The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

NBA Preview: 2007-08

Posted by disappointmentzone on 26 October 2007

The 2007-08 NBA season tips off Tuesday. Though the Disappointment Zone is primarily concerned with Cleveland-related teams, from time to time it’s fun to take a look at the wider sports landscape. This is one of those times. Here, then, is a mini preview of the NBA.

[Editor’s note: I wrote the introduction first, which is why a preview that runs over 3500 words is being called ‘mini’.]

Eastern Conference:

1. Detroit Pistons

Notes: Detroit is the best defensive team in the conference, with Tayshaun Prince and Rasheed Wallace being two threats to win Defensive Player of the Year. That’s enough to make them the prohibitive favorite in the Eastern Conference. Without Billups playing for a contract will he play with the same intensity he did last year? Probably, but you never know.

2. Boston Celtics

Notes: With three All Stars Boston should scare a lot of people, but if Kevin Garnet goes down with an injury Boston is not in the least bit formidable. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce would be able to keep the team competitive, but they’d have no front court and so suddenly teams like New York, Toronto, and Orlando would compare quite favorably against the Celtics, with Miami, Detroit, and Chicago holding a sizable advantage over them.

3. Chicago Bulls

Notes: Chicago has no front court scoring but should out rebound pretty much every team they play. Deng is vastly underrated (although that’s slowly changing), Gordon has transformed himself into a very efficient scorer (but needs to be more cognizant of when to slow down), and Hinrich is a scrappy leader; together they make for a very nice back court. Tyrus Thomas bounces around like he’s on a pogo stick, but he doesn’t play good man-to-man defense and that’s going to be a problem because Wallace is going to have to cover for him, leaving the interior a little more vulnerable than it should be, which might be a problem against a team like Boston or Detroit, maybe even Cleveland.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Notes: With Varejao I think the Cavs are #3. Without him I think they’re closer to #7. I’m putting them at #4 because they play better team defense than the teams below. Many people are hating on Cleveland but Devin Brown is a huge upgrade over Pavlovic and Gibson should solve the back court issues that plagued the team at the start of last season. If LeBron can make a jump shot he’ll challenge for the scoring title and if he develops a post game he’ll be a more unstoppable on offense than Kobe Bryant. He’s still a poor one-on-one defender, although he’s getting better.

5. Miami Heat

Notes: If Wade is on the sidelines until 2008 — and there’s talk that he might be — then Miami will be battling for a playoff spot come February. There’s too much mileage on Shaq for him to keep the team in the thick of things for anything longer than a couple of months, and if he goes down with an injury this team is suddenly one of the worst in the league (assuming Wade isn’t back). With a healthy Wade and Shaq, though, Miami can beat anyone is the East. The wild card is Jason Williams, who’s playing for a contract.

6. Washington Wizards

Notes: Washington is very thin in the front court and has no interior defense, which should be a problem considering no one in the back court is interested in playing defense either, save for DeShawn Stevenson. This might be the first team whose season could be determined by ESPN. If Arenas isn’t getting his publicity he’ll switch his focus from winning to scoring, which will be to the detriment of the team. They’ll score a lot of points and win some games simply by demoralizing their opponent, but they’ll struggle against teams with size down low (Miami, for instance) or in games where the tempo is dictated to them (against Detroit, say).

7. New Jersey Nets

Notes: When healthy this team has as much talent as anyone, but it’s also one of the oldest teams in the conference so counting on everyone being healthy might be a blind wish. If people do start dropping it wouldn’t be beyond reason to expect some major roster moves, starting with Jason Kidd, who came close to being traded last year. Kristic is a fringe All Star who could be one of the three best power forwards in the conference if he learns to rebound. Right now he’s still a little soft.

8. Toronto Raptors

Notes: The Raptors are the deepest teams in the league. Outside of Chris Bosh they do not have anyone who’s very scary, but they don’t have any big holes, either. This is one of those teams where six guys could average right around 12 ppg, with only Bosh averaging over 20 ppg. Unfortunately none of those 12 ppg scorers would be able to replicate the production of Bosh were he to go down with an injury, which is definitely not out of the question. The guy gets hurt a lot. Garbajosa also needs to stay healthy if this team is going to compete for the playoffs.

9. Orlando Magic

Notes: By the end of the season Dwight Howard will be considered the best center in the conference. He doesn’t have Shaq’s size but he’s the most athletic center in the East — and the margin isn’t even close. He’s a freak who could be unstoppable if he develops a mid-range game. There’s no denying Rashard Lewis’s talent, but he’s overpaid and no one knows how he’ll respond to being The Man. Still, pretty much every team in the conference would gladly trade their front court for Orlando’s. The problem is the back court. Jameer Nelson is gritty but can he orchestra an offense? JJ Redick can shoot, but can he do, um, anything else? Also, Hedo Turkoglu looks funny. Van Gundy can coach.

10. Milwaukee Bucks

Notes: Milwaukee has a funky roster, but I kind of like them. They’re a European model basketball team built entirely out of guys who have no idea how to play European style basketball because they grew up watching the NBA of the early 1990s. The more they try to conform to NBA norms the less productive they’ll be. Villanueva is not a prototypical power forward, Bogut is not a prototypical center, Mo Williams is not a prototypical point guard, and Micheal Redd is the best catch-and-shoot player in the NBA. Put it this way — Mike D’Antonio would have this team in the playoffs. Mike Brown, meanwhile, would have this team in the cellar of the Central Division.

11. New York Knicks

Notes: New York has a fair amount of talent, a decent coach and a terrible GM who happen to be the same guy, and is equally likely to make a surprise run for the playoffs or be involved in a some team-wide brawl over cocaine, hookers, and playing time. This might be the most dysfunctional team in the NBA. There is nothing that this team is incapable of doing. No story is too extreme or too far removed from the realm of possibilities as to be unbelievable. Who can’t see Zach Randolph pulling a gun on Eddy Curry because he’s hogging the ball? Or Nate Robinson bitch slapping David Lee while Quentin Richardson looks on with a single tear in his eye? Anything is possible with New York. Anything.

12. Atlanta Hawks

Notes: If Acie Law IV takes the starting job from Speedy Claxton within the first month of the season the Hawks have a chance to make the playoffs. It’s not a particularly large chance mind you, but after drafting in the lottery for about nineteen consecutive years the Hawks have (finally) compiled a roster that actually has talent talent. Of course most of that talent is distributed among sixteen forwards. That might be a problem.

13. Philadelphia 76ers

Notes: Andre Miller is underrated as a point guard, Reggie Evans and Samuel Dalembert can play defense and rebound, and Andre Iguodala is turning into a solid all around player. These facts alone should keep Philly out of the cellar of the conference, but if Miller is traded and Kyle Korver finds himself starting then this team will sink and sink fast.

14. Charlotte Bobcats

Notes: Can anyone name the last time the third overall pick missed his second season with a knee injury and his team actually got better because he wasn’t playing? Probably not…and that’s all you need to know about how bad the Bobcats are.

15. Indiana Pacers

Notes: What a crummy roster. O’Neal is by far the best player, but his game has declined so much over the last three seasons that he’s practically unrecognizable. Granger is probably the only bright spot, but if Travis Diener can play himself into the rotation there’s a chance you could see Diener, Dunleavy, Murphy, Foster, and Harrison on the court at once, which for reasons that probably don’t need to be explained would be highly comical. If I were a Pacers fan all I’d be rooting for is seeing that combination of guys playing together at the same time. Because really, what else would you have to root for?


Western Conference:

1. San Antonio Spurs

Notes: San Antonio is quietly amazing every year. They don’t blow teams out like Dallas or Phoenix, but they don’t get blown out either. That’s due to their defense, which is the best in the league. They rotate better than any other team and their help-side defense is a thing of beauty (and yes, help-side defense can be beautiful). The rebound incredibly well, too. Defense and rebounding is always enough to keep a team competitive, but then they have a legitimately potent offense with Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli. They’re a boring team to watch in the same way that a good running team in football is boring to watch, which is to say that they really aren’t boring, they’re just damn efficient and don’t have to rely on anything fancy to get the job done. Woody Hayes would love the Spurs.

2. Dallas Mavericks

Notes: Dallas is built for the regular season but not for the post season. They have such an abundance of talent that they can practically waltz their way into 55+ wins, but they have such an utter lack of resilience that they wilt under the slightest bit of pressure, as we all saw last season against Golden State, or the year before against the Heat, or the year before against… At some point, though, that talent is going to be enough to overcompensate for whatever mental fortitude they lack. Howard, Terry, and Harris continue to improve and Mavs go about nine deep, so there is no reason for them not to be rested come the playoffs. They’re better than last season and that might be enough.

3. Phoenix Suns

Notes: Steve Nash held this team together with his teeth last season and now it looks like the seams are finally ripping, what with Shawn Merion turning into a petulant ninny. Grant Hill was an excellent pick up — he’s cheap, can make the jumper, and will provide ballast, which might go a very long way keeping in Nash sane and productive. The Suns feel they were screwed out of the playoffs by poor referring and that might be enough to forge them together for one last run, but they will only go as far as Amare will take them. Nash will get them to the playoffs and give this team every opportunity to win, but those playoff victories will only come if Amare is playing defense. Without that they probably can’t get past either Dallas or San Antonio.

4. Utah Jazz

Notes: Last season I predicted that Jerry Sloan would win Coach of the Year. Frankly, I think he was jobbed. He’s an incredible coach, probably my favorite in the NBA, and it’s hard to bet against a Sloan-coached team, especially one with this much talent. Last season Derron Williams blossomed into an elite point guard, but he could get even better if his mid-range jumper improves. Kirilenko is an odd character and he may very well quit during the middle of the season and move to Siberia, but while he’s in Utah he should be productive, and with Boozer and Okur the Jazz have a talented, veteran front court. If they can improve defensively they’ll be hard to beat because not many teams will be able to score with them.

5. Denver Nuggets

Notes: In Kenyon Martin, Marcus Camby, and Nene the Nuggets have three guys whose best abilities are rebounding, rebounding, and rebounding. All this rebounding will come in handy because Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony miss a lot of shots. Of course, Iverson and Anthony also make a lot of shots too, but that’s more a function of volume rather than ability. Still, scoring matters (duh) and the Nuggets will score. Denver provides a good home court advantage but that won’t matter come the playoffs because at some point they’ll play one of the elite teams in the West and at that point they’ll lose without fanfare.

6. Houston Rockets

Notes: Rafer Alston is one big turnover and is completely incompetent when it comes to getting the best out of the players around him. Steve Francis waits in the wings and the Rockets would be wise to turn to him; he actually has played well with Yao before. As for Yao, he’s the best center in the West and he’ll finally be playing with a good power forward in Luis Scola. This should provide him with a little more freedom, which will make him even more effective. If you could combine Shane Battier (defense, passion) and Tracy McGrady (offense, droopy eyes) you might have the best player in the NBA. You have to wonder how it is that they could compliment each other so well on paper but not as well on the court.

7. New Orleans Hornets

Notes: Chris Paul is nasty, but he needs to work on his shooting and on not getting injured. Same with Tyson Chandler. He might be the most aggressive rebounder in the NBA and pound for pound he’s probably the best, too. Because, seriously, he weighs about 174 pounds. This is the season that the league catches up with David West, but he’s still too good to be completely shut down and when he’s double teamed he’ll have two good three point shooters to pass to in Peja and Morris Peterson. This was already a pretty solid defensive team. If the offense starts to click they’ll turn heads.

8. Golden State Warriors

Notes: All Golden State knows how to do is score. Honestly, that’s it. They don’t rebound particularly well and they sure as hell don’t play defense — they gave up 106.9 points per game last season. Al Harrington is overrated and Stephen Jackson is a little batty and Monta Ellis completely disappears when it matters, but Matt Barnes has a lot of tattoos and Baron Davis has a fantastic beard and looks a little bit like Black Thought. So all those pesky flaws are easy to let slide. Everyone would rather see a 121-116 game than a 87-83 game anyway and that’s the promise of Golden State. They were put on the earth to score a lot and give up a lot of points. If only more teams could be like the Warriors.

9. Los Angeles Lakers

Notes: The Lakers should probably trade Kobe Byrant because this team seems incapable of doing anything with him and he seems uninterested in doing anything for them. Odom might be the only player in the NBA who is simultaneous overrated and underrated. You see a guy who’s almost seven feet tall dribble around like a point guard and pull up for a three point shot and you think, “Wow, now here’s something you don’t see everyday! This guy’s got talent!” And you’re right. There aren’t many other players in the league like Odom; in five seasons he’ll be remembered as a poor man’s Durant. But oftentimes those three point attempts are the natural conclusion to a string of idiotic decisions, many of which start with him dribbling the ball around like he’s a point guard. Also, it’s 50/50 that Kobe Byran belittles Andrew Bynum into tears at least once this season. 10-1 odds that it happens during a game on TNT.

10. Memphis Grizzlies

Notes: No one really knows what to expect from Memphis, but if Iavaroni coaches this team up they’ll be on the fringe of the playoffs. The good citizens of Memphis ought to conspire to break the legs of Damon Stoudamire because John Navarro and Mike Conley Jr. are going to be much better options at the point. I’m still waiting to see Rudy Gay do anything; he might be the only player in history to ride a reputation built on a few good high school games into the NBA. The guy did nothing at UConn but he was still a high draft pick and people have high expectations, but right now I’d classify his potential as a less interested and less talented Tracy McGrady. Pau Gasol with a beard is much better than a beardless Gasol, and a beardless Gasol sounds like it should be a species of magic forest creature. A Beardless Gasol. I like the sound of that.

11. Los Angeles Clippers

Notes: Speaking of NBA players that evoke make believe creatures, Sam Cassell and Chris Kaman play for the Clippers. On paper this team is definitely better team than the Grizzlies, but I have visions of them floundering without Elton Brand and Livingston. This team has 1998-era Clippers written all over it. If they don’t get off to a hot start the trend of being a Clippers fan will come screeching to an end. Oh what will Frankie Muniz do?

12. Sacramento Kings

Notes: Ron Artest is an outstanding defensive player and Kevin Martin is a quality shooting guard even if no one East of California has heard of him (except for fantasy geeks). But Mike Bibby is an inefficient scorer more interested in points than assists, which is troublesome because he’s a point guard; Brad Miller’s sporting cornrows; and Mikki Moore is a starter, which should be an inspiration to below-average contract-year basketball players everywhere. The Kings stink.

13. Portland Trail Blazers

Notes: If Greg Oden were healthy the Blazers would be playing for a playoff spot. Since he’s out for the season with a busted knee the fine residents of Portland will just have to settle for having a team of nice young men, which is a huge turnaround from the Trail Blazers of a few years ago. Martell Webster is a player to watch and if Bradon Roy is healthy he might flirt with making the All Star team. The Blazers are in position to develop their young guys, earn a lottery pick, nab another solid rookie, and then return in 2008-09 with Oden, an experienced if youthful supporting cast, and another talented rookie. However many wins this team has this season you can easily add 12-17 for next season. They’re like a better constructed Atlanta Hawks.

14. Seattle Supersonics

Notes: Kevin Durant is going to be abused this season. Not only is he weaker than a school girl but he’s also as offensively capable as any rookie since LeBron James. Put those together and you have this scenario: Durant embarrassing some cagey veteran on the offensive end, who then immediately pounds him into the floor on the defensive end before giving him a hard foul next time on offense. Fortunately Durant has the hard-nosed, intimidating force that is Nick Collison ready to defend him and scare opponents away. He’s like Charles Oakley lite, except at all. Chris Wilcox looks like he should have been cast in The Wire as muscle for Stringer Bell and Luke Ridnour looks like a twelve year old boy. This is an odd cast of characters.

15. Minnesota Timberwolves

Notes: This team is a joke. Boston’s castoffs + Miami’s castoffs + Kevin McHale’s savvy touch = recipe for 22 wins. Al Jefferson is nice, Corey Brewer could have a good season (though I expect a huge learning curve), Foye might turn into a nice player, and jettisoning Ricky Davis was a good idea, but the good people of Minnesota already have to deal with brutally cold winters so expecting them to support this team might be a little too much. Minnesota is terrible.

Eastern Conference Finals: Detroit over Chicago

Western Conference Finals: Phoenix over San Antonio

NBA Finals: Phoenix over Detroit

MVP: LeBron James
Coach of the Year: Greg Popovich
Defensive Player of the Year: Rasheed Wallace
Rookie of the Year: Kevin Durant
6th Man: Manu Ginobli


13 Responses to “NBA Preview: 2007-08”

  1. hey man…I’m a total homer and I really don’t keep up with any other teams but Cleveland in any sport. So that probably explains my confusion. What I do not understand is how you (and everyone else it seems) ranks the Cavs anything less than 2? First of all…they are all still together for the most part. I know Andy is a great plus…but it’s not like we don’t have Drew if Andy sets sail. Most of the team was young last year. It seems to me to be a safe assumption that their playoff run will have tremendous effect on their development as individuals and as players…that the Cavs will be better…will know what it takes to win to a much better degree…

    And when you have the guy who will, barring significant injury issues, go down as the games greatest of all time…

    And who knows what Daniel Gibson will emerge to become this year? I know one thing…there is every reason to believe that he will be much better than last year…and he wasn’t half bad last year.

    How can you not rank them higher? If they lost a significant player, or if this year they were starting to get over the hill in age I could understand (I guess “Z” does fall into that category). But this team to me is still on the upswing…couple that with the tremendous playoff experience they had last year…I guess I just don’t understand how they are not the favorite in the East.

  2. Detroit, Boston, and Chicago have more talent that the Cavs. Other than LBJ the Cavs have a lot of question marks. Z is getting older and the talk during the preseason is that he’s not being effectively worked into the offense. Drew Gooden is a solid player but he’s not in the class of KG, Pierce, Rasheed Wallace, or Ben Wallace. Gibson is unproven and has potential, but Gordon, Billups, Allen, Hinrich, and Hamilton are all proven and at this point much better than Gibson. Larry Hughes has yet to have a decent season as a Cav and the smart money is on that trend continuing.

    With Z and Marshall and to a lesser extent Snow the Cavs have their share of aging veterans.

    LeBron is the best player in the conference and over a 7 game series his talent is so great that he can single handedly guide the Cavs through the playoffs. But over 82 games he needs a good supporting cast and right now there are a number of other teams with better rosters than the Cavs.

  3. Ken said

    “[Gay] might be the only player in history to ride a reputation built on a few good high school games into the NBA.”

    What about DaJuan Wagner?

  4. Good call on Wagner. And there are a few other guys who fall into that category as well. What I was trying to say about Gay–and I did a poor job articulating it–is that even after last season people are still high on him and I have no idea why that’s the case other than he’s had a handful of very good games in his past that is blinding people to his seeming indifference 98% of the time. Most Wagner-like players are clearly busts after their first seasons.

    Actually, I’m not even sure that makes sense.

    I wrote this whole thing in one sitting and finished at 4am…and I didn’t care after the first 10 teams in the East.

  5. Erik said

    You got sucked into the Phoenix trap … tsk tsk.

    Every year, there is always a noticeable percentage of NBA prognosticators that proclaim THIS will be the year that the Suns finally win a title. The Sporting News is among the Suns faithful this year.

    I guess people simply can’t bring themselves to believe that a team as entertaining to watch as the Suns can’t win a title. But as long as San Antonio and Dallas continue to set the pace in the West with superior defense, the Suns are, at best, a conference finals team.

    The Suns are still easily the third-best team in the NBA, but I think all you needed to know about Phoenix you found out in last year’s second round, when they were bruised and battered out of the playoffs by the Spurs.

    The Suns are not going to score their way to a title. Period.

  6. Will said

    I know you’re a big WoW fan so I’m surprised to see you ranked the Pistons #1. I don’t see any way they’ll be better than the Celtics, especially with the age issue. The Bulls look incredible but the possible Kobe trade could derail them (and right now it’s an excellent possibility). But injuries aside I think it’s clear that the Celtics are the prohibitive favorites.

    Not so sure the Varejao-less Cavs would fall to #7 though – the Devin Brown upgrade could mitigate that loss. But there is no question that they are a worse team without Andy. Probably 5-7 wins worse.

  7. Phoenix (who I also picked last year) came thisclose to knocking off the Spurs last season–surely having two starting players, including their starting center, could have made a big difference in that series. As it was they were suspended, putting the Suns at a monumental disadvantage, and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Besides, isn’t the same “This is the season” argument also applied to the Mavs, who were knocked out in the first round last year and who completely folded to the Heat the year before?

    While I don’t think a one dimensional team can win a title, I do think that defense is awfully easier to teach than offense (I mean, look at the Cavs). Phoenix is not that far from being a league-average defensive team if Amare can step up his game. If they can become average on defense their offense is just as potent as either the Spurs or Mavs.

    They aren’t a ridiculous pick if only because of how NBA playoff seeding works. Two of the elite three teams will play each other before the conference finals. The third team, should they advance that far, will have the upper hand.

  8. Will–

    I like Detroit because I think they’re a better defensive team than the Celtics and who have a better distribution of scoring and so are less vulnerable to a crippling injury.

    The Celtics have three very good players who combined average ~66 points. The Celtics will need to find 30 more points each night to remain competitive (this shouldn’t be too tough) and probably an additional 5-10 more points to be elite. Those extra few points are going to be tough to come by–Rondo will need to blossom–but KG is so good defensively maybe it won’t matter. Either way they have no bench.

    This Celtics team reminds me a lot of the 03-04 Lakers team that had Kobe, Shaq, Peyton, and Malone. Everyone thought they would waltz out of the Finals with the trophy, but they were destroyed 4-1 by the Pistons. Well I think this Pistons team is better than the one that knocked off the Lakers. They might be older but they’re also deeper. The only glaring weakness is the coach (this is also a weakness for the Celtics).

    On paper the Celtics are scary good, but it’s yet to be seen that the Big Three will work well when the games matter. I don’t think it’s a given that they’ll all get along, nor do I think it’s a given that none of the three will suffer an injury. This is a team that is unstoppable if the Big Three play well together and if the Big Three always play together. Those are two ifs I’m not yet ready to grant.

  9. Oh, and I’m high on Devin Brown too. I do not care if Pavs signs.

    I’m very worried about losing Varejao. I agree that without him they’re about 5-7 wins worse.

    43 wins would have put the Cavs #6 last season. I think the Eastern Conference is much better than last season and so 43 wins this season might drop them to #7, maybe worse.

  10. Will said

    This just in – Pavlovic resigned. This is the exact opposite of what I wish had happened.

    I didn’t realize your rankings were meant to be post-playoffs. In that case I can’t really argue with the Pistons at #1 then because of what happened with the Mavs last year. The playoffs are a crapshoot.

    That being said, who did the Pistons get to replace Ben Wallace’s >.330 WP48 production? They got Webber, who was not even half as good, and he’s gone now. They might be deeper, but no 5-man lineup can match the production they had when Ben was on the court.

    I’m probably wrong about the Cavs not dropping as far as #7 if they don’t get Andy back. I didn’t do any math on that, so I concede the point. The East is surprisingly even once you get past the top 4 teams.

    Last point – those 03-04 Lakers were a worse team numbers-wise than the Pistons that year (Berri has written about this in the past). Despite having two extra past-their-prime ‘stars’ that team was still primarily Shaq and Kobe. That isn’t the case for the Celtics this year – all three are still ‘stars’ on paper as well as in the minds of ‘everyone’.

    I hope I don’t sound too contentious, I like this blog very much.

  11. Will said

    Sorry, you do agree that the Celtics look good on paper. They probably won’t be *that* good (law of diminishing returns) but I don’t put much stock in team chemistry. They will still be brutal, barring injuries.

    Also, how many points one scores per game is dependent on how many shots one takes. If the big 3 take all the shots they will certainly score more than 66 pts/game. Your argument reminds me of the ‘Sixers will be worse w/out Iverson because no one else can create their own shot’ argument. Last year the Sixers took exactly the same # of shots per game after Iverson left as they did before.

    Again, just trying to partake in educated discourse. Ever read the comments on Windhorst’s blog? There’s some awful people there.

  12. Thanks for the heads up, Will. I just wrote a quick post about Pavlovic signing.

    I’m not sure what my rankings are supposed to be, to be honest. I’d probably say they’re where I see the teams finishing if the season was played 1000 times, which is why I have the Spurs as the #1 team in the West even though I have Phoenix winning the championship.

    The Celtics are very very very good, on par with Detroit and Chicago. Any of those three teams is more than capable of playing in the Finals and betting on any other team is probably foolish. I think that of the three teams Detroit is the most likely team to make it to the Finals due to their experience (these guys have been playing together for a long time now) and depth. I put Boston ahead of Chicago because I think Boston’s Big Three are so good that they should be able to out play an up-and-coming Chicago team that, again, is deeper than the Celtics.

    When you factor in the potential for injuries I worry a lot about what happens with the Celtics. KG has been remarkable durable for his career. He’s logged a lot of miles but hasn’t missed any time to injury for a few years. There is no past that should provoke worry, but he’s the most important player on this team. Meanwhile Ray Allen only played in 55 games last season. He’s turning 32 this year so he’s still young, but he’s entering that age where injuries become more common. Then you have Pierce, who only played in 47 games last season. I think that if you eliminate any one of these three players the Celtics become a whole lot worse. Not only would they lose an All Star, but they have no one to replace him with. Their bench is that thin.

    I actually think the 76ers are/were better without AI, but I see what you’re saying. But consider this: who else for the past few years have these guys played with? They each have been The Man on their respective teams (maybe not Allen last year, though). I don’t think it’s likely that as a trio their collective scoring average this season will be significantly higher than it was in seasons past. Maybe they average a combined 70-75 points, but that still leaves gap is scoring that’s going to need to be filled.

    Finally I just want to say that I really enjoy thoughtful exchanges too, so unless you resort to profanity and/or ad hominem attacks I encourage any and all replies. The crap that gets posted on and in the comments to Windhorst’s blog make me cringe. I’d like this to be the ant-those places.

  13. Ben said

    I’m not sold on the Celtics at all. They’re still coached by Doc Rivers and they have no bench. Lord help them if they get any injuries.

    As for the Cavs… I can see them finishing anywhere from 3rd to 5th in the conference. LeBron is supposedly in good shape, his jumper is better and he’s even getting the ball in the post. Coupled that with Daniel Gibson starting for an entire year and I don’t see the Cavs falling off too much, if any (even with missing Varejao and the ‘improved’ East).

    As for the Suns, I’m never sold on them. They’re good, but they let go of Kurt Thomas, who was the only guy on the team remotely capable of guarding Tim Duncan.

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