The NBA season is right around the corner. With that in mind here’s an early look at how I see the divisions turning out in 2010-11. Here we go:
1. Boston Celtics: The Celtics are still the team to beat in the Atlantic Division. Adding Jermaine and Shaquille O’Neal will help the Celtics muscle up in 2010-11 and they are clearly still the class of the division.
2. New York Knicks: The Knicks have been busy adding a lot of talent to the roster over the summer. Amare Stoudemire was the big catch but adding guys like Raymond Felton, Kelenna Azubuike, Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Roger Mason have the Knicks thinking playoffs. And if they somehow trade for Carmelo Anthony then the Celtics will be sweating.
3. New Jersey Nets: The Nets didn’t do as well as they wanted to in free agency but they hit the trade market hard so they will improve. Troy Murphy, Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw will add some zip offensively to the starting linuep. Rookies Damion James and Derrick Favors will give the Nets a pair of solid rookies coming off the bench in 2010-11. The Nets also added Jordan Farmar, Quinton Ross, Johan Petro and Sean May to help out the bench. Look for the Nets to finished 3rd in the Atlantic Division in 2010-11.
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Yeah, it’s great that they signed Doug Collins to take over as the head coach but the Sixers didn’t bring in enough new blood for a big turnaround in 2010-11. First round pick Evan Turner was the biggest player the 76ers brought in and he will likely start at shooting guard right from Day #1. Spencer Hawes, Tony Battie and Andres Nocioni were the only other players the Sixers brought in over the summer. 4th place is about the best the Sixers can do in 2010-11.
5. Toronto Raptors: I don’t see anyway that the Raptors finish out of the cellar in the Atlantic Division. Losing Chris Bosh is going to devastate this team this year. Bringing in guys like Linas Kleiza, Julian Wright and Leandro Barbosa is not going to get the Raptors to the next level. I do however like what they did in the draft bringing in a couple of big men (PF-Ed Davis & C-Solomon Alabi).
1. Chicago Bulls: The Bulls wanted to snag one of the three big free agents that signed with the Heat but they got shut out. Don’t shed any tears for the Bulls though as they still added Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson, Kurt Thomas and Keith Bogans to an already strong team. I like them to dethtrone the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2010-11 as the Central Division Champs.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: The Bucks have really added a lot of talent to an already solid team over the summer. Corey Maggette and Drew Gooden will likely move right into the starting lineup for the Bucks giving them even more firepower on offense in 2010-11. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Keyon Dooling, Earl Boykins and Jon Brockman were brought in to help off the bench this year. Rookie forwards Larry Sanders, Tiny Gallon and Darington Hobson will provide some rebounding and D off the bench. I picked the Bulls to win the division but I don’t see the Bucks finishing more than 3 games behind them this year.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: It would be really easy to dismiss the Cavs this season but I’m not ready to do that quite yet. This is a team that won 61 games last season. Still they did lose Prince James to South Beach. But I think the Cavaliers are going to be better than most “experts” expect them to be in 2010-11. The core of the team is still there and those guys are used to winning. Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins and Joey Graham have been brought in to help the bench.
4. Indiana Pacers: I was tempted to pick the Pacers a little higher as I love the trade that brought Darren Collison to them. James Posey also came in that deal and he should provide them with some long distance shooting off the bench. Rookies Paul George, Lance Stephenson (if he can stay out of jail) and Magnum Rolle should really infuse some talented young blood onto the Pacers’ roster this year.
5. Detroit Pistons: Look how far the once mighty Pistons have fallen. Re-signing Will Bynum and bringing in Tracy McGrady is not going to get the Pistons anywhere near the playoffs any time soon. I still like what they did in the draft though as Greg Monroe and Terrico White will infuse some talent to the roster.
1. Miami Heat: The Heat have the new big three of the NBA in D-Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh. They also signed decent players around them like Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard and Eddie House. Only a lack of a good center could keep the Heat from winning the Eastern Conference.
2. Orlando Magic: The Magic didn’t do much to improve over the summer. Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon were added and while they are both decent players, neither of them is a game changer. Still, the Magic have one of the most talent rosters in the East and Dwight Howard will give the Heat fits every time they play them.
3. Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks showed Joe Johnson the money but they couldn’t add much else to the solid roster. Josh Powell was the only free agent they added and rookies Jordan Crawford and Pape Sy won’t make much of an impact. The Hawks still have a solid team that will be in the playoffs once again in 2010-11.
4. Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats finally found a taker for Tyson Chandler (Mavericks) and they re-signed Tyrus Thomas which was a outstanding move. Still, adding Shaun Livingston, Erick Dampier, Kwame Brown, Dominic McGuire, Eduardo Najera and Matt Carroll probably doesn’t instill fear in the rest of the division. Despite being picked fourth in this division the Bobcats are a virtual lock to return to the playoffs.
5. Washington Wizards: The record might not reflect it but the Wizards will be a much better team in 2010-11. Getting Kirk Hinrich and Yi Jianlian for pennies on a dollar were outstanding moves for the Wizards. The rookie class looks impressive with John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Hamady Ndiaye now in the fold. Remember too, Gilbert Arenas will be with the Wizards’ from Day #1 this year.
1. Portland Trailblazers: The Blazers have the most talented roster top to bottom in this division. Taking Wes Matthews away from the Jazz makes the Blazers better while hurting a division rival which is always a positive. I also like what they did in the draft bringing in Luke Babbitt, Armon Johnson and Elliot Williams. Finally, a division title in Portland.
2. Oklahoma City Thunder: The Thunder needed to make a bold move to add to the impressive trio of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Jeff Green. Instead they signed Royal Ivey and traded for Morris Peterson and Daequan Cook. Getting center Cole Aldrich could help the team big time if he’s really to contribute early in his career.
3. Utah Jazz: The Jazz roster got picked almost clean over the summer as the Bulls (Boozer and Korver) and the Blazers (Matthews) were stealing players away from them. Still, any lineup that has Deron Williams, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson in it is going to be pretty good.
4. Denver Nuggets: I have a feeling that some heads are going to roll before the 2010-11 NBA season starts. Carmelo Anthony wants out of town right now and the Nuggets should oblige so he doesn’t mope. J.R. Smith could also be dealt before the season starts in October. Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen likely won’t be ready for the season to start due to injury. That means that newcomers Al Harrington and Shelden Williams better be ready to go in October.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves: The Timberwolves never really have a plan. They signed Luke Ridnour and Anthony Tolliver as free agents and I like both of those signings for them. They also added Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, Kosta Koufos and Sebastian Telfair in traded over the summer. Wesley Johnson was the headliner of the draft and he has a nice upside. I think the T-Wolves could be better than they were last season but not enough to get them out of the cellar in the division.
1. Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers made some nice little moves that will keep them among the elite teams of the Western Conference. They re-signed Derek Fisher and Shannon Brown which were both solid moves for the team. They also signed Matt Barnes, Steve Blake and Theo Ratliff as free agents to add punch to the bench. Rookies Devin Ebanks and Derrick Caracter will likely be sitting at the end of the bench but they both have nice upsides.
2. Golden State Warriors: The Warriors got new ownership and a improved roster for this year. Getting power forward David Lee from the Knicks was a master stroke for the Warriors as he is a double-double machine. The Warriors also inked Dorell Wright and Jannero Pargo to help out off the bench. They will have to wait for rookie Ekpe Udoh due to surgery but he has a high upside.
3. Phoenix Suns: The Suns could fall all the way to the bottom of this division without Amare Stoudemire. They added Josh Childress, Hedo Turkoglu and Hakim Warrick in trades over the off-season but it just won’t be enough. The Suns are going to get pushed around badly in the paint this year.
4. Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers tried their best to chase the major free agents in the market but none of them wanted to sign up. So the Clippers spread the money around to Randy Foye, Ryan Gomes and Brian Cook while re-signing Rasual Butler and Craig Smith. This is not the kind of splash that owner Donald Sterling wanted to make. Still, with Blake Griffin and rookies Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Bledsoe and Willie Warren around from Day #1 I think the Clippers could be better than most people think they will.
5. Sacramento Kings: The Kings only added Antoine Wright and Darnell Jackson in free agency. But they added center Samuel Dalembert in a trade with the Sixers and they drafted DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside which will make them bigger and tougher around the basket. Improvement will be seen on the court in 2010-11.
1. Dallas Mavericks: The Dallas Mavericks had a quiet but effective off-season. They added Tyson Chandler and Alex Ajinca in a deal with the Bobcats. They re-signed Dirk Nowitzki, Brendan Haywood and made a trade for Dominique Jones on draft day. I just think the Mavericks have the best roster in the division so I think they’ll win it in 2010-11.
2. Houston Rockets: The Houston Rockets are going to be vastly improved in 2010-11. First off, Yao Ming will be back this year. He will be backed up by Brad Miller who was brought in as a free agent but the Rockets. The Rockets also re-signed Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry which were both good moves. The Rockets also added Courtney Lee in a trade and Patrick Patterson in the draft. Look out for the Rockets in 2010-11.
3. San Antonio Spurs: The Spurs still have a great team as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will all be back in 2010-11. George Hill and DaJuan Blair are both up and coming players while first round pick James Anderson was a steal for them. The Spurs also re-signed Matt Bonner and Richard Jefferson while inking Tiago Splitter. Don’t count them out quite yet.
4. Memphis Grizzlies: To me, the Grizzlies have one of the best starting units in the NBA with Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol leading the way. They signed Tony Allen and Acie Law in free agency while drafting Greivis Vasquez and Xavier Henry. Hopefully those four guys will help the bench out in 2010-11. Don’t be surprised if the Grizzlies make the playoffs this season.
5. New Orleans Hornets: The Hornets will have a solid basketball team in 2010-11. Chris Paul will direct an attack with a lot of weapons. The Hornets added Trevor Ariza and Marco Belinelli to help boost the offense. And they also did solid in the draft by adding forward Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter. If the Hornets were in any other division I think they would be a playoff team.