NBA PREVIEW: IN-DEPTH LOOK PART 1

NBA-Manchester-02With exhibition basketball just about done and only a week until Tip Off, let’s take a step back to accurately draw a picture of what the NBA will look like this upcoming season.

Read on as I rank, analyse, and give off-season grades to all 30 NBA teams.

 

#30 PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

 

TEAM ROSTER:

Evan Turner, Lavoy Allen, Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Thaddeus Young, Vander Blue, Rodney Williams, Spencer Hawes, Jason Richardson, Kwame Brown, James Anderson, Arnett Moultrie, Gani Lawal, Royce White, Khalif Wyatt, Hollis Thompson, Darius Morris, Tony Wroten.

PRE-SEASON SUMMARY/PREDICTIONS

A year ago, the Andrew Bynum/Jrue Holiday pairing was viewed as a solid combo that would cement Philadelphia’s yearly participation in the playoffs for years to come; but when Bynum failed to take part in a single game of the 2012-2013 season, Philadelphia’s front office decided to look elsewhere. With both Bynum and Holiday out of the picture, and a roster full of inexperience, the only thing new GM Sam Hinkie and new head coach Brett Brown are looking forward to is the 2014 NBA Draft.

Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young will be the go-to guys on a year that could turn out to be very productive for them both. The could easily be traded at some point, so this season, they’ll be auditioning for potential destinations.

Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams seem to be two valuable pieces to the ongoing renewal, so they’ll be seeing much playing time in Year One of their respective careers. I don’t think either of them will exceed expectations any time soon, but they’ll still turn a few heads here and there.

The whole world has the Sixers finishing with the worst record in the league, with much of their focus centered on next summer, so let’s not be too hard on them, guys.

OFF-SEASON GRADE: D

Hired Sam Hinkie as GM, Hired Brett  Brown as head coach, Tony Wroten, Royce White, James Anderson, Tim Ohlbrecht, Darius Morris, Gani Lawal, Michael Carter-Williams (draft), Nerlens Noel (draft).

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Evan Turner is a former number two pick who has always showed promise, but not quite to the standard held for a player picked in the high lottery. With Jrue Holiday gone, he should find himself handling the ball a lot more. For him, this will be a make or break season.

The summer of 2014 is what this organization has its eyes set on. More specifically, Andrew Wiggins. If a year from now the Canadian phenom lands in Philly, the 2013-2014 season could be remembered as a winning one.

WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Royce White is on the team’s payroll, so we are all praying for him to take part in on-court activities. I didn’t fully understand the trade, but he is cheap and can play, so I guess they closed an eye on everything else.

 

#29 PHOENIX SUNS

TEAM ROSTER:

Channing Frye, Gerald Green, Markieef Morris, Marcus Morris, Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, P.J. Tucker, Shannon Brown, Archie Goodwin, Alex Len, Dionte Christmas, Miles Plumlee, Ish Smith, Viacheslav Kravstov, Malcolm Lee, Kendall Marshall, Alex Oriakhi, James Nunnally.

PRE-SEASON SUMMARY/PREDICTIONS

With trades, releases, and jersey modifications, this past off-season fewer teams made more noise than Phoenix. The Suns now welcome up to ten new players to their roster, headlined by top signees Eric Bledsoe and Ukrainian lottery pick Alex Len. Even though they’ve lost quite a bit, they managed to retain good pieces in Marcin Gortat and Goran Dragic.

Thanks to the positive play at EuroBasket by Dragic, Gortat, and Kravstov, the Suns head start their season on the right foot, making them able to shut out the outside talks regarding their ongoing rebuilding process. While they will remain lowly ranked on pre-season ranking lists for the foreseeable future, don’t be surprised if this team starts collecting few notable Ws as the season progresses.

OFF-SEASON GRADE: C+

Hired Ryan McDonough as GM, hired Jeff Hornacek as head coach, Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Gree, Miles Plumlee, Ish Smith, Malcolm Lee, Viacheslav Kravstov, Alex Len (draft), Archie Goodwin (draft).

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Phoenix possesses a potentially formidable backcourt tandem in Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Bledsoe is coming off a borderline breakout season with the Clippers, where as a result, he became one of the most highly coveted guards on the market. For Dragic, EuroBasket gave him so much confidence that next year he should be set to have his best year yet.

WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO: 

1. Goran Dragic and Marcin Gortat are two tantalizing tradeable assets Ryan McDonough could use to rack up draft picks. I can’t imagine Phoenix competing for a playoff spot anytime soon if they eventually decide to dump the two Euros.

2. Their sleeve jerseys.

 

#28 UTAH JAZZ 

TEAM ROSTER:

Alec Burks, Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Marvin Williams, Andris Biedrins, Richard Jefferson, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Ian Clark, Scott Machado, Rudy Gobert, Jeremy Evans, Brandon Rush, Justin Holiday, John Lucas III, Dominic McGuire, Brian Cook, Dwyane Jones, Lester Hudson, Mike Harris.

PRE-SEASON SUMMARY/PREDICTION

Taking on Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins overpaid salaries served as cherry on the cake to proclaim the upcoming season as a potential flop. With pivotal bigs Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson finally out, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will be the heirs of their responsibilities.

Even though Utah will have a down year, this season will work as stepping stone for what lies ahead. Hayward, Favors, Kanter, Burks, and Burke, have all been viewed as potential/borderline stars, so no need to panic, Jazz fans.

I’m mostly excited to watch Trey Burke orchestrate the offense, as well as him redeeming himself after a very disappointing Summer League, where he failed to live up to his Collegiate POY status.

OFF-SEASON GRADE: C-

Richard Jefferson, Andris Biedrins, Brandon Rush, John Lucas III, Trey Burke (draft), Rudy Gobert (draft), Raul Neto (draft), Ian Clark, Scott Machado.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Former lottery picks Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter finally get the opportunity to fill primary roles, something basketball fans have been waiting to see. Their playing styles should coincide appropriately and give the whole state of Utah something to look forward to.

Utah is another squad who has the luxury of having multiple young threats to play with. While their season record won’t be one to remember, I have a feeling that, years from now, we will look back on this Jazz season with a positive eye.

WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Trey Burke’s struggles in the Orlando Summer League are causing people to wonder how long he will take to get used to the fast-paced pro game. Utah’s point guard of the future faces a lot of pressure this year, and the expectations are very high. Will he pan out?

 

 

#27 CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

TEAM ROSTER: 

Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, Jeff Taylor, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, Anthony Tolliver, Gerald Henderson, Jeff Adrien, Bismack Biyombo, Brendan Haywood, Jannero Pargo, Josh McRoberts, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, James Southerland, Cody Zeller, Troy Daniels, Abdul Gaddy, Patrick O’Bryant.

PRE-SEASON SUMMARY/PREDICTIONS

Last year’s second worst defense (opponents ppg) isn’t going to rank any higher this upcoming season. Acquiring Al Jefferson from Utah, a very good offensive option but a very bad one defensively, will provide immediate assistance when in possession , but when on defense, our heads will shake in disbelief.

Yet another coach has been handed the arduous task of leading this team to the promised land. Steve Clifford’s assistant coaching experience under the Van Gundy brothers and Mike D’Antoni, is a true upgrade to Mike Dunlap, who finds himself jobless after just one season with the Bobcats. Clifford has a reputation of a defensive specialist, so the Bobcats’s defense should show slight improvements.

If I was a Bobcats fan, I’d only have one thing to look forward to: the Hornet mascot. After this season, Charlotte will reclaim the old mascot and become, once again, the Charlotte Hornets. Some argue that this is the only good move MJ has made since becoming majority owner. What do you say?

OFF-SEASON GRADE: C-

Hired Steve Clifford as head coach, Al Jefferson, Cody Zeller (draft), James Southerland (undrafted), Anthony Tolliver.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

You would assume that a defensive specialist would come in and transform a poor defense into, at least, a respectable one. Assuming this happens, we can finally start looking at Charlotte with a speck of admiration rather than total frustration.

Al Jefferson is a master on the low block and is the only proven offensive threat Charlotte possesses at that position. If he could operate on the right block as well as he does on the left, there would be no answer for him.

Jeff Taylor had an outstanding Eurobasket. His performance should only boost his confidence and set him to have a somewhat breakout year.

I’ve been raving about Gerald Henderson for some time now, but every time, he fails to satisfy. The ongoing slump at the SG position is a good-enough excuse for him to finally rise up the shooting guard ladder. He’s got time, but we are all getting impatient.

The Kemba Walker-Al Jefferson Pick and Roll combo should be lethal.

WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Again, defense. Other than hiring Steve Clifford,  they haven’t made any player resolutions to their defensive issues. Yes, a stronger offense (Al Jefferson) might win them a few more games than last year, but come April,  we all know where they’ll be.

Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker, Ramon Sessions, Ben Gordon, and Jeff Taylor compose a well orientated offensive group, but not a well balanced one. Every night, you are going to have to figure out go-to guys, three point threats, defensive stoppers, etc. Playoff teams don’t have that problem.

 

#26 BOSTON CELTICS

TEAM ROSTER:

Rajon Rondo, Jared Sullinger, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, Kelly Olynyk, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, Courtney Lee, Jordan Crawford, Phill Pressey, Vitor Faverani.

PRE-SEASON SUMMARY/PREDICTIONS

The Celtics-Nets trade that sent veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry to Brooklyn marked the end of the Big Three era and the beginning of the Brad Stevens era. The former Butler University head coach is easily regarded as one of the leading up-and-coming coaches in the sport, and, at 36, he is on pace to becoming the nth HOFer passing through Boston.

Calling the Celtics’ current situation a “rebuilding process” would be a slap in the face to the respected players on the roster: Rondo, Green, Bass, Wallace, Bradley, etc. Yes, a run at the playoffs is unlikely this season, but once Rondo gets back to his old self, it would be unwise to overlook them.

OFF-SEASON GRADE: B-

Hired brad Stevens as head coach, Gerald Wallace, Keith Bogans, Kris Humphries, Marshon Brooks, Kelly Olynyk (draft), Vitor Faverani (draft), Phil Pressey.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Brad Stevens in the NBA. His college resume speaks for itself and he now gets the chance to carry that same extraordinary legacy on to the most successful franchise in NBA history.

Jeff Green was a candidate for Most Improved last season but fairly lost the race to Paul George of the Pacers. As a frontrunner for the award this year, he is set to have a breakout season and perhaps sniff All-Star status.

Kelly Olynyk’s stellar off-season was perhaps the biggest satisfaction for Boston fans since parting ways with Pierce and KG. If he manages to carry his summer league prowess on to the big stage, he will become a fan-favourite in no time.

WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO: 

There are a lot of good players on this team, but not many great ones. Rondo is the only present All-Star, and it seems like he won’t be playing for at least another month or two. His absence will be so heart felt at the PG spot that until his return, Boston will almost be forgotten.

 

#25 ORLANDO MAGIC

TEAM ROSTER:

Jameer Nelson, Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Kyle O’Quinn, Romero Osby, Andrew Nicholson, Jason Maxiell, E’Twaun Moore, Doron Lamb, Arron Afflalo, Victor Oladipo, Glen Davis, Ronnie Price, Kris Joseph, Solomon Jones,  Manny Harris, Mickell Gladness, Maurice Harkless.

PRE-SEASON SUMMARY/ PREDICTIONS

The Magic’s current young roster is a perfect mirror to their GM, Rob Hennigan. As a young and promising league executive, Hennigan has managed to collect a group of talented, young guys who are bound to fulfill bright futures in the NBA.

Rookie Victor Oladipo will be a project at the PG spot, so we are all expecting Jameer Nelson to keep his starting job, for the meantime.

I’m not sure what Oladipo’s role will be, but if early ROY predictions are of any relevant indication to how his debut season will be, expect something special.

OFF-SEASON GRADE: C

 Jason Maxiell, Ronnie Price, Romero Osby (draft), Victor Oladipo (draft), Kris Joseph.

WHAT TO LOOK FORWARD TO: 

Tobias Harris, Moe Harkless, and Nikola Vucevic showed flashes of potential stardom more than once last season. These three guys possess a combination of skills, physical tools, and instincts that not many teams have at their young core. When you factor in that they are 21, 20, and 22 respectively, it’s beyond human capacity to try and estimate how good they can be.

WHAT NOT TO LOOK FORWARD TO:

Shaky start for Oladipo?

I don’t think Oladipo is a point guard. Nor a shooting guard. He’s just, a basketball player. Putting him in a box would negatively affect his nature, which is to play instinctively on both ends of the floor. A worthy number two pick shouldn’t have to play a position he wasn’t drafted for. He was drafted to defend, and bring a winning mentality. Let him do just that.

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