LA Clippers Season Preview

16 10 2008

My NBA Pacific Division preview continues with the LA Clippers:

LA Clippers

2007-08 Standings 23 – 59, 12th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 28 – 54, 4th Pacific Division, 12th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby, Al Thornton, Cuttino Mobley, Baron Davis

Sixth Man:  Ricky Davis

With Elton Brand gone, much of the Clippers low post scoring will now fall to Chris Kaman.

At the beginning of the offseason the LA Clippers made one of the biggest acquisitions of the summer, stunningly signing Baron Davis away from the Golden State Warriors. It was assumed that Elton Brand would quickly resign and the Clippers would have the nucleus to challenge for an NBA title. Then everything went to crap. Brand bolted to the Eastern Conference, signing with the Philadelphia 76ers. They then lost Corey Maggette to the Golden State Warriors as well. The Clippers were able to recover somewhat, acquiring defensive ace Marcus Camby from the Denver Nuggets for a wad of spit and not much else but Camby is no Brand and there is a sense that the Clippers are going to be in the cellar once again.

The Clippers are stocked with enigmatic players foremost of who is the ultra talented Baron Davis. On his day he is as unstoppable as anyone, powerful and when his shot is falling, unguardable. Yet he is too often a streak shooter, who will fall in love with the three rather than drive to the hoop. He has often been injured as well, a fact which has hurt his teams badly over the years.

At the centre position the Clippers are blessed with both Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby. They provide a dominant defensive presence inside, but while they are solid offensive players, neither has the skills nor seemingly the inclination to take over games offensively, something that will hurt them badly with Brand’s defection.

The enigmatic players are rounded out by Ricky Davis and Tim Thomas. Davis is terribly erratic and has a reputation as a selfish gunner. There is a reason he is now on to his 7th team in 11 seasons. Thomas is a powder puff player. He has the size to play in the NBA and teases with his brilliance, but it is simply a tease.

It’ll fall to the youngsters to give the Clippers fans hope. Al Thornton should get minutes at the starting small forward slot with Maggette now gone. He has the look of a future All Star about him. Eric Gordon is the prized rookie off the bench who will eventually replace Cuttino Mobley.

Sadly the Clippers once again have the feel of a lottery team.

Coach:

Mike Dunleavy is the coach and while he has experienced success in the past it’ll take all his skills to turn the Clippers around.

Bench:

The Clippers have a relatively weak bench that needs to be strengthened through trade, draft and free agency. Unfortunately they have players like Ricky Davis and Tim Thomas there, who while talented, might unfairly impact on the development of Eric Gordon.

Star Player:

Baron Davis was the big offseason acquisition and he will need to play out of his skull to carry the Clippers to the promised land.

Team MVP:

Can Chris Kaman become a more dominant force offensively? He needs to try and match some of the production lost with Elton Brand. If he can he should challenge for an All Star spot as well as give the Clippers a shot at the playoffs.

Final Prognosis:

The LA Clippers will once again be the other LA team. They’ll lose copious amounts of games, Ricky Davis will do something stupid and Marcus Camby will despair at his plight. They’ll challenge good teams on the odd night or two but ultimately they will fall well short again. 

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.

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Golden State Warriors Season Preview

15 10 2008

My NBA Pacific Division preview continues with the Golden State Warriors: 

Golden State Warriors

2007-08 Standings 48 – 34, 9th Western Conference

2008-09 Predicted Record 40 – 42, 3rd Pacific Division, 11th Western Conference

Projected Starting Five:  Andris Biedrins, Al Harrington, Corey Maggette, Monta Ellis, Marcus WIlliams

Sixth Man:  Stephen Jackson

Without his buddy Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson is going to have to work that much harder this year.

Without his buddy Baron Davis, Stephen Jackson is going to have to work that much harder this year.

For the past couple of years the Golden State Warriors have been a brilliant team to support. They played a dazzling, fun loving style of basketball that was more playground magic than hardwood X and Os. They were led by Baron Davis and he was ably supported by Monta Ellis and somewhat crazy Stephen Jackson.

They memorably made the post season two years back where they beat the heavily favoured Dallas Mavericks in the first round, then narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season despite finishing 14 games over .500. If they’d been in the East they would have been the number four seed.

Then the offseason rolled around and they lost Baron Davis almost immediately to the LA Clippers. They tried to recover from the loss by attempting to sign Elton Brand in a tit for tat exchange (you steal our star and we’ll steal yours) but he ultimately signed for the Philadelphia 76ers. They turned their attention to Corey Maggette and while he is a good pickup he very much is the booby prize.

Adding to the offseason turmoil, Monta Ellis, the Warriors rising star and the reason they could afford to let Davis go, suffered a severe injury that’s going to keep him out for months. Then it was revealed that Ellis had lied about how the injury had been incurred and the Warriors suddenly can compete with the NY Knicks for the title of team turmoil.

There is a definite sense that the Warriors have missed their chance. Davis gave them a swagger but with him gone the burden falls to Jackson, especially with Ellis out.

The Golden State Warriors do have some good young talent. If Ellis recovers from his injury he has the potential to develop into an All Star within a couple of years. Brandan Wright has the size and potential, he just needs the playing time while Andris Biedrins needs to prove he was worthy of his recent big contract.

Jackson, Maggette and Al Harrington provide some veteran leadership in the forwards but it is at the point guard position where the Warriors will struggle with Marcus Williams being acquired as the “solution”.

If the Warriors make the playoffs they will have overachieved this year. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening.

Coach:

Don Nelson is one of the most entertaining coaches in the NBA. His teams are renown for their score-at-any-cost-including-defence style of play. He was a perfect fit for the Warriors of the past couple of years but it will be intriguing to see how he adjusts to his team this season.

Bench:

The motto for this crew should be, if you can score, you’ll play. They’re lead by Stephen Jackson, an emotional firebrand who was one of the principal players in the Palace Brawl a few years back.

Star Player:

When he returns from injury Monta Ellis is the star of this team. He’s capable of scoring points in a hurry but is a below average defender. It will be interesting to see how he comes back from his injury and the lies he told to cover up its cause.

Team MVP:

Even when Baron Davis was still around Stephen Jackson was the Warriors MVP, inspiring to two successful seasons. Can he do it one more time?

Final Prognosis:

The Golden State Warriors have a solid team and they’d probably make the playoffs in the East. In the West they are ultimately fodder for the better teams. They’re capable of causing an upset or two but that will be about all.

 

You can find an index of past Previews here.





Philadelphia 76ers Season Preview

29 09 2008

My NBA Atlantic Division preview continues with the Philadelphia 76ers:

Philadelphia 76ers

2007-08 Standings 40 – 42, 7th Eastern Conference 

2008-09 Predicted Record 50 – 32, 2nd Atlantic Division, 5th Eastern Conference

Projected Starting Five: Samuel Dalembert, Elton Brand, Thaddeus Young, Andre Iguodala, Andre Miller

Sixth Man: Willie Green

Andre Miller in action versus the Mavs

The theme for the Philadelphia 76ers of 2008 – 09 could well be hope. It could equally well be expectation. That’s what comes from a solid 07 – 08 season and post season (pushing the mighty Pistons to 6 games) and an even more impressive off season.

What made the off season so special? The acquisition of Elton Brand, a low post stud has vaulted the 76ers in many people’s eyes into the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. However the expectation that Brand’s acquisition has brought brings with it pressure and ultimately how the 76ers deal with this will dictate how this team goes. 

Last season this was Andre Miller’s team as he brought professional and calmness to a team that had lost their iconic player, Allen Iverson. Miller brought on the kiddies and some of them developed into studs, especially the 6-6 Andre Iguodala. The team also has the young Thaddeus Young, a player with tremendous potential. This season is more of the same, Brand is experienced enough to appreciate the talents of Miller and the two of them should gel well. The key will be how the remainder of the young 76ers adjust to the All Star’s arrival. 

Ultimately the 76ers are not quite ready to compete with the Celtics and the better teams in the west. In a couple of years this team could well be title contenders but they need some seasoning first. 

Coach: 

A former 76er as a player Maurice Cheeks is a good fit with this team. The players respect him and he got them to develop nicely last year. The challenge will be in continuing to develop and managing the expectations of the fans who suddenly believe they have a championship quality squad. 

Bench: 

The 76er bench has a solid feel with shooters of various sizes – Willie Green, Kareem Rush and Donyell Marshall and bangers such as Reggie Evans. Theo Ratliff brings a reassuring defensive presence though his best days are well in the past. 

Star Player:  

Andre Iguodala is a high flying young star capable of energizing a crowd with his moves. To develop into a true stud he’ll need to develop a reliable outside shot and also adjust to perhaps not as many touches with Brand around. 

Team MVP: 

Many will be looking to Elton Brand to transform the 76ers in the same way that Kevin Garnett transformed the Celtics but the key to this will be how Andre Miller controls the team and the tempo. Ultimately how the floor general controls the game and touches of his young charges will dictate how far the 76ers go. 

Final Prognosis: 

With Brand’s acquisition the 76ers are now one of the better teams in the East. Expect them to improve on last year’s result and get out of the first round, just don’t expect them there in May and June.

You can find an index of past Previews here.