Thursday, 29 December 2011

NBA Week One: Questions

Already, we're 4 days into the regular season. Most expected as much, but it's sure to be a blur. In the handful of games we've seen so far, I've noticed a thing or two worth a mention.

  • Was this the closest thing to a Miami loss we're going to see this season? Heat look good early.
  • Is Blake Griffin really an all-star? Didn't look too good against Golden State. "Bad Blake" could soon refer to his shot selection, not his Clint Eastwoodness.
  • Dallas look pretty crappy so far. Cubes misses you, Tyson.
  • NY can't rely on Chandler to be their only center, much too foul prone. Tyson miss you, 'Wood.
  • Boston normally explodes out of the gates and then slows down as the season goes on. No pre-Christmas buffer might seriously hurt the Celts down the stretch... physically and in terms of playoff seedings. 
  • The Suns are adjusting to a new style of play, and their offense is suffering. If there's anyone that can get Phoenix firing again, it's Steve Nash. Rejuvenated Robin Lopez is an encouraging sign. Absolutely horrid 3pt shooting is not.
  • This rookie class will prove to be far from talentless. ROTY will be a tight race.
  • Eric Gordon will be the Marc Gasol to Chris Paul's Pau Gasol. Except, Gordon will be better. And soon: 2-3 seasons.
  • On that note, David Stern for executive of the year anyone?
  • John Wall will not break out this year.
  • Jrue Holiday will.
  • Markieff Morris will prove he's the better twin, will average 20+mpg, Marcus will hardly get a look.
  • Seriously, who will be able to stop Miami?

Thursday, 22 December 2011


Not the most accurate use of the word, I'll admit. Nonetheless, it's the best I could come up with. Six months ago, I was experiencing what was easily the most difficult time of my life. I was on the verge on, if not in the clutches of a pretty severe depression.

Those that know me can guess or will know what happened, and for those that wouldn't know, too bad - this isn't the place, and besides that, it has nothing to do with what I'm trying to achieve in writing this.

I guess in part, I'm doing what I have to in order to clear a guilty conscience. It's more than that, though. It's also about recognising that I screwed up, and that I want to make things right.

Before I write any more, I'll throw in a jump - keep reading if you want. This qualifies as the "life" part of "NBA, life and whatever else I feel like!" description of my blog.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Previewing the NBA: Award Candidates

Everyone (myself included) is saying that this year is well poised to deliver one of the more intriguing seasons in recent history. To predict the winners of the regular season awards presents a challenge for the most-informed of NBA writers, let alone this intercontinental rookie. Of course, I'm still going to have a crack at it, and unlike my playoff predictions, I feel like I might end up close to the mark... by chance, of course. I know nothing.

Anyway, without further delay, these are my best guesses: (hit the jump to keep reading)

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Great Race, Part Two

You can find Part One here. I had this to say about the season ahead:

"The coming NBA season is shaping to be the most uncertain since, well, the '99 lockout shortened season. In a regular 82 game format, one might be able to point to who the logical contenders are, and to an extent that reasoning needs to be applied to have any hope of accurately predicting which teams have the best shot at the title. However, a number of other factors come into play with the condensed schedule that will work to the detriment of the veteran teams (most of which would have been among the logical contenders) and naturally open things up for the younger teams."
In looking at the Eastern Conference, you could say there's a little more certainty to it. And I do mean, only a little. This is because last season's better teams in the East are for the most part ones more suited to weathering the demands of such a tight schedule. Regardless, the lockout has still had an impact on the East, and this is how I had them looking had there not been a lockout:

1. Heat
2. Bulls
3. Magic
4. Celtics
5. Knicks
6. Hawks
7. Pacers
8. 76ers

Hmm. Looks like had it shaken out that way, it would've been a repeat of the '10/11 first round matchups. That was unintentional. Anyway, taking into account the changes to the season the lockout has made, this is how I see the East ending up:

1. Heat
2. Bulls
3. Knicks
4. Magic
5. Hawks
6. Celtics
7. 76ers
8. Nets

The reasoning? First, teams with some sort of continuity are affected least by the drastically shortened training camp. Teams like Miami, Chicago, New York, Orlando and Atlanta won't have the growing pains that other teams such as Indiana, who reloaded in free agency should experience. Moreover, these five teams also happen to have the benefit of being loaded with go-to scorers and at worst, what should be a respectable defense (note: were it not for the Chandler signing, NY would not be included in this group), which should allow them to coast somewhat through the regular season. For what it's worth, I expect Miami and Chicago to be a cut above the rest, with New York being somewhere between 5-10 games behind in the standings.

The Celtics suffer in the standings because of the age of their best players - Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, all in their mid-30s, can't hope to play near a full 66 games without affecting the rotation. It seems as though Doc Rivers may have to finally give his second unit some burn, which probably isn't a good thing considering how this one compares to past Boston benches. Still, their chemistry, defensive mindset and of course, skill level won't rule them out come playoff time - they still match up favourably with New York, who I've projected as their first round opponent (again).

The 76ers have the young legs to earn wins against exhausted veteran teams, but they lack the overall star power to truly make an impact. Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala are the only truly established players on the team, so it'll be another season of learning in Philly. I am looking at Evan Turner to break out and be a major factor going forward, but it won't be enough.

The Pacers simply won't have time to mesh, with George Hill and David West expected to come in and produce right away. So, I'm looking at New Jersey to come in and steal their #8 seed, with Deron Williams leading the way. I'm thinking Brook Lopez should rebound (ha) from his disappointing '10/11 campaign and form with Williams a potent PG-C tandem good enough for the playoffs, but until help arrives, not much more.

Obviously, in making these predictions I'm dealing with the huge assumption that Dwight Howard isn't traded during the season. I think if he does get traded, it'll be at or near the trade deadline and for me, if I'm Otis Smith, I trade Dwight to Jersey. I'll save the details for another post, but in the scenario that Dwight does get traded at the deadline to the Nets, then I'd have the Magic and Nets more or less swap places in the standings.

As usual, I'll throw in my little cop out and point out that there's every chance I'll be completely, horribly wrong. For the most part, this is entirely guess work - though, at this point in the season, so is every other prediction out there. Time will be the judge, in more ways than one.

Oh, and I forgot to add - I really don't know who to choose to win the East. It's a toss up between Miami, Chicago and New York. In that order, too. If Chicago can get a full season out of both Boozer and Noah, and a high level one at that, then they're my favourite. If Baron Davis can come in and do the job he was doing before he got traded to the Cavs, then New York have the potency to come out on top. If neither of these things happen though, it'll be Miami advancing again, in spite of the holes in their roster purely by the brilliance of their superstar trio (yes, I do mean trio - Bosh, as much as I dislike him, will be more comfortable in his role this season and all the more dangerous for it).

How good can the Suns be?

The Phoenix Suns. Where do I start? Perennial underdogs, apparent overachievers, offensive juggernaut, defensive sieve - these are all ways I've seen the Suns described. With the team still struggling in the wake of The Apostrophe's departure, the team can't truly be considered underdogs. When considering the defensive roster upgrades since STAT's departure, they're not quite a defensive sieve anymore. However, with the everlasting presence of Steve Nash, an offensive juggernaut and overachievers they shall remain.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the West is wide open for the taking, so it's entirely possible that the Suns are fighting for a pretty damned good playoff seed come April (albeit unlikely). For that to happen, the Suns need two things to happen: Nash needs to eke every last drop of productivity from the unit he's a part of, and the units that he's not a part of need to be respectable at worst. Look for the Suns to be a top 5 offensive team (as they have been with Nash on the court every year of his second stint in the desert) and a middle of the pack defensive team and we have a lot of regular season wins. However, in this best case scenario, Phoenix's lack of a go-to scorer sees them struggling to get any further than the second round.

More likely is that the suns finish in the 7-10 range, with the team struggling with Nash off the court. The age of Nash and Grant Hill (Phoenix's undisputed leaders) will mean that Alvin Gentry is likely to rest the duo for at least one of the team's two back-to-back-to-backs and a number of the many remaining back-to-backs, and will likely look to limit their playing time to around 30mpg, meaning more playing time for the enigmatic bench - their success in making or finishing just outside the playoffs will depend on the success of players such as Sebastian Telfair, Ronnie Price, Shannon Brown, Josh Childress and Robin Lopez. While fighting to make the playoffs is not quite as glorious as a playoff run, the development and reemergence of Phoenix's numerous role players is a positive in this scenario, as well as a draft pick most likely in the 10-15 range in a stacked draft could very well make the desert an attractive 2012 destination for FAs - a worthy sacrifice for the Suns in what could be Nash and Hill's last season in the purple and orange.

The worst case scenario would see Nash and Hill miss a number of games, the bench fail to meet the required standard and the Suns competing at the wrong end of the ladder, fighting for the most ping pong balls in the lottery rather than a fairy tale playoff run. A scenario like this may prompt the Suns to finally bite the bullet and trade the former MVP for whatever they can get - by that stage, likely nothing more than cap relief and a late first round pick. The Suns core of role players would remain intact for the following season, presumably wiser, if not improved from the additional playing time ready to welcome the rookie in 2012 that fans and staff alike hope can be the future of the franchise, picked anywhere from 1st to 6th - meaning a player the likes of Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger or even Andre Drummond. The Suns also look good in terms of cap space for 2012 - something that, along with the draft pick, figures to be the lone bright spots for the Suns should they play to their worst case scenario.

In all, there are positives to be taken from each possible scenario for the Suns. Persisting with Nash is a low-risk, high-reward affair when taking Phoenix's cap space and the loaded draft into account. While a title is all but out of the question, there still remains a reason to smile as a fan of the Suns, and for that, I'm grateful.

Only 8 days til tip off!

The Great Race

The coming NBA season is shaping to be the most uncertain since, well, the '99 lockout shortened season. In a regular 82 game format, one might be able to point to who the logical contenders are, and to an extent that reasoning needs to be applied to have any hope of accurately predicting which teams have the best shot at the title. However, a number of other factors come into play with the condensed schedule that will work to the detriment of the veteran teams (most of which would have been among the logical contenders) and naturally open things up for the younger teams.

In looking at the Western Conference, things are far from certain as the conference shifts from one generation to the next. Here's how I would've had the West panning out if not for the lockout:

1. Thunder
2. Mavericks
3. Lakers
4. Spurs
5. Grizzlies
6. Clippers
7. Blazers
8. Suns

When taking the revised schedule into consideration though, things look a little different:

1. Thunder
2. Mavericks
3. Grizzlies
4. Lakers
5. Clippers
6. Blazers
7. Spurs
8. Rockets

The condensed schedule does no favours for the old legs out West. The Thunder speak for themselves - the West is theirs to lose. The Mavericks roster is deep enough and durable enough to withstand the demands of 4 games a week, so their standing is largely unaffected. The Lakers, Spurs and Suns have all shown that they are very good teams when their best players are at their best. At the same time, they've clearly struggled when their respective stars are less than 100 percent. Kobe, Manu and Steve Nash are all facing an uphill battle this season, and it wouldn't surprise me to see more than one of them miss at least 20 games, an obstacle that stands in the way of these teams' success. Based on the quality of their frontcourts, the Grizzlies, Blazers and Clippers all figure to be competitive and at least one of them should grab a top four seed - look for the Clippers to surprise a lot of teams with just how good the Griffin/Paul combination will be. The Rockets are a bit of a wild card - it feels like they have the perfect blend of veteran savvy and young legs to sneak into the playoffs and win a game or two.

From the rest of the teams, we can expect some interesting storylines (logjam in Sactown's backcourt, Minny's frontcourt) and big numbers (Eric Gordon, anyone?) but not a whole lot of wins. I expect the Thunder to come out of the West in the playoffs (feels like a cop out) and the #1 pick in next year's draft to land out West.

I'm sure to be way off on quite a few things, as it could easily go the other way and the veteran teams' experience with looking after their bodies could put them in a better position than the young guns who could very well burn themselves out - and honestly, considering my status as a Suns fan, I'd much prefer that.

No matter which way the tables turn this season, one thing's certain: as usual, it's a Great Race out West to the playoffs, with as many as 8 teams are competing for a top 4 seed. I can't wait!

Friday, 16 December 2011

An Introduction

Hi there! If you've come to this site hoping to see kangaroos dribbling a basketball, or indeed anything else to do with a kangaroo, you'll be disappointed.

You won't be let down though, if you've come looking for basketball reading. I'll be focusing mostly on the NBA, in particular the Phoenix Suns, but above all I'm a basketball fan and I hope to have my content reflect that.

From time to time, I might post something completely unrelated to basketball. I'm a real person, with a real life so there's every chance I'll find the need to take advantage of a public forum to make my thoughts known.

With that out of the way, a little more about me: I'm currently living in sunny Brisbane, Queensland, where I've lived a majority of my life. I have a gorgeous daughter and a wonderful partner who supports me in everything I do.

I'm fairly new to this whole blogging thing, so be gentle with me. If you have any criticisms, suggestions or ideas for posts, be sure to let me know!