever before. JR Smith currently plays for this team. This team is going to struggle.

Oklahoma City Thunder (should be Seattle Supersonics) - Underachieve(ish)
This team is going to be good. I do not doubt that. However, people think this team is going to cruise to the 2nd seed in the west. This is not true. Durant is the real deal. He is not overrated despite being rated very highly. However, his cohorts are infact ... overrated. I have never been a Russell Westbrook fan. He is a rich man’s Ronnie Price. I just don’t think he is a PG. Jeff Green is a little bit of a poor man’s Lamar Odom. Scottie Pippen he is not. James Harden doesn’t look he is athletic enough to be a legit SG in the league. This team isn’t perfect despite what people keep saying this summer. They will have a few downs with their many ups. They will be somewhere near the top of the 2-8 jumble we are inevitably heading to again this year.

Portland Trailblazers - UNDERACHIEVE
It is beyond me how people keep picking this team ahead of the Jazz this year. NBA commentators keeps saying “if this teams stays healthy this year”, but at a certain point don’t you just have to accept that a team that gets injured every year is GOING TO BE INJURED EVERY YEAR? Andre Miller and Brandon Roy don’t like eachother. Rudy Fernandez pines for the shores of Espana. Still haven’t won a playoff series. No thanks. Playoff team, but nothing more.

Pacific Division

Golden State Warriors - EXCEED
I am also a little frisky on Golden State. I love Steph Curry. I think at some point he is going to be Steve Nash. His court vision is underrated. He has Nash-like shooting percentages as well. I like the David Lee signing for them. My only problem is Monta Ellis. Never been a fan. He is a ballhog and an inefficient scorer. They also will not be able to guard anyone. They won’t make the playoffs, but they will hover around .500.

Los Angeles Lakers - MEET
Yawn. Barring injury this team will be the Los Angeles Lakers. I think they downgraded at PG though. Derek Fisher has aged another year, and anyone would take Steve Blake over Jordan Farmar is crazy. That being said they will again be the top seed in the West.

Sacramento Kings - UNDERACHIEVE
People seem to be high on this team. I am not. I do not understand the Tyreke Evans fascination. To me he is a guy on a crappy team that goes one on one every time down the floor and isn’t very efficient. Like an early career Carmelo Anthony only not as big and good. I do like DeMarcus Cousins though. Supposedly the Jazz tried desperately to work a deal to get him during the draft and that would have been intriguing. But playing alongside Tyreke, I don’t think he is getting the ball much on the post. They will be in the lottery again. Let’s just hope their owner doesn’t drown his sorrow in the bottle again. Yikes.

Phoenix Suns - MEET
Poor Steve Nash. I think he is doomed to join the Karl Malone All-Star’s. Starting lineup: Stockton, Dominque Wilkins, Barkley, Malone, Ewing. I do think that this team will compete for the playoffs, but may fall short. Channing Frye will not duplicate his freakish success from last season. I am not a fan of Hedu. Other guys are getting old.

Los Angeles Clippers - EXCEED
Once this team gets rid of Baron Davis, look out! Love Eric Gordon. I did not like him at all coming out of college, but he has proven me wrong. He does everything. He has PG skills, defends well, and can shoot it well. All indications also point to Blake Griffin becoming a beast. Eric Bledsoe was a quiet but excellent pickup late in the draft. The problem with the Clippers is their depth. Not much going for them besides the guy mentioned.

Southwest Division

Mephis Grizzlies - UNDERACHIEVE
Zach Randolph will not duplicate his success from last year. He is too busy attempting to become the Avon Barksdale of the NBA. Rudy Gay got paid big and is going to go into hibernation (lame pun INTENDED) until he gets traded in a few seasons. OJ Mayo has disappointed since being drafted and needs to be put somewhere that he can play more of a PG role. This team is going to the lottery for sure.

Houston Rockets - UNDERACHIEVE

Not a fan of their roster at all. Their wings can’t defend, Scola doesn’t scare me, and simple physics says that Yao Ming shouldn’t exist. This is another team that I think people are way too high on. Lots of guys that like to shoot, not enough guys that like to pass.

San Antonio Spurs - MEET

Ho hum. They will do what they do. Middle seed playoff team. Lose in the 1st or 2nd round. Their window is closed. I do see them perhaps breaking a younger team’s heart early in the playoffs though.

Dallas Mavericks - MEET
They should have let Brendan Haywood walk. Instead they gave him a ton of money and are apparently starting him over Tyson Chandler who had a solid summer with Team USA. I like the Chandler signing for them, but not if he isn’t getting on the floor. Dirk is Dirk. He’ll be great. Everyone else is too past their prime. That being said. Pencil them in with another division title and a top 4 seed in the playoffs.

New Orleans Hornets - EXCEED
Although I do not think they have the best PG in the league, Chris Paul is still pretty good. Love the Trevor Ariza trade for the Hornets. He and CP3 are going to make each other very happy I think. David West is a scorer. He isn’t going to take you to the promised land, but he is a reliable scorer. The rest of their roster looks pretty bleak. I think the guys that I mentioned though are going to be enough for them to sneak into the playoffs.

So here is how I think that the standing will shake out:

1. Miami Heat
2. Orlando Magic
3. Boston Celtics
4. Chicago Bulls
5. Milwaukee Bucks
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Indiana Pacers
8. Washington Wizards
9. New York Knicks
10. Charlotte Hornets
11.Cleveland Cavaliers
12. Philadelphia 76ers
13. Detroit Pistons
14. New Jersey Nets
15. Toronto Raptors

1. LA Lakers
2.Dallas Mavericks
3.Utah Jazz
4.Oklahoma City Thunder
5. San Antonio Spurs
6. Portland Trailblazers
7. New Orleans Hornets
8. Los Angeles Clippers
9. Denver Nuggets
10. Phoenix Suns
11. Houston Rockets
12. Golden State Warriors
13. Memphis Grizzlies
14. Sacramento Kings
15. Minnesota Timberwolves