Monday, June 27, 2005

 

NBA Mock Draft

I am not one to litter my blog with countless mock drafts; this is my first and last regarding the NBA. Here it is.

1. Milwaukee Bucks - Andrew Bogut
2. Atlanta Hawks - Marvin Williams
3. Portland Trail Blazers - Gerald Green
4. New Orleans Hornets - Chris Paul
5. Charlotte Bobcats - Deron Williams
6. Utah Jazz - Fran Vazquez
7. Toronto Raptors - Danny Granger
8. New York Knicks - Channing Frye
9. Golden State Warriors - Martell Webster
10. Los Angeles Lakers - Raymond Felton
11. Orlando Magic - Martynas Andriuskevicius
12. Los Angeles Clippers - Antoine Wright
13. Charlotte Bobcats - Joey Graham
14. Minnesota Timberwolves - Yaroslev Korolev
15. New Jersey Nets - Ike Diogu
16. Toronto Raptors - Andrew Bynum
17. Indiana Pacers - Francisco Garcia
18. Boston Celtics - Roko Ukic
19. Memphis Grizzlies - Jarrett Jack
20. Denver Nuggets - Rashad McCants
21. Phoenix Suns - Sean May
22. Denver Nuggets - Johan Petro
23. Sacramento Kings - Luther Head
24. Houston Rockets - Mile Ilic
25. Seattle Supersonics - Hakim Warrick
26. Detroit Pistons - Charlie Villanueva
27. Utah Jazz - Monta Ellis
28. San Antonio Spurs - Ersan Ilyasova
29. Miami Heat - Wayne Simien
30. New York Knicks - Andray Blatche

There you have it: my 2005 NBA mock draft. I reserve the right to deny these predictions if, as usually occurs, the draft selections become seemingly random come tomorrow night.

Friday, June 24, 2005

 

NBA: A Look Forward to 2006

The 2005 NBA season is now over, with the San Antonio Spurs coming out on top. Obviously, it's way too early to make any sort of concrete predictions for next season; the offseason has yet to start. However, here are some speculations as to what might happen in 2006.

TITLE CONTENDERS
Miami Heat. This team nearly won the Eastern Conference this season, and should be the favorite to do so in 2006. As long as Shaquille O'Neal's body doesn't finally suffer a total breakdown, Miami should contend for the championship, thanks to up-and-coming superstar Dwyane Wade. With one year of playoff experience under its belt, this squad should be even better next year.
Phoenix Suns. As of right now, Phoenix would probably be my pick to win the 2006 title. The Suns have already addressed their main concern (lack of toughness inside) by trading gunner Quentin Richardson to the Knicks for Kurt Thomas and a first-round pick. That trade will do a lot of things for Phoenix, most of them good: Shawn Marion can shift to small forward, Joe Johnson can be resigned, and another young, athletic player can be added through the draft. If Thomas is able to provide low-post defense to complement Amare Stoudemire, this team could run-and-gun all the way to an NBA championship.
San Antonio Spurs. What, you thought I was going to leave the defending champs off this list? No way. San Antonio should be back hungry for more in 2006. They may be able to satisfy that hunger if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili become the potent inside-outside duo that they are capable of being. Duncan has already proven himself; on the other hand, Ginobili disappeared at times in the finals. A return to his freestyling ways will put the Spurs on the fast track for the 2006 title.
TEAMS ON THE RISE
Cleveland Cavaliers. With a new coach (Mike Brown) and a potential big free-agent signing (Ray Allen or Michael Redd?), this team should be able to put 2005's collapse in the past and become a bona fide playoff team. LeBron James has already become, in my opinion, the league's best player. If a player like Ray Allen or Michael Redd comes to Cleveland, look out for the Cavs in '06!
Golden State Warriors. Although it didn't make the playoffs, this group played well late in the season after the acquisition of Baron Davis. With Davis on board for the entire 2006 season, improvement on a 34-48 record is almost guaranteed, and a playoff berth is possible. The big question mark regarding this team is the fact that almost all the Warriors have no experience winning; all they know how to do is lose. They better learn how to win, and fast; they'll be doing a decent amount of it next season.
Indiana Pacers. Despite the loss of Reggie Miller (who had been reduced to a role of spot-up jump shooter anyway), Indiana should be better in 2006. One big reason why is the return of Ron Artest from his year-long suspension. From what I have heard, Artest has learned a lot during his time off; perhaps that will translate to more success on the court as well. With Artest back, this will be essentially the same team that won 61 games in '04, sans Miller. I'm not saying they will duplicate that feat, but a division title is certainly possible, if not likely.
Los Angeles Lakers. This might be a stretch; after all, I bashed this team just a week ago, claiming they were not in a position to get better anytime soon. However, despite my feelings regarding Phil Jackson, his teams have always succeeded. Also, any squad including Kobe Bryant has a chance to make some noise. The Lakers are talented, but whether they can make the playoffs in a tough Western Conference remains to be seen.
New Jersey Nets. New Jersey went on an incredible run late in the season to sneak into the playoffs, and I believe the Nets will pick up right where they left off in 2006. With the talented trio of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson, New Jersey should be favored in what will once again be a weak Atlantic Division. I also have high hopes for Nenad Krstic, the Nets' promising young center.
TEAMS ON THE DECLINE
Boston Celtics. This team's plethora of strong personalities began to clash with each other as the season wore on, and more treacherous waters appear imminent. Where will this team go after the most lopsided Game 7 loss in history? Down, if you ask me.
Memphis Grizzlies. When addressing this team's problems, there is one question that needs to be asked: Where to begin? The end of the 2005 season was not pretty for Memphis; a playoff sweep at the hands of Phoenix doesn't even begin to tell the story. The Grizzlies practically revolted against their coach, siding with suspended malcontent Bonzi Wells at the season's most critical point. The debacle is probably best summed up by an incident in which a frustrated Jason Williams walked off with a reporter's pen, saying "You ain't gonna write nothin'." My prediction: Memphis's '06 roster will barely even resemble its '05 one, with maybe three players surviving the offseason. And that's a generous estimate.
Sacramento Kings. Sacramento's sad story appears to have come to an end. The Kings, who could have won two or three championships already this century, have instead won none, and the window of opportunity was emphatically slammed shut when they bowed out in the first round to Seattle. If questioned, Shaq would probably say it best: next years' batch of Kings will more closely resemble Queens, at least as far as basketball goes.
Seattle Supersonics. It's a shame that Seattle will have to return to the lottery after just one year of short-lived success, but that's what will likely happen. Coach Nate McMillan, as well as a slew of free agents, will be gone in 2006, and so will all title aspirations of the Sonics and their fans. Seattle, we hardly knew ye.
PROJECTED PLAYOFF TEAMS
(in alphabetical order)
Eastern Conference: Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, New Jersey Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards
Western Conference: Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, San Antonio Spurs
And finally, my extremely early playoff predictions:
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Heat over Pacers
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS
Suns over Spurs
NBA FINALS
Suns over Heat

Thursday, June 23, 2005

 

One Game to Rule Them All

For the first time in eleven years, the entire NBA season will come down to one game: tonight's Game 7 showdown between the Detroit Pistons and the San Antonio Spurs. My prediction before the season even started was San Antonio over Detroit in seven games, and I'm sticking with it. Here are three reasons why.

1. Home-court advantage. This factor is often downplayed, but the truth is that it often does make a difference. It is an extremely tough task to win a pivotal game on your opponent's home floor. The Pistons were able to do it against Miami, but the Heat's two stars were nowhere near 100% in that game; the Spurs are a much better team. Detroit has overcome this obstacle once already this postseason, but I highly doubt that the Pitstons can do it again.

2. The star factor. Stars come up big in big games, and San Antonio stakes claim to both bona fide stars involved in this series: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Duncan, the greatest power forward of all time if you ask me, knows what he and his team need to do tonight, and he'll make sure they get it done. If Ginobili shows up to play like he did in Games 1 and 2, there will be partying in San Antonio tonight.

3. Horry and the Benchwarmers. Promising band name, huh? Well, maybe not, but in all seriousness, the Spurs' huge advantage as far as contribution off the bench could play a huge role in tonight's game. The most likely difference-maker is obviously "Big Shot Bob," otherwise known as Robert Horry. He has been tremendous in the clutch throughout his entire career, and nothing defines "clutch" more than Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Look for other reserves, such as Brent Barry and Rasho Nesterovic, to chip in and help ensure the victory as well.

If I am correct, as I usually am, the San Antonio Spurs will be crowned NBA champions tonight, and it will be because of these three things.

Monday, June 20, 2005

 

US Open? Case Closed!

This is all I have to say about the 2005 US Open: Thank goodness someone reached even par. Oh, and one more thing: even though Tiger Woods will likely never reach his prior level of utter domination, he is most definitely back as the world's best golfer. After considering his already winning one major this year, imagine what we would be talking about today if he hadn't bogeyed 16 and 17 and instead managed to best Mark Campbell in a playoff after storming back from eight shots behind. What a story that would have been!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

 

Early Top 25

Here is my early top 25 for the upcoming college football season.

1. USC
2. Texas
3. Michigan
4. Tennessee
5. Iowa
6. Oklahoma
7. Ohio State
8. Miami
9. Virginia Tech
10. Florida
11. LSU
12. Florida State
13. Louisville
14. Georgia
15. Auburn
16. Boise State
17. Arizona State
18. Texas A&M
19. Texas Tech
20. Alabama
21. Purdue
22. Nebraska
23. Boston College
24. Cal
25. Fresno State

OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH: Bowling Green, Georgia Tech, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, UTEP, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

 

Zen and the Art of Basketball Coaching

Although Phil Jackson's return to the Los Angeles Lakers doesn't come as a huge surprise, it puzzles me. There are numerous reasons why this move doesn't make sense, at least in my mind. First, but not necessarily foremost, is the one that the media has been so concerned about over the past few weeks: can Phil and Kobe coexist? Are you kidding me? After Phil called Kobe "uncoachable"? No way. Kobe cemented my point of view yesterday when he released a less-than-rousing endorsement of Jackson's hiring. Not only that, but Phil has never shown he can mold a young team into a championship contender, which is what he'll be forced to do with the Lakers. Instead, he has always handpicked teams that appear ready to burst onto the scene; that's the reason he has as many championships as Red Auerbach, a travesty if you ask me. The Lakers are nowhere near that level, and are not in position to get there anytime soon; their salary-cap woes are enormous. Mark my words: this honeymoon will last one year, maybe two, but that's it.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

 

NFL Power Rankings

Just a few minor changes here and there:

1. New England Patriots
2. Philadelphia Eagles
3. Indianapolis Colts
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
5. Atlanta Falcons
6. Baltimore Ravens
7. Minnesota Vikings
8. San Diego Chargers
9. New York Jets
10. Carolina Panthers
11. Jacksonville Jaguars
12. Denver Broncos
13. Seattle Seahawks
14. Kansas City Chiefs
15. Buffalo Bills
16. Dallas Cowboys
17. Green Bay Packers
18. New Orleans Saints
19. Oakland Raiders
20. Cincinnati Bengals
21. St. Louis Rams
22. Detroit Lions
23. Arizona Cardinals
24. New York Giants
25. Houston Texans
26. Chicago Bears
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
28. Washington Redskins
29. Tennessee Titans
30. Miami Dolphins
31. Cleveland Browns
32. San Francisco 49ers

Saturday, June 11, 2005

 

Belmont Picks

Here are my picks for today's Belmont Stakes.

1-Afleet Alex

Will finish off what very well could have been a Triple Crown with yet another impressive run.

2-Giacomo

The only other possible victor should give Afleet Alex a run for his money, but I don't think he can pull it out in the end.

3-Andromeda's Hero

This horse, in my opinion, is the dark horse of the field. With no other proven winners running, that leads me to believe he will be able to land on the board.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

 

NBA Finals Breakdown

The NBA finals matchup is just as I predicted it would be before the season even started: Detroit vs. San Antonio. Here's my thoughts on each of the matchups within the matchup.

One of the most intriguing matchups is at point guard. The Pistons' Chauncey Billups and the Spurs' Tony Parker had very similar regular-season numbers (16.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game for Billups; 16.6, 3.7, and 6.1 for Parker). However, there is much more to the matchup than that. One aspect is Parker's inconstintency; despite a generally strong performance in the conference finals, his play has been erratic throughout the postseason. For this reason, I don't believe he matches up well against Billups, the most physical point guard in the league. Advantage Pistons.

The two teams' off guards also figure to lock horns in this series. Detroit's Richard "Rip" Hamilton made a name for himself during Detroit's 2004 title run, mainly because of the many clutch jumpers he drained in tough series against New Jersey and Indiana. On the other hand, Manu Ginobili is doing so as we speak, for a different reason: his slicing quickness and driving ability. In that way, he is similar to Dwyane Wade, who gave the Pistons so much trouble in the conference finals. Ginobili should be able to do the same. Advantage Spurs.

The teams' two small forwards, Tayshaun Prince and Bruce Bowen, are arguably the two best perimeter defenders in the NBA. The difference is that Detroit's Prince is skilled offensively, whereas San Antonio's Bowen is not. Despite his struggles against Miami, I am confident that Prince will break out in this series. Because of this, I give him the edge in this "matchup," although the two won't be guarding each other much, if at all. Advantage Pistons.

At power forward, the Pistons' Rasheed Wallace and the Spurs' Tim Duncan go about succeeding in completely different ways. While Wallace often is hindered by his antics both on and off the court, the former including a bevy of technical fouls, Duncan is a quiet, lead-by-example superstar. As far as basketball goes, Duncan has the clear edge, especially if he is healthy, which he has not been for long stretches throughout the season. Even if he isn't, however, I'll still take the "big Fundamental" over the "Big Bum-damental" any day. Advantage Spurs.

"Big Nazr" doesn't have nearly as much of a ring to it as "Big Ben," does it? The answer to that question pretty much sums up the matchup between these two teams' centers, Ben Wallace and Nazr Mohammed. Although Mohammed has been a nice late-season pickup for San Antonio, there is a reason why the Pistons' Wallace is named the Defensive Player of The Year almost perennialy. He is a defensive stalwart, something that Detroit will need against the Spurs. Advantage Pistons.

The matchup between the two benches is perhaps the most lopsided one of all. While San Antonio could be described as deep, Detroit definitely could not. The Spurs' cast of reserves includes a serviceable center (Rasho Nesterovic), a three-point sharpshooter (Brent Barry), one of the greatest clutch shooters of all time (Robert Horry), and a former offensive star who can still knock down a jumper or two (Glenn Robinson). On the other hand, only three of the Pistons' benchwarmers ever get a chance to play: Lindsey Hunter, Antonio McDyess, and, as of late, Carlos Arroyo. Advantage Spurs.

The coaches responsible for leading both the Pistons and Spurs to the NBA finals are two of the best in the league. And though Detroit's Larry Brown is considered by many to be the best, I give the advantage to San Antonio's Gregg Popovich for one reason: he is more willing to experiment and make adjustments in order to come out on top. Brown is stubborn, as evidenced by the way he handled the Olympic team in Athens last summer. Advantage Spurs.

As you can see, the series shapes up to be a good one. The only question left is the most important one: who will win? Although the Pistons are, in my opinion, the best defensive team in the league, that's all they are: a walk-it-up, defensive squad that at times struggles to score points. The Spurs are just the opposite; they are able to adapt to any style, as they did in flat-out outscoring the Phoenix Suns, the NBA's highest-scoring team in a decade, in the conference finals. For that reason, I have to go with San Antonio.

THE PICK: Spurs in 7.

Monday, June 06, 2005

 

The Absence of Heat

In case you're wondering about the title of this post, the reason will become clear tonight, when the Detroit Pistons make sure the NBA playoffs experience this rare phenomenon. Sure, it's been a great run for the Heat, but it's over. Here are three reasons why.

1. Experience. Detroit is battle-tested; Miami is not. Last year, the Pistons proved their mettle time and time again on their way to the title. The Heat, on the other hand, is here for the first time; except for Shaq, that is. Detroit's experience will prove advantageous in what is both teams' biggest game of the season so far.

2. Dwyane Wade. Ironically enough, Wade was the reason why many "experts" were flip-flopping on their picks midway through this series, forecasting a Miami triumph. His injury in Game 5 changed all that, however. Now, he will be forced to play despite his obvious inability to, just because it is "Game 7". The Heat would be better off with him sitting out; on the floor, he will hinder his teammates more than he will help them.

3. Shaquille O'Neal. I might sound crazy on this one, considering Shaq is one of the most dominant players of all time and had his best performance of the series in Game 6's blowout loss. He is still injured, though, and has not played well thus far in the postseason on only one day of rest. After the long series, he is incredibly banged up; look for him to be no more than a glorified Alonzo Mourning in tonight's game.

There you have it: three reasons why Detroit will be playing San Antonio for the NBA championship come Thursday.

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