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
Win Nuggets Season Tickets
Sign up here to take part in the Gold Rush to win season tickets.
Finally the blog Protect the Paint sees some similarities between Chris “Birdman” Andersen and Gary Busey.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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?
The Denver Nuggets dropped their preseason opener to the Utah Jazz 103-87 (box score).
The number one thing I have to say about this game is why on earth could I not watch or listen to it? I can watch every Denver Broncos preseason game, but there is not even a radio feed of a game being played in an NBA arena. Stan Kroenke owns his own television network. I realize the Colorado Avalanche are playing and Altitude showed the Joe Sakic retirement ceremony, and rightfully so, but do you know what was on Altitude after the Sakic ceremony? The Miss Colorado pageant.
I am not asking Altitude to not show the Sakic ceremony or bypass an Avalanche game (which by the way was on Vs. not Altitude) for a Nuggets preseason game. I realize that football games are fewer and more precious, but I can watch a bunch of Colorado Rockies spring training games too. The NFL and MLB do not act like their preseason games are meaningless, why does the NBA?
I realize we get some nationally televised games as the regular season draws closer, but why does the NBA act like these games are truly meaningless? Give us some preseason coverage. I am not saying it has to be a live full production. I would be happy, nay, thrilled with a tape delayed telecast set up the 2008 Summer League with one camera and no announcers.
We need to see these games. I want to see the battle between Joey Graham and James White for what could be the final roster spot. I want to see how Johan Petro does against Kyrylo Fesenko. I want to see if the Nuggets starters were as bad as the stats make it look. I want to see how Arron Afflalo does…at both ends of the floor. I want to see how Chauncey looks one year older against an elite point guard. I want to see if Carmelo has worked on his left hand.
Having a preseason game at an NBA arena completely unavailable for consumption by anyone other than those in the stands is ridiculous.
All we have to look at from this game is the box score. I hate analyzing box scores, but that is all we have to go off of unless you want to draw conclusions from this generic AP story.
Looking at the box score the Nuggets starters were outscored by the Jazz. Were they that badly outplayed? Melo attempted three three pointers, maybe one was at the buzzer. Chauncey had four turnovers, was he picked clean or did he make a pass to a teammate who cut right as Chauncey threw him the pass? Did C.J. Miles light up Arron Afflalo? I have no idea, I did not get to see the game.
Looking at who played and who did not, Kenyon Martin was out resting a thigh bruise. J.R. Smith was not with the team and I have no idea why. (Update: Chris Tomasson has reported J.R.’s absence was cleared in advance.) Ty Lawson played more than half as many minutes as Anthony Carter. James White played almost four times as many minutes as Joey Graham.
Looking at the actual stats, Renaldo Balkman, who George Karl has said may get to play some small forward, which in my opinion is his natural position, had an impressive line scoring ten points, 11 rebounds and compiling four assists. White was only credited with two shots, both threes of which he made one, but he took 14 free throws. I think one assumption we can safely draw from these numbers is that White was attacking the rim and running the floor. I seriously doubt he made it to the line that frequently by shooting jumpers.
Chauncey shot well, but as mentioned above turned the ball over four times and had a team worst -20.
Nene, who struggled with foul trouble last season, was whistled for five fouls in his 16:45 of playing time.
Carmelo was 4-8 on two point shots and attempted six free throws in his 20:27, but he shot and missed three threes.
Afflalo hit his only three point attempt and had the best plus/minus amongst starters with a -4, but he fouled out in just over 22 minutes.
The last point I will make is this was the first of what could possibly be many games officiated by replacement referees and there were 69 fouls called and 88 free throws attempted in the game. The average number of free throws attempted during the 2008-09 regular season in games the Nuggets played in was 57.5 and the season high was 86. Draw your own conclusions from those numbers.
By the way, did anyone see who won Miss Colorado? It was on Altitude.
Update: NBA.com has video highlights. There were cameras there. Is it too much to ask that someone send the tape to Altitude and they put it on TV? It does not even have to be next day air, just toss it in the mail so Altitude can air it. I will even offer to pay the postage.