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NBA Season Preview, Page 2

For lack of better options, these are the LA Lakers small forwards

The Lakers have had plenty of ambiguity to deal with in terms of their minutes at small forward in the days post-Rick Fox. Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza all faced obstacles to claiming and keeping their spots at the 3. Ron Artest, before and after his quest for World Peace, wavered between ineffectiveness and excellence while nestled between Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol in the line-up. Contributors like Vladimir Radmanovic, Devean George, Matt Barnes and the immortal Jumaine Jones sauntered in and out of the rotation, with the fan base left questioning whether or not these players were worthy of a supporting role on Phil Jackson’s bench.
Entering the 2013-2014 season, Lakers fans everywhere dream about the day that those were the pervading questions revolving around LA’s small forwards. Now, the questions have devolved down to whether or not the team has any legitimate small forwards…at all.
Metta World Peace, a casualty of the amnesty provision, was cut in the offseason largely due to his $7 million dollar contract that would have cost the Lakers potentially triple that amount in luxury taxes. However, as cumbersome as MWP’s contract was compared to his diminishing returns on the court, there’s no doubt that he is still worthy of a spot in most NBA rotations. His departure left the Lakers without any viable in-house options at the 3, especially with Kobe Bryant on the shelf with a torn Achilles. The LA front office thus spent the summer looking for bargain bin swingmen with the limited financial assets they had.
The result is a smorgasbord of reclamation projects, busted lottery picks and anonymous faces, none of which–in my mind, anyway–are particularly inspiring options. Be forewarned Rollers: this is going to be very, very depressing.
(Peep more over at Silver Screen & Roll)

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Can They Do It Again? Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview

Tony Allen knows no mercy.

Starting Five: PG Mike Conley Jr., SG Tony Allen, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Zach Randolph, C Marc Gasol
Key Bench Players: SF Mike Miller, SG Jerryd Bayless, SF Quincy Pondexter, C Ed Davis, C Kosta Koufos, SG Nick Calathes, F Jamal Franklin
Notable offseason additions: SF Mike Miller, C Kosta Koufos, F Jamal Franklin (#41 overall in the NBA draft), Coach Dave Joerger
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Darrell Arthur, F Austen Daye, G Keyon Dooling, Coach Lionel Hollins
FACT OR FICTION: The Grizzlies will take a step forward in a crowded Western Conference.
FACT. The Grizzlies have their work cut out for them in a loaded Western Conference playoff picture. Although Denver did everyone a favor with their timed implosion, the Grizz will have to contend with the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets, and even Warriors for playoff position in 2013-14. So why am I confident that they can do it?
The Grizz are coming off of their best season in franchise history, winning 56 games (just 4 short of the #1 seeded Thunder) while making it to the Western Conference Finals. To get there, they had to beat a very good Clippers team and take down a hobbled Thunder squad. Although the Grizz have changed head coaches, their pecking order and identity as a defense juggernaut haven’t changed a bit.… Read more...

With Dwight in tow, are they title contenders? Houston Rockets Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jeremy Lin, SG James Harden, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Omer Asik, C Dwight Howard
Key bench players: PF Donatas Montiejunas, PG Patrick Beverley, PF Terrence Jones, SF Omri Casspi, SG Ronnie Brewer, G/F Francisco Garcia, PG Aaron Brooks
Offseason additions: C Dwight Howard, SF Omri Casspi, PG Isaiah Canaan (34th overall pick), C Marcus Camby
Offseason subtractions: SF Carlos Delfino, PF Thomas Robinson, SF Royce White
FACT OR FICTION: Dwight Howard makes this team into a title contender.
FICTION. But he gets them a hell of a lot closer.
After years and years of collecting assets and waiting, GM Daryl Morey finally assembled the super team he always seemed right on the precipice of creating. With defensive specialist wrecking ball in Howard joining a James Harden-led 45-37 8th seed team with defensive shortcomings, it almost seemed like too perfect of a formula.
The problem is that as we’ve seen year after year, the NBA isn’t a plug and play league. As perfect of an addition as Dwight may seem on the surface, there’s several problems that he simply doesn’t address. And one of them isn’t “Aren’t you just a relentless Lakers homer?”
I might be. I am. But that doesn’t mean I’m not right.… Read more...

The Halfway Mark: MAMBINO’s NBA Season Preview Series

You’ve no doubt been interested…wait, wait, scratch that.
I doubt you have no interest in our NBA Season Preview series, but hey, here you are, reading our carefully researched insights and pithy commentary into the forthcoming campaign.
With 15 posts in the can, we’re right at the halfway point to finishing up our full league preview and more importantly, we’re just weeks away from opening tip. It’s like Christmas, or as our Jewish readers might say, “Wednesday”.
Catch up with what we’ve written thus far with our full Central, Northwest and Southeast predictions, and stay tuned for the rest of our previews:
Central Division
Chicago Bulls
Cleveland Cavaliers
Detroit Pistons
Indiana Pacers
Milwaukee Bucks

Southeast Division

Atlanta Hawks
Charlotte Bobcats

Miami Heat
Orlando Magic
Washington Wizards
Northwest Division
Denver Nuggets
Minnesota Timberwolves
Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trailblazers
Utah Jazz

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Offseason, Strike 3: Dallas Mavericks Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jose Calderon, SG Monta Ellis, SF Shawn Marion, PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Sam Dalembert
Key Bench Players: G/F Vince Carter, G/F Wayne Ellington, F Brandan Wright
Offseason Additions: Additions: Ellis, Calderon, Dalembert, PG Shane Larkin, G Ricky Ledo
Offseason Subtractions: SG Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo, C Chris Kaman, PG Darren Collison, PF Elton Brand
FACT OR FICTION: The Mavericks are a playoff team.
FACT, barely. Honest admission? I actually wrote “Fiction” before seeing that not only the MAMBINO aggregate has Cuban’s boys in the 8-slot, but your boy BK himself slid them in at 7.
But a closer look has made me realize that the West, by virtue of various reasons, has become very top heavy this year. Unlike years past, there isn’t going to be a solid 9-seed this season. Dallas will sneak by with guile, with heart, and under the tutelage of the most underrated coach in basketball: Alvy, a one-time contributor to the MAMBINO team.… Read more...

Uncle Drew’s World: Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

Cleveland’s great hope for the future.

Starting Five: PG Kyrie Irving, SG Dion Waiters, SF Earl Clark, PF Tristan Thompson, C Andrew Bynum
Key Bench Players: SF Anthony Bennett, PG Jarrett Jack, PF Anderson Varejao, G-F CJ Miles, F Tyler Zeller, G-F Alonzo Gee
Notable offseason additions: Coach Potato Head (Mike Brown), C Andrew Bynum, PF Anthony Bennett (#1 overall pick), PG Jarrett Jack, SF Earl Clark, G-F Sergey Karasev (#19 overall pick), G-F Carrick Felix (#33 overall pick)
Notable offseason subtractions: SG Wayne Ellington, G-F Omri Casspi, G Daniel Gibson, F Luke Walton, PG Shaun Livingston, G Chris Quinn, PF Kevin Jones
FACT OR FICTION: The Cleveland Cavaliers are a playoff team in 2013-2014.
FACT. Following the implosion of both Boston and Milwaukee this off-season, there looks to be a four team race for the seven and eight seeds. The usual suspects (Heat, Pacers, Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and probably Hawks) appear safe, but the Cavaliers, Wizards, Pistons, and Raptors (?!) are in the running for the next up and comer in the East. While each fanbase has lots of reasons for optimism, I really like where Cleveland is sitting right now and think they’ll take the 7/8.

Even if Anthony Bennett is a stretch at #1, they had a promising core already with Irving, Waiters, Thompson, and Varejao, a group that will only get better and is now complemented by some stellar off-season signings. Jarrett Jack was an absolute ROCK for Golden State and will bring the kind of moxie in the clutch that can bail out Cleveland in big moments. Earl Clark was a great signing who will provide a lot of depth, defense, and versatility. The Cavs managed to get both for just $11M next season, which is perfectly reasonable.… Read more...

Vise Grip: Indiana Pacers Season Preview

(Posting on behalf of MAMBINO contributor AO)

Starting Five: PG George Hill, SG Lance Stephenson, SF Paul George, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert
Key Bench Players: SF Danny Granger, PF Luis Scola, PG CJ Watson
Notable offseason additions: Scola, Watson, F Chris Copeland
Notable offseason subtractions: PF Tyler Hansborough, PG DJ Augustin, SF Gerald Green
FACT OR FICTION: The Pacers are the biggest threat to the Miami Heat 3-peat, East OR West.
FACT. In consecutive seasons the Pacers have gone out swinging, pushing the Heat harder than any team not from San Antonio, TX. In 2012 they lost 4-2 in the Conference semifinals and this year the upstarts boxed their way to a 4-3 bloodbath. Those were also Frank Vogel’s first two full years as head coach and he has undoubtedly established one of the most consistent character teams in the league. A ‘character team’ is one that has an identity. Indiana plays a physical, wear-you-out style night in and night out. They don’t waver. Think of the Chicago Bulls on the defensive end, but with legitimate scoring options on the offensive end.… Read more...

The Return of the Chicago Bulls or the Return of Derrick Rose? Chicago Bulls Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Derrick Rose, SG Jimmy Butler, SF Luol Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah
Bench Players: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Mike Dunleavy, SM Tony Snell, PF Taj Gibson, C Nazr Mohammed, PG Marquis Teague, PF Erik Murphy
Offseason additions: Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell, Erik Murphy
Offseason subtractions: Marco Belinelli, Nate Robinson, Rip Hamilton
FACT OR FICTION: The return of Derrick Rose will change the face of the Eastern Conference.
FICTION: The Chicago Bulls 2012-2013 season was nothing short of magical. With their superstar point guard Derrick Rose out the entire season with a torn ACL, no one thought they would have accomplished what they did. Not only were they the 5th seed in the playoffs but they ousted the new and improved Brooklyn Nets and gave the Miami Heat a run for their money while battling literally every injury known to man. Sure they weren’t the prettiest team in the league when it came to offense but if you were to take away a superstar from any other team in the league, I doubt that any of them could have been as good as the Bulls.
With a record of 45-37, Thibodeau’s defensive brilliance took center stage last year. With three players worthy of Defensive Player of the Year, Chicago’s grind out, physical D even stopped Miami’s infamous 27 game win streak. But with Luol Deng leading the team in scoring with 16.5 ppg, the Bulls could never take that next step. Sure the emergence of Jimmy Butler was a welcome addition and Joakim Noah’s ever improving game helped but the Bulls still finished 29th in the league in scoring.… Read more...

A completely different team, same results: Milwaukee Bucks Season Preview

Starting five: PG Brandon Knight, SG Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo, SF Caron Butler, PF Ersan Ilyasova, C Larry Sanders
Key bench players: PG Luke Ridnour, SG Gary Neal, SG Giannis Antetokounmpo, SF Carlos Delfino, PF John Henson, PF/C Ekpe Udoh, C Zaza Pachulia
Offseason additions: Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo, Gary Neal, Caron Butler, Brandon Knight, Luke Ridnour, Giannis Antetokounmpo (15th overall pick), Zaza Pachulia
Offseason subtractions: PG Brandon Jennings, G Monta Ellis, C Samuel Dalembert, PF/C Drew Gooden, SF Mike Dunleavy, Jr., SG JJ Redick
FACT OR FICTION: The Bucks from The Good Land turned over their entire team in the offseason for the better.
FACT. Milwaukee made a ton of decisions on key players this offseason with acquisitions and trades that made the team vacillate between rebuilding and reloading. In the basketball-free darkness of August, I spent 2,000 words describing these schizophrenic developments, including these paragraphs that sums up the entire offseason:

It was clear from the moment when Monta Ellis opted out of his $11 million dollar salary for next season that he was on his way out of town. Likewise, Jennings appeared set to depart, as he’d hilariously been talking for years about his eventual exit from The Good Land. Morever, it appeared as if Drew Gooden as his impossible $13 million dollars (and Bad NBA Contract of the Week fodder!) over two years would be amnestied.


People are talking about the Pistons? Really?

Starting Five: PG Brandon Jennings, SG Rodney Stuckey, SF Josh Smith, PF Greg Monroe, C Andre Drummond


Key Bench Players: SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, PG Chauncey Billups, PG Luigi Datome, G/F Kyle Singler


Notable offseason additions: Brandon Jennings, Josh Smith, Chauncy Billups, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Luigi Datome


Notable offseason subtractions: PG Jose Calderon, PG Brandon Knight, PF Jason Maxiell

FACT OR FICTION: With the additions of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, the Pistons will earn a playoff spot in the East.
FACT. This team looks much different from last year, and, before we get into why or what that means, lets just understand that different is better for Detroit. Last year was ugly. Heading into the 2012-13 season, the Pistons had 1.5 NBA caliber players on the roster in Greg Monroe and Tayshaun Prince (Prince doesn’t weigh enough to count as 1 player). The hope was that Andre Drummond would prove to be NBA caliber too. Well, Drummond struggled with some back problems, but he certainly showed plenty of potential. Then he dominated the Summer League, posting 15.5 points, 14.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 2.0 blocks while shooting 51.2% (generally, summer league stats are worth little, but as a Pistons fan I’m allowed to say things like “Did you see Drummond this summer? Incredible. Definitely having a breakout season, 25/15 at least. The Pistons are so exciting, you gotta watch. Probably the 3 seed in the East”). So back in July, even with Prince gone and Jose Calderon in Dallas, the Pistons already had two NBA caliber players. Wild.… Read more...