The 2009 NBA Season will be here in a month and I would like to do a write up on every team and let you know what I think about them before the season starts. NBA predictions are harder to make than other sports leagues because the play of one or two people means so much more to that team than in other sports. I’ve heard teams three or four best players count for about 80% of their wins, this seems to make sense to me. I could see this last year when the Wizards lost Gilbert Arenas and went from a mediocre playoff team to the bottom three of the league. So that is why predicting the NBA season can be difficult, you also don’t know how many minutes certain players are going to get. But all excuses aside I’m going to give it a shot.
Well howdy folks! I haven’t posted in a while. This is mostly because the NBA and NCAA basketball seasons ended and I don’t follow baseball much. But no we are less than a week away from football season! I don’t know about you but I am pumped. With this in mind ESPN has released it annual ‘experts trying to predict the up-coming NFL season’ article. Gotta love them ‘experts.’ I love how most of them pick almost the exact same thing to happen as last year. Talk about in depth reporting. But who am I to judge? The best I can do is offer my thoughts, maybe I’m right. I’m going to try to do this in the same straight forward format that they used.
AFC East – New England Patriots
AFC North – Baltimore Ravens
AFC South – Indianapolis Colts
AFC West – San Diego Chargers
AFC Wild Cards – Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers
NFC East – Dallas Cowboys
NFC North – Green Bay Packers
NFC South – Atlanta Falcons
NFC West – Seattle Seahawks
NFC Wild Cards – Chicago Bears and New York Giants
AFC Champion – New England Patriots
NFC Champion – Green Bay Packers
SUPER BOWL CHAMPION – New England Patriots
Coach of the Year – Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
MVP – Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Offensive Player of the Year – Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Defensive Player of the Year – Patrick Willis, San Franscisco 49ers
Offensive Rookie of the Year – Mark Sanchez, New York Jets
Defensive Rookie of the Year – Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins
I feel that’s probably all I need to say. I could go into all these reasons why I felt this way or that on different teams. But really anything can happen. My opinions above are really just gut feelings, hopefully they’ll work out well. They probably will actually, or at least that’s what the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell tells me (Read it, it’s good). There you have it, the NFL season EXACTLY AS IT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. No need to tune in.
ESPN College Basketball analyst and ‘expert’ Doug Gottlieb introduced his NBA draft big board. He ranked his top 30 players available in this draft accompanied by brief descriptions for each player. Gottlieb offers his opinions in an effort to give tips to people making the drafting decisions. If I was a team drafting this year, I’d be hesitant to listen to this guy.
1. Blake Griffin
2. Ricky Rubio
3. Jrue Holiday
4. DeMar DeRozan
5. Brandon Jennings
6. Hasheem Thabeet
7. Jeff Teague
8. Jordan Hill
9. Jonny Flynn
10. James Harden
11. Patty Mills
12. BJ Mullens
13. Tyreke Evans
14. Earl Clark
15. Stephen Curry
16. James Johnson
17. Gerald Henderson
18. Toney Douglas
19. Damion James
20. Gani Lawal
21. Darren Collison
22. Derrick Brown
23. Omri Casspri
24. Terrence Williams
25. Sam Young
26. Eric Maynor
27. Wayne Ellington
28. Marcus Thornton
29. Ty Lawson
30. Austin Daye
So that is his list. Needless to say, I disagree with most of it. Some of his reasoning doesn’t make sense. I’m not quite sure what his guidelines or thought process was behind this list. It seems to be a checklist composed of two things: 1) Are you considered athletic? and 2) Do people think you have ‘upside’ or ‘potential’?That seems to be about it. That’s probably why Tyler Hansbrough and DeJuan Blair aren’t on the list while BJ Mullens is 12th.
There are many things I disagree with about this big board but I’m going to try to narrow it down to the biggest grudges I have. The first issue I have is at the top of the list where he has DeMar DeRozan 4th overall and James Harden 10th. Like I said before, I think his checklist is athleticism and potential. In ranking DeRozan ahead of Harden I’m assuming he believes DeRozan is superior in both areas. With a closer look I find it hard to agree that this is the case.
Here is what Gottlieb said about the two:
So who is the more athletic of the two? The only objective way you can compare these two is by their predraft athletic measurements.
DeRozan = 6’5.5″ Harden = 6’4″
DeRozan = 6’9″ Harden = 6’10.75″
DeRozan = 8’6.5″ Harden = 8’7.5″
DeRozan = 4.9% Harden = 10.1%
No Step Vert
DeRozan = 29 inches Harden = 31.5
DeRozan = 38.5 Harden = 37
DeRozan = 5 reps Harden = 17 reps
DeRozan = 11.88 seconds Harden = 11.10 seconds
DeRozan = 3.30 seconds Harden = 3.13 seconds
What can we tell from these numbers? They definitely don’t say DeRozan is clearly the more athletic of the pair. DeRozan is taller, has a lower body fat percentage, and can jump higher while running. Harden is clearly much stronger with 17 reps on the bench press (DeJuan Blair had 18). Harden is much faster in a sprint and he his also more agile. He has longer arms than DeRozan and, despite being shorter, has a longer reach. Harden loses in running vert but still put up 37 inches, which is really good in its own right. To me Harden is the run away winner in an athletic comparison. So DeMar DeRozan is a “freak” while Harden is just “average”? I don’t see it.
But what about potential? It annoys me when analysts talk about potential when dealing with draft prospects. What is it exactly? It seems to describe what a player could become, which means what they aren’t at the moment. For some reason this is cited as a positive reason to draft a player. They don’t have many skills right now but they look like they should. Why is that good? If a player should have such ability and such potential but isn’t even close yet to fufilling it, what does that say about their work ethic and desire to improve?
What is DeRozans potential? Well he can’t shoot, hitting on an absolutely dreadful 17% of his three point attempts this year. So developing a jumper would be good. Harden hit better than double that percentage. If he can’t shoot he should be able to get to the line, but Harden gets to the line twice as often. Harden triples him in assists, and gets double the steals. They rebound at about the same rate. In nearly every area statistically Harden dominates DeRozan again, and they’re both approximately the same age (both born in August of 1989). So why does DeRozan get ranked ahead of Harden because he could possibly one day (even though there’s no certainty that he will) become what Harden already is? That doesn’t seem to make sense to me.
So in conclusion Harden comes out ahead pretty easily in athletic testing and absolutely dominates DeRozan in production and ability on the court. I don’t see any reason why you would draft him ahead of James Harden.
All right, I have looked through every region of the bracket. I have given you my thoughts and now here we are, THE FINAL FOUR.
Louisville is the most likely final four team. Their region is cake-walkish. Memphis is the best team in my book and I have them making it out of the West. They are in an extremely tough bracket but I like them a lot. The trouble in predicting is on the right side of the bracket, the South and the East. Pittsburgh is the best team in the East but I don’t trust Blair to stay out of foul trouble throughout the entire tournament. Duke could come through and beat them but they’ve been choking the last few years. UNC with a healthy Ty Lawson is a lock out of the South. However, Lawson is no lock to be healthy. If Lawson cannot regain his ACC Player-of-the-Year form then I like Gonzaga. But the champion will be Memphis regardless of who they face. They barely lost on a big shot by Mario Chalmers last year. This is their year. And consequently I’m calling it right now, MEMPHIS CHAMPS in 2009 AND NEXT YEAR in 2010, especially if John Wall declares for them. :-P
Best Team: North Carolina Tarheels
Most Underrated Team: Gonzaga Bulldogs
Most Overrated Team: Oklahoma Sooners
Dark-horse: Arizona State Sun Devils
Best Coach: Roy Williams, North Carolina
Best Player: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma
Upset Special: Western Kentucky over Illinois
Summary: A healthy North Carolina would be a heavy favorite here. Unfortunately for them their best player, Ty Lawson, is hurt with a toe injury. Lawsons biggest asset is his speed so a toe injury is even more damaging. The injury prognosis doesn’t sound good so I’m not very confident in them making it to the final four. The two seed is Oklahoma but I think they’re a little overrated. Blake Griffin is the best player and it’s not too close, especially with Lawson hurt. But they played an easy schedule and they don’t play defense very well. I don’t think they’ll make it to the final four either. After the Big East tournament everyones darling pick will be Syracuse. While they did a fantastic job and that six over time game was one of the best I’ve ever seen, they had a hugeeeeee home court advantage in the Garden. All that being said, who do I have making it then? My elite eight here is Arizona State and Gonzaga. Both teams are very well rounded and have some very good players. If you don’t know who James Harden is now… you will. I like the Zags to beat Arizona State and advance.
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Best Team: Memphis Tigers
Most Underrated Team: BYU Cougars
Most Overrated Team: Maryland Terripins
Dark-horse: Purdue Boilermakers
Best Coach: John Calipari, Memphis
Best Player: Hasheem Thabeet, UCONN
Upset Special: Missippi State over Washington
Summary: This is easily the most stacked region this year. Each of its top 6 seeds have Elite Eight potential. UCONN and Memphis are both top five teams in the country. This should be the most entertaining region. The Memphis Tigers are my favorite here. And the reason is simple: Defense. The Tigers are the best defensive team in the country, and it’s not that close. They are four points ahead in defensive efficiency (points allowed per possession) than the second place team, Louisville. To put this in perspective it is the same difference between the tenth best team (Michigan State) and the thirty seventh best team (UCLA). Additionally, they are at least 3 points better than any team since 2004! This is an amazing defensive team. And defense wins championships. I have them playing an incredibly tough UCONN team in the Elite Eight. UCONN is the third best team but I think Memphis will beat them and advance to the final four. I put Maryland as the most overrated but I really don’t think anyone in this region is, this region is stacked with good teams. BYU is the most underrated team and could give UCONN and scare in round 2. If Purdue were in any other region I’d like them a lot, now that Robbie Hummel is healthy. As I said, Memphis advances here.