Since COMCAST has neglected to shut down their free League Pass demo offering since January, I’ve watched my fair share of NBA in the new year and wished to pass along some thoughts, observations and predictions for the 2nd half of the 2009-2010 season.
Positionally, this team is where I expected them to be at the start of season – leading the SouthEast division and sitting 2nd in the Eastern Conference. The underlying truth is that it has been mostly an up and down first half. Off-season pickups of Barnes, Anderson and JWilliams have been a huge boost to the depth of the team which has had it’s share of injuries (Carter, Nelson, Pietrus) along the way. J.J. Redick has had spurts of turning the corner, however inconsistency has been his downfall.
The biggest problem in the 1st half has to be Vince Carter – a guy I had a problem supporting in Toronto and now his tendencies are becoming a crutch on the defending Eastern Conference champs. Lost is Hedo Turkoglu who was able to create his own shot, play off pick-and-rolls and hit the pressure shot in close games. Vince settles for long jumpers, falls victim to new injuries on a daily basis and cannot be trusted in pressure situations. He shot a pathetic 28.4% and averaged 8.7ppg in January and overall is averaging 6.6ppg less than his career average. Dunking has also been lost in the man’s repertoire, settling for low percentage shots instead.
The Magic need to feed the beast and play more inside with Dwight while also relying more of their offense around Rashard Lewis, who has the ability to hit big shots and is shooting 40% from 3pt range. Jameer’s health will also be a telling tale to see if they can knock out the Cavs again in the East this year.
1. Cleveland: potential addition of Amar’e could push the Cavs over the hump this year.
3. Atlanta: 4-0 vs. Boston however 0-5 vs. Cle/Orl gives an indication that the team is not there yet and destined for a 2nd round exit.
4. Boston: KG has clearly run out of fuel and there isn’t much left in Allen’s tank. I see a resiliant playoff run by the veterans but falling short of the Eastern Conference championship.
5. Toronto: teams that don’t play defence nor win on the road don’t usually go far in the playoffs. Trying to catch the #4 seed is the only potential road to success.
1. LA Lakers: if this team can beat Portland, San Antonio and Utah w/o Kobe, I think it’s time to re-evaluate Bryant’s work schedule for the 2nd half and make sure he is 100% healthy for the playoffs.
2. Denver: definitely a team that can give the Lakers a run for their money, playing exceptionally well against +.500 teams (20-10) and have KMart and Billups back in form for the 2nd half.
4. Dallas: a team that could give the Lakers a run if they were to meet in the 2nd round as they match up well with their bigs and have played them tough in 2/3 meetings this year.
5. San Antonio: this team should have retooled 2 years ago, instead are playing off aging vets Finley, Ratliff and Manu with newly signed RJ providing no help whatsover. This is not how I wanted to see Timmy’s swan song but the team is 11-19 vs. +.500 teams and is destined for a 1st round exit.
6. Oklahoma City: feel good story of the year, however anything outside a Jazz 1st round match-up is not going to end well.
MVP: Lebron James – the definition of most valuable to his team, leading the league with the best record and sporting a flashy 30ppg-7reb-8ast stat set.
Defensive Player: Dwight Howard – easily the best rebounder in the game and is 0.5 blocks/game ahead of his closest competition.
Rookie: Tyreke Evans – Jennings may have the flash but this man has the game (20.3ppg on par with Durant in 2007).
Sixth Man: Jamal Crawford – has been a key ingredient to Atlanta’s hot start and can be lethal from 3pt range.
Most Improved: Kevin Durant – has improved point production by 4.4ppg while also increasing fg%, ft%, and rebounding numbers, but most importantly has elevated the Thunder to playoff status.
Coach: Nate McMillan – as long as the Blazers hang on to a playoff spot, this is Nate’s to lose having overcome injuries (Oden, Roy) in the competitive Western Conference.
All-NBA 1st Team: (F)Lebron-(F)Durant-(C)Dwight-(G)Kobe-(G)Paul
All-NBA 2nd Team: (F)Carmelo-(F)Bosh-(C)D.Lee-(G)Nash-(G)Wade
All-NBA 3rd Team: (F)Duncan-(F)Nowitzki-(C)Kaman-(G)D.Williams-(G)J.Johnson