Random Thoughts: Season Previews

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Published: September 16, 2008

I'm a bit at loose ends at the moment.  Typically the middle of Septemember is when I'm getting in full swing, pointing out to all who will listen how ridiculous the Season Previews of places like ESPN and SI are.  Like last year, when almost every big site insisted that the Hornets got better by signing Morris Peterson, couldn't possibly have the same number of injuries they in 2006-2007, and then predicted no improvement and 39-40 wins for 07-08 and a 9th seed.  That still rankles – it was such a stupid prediction.

This season, however, I haven't been able to respond with outrage to the predictions being made for the Hornets.  In fact, the've been so favorable I almost cringe when I see them.  High expectations can backfire dangerously – just ask the Phoenix Suns Fans.  ESPN predicts the Hornets to finish second in the West, and the Hornets received the second most votes from the ESPN panel of writers to win the NBA Title, somehow topping even the Celtics.

So since I can't rant about my team's ranking, I'll instead address three teams from each conference I feel are overrated or underrated by ESPN.

The East:

  1. The Cleveland Cavaliers: I don't think the Cavaliers will do any better this year as they did last year, Mo Williams is alright offensively, but a seive defensively.  What small upgrade he is to the starting lineup over Delonte West will be offset by Ben Wallace and Big Z being one year older and into the age where their declines will impact the team.  I have them down for 45 wins again.
  2. The Detroit Pistons: Why are the Pistons expected to decline 9 wins to only 50 this year?  They have some older contributers like Sheed and McDyess who may produce a little less, but that's offset by a very, very good bench.  I can't see them winning less than 56.
  3. The Milwaukee Bucks: Frankly, they aren't going to be any better. ESPN has them improving from 26 wins to 35, but why?  Luke Ridnour is not an upgrade over Mo Williams.  Acquisitions Adrian Griffin, Damon Jones, Malik Allen, Tyronn Lue and Francisco Elson are terrible and aren't improvements over admittedly flawed parts like Yi Jianlin, Bobby Simmons and Desmond Mason.  Overall the above changes make the Bucks worse, which means the improvement ESPN is predicting has to come from Richard Jefferson.  Has anyone seen Richard Jefferson play the last couple years?  He's not worth 9 wins by himself.  Not even close.

The West: 

  1. The Minnesota Timberwolves: I think the Timberwolves will be closer to 32 wins than 26. Al Jefferson is still a hoss, I expect an Al Horford-like season out of Kevin Love, Ryan Gomes is solid, and Mike Miller is an underrated upgrade at shooting guard.  McCants or Foye will serve as a decent backup guard.  This team only needs a good point guard and back up big man to return to respectibility and start talking playoffs.
  2. The Utah Jazz: The Jazz were a better team than their record indicated last year, producing a  point differential that indicated they should have had another 4-5 wins over the course of the season.  This offseason, they've really done nothing, not losing or gaining anything significant.  So why should decline to only 51?  I'm thinking closer to 56 or 57.  I do have one caveat, however.  To reach that level, Carlos Boozer needs to play like he did in 2006 and 2007, not the way he did in 2008 and the Olympics.  Can anyone tell me why he's suddenly lost his scoring touch?
  3. The Memphis Grizzlies: I feel bad about this for my friends over at Three Shades of Blue, but the Memphis Grizzlies will not reach 23 wins.  Not a chance.  I'll end this post with an evaluation of their team:

Flat out, the Grizzlies will be pushing to have one of the worst records of all time.  Their veterans are the worst sort of dregs: Greg Buckner, Antoine Walker, and Marko Jaric. Useless, Cancer, Slacker. 

Their frontcourt is horribly weak.  Marc Gasol – if he makes a successful transition to the U.S. – is a good Oberto-like backup big, but other than Marc, there's no one to rebound or play in the paint.  Darko has finally developed . . . into a foul- and injury-prone stiff.  Hakim Warrick and Darrell Arthur provide no post presence and combined weigh as much as Marc Gasol, and the new Iranian import Haddadi is both raw and twenty-three, a bad combination. 

The Memphis guards aren't going to be tremendously better.  OJ Mayo was simply not that good in college, and I already have doubts he'll ever be a top tier shooting guard in the league, much less be one in his rookie season.  Mike Conley showed last year he was injury prone and merely okay when he wasn't hurt, Kyle Lowry showed he was fierce but limited, and Javaris Crittenton showed . . . well not a lot because he played so little – which is its own indictment. 

That leaves Rudy Gay. He's a good scorer, but he's not all-around good, and he's probably not even a franchise player.  Put him on the Hornets, and I'd rank him as only the fourth best player behind Paul, West and Chandler.

And that's my entire problem with these Grizzlies.  They have one player who could start for most of the teams of the league(Gay), four players that would be in a nine-man rotation because they are young and show promise(Conley, Lowry, Mayo, Gasol) and that's it.  If they break 15 wins this season, I'll be impressed.

Update: 3 Shades of Blue declares war, and more reaction on the official Grizzlies boards.

Update 2: The Wages of Wins chimes in: Darko Milicic is No Tyson Chandler

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