Hollinger’s West Predictions

Published: December 20, 2011

For what it’s worth guys and gals, Mr. Hollinger from ESPN gave us a nice slap in the face today with his Western Conference record predictions. He predicts us to be worst in the west.

Obviously he didnt notice how CP3 did little to nothing for us last season until the playoffs, and how after West went down Landry was huge. Subtract CP3 and West but still have the core from last year plus Aminu, Gordon, and Kaman and I think we will be better than he thinks.

For what it’s worth below are his comments on us and the T’wolves. Please leave your thoughts.

15. New Orleans Hornets (22-44)

Even though I have the Hornets projected to be the worst team in the conference, they won’t be that bad — they’re pegged to beat three teams in the East and tie with a fourth. They won’t be overmatched physically with a frontcourt of Emeka Okafor, Chris Kaman, Carl Landry, and Jason Smith. And Eric Gordon can obviously get them some points; few bad teams have such a good go-to scoring option.

My analytics actually had them winning a couple more games, but two subjective factors limited my view of the Hornets this season. First, I suspect they may keep trimming talent as the season wears on and trade scenarios emerge. If a good offer comes along for Kaman, Okafor or Jarrett Jack, I can’t imagine the league — er, excuse me, independently operating New Orleans general manager Dell Demps — refusing. Second, along the same lines, New Orleans sure as heck won’t be making major additions to this group.

But Hornets coach Monty Williams will have them playing respectable defense. I’m guessing they’ll still finish around 12th in defensive efficiency, even with Jack surrendering blow-bys by the dozen at point guard (he’s much better at the 2). Trevor Ariza is a strong wing defender, they have quality big men to protect the rim, and the Hornets have tended to favor bench players who defend.

The problem is scoring. While Gordon can fill it up, he creates little for others, and without Chris Paul or David West, this could get ugly. Plus, Ariza possesses the worst shot selection in the league and may feel free to gun away now that the two stars are gone. Aside from Kaman, the bench is giving them bupkus. Look for the Hornets to land 25th or so in offensive efficiency, effectively preventing them from winning more than a third of their games.

10. Minnesota Timberwolves (29-37)

Sorry, Hornets fans, but that unprotected lottery pick isn’t quite as juicy as you may have been led to believe. Despite their comical zest for accumulating point guards and general knack for shooting their own feet, I expect the Timberwolves to achieve a measure of respectability.

Several items point in their favor, but let’s start with Darko Milicic. Minnesota employed the single most counterproductive offensive strategy in basketball last season, constantly feeding the ball in the post to Milicic even though he was their least effective offensive player on a per-possession basis. Merely redistributing these possessions to players who can either score or pass will substantially improve the Minnesota offense.

Second, they have Rick Adelman coaching, which means two things: (1) They have Adelman, and (2) they no longer have Kurt Rambis. The Wolves didn’t seem terribly motivated to play hard for Rambis, and Rambis didn’t seem terribly motivated to adjust his system to the Wolves. It seemed Rambis hoped to wake up one day and find Darko had become Pau Gasol.

Also, Minnesota is better talent-wise because of second overall pick Derrick Williams and the point guard combo of Ricky Rubio and J.J. Barea. I really don’t know how good Rubio will be; he’s one of the most unique players the league has ever seen, in both good and bad ways. He might shoot 30 percent, and he might get the first triple-double in history in which points wasn’t one of the categories. But he can’t be any worse than what Minnesota had last season, when Sebastian Telfair and Jonny Flynn played 1,694 combined minutes for this team. Egads.

They have several other young players, and nearly all should be better. In addition to the players above, Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph, Michael Beasley, Wesley Johnson, Martell Webster, Wayne Ellington and Nikola Pekovic are 25 or younger.

Finally, they potentially can squeeze more from the same talent just by playing small. Half the team consists of 6-foot-8 combo forwards, one of whom is currently posing as its starting shooting guard. Moving Love to center not only takes “go-to guy” Milicic off the floor, it also opens the door for Williams, Beasley, Randolph and Johnson to snag minutes as forwards. I’d argue it’s better for Love too, since he can’t guard the perimeter anyway.

None of this means the Wolves will suddenly be awesome, and we still see disturbing signs of mismanagement in the background. But the rule of thumb in the NBA is that, via the draft, bad teams continually receive infusions of talent until they can’t possibly be bad anymore. By this point, Minnesota has had so many high draft picks that they almost have to rise in the standings.


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