Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The First-Ever NBA 2 by 4

I don't know about anyone but myself - and I know that I'm excited as hell for the upcoming NBA season. I'm glad that the league is going to be able to build on the buzz that was created at the end of last season. Most importantly, I'm glad that I get to blog about basketball again - because the Wildcats don't deserve my attention this season. I'm trying a new style of NBA blogging - every week or so, I'll post the "2 by 4" that lists 2 good teams, 2 bad teams, and 2 of two other categories that are relevant that week. Since this is the first one (and we're still very early in the preseason), I figured I'd throw in a little bonus. To the blog!

2 Good Teams
Miami Heat
I don't care - not even a little bit - about the collapse in the playoffs/finals. If anything, that will help the Heat this season.. bear with me. Now, we have definitive evidence that this team belongs to Dwyane Wade. Lebron James is the best basketball player on the planet, yes, but this is Wade's team when they need a leader. There goes their biggest problem from last season. Prepare for domination, as long as Lebron has been reading everyone's tweets over the summer and accepts his role. 
With the new salary cap, they'll probably have to release Mike Miller which will leave them with Mario Chalmers, Wade, James, Chris "I Still Look Like A Raptor Even Though I Don't Play For Them Anymore" Bosh, and Udonis Haslem. With the size down low of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Joel Anthony, and Dexter Pittman, they can match up with any team in the NBA and overpower them. It's all on Lebron (sort of, because what I mean by this is that it's actually all on DWade). 

Oklahoma City Thunder
If I'm right (and I haven't been wrong with any NBA predictions yet this season), then the Heat will meet the Thunder in the NBA Finals. The Thunder's core is in a prime spot to overthrow Kobe, Dirk, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, and the rest of the Western Division. Despite a pretty lackluster draft, the Thunder still have a phenomenal starting 5: Russell Westbrook, Thabo Sefolosha/James Harden, Kevin Durant, Serge Ibaka, and Kendrick Perkins. Top to bottom, they can guard any team in the NBA (except Dirk) and outscore any team (except the re-invigorated Heat). 
NBA Finals Prediction: Heat over Thunder, 5 Games

2 Bad Teams
Toronto Raptors
Woof. Jose Calderon, DeMar Derozan, up for grabs at the 3 and the 4, and Andrea Bargnani. Not a whole lot of points going to get on the board, especially when you factor in that they play most of their games against the Celtics, Knicks, Sixers, and Nets. This means Bargnani is going to be matched up with the likes of Kevin Garnett, Amar'e Stoudemire, and - okay, so the Sixers and Nets don't really have any talented big men but they have more talent across the smaller positions. It's not going to be a fun year for the eighteen Toronto fans that are alive. 

New Jersey Nets
I just mentioned this, but the Nets are also going to be pretty terrible. They do have a lot of young talent - don't get me wrong - and they will be good somewhere down the road. But I don't see Deron Williams balling all that hard with Sasha Vujacic, Jordan Williams, Kris Kardashian, and Brook Lopez. The key sign for me was that all of these players have women's names. Obviously not a good sign for Jay-Z. Luckily it's all gravy, I guess. Done with the Jay-Z jokes, I promise. 

2 Teams I Want To Be Good and I Think/Hope Might Surprise People
Minnesota Timberwolves
For reasons unbeknownst to be, I am a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. It happened sometime around when the Ricky Rubio talks picked up and Bill Simmons made a lot of fun of David Kahn. Whatever. It's inexplicable. But I really think this is the year they're going to kick off the dust and be a serious contender. They have a unique roster that gives them six viable starters: Ricky Rubio, Wesley Johnson, Derrick Williams, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, and (gulp) Darko Milicic. Throw in former college stars Wayne Ellington (UNC) and Lazar Hayward (Marquette) and they have an extremely versatile lineup that can adapt to face their competition. 

Portland Trail Blazers
I'll start this by saying don't scold me for picking the Thunder and rooting for the T'wolves and Blazers. I understand that they're all in the same division. I don't care. 
With that out of the way, the major reason I like the Blazers is because Brandon Roy is a beast in NBA 2k and I generally play as Portland. Their lineup of Ray Felton, Brandon Roy (until he gets hurt, of course), Gerald Wallace (the most underrated player in the entire NBA), LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden (until he gets hurt, of course) is probably the best starting five of any team in the NBA - maybe even history. Am I getting a little too ahead of myself? 
The shortened season helps Portland because it's less games that Roy and Oden have to play. But when they both get hurt - and, odds are, they will - the Blazers will look to Wesley Matthews, three-point specialist and token white guy Jon Diebler, and Marcus Camby to take on more minutes. 
As a side note, the Blazers have an amazingly talented college roster: Oden (Ohio State), Felton (UNC), Aldridge (Texas), Diebler (Ohio State), Matthews (Marquette), Paddy Mills (St. Mary's), Nolan Smith (Duke), and Elliot Williams (Duke/Memphis - good story, by the way)

2 Sophomores That Are Going To Explode
John Wall, Washington Wizards
Okay, so maybe he's already exploded. But I mean explode in that he will become a legitimately great NBA point guard, and not just a cocky kid who was great in college and invented a dance. He has as much - probably even more - athleticism and raw talent as any other point guard, but the Wizards finished 23-59. I expect them to increase that win total - by a lot. They have, with Wall, Jordan Crawford, Jan Vesely, and JaVale McGee, the potential to run one of the most electric offenses ever. Similar to the Philadelphia Eagles this season. It's up to Wall to be either the Michael Vick of last year (stellar) or the Michael Vick of this year (...not so much). Either way, the Wiz have the dopest jerseys in the NBA. 

Landry Fields, New York Knicks
There's been some talk that Landry Fields is as good as Michael Jordan - all of it has been sarcastic. But the Knicks roster is set up for Landry to have a breakout season. Since it looks like they're trying to save cap room for Chris Paul next summer, they won't add anyone of note and will start Chauncey Billups, Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire, and Ronny Turiaf. Billups being way past his prime makes this a less-than-stellar lineup.. and the bench is even worse. That means nearly all of the scoring load is going to fall on Anthony, Stoudemire, and (to a lesser extent than those two) Fields. Look for him to bump up his 10 points-2 assists-6 rebounds stat line to something closer to 20.0 points-3.8 assists-6.1 rebounds. If you were curious, those are MJ's stats from his final year in the NBA. Maybe they aren't so different after all....

Bonus - 2 Preseason All-NBA Teams
Eastern Conference: Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Lebron James, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwight Howard

Western Conference: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Dirk Nowitzki, Lamarcus Aldridge 
Yes, I said Lamarcus Aldridge. 

Double Bonus - 2 Rookies That Are Relevant To This Blog Post (But Not Really)
Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks
A lot of Knicks fans were upset at this pick, but I really don't know why. If you look at their draft history, you'll see stars like Wilson Chandler (23), Renaldo Balkman (20), Mardy Collins (29), Channing Frye (8), Michael Sweetney (9), Maybner Hilario (7), and Donnell Harvey (22) taken in the first round. 
In all honesty, the Knicks are bad at drafting. Aside from the fact that I think Maybner is more commonly known as Nene, the Knicks are generally awful at selecting players. I don't think Shumpert (who was taken 17th) will be any different. He doesn't bring anything to the table. 
You know who brings a lot more to the table?

Jan Vesely, Washington Wizards