By: Zachariah Blott
Boston Celtics: They will run away with this division again, particularly since Garnett—still the best player in the game—appears to be healthy. And they added Rasheed Wallace, a guy who fit in just fine with the old Pistons, another team-first club that expects everyone to play defense, rebound, and recognize the mismatches on offense. Boston is completely stacked with self-sacrificing veterans (Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Wallace) who do all the little things, and they’re all more than capable of scoring points, so opposing defenses can’t focus on any one player. Don’t forget about the uber-dynamic Rajon Rondo, who nearly averaged a triple-double over 14 playoff games last year (16.9, 9.7, 9.8 – damn!). They also have a decent bunch in powerful C Kendrick Perkins, reasonably skilled PF Glen Davis, 3-point specialist G Eddie House, and versatile G/F Marquis Daniels, all of whom will look good filling roles next to the aforementioned stars.
Could Make the Playoffs (In Order of Likelihood):
Toronto Raptors: What do you think when you think Raptors? Probably Chris Bosh and maybe that big Italian guy. Well look at their starting lineup: the do-it-all big man Bosh; Andrea Bargnani, the 2006 #1 pick who got decent when everyone stopped paying attention (career highs last year of 15.4, 5.3, 1.2 blocks, 45% FG, 41% 3FG); the clutchy scorer Hedo Turkoglu (don’t forget that he’s a great passer – 4.9-2.7 A-TO); the under-appreciated Jose Calderon (great shooter, league-best 8.9-2.1 A-TO rate); and DeMar DeRozan, an athletic rookie who works his rear off. Offensive powerhouse Marco Belinelli will be a great back-up 2-guard. It looks like they’re going to score some points this year.
Philadelphia 76ers: They like to run and have some of the dogs to do it: Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young are long, athletic wings who create problems on both ends and in transition. PG Louis Williams’ undeniable physical talents show up from time-to-time, and Elton Brand can of course be awesome (when/if healthy). Samuel Dalembert is an interior defender, and most teams would enjoy bringing sharp-shooting SF Jason Kapono and athletic C Marreese Speights off the bench. Unfortunately, they lost point guard Andre Miller, who lead the league in this crazy number last season, which seems to indicate their fast break may not be nearly as good this year. They could miss the playoffs, or with a healthy Brand they could trap and run their way into the Eastern Conference Championships. Who knows?
Louis Williams Photo Credit: Icon SMI
New Jersey Nets: The combination of Brook Lopez and Devin Harris may be enough to make the playoffs in the East. Lopez has a great motor and improved greatly in his rookie campaign (last month of season: 15 ppg, 10 rpg, 2.3 bpg, 58% FG). Harris is more of a scorer than a shooter, but he has great court vision and is a fiery player. They have a smattering of other talent that can contribute to a positive season: skillful SG Courtney Lee, effective driving G/F Chris Douglas-Roberts, playmaker PG Rafer Alston, and energetic PF Josh Boone [Ed. note: Play the man!].
New York Knicks: Here are some awards the Knickerbockers could win this year: Most focused on the summer of 2010. Most likely to score 120 points without winning. Most back-ups whose names you recognize but you’re never sure if they’re any good (PG Nate Robinson, PF Al Harrington, SF Danilo Gallinari, PF Jordan Hill, FC Darko Milicic, F Jared Jeffries). Player best fit for a team’s system who probably wouldn’t be very good in any other system (David Lee). Player I suspect thinks he was never given a fair shake (Eddy Curry).
Handing out the individual award predictions, after the jump …
Top 5 players:
C: Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets
F: Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
F: Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors
G: Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers
G: Rajon Rondo or Ray Allen, Boston Celtics
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
Likelihood: Not very. He improves his team’s chances of winning more than any other player in the league, so he should have about 8 of these things, but he doesn’t score enough to win it anymore.
DeMar DeRozan, Toronto Raptors
Likelihood: Not very. His game is currently a little raw, and he’s up against Blake Griffin who will be the Clippers #1 option on offense.
Should Finally Make the All-Star Team:
Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers
Least-Known Player Who’s Still Overrated:
Jarrett Jack, Toronto Raptors
Most Well-Known Player Who’s Still Underrated:
Andre Iguodala, Philadelphia 76ers (are you seeing this?)
Zachariah Blott is a teacher in Portland, not an Amish Charles Dickens character.