Thursday, October 23, 2008

Questioning the 08-09 Season - Part IV of VI

The Western Conference: Northwest Division

Ever since the Portland Trail Blazers went on a 13 game win streak last year, they’ve been the most intriguing team in the league (in a positive way, we’ll get to most intriguing negative below). With all the young talent on the roster, some think Kevin Pritchard should make a move before he finds himself in the likes of John Paxson (waiting too late to move your assets). There’s another major factor that will haunt the team for the remainder of the season. Will Darius Miles play 10 games for another team? If he does, then $9 Million goes onto the cap for the Blazers, limiting how they improve the roster in the upcoming season(s). We know the team last year competed for a playoff spot, only to fall short, due to the fact that you needed 50 wins just to get an 8th seed in the West. However, this year, we’ll finally get to see if the #1 pick of last years draft pays off. How will Greg Oden do, in his (official) rookie season? Rookie of the year might be a stretch, considering that award often goes to a player who racks up points, but so far GO seems like a glue-guy, and a great teammate, and that always translates well in the NBA.

The sleeper team in the West, is the Minnesota Timberwolves. Most people don’t have them making any noise. In fact, I have to admit that I’m in that group. However, there’s a school of thought that has them playing an in-and-out game that utilizes their major strength: high percentage 3-point shooting. The Wolves trade with the Celtics clearly paid off for the C’s. Now, will Al Jefferson start paying off for the Wolves? If the team does well, you can bet Al Jefferson will be in the All-Star game this year. If they make a stink, he’ll also be the one to blame. From the beginning of the draft this off-season, the Wolves had their eye on their guy, Kevin Love. Since then, there has been some people to criticize, but the people that have watched him play seem to fall in 'love' with his game. What effect will K-Love have on the Wolves? It might be big, it might be small, but whatever it is, I’m sure it will wind up having a major effect in the long run.

Last time I checked, Oklahoma City wasn’t in the Northwest, not even close. Okay okay, we’ll let them slide on that one. Goodbye Sonics; Hello Thunder. Oklahoma joins a very elite and exclusive group of sports teams that don’t end with the letter “S.” And…that’s about the coolest thing I can say about them. They have some young studs for sure. Will Kevin Durant and/or Jeff Green go to the next level? KD played great last year, for what he had to work with. The kid is so young, and still hangs out with his little brother, but still wound up lifting that horrible FG% by the end of the season, on a horrible, horrible squad. There’s only one thing that matters for this team right now: How will Oklahoma City take to their new NBA team? After Katrina hit, they got a great following of NBA fans with the Hornets temporarily playing in town. I just worry that if the team doesn’t show success early, they might wind up being the next Bobcats.

The most intriguing team, definitely in a negative way, is the Denver Nuggets. Last year, they should have made the playoffs. Everyone kept saying how poorly the Nuggets played D, but really they weren’t that bad. Their perimeter D was horrible, but they had former Defensive Player of the Year, Marcus Camby, erasing the mistakes of the guards. Now, without Camby, How will they stop people from scoring? Kenyon Martin and Nene aren’t going to be able to fill that void. Also, the Nuggets play such a high-pace game, so that means a ton of possessions for the opposing squad. High pace team, with no defense, and messy personalities….wait a second….Are the Nuggets the Knicks of the West? If any Nugget fans are reading this, I’m sorry in advance, but that’s sure is making a lot of sense in this head. J.R. Smith is a great player, but can implode at almost anytime. Same goes for Melo Melo. I expect the Nuggets to struggle early, and make a trade to someone who would like to have Ivo’s expiring contract.

Before a few days ago, most people had Deron Williams competing for ‘best point guard in the league’ honors with CP3. These two will always be compared to each other because they came into the NBA in the same draft. In fact, Deron went to the Jazz before CP3 went to the Hornets, and while most people are enamored with CP, no one argues the pick. How serious is Deron Williams injury? We’re hearing that it’s not serious, but the way he was carried off the court, and the fact that even if he was hurt, the Jazz wouldn’t go around displaying that info, definitely worries me. Besides that, the Jazz really have the perfect team. Solid starters with a great point guard, a solid inside man in Boozer, 3-point shooting from Kyle Korver and Memet Okur, and an even more solid bench now that Kirilenko has been placed there. The Jazz have always been in the playoff mix because of Jerry Sloans consistent coaching, but there comes a time when a coach has to change to adapt to the league. Now that the hand-checking rules have been put in place, and the fact that star players get to the line so frequently, Can the Jazz stop fouling so frequently? John Hollinger of ESPN has a great breakdown of how badly this hurt the Jazz last season.

Agree or disagree, I don't really care. Drop me a line and tell me your thoughts.


David said...

Oden will be the first player to ever win both the rookie of the year and comeback player of the year in the same season..

D.Miz said...

That's a good point, if it was possible! He's considered a rookie for a reason - and it's the same reason that's going to keep him from getting comeback player of the year award. That award, i have going to......wait for ittttt.....wait for it.....Bobby Simmons! There's just not much talent on the Nets and a huge whole at the 3 (which he should wind up getting a solid 30+ minutes a game and start).

D.Miz said...

If not Bobby....Kirk Hinrich has a great shot. He played awful last year and should be much better this year. (Should be...)

David said...

Actually looked into this a bit more. It's no longer called the Comeback player of the year. The name was changed in the mid 80's.

It's now called "Most Improved Player". So technically he has nothing to improve on I guess..

D.Miz said...

Oh, i can think of something he can improve on!

David said...

Bobby Simmons actually won most improved player in 2004-2005 season. I don't think they would give it to the same guy twice, cause then its like "well how much did he really improve the first time"...

Definitely should be a caveat with that award "Most improved player--not in a contract season"