|NBA Offseason Review: Northwest Division||12.20.11 at 7:43 pm ET|
Given the drama (and comedy) that was the NBA lockout, the ensuing free agency frenzy and the vetoed trade by a commissioner of a group of owners who was acting as the general manager of an individual team that is owned by that same group of owners, it’s easy to get confused about who landed where. This is the second of six daily division-by-division reviews leading up to opening day.
NBA Offseason Review: Pacific Division
2010-11 record: 17-65
2010-11 standing: 5th in Northwest Division
NBA draft picks: 2. Derrick Williams; 43. Malcolm Lee
Key additions: Ricky Rubio (Spain); J.J. Barea (free agent); Brad Miller (trade)
Key substractions: Jonny Flynn (trade); Lazar Hayward (trade)
2011-12 starters: PG Ricky Rubio; SG Wesley Johnson; SF Michael Beasley; PF Kevin Love; C Darko Milicic
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 15.5
2011-12 prediction: 21-45
2010-11 record: 48-34
2010-11 standing: 3rd in Northwest Division; lost Western Conference first round, 4-2
NBA draft picks: 21. Nolan Smith; 51. Jon Diebler; 57. Tanguy Ngombo
Key additions: Jamal Crawford (free agent) Raymond Felton (trade); Kurt Thomas (free agent)
Key substractions: Andre Miller (trade); Brandon Roy (retired); Patrick Mills (free agent)
2011-12 starters: PG Felton; SG Wesley Matthews; SF Gerald Wallace; PF LaMarcus Aldridge; C Marcus Camby
2011-12 wins over/under (sportsbook.com): 41.5
2011-12 prediction: 39-27
|NBA draft-day rumors: Josh Smith to Timberwolves for second-overall pick?||06.23.11 at 3:23 pm ET|
Josh Smith continues to jockey for the position of the MVP of the rumor mill.
The latest report, coming from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, has the Hawks trying to trade the high-flying forward to Minnesota for the second-overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. The Timberwolves were believed to be heavily considering Derrick Williams out of Arizona at that spot, and Wojnarowski didn’t mention the team as being interested in any deal involving Smith.
The Hawks would most likely take center Enes Kanter, who has drawn the eye of Hawks GM Rick Sund, with the second pick if they were able to acquire it.
|Danny Ainge: 2012 NBA Draft ‘will be better’||06.22.11 at 3:49 pm ET|
WALTHAM — Danny Ainge has crafted a reputation as a GM who isn’t afraid to wheel and deal. Just don’t expect it Thursday night. So, in other words Celtics fans, be patient.
The Celtics president of basketball operations said Wednesday that he doesn’t foresee trading his two draft picks on Thursday to move up for an elite position in the NBA Draft. The Celtics are currently slotted to select at position 25 in the first round and 55th overall in the second round.
“We don’t want to move next year’s pick to [move up] in this year’s draft because the picks we have aren’t good enough to get to the very, very top of the draft and we think next year’s draft will be better,” Ainge said.
The Celtics will get a 2012 first-round pick via their Feb. 24 trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder for Kendrick Perkins. It will be the less favorable pick from either the Minnesota Timberwolves or Los Angeles Clippers, and is “Top-10” protected.
|NBA mock draft: Celtics eye next Jordan?||05.24.11 at 10:11 pm ET|
With only four teams still competing in the postseason, the majority of fans are counting down the days until June 23 and the NBA draft. This year’s class is not expected to be strong, but there is a slew of European talent, a handful of hit or miss ‘project’ players and more Morrises than you can shake a stick at.
Duke freshman Kyrie Irving appears to be the consensus No. 1 pick despite playing just 11 games for the Blue Devils. Arizona’s Derrick Williams likely will be taken second, but by whom? Timberwolves general manager David Kahn is expected to shop that selection.
Kentucky’s Enes Kanter measures at a monstrous 6-foot-11, 261 pounds. However, he has yet to play in the United States as the NCAA declared him permanently ineligible, citing benefits from his Turkish Basketball League team.
Who will take the risk and select BYU sharpshooter Jimmer Fredette? Who will be Sacramento’s potential last first-round pick? Who will the Celtics select? All that and more in our first NBA mock draft.
Kyrie Irving, Duke, Fr., PG, 6-2, 180
The Cavs finally won something. It’s a shame there are no players of LeBron James‘ caliber in this draft class. Irving has arguably the highest ceiling talent-wise, and he fits Cleveland’s needs for speed and ball-handling much better than the only other reasonable candidate, Derrick Williams.
Derrick Williams, Arizona, So., SF/PF, 6-9, 241
An athletic high-flier, Williams is more than just a powerful dunker. He has great basket awareness and finishes at the rim as well as anyone in this class. The T-Wolves frontcourt is already packed with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. However, Williams is simply too good to pass up at the No. 2 spot whether it’s by the Wolves or a trade partner.
3. Utah Jazz
Brandon Knight, Kentucky, Fr., PG/SG, 6-3, 185
With Deron Williams shipped off to New Jersey and Irving off the board, Knight is the obvious selection. A well-rounded offensive player, Knight is able to get to the rim at will, knock down mid-range jumpers, and extend his range beyond the arc. He’s a capable rebounder and creative passer, whose st0ck rose with his performance in the NCAA tournament. The Jazz have a veteran point guard with a similar skill set in Devin Harris for Knight to learn under.
|Ricky Rubio reportedly has interest in Celtics||01.23.11 at 7:39 pm ET|
Ricky Rubio was drafted by the Timberwolves in 2009, but the Spanish guard has yet to sign a contract and come to the NBA. Rubio faces an interesting choice this summer. If he signs before June 30, his contract would be on the current rookie scale. If he waits and stays in Europe for another season he could negotiate a deal that isn’t bound by the rookie scale.
Complicating the matter further is the pending lockout, which could go into effect on June 30 once the current collective bargaining agreement ends and would muddle his options further.
But Rubio has never shown an interest in playing for Minnesota, and in a piece in The New York Times, one of his representatives is quoted as saying that Rubio would rather play for an East Coast team, citing New York, Miami and Boston as his preferred destinations.
The takeaway from Rubio’s interest isn’t that he wants to come to Boston so much as it appears that he doesn’t want to go to Minnesota. It’s not really his choice right now because Rubio doesn’t have a lot of leverage. The Timberwolves own his rights, regardless of how long it takes for him to sign a contract. Even if he did want to play for the Celtics, they are already set at point guard with Rajon Rondo, who is in the first year of a five-year, $65 million contract.
While it is interesting that he has Boston on his list, the specter of a work stoppage and a new collective bargaining agreement makes any future plans impossible to predict. That’s one of the reasons the Celtics went all-in for this season. Their future is an open question as the only players signed beyond next season are Rondo and Paul Pierce. (Rookies Avery Bradley, Semih Erden and Luke Harangody also are more or less bound to the team.)
|Paul Pierce ‘forgot’ Rajon Rondo was back playing||01.04.11 at 9:45 am ET|
Rajon Rondo can be the quiet type in the locker room but when he’s on the court everyone knows he’s out there by his leadership and presence — at least almost everyone.
Doc Rivers pulled Paul Pierce aside at halftime during Monday night’s survival test against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves and reminded him that he didn’t need to run the offense and distribute when Rondo was on the court.
All good intentions aside, getting others involved wasn’t working out that well for Pierce and the Celtics. He had just five points and had handed out just one assist as the C’s trailed, 47-43.
‘Doc at the half wanted me to be a little more aggressive,” Pierce said. “I was out there trying to make plays and I forgot that we had Rondo out there doing that so I can go back to my customary role of scoring the ball. That’s what I tried to do in the second half.’
As any coach would, Rivers wanted Pierce to do what he does best.
‘I thought Paul in the first half tried way too hard to get everybody else involved,” Rivers said of his captain, who leads the team at 19.0 points per game. “And I told him that at halftime. I said, ‘Paul, you no longer have to be the play maker. We need you to be the aggressive scorer.’ And even he, right after the game he walked up to me and it was the first thing he said was, ‘Ah, gosh, I was, I was way too passive.’
“I said, ‘Yeah, I just thought you were trying to set everybody else up,'” Rivers continued. “Consciously, you know, twice he had shots and he passed it to Nate [Robinson]. Nate’s struggling with his shot right now, but I still want Paul to shoot the ball if he’s open. And I just thought he did a little too much of that tonight.’
Pierce heard Rivers loud and clear after the intermission, remembered that Rondo was indeed in his second game back, and lit up the T’Wolves for 18 second-half points as the Celtics rallied for a 96-93 win.
Once Pierce did allow Rondo to run the show, Pierce and the rest of the team reaped the rewards.
“We got Ray [Allen] open, I thought that was the key,” Pierce said. “Rondo really pushed the ball. Got some really good looks. Defense buckled down so we were able to make a run and get back into the game. Rondo with a big shot and some big passes [to] [Shaquille O’Neal] and that’s what he’s capable of doing and that’s why I’m glad to have him back.”
Observers might have wondered if his sprained right ankle from Sunday night in Toronto might have been affecting his play in the first half.
‘A little bit. I was a little stiff, slow,” Pierce admitted. “But, it wasn’t as bad as I thought. Just going to get treatment throughout the week. I don’t see any problems coming up.’
That’s good news for Wednesday as the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs come calling at the Garden. In that matchup, thanks to the second half of Monday’s contest, no one will need to remind Pierce about Rondo when No. 9 is on the court.
|The NBA 30 on 30: Blogosphere Forecast (2 of 7)||10.25.10 at 12:52 pm ET|
NBA fans live a team’s ups and downs. They react to every draft pick, trade and free-agent signing. They debate the merits of the 15th man. They find significance in the most insignificant stats. They simply KNOW their team. So, too, do bloggers. That’s why we sought the opinion of the league’s best blogs — one for each of the 30 teams — to break down the team they cover and, of course, the Celtics.
We’ll move to the Western Conference’s Northwest Division with the second of a seven-part, two-day series (you can read Part 1 here) …
ON THE NUGGETS: Everything with the Nuggets this season is based on Carmelo Anthony. It feels like the organization is holding out some type of hope that by keeping ‘Melo around at the start of the season and winning some games early, it will convince him to stay. But all signs point to an eventual trade.
In the meantime, Denver fans will hold out hope that this team will get healthy, prove the doubters wrong and make one more run with ‘Melo at the Western Conference title.
ON THE CELTICS: Age is going to be the main focus in Boston this year. Every time you tune in to a game, we’ll be hearing one of two things: 1) If Boston is winning, how they’re turning back the clock; and 2) If Boston is losing, how father time caught up with the Celtics.
I think the key to the C’s run is Rajon Rondo. Can he hit the outside shots that teams will be giving him? With all their depth, I see the Celtics challenging for the title again this season, as they’ll make it back to the NBA Finals.
ON THE TIMBERWOLVES: The Wolves will … I have no idea what Our Beloved Puppies will do this season. In theory, they should be much better than last year’s squad. In practice, it remains to be seen whether or not a roster upgraded with several legitimate mid-level rotation players will have any effect on the bottom line.
At the end of the day, Kevin Love is the team’s best player, scorer and rebounder, and he’ll be surrounded by a bunch of guys that won’t be able to create their own shot. This is a team without an A1 talent, and unlike the Blazers (Brandon Roy) or Thunder (Kevin Durant), the Wolves appear to be headed down the Hawks’ path to “success.”
The Wolves also are on the verge of sending the Los Angeles Clippers their first-round pick thanks to the long-since-passed Marko Jaric wunder-trade (top-10 protected until 2011; unprotected thereafter). The doomsday scenario for the Wolves is that they find a way to finish with the 11th-worst record in the league, Jonny Flynn proves himself to be nothing more than a backup and Ricky Rubio decides to wait another year in Europe in order to take advantage of a rule that strips the rookie scale restriction from his first-year NBA paycheck.
If all of this happens, David Kahn will have found a way to have selected four top-six picks in the past two seasons with only one starter. … Well, this also assumes that Wes Johnson can crack the starting lineup by the end of the season. He’ll also have used the team’s much-vaunted cap space on Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Nikola Pekovic and (hopefully) Rubio’s rookie deal.
Kahn may have been volun-told into radio silence following his comments about Michael Beasley‘s pot smoking, but don’t let the silence fool you into thinking that he doesn’t have an amazing amount of pressure riding on him this season. The Wolves are walking a thin line right now, and they could end up with a nice lotto pick (Harrison Barnes!), Rubio and a nice starting wing (Johnson); they also could find themselves even worse off than before.
We’ll just have to wait and see how it all plays out.
ON THE CELTICS: Our prediction for the Celtics is that they will lead the league in sleeping with LeBron’s mom, Kevin Garnett will be one of the league leaders in the era of Technicals for Everyone!, Glen “Big Baby” Davis will finally take a swing at The Big Ticket in practice and in the conference finals they’ll find a way to beat up on an already-beat-up Miami Heat squad — who, interestingly enough, will be led by a strangely detached LBJ, whose performance will inspire a brand new Tweet tag: #nqgoat (“not quite” … well, you know the rest).
ON THE THUNDER: Common sense says the only option is up from 50. No key losses, the existing youngsters should have improved and there have been some nice additions that should help. But the fact some key Western teams dealt with injuries last season and that everything seemed to break right is a bit disconcerting. Last season could have just been a flash-in-the-pan, but I say it was the first step towards something bigger.
The Thunder might not be completely ready to finish second in the West and compete for the conference crown. Keep in mind, last year this was the league’s youngest roster, and they’re only a year older. They will be good, and they will win a lot of games. The Northwest Division title is the first goal, but I don’t think OKC is ready for that. I’ve got them finishing second in the Northwest and fourth in the West.
ON THE CELTICS: Yeah they’re old. Yeah, they get hurt a lot. Yeah, the Heat did something with some players this offseason. But never write off the Celtics. Not yet.
The C’s are your classic closing-window team where time is running out on them. Their core is aging and — for the most part — aren’t what they used to be. Rondo has evolved into the team’s best player, something nobody really saw coming three years ago. Despite Miami having Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, and the Magic always good with Dwight Howard, it’s tough not to put the Celtics right at the top of the East.
I don’t typically like the, “They’re the champs until someone beat them,” but in Boston’s sense, it applies. They won the East last year, and they will fight tooth and nail to defend it. Of coursem, here’s the “if they stay healthy” disclaimer, because that applies to teams that have guys collecting social security still playing, but I think the Celtics finish first in the East this year.
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
by Dave Deckard, Blazersedge
ON THE TRAIL BLAZERS: The Portland Trail Blazers continue their attempt to morph from caterpillar to beautiful butterfly. Six years worth of injuries in six months destroyed their 2009-10 season, holding them to 50 wins and a second straight first-round playoff exit. Conventional wisdom says that once all the pieces are in place the half-team that won 54 two years ago plus the half team that won 50 last year makes a whole team — and a whole lot of wins. But Conventional wisdom doesn’t watch much basketball.
Even when healthy, the pieces on this team don’t mesh well yet. The core of the team is young, coming up without strong veteran leadership. They haven’t learned how to involve each other, let alone sacrifice for each other. They don’t have the drive to defend consistently. They don’t have the courage to force turnovers and run. They don’t have a post presence or enough motion in the offense.
Portland’s key veteran, point guard Andre Miller, needs the ball too much to fit with Brandon Roy, and Miller likes his offense too much to free the other youngsters whose offensive games need to develop. Backup point guard is in flux, and reserve wing Wesley Matthews, though a preseason bright spot, was the Blazers’ major acquisition over the summer — not exactly a revolutionary move in itself.
Center Marcus Camby has been a Godsend, though, and the presumed return of Greg Oden and Joel Przybilla should give the Blazers a three-headed defensive center platoon to be reckoned with. Oden remains the great hope, as he dominates the defensive paint and the glass when he plays. He could be a one-man revolution. But he’s hurt, and his game is raw, and that’s not a good equation for immediate success.
The Blazers have talent. They will be good this year. But they haven’t had enough time or experience together to be great. They’ll get to the postseason, and they’re aiming at the second round of the playoffs, but they’ll need a high seed to accomplish that goal. Anything more is pie in the sky at this point.
ON THE CELTICS: For everyone running against the Miami Hype Machine who also can’t bear to hop on board with the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics represent the last, best hope for a happy end to the 2010-11 season. Last year’s Eastern Conference champs have plenty to recommend them.
A starting lineup of Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Garnett and Shaquille O’Neal need not blush before the league’s super-teams. Even better, the second unit of Delonte West, Nate Robinson, Davis, Jermaine O’Neal and Kendrick Perkins ensures that the galloping geriatrics won’t have to spend 40 minutes per night on the floor in the regular season.
Last year, the Celtics ranked in the upper third of the league in several traditional barometer categories: point differential, points allowed, field goal percentage and field goal percentage allowed. Their comparatively anemic rebounding production should be bolstered by the influx of O’Neals. They may not generate the same headlines they did in 2008, but they’re going to win professionally and consistently.
Unfortunately, it isn’t going to work.
The only way the Celtics can go upwards is to reclaim the championship. Every team in history that has come in second has looked back on a game or a moment that, if tweaked, seemingly could have tipped the scales in the other direction. With all of those banners in tow, Celtics fans already know that winners were meant to win. The distance between second and first is greater than it seems. Unless the surrounding tide recedes, you have to revolutionize, not just bolster, in order to bridge the gulf between the trophy and “almost.” The tide has swept in farther around the Celtics, and they haven’t revolutionized.
Needing to drink from the fountain of youth, Boston drank from the fountain of slow instead. J.O. is hanging on despite the decreased mobility, but he’s not the complementary player that Perkins is. He needs to be featured in order to shine. Shaq comes equipped with his own leather jacket and water skis nowadays. Every team that’s had him since Miami has figured out he’s an extremely expensive billboard reading, “You just jumped the shark.”
Those aren’t “We got KG in 2007” acquisitions. They’re “We got KG right now” signings at best. They’ll help out in the regular season, if healthy. They’ll keep the Celtics from sinking, probably propelling them to a higher seed. But they’re not going to lead them to the Promised Land. No matter how many wins lie in between, seven-game series with the Heat and the Lakers still wait at the end of the road. That’s bad news for Celtics fans.
ON THE JAZZ: Jazz fans (and coaches) are starting a new “Carlos Boozer free” era of basketball. He was a good finisher, but his defense became such a weakness that other teams went right at him in the playoffs — and faced little resistance. The Jazz were never going to win with him, especially when he’d disappear for entire playoff series’ at a time. We’re all happy to see him go. So far, he’s already gotten injured, and the Jazz have beaten the Lakers twice on the road. Yes, it’s only preseason, but optimism is high in Jazz land again this season.
Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the game, and establishing him as the primary scoring option will only make him more dangerous in the playoffs, where superstars get favorable calls. Also, all the new parts seem to be picking up the flex offense as best as they can. Furthermore, the new additions seem to be more defensive-minded than the people they replaced. For example, Raja Bell for Kyle Korver is a step in the right direction for playoff-minded basketball.
More than anything else, Jazz fans are most enamored with former Celtic Al Jefferson. His tutelage under Kevin McHale really shows, and he has an almost limitless array of post moves that allow him to score up or around Pau Gasol in ways that Boozer couldn’t even imagine without getting injured. Jefferson and Gasol played a lot of minutes against one another in the two preseason games, and if this is anything to look forward to the Jazz will not roll over so easily in the playoffs this year.
If the Jazz are healthy and reintegrate recovering Mehmet Okur well into the system when he returns, then I fully expect them to finally have homecourt in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs — something that they were never able to do when Boozer was around.
ON THE CELTICS: First of all, Jazz fans love the Celtics. We can only admire and applaud the successes of your franchise and the depth of your collective disdain for the Lakers (a squad we’re not very fond of either). It may sound hyperbolic, but this season the Boston Celtics have one of their deepest rosters in decades.
The depth is no greater than in the paint. It’s a shame for them that there are only 96 total minutes to play at power forward and center during a regular length game — a fact that could become one of the greatest challenges this season. But it’s a challenge that 29 other teams in the league wouldn’t mind having. When it comes to shooting, Rondo isn’t Mark Price, but by the same token Price never got a triple double in the playoffs. Rondo has five so far (and he’s still so young), including one in an NBA Finals game. He’s only going to get better in the next few seasons.
When everyone is healthy, and the games count the most, I fully expect the Celtics to grind the other East squads into the hardwood with a structured and deliberate defense that funnels other teams into their own dooms. You win in the playoffs with defense and rebounding. I expect another 50-plus win season, complete with at least 10 playoff wins — if not more.
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this seven-part series: the Western Conference’s Southwest Division.
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