Tag Archives: Josh Smith

Eastern Conference Central Division Preview

By: Evan

The Central division is one of the strongest divisions in the NBA this year and has the potential to have four playoff teams. Last year, the central division had four all-stars so the division has clear individual talent as well as team talent. The Bulls, Pacers, and Bucks all made the playoffs last year and will look to maintain similar records. The two other teams, the Pistons and Cavaliers both made significant offseason acquisitions that will revamp their rosters. Lets look at how the division will play out. (*denotes projected playoff team)

1.) *Chicago Bulls

Derrick Rose looks to continue his MVP ways this season and lead chicago to a title.                                                                                                                          Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune

The Bulls are arguably one of the top 3 teams in the entire NBA, and with their MVP back at the helm, the Bulls are looking to make a championship run and end the Heat’s reign as Eastern Conference Champions.  The Bulls had a successful season last year without Derrick Rose and despite being plagued with injuries to key players all season. The Bulls won 45 games, advancing to the Eastern Conference semi-finals and ranking 3rd in points allowed on average with 92.9.  The defense has always been a mainstay with wizard head coach Tom Thibodeau and strong interior and wing defenders such as Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. The only problem for the Bulls last year was scoring, as they averaged only 93.2 points per game, tied for 28th in league, and clearly correlated to Derrick’s absence.  Financially, the Bulls are in a slight bind with the increase on Taj Gibson’s contract starting this year as well as the last two years of Carlos Boozer’s 5 year 80 million dollar deal, but Luol Deng’s expiring contract could be used in a trade piece and free up cap room. The Bulls could make a blockbuster deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves shipping their first round pick, Charlotte’s 2016 protected pick, Luol Deng or Jimmy Butler for Kevin Love, a deal that would benefit both teams. The Bulls will clearly be one of the most interesting teams to watch this year, and they could bring the Larry O’Brien trophy back to the Windy City.

2.) *Indiana Pacers

Will Danny Granger and Paul George mesh? This is the crucial question for the Pacers. Courtesy of SBNation

The Indiana Pacers showed their potential last year, giving the Miami Heat a run for their money during the Eastern Conference finals, and this year should be more of the same. The Pacers are young, talented and play hard.  They gave up only 90.7 points per game, and held opponents to 42% shooting per game, 2nd and 1st in the league, respectively. This intense team defense stems from coach Frank Vogel as well as elite defenders such as Roy Hibbert and Paul George, both of whom can seriously impact an offensive game plan.  Danny Granger, a former all star, missed much of the season, and he will take on scoring responsibilities,  taking some of the pressure off  Paul George and David West who combined for 35 points per game for the Pacers.  Granger and George are similar players as they both create off the dribble and like to attack the basket,  although George is the younger and better player, Granger provides valuable experience the Pacers need.  If the two can mesh and play well together, the Pacers should be formidable this season.  If not,  the front office might look to trade Granger who is on the last year of his contract and is injury prone. The other problem is the Pacers bench as they don’t have a bench scorer that can come in and immediately contribute.  The bench becomes a pivotal factor in the playoffs as teams must rest the starting unit. Regardless of the bench,  the Pacers will probably win 45-50 games this year and be a top four seed in the Eastern Conference.

3.) *Detroit Pistons

With the addition of Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, Pistons are a clear playoff team and a potential sleeper in the Eastern Conference.                                                          Courtesy of NBA.SI.com

The Pistons were probably the 2nd biggest mover in the offseason behind the Houston Rockets, trading Brandon Knight, Kris Middleton and Viacheslav Kravtsov for Brandon Jennings and then signing him to a 3 year 25 million dollar deal.   Detroit also signed Josh Smith, an underrated all around player for 4 years $54 million. The Pistons are clearly trying to turn around their moribund franchise; these are solid moves for two players who needed a change of scenery. The Pistons have an established core with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, one of the youngest and best frontcourts in league.   And now with a point guard and a dynamic small/power forward, the Pistons are relevant again. They also hired Mo Cheeks, a champion as a player and an assistant on a Thunder team that went to the NBA finals in 2012.  The team will have to learn how to balance the ball and spread it out among the big men, but this team will be a terror for opposing big men, as the three man rotation of Smith, Drummond and Monroe will be difficult to deal with. Look for the Pistons to win about 40-45 games this year and earn around a 5-7 seed and potential upset one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.

4.) *Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving has a chance to be the MVP this year, but will he lead the Cavs to the playoffs?                         Courtesy of ESPN

The Cavs also made some significant offseason moves, including the signings of the oft injured Andrew Bynum and dynamic back-up point guard Jarrett Jack. Both are wildcards that could potentially vault the Cavs into playoff contention for the first time since LeBron left, or they could stay the same course of futility of the last couple of years. The team also drafted Anthony Bennett a big man with enormous potential if he can lose the his excess weight and get into basketball shape. All these pieces are shaped around the man with the ball, Kyrie Irving, a 21 year point guard who might just be the best in the league. He can create for himself, score at will and is tremendous in late game situations. He dazzled during all-star weekend (watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mr_WjR6iaj4) and clearly emerged on the national stage. The Cavs also have some bright young talent in Tristan Thompson and Dion Waiters, both showed growth throughout last season and they should continue to grow into better core players. Although the Cavs will make the playoffs as a 8 seed, there is little chance that they will advance. The Cavs are on the rise, and who knows what can happen if LeBron decides to go home in free agency.  He’d have a good nucleus awaiting.

5.) Milwaukee Bucks

Bucks fans don’t worry, you still have emerging center Larry Sanders on your squad. Courtesy of ESPN.com

After refusing to sign Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis to extensions, it became clear that the Bucks want to use this season to develop players and cement their place in the lottery. Now it isn’t all bad for Bucks fans as they did resign Larry Sanders, a young, elite defender who has improved his game. They also signed O.J Mayo, a solid scorer but not a game changing type player. The Bucks clearly need a face of the franchise that can provide hope in the coming years. There is some uncertainty about whether the Bucks will be able to stay in Milwaukee becomes Seattle clamors for a team with Paul Allen providing deep, deep pockets.  The Bucks should have more clarity next season about the future of this franchise, and hopefully they land a star player to lead them.

How many teams do you think will make the playoffs from the Central? Let us know by voting below.

Stats from ESPN

Does the addition of Dwight Howard make Houston a championship contender?

By: Jon

After two years of the “Dwightmare”, sources are reporting that Howard has signed for th max with the Houston Rockets. Only a year ago, many NBA experts thought that the Rockets had almost no chance of landing the prized center. However, a year has gone by and everything has changed in the NBA. Many people believed that Howard’s roller coaster journey had ended three times, when ESPN reported he was traded to the Nets, when he opted in to stay with the Magic, and finally on August 10, 2012, when he was part of a four team deal that sent him to Los Angeles. However, we were all wrong; the roller coaster ride was just taking another curve. After a disastrous season, the Lakers fired their coach after 5 games, Howard was forced to play with back pain, Lakers faced crippling injuries, Kobe never accepted Howard’s playful demeanor, Kobe hurting his Achilles, and finally Howard’s ejection in Game Four of the first round of the NBA playoffs, many experts believed that Howard would not be returning to the Lakers. Although Kobe had the last word and the Lakers could offer $30 million more dollars than the Rockets, the tumultuous situation caused Howard to reevaluate his options and leave Tinseltown. Although Howard does deserve blame because of how he handled the situation, NBA fans should respect him for giving up $30 million dollars and a chance to live in LA because he felt more comfortable in Houston.

Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard

Although the Rockets will have a lot of expectations and talent, they will not be my favorite to win the Western Conference. When Howard is healthy, he is one of the most dominating players this game has to offer. However, his status is uncertain because back injuries do not just heal themselves, especially for big men. Howard was not the same player we saw in Orlando because of the back injury. Although Howard had a great season compared to other centers around the league, 17 ppg, 12 rpg, 2 blk, Howard did not have the same quickness or athleticism because of the back injury. Even if Howard returns to full strength, I do not believe that the Rockets will be the top team in the league or the West. Personally, I do not think Houston’s personal will be good enough to lead Howard to his first championship. Besides for James Harden, one of the league’s brightest stars, the Rockets are devoid of star power. Although many people feel that Chandler Parsons will be a star in the league, I do not share the same opinion. The Rockets will be forced to change their style of play, which will affect their supporting cast. The Rocket players were able to put up gaudy numbers because of their “run and gun” offense, which led to a lot of open transition threes and layups. However, the Rockets will no longer be able to play at such a speed because it does not fit Howard’s game. As seen with the Lakers, Dwight is completely ineffective in that style of play. Players, such as Parsons and Lin, will be a lot less effective in their new style of play. Although Parsons will be successful as a three point shooter, Parsons will be unable to put up the same points or assists numbers, which will denigrate his value as a player. Lin will not be the same player, when the Rockets change their style of play. As seen in New York, when the Knicks were forced to play slow, Lin was not as effective as a player because of his disability to go left and separate from defenders. Lin is not a good shooter, which is what the Rockets will need to spread the floor for Howard and Harden.

James Harden
James Harden

I still believe that the Rockets will be fighting for a top 4 position in the West. I would not be surprised if the Rockets finished 4th, however I would be surprised if they finished first ahead of OKC, Grizzlies, and Spurs. OKC beat the Rockets in 6 games, even though they did not have Russell Westbrook. I would choose Russell Westbrook, Durant, and Ibaka over Howard, Harden, and Parsons. Houston will face tough battle with the Grizzlies, Clippers, and Spurs in the playoffs. The Rocket players have never won, which could be a major problem during playoff time. The Grizzlies and Spurs would have big men that could defend and neutralize Harden and Howard, Grizzlies: Allen and Gasol and Spurs: Leonard and Duncan. I would take the talent and experience of the Grizzlies and Spurs over the Rockets currently, but things can change.

Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant

However, the Rockets will have a chance of bringing the title back to Houston if they can sign Josh Smith. After reports surfaced that Howard would be signing with the Rockets, Omar Asik stated that he would not play with Howard because they share similar positions. Atlanta does not want Smith back on their team, especially for the salary he is commanding. Atlanta and Rockets have expressed interest in a possible sign and trade. The addition of Smith would give the Rockets with one of the most athletic and dynamic rotation in the league. Although many of their players have never won and their bench would be non existent, there starting five should enable them to reach the NBA Finals. In order to overtake the throne, the Rockets must add veteran free agents, who can come off the bench and provide quality minutes. Especially if the Thunder or Spurs do not add another borderline All-Star, expect the Houston Rockets to come out of the West and face the Heat in an epic final.

Josh Smith
Josh Smith

Future Lineup:

Lin

Harden

Parsons

Smith

Howard

Stats and pics from ESPN.com

Top NBA Free Agent’s Destination

By: Jonathan, THE Brooklyn Nets Fan

15. JR Smith – New York Knicks

JR Smith
JR Smith

After a break out regular season where JR Smith scored a career high, 18.1 PPG, he experienced a nightmare post-season. His horrendous post-season probably cost him millions of dollars. The Knicks cannot afford to let him go as their offense cannot thrive without another scorer besides Carmelo. After he opts-out of his current deal for $ 2.9 million, the Knicks will probably sign him to a deal ranging from $5-7 million a year.

The Nets would not have much interest in Smith as they already have Joe Johnson and Deron Williams who frequently shoot the ball.

14. JJ Redick – Oklahoma City Thunder

JJ Redick
JJ Redick

After a solid season with the Magic and Bucks where he scored a career high, 14.1 PPG, his shooting and scoring skills will be in high demand. As seen in the NBA Finals, every champion needs a reliable shooter that can stretch the defense and spread the floor. If Kevin Martin leaves the Thunder, Oklahoma City will need another scorer who can spread the floor for Durant and Westbrook.

The Nets should not have interest in Redick. Although they need shooting, he will probably be out of their price range.

13. Jose Calderon – Detroit Pistons

Jose Calderon
Jose Calderon

The veteran Spanish point guard has many different options this offseason. After another consistent season, Jose will be in high demand. I believe that Jose will return to Detroit because he has a lot to add to the team. The pass first point guard will drastically improve the game of big men Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. He can also teach young point guard Brandon Knight how to be an effective player.

The Nets have no interest in Jose Calderon. They have Deron Williams who played like the best point guard in the league after the All Star break.

12. OJ Mayo – Minnesota Timberwolves

OJ Mayo
OJ Mayo

The former Dallas Mavericks shooting guard has hit free agency for the second time in his young career. After signing a one-year deal with the Mavericks last offseason, he should be looking to cash in on a multi-year deal. The talented 25 year-old shooting guard had a comeback season. He will probably wind up with Timberwolves who would be able to boast a strong starting five (Rubio, Mayo, Williams/2013 pick, Love, and Pekovic). He can provide some valuable scoring to a team that can become stagnate at times.

The Nets should make a run at OJ Mayo this offseason. If he could be had at a discounted price, he would be a valuable 6th man playing at SG or SF.

11. Manu Ginobili – San Antonio Spurs

Manu Ginobili
Manu Ginobili

The two time All-Star will either re-sign with the team that drafted him or retire this up coming offseason. After a forgettable finals, Manu will not make anywhere near the $14 million he made this year with the team. If he is willing to take less money, the Spurs will be able to possibly sign another valuable player who could lead them to the finals once again.

The Nets have no chance of signing Manu nor do I want him. He is a washed up star who has played a year too long.

10. Tyreke Evans – Utah Jazz

Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans

After winning the NBA Rookie of the Year award in 2010, Tyreke’s production has steadily declined. Although a restricted free-agent, Tyreke will be leaving the Kings “toxic” organization. Evans has never been able to show off his true ability because of the constant fluctuation of the Sacramento Kings. With the Jazz, he will be able to grow with the young nucleus of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors and under the veteran tutelage of Mo Williams.

Evans would be useless with the Nets as the already have Johnson and Williams.

9. David West – Indiana Pacers

David West
David West

After an impressive playoff appearance, David West will be in high demand during the NBA offseason. After pushing the Miami Heat to a seventh game of the ECF without their best offensive playmaker, Danny Granger, the Indiana Pacers have a legitimate chance of knocking off the Heat next year. Indiana was able to expose the Heat with their physical play. This is why the Pacers MUST re-sign David West if they want any chance of upsetting the Heat. He can provide physically along with consistent rebounding and scoring.

The Nets would love to have a player like David West. The Nets have a desperate need at the power forward with the struggling Kris Humphries and the offensively challenged Reggie Evans. He can be like Reggie Evans except with the ability to put the ball in the basket.

8. Paul Millsap – San Antonio Spurs

Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap

Similar to David West, Paul Millsap is an undervalued, undersized power forward for the Utah Jazz. After being beaten by Miami down low repeatedly without Tim Duncan on the floor, San Antonio must reevaluate their power forward position. Millsap can be a great find for the Spurs as he would provided added toughness, rebounding, and scoring.

The Nets would love to have a player like Paul Millsap. Although there were rumors about him during the trade deadline, the trade never went through. He can be like Reggie Evans except with the ability to put the ball in the basket.

7. Brandon Jennings – Milwaukee Bucks

Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings

The Bucks cannot allow the extremely talented 23 year-old Jennings walk without gaining something in return. Luckily, he is a restricted free agent so they will have the power to match any offer. Unless the Mavs or Hawks swoop in and offer Jennings the max, I believe he will return with Milwaukee. If the problem arises again, they can always trade him during the trade deadline. Since it looks like Monta Ellis will not be returning, the Bucks must make it a priority to re-sign Jennings.

The Nets have no need for the inconsistent Jennings with Williams on the team.

6. Andre Iguodala – Denver Nuggets

Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala

Andre Iguodala will almost certainly re-sign with the Denver Nuggets this offseason. Although he opted out of his deal, there is mutual interest between both sides so a deal will probably be complete. Iguodala is a perfect fit for the team as he is extremely versatile and allows them to play small and fast with his great defensive ability.

The Nets believed they had someone like Iguodala when they traded for Gerald Wallace. However, they have been badly mistaken.

5. Al Jefferson – Atlanta Hawks

Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson

With Josh Smith most likely leaving this offseason, the Hawks will have a need for a big man to complement Al Horford down low. Big Al will allow Horford to return to his natural power forward position and could create a lethal combination of size. The Hawks will have more than enough money this offseason and hope they can make a splash, like Jefferson, Howard, or Paul.

If the Nets had Big Al they would become extremely dangerous down low as him and Lopez could average 40 and 17 nightly.

4. Andrew Bynum – Charlotte Bobcats

Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum

Probably the most interesting free agent we have had in a number of years, Andrew Bynum has the potential to be an extreme steal or bust. When playing, he is a walking 20 and 10 who could be considered the best big man in the game. The Bobcats will have money to spend this offseason. Since they cannot attract big name free agent routinely, they should gamble on Bynum this offseason. If it is a success, he can possibly lead them to their first post-season win in franchise history.

The Nets had their chance of having Bynum, but did not want to Kidd for him.

3. Josh Smith – Dallas Mavericks

Josh Smith
Josh Smith

This offseason the Mavericks plan on making a huge splash in free agency. With millions in cap room, they have the possibility of landing two big free agents. Although Josh does not deserve a max contract, he will definitely be paid handsomely in the range of $12-15 million per year. If the Mavericks want to make a lot of noise, they can sign Smith and offer Jennings a max offer in attempt to pair them with Dirk. The Mavericks need to make the playoffs next year after the poor showing this past year.

The Nets attempted to trade for him this deadline. He could be incredibly useful for the Nets who need massive amounts of help on power forward and talent.

2. Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets

Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard

Hopefully the “Dwightmare” will finally end this offseason. For the past three years different teams, such as my Nets, have tried to lure the talented big man onto their team. (Magic made huge mistake not trading to Nets. Instead of having Aaron Affalo, they could be pairing vucevic and lopez down low, more salary cap relief, and more future first round picks). This past season Dwight hit rock bottom as the Lakers barely made the playoffs and he was constantly scutinized for his play and attitude. By going to Houston, he will be able to escape the media pressure of Tinseltown without losing too much money. Since Texas has no income tax, their standard of living is a lot less than LA, Dwight Howard would probably opt-out of the last year of his deal, the money issue is a non-factor. Howard will have his best chance at winning in Houston because of their young nucleus. The Lakers are a bad fit for Howard: bad coach, aging team, little room for improvement, and he does not like being in the spotlight. With James Harden, Chandler Parsons, and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets can form a solid inside out style.

The Nets have almost no chance of getting Dwight Howard. Although many people hope that there is still a way we can do a sign and trade, the chance are slim to none. At least we have lopez who can average 20 and 7 nightly.

1. Chris Paul – Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul
Chris Paul

The best player this offseason as well as the best point guard in the league will remain in the City of Angels with the Clip. With the addition of Doc Rivers, the Clippers now have a legitimate leader of men who can bring the best out of his stars. Along with Blake Griffin and a solid bench, the Clippers have the possibility to reach the Conference Finals and maybe even the Finals, with Spurs getting old and a recovering Westbrook. Unless Paul can find a way to join with Howard in either Atlanta, Houston, or Dallas, his best destination is Los Angeles where he can with a budding star and a top level coach.