Now, More than ever: Suns will need Nash to play like an MVP.
First Class Frequent Fliers “Title or Bust”:
1. Los Angeles Lakers: What I Like: Champs chances to 3-peat. Kobe’s competitiveness, clutchness, and willingness. His footwork, expanding post moves. Working with Hakeem the Dream. Quest for #6 Ron Artest as a lockdown defender (ie: Durant, Playoffs, 1st round) and Pau Gasol as the best scoring big. Derek Fisher’s rock-solid consistency. Starting 5 can’t be matched in the West. Team is deep. Phil Jackson, best coach in all of sports. Master at mind games. What I Don’t Like: Bynum will never amount to much. Injury-prone. Lamar Odom taking 3′s. Pau Gasol guarding Kevin Garnett. Raja Bell spurning La La Land.
2. Miami Heat: What I Like: Team’s mindset in Training Camp. Dwayne and LeBron’s intensity early on. Seriousness. Pat Riley’s role, decision to let Erik Spoelstra coach. Mario Chalmers as a plus at PG. Defensive potential. Whatever nickname the Big 3 give themselves. Eddie House, the NBA’s best 3-point shooter. Training camp being held at military base. Whenever they go on to the road, hostile environment. What I Don’t Like: The lack of big men. Centers are non-existent, not legit. Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem defending intimidating frontcourts. Haslem, starting center? 6-foot 8. All the negativity, talk that the trio will have tough time working together.
3. Boston Celtics: What I Like: Depth. Team’s cohesiveness. Doc Rivers as Coach of the Year. Rajon Rondo improving J/FT percentage. Avery Bradley (draft) and Von Wafer (FA) to offset loss of Tony Allen. “Beat L.A.” chant. A new chant to arise: “Beat the Heat”. “Been there, done that” attitude/mentality. Mindset isunparalleled, focus/determination is undeniably impressive. KG’s unmatched intensity, Ray Allen ‘s pure jumper, and Paul Pierce’s knack to score whenever, wherever, however. Rajon Rondo as the lead man for this gang. His creativity with the ball. His floor vision/hoop IQ. His rise as one of the game’s best. I can’t get over how good this team is for for the NBA. It’s underestimated. Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals. The rivalry. It’s what basketball’s about. The potential for the new rivalry against the Heat. How they started the “Big 3″ trend. Danny Ainge’s decision-making. October 26th in the Garden -ideal start to 2010 NBA season! What I Don’t Like: How they almost traded Rajon Rondo last Summer. Garnett’s chances to hold up another year. Tony Allen walking. Shaq starting any games. #36 for O’Neal. Any nickname given to him.
Serious Challengers, yet something’s missing:
4. Portland Trailblazers: What I Like: Under-the-radar squad. Depth. A healthy Brandon Roy to finish in Top 5 of MVP voting. Improving team at trade deadline in February with its abundance of assets. Nate McMillian’s calmness, leading by example. Batum/Bayless to up game to next level. Veteran leadership: Camby/Miller. Draft moves. Rose Garden, possibly best home record? What I Don’t Like: LaMarcus Aldridge not upgrading post game, where’s the progression? Trade bait? I don’t want to see the same LaMarcus, he’s not a steady #2 option next to Roy. Inside moves? No defined role for Bayless. Rudy Fernandez’s situation.
5. Chicago Bulls: What I Like: Derrick Rose to make the “next” jump. MVP, why not? I agree Derrick. Derrick Rose the MVP talk, to become reality soon enough. Top 10 player by season’s end, like his chances. His mid-range shot continues to get better. All hype is deserved, he’s becoming a #1 go-to-guy. Boozer-Noah frontcourt giving everyone fits. Sharpshooting role players. Keeping Joakim. What I Don’t Like: Luol Deng’s status. He’s never going to be the same. This team to beat a Miami or Boston in the Playoffs. Championship-caliber, so close, just not yet.
6. San Antonio Spurs: What I Like: Depth. 9 quality players. International flavor continuing with Tiago Splitter. The Big 3 still being able to lead team to NBA Finals. Coach Pop in charge. Blair/Hill to get a lot better. More than just spark plugs. Hill and Splitter starting. What I Don’t Like: Ginobili/Parker injuries. Backcourt is crazy tough to contain when healthy. Jefferson getting another chance to possibly start. Should come off bench. Go defensive-minded with Temple.
7. Milwaukee Bucks: What I Like: Brandon Jennings swagger/unfazed confidence. This is his “show”. So much, that back-up PG Luke Ridnour is gone. Complete control for Brandon a.k.a. “Zoom”. Bogut coming back. This team to potentially advance past 1st round. Maggette pick-up. Keeping Salmons. Scott Skiles foundation, what a coach. Role players/depth everywhere. Something special on the horizon. What I Don’t Like: Michael Redd’s current status/unclear situation. Too deep of a team? Wow, they are stacked. Trade coming?
Just don’t have “it” to grind games out:
8. Orlando Magic: What I Like: Dwight Howard as the center piece to build around. Don’t buy the talk that you can’t win it all with him as your go-to guy. Emergence of J.J. Redick. Additions of Richardson and Duhon. What I Don’t Like: Rashard Lewis, Vince Carter, and Jameer Nelson all still around. Team will not win with these strictly perimeter-oriented players. Way too streaky as shooters. Brandon Bass not getting good consistent minutes. Why no opportunity?
9. Oklahoma City Thunder: What I Like: Durant-Westbrook strengthening their games in World play. Giving Cook a shot. Serge Ibaka as the “next” premiere center. What I Don’t Like: Durant being supposedly on Kobe, Dwayne, and LeBron’s level. Not there yet. Quite the same with Westbrook, he’s not a Top 5 PG yet. I could give you 6 or 7 better than him. Jeff Green still around, why? Trading up to get Cole Aldrich? Huh? Morris Peterson is washed up. James Harden draft pick. Imagine team with Curry or Jennings?
10. New Orleans Hornets: What I Like: Chris Paul to get to where he was and lead team to Playoffs a la Steve Nash style. Paul regaining top PG status over Deron Williams, Nash, and Rondo. Trevor Ariza fitting in well. Quincy Pondexter giving team boost off bench. Alexander/Belinelli getting 2nd chances. Marcus Thornton going for 20 ppg. Jannero Pargo signing. New head coach Monty Williams. What I Don’t Like: Guys who won’t get any better: Okafor, Stojakovic. Infusion of youth getting overshadowed by these guys. Not getting enough in return for Darren Collison. Roll of the dice.
They can score, but can they defend:
11. Houston Rockets: What I Like: Yao’s limited minutes. Coach/GM combo, it’s dynamic, one of the best. Backcourt going for 60 combined on any given night. Courtney Lee instead of Ariza. Luis Scola, the All-Star. 2-deep at every position. Keeping Lowry. Team philosophy, to some extent. What I Don’t Like: Brooks/Martin being able to lead team and defend against West’s best backcourts. Jordan Hill’s development, his growth as a player hasn’t impressed me. Chase Budinger all of sudden injury concerns. Lack of star power. In Conclusion: GM Daryl Morey is a mastermind putting together deals. Rick Adelman should have been Coach of the Year last season. I have a feeling this won’t be the same team come mid-February. Also have a hunch the post-Yao era is sooner than we’d like to believe. With that said, this is still a 50-win team and I think we could see the explosive backcourt of Brook-Martin split up. Nevertheless, this “team atmosphere” will go a long way, possibly past the 1st round. I will be hard pressed to miss a game. This team is exciting to watch.
12. Washington Wizards: What I Like: Wall/Arenas as the best backcourt in the East. Super athletic bigs. New change of direction, playoff potential. John Wall, rookie of the year. Gilbert Arenas, comeback player of the year. Both in L.A. come February. Hinrich addition.What I Don’t Like: Al Thornton’s hit or miss game. Kirk Hinrich getting let go by Chicago. Bulls will regret this decision. (I know $ played its usual part). Lack of defensive emphasis? Could be a problem if it gets to out of hand.
13. Dallas Mavericks: What I Like: Jason Kidd’s level of play. He is outplaying Devin Harris at his age. Trade was good move. Dirk’s decision to stay. Tyson Chandler pick-up. Roddy B as the “next” lethal scoring combo guard. What I Don’t Like: SF questions. Butler/Marion, can they co-exist? Jason Terry’s plummeting play. Relying on Chandler’s health. Dirk as a #1 guy in the Playoffs. Same old Mavs…
14. Utah Jazz: What I Like: Raja Bell signing. Big-time toughness, adds 3-point stroke as well. Al Jefferson, to change pace. Deron Williams/Paul Milsap on the pick ‘n roll. Jerry Sloan, old reliable. Role players like Watson, Miles, and Evans. What I Don’t Like: Al Jefferson, if its going to be run ‘n gun still with Deron. Kirilenko, what a mystery. Gordon Hayward logging significant, meaningful minutes. Boozer, Korver losses will hurt. Okur’s health issues. Lack of bonafide wing man to score next to Deron.
Promising, as a 1st round exit at best:
15. Atlanta Hawks: What I Like: Go-getting Crawfords. instant creators off the pine. Brilliant move to trade for Jordan. Josh Smith elevating his game. Al Horford teaming up with Smith as one of the best frontcourts on the glass. Windex, cleaning up. Jeff Teague’s potential. Bench looks good. What I Don’t Like: Mike Bibby as the starting PG. Joe Johnson’s as a second-tier star. Lack of overall defensive intensity, focus. If Teague and Jo. Crawford don’t get solid minutes at some point in the season.
16. Phoenix Suns: What I Like: Anything and everything Steve Nash. A whole slew of hustling role players all over the place. Scrappy team alongside Nash. Length is absurd at forward position (many fast breaks, alley-oop dunks). Versatility in full blast. Robin Lopez making the next step. He’s going to be a good center for many years to come. Grant Hill still going strong. Jared Dudley/Goran Dragic in bigger roles. What I Don’t Like: Having to count on Richardson as my main #2 guy. No Amare really, really hurts. Loss of Lou Amundson. Too many slashers, roster is full of one-trick ponies. Anything and everything about Hedo Turkoglu. What a stiff, played like one in Toronto. Bum pick-up. Playoff chances. In Conclusion: This team will take on the New York Knicks for the most exciting squad to watch. Phoenix will fight Utah for the 8th and final playoff spot in the West. Nash wins 3rd MVP Award, averaging 23 points and 12 assists a game, yet, Suns fall short of Playoffs.
17. New Jersey Nets: What I Like: Favors as the next big-time stud at PF. Brook Lopez getting 20-10. Frontline duo is going to be ferocious. A healthy Devin Harris. Terrence Williams as the do-it-all guy. Avery Johnson as my coach. Outlaw, Morrow splitting time at the 3 spot. Big fan of both. Jordan Farmar and Joe Smith acquisitions. James/Murphy as hard workers on the glass. Sneaking into Playoffs. Guarantee it. Not going for Melo, would be giving up way too much What I Don’t Like: Trading Jordan Crawford on draft day. Logjam at SF. 1st round match-up in the Playoffs. Still a player or two away from serious contention.
18. New York Knicks: What I Like: Amare signing. They needed someone, something. Plethora of sharpshooters, scorers, and legs to excel on the fastbreak. D’Antoni’s up-tempo style. Lots of points. All offense, fun, fun, fun. MSG packed houses. Spike Lee. Basketball back in the mecca of hoop, NYC. Scaring a team a la G.S. Warriors 2007 in 1st round of Playoffs. Deep squad, looks better than I thought on second glance. Lots of pieces in place. Getting not only Anthony Randolph but Kelenna Azubuike and Ronny Turiaf in return for David Lee. Buzz, hype surrounding home games. Summer of ’11 sweepstakes: Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul joining up with Amare to form their own “Big 3″ party. Fascinating. Create a rivalry with “Miami Thrice”? Only one can dream. What I Don’t Like: Only one true PG, that’s Raymond Felton. Can he be a Steve Nash in this offense? Why did they let Duhon walk. Amare-Felton pairing in the pick ‘n roll doesn’t scare teams. Lots riding on him. Not a good idea at all. All the hype about the new Russian center. Eddy Curry’s contract/pro career. Bill Walker’s luck with injuries. So talented. Andy Rautins, if he doesn’t get a fair shot. He could easily be one of the best 3-point specialists -this year. Not having a 1st round pick to trade for Melo. Giving up on Jordan Hill too quickly. The Rockets trade for T-Mac. Counting on Randolph to be a stat-sheet stuffer a la David Lee? Dicey.
Pieces in place mixed in with lots of uncertainties:
19. Denver Nuggets: What I Like: George Karl returning. Offensive-minded team with nothing to lose. Ty Lawson’s future as starting PG. What I Don’t Like: Not trading Melo yet. Trouble makers, underachievers, and no sense of direction. Nene’s injury history.
20. Memphis Grizzlies: What I Like: Starting 5 and their togetherness playing well as a unit. Team chemistry is apparent. Gasol at center, Conley at PG are underrated. Always interesting club to watch. What I Don’t Like: They just signed their 1st round draft picks. Hasheem Thabeet amounting to anything special, or just worthwhile in the NBA. Waste of a #2 overall pick. A lot of #2 and #3 guys, just like Hawks. Atlanta West?
Fun to watch, no plans, making reservations for vacation mid-April and beyond:
21. Philadelphia 76ers: What I Like: Hire of Doug Collins. Evan Turner as the next big thing. Andre Iguodala as his sidekick. Turner-Iguodala working together, forming a dynamic duo. Team keeping Andre (boy, is he a strong kid). Going big with backcourt of Turner and Iggy. Turner is capable of running the show right away as rook (ie: Tyreke, Sacramento). Turner playing like a vet, not a newbie. Trades for Brackins and Hawes to bolster front line. Jrue Holiday’s progession, along with Thaddeus Young and Lou Williams’ ability to find ways to score. Clearly obvious this roster is filled with skilled young bloods. Marreese Speights high ceiling as a scoring PF, a la Zach Randolph. Exciting team, don’t know what to expect. What I Don’t Like: Lack of identity early on. Team will struggle at first. Speights inability to stay on the floor due to health. Figuring out process may kill any Playoff hopes. Elton Brand’s stint as a Philadelphia 76er. What a bummer, a shame he can’t play consistently like he used to. Thinking this could be a true sleeper team, but having my second thoughts. Lack of frontcourt defense will be the clincher that trumps club.
22. Detroit Pistons: What I Like: No big men/7-footers. Love their small ball approach, especially with the guard play. Just go all guards, scorers. Picking up Tracy McGrady. T-mac’s a comeback player of the year candidate. Assortment of pure scorers to choose. Jam-packed variety of starting 5′s to mix and match. Ben Gordon in a “zone”. Rip Hamilton running around forever. Guaranteed mid-range J. His overall game/work ethic. “Mr. Everlast”. What I Don’t Like: #1 guy yet to emerge. How can you not like this team? A fun, pick-up style, street ball atmosphere/feel to it. “Warriors of the East”.
23. Los Angeles Clippers: What I Like: Roster full of bonafide players. Talent is alarming. Intriguing unit. Blake Griffin returning. Can’t wait to see him play. Eric Gordon’s rise over the Summer/off-season. Their role players that know their distinct role. Front line’s mean streak. What I Don’t Like: Specifically Baron Davis. Biggest underachiever, waste of talent. Always out of shape, always hurt. Could easily be a perennial premiere All-Star PG. Completely frustrating, period. Playoff chances. Talent is there, can’t question that, but this team is still miles upon miles away. Vinny Del Negro is too laid-back, this squad needs a dominant, type-A personality running the show. Skill is in place, yet is it deceiving? I think so.
24. Indiana Pacers: What I Like: Darren Collison trade. Major coup. He will do wonders for this team. Granger coming back healthy. Roy Hibbert’s evolution from collegiate level to pros. Tyler Hansbrough making a significant contribution off the bench. He will make his presence felt after injury-riddled rookie campaign. What I Don’t Like: Getting guys like Brandon Rush and Paul George year after year. They need someone next to Granger to shoulder the burden. Time to take a gamble and land a big fish. Collison is a start. T.J. Ford’s on-going injury saga. He would have been an elite PG. He was for a moment, until injuries just hit him hard. Lance Stephenson’s story/character issues. Larry Bird calling the shots.
25. Golden State Warriors: What I Like: Curry/Ellis backcourt. Most potent scoring 1-2 punch at guard in the Association. Curry’s silky smooth, effortless game. Knows how to play the game inside, and out. David Lee pick-up. Lots of offense. New uni’s/logo. Always expect the unexpected, new players I don’t even know about coming out from nowhere. Guys that will get a chance to play and excel, not anywhere else, yet they can shine in Golden State. Reggie Williams story from the D-League. Lou Amundson signing is just what the team needed. There will never be a night where this team is lacks the element of thrill. Jeremy Lin’s chances to play. Watch him. Finally, Don Nelson is gone. What I Don’t Like: No defense set in place. Brandan Wright, has he ever played an NBA game? When I look up and down the roster, I see a lot of “second chance” guys. Don’t believe that’s all too good of a thing. A sign of a team desperately looking for some answers. Other than the Big 3, who can you rely on? #1 pick Ekpe Udoh is already hurt. Getting rid of Anthony Morrow. Starting Dorell Wright.
26. Charlotte Bobcats: What I Like: Shaun Livingston’s remarkable feel-good comeback story. He’s playing well, and will continue to do so. D.J. Augustin finally get a real shot at starting PG. He will run the show better than Felton. Watching Gerald Wallace compete on both ends of the floor on a nightly basis. What I Don’t Like: Playoffs again. Good thing, they showed they didn’t belong last season, after getting swept. The players on the roster don’t gel. Just a big group of question marks, who’s steering this ship? No direction. Larry Brown’s crew is going to take three steps backward after taking two steps forward. Big-time underachievers, draft busts, they are all stockpiled on this team.
27. Sacramento Kings: What I Like: Tyreke’s 20-5-5 rookie campaign. Supporting cast around Evans. Future of this team. Watching Carl Landry go to work like a mad man. What I Don’t Like: Jason Thompson’s stunt/lack of growth as a player. Thought he would be better than this. I don’t know if he’s going to make leaps and bounds, could just be your average PF. DeMarcus Cousins’ work ethic/conditioning. He will always be out of shape. Donte Greene/Hassan Whiteside, more or less going to wow you one night, the next night, they will be missing.
Tank session, jockeying for the #1 overall pick:
28. Minnesota Timberwolves: What I Like: Kevin Love becoming one of the best power forwards in the Association. I don’t believe many know how good of a player he truly is. Ricky Rubio’s future. If he makes it to Minnesota next season, this team’s fortunes will suddenly skyrocket. Wes Johnson/Corey Brewer in the front court, with the team going small. A starting 5 of: Flynn-Ellington-Brewer-Johnson-Love. Pick-up of Webster and Beasley for almost nothing. Low risk/high reward. Anthony Tolliver, Webster, and Beasley proving punch/spark/instant offense off the bench. Vintage Kurt Rambis goggles returning to the sidelines. Outstanding choice for coach. What I Don’t Like: Love’s injury woes. Messy Ricky Rubio situation potentially turning more so for the worse than the better. Sense of direction. Lack of continuity/master plan. Any so-called experts/hoop analyst dogging Ricky Rubio. He’s going to become a star in this league.
29. Toronto Raptors: What I Like: Supreme athleticism across the line. Lots of uncertainty makes for a wild ride. Interested to see how guys like DeRozan, Davis, Johnson, and Wright fare. Bargnani at 22-23 ppg. What I Don’t Like: Letting Bosh walk for nothing. Should have dealt him at earlier. Team looks really bad. Lots of projects. This can’t be good for attendance. Will the NBA get rid of this team soon?
30. Cleveland Cavaliers: What I Like: Acquiring Ramon Sessions. He can be a solid starting NBA PG. Anderson Varejao’s hustle and J.J. Hickson’s ups. Daniel Gibson starting with Sessions. I think Gibson is better than what people give him credit for. Antwan Jamison’s innate ability to score, along with his uncanny way of doing it. Leon Powe’s tremendous recovery. Guy’s a warrior. Danny Green’s dance moves. What I Don’t Like: Mo Williams’ attitude. He needs to be out -such an obvious front runner. Parker/Moon experiment. Getting virtually nothing for LeBron this season. Dan Gilbert. This guy disgusts me. His comments were 100% out of line. I would not want to play for him at all. He’s a complete liar, telling fans this team is going to compete for a championship in the near future. Non-sense, they are so far away. Disgraceful. Cleveland fans, and how they treated LeBron after he left. Thoughts on #1 overall pick: Worth tanking for. No hesitation. Sell the season, land a franchise PG that can run the show. First-year PG’s Kyrie Irving (Duke) and Brandon Knight (Pittsburgh) are worthy candidates. Start off fresh with one of these one-and-done athletes.
Could we eventually see him holding up “3 fingers”?