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Hardcore Hardcourt Talk:
A Quick Take On The 30 NBA Teams


By Andy Roth
Contributing Editor


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    New York, NY (Sports Network) - Here?s my take on the obvious and not- so-obvious as the NBA season tips off tonight.

    ATLANTIC DIVISION

    BOSTON CELTICS: The Miami Heat are heavy favorites to win the Eastern Conference, but with the Celtics having a "Big Four" and a much deeper roster, especially up front, don't be surprised if Boston makes a second straight trip to the finals.

    NEW YORK KNICKS: Aside from not being able to rebound or defend, or have anyone outside of point guard Raymond Felton who can create shots for other players, the outlook is really bright in the Big Apple. Rookie Timofey Mozgov, who will likely start at center, was nicknamed "the human foul machine" while playing in Russia. With Mozgov and Danilo Gallinari on the floor at the same time, there should be plenty of clear paths to the hoops for opposing players.

    PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: Look for point guard Jrue Holiday to have a breakout season, but that's where the good news may start and end for new head coach Doug Collins. Evan Turner, the second overall pick in the draft, struggled in the summer league and exhibition season, and his game is really not suited to play off the ball.

    TORONTO RAPTORS: With the departure of Chris Bosh, it's going to be a long and cold winter in Toronto. On the plus side, the Raptors were able to unload a disgruntled and unproductive Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa, and got a talented power forward in the draft in North Carolina's Ed Davis. Last year's number one draft pick, DeMar Derozan, needs to take his game up to another level this year.

    NEW JERSEY NETS: A new owner and new head coach is cause for optimism in New Jersey, because the roster certainly isn't. Before team president Rod Thorn resigned, he didn't do the Nets any favors by drafting Derrick Favors with the third overall pick. Thorn passed on the much more talented big man in DeMarcus Cousins, and that decision will have a long- lasting impact on the franchise.

    CENTRAL DIVISION

    CHICAGO BULLS: The Bulls will be challenged on two fronts early in the season. They'll be without Carlos Boozer as he recovers from a broken finger, and they play nine of their first 15 games on the road, including a seven-game road trip to close out November. That stretch may determine whether or not the Bulls win the Central.

    MILWAUKEE BUCKS: Andrew Bogut may never be 100% this season after suffering a broken arm and hand and a dislocated elbow in a horrific fall last April. But this Milwaukee team will still be a serious challenger to the Bulls in the Central nonetheless, with John Salmons now with the team for a full season and the addition of Corey Maggette.

    DETROIT PISTONS: This is not a good time to be a Pistons fan. Three starters -- Ben Wallace, Richard Hamilton, and Tayshaun Prince -- are on the back end of their careers, and there isn't one young player on the roster to build with. First round draft pick Greg Monroe lacks the athleticism to be any sort of impact player.

    INDIANA PACERS: Team president Larry Bird filled a huge void at point guard with the acquisition of Darren Collison. The development of Collison and third-year center Roy Hibbert will be the keys to this season and the future of the team. First round draft pick Paul George, the 10th overall selection in June, is a very skilled player who could turn out to be better than a number of players picked ahead of him.

    CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: "The Decision" is in. The Cavs are going to be awfully hard to watch following the departure of you know who. Look for a big season from JJ Hickson, who doesn't have a lot of flash to his game, but simply gets the job done.

    SOUTHEAST DIVISION

    MIAMI HEAT: It's usually very difficult to compete for, let alone win, an NBA championship when Joel Anthony and Mario Chalmers are in your starting lineup. But when the remaining three starters are named LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, it changes the picture entirely. Miami's big three will have be to healthy and at their best for the Heat to win it all with some major holes in other areas.

    ORLANDO MAGIC: The Magic usually live and eventually die by the jump shot and this season shouldn't be any different. Dwight Howard's supporting cast remains too weak to make Orlando a serious title contender. Nobody on this team can create easy shots for teammates, with the worst culprit being Jameer Nelson, who is a shooting guard in a point guard's body.

    ATLANTA HAWKS: This season shouldn't be much different from last year with the nucleus basically intact. The Hawks will have their share of regular season success, but won't be much of a factor in the playoffs.

    CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: The Bobcats have two high quality players in All-Star Gerald Wallace (18.2 ppg, 10 rpg) and shooting guard Stephen Jackson (21.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg), and that may be enough to get a second straight appearance in the playoffs with a lot of bad teams in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Two young players that will have to step up their games are power forward Tyrus Thomas and D.J. Augustin, who takes over at the point for Raymond Felton.

    WASHINGTON WIZARDS: There's nothing like winning the lottery and getting a big-time talent to start turning a franchise around. John Wall should be able to live up to the hype, but he'll need some help from two young big men if the Wizards are really going to make some big strides this season. Power forward Andray Blatche really opened some eyes after moving into the starting lineup in mid-February. Blatche averaged 22 points and 8.2 rebounds over the final 32 games, which earned him a five-year, $32 million extension. Center Javale McGee was also very impressive over that same stretch when his minutes significantly increased. In just 23.2 minutes per game, McGee averaged 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.25 blocks.

    SOUTHWEST DIVISION

    DALLAS MAVERICKS: It'll be the usual script for the Mavs. Win 50-plus games but fail to capture that elusive NBA championship. Dirk Nowitzki remains one of the game's premier players, but Jason Kidd is no longer an effective playoff performer, with his lack of foot speed hurting him so much in the half court game.

    SAN ANTONIO SPURS: This will probably be the last run at a championship for the veteran trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. The most significant offseason addition was 2007 first round draft pick, Tiago Splitter. The seven-foot power forward/center, who was one of the top players in Europe, will provide some much needed size up front in playing alongside and backing up Duncan. Any run at a championship will have to include a significant improvement from Richard Jefferson, who was a major disappointment in his first year in San Antonio.

    HOUSTON ROCKETS: The big story here is the return of Yao Ming, but unfortunately for the Rockets it will be in a part-time role. Houston does possess a potent scoring backcourt in Kevin Martin and Aaron Brooks, and one of the game's more unheralded power forwards in Luis Scola, but it may not be enough to make the playoffs in a very tough Western Conference.

    MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES: The Grizzlies have an All-Star (Zach Randolph) and a FIBA world champion (Rudy Gay) in their starting lineup, but the key to the season will be the further development of the backcourt of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo, and center Marc Gasol. A very questionable bench may keep the Grizzlies out of the playoff picture.

    NEW ORLEANS HORNETS: Chris Paul is committed to stay in New Orleans for now, but he could soon change that tune once the Hornets take the court. Aside from Paul and David West, there's not much to get excited about on this roster, and it looks like a second straight season of no playoffs for New Orleans.

    NORTHWEST DIVISION

    OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER: The odds-makers and many members of the media consider Kevin Durant and company to be the Lakers' number one challenger in the West. But the Thunder lack the size and talent up front playing alongside Durant to serious challenge the defending champs. There certainly is room for improvement for this team with all the key players still in the early stages of their careers.

    PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS: Greg Oden's health will determine whether the Blazers will be a good team or one that can compete with the upper echelon of the league. Oden, who is recovering from knee surgery last season, has no timeline for his return.

    UTAH JAZZ: There were plenty of offseason changes, but the results should be the same. The Jazz will be a really solid team and make the playoffs for a fifth straight season, but won't seriously challenge in the West.

    DENVER NUGGETS: What's the use of talking about what will happen on the court, when the only thing that will matter is what happens off the court. Carmelo Anthony is almost sure to be an ex-Nugget at some point, whether it's during or after this season. And while Anthony's eventual departure has dominated the headlines for quite some time, he may be part of a mass exit in Denver. Kenyon Martin, Nene and J.R. Smith are also unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, and could be candidates to be dealt away like Anthony.

    MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES: It's brief and simple. There is no faith for a team that gives Darko Milicic a four-year deal for $20 million. Whatever he gives the Wolves offensively will be more than negated on the defensive end.

    PACIFIC DIVISION

    LOS ANGELES LAKERS: A healthy Andrew Bynum is the key to the Lakers' chances of a three-peat. If Bynum is at the top of his game, LA should cruise to the NBA Finals. The Lakers made a great addition to their bench with the free agent signing of Matt Barnes. This gives the defending champs a versatile defender who will really pay dividends come playoff time.

    PHOENIX SUNS: With Amar'e Stoudemire, the Suns were a very good team but never a serious title contender. Without him, they still might be good enough to make the playoffs, but would probably be a major long shot to get out of the first round. Phoenix still has one of the great floor leaders to ever play the game in Steve Nash, but with Stoudemire gone, he no longer has a great finisher to go to.

    LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: I have two words for Clippers fans to have some cause for optimism: Blake Griffin. After sitting out all of last season with a knee injury, Griffin is healthy and ready to challenge John Wall for rookie-of-the- year honors. He combines off the charts athleticism and strength with a very high skill level and a tremendous work ethic. I won't be surprised if he turns out to be better than Wall.

    SACRAMENTO KINGS: DeMarcus Cousins was the fifth overall pick in the draft, but could very well turn out to be the second best player behind former teammate John Wall. The Kings, of course, struck gold in last year's draft with rookie of the year winner Tyreke Evans plus late first-round pick Omri Casspi. If Cousins can live up to his potential, the Kings will have a young nucleus to build with to eventually return to respectability and beyond.

    GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: As usual, there's plenty of offensive firepower, but very little resistance on the other end of the floor, especially with the undersized backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry. David Lee should thrive in the Warriors' run-and-gun system, and in the pick-and-roll with Ellis and Curry, but as Knicks fans know, he won't provide much of an inside defensive presence.



    Andy Roth covered the Knicks for NBC Radio and AP Radio for eleven years and was an NBA Columnist for Celtics Pride Magazine for two years. He's covered many of the major sporting events, including the Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, U.S. Open Tennis and Golf.


    Copyright 2010


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