Luke Waltons Forehead presented by the Sports Dude.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005 at 10:08 AM

The Sports Dudes (UN)Educated NBA Season Preview

Well here it is, in a nut shell, the sport dudes look at all things NBA as we sit here on the dawn of the new season. Really all this boils down to is me writing a post where I get to look all brilliant and stuff but have no idea what the heck I am talking about. That being said I give you my thoughts, feelings and always expert opinions on the upcoming 2005-2006 NBA Season.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division – Boston, New Jersey, New York, Philly and Toronto

As far as I am concerned there is nothing in this division that makes me get nervous, excited or even giddy. In fact, when I look at this division I kind of have to remind myself to breath and check for a pulse to make sure I am still alive. Philly has A.I., the toughest little man in the NBA but he still lacks a partner because Chris Webber is basically running on blown tires. Boston has Paul Pierce but the rest of the roster kind of makes you go “HUH?” because there really is nothing else to look at. Toronto continues to kid itself thinking that they are an NBA franchise when they truly resemble more of a NBADL squad and New York is such a mess that (sorry Larry!) I don’t even think those guys have a clue. Seriously, for whatever reason Larry wanted his dream job he can have it, that team has no idea what defense is let alone what it means to “play the right way.” I think there will be less visits to the Mayo Clinic this year for Larry and more to the psyche ward at the local loony bin! New Jersey is the only team in this division that has a legitimate starting line up (Kidd, Carter, Jefferson and a couple role players) that even resembles a decent team at all and that is why they get my nod to win the division.

Central Division – Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana and Milwaukee

If you ask me what happens to be the strongest division in all of the NBA my answer is this, look no further than the Eastern Conference and its Central Division. When figuring out who I thought the eight playoff teams were for the East I actually just about had all five of these teams in it, but I stopped myself before I got all slappy on this division. Cleveland retooled this off season to help keep Lebron happy, adding Donyell Marshall and Larry Hughes, as well as resigning Ilgauskas. Chicago continues to have a young and exciting group of players, but the lack of defense and a proven interior scorer (Tyson Chandler does not count yet!) may end up hurting them in the end in this physical conference. Detroit is still Detroit, with what I am still considering the best starting five in the NBA period, point blank, end of story. A new coach in Flip Saunders may also help the offense be a little easier on the eyes, but this team will still hang its hat on the old “D”. Indiana is the one team in this division that will give the Pistons fits and the return of Ron Artest should help more than it will hurt this team. The man is a whack job though, already wanting to box Ben Wallace on pay-per-view (note to Artest you wouldn’t even make it out of the first round against Big Ben!) but he still is a good on the ball defender and a scoring threat. Milwaukee should be better this year now that T.J. Ford has returned and his health could be the key to that team and its success or failure this year. The division winner, however, will come down to either Indiana or Detroit, if I could pick a tie I probably would, but I'll give it to Detroit only because I love my boys, but I think it will come down to the seasons final week.

Southeast Division – Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Washington

Atlanta got Joe Johnson in the off season to help boost its offense, but can one ball hogging money hungry guy that just wants it all to be about him really make that much of a difference? I am guessing from my comment right there you can figure out my answer is no. The only silver lining for the Hawks is that the Charlotte Bobcats are in this division so there is actually a team there that is just as bad, if not worse off, then they are. Miami had the Pistons on the ropes this past season in the Eastern Conference Finals only to take a look at the whole thing and say “Screw team chemistry, let’s blow it all up and put together one of the most dysfunctional starting five of all time.” When your starting five is shaping up to be White Chocolate, D-Wade, Shaq, Haslem and Walker there is only one thing you can ask – how the hell are you going to make that work? Plus don’t forget another “shoot first, second, third, fourth and pass last” guy is coming off the bench, one Gary Payton. It is a nightmare waiting to happen in Miami, but I will get to that conspiracy theory of mine later. Orlando is still searching for an identity as the curse of trading Ben Wallace for Grant Hill continues to bite them in the ass and Washington will take a few steps back this year, but not many. By default I have to pick a winner for this division and I pick the dysfunctional bunch known as the Heat, but not by as much as they won it last year.

Player to watch in the Eastern Conference – Maurice Evans of the Pistons, another one of those diamond in the rough finds by Joe D.

Most overrated player in the Eastern Conference – I could just about pick anyone from that Miami Heat Roster, but I will give it to none other than Vince Carter, one of the most overrated players of all time.

Most surprising thing to happen in the first half of the season – Pat Riley returns to the bench after firing Stan Van Gundy and trades Antoine Walker before it gets too late.

Best record in the division – central champ, either Detroit or Indy (central runner up will have the second best record, but get the #4 seed because of seeding rules).

Eight teams that make the playoffs – Detroit, Indiana, Cleveland, Milwaukee (yes, there are the four of the five from the Central, sorry Chicago!), Philly, New Jersey, Miami and Washington.

Final Four – Detroit, Indy, NJ, Miami

Eastern Conference Finals – Detroit and Indy

Eastern Conference Champs – Detroit (sorry, until someone even looks this deep from 1-12, has a better starting five or more team chemistry I won’t pick against them and I don’t see how anyone else can either).

Western Conference

Pacific Division – Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Phoenix, Sacramento

The biggest stories in this division to me are the remarriage of Kobe and Phil in Lakertown and the Phoenix Suns loss of Amare Stoudemire for the first half, if not all, of the season. Can Kobe and Phil coexist? Can the “run, gun and fun” style in Phoenix survive without its most electrifying player? Luckily for both of those teams the answer is yes because the other teams in this division did little to improve themselves in the off season. The Golden State Warriors and LA Clippers still remain “those other California teams” out west and have little or no chance of doing anything significant again this season. Kobe and Phil should get along just well enough to help bring some respect back to “Showtime” but it will do little to help the Lakers overcome some of the other bigger guns now in the West. Phoenix, even with the subtraction of some key players (Stoudemire, Johnson and Richardson) should still be exciting enough to watch because as Nash goes so does that offense, the key will be if those guys ever learn to play some “D”. Sacramento did little, if anything, to improve their roster but should still fair much better than the above mentioned other teams in sunny California. That all being said, and everything else taken into consideration here, I give my division nod to the Phoenix Suns because the other four teams really have not shown me anything at all.

Southwest Division – Dallas, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans, San Antonio

The Spurs, still basking in their glory from last years title run, added a key component this off season that will only make them that much stronger – Michael Finley, as well as sharp shooter Nick Van Exel. The Mavericks, with coach Avery Johnson now ready for his first full season at the helm, may actually do something never heard of before under previous coach Nelson, that is play a little “D” from time to time. Houston has one of the most over rated players in the league in Tracy McGrady and the lack of a true point guard will eventually catch up to them again this season. Memphis has a shot at being competitive but a roster full of some aging veterans like Damon Stoudamire and Eddie Jones may not be enough to help them survive a full season in this division. New Orleans is young and coupled with the fact they really have no “home” this season leaves little shot for these guys to finish anywhere but the cellar of this strong division, therefore I am going to give the division title to San Antonio in this case.

Northwest Division – Denver, Minnesota, Portland, Seattle, Utah

Denver did little to change its roster this off season, but having worked with George Karl as coach for most of last season and now for a full season should do this squad some good. Minnesota is all but trying to reinvent its identity and build, once again, around Garnett, but about the only thing the fans have to look forward to is no longer listening to Spreewell complain he can not “feed his kids” on 10 million a year. About the only significant thing Portland did this season, besides getting them a no nonsense coach, was dump some dead weight and start to look towards the future. Seattle may have lost its coach, ironically to above mentioned Portland, but it kept an extremely underrated Ray Allen to give it some hope. Utah, although Coach Sloan is one of the greatest in the game, really has no shot in hell this season at doing anything significant, and that is all I am going to say about them. Since I have to pick a winner I will give my nod to the Denver Nuggets, but I think Seattle will still give them a run for their money.

Player to watch in the Western Conference – I stated it above that I think Ray Allen is one of the most underrated players in the conference, so for this section he gets half of my vote. The other half goes to Kobe and how he reacts to the return of Phil, whom he really loved in the first place, right?

Most overrated player in the Western Conference – take your pick, I am going to give you the first three names that pop into my head, Kobe, T-Mac and Dirk Novitski.

Most surprising thing to happen in the first half of the season – Kobe and Phil both coexist, but Phil is actually forced to coach for the first time in his career because he is on a team that does not have the NBA’s best player. Come on, the dude rode MJ and the dude rode Shaq, are any of you going to tell me this man has ever coach a day in his life?

Best record in the division – San Antonio, does anyone doubt it?

Eight teams that make the playoffs – Suns, Kings, Lakers, Spurs, Mavs, Rockets, Sonics, Nuggets

Final Four – Suns, Spurs, Mavs, Lakers

Western Conference Finals – Spurs, Mavs

Western Conference Champs – San Antonio Spurs

NBA Finals – San Antonio against Detroit, and no I am not just recycling my post from last season! From all the things that were done this off season, as in what other teams did to improve so they could surpass these two, I saw nothing and no one that even came close to matching either of these teams depth, talent, but most importantly, CHEMISTRY!!

NBA Champ – not going to do it this time, see you all in June with that prediction!

Thanks for reading and my close up look at the Pistons will come tomorrow, later! The sports dude.

Blogger Leelanau Sports Guy said...

I agree with all of your picks... Nice job! I also think the Pistons are better than last year and it will be proven in June!  


Anonymous Evan said...

Man, I agree with you on Maurice Evans. The Pistons had zero athleticism and zero scoring off the bench beyond McDyess in the playoffs. After the first or second series, Tayshaun looked dead. Evans should really be able to pick up that slack.

And you really hit the nail on the head with the Pistons' depth -- 12 deep. More than that, really. Even the guys that will be hanging out on the injured list have some skill. As long as Arroyo and Delfino can play defense with some small degree of competence, the team should be unmatched in its ability to go to the bench.

Anyone taking bets on how long it takes Shaq to shove his giant sneaker up Walker's ass?  


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