2009-10 Game 2: Denver Nuggets 97 – Portland Trail Blazers 94

Box Score | Highlights

I have to keep reminding myself that the Nuggets have played only two games.

Still, those two games could not have gone much better. After opening up a double digit fourth quarter lead and cruising to a win against the Utah Jazz in game one, the Nuggets went to Portland, weathered an impressive third quarter performance from Brandon Roy and rode Carmelo Anthony to a absolutely huge 97-94 victory.

Heading into the season I had many optimistic Nuggets fans, or maybe just Melo fans, ask me if I thought Anthony had a shot at MVP. I always answered with the same, Melo is a great scorer and is making progress towards becoming a complete player, but he will not be in the MVP conversation yet.

Again it was only two games, but Melo has put together two very good performances. After scoring 30 points on only 22 shots in game one, Carmelo produced an explosion of efficiency by earning his 41 points on only 21 shots thanks to an 18-19 performance from the line.

Melo is now averaging 35.5 points, seven boards and four assists a game on 51.2% shooting.

The Nuggets also were able to stir themselves from an early malaise to play some very good team defense. They held the Blazers to only 34.6% shooting – – including 37.7% effective field goal and 47.5% true shooting – – very impressive numbers. Denver struggled on the defensive boards in the first half, but put forth a much better effort on the boards in the second half. The Blazers took a startling 20 more shots than Denver did largely due to their offensive rebounding advantage, yet Portland only made 28 shots, the same total as the Nuggets.

The teams combined to shoot 90 free throws giving the game a preseason replacement ref feel and the game moved in fits and starts, yet the Nuggets’ defense and Melo’s offense carried the day.

In a one point game with just over five seconds to play Greg Oden received a desperate pass from Brandon Roy and was accidentally fouled by Kenyon Martin and that turned out to be the best thing that could have happened for Denver. A clearly uncomfortable Oden who may have never been in this situation in his basketball life missed both free throws and Carmelo pulled down the rebound to protect the lead. After Melo cashed in his sixteenth and seventeenth free throws of the night the game ended on a desperation heave by Roy which sailed wide right to end the game.

The Nuggets are now 2-0 for only the second time since 1987 and they sit atop the Western Conference as the firs team to two victories. The tough opening stretch does not look so difficult now with wins over the Jazz and Blazers under the Nuggets belts. Denver now plays the Grizzlies in Denver on Sunday before embarking on a season high six game east coast road trip.

For more detailed coverage of last night’s tilt with Portland, check out the Daily Dime at ESPN.com. You can read the chat transcript to see what the conversation was like during the game as I discussed the action with the surreal Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm and the TrueHoop Network Blazers’ blogger Beyond Bowie. There is also a little tidbit on Ty Lawson in there from yours truly.

NBA Chat on the Daily Dime

I will be taking part in the mass NBA chat on the newly redesigned ESPN.com Daily Dime tonight featuring a handful of TrueHoop Network bloggers and a few members of the ESPN.com NBA writing staff as well.  Check out the chat and send in your questions and comments.

2009-10 Game 1: Denver Nuggets 114 – Utah Jazz 105

Box Score | Highlights | ESPN360 Replay

The worst thing a coach can do to a team is play the wrong players. Heading into the regular season many Nuggets fans were worried that old George Karl favorite Anthony Carter and apparent new George Karl favorite Joey Graham would take minutes away from more deserving players.

I have to insert the typical opening night disclaimer of how I know we cannot jump to conclusions after one game, but if Karl trusts Ty Lawson enough to put him out there in the fourth quarter of a tight game against a division rival – in his first career NBA game – I think we can look forward to much more Lawson this season. As far as Graham, who I believe does deserve minutes as a solid player who avoids mistakes, even without J.R. Smith available he was only on the floor for seven minutes.

As good as Lawson was, I was most impressed with Carmelo Anthony. Melo did everything you could ask for, he displayed all his offensive talents and played solid defense and hit the glass. With the ball Melo certainly was aggressive attacking the rim, but still took advantage of the times he had space to fire off a jumper. On top of his scoring, he also dished out five assists, three of which resulted in dunks.

Defensively Carmelo did a fine job. He stayed with Andrei Kirilenko and did a decent job of fighting through picks and as mentioned above he did a good job on the defensive glass.

I think Melo is poised for a career year and that is a big reason why I like the Nuggets’ chances to improve this season.

One of my concerns heading into the regular season was the relatively poor play by Chauncey Billups in the preseason. I had not seen how Billups typically performed in the preseason before so I knew it was possible that he might turn it on when the games started to count, but I was certainly concerned about his play. After a bit of a slow start he showed that there was no reason to be concerned. Chauncey was his typical self providing direction on the floor on offense, playing smart defense and hitting shots when the Nuggets needed him to.

The backcourt of Billups and Lawson was fun to watch. Chauncey is a deadly three point shooter and he received a few open looks thanks to Lawson’s ability to penetrate. Playing with Lawson also allows Billups to rest a bit on offense without carrying so much of a burden for making things run.

Surprisingly the backcourt pairing that triggered the Nuggets game clinching run in the fourth quarter was Lawson and Arron Afflalo. Anthony Carter struggled to guard Deron Williams because of Williams’ combination of size and speed and obviously Lawson did have issues trying to cover him. Afflalo was able to handle Deron’s size both in the paint and on the perimeter where Deron can use his strength to bump his defender off balance in order to drive to the rim. With Afflalo frustrating Williams and Boozer having a horrible shooting night the Jazz did not have enough offense to keep up with the scoring of Lawson, Billups and Anthony.

As a team, I thought Denver’s offense was a little too isolation heavy. Their movement away from the ball was inconsistent and easily defended. However, with players like Carmelo, Billups and Lawson able to drive and create offense for both themselves as well as their teammates the Nuggets offense was able to put up 91 points over the final three quarters.

Defensively the Nuggets had some tough assignments. Boozer is usually a handful in the paint and Okur is the kind of sweet shooting big the Nuggets can struggle with. Plus the Jazz run a grinding style of offense that will eat up disorganized defenses. Early on Denver struggled with covering the player who would set the cross screen for the big man on the weakside block. The Jazz were able to hit players with a quick pass while the defender stood with his back to the ball resulting in some easy baskets. Denver adjusted and the Jazz did not score on that play in the second half that I can recall. The Nuggets showed solid pick and roll defense, rotated relatively well (although they did give up a couple of wide open threes to Okur) and when the situation called for it, they scrambled very well after getting out of position.

Overall, you have to be pleased with the win. Afflalo definitely filled the role of Dahntay Jones, Lawson showed that the Nuggets have a tremendous new weapon. And I do not recall ever thinking to myself, the Nuggets could really use Linas Kleiza here. In the second quarter Denver had Lawson, Graham, Afflalo, Kenyon and Birdman on the floor at the same time and I was wondering where the offense would come from. They actually outscored the Jazz and erased a seven point first quarter deficit. The bench played very well and they look to be one of those groups whose production is greater than the sum of its parts.

Additional Game 1 Nuggets

  • Two of the Nuggets biggest issues heading into the season were rebounding and turnovers. The Nuggets outrebounded the bigger Jazz 42-39 and they only turned the ball over 13 times. Chauncey, AC, Lawson and Afflalo combined for only four turnovers in 99 minutes. That is incredible considering how turnover prone Carter is and the way Chauncey coughed the ball up in the preseason.
  • As the intensity picked up in the second half there were a handful of jump balls. I got a kick out of referee Bob Delaney struggling to clear space to throw the ball up. I do not remember seeing a ref get so physical in demanding his space like that before. On one occasion Kenyon backed out of the circle and just glared at Delaney.
  • My biggest concern for Lawson was his ability to get his shot off in the lane. I think he only had one shot blocked and he made a plethora of forays into the paint to score or get to the line. I could not be more impressed with his play, in once again, his first NBA game.
  • Sticking with Lawson, he had a very impressive drive in the second half where he started at the rim with his right hand from the left baseline. He picked up his dribble and made a crossover step without dribbling. The result was Lawson was able to get behind the defender, who was expecting him to continue to move into the middle of the floor, and he scored on an open layup at the rim. It was just a beautiful instinctive play. I do not remember ever seeing a player do that before.
  • The play of the night though was a steal and dunk by Carmelo. After nabbing a rebound Paul Milsap floated a pass, and I mean floated, to Deron Williams on the left side of the floor. Melo saw the sailing pass, jump in front of Williams and drove at Milsap. When he got to the lane Melo elevated and absolutely threw down on top of Milsap for the basket and the foul. Melo then let out a scream as he pounded his chest just to make sure the Jazz knew whose house they were in.
  • Any concern that the Nuggets would enter the season fat and happy after their conference finals appearance can be laid to rest. Melo, Kenyon, Nene and J.R. all look to be in very good shape. Kenyon rammed home a couple of impressive dunks of his own on the night.

Game Stats

Pace Factor: 96.6
Offensive Efficiency: 118.0
Defensive Efficiency: 108.7

Take this with you: The Nuggets have only started 2-0 once since 1987-88. Portland is very good, but they looked beatable at home against the Rockets Tuesday night. A win in Portland tomorrow would be a great start for Denver.

Getting Cranked Up for the 2009-10 Season

As you all know in addition to running RMC I have a “real” job.  Currently my job is encroaching on my free time and I have not been able to post nearly as much as I had wanted too lately and I am sorry for that.  However, I will do my best to keep everything here relevant and informative.

I still have a few thoughts to share prior to the start of the season, but they will have to wait.  Right now what you get is updated player scouting reports.  My in depth reviews of Arron Afflalo, Malik Allen, Chris Andersen and Carmelo Anthony have all been updated with current insights.  I will be updating or creating reports on the remaining players over the next few days.

In addition to the TrueHoop Network preview I also took part in the Basketball Prospectus season preview.  It may cost a few bucks, but the content is well worth it.  Kevin Pelton and his crew do great work and I was honored to be a small part of what they put together.

I also answered some questions over at OregonLive.com as part of their Northwest Division Season Preview.

You also should read the preview over at Denver Stiffs where Andrew and Nate continue to do a very good job.  Andrew also put together a very good post on the weight that has been placed on Carmelo Anthony’s shoulders.  Plus Chris Tomasson has a must read preview over at AOL Fanhouse.

I also encourage you to check out all the other Nuggets blogs that are linked on the sidebar.

TrueHoop Network 2009-10 Team Previews


Bret Lagree | Hoopinion

“The Hawks have not built, nor do they appear to be building, a championship contender. … Joe Johnson is poised to be a free agent in the summer of 2010. Johnson is not a franchise player, yet he’s the Hawks’ best player.”


Zach Lowe | CelticsHub

“It seems reasonable to say anything short of an 18th championship would be a disappointment.”


Brett Hainline | Queen City Hoops

“Great defense + equally bad offense = average. With an improving division around them, that equation does not get them their first playoff berth. But at least they won’t suck.”


Matt McHale | By the Horns

“During the offseason, the Bulls lost free agent Ben Gordon, whom many people considered the team’s best or second-best player (after Derrick Rose). Memo to Chicago fans: Don’t sweat it. Seriously. Gordon will be replaced by John Salmons, who not only gave the Bulls almost as many points per game (18.3 versus 20.7) but was slightly more efficient in how he scored them.”


John Krolik | Cavs the Blog

“After last season’s playoff heartbreak, Danny Ferry has changed up the equation … However, Shaq could disrupt the delicate offensive and defensive chemistry the Cavaliers rode to 66 wins and the conference finals, despite the fact he will be the best player LeBron has ever played with if he continues to play like he did last season. The big question for the Cavs this seasons whether they overreacted to two clutch 3s by Rashard Lewis, or made the risk they needed to take to finally get LeBron a ring.”


Rob Mahoney | The Two Man Game

“’Rebuilding’ teams seek financial flexibility and the acquisition of young, productive assets. Quality squads amass veteran talent, no matter the cost, in pursuit of a title. Defying all logic, the Mavs have simultaneously moved in both directions.”


Jeremy Wagner | Roundball Mining Company

“The only players still on the roster who exceeded expectations in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every member of the Nuggets, other than thirty-something Chauncey Billups, to improve.”


Dan Feldman | PistonPowered

“However the minutes shake out between Chris Wilcox, Kwame Brown and Ben Wallace, they won’t be as good as Rasheed Wallace. But Sheed wasn’t that great last year. He looked old and disinterested, so the drop here won’t be too steep.”


Rasheed Malek |Warriors World

“Under the ownership of Chris Cohan, the Warriors have made the playoffs exactly one time and have gone through numerous coaches, players and executives. Going into this season, Larry Riley is the man in charge taking over for Chris Mullin.”


Anup Shah and Brody Rollins | Rockets Buzz

“The speed revolution has overtaken some of basketball’s peers, most notably football … Is basketball headed in the same direction? [Aaron] Brooks provides an excellent case study. Beginning the year as the Rockets number one threat on offense with Ron Artest’s departure and injuries to Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Brooks will have every opportunity to prove that size really doesn’t matter.”


Jared Wade | Eight Points, Nine Seconds

“It’s hard to believe that anything short of the postseason will remove the dark cloud over Conseco. … Ultimately, it will come down to one thing: [Mike Jr.] Dunleavy’s knee.”


Kevin Arnovitz | ClipperBlog

“[Blake] Griffin and [Eric] Gordon may not be saviors, but they’re something. Griffin’s skills and his tenacious work ethic (the guy runs up sand dunes in his free time) will be a boon to a team desperate for cultural overhaul. Gordon offers an enticing combination of spot-up shooting and forays into the paint. He finished third in true shooting percentage among starting off guards in his rookie campaign, something that can only help a team that ranked dead last in offensive efficiency last season.”


Kurt Helin | Forum Blue and Gold

“God, is it good to be hated again.”


Chip Crain | 3 Shades of Blue

“The 2009-10 version of the Grizzlies have put together a starting five where every player scored 30 points or more in a game last year. The oldest starter is only 28 years old (Zach Randolph) and the youngest won’t turn 22 until after the start of the season (O.J. Mayo). They are young, talented and hungry for success. So why do most people focus on the two players not on a rookie contract this season?”


Matthew Bunch | Hot Hot Hoops

“38.6 minutes. 30.2 points. 49.1 percent shooting. Five rebounds. 7.5 assists. 2.2 steals. 1.3 blocks. That’s what [Dwyane] Wade averaged last season. You’re going to keep that guy out of the playoffs? Good luck.”


Jeremy Schmidt | Bucksketball

“If the Bucks get anything out of their three small forwards, if they can keep [Andrew] Bogut and [Michael] Redd healthy and if they get a season worthy of the number ten selection out of Brandon Jennings at the point, the playoffs will be within reach. But that’s a lot of ifs.”


Patrick Hodgdon | Howlin’ T-Wolf

“”Ever since his arrival, David Kahn has had seemingly one mission, other than to look like the smartest guy in the room at every turn, and that is to get as much cap space for next summer as he possibly can. … The obvious question lies in whether or not the Wolves will actually be able to lure one of the better free agent players to come to Minnesota.”


Mark Ginocchio and Sebastian Priuti | Nets are Scorching

“Lingering doubts about Brooklyn could spoil any change the Nets have of landing a top free agent next summer.”


Niall Doherty and Ryan Schwan | Hornets247

“Enter Emeka Okafor. He’s a near match to a healthy Chandler, is more durable, and doesn’t look like he’s having muscle spasms when making a post move.”


Mike Kurylo | Knickerblogger

“2010 could be New York’s return to winning.”


Royce Young | Daily Thunder

“The Thunder may not win more than half their games, but with over half the roster unable to get an alcoholic beverage still, steady improvement and progression is the name of the game.”


Zach McCann | Orlando Magic Daily

“Take away either Hedo Turkoglu or Courtney Lee and the Magic aren’t getting to face the Lakers in the Finals. No way. But does that mean the Magic were wrong to let them go? Were the Magic foolish to allow a borderline All-Star and a possible future All-Star leave the team when both clearly wanted to stay in Orlando? Absolutely not. I believe the Magic are an entirely better team than they were four months ago.”


Carey R. Smith | Philadunkia

“The travesty of a deal that Billy King gave to Samuel Dalembert remains easily one of the worst contracts in NBA history. Hopefully this season Dalembert, his inflated self-worth and his contract will be dealt for a couple of expiring contracts and some much-needed cap space.”


Michael Schwartz | Valley of the Suns

“Two years ago the Suns were chic championship picks. Last year, the Suns were (accurately) thought to be a fringe playoff team. This year there are almost no expectations outside of their locker room. … There will be no mistaking what the Suns are this season: a lightning-speed team that will score points in bunches and likely give them up almost as quickly while struggling badly on the boards. But they will once again be the most exciting team in basketball.”


Max Handelman | Beyond Bowie

“The Blazers effectively bumbled their way to a 54-win season despite a mediocre performance from Greg Oden, the loss of Martell Webster for the season, and at times starting three rookies. This team is only getting better, kids.”


Zach Harper | Cowbell Kingdom

“Enter Tyreke Evans — a bulldozer-sized menace who will test the strength of every team’s defense at its entry point. He immediately creates matchup problems against teams with traditional point guards and will look to have a similar impact as fellow Memphis alum, Derrick Rose.”


Timothy Varner | 48 Minutes of Hell

During the Celtics heyday, Red Auerbach boasted a winning percentage of .719. In the modern era, Pat Riley’s Showtime Lakers played to the tune of .733. Phil Jackson’s Jordan Bulls dominated the 90s with an otherworldly percentage of .771. Jackson’s three-peat Lakers? .735. In his 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gregg Popovich, whose cynical disdain for the regular season runs more than skin deep, has, nevertheless, posted a winning percentage of .707. That’s the company the Spurs keep. What should we expect this season? 58 wins and a run at the title. Same as every other year.”



“How is a rookie(ish) head coach going to integrate nine new players into a new system with two new assistant coaches?”


Spencer Ryan Hall | Salt City Hoops

“With young Wesley Matthews providing the good luck charm, Boozer in a contract year, Deron Williams with a chip on his shoulder, and a new longer-haired version of Andrei Kirilenko the Jazz have no reason to be anything other than beastly this season. And I mean that in a good way. Every prediction from the Jazz camp, however, comes with the ominous caveat ‘If we can stay healthy.'”


Kyle Weidie | Truth About It

“Flip Saunders has never gotten a team ‘there.’ That worn out cliché always runs rampant, plaguing almost every coach who hasn’t won … until they win. Red Auerbach (647), Larry Brown (1,900), and Dick Motta (738) all took their lumps before winning a championship (games coached before title season). Don’t be surprised when what you think is impossible becomes a reality. … 2010 is the Chinese Year of the Tiger. Factor in Gilbert Arenas’ stomach tattoo and the fact that the Wizards play their home games in D.C.’s Chinatown, and all the cards are in place.”


* As predicted by a consensus of all TrueHoop Network bloggers.

2009-10 Denver Nuggets Preview – TrueHoop Network Style

Every TrueHoop Network member site will be posting their season preview today so make sure you check out as many as humanly possible either via the the drop down menu up above or the blogroll along the right sidebar.

Last Year’s Record: 54-28

Crystal Ball
The consensus prediction of the TrueHoop Network bloggers … and the best hopes of Roundball Mining Company.

Crowd Says: 53-29
RMC Says: 58-24

Yes We Can!
The sun is out. The seas have parted. The basketball gods are shining upon us!

It is easy to be down on the Denver Nuggets’ chances heading into the 2009-10 season. Their response to this summer’s Western Conference arms race was to continue to slash their payroll.

Some of you may think the Nuggets were disappointed that Linas Kleiza will play in Greece next season, but I suspect the front office was sending Linas bro­chures from the Greek department of tourism. Then again maybe it was the fact they never offered him more than the $2.7 million qualifying offer. Whatever they did, the ploy worked, as Kleiza signed with Olympiacos and will not be on the Nuggets’ payroll this season.

The Nuggets also were thrilled for Dahntay Jones when he signed his four year, $11 million contract with the Pacers. I think Mark Warkentien showed up the next day and personally carried Dahntay’s piano into the moving truck.

It might be difficult to be impressed with a team whose primary goal is to save money, but the Denver Nuggets are becoming quite adept at bolstering the roster while cutting costs. Last season they rummaged through the bargain bin and came up with Chris “Birdzilla” Andersen and Dahntay Jones. This year they brought in more cheap talent in Aaron Afflalo and Joey Graham. They are both cheaper options and better fits than Jones and Kleiza were. Plus the addition of Ty Lawson to backup Chaunc­ey Billups will pay dividends as soon as George Karl chooses to give him the job over Anthony Carter.  Above and beyond the players currently on the roster and even though it appears the Nuggets have passed him over, until he signs with another team I continue to think that Wally Szczerbiak might find his way to Denver.

If the upgrade to the bench is not enough to sway you, here is an interesting little fact to keep in mind. The only players still on the roster who exceeded expecta­tions in 2008-09 were Nene and Birdman. It is reasonable to expect every mem­ber of the Nuggets, other than thirtysomething Chauncey Billups, to improve on their performance next season. Carmelo struggled with injuries, Nene was still feeling the effects of his chemo treatments in the fall of 2008, Birdman had not played regular minutes in over two years before last season and J.R. Smith is still learning how to exploit opposing defenses with his array of diverse talents.

For those who still doubt me, hear this. The number one reason why Denver will be better next season is they have learned how to win. The team made a commitment to play better defense heading into last season, but they were still a work in progress. They now have a year of playing a more balanced style of basketball under their belts and they experienced how far it can take them.

This Nugget team is hungry and ready to prove their Western Conference Finals appearance was not a fluke like Utah’s was in 2008. Common NBA knowledge dismissed the Nuggets prior to last season. Do so at your own peril this season.

No You Can’t
A rousing dissent from a rival blogger.

Fun fact: No team has ever won a championship while featuring a power forward with a woman’s lips tattooed on his neck. Yes, I’m looking at you, Kenyon Martin.

– Matt McHale, By the Horns

A 140-character insight into the soul of the team.

Here are two tweets from @BirdmanAndersen:

Spent some of my signing bonus. Got a boat. If I was on drugs? A flamethrower. A purple one…with an Ipod dock.

Porn gets a bad rap. It’s essentially Discovery Channel for humans. I know I’VE learned stuff from it.

On the Record
Single best quote concerning the team during the last 12 months.

For me averaging 28 points or something like that against the Lakers in this series, that’s tough to do. I do not know if you wanted me to average 30 or 35, I really don’t know. I am thinking there is nothing else that I can do.

– Carmelo Anthony following the Nuggets’ Game 6 defeat to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals

The 2008-09 Almanac
Some key stats from last season.

Offense: 7th
Defense: 8th
Pace: 6th

Team Factor Strength(s): Free Throws (1st), Shooting Allowed (5th)
Team Factor Weakness(es): Turnovers (25th), Free Throws Allowed (25th), De­fensive Rebounding (23rd)

The Play
Down a single point with 9.2 seconds to play in a must-win game. What’s the play?

Even with players like Mr. Big Shot Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith, who can make any shot at any time, you give the ball to Carmelo Anthony and clear out. I might even run seven more seconds off the clock and call a timeout just to increase the level of difficulty. Carmelo has developed a well-earned reputation in the NBA as a Defiler of Dreams. He broke hearts in Oklahoma City twice last season and I am sure you all remember the 3-pointer in the playoffs to beat Dal­las in Game 3 of the conference semifinals. Having Melo means you never have to run a play, just get the ball inbounds.

The People’s Choice
The fan favorite the crowd will be chanting for to see some action.

Karl has said he does not trust Renaldo Balkman because he cannot hit a jumper — although Karl does not seem to mind playing Kenyon Martin. The truth is Balkman brings energy and makes plays that do not show up in the box score. He helps Denver win games and fans cannot get enough of him.

If You’re Watching the Bottom Line, You’re Watching This
The single biggest spreadsheet issue hanging over the team.

The Denver Nuggets have done a great job of cutting payroll while still improv­ing the team the past two seasons. The real trouble is going to come in 2010-11 when the Nuggets’ current starting five will make about $65 million. As John Hollinger has pointed out, those five players may put Denver over the luxury tax line by themselves with at least eight more players to pay. There could be a fire sale in Denver next summer.

Denver Nuggets Waive Three, Including James White

The Denver Nuggets have waived Dantay Draper, Kurt Looby and James White and the roster is down to 13 players.

Joey Graham appeared to be anointed the winner of the battle for the final roster spot with White very early on.  After getting to the free throw line 14 times in the first preseason game White rarely saw the floor.  While White certainly has more potential than Graham, the Nuggets are wanting to win now and keeping Graham fits the mold of what they want to do.

Que up the clip from Hoosiers with Normal Dale telling the crowd this is your team, because these 13 players are your 2009-10 Denver Nuggets.

Arron Afflalo
Malik Allen
Chris Andersen
Carmelo Anthony
Renaldo Balkman
Chauncey Billups
Anthony Carter
Joey Graham
Ty Lawson
Kenyon Martin
Johan Petro
J.R. Smith

Denver Nuggets Lose in Portland, Stomp the Timberwolves

Let there be television coverage.

Good news Nuggets fans. Now that Denver has dispatched the Minnesota Timberwolves there will not be another Nuggets game that is not televised until next October. Denver wraps up the preseason with back to back games against the Lakers. Thursday’s tilt will be broadcast on TNT with Friday’s engagement on ESPN.

For the last time we are left to study box scores to glean some insight.

Looking back at Sunday’s 98-96 loss at Portland there appears to have been some positive things to take from the game. For the first time since the opening game at Utah the Nuggets starters faced off against another high quality group. Unlike the game in Utah, this time they held their own. Ever since I wrote about how I was concerned about the Nuggets’ mental state after the game in Taipei the players have responded.

Ty Lawson has not been playing many minutes, but when he does get on the floor the stats pile up. Lawson checked in with 6:24 left in the second quarter and the Nuggets down seven. Portland stretched their lead to 11 over the next three minutes. The Nuggets then closed the half on a 15-7 run with Lawson totaling six points, an assist, a rebound and two steals over the final 3:38. Lawson ended up posting a +4 in only seven minutes. On the flipside Anthony Carter played 19 minutes and ended up with a -12.

Tonight in the 129-100 romp over the Timberwolves Lawson had another nice game tallying ten points, eight assists, six rebounds and four steals. Lawson is going to have to earn minutes from Carter and if he keeps playing this well, he just might.

Chauncey Billups posted back to back four turnover games and has yet to put up an impressive stat line in any preseason game. Seeing as how he struggled against the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals last season it will be very interesting to see how he does over these final two preseason games.

In 49 minutes against Portland and Minnesota Nene has only ten shot attempts. He was also the only Nugget player to have a negative plus/minus against the Wolves with a -2.

Probably the most promising statistic from the past two games is 39.6%. The Nuggets held Portland to 39.7% from the field and Minnesota to 39.6%. The combined shooting of 67-169 by Portland and Minnesota comes out to 39.6%. Hopefully that is a sign the Nuggets are getting locked in on defense.

Thank God this is the last time I have to draw conclusions based on box scores.

Nuggets at Trail Blazers Highlights – Mostly Blazers clips here, but Melo scores a couple of dunks and Chauncey tosses in an insane layup.

Nuggets vs. Timberwolves Highlights – make sure to see Lawson’s half court shot at the end of the third, Afflalo’s left handed finish and Malik Allen actually throws down over someone!

Nuggets.com Gets an Upgrade

The Denver Nuggets website is now a must see destination for Nuggets fans. The Nuggets launched their new web presence this afternoon and it is a massive improvement over the previous site.

Aaron Lopez from the Rocky Mountain News is providing original content (heck, for all I know Mr. Lopez may have been writing on Nuggets.com for a while, but I would not have known because there was little reason to visit the site), there is a relevant video section and it is much more aesthetically pleasing.

What was previously a conglomeration of limited recaps, stats and public relations photos is now a significant provider of Nuggets news and video. Many teams are trying to drive fans to their website as a source for breaking news and the spring from which all relevant team information is disseminated.  With the current state of the newspaper industry, it only makes sense that teams try to grab hold of that market that the papers used to fill.  It looks like the Nuggets are moving in that direction.

On one hand, I am happy to have an additional source of information.  On the other, do not expect a lot of hard analysis coming from the team’s site.  Plus, I doubt they are going to be the ones breaking news on trades, because teams are usually not keen on letting that kind of information slip.  Then again, if they lock down the fort and create an enforcement branch of the front office to chase down and silence leaks, they might be able to break news of player movement as well.  Maybe that police force is part of the upgrade as well.

It will be interesting to see how the site grows from here, but for now kudos to the Nuggets for a job well done.

Upcoming Chat and Other Denver Nuggets Links

There is quite a bit of writing I need to do before the regular season starts, but for now, just a few links.

Big Time Nuggets Chat

The big announcement is that I will be participating in a Denver Nuggets chat tomorrow along with John Hollinger on ESPN.com. Things kick off at 12:00 noon on Friday, but you can check in a few minutes early to start pumping in questions. Out of all the ESPN analysts we are very lucky to have Professor Hollinger involved. As I have said before, he is the most knowledgeable member of the national media when it comes to the Nuggets.

Melo and Kevin Durant

There has been some interesting discussion on TrueHoop regarding how incredible Kevin Durant is, yet how terrible his plus/minus numbers are. The post points out how he was number 20 in the league in PER in 2008-09 and has scored the fifth most points of any player at his age. He is clearly an incredible talent, so how come he has such a terrible plus/minus and his teammates post better plus/minus ratings when they play without him?

Apparently there is a player who started very similarly to Durant, but has improved drastically over the years. None other than Carmelo Anthony. Timothy Varner has the low down over at the exceptional San Antonio Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell.

Melo on E:60

Carmelo will be interviewed on ESPN’s award winning primetime newsmagazine E:60. Here is a little snippet to wet your appetite.

The episode will air at 5:00 PM Mountain on Tuesday, October 20.

A Couple of Nuggets Previews

Nate from Denver Stiffs and I answered some questions about the Nuggets from Mark Rawden from the Boston Celtics Examiner. If that is not enough you can click here for a Nuggets preview on Hoopsvine.

Win Nuggets Season Tickets

Sign up here to take part in the Gold Rush to win season tickets.

Bird Busey

Finally the blog Protect the Paint sees some similarities between Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Gary Busey.

Denver Nuggets Wake Up in Beijing

After watching the Indiana Pacers roll over the Denver Nuggets in Taipei, I said I had some growing concerns about the mental state of this team. After one quarter against the Pacers in Beijing, I was not feeling any better. The Nuggets gave up their fourth 30 point quarter in 60 minutes against the Pacers and were down 33-29. The defense was not quite as porous as it had been in the first contest against the Pacers, but it was still lacking.

The frustration multiplied as the Pacers pushed their lead up to double digits a few minutes into the second quarter. The Nuggets finally found a spark with the group of Ty Lawson, Arron Afflalo, Carmelo Anthony, Renaldo Balkman and Nene. The intensity on both ends of the floor increased with that group on the floor and the Nuggets surged from down 11 to up one at halftime and beat the Pacers by 16, 128-112.

The Pacers still managed to score quite a few points, but Denver looked much better and it appeared that when faced with the prospect of falling to 0-3 against NBA competition in the preseason, they decided enough was enough.

The real story of the game however, was Carmelo. He triggered the Nuggets second quarter run with some incredible offense and very good defensive rebounding. Offensively, Carmelo posted a performance that nearly rivaled his 33 point third quarter last season. Melo used a combination of pull up jumpers and piercing drives to the rim to accumulate a spectacular 45 points. The efficiency with which he scored was staggering. He produced his 45 points on only 19 shot attempts and in a mere 24 minutes of floor time. Unlike in the first game the Pacers started doubling Melo on the block, but just like shooting Mongo in Blazing Saddles, it only made him angry. Melo responded by scoring over the double team and he also made a couple of nice passes that resulted in either layups or free throws.

We all know Melo can score as well as anyone when he has it going and as much fun as I had watching hi score, I was equally as thrilled to see Melo make a significant impact on the game on the defensive end too. Carmelo was very intense on defense and the proof came with his eight defensive rebounds. He worked hard to box out and even bodied up Roy Hibbert after a switch and ended up corralling the missed shot. The most spectacular play Melo made came early in the third quarter when he deflected a running layup attempt by Dahntay Jones complete with a, “Get that (expletive deleted) out of here!” Melo also helped off his man and blocked a shot by Troy Murphy at the rim a couple of minutes later.

If Carmelo can play with the level of intensity on offense and defense he displayed in Beijing, there would be a lot of nights where he would only need to play 24 minutes as the Nuggets cruise to victory.

Other promising signs that the Nuggets awoke in this game was that they rebounded as a team. After getting outrebounded 52-40 in the first matchup, Denver won the battle on the boards 50-45. Chris Andersen and Melo tied with a team high nine boards and Arron Afflalo added seven of his own. The one area that they could still improve in though is the guards do need to do a better job of getting to the free throw line when a shot goes up as the Pacers were able to nab a few long rebounds that would have gone to Denver had a guard moved to the free throw line.

Denver also finally appeared to tire of seeing Hibbert dominate the paint. Nene led the effort to slow the second year big man by playing him physically in the second quarter and Denver did a good job of keeping him out of the lane and off the glass.

This was the first time I saw Ty Lawson against legitimate NBA competition and I was pleased with his play. He did make a couple of poor decisions, but did a good job of taking care of the ball, setting up teammates and getting in the lane. His defense is solid, especially for a rookie, as he does a good job of keeping track of his man away from the ball and, that is half the battle.

Afflalo is not great at creating his own shot, but he did drive with his left along the baseline twice and finished one of those drives with a nice lay in on the opposite side of the rim. He also showed some defensive chemistry with Renaldo Balkman as they applied some full court pressure on a couple of occasions that caused the Pacers some problems.

Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of Melo’s offensive performance was to see him completely abuse Dahntay Jones. Jones fouled out in only 23 minutes thanks to his inability to cover Anthony. Seeing as how the Pacers will probably not play the Hornets in the playoffs, I am not sure they are going to get their money’s worth out of Dahntay.

Joey Graham would appear to be leading the competition for the thirteenth roster spot with James White as White only played three minutes in the two games against Indiana. Graham has been solid, but unspectacular. I have voiced my support for White as he adds more of a three point threat and has far greater upside than Graham. I value upside in players that fill out the end of the bench.

Denver now gets a week off to return from China and get over their jet lag before they head off to Portland for their next preseason game.

Denver Nuggets Drop a Stink Bomb on Taipei

There were two things I could not wait to end tonight. One was the 31-6 beating my less than stellar coed softball team endured and the second was the replay of the Denver Nuggets third preseason game against the Indiana Pacers.

After watching the Nuggets’ 22 point loss I am reconsidering my stance on demanding all of their preseason games available for consumption.

Denver dumped one of the most disjointed (or would it be least jointed) efforts I have seen from this team in a long time. Aside from some early offense from Carmelo Anthony they were basically run off the floor by the Pacers.

Offensively the Nuggets looked like they did two seasons ago. A lot of one on one play complete with wild forays into the lane with a healthy dose of take the first open jumper you see. There was not much passing, very little movement and no discernable purpose to anything the Nuggets did.

As insipid as the offense was, the defense was worse. The Pacers killed the Nuggets on open threes and open layups. The rotations were nonexistent on the perimeter, no help came on drives and the Pacers were regularly able to get open looks in transition. In the second half George Karl tried to invigorate his players by having them trap on the pick and roll, but it only served to further expose their lack of help and defensive rotations.

In all honestly, it is difficult to come up with anything positive from that game.

To make things worse the two players I was most looking forward to seeing, James White and Ty Lawson, did not see one minute of playing time. The Nuggets also held Nene out of action.

Individually Carmelo had some nice moments on the block as the Pacers chose not to double him in the post and he tallied 17 points, but it took him 15 shots to do so and he was credited with five turnovers. J.R. was second on the team in scoring with 16 points, but it took him 16 shots to get there. On one hand I liked J.R.’s aggressiveness as he drove into the lane repeatedly and tried to attack the basket. On the other hand, he was driving to score too often and the result was a hoard of misses and blocked shots. He only dished off a couple of times that I remember and as a result the Pacers knew they could collapse on him and force a miss.

Joey Graham was one of the few Nuggets with an efficient offensive night. He showed he is capable of dropping in mid-range jumpers and if he is on the court with players like J.R., Chauncey and Nene he should get plenty of open looks. Other than that Graham is not very adept at creating his own shot and he does not provide much assistance other than his scoring, which is dependent on being set up by other players. Still, he does not force shots and is a smart player. If the Nuggets keep 14 players, he is a lock to stay with the team and due to the fact both he and James White have non-guaranteed deals, it is possible the Nuggets keep both of them for the first month or two of the season until their contracts become fully guaranteed.

Kenyon Martin displayed what was advertised as a new and improved jumper. His stroke is still far from textbook, but he certainly seems to have moved his left hand further back on the ball and as a result his release is not dependent on the same awkward twisting motion by his left hand and wrist that has plagued it in the past. The good news is he should make a few more jumpers than he did last season. The bad news is that may motivate him to take even more of those types of shots.

In the box score Anthony Carter was only assigned two of the Nuggets 21 turnovers, but it sure seemed like he was responsible for at least four. If it were not for a couple of nice plays in the fourth quarter, a clean pick and lay up going back the other way and a drive and kick out to J.R, for a three, his night would have been a complete disaster.

If one player was a bright spot for Denver it was Renaldo Balkman. He just makes things happen. Although he only shot 1-4 he was very active garnering two steals and collecting five boards, which is another stat along with AC’s turnovers that I have to question the veracity of. It appeared Balkman had that many boards in the first half alone. ‘Naldo was the only Nugget to depart the game with a positive plus/minus with a +3.

Malik Allen continues to move well, but he is so limited on offense. He did squeak in a follow dunk that barely slid over the rim, other than that he too is dependent on teammates to set him up with an open look in order to score.

Arron Afflalo forced his offense a couple of times with poor results. He too needs to work on spacing the floor and only attacking the basket when he can exploit a crack in the defense.

Chris Andersen was fine, but clearly struggled with the size of Roy Hibbert who had a dominant showing.

The only other things worth noting are Karl seemed pretty disinterested in the proceedings as well. I would have hoped that regardless of whether it was a preseason game or not that he would get on the Nuggets for playing with such a lack of focus and purpose.

It is easy to dismiss the Pacers’ hot shooting as just one of those nights as Troy Murphy was 4-8, Brandon Rush was 6-12 and A.J. Price was 4-6. I could buy into that if almost every single one of those makes was off a wide open attempt. If you are rotating and closing out shooters and they do that, I am not going to get too upset, but when known shooters like Murphy are consistently left alone I am not going to be very sympathetic.

I get a kick out of watching games where the announcers are not at the arena, but they are clearly not supposed to admit it. The team of Scott Hastings and Chris Marlowe did a good job although there were a few too many comments along the lines of, “Another three by the Pacers” instead of “A.J. Price hits another three for the Pacers.” At one point Hastings slipped up and commented on how the Nuggets were “there” instead of “here” which of course I found wildly entertaining.

The replacement referees did a very respectable job. There were not nearly as many fouls called as there have been in other games and at no point did I think they were having a negative impact on the proceedings. There were no calls where I had to wonder how they missed it. If anything, there were a couple of occasions where the whistle came a second or two late as they reacted more to the aftermath of a play instead of officiating the initial contact. All in all, they were not a story and that is what you want.

In conclusion I want to thank Mike Dunleavy, Jr. for wearing a hideous yellow jacket at the end of the bench. The combination of where he was sitting and the angle of the camera put the yellow monstrosity directly in line with the net on that side of the floor. It took me a little bit to figure out why the net had a pea green hue to it, then once I realized it was Dunleavy’s attire it was difficult to ignore.

I realize it was just a preseason game, but there are little bits of evidence here and there that are causing me to be concerned about the mental state of this team. We can delve into that as the preseason rolls along, but for now it bears watching. With the difficult opening schedule the Nuggets face and with J.R. suspended the first seven games Denver is not going to simply flip the switch once the games start counting. We need to see something from this team soon.

The Nuggets will play the Pacers one more time, this time in Beijing, on Saturday and it will be broadcast on NBATV and Altitude at 10:00 PM Mountain time. It will give us a nice potentially divorce inducing double header with the Rockies and Nuggets.

Denver Nuggets PER Projections

John Hollinger might be the most decisive NBA analyst in the business. I assume most NBA fans either think he is a stat geek who does not actually know anything about basketball, or he is one of the most astute observers out there.

I fall under the latter camp. I think Hollinger really knows his stuff and is the only member of the national media who is really attuned to the Nuggets. Sometimes I think he is in my head as I read his commentary on Denver. It almost makes me wonder if he reads my posts although if he were to ever stumble upon RMC, I imagine he would think in some situations I was copying his work. The truth is he watches a lot of basketball with unbiased eyes and that is why he can draw the same conclusions as someone like me who attempts to do the same thing.

Despite his impressive anecdotal insights he is best known for his statistical analysis, which brings us to today. It is a day that is widely anticipated by many NBA fans as Professor Hollinger has released his PER (Player Efficiency Rating) projections for the upcoming season. If you do not know what PER is, here is an explanation. The short definition is PER is a statistical per minute measurement of a player’s effect on a game and the average performance is set at 15.00. Anything higher than 15.00 is solid and anything lower is suspect.

You can see the list from of projections from one through 333 or check out a summary of the Nuggets as a team.

Some quick observations are that Chauncey is slated to play at the same level this season as last season, 18.85, which is promising. Hollinger projects a slight bump up for Carmelo Anthony, although if you read his scouting report (insider subscription required) it sounds like he expects his computed projection to be low as he expects a big season from Melo.

The player who Hollinger expects to make the largest leap forward is J.R. Smith who is projected to climb from 16.84 in 2008-09 to 18.15. Hollinger’s system has always been kind to a player like Smith who can get his own shot whenever he wants (usage rate) and score in bunches. However, reading the details it is clear the Professor has a very good read on what J.R. is capable of, primarily his playmaking abilities that most members of the national media have yet to fully recognize.

It is not all sunshine, lollypops and rainbows for Denver. Arron Afflalo has a disappointing projected PER of 9.40. Also, remember how there are 333 player projections? Malik Allen is number 331 with a microscopic projected PER of 6.52.

However, more concerning than that is the play of the Nuggets three key big men is expected to drop off a bit as Chris Andersen, Nene and Kenyon Martin are slated for dips in their statistical production with Andersen slated for the most precipitous drop from 18.16 to 16.58.

Most fans look at these projections and complain that their favorite player or players are not ranked higher. Keep in mind this is all automated based on almost every imaginable statistic and a detailed comparison of similar players performances at similar ages. Because it is stats based I will point out for players like Carmelo (who by the way is ranked 21 overall), Birdman and Nene is that all three are dealing with either an injury related drop last year, Melo, or very poor supporting statistics from previous seasons (Birdman and Nene) that all work to pull down the current statistical projection. This does not mean Birdman and Nene are not capable of playing up to the level they established last season.

Most of Hollinger’s player summaries are only available through ESPN Insider. I strongly recommend signing up for Insider so that you can access Hollinger’s data. It is amazingly thorough and intriguing to read. You also get a great deal more than just Hollinger’s work. Nevertheless, I understand not everyone can though so here are some of the more interesting quotes pertaining to the Nuggets.

Arron Afflalo (Projected PER 9.40): He’ll take over Dahntay Jones’ role as the top perimeter defender, and considering he costs less and is a far better shooter, he should be an upgrade for the Nuggets — provided that Afflalo sticks to his knitting as a shooting specialist and takes half his shots behind the arc.”

Malik Allen (6.52): Allen’s primary skill is his midrange jump shot, and he did that well enough by making 42.0 percent of his long 2s. Unfortunately, he was terrible at everything else.

Chris Andersen (16.58): “[Signing the new contract with Denver was the right move because] the support network he has in place was more important than the money. Even if he can’t replicate the ridiculous block rate of last season, it should be good deal for the Nuggets as well.

Carmelo Anthony (19.36): “While he hit a career-best 37.1 percent on 3-pointers and attempted more than ever, he had trouble when there was more company around. Anthony slumped to 48.2 percent on inside shots after hitting in the mid-50s the three previous seasons. From the right side of the floor, where he prefers to operate on isolations, he hit just 33.8 percent of his 2-pointers — the fifth-worst mark of any player with more than 100 attempts.”

“Anthony appears poised to have his best season. The improved 3-point stroke and strong finish last season both point in that direction as well, as do two other factors: He’s now 25 and should be hitting his prime, and he didn’t suit up for Team USA for the fourth straight summer.

Renaldo Balkman (15.83): Balkman attained a career-best 16.85 PER by playing with his usual boundless energy, ranking fifth among power forwards in offensive rebound rate and leading his position in steals per 40 minutes with 2.4. Only five players in the league had a better rate of steals, and none were frontcourt players.”

Chauncey Billups (18.85): Last season, Billups was once again the only member of the league’s “40-40″ club — 40 percent of his shots originated from beyond the 3-point line, but he still averaged more than 0.40 free-throw attempts per field goal attempt. Usually players who draw lots of fouls rarely shoot 3s and vice versa, but Billups is the exception: He was the only non-center in the league to finish in the top dozen at his position in both categories.

Anthony Carter (9.61): Carter finished 67th out of 69 point guards in turnover rate, and it made him marginal, at best, as a role player. Surprisingly, he still played over 22 minutes a game, as he became something of a security blanket for George Karl. But combine a miniscule 9.2 points per 40 minutes with a penchant for costly miscues, it’s tough to see why.”

Joey Graham (11.21): No player comment, which may be a comment in and of itself.

Ty Lawson (-): “Concerns about Lawson’s size (6-0) undoubtedly hurt, as did some worries about his practice habits and a tendency to sprain his ankles. Nonetheless, he was the top-rated player in my Draft Rater – even edging out Blake Griffin – and the Nuggets absolutely stole him by nabbing him at No. 18 in a trade with Minnesota.

Kenyon Martin (13.36): “More than a third of his shots came outside the immediate basket area, and he was abysmal at them. Historically, he’s converted from these distances in the high 30s or low 40s, but last season he made only 32.1 percent, the worst percentage in the league of anyone with more than 200 attempts.”

Nene (17.89): Nene is still raw enough to envision him improving in coming years. That said, there were elements of last season’s performance that look a bit fluky, so we might expect some regression to the mean in his immediate future. It’s highly unlikely that he’ll shoot 60 percent from the floor again.”

Johan Petro (8.65): “He ranked 65th out of 67 centers in true shooting percentage and 66th in field goal percentage. For a 7-foot center to shoot 41.9 percent and 41.5 percent in consecutive seasons is remarkably awful, and a troubling sign that his offensive development has not only ground to a halt but actually been thrown into reverse.

J.R. Smith (18.15): “Smith lobbed nearly half his shots from behind the 3-point line and made 39.7 percent — many of them from well beyond the arc — but still finished in the top third of shooting guards in free-throw rate. Unfortunately, his concentration lapses at the stripe hurt him. He made only 75.1 percent of his free throws, good for 51st among shooting guards, and that’s inexcusable given how well he strokes it from outside.”

James White (-): He’s a spectacular finisher on the break and he’s slowly but surely figured out how to use his athleticism at the offensive end. He turns 27 in October, so it’s taken a while, but he’s an NBA-caliber athlete and, at 6-7 with a decent jump shot, a prototypical small forward.

Predicting the 2008-09 Season – The Records

Here is the second installment of a four part series looking back at my many predictions from the past year (click here if you missed part one). Today we analyze my projected records and predictions for all 32 teams.

Prediction: Boston Celtics 62-20, 1st in the Atlantic Division, 1st in the Eastern Conference.

Verdict: Correct, correct and incorrect, Boston did finish 62-20 good for first in the Atlantic, but they were second to Cleveland.

Prediction: The Celtics are under pressure to win again in a city that is not used to experiencing one hit wonders and they should be up to the task.

Verdict: incorrect, KG got hurt and they were bounced in the conference semifinals.

Prediction: Cleveland Cavs 55-27, 1st in Central Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct, incorrect, Cleveland won 66 games and were first in the division and conference.

Prediction: I expect the Cavs to finally enter the regular season elite in the east. Where it takes them after that is anyone’s guess, but I am betting the final destination is another game seven on the road in Boston.

Verdict: Incorrect, Boston was the team that failed to make it to the rematch, but the Cavs could not get passed game 6 in Orlando.

Prediction: Detroit Pistons 55-27, 2nd in the Central Division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect, incorrect, not even close although Chauncey would have made a difference.

Prediction: I think their run of Eastern Conference Finals appearances stops this year and Joe D. wields the wrecking ball next summer.

Verdict: Correct and correct, Dumars started dismantling the Pistons last November and Pistons fans will not recognize the squad playing at the Palace this season.

Prediction: Orlando Magic 53-29, 1st in the Southeast Division, 4th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct, incorrect.

Prediction: Orlando should benefit from another boost in production from Dwight Howard and look for Rashard Lewis near his career high average of 22.4 points per game from his final season in Seattle. Orlando will be a team to be reckoned with.

Verdict: Correct, although Lewis did not get close to even the 20 point per game mark. 7-17

Prediction: Philadelphia 76ers 49-33, 2nd in the Atlantic Division, 5th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct, almost, but incorrect, they were sixth not fifth.

Prediction: A slow start may keep the Sixers from hitting 50 wins, but the team that gave the Pistons fits in the first round last season will be another tough out.

Verdict: Correct, they did give the Magic a tough series.

Prediction: Toronto Raptors 46-36 3rd in the Atlantic Division, 6th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Way incorrect, way incorrect and way incorrect.

Prediction: Jermaine O’Neal is coming off another injury plagued season as the Pacers franchise player. If he can approach the player he was in Indy, the Raptors can finish much higher than sixth.

Verdict: Incorrect, maybe in some fantasy world O’Neal can play like he did in Indiana, but he was a disaster and ended up in Miami.

Prediction: Washington Wizards 40-42, 2nd in the Southeast Division, 7th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Um…no, no and no. I suspected Arenas would play at least half the season and no Arenas really hurt the Wiz.

Prediction: After signing a six year, $111 million contract Agent Hibachi must establish that he can actually play again in order to avoid an Allen Houston like disaster in D.C.

Verdict: Correct, but it sounds like he will be back and lighting things up this season.

Prediction: Miami Heat 40-42, 3rd in the Southeast Division, 8th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, although I only missed their record by three games.

Prediction: I think these guys sneak into the playoffs.

Verdict: Correct, although their 43 wins were somehow good enough for fifth in the east.

Prediction: Atlanta Hawks 38-44, 4th in the Southeast Division, 9th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, Atlanta’s 47 wins put them fourth in the east.

Prediction: They are going to miss Childress who could fill any role ranging from point guard to shooting guard to small forward. A team who barely snuck into the playoffs will get a better season from Al Horford, but it will not be enough to get them back into the postseason.

Verdict: Incorrect, they did not seem to miss Childress as they received a fine performance from Flip Murray.

Prediction: Chicago Bulls 37-45, 3rd in the Central Division, 10th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, the Bulls played .500 ball and made the playoffs.

Prediction: If they can get some production from players like Joakim Noah, Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng, they could sneak in the playoffs.

Verdict: Incorrect, Noah was good, but Hinrich and Deng struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. Derrick Rose was tremendous though and a midseason trade with Sacramento helped the Bulls put a major scare into the Celtics.

Prediction: Indiana Pacers 36-56 4th in the Central Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Correct, correct and incorrect, the Pacers were ninth, not eleventh.

Prediction: The Pacers have some nice young pieces, but are caught in limbo this season. They will not be horrible, but they will not be good either.

Verdict: Correct, Indiana does seem to be caught in the netherworld of not good enough to contend, but not bad enough to land a high draft pick.

Prediction: Charlotte Bobcats 34-58, 5th in the Southeast Division, 12th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, I missed their win total by one and they were tenth in the east.

Prediction: If anyone thought Larry Brown mailed in the Knicks job when he was working in the largest media market in the NBA, how much worse will he do in Charlotte when no one is paying attention?

Verdict: Incorrect, Brown seemed to care for the entire season. Good for him.

Prediction: Milwaukee Bucks 32-50, 5th in the Central Division, 13th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct, incorrect, I missed the win total by two and they were twelfth.

Prediction: If they will elevate Ramon Sessions to the starting point guard I believe they can try to play some exciting offensive basketball.

Verdict: Correct, not much of a prediction, but Sessions is fun to watch.

Prediction: New Jersey Nets 29-53, 4th in the Atlantic Division, 14th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect. Their 34 wins were good for third in the division and a tie for tenth.

Prediction: Things could get pretty ugly over the next couple of seasons in the swamps of New Jersey.

Verdict: Correct, things are so bad they are pumping up how well Yi Jianlian played in the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship tournament. Oh yea, and they are about to be the first team owned by someone who might have “voted” for Leonid Brezhnev.

Prediction: New York Knickerbockers 25-57, 5th in the Atlantic Division, 15th in the Eastern Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct, incorrect. The Knicks did win 32 games, but were last in the Atlantic and only the Wizards were worse in the east.

Prediction: This is not just a round peg, square hole scenario. This is a round elephant square thimble scenario.

Verdict: Correct, OK so that was not really a prediction, but I need to put another tick in the correct column. 19-71

Prediction: Los Angeles Lakers 59-23 1st in the Pacific Division, 1st in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct, correct, the Lakers ruled the west and did so with 65 wins.

Prediction: The Lakers may not win the NBA championship, but this team can handle injuries, they have a plethora of scoring options in the clutch and a pair of big men who can rebound and score in the paint.

Verdict: Correct, the Lakers did win the championship largely thanks to their front line and clutch shooting.

Prediction: New Orleans Hornets 58-24 1st in the Southwest Division, 2nd in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, the Hornets were the team I misread the most.

Prediction: If Chris Paul can somehow continue to improve (can you imagine he is still only 23!) the sky is the limit for this team.

Verdict: Incorrect, Paul did improve again, but the team definitely did not.

Prediction: Utah Jazz 58-24 1st in the Northwest Division, 3rd in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect I guess I missed on the Jazz and Hornets equally as bad.

Prediction: Lord knows I hate the Jazz, but they are freakin’ good.

Verdict: Incorrect, the Jazz freakin’ suck! Whoo-hoo!

Prediction: Houston Rockets 56-26 2nd in the Southwest Division, 4th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct and incorrect and the Rockets were just a game out of fourth.

Prediction: Once again I think the Rockets have a great regular season and then flame out in the playoffs.

Verdict: Incorrect, I do not think you can call taking the eventual champs to a seventh game flaming out.

Prediction: San Antonio Spurs 53-29 3rd in the Southwest Division, 5th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, although I only missed their record by one game they won the Southwest and were the third seed.

Prediction: No one has ever become successful by writing off the Spurs, but I am having a difficult time seeing these guys put another finals run together. Parker improves every season, but Duncan is slipping ever so slightly and you have to wonder if Manu can keep bouncing back after so many injuries.

Verdict: Correct! Maybe the Spurs are not dead, but a first round exit is definitely not the same as a run at the finals.

Prediction: Phoenix Suns 50-32 2nd in the Pacific Division, 6th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct and incorrect, the Suns did finish second in the Pacific, but only won 46 games and missed the playoffs.

Prediction: Phoenix is certainly on their way downhill and the Shaq trade has limited their future flexibility to rebuild around Amare. I think these guys have at least one more playoff season in them before Nash collapses into a puddle of goo.

Verdict: Incorrect, no playoffs for the Suns, but Nash may collapse into a puddle of goo by the end of the season.

Prediction: Denver Nuggets 47-35 2nd in the Northwest Division, 7th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, even someone as attuned to the Nuggets as I am could not have predicted what happened last season.

Prediction: They can be better without Marcus Camby. They do not have to turn into the Boston Celtics on defense, but if they can just pay attention, be in the right places and make the correct rotations it will make a big difference. With several players on the floor at the same time who can score the Nuggets can vastly improve their offensive efficiency by simply passing the ball around a couple more times per possession. I believe that I will not believe they can do any of these things until I actually see it. I believe they can still make the playoffs even if they do not do all those other things.

Verdict: Those are a lot of corrects, I am going to say five corrects in that paragraph. 30-103

Prediction: Portland Trailblazers 46-36 3rd in the Northwest Division, 8th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, I was pretty wrong about the Blazers too. It is not easy to jump from a .500 team to a 50+ win team, but they did it.

Prediction: I think Portland make the playoffs more due to a collapse by the Mavericks than an amazing season by the Blazers.

Verdict: Incorrect, the Blazers had an amazing season, regular season that is.

Prediction: Dallas Mavericks 45-37 4th in the Southwest Division, 9th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect. I misjudged the Mavs, they won 50 games and made it to the second round of the playoffs where they were pummeled by the Denver Nuggets.

Prediction: I believe we will see one of the traditional western powers fall into the lottery this season. The Mavs seem to be the most likely culprit.

Verdict: Correct and incorrect. One of the traditional powers did fall, but it was the Suns.

Prediction: Los Angeles Clippers 36-46 3rd in the Pacific Division, 10th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, the Clippers were bad enough to land the top pick in the draft.

Prediction: I do think the Clippers have a decent team, but not own good enough to be a playoff team in the west.

Verdict: Correct, hey, they weren’t a playoff team.

Prediction: Golden State Warriors 34-48 4th in the Pacific Division, 11th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, incorrect and incorrect, even though they lost five more games than I expected they finished third in the Pacific and tenth in the west.

Prediction: Golden State is going to miss trying to play Nellie Ball without Baron Davis.

Verdict: Correct, hey, I will take whatever I can get. I will say Stephen Jackson did a great job trying to carry the torch though.

Prediction: Minnesota Timberwolves 34-48 4th in the Northwest Division, 12th in the Western Conference.

Verdict: Incorrect, correct and incorrect. They lost ten more games, but finished eleventh, go figure.

Prediction: The Wolves are much improved with a core of Foye, Love, Jefferson and Mike Miller.

Verdict: Correct, the Wolves did appear to be improving until Jefferson went down in February.

Prediction: Sacramento Kings 32-50 5th in the Pacific Division, 13th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Double incorrect, correct and incorrect. The Kings won almost half as many games as I expected.

Prediction: If the players on their roster do not improve significantly over the next few seasons they will be mediocre for years to come.

Verdict: Incorrect, if they players on their roster do not improve significantly over the next few seasons they will be terrible.

Prediction: Oklahoma City Thunder 25-57 5th in the Northwest Division, 14th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct and incorrect, two fewer losses and thirteenth instead of fourteenth.

Prediction: Jeff Green – Green was supposed to be the Pippen to Kevin Durant’s Jordan. So far he has been more Brad Sellers than Scotty Pippen.

Verdict: OK, so that was not a prediction, but Green was much better last year than in his rookie campaign.

Prediction: Memphis Grizzlies 22-60 5th in the Southwest Division, 15th in the Western Conference

Verdict: Incorrect, correct and incorrect, I only missed their win total by two, but they still managed to surpass the Thunder, Kings and Clippers.

Prediction: Of course, they are going to take some more lumps this season, but at least they have some players to show for it, unlike Charlotte.

Verdict: OK, another non prediction, but if I would have left this area blank you would have wondered why and it would have bothered you the rest of the day and I would never do that to you.

I expected to have a very low success rate as it is not easy to predict an exact record for every team over an 82 game schedule. I nailed a couple and came close on several others so despite my low percentage I think I did reasonably well. The final tally is 38-134 a 28.4% accuracy rate. Combined with my 52.2% rate from part one and I am averaging 40.3% with two much easier, and more entertaining, segments left.

Denver Nuggets Defeat Partizan Belgrade 102-70

The Denver Nuggets prepped for their trip to the Far East by trouncing Partizan Belgrade 102-70.  Hopefully we will have a box score to see eventually, but for now here is a blank template from NBA.com.

At least we have video.  Why couldn’t this have been shown on Altitude?

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