NBA Opening Day Power Rankings

 

 

 

 

MH’s NBA Start of the Season Power Rankings

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1. Miami Heat –

If you are shocked in this pick you might want to assess your standing as a basketball enthusiast and rethink things since you have clearly taken a 3-year hiatus from American sports. Miami is in the driver’s seat again and looks ready to head for a 3rd straight title and 4th straight championship appearance. LeBron James and a great supporting cast that allows for the Heat to dominate in almost any way imaginable the Heat are only left with one key weakness. This is the lack of a true big man that can eat minutes and play physical D. Until someone can actually exploit this weakness the Heat will continue on virtually unrivaled.

2. Oklahoma City Thunder –

This might seem to be somewhat of a questionable pick since Westbrook is out for now but Durant looks primed for a big time season with legitimate championship aspirations. If Ibaka can step up and handle some of the scoring duties in making up for Westbrook the Thunder will be in great shape with a young team with enough role players to keep them amongst the elite until Westbrook returns.

3. Indiana Pacers –

Some of the stiffest competition for the heat right here. The Pacers come in blessed with a talented big in Roy Hibbert as well as a dominate wing player in Paul George. The combination of the two multi-faceted stars and a strong supporting class that plays intense physical defense that wears down opponents will make them an elite team again.

4. San Antonio Spurs –

The Spurs benefit from facing some weakened opponents while also being a perennial contender with a budding star in Kawhi Leonard, a star Point Guard in Tony Parker, and a future Hall of Famer that somehow continues to perform at a high level in Tim Duncan. These pieces along with some solid role players and phenomenal coaching keep them amongst the NBA’s elite.

5. Golden State Warriors –

The new kid on the block in terms of the NBA’s elite teams. The relative newcomer, the Warriors armed with a scoring machine in superstar Point Guard Steph Curry alone keeps them in most games but they also have a healthy big man in Bogut, a phenomenal lengthy defender and decent offensive player in Iggy, as well as the sharp shooting number two to Curry in Klay Thompson. This group of talented players looks to carry the Warriors into continued relevance.

6. Memphis Grizzlies –

This pick is a bit of an odd one since the Grizzlies aren’t really a title contender but they are a top team. A bit of an oddity. They have the pieces to win a ton of games with the supporting cast they have assembled around one of the best defensive players and all-around big men in the game in Marc Gasol. But they don’t really have enough star power to compete for a title so unless they really surprise this will probably be as high as they get all season on the power rankings.

7. Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers are an established top team that hasn’t exactly dominated come playoff time. The combo of Blake Griffin and Chris Paul should be enough to keep them in contention. This is especially true with a decent supporting cast. They certainly have some glaring weaknesses to address though which is what keeps them from being higher.

8. Chicago Bulls –

The Bulls look set to return to being a competitor in the East after what was essentially a throw away year with the injury to Rose. With Rose back and supposedly ready to step right back in without losing anything from his game the Bulls tough D and scoring potential make them a top 10 team. The questions surrounding the injury keep them on the lower end of the top 10 though.

9. Portland Trail Blazers –

The first real shocker of the top 10. The Trail Blazers look like a team ready to finally reach its potential behind an incredibly talented cast of players. Lillard, Aldridge, Batum, Matthews, Robinson, Wright, Williams, and the promising rookie McCollum give them a great shot at making a statement this year.

10. Denver Nuggets –

A team similar to the Grizzlies in my opinion. Loaded with very good players but only 1 true star caliber player in Manimal. They look to win plenty of games but not necessarily challenge for a title.

11. Brooklyn Nets –

The Nets made some rather bold offseason moves giving them one of the most talented starting 5’s in the NBA, although this is true they are fairly old and don’t have incredible depth so minute management will be key and until that issue is settled they are held back in my power rankings. If they are managed well the ranking could skyrocket and they could contend for a title.

12. Houston Rockets –

The Rockets. Where to begin? They have what looks like a top 5-10 player in James Harden but I still have my doubts and question whether he can keep Dwight satisfied and in check. Dwight… I think we all know Dwight by now, not much to add on him. The Rockets definitely have the talent but how it fits together remains to be seen.

13. New York Knicks –

The Knicks still have Melo and that is enough to keep them just above the middle of the pack in the NBA. Melo is a scoring machine who, when motivated, can take over in all facets. Motivation though, is a big issue for him. Smith and Chandler look to be featured contributors as well.

14. Detroit Pistons –

The Pistons look to have one of the more underrated teams especially with some early injury troubles but the combo of Drummond, Smith, and Monroe is a force to be reckoned with and should win them their fair share of games. A few more years of picking up decent pieces and they could find their why amongst the elite.

15. New Orleans Pelicans –

The Pelicans also look a bit underrated but have a few very talented players in Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, and Tyreke Evans. If they find a way to incorporate Gordon well they could definitely be a force.

16. Cleveland Cavaliers –

The Cavaliers look to improve upon a quite lackluster season and fully emerge from the LeBron loss. Irving, Waiters, Bennett, and Bynum might be just what the Cavs need to do so. Look for them to surprise people this year.

17. Washington Wizards –

If the Wizards can stay healthy they should look much improved from last year. Wall appears to be a dominant player who, if he ever finds a jump shot, will be a top 5 player in the NBA. Beal, Gortat, and Nene provide a decent set of contributors around Wall.

18. Dallas Mavericks –

Dallas would be higher if it weren’t for the fact that they decided to field a team that plays literally no defense. Luckily they packed on the offense with Dirk, Monta, and Jose Calderon. Dallas should be able to score plenty but I doubt they make the playoffs this year.

19. Minnesota Timberwolves –

The T-Wolves have a ton of potential but are just filled with question marks. Love and Rubio need to come out of the gates strong for the Wolves to perform well. They also need to avoid injuries that have killed the team in the past.

20. Milwaukee Bucks –

The Bucks have a relatively young team with a strong defensive presence that should keep them in games. They may have a future star in Giannis but that remains to be seen and won’t really help them this year. Until then the Bucks should be scrappers with a lot of perimeter shooting and nothing more.

21. Atlanta Hawks –

The Hawks have some decent pieces in Horford, Teague, and Millsap. They also have a budding rookie in Schroeder but he is not expected to be a big contributor at the moment. The Hawks just have too many glaring weaknesses to be successful this year.

22. Toronto Raptors –

The Raptors seem to be in a bit of a pickle. Stuck with some budding youngsters but still way too terrible to really compete for anything and keep everyone happy while adding the right pieces. Look for the Raptors to be bad again this season.

23. Sacramento Kings –

One of my 2 teams to watch this season. Cousins, Vasquez, and McLemore look to lead this young potential filled team this season. With some strong performances out of their big three and some support from Luc Richard, Patrick Patterson, and Isaiah Thomas the Kings look poised to make a statement this season.

24. Charlotte Bobcats –

Team number 2 of my 2 teams to watch this season. The Bobcats have been bottom feeders for a while now and now is their chance to emerge. MKG has been working all offseason to fix that wicked looking jumper and if it has been even moderately successful he should look like a complete player and one of the best youngsters in the game. Accompanying him is the reliable and dominant post player, Al Jefferson. Those two alone should improve their standing over last season. But they also have a very good point guard in Kemba Walker, a gifted shot blocker in Biyombo, and a rookie with potential in Zeller.

25. Utah Jazz –

The Jazz have some talented young players in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors that look to carry the team basically. Alec Burks and Trey Burke need to step up for the Jazz to make any real noise. Other than that the Jazz don’t have much to look forward to this year.

26. Los Angeles Lakers –

Kobe and Pau can’t do it all… They won’t be the worst but they will suck. The Lakers outlook in a nutshell.

27. Orlando Magic –

Not much to say here… The Magic certainly aren’t a passable team. Definitely an unfortunate start for Oladipo…

28. Phoenix Suns –

They have a couple of busts in the Morris brothers, 4 decent but unspectacular guards, and 1 potentially passable big man in Len. Not exactly the building blocks of a good year.

29. Boston Celtics –

… It could be worse. Could be the 76ers. Forced to start without Rondo they essentially have role players leading this young and unproven bunch for the most part. Should be interesting to watch. Once Rondo returns they should jump up substantially, but until then.

30. Philadelphia 76ers –

The only really redeemable players on the roster are Thad Young, Evan Turner, and the rookie who probably won’t play at all, Nerlens Noel. Michael Carter-Williams, Arnett Moultrie, and Tony Wroten don’t look like anything overly special at the moment. Definitely a poor outlook for the 76ers. Better luck next year.

Meet the Staff!

Hello followers,

You may have noticed I posted a Breaking News article on how I hired two new writers. You may have also noticed I just added a new tab, at the top titled The Staff. This is because since then, two new writers have joined. Expect a lot more articles coming up, and most importantly learn about all the new writers in the page!

Thanks,

Arteen Zahiri

Taking a look at the Bucks Complete Roster Overhaul

Did the Bucks upgrade or downgrade?

Just weeks ago, I was laughing at the Bucks roster. Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings were as good as gone and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was foolishly shipped off to Sacramento for peanuts. Add that to the fact they lost out on Jeff Teague and overpaid Zaza Pachulia, that team looked like a mess and a potential laughing stock. Since, the team has made a lot of nice savvy moves. Most notably trading for Brandon Knight. I briefly talked about the trade and displayed the details in one of my most recent articles. Is Knight an upgrade over Jennings short term or long term? No. Is he a skilled scorer with penitential? Yes. But regardless this was a good trade. Jennings was leaving, we all knew that. The fact that they brought in a replacement point guard of the future and other skilled players was a job well done. I talked a lot of Brandon Knight in the other article so I’d like to focus on the other two guys: Khris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov, both were rookies last year. Middleton was a second round pick (39th overall) and flashed a lot of potential and skill throughout the year. He finished the year averaging 6.1 PPG and 1.9 RPG. Not wowing stats, but he showed promise. For those who aren’t familiar, he is a SF/PF from Texas A&M who has a very nice shot with scoring potential. Middleton got better each game, he is talented, athletic and still growing. He needs to work on his defense though.  VV (not typing that) is an unknown. He’s a 25 year old Ukranian center and to quote Joe Dumars, “He’s a young player with good size, rebounding and shot-blocking ability. He will provide us with some quality depth at the center position.” The second sentence is exactly what he’ll do with the Bucks. Last year was his first in the NBA. Prior to that he was a 2x Ukrainian Superleague Domestic Player of the Year. He had a double double last year posting 14 points with 10 boards in a loss to Indy on 2/22/13. He averaged 3 points and 2 boards in 25 games.  Both him and Middleton are projects but the Bucks could fin use out of them, especially Middleton who looks like he could develop into a solid role player or possibly more. Now to look at the bigger names they brought in. OJ Mayo was the first and a signing I liked. I always viewed OJ as a good player throughout his career, attitude problems limited him recently, but he’s matured. He made a lot of noise his first two years but his problems made him a sixth man in  Memphis until last year where he became a starter again in Dallas. He had a good year, averaged 15 points a game but shot 40.9% from deep and 45% overall. Mayo was scoring a lot more before Dirk came back from injury. He even tied his career high with 40 points, his production dropped after the All Star Break because Carlisle preferred to get Dirk involved more. He also averaged 4.4 APG because he stated he wanted to be more of a playmaker. The Bucks signed him to a three year $24M and it looks like they’ll view him as a play maker and their go to scorer. Now they brought in Brandon Knight, another good scorer. The two of them can form an impressive back court. The two players complement each other fairly well. Knight is building a consistent jump shot but both players are capable of creating their own shots witch is nice. Knight and Mayo are not a better scoring tandem than Jennings and Ellis, but I’d say they are more efficient because they are better shooter which benefits the big men and spaces the floor to get points in the paint. This benefits Ersan Ilyasova more than anyone. Ersan was awarded a 5 year $40M extension last offseason. A season which he recorded 29 points and 25 boards in one game. He averaged 13 and 7 last year as the team had him play both SF and PF, he is talented enough to score more but he was playing alongside Ellis and Jennings to guys that prefer to take it to the hoop themselves. At 6’10 I prefer Ilyasova more at PF. He is athletic and has a nice jumper, making him able to play SF, but I think he can create more mismatches playing the 4. The team made a wise decision by signing Carlos Delfino to play the 3. Delfino was already a three year starter in Milwaukee before he signed with Houston last year. His talents on offense were missed. They should have definately kept Mbah a Moute as he was the best perimeter defender, but when Delfino was gone he didn’t have the offensive capability to make an impact. Knight/Mayo/Delfino compared to Jennings/Ellis/Mbah a Moute is an interesting thought. It’s hard to say who has the advantage on offense and even ditto for defense. The first one looks more efficient but the second looks more electrifying. The only way we can find out is my waiting and seeing I suppose. It’s important to note Delfino is coming off a great year. He averaged 10.6 points in just 25 minutes a game. The best move they’ve made is signing Gary Neal to a two year deal worth LESS THAN $6M. Yep this means the Spurss think Marco Belinelli is worth more. Neal is a good player and the Spurs made a terrible decision not to resign him. He had so many key games down the stretch and he’s proved to be a solid and consistent scorer. He will be a great sixth man option and I think the team will be scarier with him on the court. Approximately 15.3 points per 36 minutes. The team signed him to a three year deal worth $10M. Moving on to the front court, the team made a rather idiotic move and signed Zaza Pachulia to a three year deal worth $15.6M. Zaza has had his good days about 7 years ago but other than a fluke season two years ago he appears to get worse and worse. The reason he put up decent numbers (8 points and 8 rebounds avg in 44 starts averaging 28 MPG) that year is because the team was desperate to play Al Horford at PF, his natural position so they did everything in their power to mold Zaza into a capable starting center, it didn’t work well enough. He is nothing more than a career backup and not worth the $$$ they gave him. Luckily they have Larry Sanders starting. The team’s best defender, Sanders played great last year and took a great leap forward. Averaging around 10 points and 10 boards a game and a very impressive 3 blocks, he emerged as a force inside and a great rim protector. I expect him to get better next year. He did all this in just 27 MPG. Adding depth, the team signed Miroslav Raduljica, a seven foot center from Serbia. He averaged 14 points and six boards (21 MPG) last year playing in Ukraine. He led the team to the finals and he is just 25 years old. He’s been a successful European player winning numerous awards along the way. He’ll have to battle for a roster spot because the team has a lot of nice depth at the PF and C positions. To list them all: Ekpe Udoh, John Henson, and Gustavo Ayon are the remaining ones I’ve yet to speak of. Ekpe Udoh was the 6th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He hasn’t lived up to expectations with career averages of 4.6 PPG, 3.3 RPG, and 1.1 BPG in 195 career games (just 38 starts) averaging 18.6 MPG. What he has done is show himself to be a good shot blocker/rim protector and a good post defender, high energy guy off the bench. John Henson has shown more promise so far however,and is expected to have a bigger role next season. He was the 14th pick of the 2012 draft, as a rookie he averaged 6 points and about 5 boards in just 13 MPG. The UNC product is big, athletic, and defensive minded. He can defend the post, protect the rim, and even guard the perimeter. His game is most often compared to Anthony Davis’. He is raw but talented and a good rebounder. His per 36 minutes stats are an impressive 16.6 PPG, 13.8 RPG and 2 BPG. He had a PER rating of 18.30 which is also impressive. He’s 6’10 and has a wingspan of 7’4. The first thing he needs to do is bulk up, he can be a solid PF and possibly overtake Ersan’s spot sooner than later. Gustavo Ayon had to be waived by the Bucks because of the logjam at PF/C. This was a bad move. Ayon has potential and has shown promise. He’s a good rebounder, averaging 5 a game in 13 MPG last year. He once had 17 boards in a game. He is 28, but he had just started his NBA career three years ago and was just learning the game. He could have been a solid role player. The team decided to take a chance on the younger unproven guys instead of him. A good move by the bucks was sneaking into the Kevin Martin sign and trade.  To allow the Wolves to get him, Bucks were needed to make it financially work. All they did was give up the draft rights to Szymon Szewczyk, a 30 year old polish basketball player who was a second round pick (35th overall) in 2003 who’s never played in the NBA, and in return got Luke Ridnour and a 2014 second round pick. Luke was a starting point guard last year for the Wolves and he was a sixth man for the Bucks before.  32 years old he’s been a solid player for years and a great option off the bench filling in at point guard. The last piece is first round pick Giannis Antetokounmpo, the pride of Greece. Just 18 years old, the Bucks selected him 15th overall in this years draft. He can play SG, SF, and PF (very versatile). He’s 6’9 with a 7’3 wingspan. What he lacks in strength he brings in quickness, mobility, and agility. He’s very comparable to Nic Batum of the Trail Blazers. He is very good at finishing around the rim to to his athleticism. Once he develops a solid jump shot he could be a nice scoring weapon down the road. His youth helps and most likely means he’ll have a long, nice career. I like this pick by the Bucks, it was a safe one. His athleticism and offensive skill set gives him little bust potential. At worst he’ll be a decent role player. At best, he can be a dynamic weapon in the NBA. Taking a look at the starters: (backups are next to them)

PG: Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour, Ish Smith, Nate Wolters

SG: OJ Mayo, Gary Neal, Giannis Antetokounmpo

SF: Carlos Delfino, Khris Middleton

PF: Ersan Ilyasova, John Henson, Ekpe Udoh

C: Larry Sanders, Zaza Pachulia, Viacheslav Kravtsov, Miroslav Raduljica

This lineup is pretty balanced but I think their best would be:

PG: Brandon Knight

SG: Gary Neal

SF: OJ Mayo

PF: Ersan Ilyasova

C: Larry Sanders

in most situations. This team is fairly deep and nearly every player can play multiple positions, giving this team a lot of versatility. This team would be a lot better if they had Luc Richard Mbah a Moute still, as it lacks a good perimeter defender. I’m not sold if Knight/Mayo is an upgrade over Jennings/Ellis. I do think this team is a lot deeper for the most part. As I say, you can never have too many big men. This is a complete roster over haul. The only returning players are Ersan, Henson, Sanders, Udoh, and Ish Smith. To breifly introduce Smith, he is a backup PG with career averages 2.4 PPG and 1.7 APG for his career in 10 MPG. He provides depth and energy off the bench. He has 6 years of NBA experience. This team was a mess a few weeks ago but they have done a great job turning thins around. They’ve spurned by a lot of players but have stuck through and refuse to tank like some assumed they would.

Taking a look at the Detroit Pistons after the Brandon Jennings Trade

Hello all, I am back. I’ve been trying to post more articles but every time I’m  in the middle of one my computer crashes. Let’s hope this one works. Earlier today, the Pistons completed a sign and trade to acquire Brandon Jennings. They gave him a three year deal worth $24M which is great value. The trade details were:

Pistons get: Brandon Jennings

Bucks get: Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton, and Viacheslav Kravtsov

I’m not going to go too far into this trade because I will do one of these for the Bucks as they are looking to get into the playoffs. But I’d like to say I think Brandon Jennings is an upgrade over Knight. I also don’t view Knight as a true point guard and if I were a HC I would even be uncomfortable putting him there. This draws concern because he is too undersized to play SG at 6’3 and 189 pounds. Knight has shown nice flashes and is a good scorer, I’m actually a fan of his and I think he can be a high quality scorer later on, but I don’t think he is a long term answer due to his small frame and the fact that he lacks PG skills, he’s also shown an incositent jump shot. Jennings on the other hand has more polished skill and has had more success playing the PG position. Jennings has had a history of jacking shots in Milwaukee, but he never had talent around him. In Detroit, they have some nice young players allowing him to facilitate the game better and due to the fact he has nice passing skills I expect a nice bump in his assist.  Jennings also has a nicer jumper. Yes, he is a career 39.4% shooter, but he forced to take a lot of difficult shots in efforts to keep his team competitive. In Detroit he has options to move the ball around and hit an open shot which he has proved he can do on several occasions most notably here:

Jennings worked with that screen and knocked down the open jumpers consistently. It’s also important to note Jennings is only 23 years old and already has 4 years of NBA experience (2 years of playoff experience). Jennings can improve a lot has a higher ceiling than Knight. Let’s see how Jenning will mesh with his teammates. Here is the projected starting lineup:

PG: Brandon Jennings

SG: Rodney Stuckey

SF: Josh Smith

PF: Greg Monroe

C: Andre Drummond

Already you can see a great inside out game forming between Jennings and the three frontcourt players. My only area of concern is how Stuckey and Jennings will cope. Stuckey plays a game similar to Monta Ellis’ and as excited as that was, and it did lead to a playoff berth, Jennings looked like he could have played much better in a different environment. Luckily, new pistons signee Chauncy Billups says he thinks Stuckey can become “a great player” and that he will guide him throughout the season. This is great news because Billups is one of the smartest players in the NBA and he can teach both young guards how to play with each other in the best way possible. Inside you have two young bigs in Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Monroe has looked really good so far, especially the past two seasons. Just 23 years old, he’s coming into his fourth NBA season after averaging 16 points and 9.6 rebounds.  He has been getting better year by year and showed great progress last year. He can be one of the best bigs in the NBA moving forward. Next to him is Andre Drummond, coming off his rookie season he averaged 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds in just 20 minutes a game. These are great numbers in that time span and he got better each game.  He was one of the team’s most efficient players, he and Monroe could be a dominant force inside for years, as both have a nice complete game. The team’s biggest acquisition was Josh Smith. Smith is super athletic and talented who plays well on both sides of the court. He’s been labeled an all star snub in recent years. On defense, he’s a terrific shot blocker and uses his athleticism to stick with opponents and give them headaches. On offense, he has a nice mid range jumper and is nearly unstoppable when he gets into the paint. Plus he is a great dunker. He needs to limit the amount of three point shots and improve his shot selection however. With Jennings working with him, they could create a nice one two punch. He is also versatile, able to play both Small Forward and Power Forward effectively and he’s a solid rebounder. These starting group looks like they can easily play together and I expect a lot of inside and outside scoring. Now Jennings can work that screen with the bigs he has, as he did in his 55 point game. The team’s first round pick (8th overall), is Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Caldwell-Pope, the SEC player of the year and is a great athlete like Josh Smith, which he uses to play good defense, an area where he has potential to improve upon. He has a great shot but he needs to use his athletic ability to get to the rim. He’s good at getting skills and uses his speed to finish in transition. He’s athletic but he has great instincts as a shooter. His only glaring weakness is ball handling, if he figures out how to get to the rim with he could be a valuable piece for years. Another move I really liked was bringing in Italian League MVP Luigi Datome. He is 25 years old and a great shooter. He is 6’9 and he averaged 16.4 PPG in 33 minutes while shooting 46.7% from the field, 39.4% from three, and 92.6% from the stripe. He plays small forward with all the tools to be successful. This was a low risk high reward move as he’s just making $3.5M over two years. From what I’ve seen of him, he seems like a smart player who is a good scorer. Here are some highlights:

Still my favorite signing was Chauncey Billups. At this point in his career he’s not a game changer but he’s a hell of a mentor and with all the young guys, especially at guard positions he will serve a great purpose. In Detroit, he’ll play for two years at $5M and retire a piston, where he won an NBA title and was named finals MVP. He’ll be moved back to his natural PG position (he was played as an off guard in LAC). He’s still a good player, while he averaged only 8.4 PPG last year as a starter, he had injury problems and he averaged 15 the year prior, although he only played 20 games until injury. In Detroit, his minutes will be reduced, so he most likely will stay healthy. It helps that Mr. Big Shot comes through in the clutch. The Pistons have some other valuable pieces, such as Kyle Singler who showed promise last year and was named to the All Rookie second team, Jonas Jerebeko is solid guy off the bench and is a hard worker that makes hustle plays. Charlie Villanueva is still somewhat serviceable, and though he may be over looked Peyton Siva is a favorite of mine as I liked him when he played at Louisville. Finally, they have Will Bynum, who has been a solid player. He’s a been a good sixth man for them, averaging 10 PPG in 18.8 MPG is impressive. Many people don’t know he once had 20 assist in one game. Concluding, I think Jennings really takes the team to a new level. They are in serious playoff contention. This team is young and talented, Joe Dumars has done a nice job.

Charlotte Hornets here we come

In a move that was highly anticipated since the New Orleans Hornets changed to the Pelicans, the NBA has made it official. The Hornets will officially be back in Charlotte. Their teal jerseys and team colors were among the post popular in the 90s and some of the best players to ever play in Charlotte played under that moniker. This will take effect after next season, meaning the 2014-15 NBA season. The fans were excited. The team was a lot more successful  under this name than the Bobcats. The team had the nickname “Buzz City” as in the buzz from Hornets. Before this move was made official, the team made a website titled: backbuzzcity.com

This move was made official yesterday and all sorts of festivals were going on in Charlotte. MJ stated before he wanted to “bring the buzz back” and it has happened.  To see what Jordan had to say now: “We’re thrilled to bring back the Hornets to Charlotte and the Carolinas,” Jordan said. “The passion and enthusiasm around this name change by fans in this market has been unmatched. They overwhelmingly told us what they wanted, we listened and we couldn’t be happier with the Board of Governors’ approval of the name change. With the young team we are developing on the court, the direction of our business and the return of the Hornets name, we are extremely excited about our future. The buzz is back!”

Here is an interesting nugget on how the team got it’s name in the first place:

“The Hornets nickname in Charlotte dates back to the Revolutionary War, when British General Charles Cornwallis compared the resistance in Charlotte to a hornet’s nest. It has been used in sports by a minor league baseball team (1901-73), an upstart football league team (1974-75) and the city’s first NBA franchise.” -The Charlotte Observer

What do you think of the name change? Will it effect their performance on the court? It certainly will bring in more fans to the stadium.

How will the Raptors fair in 2013-14?

Playoff team or lottery team?

The Toronto Raptors are coming off a disappointing season, however the team is hoping to have all of their new acquisitions from both this and last year meshed in order to be a competitive team. The team is filled with young talent as well as a skilled player in Rudy Gay whom they acquired during the trade deadline of last year. The biggest move the Raptors did was this offseason in which they named Masai Ujiri as GM, formerly of the Denver Nuggets and the reigning NBA Executive of the Year. Ujiri has stated he did not want the team to tank, interestingly enough NBA prospect Andrew Wiggins who is projected to go first overall in next years draft stated he’d like to play for the Raptors. The first major move he made was trading Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson, and three draft picks (2016 first, 2014 second, 2017 first). Camby has been bought out and Quentin Richardson is next in line. Essentially, the only player they receive is Novak, who is one of the NBA’s best three point shooters and just what the Raptors need. Toronto was downright terrible shooting the three ball at just 34.3%. In Toronto, Novak will be asked to stretch the floor and knock down threes. It was time for Bargnani and Toronto to part ways anyway. This also allows for promising big man and 2011 5th overall pick Jonas Valanciunas to play more and develop. The team also amnestied Linas Kleiza which was a wise move as he’s coming off an injury and it saves them from a luxury tax hit. He then signed Tyler Hansbrough to a multi year deal (2 years $7.2M) another young big man looking for a fresh start. Hansbrough is one of the toughest players in the league. He brings physicality to the team and while he may not be a game changer he’s the kind of gritty player you’d love to have on your side. To quote Hansbrough: “I felt like they could use a guy like me,” Hansbrough said. “I can bring a lot of toughness to the team, a lot of hard work and effort and bring some leadership just the way I approach the game and hopefully it will rub off.” A good signing for the Raptors as they’ve lacked a presence similar to Hansbrough since Reggie Evans left. To explain the fresh start part, Hansbrough recently stated he’s more than just the role player he’s been for the Pacers. He feels he could use his skills effectively and improved to take his game to the next level. Defense is undoubtedly his strong suit but he feels he can improve his offense to be a more complete player. Moving on, the Raptors have a skilled point guard by the name of Kyle Lowry. Now that Jose Calderon is out of town, Lowry has a bigger role and he has more freedom to gel with fellow wing players Rudy Gay and Demar Derozan whom I will speak more of later. Lowry proved himself a capable starter in his last two years in Houston where he posted averages of 14 points and 6.65 assist in 122 games (109 starts) in that time span. He is a tough defender who is quick and can get to the rim. Another interesting thin about Lowry is his ability to rebound where he averaged 4.3 a game in that time span as well as 4.7 a game last year. At just 6 feet that is impressive. Now with a full season under his belt in Toronto expect more out of him this year. Backing him up are newly signed FAs DJ Augustin and Dwight Buycks. Augustin was another capable starting PG in Charlotte where he averaged 14.4 ppg and 6.1 assist in his last full season there but he struggled last year in Indiana backing up George Hill. Now, DJ is looking to put that season behind him and prove himself worthy again. Augustin provides energy and play making off the bench and he was signed to a one year contract worth just $1.2M. Dwight Buycks on the other hand is an unproven yet promising player who flashed a ton of potential in the summer league. He averaged 15.1 points for the Tulsa 66ers in the NBA D-League in 2011-12 and he averaged 18 points a game last year in France. Moving to shooting guard, the Raptors have Demar Derozan another young promising player. He is one of the most electrifying players who is able to score but needs to work on his jump shot. He is a player I have been a big fan of since he entered the NBA and he gets better every year including last year which he posted career highs in points per game (18.1), rebounds per game (3.9), assist per game (2.5), free throw percentage (83.1%), three point percentage (28.3%), and minutes per game (36.7). Behind him is Terrence Ross from Washington and the 2012 8th overall pick. Ross is another electrifying player and the reigning dunk contest champion. His rookie year was somewhat of a let down as he averaged just 6.4 points a game on 40.7% shooting. Both Raptors fans and I expected more. Although he did show flashes last year in a 29 point outing vs the Blazers in which he sunk six threes. This next year is huge for him. Ross is very talented and athletic which makes him a solid defender with potential and he’s already a solid ball handler with good vision. What he needs to do is improve his offense game and mechanics to become a game changer. Fellow sophomore Jonas V who was introduced earlier has bulked up this off season  is ready to be a solid contributor. The fate of the Raptors season and future may very well depend on the development of this two players. Filling out the starting lineup is star Rudy Gay and solid PF Amir Johnson. Gay was brought in via trade by the Grizzlies and is a solid all around player who can do it all. Gay averaged 19.5 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assist playing for Raptors last year. Pretty solid all around numbers. There have been trade rumors about Gay in the last few weeks but if the team wants to make the playoffs this year they’d be wise to keep him. The Raptors have a bright future IMO. Just look at the roster:

PG: Kyle Lowry

SG: DeMar Derozan

SF: Rudy Gay

PF: Amir Johnson

C: Jonas Valanciunas

Amir Johnson played well last year averaging 10 points and 7.5 rebounds (both career best) having Hansbrough behind him is a tough physical tandem. Behind Jonas is Aaron Gray, the team’s former starting center who can rebound and defend but not much more. The last key piece of the roster is Landry Fields. Fields was once a promising rookie. He was named rookie of the month as well as All-Rookie First Team. His rookie year was by far his best where he averaged 10 points and 6.4 dimes starting 81 games. But Landry’s play has dipped every year since including averaging less than 5 ppg last year. He’s talented and hopes for a bounce back year next season. In my opinion, the final three playoff spots in the East are wide open. Possible candidates include Washington, Hawks, Cavs, and others. Even the Bobcats may have a shot. As of now, I don’t have Toronto in the playoffs. However they are certainly there in the race to me. It still remains that other Eastern teams are better and the Raptors may not be able to compete and the mess continues with players not getting along etc. However I don’t see that happening.The Raptors are certainly talented but can they make the playoffs?

Why the Wizards are a Playoff Team

John Wall says he needs to be in the playoffs. Can he?

NBA Free Agent Frenzy is slowing down and fans are starting to discuss the upcoming season. The Warriors, Rockets, and Nets seem to be the most improved teams, but many overlook the Washington Wizards. Last season, the Wizards had another poor year, winning less than 30 games. However, John Wall was out for nearly half the season. At the time had Wall came back into the lineup, the team had just 5 wins under their belt. With Wall, the team nearly had a winning record. John Wall wasn’t the only key player who was plagued with injuries. Nene missed 21 games, and Bradley Beal missed 26 (as did Trevor Ariza) . If the team had stayed healthy they could have easily been a playoff team last year. However, not all of last year was bad. Beal showed a ton of promise and Martell Webster developed into a leader for the team. The Wizards acquired some great young talent via draft in Otto Porter this year. Porter, the third overall pick, is a physical specimen at 6’8 he is a versatile defender with a high basketball IQ. The team also acquired Eric Maynor via free agency. Maynor is a very promising point guard who–until injury–looked like he could have been a key part of the Thunder’s success for the future. After battling with injuries, he had a come back season in Portland last year and flashed the same potential. Inside, the Wizards have two solid bigs in Emeka Okafor and Nene. Both are good defenders. Now to discuss the bench: Behind those two they have solid contributors with Kevin Seraphin and  Trevor Booker however they need to add a true center. On the wings, they have Trevor Ariza who is an NBA vet with multiple playoff games under his belt as well as NBA finals experience. He is a solid role player. Chris Singleton is another promising player on the squad. I already talked about Martell Webster and Otto Porter (it will be interesting to see who takes the starting job at the three) but the team also has 2011 sixth overall pick Jan Vesley, who has been a disappointment so far but he has a lot of potential and the team is not giving up on him. Backing up Wall are Eric Maynor (already discussed) and Garrett Temple who was resigned because he did a decent job filling in for Wall last year. The team also drafted Glen Rice Jr from the NBA D League who is an intriguing prospect. Add all that to a starting lineup of:

PG: John Wall

SG: Bradley Beal

SF: Otto Porter

PF: Nene

C: Emeka Okafor

and the team looks pretty good

The wizards players are incredibly motivated as well. Several of the players including: Otto Porter, John Wall, and Martell Webster have made recent statements about the team doing well and specifically making the playoffs.

Conclusion:

In the end, I believe the Washington Wizards will make the playoffs in 2014. They have the talent, the motivation, and the drive. They have a solid bench to back up their impressive starting five. Most importantly, the future looks bright for this team.