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The 2009-10 Minnesota Timberwolves were a bad team. They went 15-67, which was the second-worst record in the league. New coach Kurt Rambis installed the triangle offense, a bad fit for his team, who struggled to defend, rebound, or shoot from the outside. GM David Kahn turned over half the roster after the season, dumping his best player, Al Jefferson, finding some athletic wings to play the triangle, and taking a flyer on the much-maligned Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic. He also signed a European center, dumped both of last summer’s free agents, and sent Ricky Rubio approximately three hundred text messages saying “I MISS U.”
The results? The small forwards look better. Martell Webster, Wesley Johnson, and occasionally Michael Beasley will take minutes that were going to Sasha Pavlovic and Damien Wilkins last year. Luke Ridnour replaces Ramon Sessions, who was a bad fit for the triangle (unfortunately, so is Jonny Flynn). The new bigs should get rebounds, if nothing else. Kevin Love is still the team’s best outside shooter, and there’s still no one in the rotation who especially plays defense. The team should be significantly more watchable than last year’s abomination, and they’ve got three first-round picks next year. Unfortunately, David Kahn will still be making those picks.
Minnesota is a much more acceptable basketball team, but have they really built a foundation for a future playoff team? They’re waiting for Ricky Rubio to come over from Spain, but besides Rubio, who on this roster projects to be a star? Love could make an All-Star game down the road. They got rid of Jefferson to clear space for Love, then traded for Beasley, a top pick who plays Love’s position. Regarding Jonny Flynn’s rookie season, John Hollinger said, “As disappointing as he was offensively, he was worse on defense.” Wesley Johnson was a lottery pick, but he’s 23 years old.
Are You Older Than A Wesley Johnson?
Wesley Johnson was born on July 11, 1987, making him almost 23 at the time of the draft, fairly old for such a high pick. He’s eight months younger than teammate Martell Webster. He’s 14 months older than Kevin Love, and 18 months older than Michael Beasley. He’s three months older than Wayne Ellington. Darko Milicic is a seven-year veteran, and he’s only two years older than Johnson. Mike Conley, Jr. was the #4 pick in the 2007 draft. Conley is already considered a bust, and he’s three months younger than Johnson.
My friend and I like to play a game where we name a basketball player or celebrity, and have to guess if that person is still younger than Wesley Johnson. John Wall is more than three years younger. So is DeMarcus Cousins. So is Ricky Rubio. Xavier Henry, picked eight slots behind Johnson, is nearly four years younger. Haley Joel Osment is eight months younger than Johnson. Hilary Duff is three months younger. The Olsen twins are only a year older than Johnson. Rihanna is seven months younger.
All this doesn’t mean that Wesley Johnson can’t be a good player. But it does mean that what you see from Johnson this year is pretty close to what you’re ever going to get from him.
What Did the T-Wolves Get For Kevin Garnett?
Originally, Minnesota sent Kevin Garnett to the Celtics for Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair, a 2009 first round draft pick and a return of their own 2009 first round draft pick.
Effectively, the Wolves got three years of Al Jefferson, plus Jonny Flynn, Kousta Koufos, and two draft picks for Garnett. Also of note: the Wolves are manning the center position with Koufos, Darko, and Nikola Peckovic, which represents the biggest whitewash since Tom Sawyer’s days doing chores. It seems like the plan is to blind opposing big men with the glare coming off of their skin.
Kosta Koufos was born in America!
David Kahn Loves Point Guards
Even though David Kahn has only been on the job for a year and a half, he has acquired seven different point guards in that time. The list:
David Kahn: point guards :: Billy Knight: swingmen :: Imelda Marcos: shoes
The Wolves would have a better chance in a less-competitive division, but they wouldn’t make the playoffs no matter where they were. I predict that Minnesota returns to the high lottery, where David Kahn will select another point guard.
After being the blog fave last season for winning the title (how we failed you, internet!) the Magic have still got their eyes on the prize this season, especially with their potential new state rivals and possible division champs in the Miami Heat looking to take it away from them. Not to mention the Boston Celtics, who defeated the Magic last season to advance to the finals, picked up some dudes as well. Needless to say, the Orlando Magic have some (good) competition this year in the East.
When they made their way to the finals in 2009, the world was exposed to their formula for pick-and-rolls and perimeter shooters, as well as Dwight Howard's dominance in the paint both offensively and defensively. In the 2009-2010 off-season, they made improvements in substituting Hedo “Pizza Party” Turkoglu for Vince “Half Man, Half Retired” Carter, as well as the addition of Matt Barnes, Brandon Bass, Jason Williams, and Ryan Anderson. On paper, the Magic were stacked. But due to Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and at-times Jameer Nelson failing to step up, the Magic never really managed to find that same dynamic which worked for them in ‘09 with this new lineup.
This season with Matt Barnes going to the Lakers and joining Ron Artest to form the NBA’s version of the Bash Brothers, Stan Van Gundy and GM Otis Smith made a few additions to make sure their team would not lose the intensity Barnes provided. In addition to drafting rookie Daniel Orton, they acquired Quentin Richardson, Malik Allen, and moved Rashard Lewis to Small Forward while playing Marcin Gortat or Brandon Bass as Power Forward for an extra swoll lineup. Oh and yeah, Chris Duhon is also in the team now.
In a word, the 2010-2011 Orlando Magic can be described as: LEAN.
As if Dwight could get any leaner. During the off-season, Howard worked out with The Dream, Hakeem Olajuwon and picked up a few post moves. Most notable was *gasp* a jump shot which Dwight has been incorporating each game and to his credit, they have been going in. Dwight is also in no-nonsene mode this season as he is keeping his goofy grins and on-court antics to a minimum. Expect the same defensive domination, only with an improved offensive game, and less smiles.
Vince Carter also went through some improvements, shooting just over 60% from the field and averaging close to 18 pts a game in the pre-season. This is also Vince’s contract year so maybe he’ll play the career of his life. Or maybe he’ll get hurt. Or maybe he’s Vince Carter and he already peaked when he dunked over that Euro dude 10 years ago.
Rashard Lewis’s game is also leaner. Now that he’s switched positions he’s camping out at the three less, and driving to the hoop more. For being the highest (over)paid player on the team ($63 mil!), he should have been doing this all along. Simply put: Rashard Lewis needs to step up.
JJ Redick is also leaner and has time to flex while driving because he’s sitting on a nice $20m contract. The Magic signed him and without hesitation JJ’s already buying $40 coffees in Portland during the off-season.
Quentin Richardson also got leaner. Since GM Otis Smith is not a fan of headbands, QRich got a lot more leaner in the forehead area. QRich’s three-point shooting fits in nicely with the Magic’s system and now that Rashard Lewis will be more of a slasher, Q can camp out at the three as much as he wants. (head bump)
Even coach Stan Van Gundy got leaner this off-season.
Marcin Gortat’s mohawk
New Amway arena
New black uniforms (lean and mean)
Wizards’ fans be hopeful. I know you endured a tumultuous year, but things are changing…
John Wall has arrived, and lived up to all the hype. ‘Dray appears to be healthy and MOTIVATED to improve. JaVale McGee is the wildcard; we all know he can block shots and dunk on everyone in sight, but can he be consistent? Yi is poised after dominating the FIBA tournament, but its questionable how much will carry over come October 26th. I’m a fan of the addition of Kirk Hinrich. He brings veteran leadership and a defensive presence that the team was lacking last year. Josh Howard hasn’t said a word this whole off-season and the owner deemed him one of the team’s leaders. Al Thornton avoided a possible career-ending car collision, and rookie Trevor Booker will NOT be punked.
Then there’s Gilbert Arenas. I’m sure you’ve heard about his little fib, the beard fiasco and the awkward interview. Without question his mind seems to be elsewhere. If depressed Gil continues on in Debbie Downer-mode, Washington has to seriously consider trading him and his apathetic brain. I’m hopeful that he’ll at least give 2/5 of a shit once the season commences. I guess we just have to wait and see.
We all know the Wizards’ success hinges on the team’s continuity; especially the chemistry between Arenas and Wall. Thus far in the preseason we’ve been witness to the quickness, intelligence and tenacity of Wall’s game. He can flat out ball. Yet with Gilbert out nursing an injured hammy (karma kills), it’s difficult to gauge how well the tandem will perform. Luckily, they have a patient coach. Flip Saunders has proved he can nurture a young team into a playoff contender (1999-2004 Minnesota Timberwolves). I know they’ll improve greatly from last year’s debacle, filled with (real) injuries, miscues (Gil, I’m looking at you) and very little consistency. The team is in good hands, as new owner Ted Leonsis has a knack for rebuilding lost franchises (he did so with the Capitals). All I know is there will be a lot of ebb and flow in Washington this season. The ride is going to be a bumpy one.
Predicitions & Fun Facts:
Any team coupling the spirit of Stephen Jackson with the coaching methods of Larry Brown has to be intriguing to watch. You have to admit, it’s sort of impressive how they limped into the playoffs last year on their defensive ability alone (DRtg- 102.8, 1st).
This upcoming 2010-11 season seems to hold the same amount of mystery as last year. There wasn’t too much shuffling of the roster this summer. The one glaring loss has to be at point guard, with Felton (Win Shares- 6.5) leaving for New Yawk. Other than that, the core of the franchise remains in tact.
CRASH will be CRASH. Jax is going to put up the usual 19, 5, 4. Boris Diaw will flummox fantasy owners worldwide. Coach Brown will shout defensive schemes until his diaphragm slowly deteriorates (I hope that doesn’t happen). Tyrus Thomas is going to finally become the Stromile Swift-like player we all KNOW he was meant to be. Derrick Brown could turn into David West 2.0. The rest is up to the basketball gods.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it?
However, with an owner like Michael Jeffrey Jordan, mediocrity cannot be tolerated. He knows better; the greatest expects greatness. Thus, I expect them to barely miss out on nabbing that coveted 8th seed in the East. The Knicks, Heat, Pacers, and Bucks all improved greatly in the off-season, while Charlotte stood pat. Maybe it’s because I hate D.J. Augustin.
Kwame Brown (?), Sherron Collins, Darius Miles (head bump).
Raymond Felton, Raja Bell’s defensive presence & Tyson Chandler’s innate ability to finish alley-oops.
Predictions & Fun Facts:
Stats via BasketballReference.com
- huhwhatandwhere AKA: oakley&allen.
The Sacramento Kings are gritty.
With Reke Havoc (Tyreke Evans) leading the pack, Paul Westphal guiding, and the Maloof’s making moves, the franchise is headed in the right direction. Last year they teased NBA fans everywhere, showing random glimpses into what the future holds. This season, the Kings’ have a revamped front-court (Samuel Dalembert, DeMarcus Cousins, Hassan Whiteside), solid nucleus of talent (Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, Omri Casspi, Donte Green), and they’ve added depth via free-agency (Luther Head, Antoine Wright).
Defensively, they MUST improve. The Kings ranked 22nd (105.3) in offensive efficiency and 20th (109.9) in defensive efficiency. Newly acquired Samuel Dalembert should help out in that sector. His arrival means Carl Landry can slide over to his natural position as a power forward and destroy in the post. Yet, in order to rise above the mediocrity, they must find an equilibrium. Cousins has to control his inner diva and play basketball. Next up is the backcourt. Beno Udrih needs to understand his role as the main distributor and defend his ass off. Tyreke Evans will continue to dominate as the team’s scoring guard and maybe even improve his jumper (he worked on it this summer). Then there’s the wing; a serious glut of untapped potential.
Stats via BasketballReference.com