Previous NBA Previews:
1. Boston Celtics (3rd in East, 7th in NBA)
Who is new: Brandon Bass, Keyon Dooling, Chris Wilcox, JaJuan Johnson, E’Tuan Moore
Why are they here: Certainly not because of how they played to start the season. With Jeff Green gone for the year and Paul Pierce hurt, the Celts have started 0-3.
Most important player: Rajon Rondo. He’s going to have to get the most out of the aging veterans on this team.
Outlook: I’m not going to cheat, since I did these before the season started, but the Celtics certainly don’t look like a 3rd seed right now. Jeff Green being gone for the year is a loss and it happened late enough they couldn’t really replace him. I think that they will get in a groove as the season wears on, but will continue to struggle in the outset. I could also see Ainge making a big move, as he obviously tried to do with the Paul for Rondo swap.
2. New York Knicks (4th in East, 13th in NBA)
Who is new: Tyson Chandler, Mike Bibby, Iman Shumpert, Baron Davis, Josh Harrelson
Why are they here: They added a defensive presence in Chandler to their big-2 of Anthony and Amare. PG is an issue with Billups gone, but they are hoping that Baron Davis can come back healthy and have an impact for the last 20 games of the season.
Most important player: Landry Fields. Like so many other teams, the Knicks have the star power, but need quality depth to make a serious run. Fields, Shumpert and Bill Walker will all have to play key roles if they want to challenge in the East.
Outlook: I think it’s good for the NBA that the Knicks are relevant again. They have always been the one NYC team I don’t hate. They were wise to get rid of Billups (they didn’t need scoring) and add Chandler, though I wonder if Chandler’s impact on the game is a little overstated.
3. Philadelphia 76ers (8th in East, 17th in NBA)
Who is new: Nikola Vucevic, Lavoy Allen
Why are they here: They went 38-28 after starting off the year 3-13 last season. They lack star power, but have one of the best benches in the league with Lou Williams, Thad Young and Evan Turner. They will win a lot of games with their second unit going up against other squad’s benches.
Most important player: Evan Turner. This is a tough one, since the team is so deep, but Turner has the most room for improvement and has been more aggressive and effective in his first two games this year. I’m excited to see how he develops.
Outlook: I think that where I have the Sixers now is probably a worst-case scenario. I think with Boston’s struggles and Dwight Howards impending departure, they could sneak up as high as 4th in the East. If they don’t though, I would prefer they drop and get a good draft pick. In lieu of a full Sixers preview (which I didn’t have time for) I’ll do a sentence or two on each player…
Andre Iguodala – I liked him a lot more last year than in year’s past because he didn’t force his shot as much and played to his strengths. He has been amazing in the Sixers first two games and could be primed for a great year.
Elton Brand – Finally became productive last year. I expect him to make less of an impact this year, but still be solid when he’s in the game. I’m hoping they amnesty him next year if a move can be made.
Jrue Holiday – The player with the most upside hasn’t shown it in the first two games. I believe he can be an all-star, but don’t know what his full upside is.
Spencer Hawes – My least favorite player last year has tried to win me over in the first two games. He has played with a lot more energy on the boards and on defense. We forget he is just 23. I do fear that he will play out of his mind this year and get a horrible contract from the Sixers.
Jodie Meeks – Fantastic shooter and not much else, hopefully he doesn’t take too many minutes away from…
Evan Turner – Don’t know about his new shot, but he is taking it to the hole with confidence and appears to have a signature move with his floaters in the lane.
Thaddeus Young – Can he play up to his contract? We know he’s an very efficient scorer off the bench, but can he show he can do more?
Lou Williams – Drives me insane. Thinks he’s better than he is, but is excellent at times. Needs desperately to get his FG% up.
Nikola Vucevic – First impression is that he is another Spencer Hawes. Good offensive player, needs work on defense. Had a couple impressive offensive plays against Phoenix though.
Craig Brackins – Has a mohawk and can maybe shoot the three. I’m at least intrigued by him.
Tony Battie, Lavoy Allen, Andres Nocioni, Marreese Speights – More or less irrelevant.
4. New Jersey Nets (10th in East, 24th in NBA)
Who is new: Shawne Williams, Sheldon Williams, Marshon Brooks
Why are they here: Because even before Brook Lopez went down, Deron Williams was the only good player on this squad.
Most important player: Dwight Howard. Because if they don’t get him, I see Deron Williams going elsewhere and them starting from scratch.
Outlook: Not good. I don’t think they get Howard (who would they trade? Especially with Lopez gone) and I think Williams bolts to Dallas next year. That would put them back to square one for their move to Brooklyn.
5. Toronto Raptors (12th in East, 27th in NBA)
Who is new: Aaron Gary
Why are they here: Their #1 pick, Jonas Valanciunas, will spend the year abroad, giving the Raptors another year to stink and get a good draft pick.
Most important player: Demar DeRozan. Their best chance at a solid piece for the future.
Outlook: Raptors’ fans should root for losing and improvement from DeRozen, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and maybe even Jerryd Bayless. If they can get a top pick and also bring in Jonas, they should take a step forward next year.
Here is how I have the East and West shaking out this year playoff-wise. In parentheses, I’ve put where I would probably have them after what we know through the first week of the season.
4. New York
1. Oklahoma City
2. LA Clippers
5. LA Lakers
6. San Antonio
Finals: Heat over Thunder