Monday, October 24, 2005

2005-06 Eastern Conference Preview: Part 1

How good will J-Smoove and the Hawks be? Cover your eyes

Rather then present to you the ordering of all 15 teams in the East, instead we decided to break it up into two groups, Playoff and non-Playoff. Here are teams 15-9 who will end up on the outside of the postseason picture, but firmly entrenched in the ’06 Draft Lottery. For each team, I will offer both the optimistic and pessimistic outlook for the 2005-06 season. Feedback is highly encouraged…

15. Atlanta Hawks

Optimist:
The Joe Johnson experiment at the point could turn out to be the best decision this organization has made since acquiring Dominique Wilkins from the Jazz for John Drew and Freeman Williams (the 5th grade equivalent to nabbing a pack of gushers for an apple and some celery). If Johnson can exploit the athleticism of Josh Smith, the star potential of Al Harrington, the length of Josh Childress (man, that doesn’t sound good), and the inside game of Zaza Pachulia, this team can certainly win 25-30 games this season, while looking ahead to the future. Plus, with rookie talents such as Marvin Williams and Salim Stoudamire coming off the pine, the Hawks could slowly begin their development as a run-n-gun nightmare for opposing teams.

Pessimist:
It is going to be very difficult for Atlanta to win more than 20 games playing worse defense than the Globetrotters. Can’t you see this squad resembling a 14 year-old rec league team by early January? Everyone is going to want to score, no one is going to want to pass, and at least four guys are going to be “cherry-picking” on every play. JJ running the point will reap huge dividends for fantasy owners, but the same cannot be said for Mike Woodson and co. This could turn into the most expensive babysitting service the ATL has to offer.

Prediction: 19-63


14. Charlotte Bobcats

Optimist:
Looking at this roster, it seems as if all the pieces are in place for this team to strongly improve on the 18 wins from their inaugural season. Adding experienced college players such as Raymond Felton and Sean May (along with Emeka Okafor a year ago) was a very wise decision by GM/Coach Bernie Bickerstaff. Gerald Wallace has the potential to be a big factor on both ends of the floor and the decision to keep PG Brevin Knight around for another year should greatly assist in the maturation process of Felton. If I were a Bobcats fan, I’d be very excited for the future especially with the announcement of a new arena on its way.

Pessimist:
As a very young club without a clear-cut team leader, the Bobcats appear to be stuck trailing the majority of the Eastern Conference once again. But let me ask you, who is going to step up as that vocal authority? Brezec probably only knows 11 words of English, Okafor’s too young, Gerald Wallace is well, Gerald Wallace, Knight may lose his starting gig to Felton, and the rest of the team is all pretty much on the same level. The ‘Cats need a team leader and cannot afford to wait until Okafor, Felton, or May is ready to assume that role. By that time they’ll all be eligible for free agency and this new Charlotte organization will end up faring about as well as the old one did.

Prediction: 21-61

13. Toronto Raptors

Optimist:

So far, all of us who pegged Charlie Villanueva as the 2005 Sam Bowie Award winner look pretty foolish, don’t we? Sure he’s received a whopping 31.6 minutes per in the preseason, but averages of 18.7 PPG and 5.0 RPG show that he may just be ready for the pros after all. The success of the Raptor youth doesn’t just end with Charlie either. Joey Graham (20 points) led the Dinosaurs to a win over the Celtics on Friday; C Rafael Araujo tallied 17 and 8 in just 20 minutes on Sunday; And PG Jose Calderon has shown signs of why GM Rob Babcock traded Rafer Alston to Houston, including a 15 point, 6-assist performance last week vs. New Jersey. If Chris Bosh and Mo Peterson, along with these rookies, can continue their swift development then perhaps Babcock will make it through November.

Pessimist:
The only way things could get worse in T-town is if Babcock decides to move Jalen Rose for someone like PF Raef Lafrentz—a player with an equally atrocious contract. Actually, I wish I could bet on something like that, because we all know it’s inevitable. Want a sure thing Raptor parlay? How about that Babcock deal, along with Graham and Villanueva missing a combined 60 games, Calderon getting a 10-day steroid abuse suspension, and Araujo eventually being demoted to the D-League? Hey, at least hockey’s back, right?

Prediction: 25-57


12. Orlando Magic

Optimist:
There is no telling what the ceiling will be on this team if Dwight Howard plays anything like he has this preseason. Check the numbers: 15.8 PPG and 8.2 RPG in 24.6 minutes. Projecting him at 37.0 MPG in the regular season and you’re looking at 23.7 PPG and 12.3 RPG—absolutely phenomenal numbers for anyone, much less a 19 year-old. A frontcourt with DH surrounded by Grant Hill and Kelvin Cato should be able to out-rebound almost any team in the NBA. Add to the equation a determined Steve Francis, pushing to make up for a somewhat jaded first season in Disney, and this team could/should be hovering around the .500 mark all season.

Pessimist:
I firmly believe that everything I discussed above is practical. The problem is that this team rarely shows up to play defense. And while new Head Coach Brian Hill has done an excellent job of improving the team D thus far in the preseason (91.0 opponents’ PPG), there is no reason to think they can mightily improve on their abomination from a year ago (101.8 Opp. PPG—28th in NBA). I am also very down on their point guard situation, as I expected much more consistent play from Jameer Nelson. So what did the Magic do this offseason to help him out? Brought in Keyon Dooling, a player labeled as an underachiever throughout his professional career. Yikes.

Prediction: 37-45


11. Boston Celtics

Optimist:
Honestly, I don’t think anyone can accurately peg what the ’05-06 Celtics’ record will end up at this season. Their ball club is littered with youth, and not Araujo/Villanueva/Calderon youth, but Al Jefferson/Gerald Green/Ryan Gomes youth. Those three guys could realistically be the centerpieces of this team three years down the road—or sooner. We all know Jefferson is ready offensively; Gomes has proven to be the steal of the Draft thus far; Kendrick Perkins is a defensive monster; Delonte West is shaping up into a steady point guard, and the list goes on. Furthermore, that catalog of personnel doesn’t even include the current core of Celtic Green: Pierce, Davis, LaFrentz, and Blount. If all of these players can co-exist, Tony Allen can stop breaking dudes’ eye-sockets, and West, Dickau, or Orien Greene can step up as the floor leader this team so desperately needs, then why can’t the Celtics make the Playoffs? They did in fact win the Atlantic last season.

Pessimist:
Can a team this young really make the Playoffs? Well, honestly I don’t know, and so right now my senses tell me to throw them in the Draft lottery with these other five clubs. I just can’t help but think that if things do in fact sway towards the rebuilding theme, then there is no way Danny Ainge and co. can keep Pierce in Beantown. There’s also the sentiment that Ainge may not even want PP around, evidenced by the countless trade rumors surrounding #34 throughout the offseason. With Pierce’s status always up in the air, Green expected to start the year down in the D-League, seemingly no one interested in being the starting point guard, and Al Jefferson’s ankle about as strong as the Vikings’ ship manners, a trip back to the lottery seems likely.

Prediction: 37-45


10. New York Knicks

Optimist:
I can almost guarantee that if Larry Brown can get this team playing solid team D, while somehow convincing Isiah to deal either Marbury or Crawford (preferably the former), then this team will make the ’06 Playoffs. NY certainly has enough pieces in the front court (Curry, Rose, A. Davis, Taylor, Frye, James, and Lee) and with the backcourt equally stocked with talent (add Q and Nate Robinson to the aforementioned gunners) this could be the best Knicks team since 2001, a 48-win ball club. With Larry Brown expectantly up to this hometown challenge and New York fans likely to be on the edge of their seats every single night, the Garden could very well be rockin’ well into May.

Pessimist:
Predicting a team with Isiah running the show to make the Playoffs is like expecting Joey Lawrence to win an Emmy. We all know that it’s inevitable for Zeke to pull the string on some bullshit deal that will undoubtedly propel a powerhouse team one or two rounds deeper into the postseason. On top of their poor management, the Knicks have far too many prima donnas. Marbury, JC, and Q all need their shots; Curry, James, Frye, and Rose are all very timid post players; and these clowns will likely push hard-workers like Nate Dogg and D. Lee to the end of the pine. While on paper this may appear to be a Playoff team, I’m just not convinced they will be one of the eight best. Are you?

Prediction: 39-43


9. Chicago Bulls

Optimist:
If Sam Smith’s proposed Nene to the Bulls deal does indeed go down, I’d seriously have to reconsider this positioning. Adding a player of Nene’s caliber to a rather weak frontcourt could actually make this club stronger than a season ago. We all know that GM John Paxson won’t be content entering the season with only Tyson Chandler holding down the 5 hole. TC’s going to need insurance behind him and perhaps even a player to move him back to his more natural 4. While for now Bulls fans can only dream about a Chandler/Nene duo in the frontcourt, they have a hell of a tandem ready to take flight in the backcourt. We all saw what Gordon could do off the log last season, now we get to see him paired with Hinrich for the opening tip. Throw Luol Deng, Andres Nocioni, Michael Sweetney, and Darius Songaila into the fray and this team appears to be set for the next five years, at least.

Pessimist:
Honestly, the sole reason for Chicago slipping from postseason contention is due to their lack of depth at the 5. It is a certainty that Chandler will get banged around at the center position and if they don’t fill that need quickly, I can’t see Chicago keeping up with that brutal Central Division. Nene would obviously change all of this and perhaps push the Bulls as high as the five seed. But until Paxson pulls the deal for a big man to aid TC, the Bulls are stuck on the outside looking in. Well, according to The Source anyway…

Prediction: 41-41


Eastern Conference Playoff teams coming soon…

9 Comments:

At 12:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely done.

I wish the Celtics could get out of the lottery, if only because that means that they're going to get another person who needs minutes when all it seems like they need right now is more time to play. Oh well, I'm sticking to my guns that Danny is stockpiling to go after LeBron...

-Robb.

 
At 7:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finally, Villaneuva can get some respect. That cat was always ill. It wasn't that he couldn't get it done in college. If anything he showed he was a team player. UCONN's offense always restricted him. They rarely ran set plays for him. He is a talented and versatile player. He may not be great, but he does deserve to be the 7th pick from a draft of last year's talent pool. He will at least be as good as Lamar Odom.

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

Robb-interesting theory. As a Celtics fan I'd love that to be true. As for Charlie, I think the Odom comparison is a bit premature. With all the hype surrounding Villanueva coming to UConn I think he has to be considered a disappointment. Listen man, I live in CT, I watch every UConn game, and some games he really had it and other times he'd be asleep out there. I couldn't explain how a player could look so great at both ends one night and completely lost the next. And your theory that not enough plays were called for him. C'mon man, he's a low post player. Most of the time all he needed to do is get good position. I honestly think that all the kid needs is motivation and with all the negativity surrounding him at this point, Charlie could haved a pretty nice rookie year. I just wouldn't bet on it...

 
At 2:10 AM, Anonymous L_Euphoria said...

The Bulls should keep their sophomores. Their potential should guarantee the Bulls even a place in the Final 8 of the Playoffs in the coming future.

In the meantime, rumours has it that the Toronto Exodus has not ended with Carter leaving them for the Nets. Some speculations show that even Jalen Rose wants to leave the accursed team.

There's no worry for DH. Although surrounded by Grant Hill, Stevie Franchise; he should have no worries proving his worth. He's only 19, with plenty of wonders that he's yet to perform.

 
At 2:10 AM, Anonymous L_Euphoria said...

The Bulls should keep their sophomores. Their potential should guarantee the Bulls even a place in the Final 8 of the Playoffs in the coming future.

In the meantime, rumours has it that the Toronto Exodus has not ended with Carter leaving them for the Nets. Some speculations show that even Jalen Rose wants to leave the accursed team.

There's no worry for DH. Although surrounded by Grant Hill, Stevie Franchise; he should have no worries proving his worth. He's only 19, with plenty of wonders that he's yet to perform.

 
At 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

how could you presumably put the Sixers in front of the Knicks? the former has absolutely no bench (Nailon and Salmons?), and no one knows if C-Webb can even post anymore.

wherever you end up putting the Sixers in the playoff hunt, switch them with NY, and right in front of Milwaukee.

 
At 12:04 PM, Blogger c-los said...

The Knicks have a logjam at every position. Too bad Nate wont get any minutes and you know Larry wont tolerate Jamal when he goes 1 on 1 every time he touches the ball. Jerome James...lol....He played 3 good games last playoffs and Zeke went after him hard. Hope all of you Knicks fans have neck braces cuz you will be looking up at the Nets, Celtics, and 76ers. Go WIZ!!

 
At 1:28 AM, Blogger Anthony Peretore said...

C-Los, yur the man, couldn't agree more. Knicks suck, no matter if L.B. is there, Phil Jackson, Red Aurbach, whomever. They have too many gunners to ever think about overmatching the Sixers this season. Look at Webber and the two games he's played this preseason. Doctors have presumed him better than his best Kings' days. Watch out New York cuz it'll be another year in the Draft loterry. The two guys who should get mad run, Nate the Great and D. Lee, won't touch the hardwood and what a disgrace it will be. I should not be writing posts when I'm high. Love our fans, thanks for the support.

 
At 4:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The celtics since dannie ainge took over and traded Toine, have always been "expected" to not make the playoffs. All experts agree on that.

Well, they entered the next two seasons to the playoffs anyway. I think these year the same will happen. They won't blow out our minds but they'll prove a lot people wrong just by beating some teams like NY, Philly or others that are expected to sneak into the best 8.

Off topic,... great site guys. Keep it up.

 

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