Saturday, October 31, 2015

Game Recap #3 - Bulls at Pistons

(3-0) PISTONS 98
(2-1) BULLS 94, F/OT

Box Score
Standings

TAKEAWAYS

- Despite what has mostly been a garbage offense, the Pistons are 3-0 for the first time since 2008.  We're three games into a season where the Pistons haven't lost or shot above 41% from the field.  This team is winning with defense, trips to the free throw line, offensive rebounds and an ability to take care of the ball.  You can take the shooting struggles as a negative, or you can see the fact that they've found ways to win despite shooting the ball worse than last year's Sixers team.  I sincerely doubt that the Pistons will be a sub-40% shooting team for the duration of a full season.  I don't doubt that they can continue to defend well and take care of the basketball.

- The difference between Marcus Morris and last year's SF rotation is like the difference between The Beatles and Hanson.  The only difference is, I don't really care for The Beatles, but I absolutely enjoy watching Marcus Morris so far.  He scores, he rebounds, he defends, and he does it without a clearly defined role.  Need him to score facing up? He's done it.  Need him to overpower an undersized defender in the post?  He's done it.  Need him to guard a bruising PF?  Need him to man up the other team's do-it-all SF?  He's done that too.  Marcus Morris is this team's utility belt, and this team is 1-2 or 0-3 without that utility belt.

- KCP turned back into a pumpkin tonight.  I liked his energy and aggression on the offensive end, and his defensive play was solid.  He just wasn't hitting shots, and the ball looked flat coming out of his hand.  That makes me wonder if Dave Hopla, the Pistons new shooting coach, has been working to correct that with him.  Against Atlanta and Utah, KCP's stroke was smooth and had a lot of arc to his shots.  That it wasn't there tonight even though his legs looked fresh makes me think they're still working on some things with his mechanics and his release.  We'll see if he can bounce back with a couple of days to work on it.

- The bench still sucks, even if it hasn't mattered yet.  They finally outscored an opposing bench unit (22-21), but they were 9-29 from the field, mostly thanks to an 0-7 performance from Steve Blake.  Brandon Jennings can't get back soon enough.  Anthony Tolliver's performance tonight was the first true positive contribution a reserve has made through three games.  The most likely way this changes is, Brandon Jennings comes back healthy, and Stanley Johnson improves his decision making on the offensive end.

- Despite the results to this point, I'm not ready to declare this team as a great defensive unit.  I think this is definitely a good defensive team, one that's going to finish in the top half of the league in defensive efficiency.  I'm not sold on them cracking the top ten though.  Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Marcus Morris seem like pluses at their individual positions, but other than that, I'm not 100% confident in what the rest of the team can do.  Andre Drummond still struggles with skilled, crafty scorers, and Reggie Jackson is definitely no worse or better than average.  Beyond that, the bench has its struggles, and none of the true PFs on this roster are capable of coming up with a stop unless they're drawing a charge.  I'm not saying this can't be a top ten defense, I'm just saying I don't feel comfortable believing in this level of results just yet.

- This unexpected 3-0 start only adds magnitude to the upcoming West Coast trip.  The Pacers will be at The Palace on Tuesday night before the Pistons head out west for six games.  On paper, I like the Pistons in four of those contests (PHX, POR, LAL, SAC), but Detroit generally struggles on this early season road trip to the Pacific coast.  Even with a loss to Indiana before they head out, I think this start adds magnitude because expectations will be up.  Yes, they play the Clippers and the Warriors, but those other four teams almost certainly aren't making the playoffs in the Western Conference.  I know I'll be disappointed in anything worse than a 3-3 road trip.

- The chrome jerseys need to die a fiery death.  They look extremely generic.  In terms of alternates we've seen over the last few years, these are terrible.  Minus the sleeves, I liked last year's Motor City alternates, and the all-reds they used to pull out from time-to-time at the tail end of the Going to Work were cool too.  These chrome jerseys just look like something that someone created in MS Paint.

Click "Read More" for tonight's Player Scores...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Game Recap #2 - Jazz at Pistons

(2-0) PISTONS 92
(0-1) JAZZ 87

Box Score

Standings

TAKEAWAYS

- The offense is feeling for the light switch in the dark.  I have a feeling they'll find it at some point, but for now it feels like there isn't much direction on that end of the floor.  The Jazz are a really good defensive team, but large stretches of the first half were marked by ineptitude.  There wasn't enough movement off the ball, and the ball movement seemed like it lacked a purpose.  Reggie Jackson bailed them out with some good isolation in the 2nd quarter, and they got a combined 46 points from threes and free throws.  It's amazing that the Pistons are 2-0 when they've shot like they have from the field.  This win's FG% was better than opening night, and it was still below what the 76ers averaged last season.  Andre Drummond finding his way in the post is the most likely solution here, but that solution will likely come and go early on in the season.

- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is either making a leap or being a huge tease.  It's only two games in, but KCP has definitely been the Pistons' best player this year.  He did a great job defending Kyle Korver in Atlanta and was effective on Gordon Hayward tonight.  On top of that, he's now 6-12 from deep, and has 7 free throw attempts to his name, all of which he's made.  The most important development is that he's getting to the basket off the dribble, and he looks confident doing so.  His inconsistency was the most frustrating thing about him last season, so I refuse to get my hopes up until we're at least a few weeks into the season.  Early returns look great.

- The bench is going to be a trouble spot against the better teams in the league.  The Pistons actually got less points from their bench against the Jazz than they did in Atlanta on opening night.  A broken foot for Jodie Meeks probably doesn't make this any easier to digest.  The early prognosis is that he'll be out for 6-8 weeks, but the type of fracture he suffered is the same one that cost Kevin Durant most of his season last year.  Now's the time to find out if Reggie Bullock's preseason emergence is for real.  The first real test comes Friday night against a Chicago bench that features Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Doug McDermott.

- The Pistons did a good job of defending the three point line.  Three point defense isn't measured in opponent percentage, but rather in the amount of attempts allowed.  The Jazz only took 12 threes last night, coming off of a season where they were in the top half of the league in 3PAr and attempted over 21 threes per game.  It's also helpful that Rodney Hood went 0-7 from beyond the arc, but again, it's all about limiting attempts.

- The officiating was atrocious.  Joey Crawford remains terrible.  On a related note, Marcus Morris picked up his first of what will be many, many technical fouls.

- The happiest sad statistic: The Pistons are 2 games above .500 for the first time since 2009.  That 2008-09 team featured the hollowed out core of the championship team, plus Allen Iverson, and finished 39-43.  I'd take this year's roster over that one any day, and don't even get me started on the differences between Kuester and Stan Van Gundy.  This is the best roster we've seen since the Pistons' last Eastern Conference Finals appearance.  It's nowhere close to being on par with those teams, of course, but we're moving in the right direction.

PLAYER SCORES

What is this?  Similar to how the NHL hands out three stars after a game, I'll be handing out points to any Piston who saw at least 15 minutes of playing time.  Just like in hockey, you want to be the 1st star, so getting 1 point is better than getting, say, 6.  I do my best to watch all 82 games, but it's not always possible.  I will make it known if I did not watch the game being graded.  This takes as much into consideration as possible: stats, eye test, intangibles, etc.  It's just how I saw things shake out.  I'll keep a running set of standings updated at the bottom of every game recap; remember, the lower average the better.

1 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: KCP was the Pistons' best two-way player tonight, an honor he shared with Marcus Morris in the opener.  His consistent, tough perimeter defense and his two big free throws that gave the Pistons breathing room with 10 seconds left put him in the top spot tonight.  This KCP is a player who does everything the Pistons need to complement Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.

2 - Andre Drummond: He looked bad in the post again, but an 8-11 performance from the free throw line was key for an offense that sputtered from the field.  Way too small of a sample, but he's 14-21 from the line this year.  A season of 18 PPG/13 RPG/2 BPG beckons if he can stay within ten points of his current percentage.  He did have one nice hook shot over Gobert's infinitely long arms that provided some hope.  He added 10 rebounds and 2 blocks in a performance that was enough to cancel out the brutal advantage the Jazz had at PF.  We're two 18 point games into the season and I feel like he has way more to offer offensively.  This is good and bad, but mostly good because it hasn't cost the Pistons a win yet.

3 - Reggie Jackson: Took over when the offense was stalled in the second quarter.  Hit a big three with 3:36 left to put Detroit up six, which he made sure Raul Neto knew about, and then of course he notched the critical lay-up with 17 seconds left to put the Pistons ahead for good.  In the process, he also irritated a bunch of whiny Jazz fans on Twitter, one of whom went so far as to say that "Jackson talks so much trash for such a mediocre game."  I think I'll take Jackson's 19 points and 4 assists over Neto's 8 and 3, but that's just me.  Jackson's four turnovers and a couple of iffy shots were the lone dark spots.

4 - Marcus Morris: He didn't look good early, but much like last night, the Pistons don't win this game without Morris' contributions.  Hard to complain about 14 points (5-10 shooting) and 6 rebounds after what we've had at SF over the years.  His shot selection was much better tonight too.  Nobody was good against Derrick Favors defensively, but he was better than Ilyasova, for what that's worth.

5 - Steve Blake: The thing Blake does where he just runs circles around the paint reminds me of Spike Albrecht.  It worked last night, as his 7 assists (1 turnover) helped keep the offense afloat while Reggie Jackson caught his breath.  The Pistons need him to start making his open looks, but it's early in the season and we're still in a small sample.  Burke and Neto didn't cause nearly as much trouble for him defensively as Schroder did.

6 - Ersan Ilyasova: I really wanted to put Ilyasova in the 5th slot thanks to a couple of huge charges drawn in the second half again.  On one of them he caught Rudy Gobert's foot in his chest.  I just couldn't put him any higher though; not with the images in my head of Derrick Favors destroying him in the post.  A set of old-timey wild west saloon doors would have been more effective in keeping Favors away from the rim.  His defense is going to be a problem all year, but it is nice that he helped space the floor once again (2-4 from three).

7 - Stanley Johnson: Johnson was 3-10 from the field again, and I liked tonight's performance less than last night's.  He took a few ill-advised shots, including a step-back three with time on the shot clock that made me cringe.  On the other hand, he got to the free throw line a few times and I liked his energy on defense.  Those who crowned him as the Rookie of the Year after summer league and preseason are probably re-thinking their stance.  He's been a decent contributor off the bench though.

8 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver's debut was uninspiring, including an 0-3 performance from the field.  He missed the opener after the birth of his daughter, so it's hard to blame him for being a little off.  Still, he was the Pistons' worst rotation player tonight.

Average
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope1.5
Andre Drummond2.5
Marcus Morris2.5
Reggie Jackson3.5
Ersan Ilyasova6
Stanley Johnson6
Steve Blake6
Anthony Tolliver8

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Game Recap #1 - Pistons at Hawks

(1-0) PISTONS 106
(0-1) HAWKS 94

Box Score

Standings

TAKEAWAYS

- This summer's banner acquistions got their Pistons careers off to a good start.  Aron Baynes and Stanley Johnson were okay, and Steve Blake was terrible, but the Pistons don't win this game without the play of Marcus Morris and Ersan Ilyasova in the frontcourt.  Morris may have been inefficient, but he created offense when the Pistons couldn't find it anywhere else and stuffed the stat sheet.  Defensively, his efforts against Paul Millsap shouldn't go unnoticed.  Ilyasova struggled with Millsap early, but he hit some key jumpers, and the two charges he took in the 4th quarter were critical.  It's just one game, but tonight was a portrait of what Stan Van Gundy was looking for when he traded for Morris and Ilyasova.

- The game was won on the offensive glass.  It didn't really feel like it watching it live, but the Pistons only shot 38.5% from the field against the Hawks.  Normally that's a recipe for disaster, but when you grab 23 offensive rebounds, you can afford to miss.  The Pistons ranked 3rd in OReb% last season, and they figure to finish close to the top of the league again this year, thanks to Andre Drummond.  Drummond grabbed 8 offensive rebounds in the game, 7 of which came in the 2nd half.

- Andre Drummond's post game disappeared tonight.  Preseason basketball always comes with caveats, but it really, truly looked like Drummond had sharpened up his post game over the summer.  That good feeling went away early tonight after Drummond's first three touches all resulted in hurried, ugly, contested shots.  It's important to remember that A) one game is too small of a sample size to make sweeping judgments and B) Drummond is still only 22.  However, it was hard not to be discouraged by his touches early in the game.  Drummond's post game could feel like a rollercoaster ride this season.

- Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could be the pendulum on which this year's team swings.  KCP played a really solid game tonight.  His 20 points on 7-14 shooting was nice, but it was his defense on Kyle Korver that caught my attention.  It seemed like he was constantly on Korver's hip, making things difficult for him.  The Hawks only lost six games in Phillips Arena last season, and Korver's contributions to that mark earned him a spot in last year's All Star game.  KCP helped take him away tonight.  It's going to take a long stretch of play like this from KCP for me to trust him, but tonight showed his importance to this team.

- The bench did their best to keep this one close.  The Pistons bench only scored 18 of Detroit's 106 points tonight.  Dennis Schroder matched that on his own, and the Hawks got 35 points in total from their reserves.  That means that Detroit's starters outscored Atlanta's at a rate of 88 to 59.  A big piece of the bench struggles was Steve Blake's inability to contain Schroder, but it also didn't help that Jodie Meeks was non-existent and Stanley Johnson only went 3-10 from the field.   It would be great if we could count on the starting five to dominate like they did on a nightly basis, but if Detroit's truly going to challenge for a playoff berth, they need more from the bench.  I'm expecting to see Spencer Dinwiddie on Wednesday night against the Jazz.

- All things considered, what else could you ask for in the season opener?  Yeah, Drummond looked shaky early, Blake got dominated by Schroder and they only shot 38.5% from the field, but you can't have any legitimate complaints after a season-opening road win against a team that won 60 games last season.

PLAYER SCORES

What is this?  Similar to how the NHL hands out three stars after a game, I'll be handing out points to any Piston who saw at least 15 minutes of playing time.  Just like in hockey, you want to be the 1st star, so getting 1 point is better than getting, say, 6.  I do my best to watch all 82 games, but it's not always possible.  I will make it known if I did not watch the game being graded.  This takes as much into consideration as possible: stats, eye test, intangibles, etc.  It's just how I saw things shake out.  I'll keep a running set of standings updated at the bottom of every game recap; remember, the lower average the better. 

1 - Marcus Morris: Yeah, Morris took some ill-advised shots and it took him 19 FGA to get to 18 points.  Yeah, there are going to be nights when his step-back 20-footers are going to kill the Pistons.  Tonight wasn't one of those nights though, and the value in his 10 rebounds and 4 assists meant much more to the Pistons than his 13 misses.  I thought he did a really good job on Paul Millsap too, after it became evident early that Ersan Ilyasova couldn't handle him.  He had some timely buckets among his 6 makes and helped set the tone early by punishing Kent Bazemore in the post.

2 - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope: If it weren't for Morris having more big moments, I would have given the top spot to KCP.  This is a good step towards him erasing the road woes he had last season.  He played strong defense on Kyle Korver and knocked down 4 of his 7 threes.  His aggressive play against Korver helped keep Atlanta's offense off-balance.

3 - Andre Drummond: Early on, even when the Pistons were blasting the Hawks in the first quarter, I was prepared to have Drummond in one of the last slots on this list.  He looked disinterested at both ends in the first quarter.  He rushed every touch he got in the post, and was lucky that Al Horford wasn't connecting on the open 15-18 footers that Dre was gifting him.  He settled in though, and chipped in 10 points and 12 rebounds in the second half.  He even hit six of his ten free throw attempts on the night, including a string of four straight.  By the end of the night, his 19 total rebounds were the most by a Piston in a season opener since at least 1985, per Basketball-Reference.

4 - Reggie Jackson: Jackson was the steadying hand for the Pistons throughout this one.  He wasn't spectacular offensively, but he minimized mistakes (only two turnovers) and got the Pistons into their sets.  If Detroit had a frustrating possession offensively, it didn't have anything to do with Reggie.  He also did a spectacular job defending Jeff Teague, one of the conference's best PGs.  Teague scored 7 of his 18 points with less than two minutes remaining, when the game was already decided.

5 - Ersan Ilyasova: I thought about flipping Ilyasova and Jackson, and defense is the only reason I gave Reggie the nod.  Ilyasova struggled with Millsap early, as the more physical PF took it to him in the post.  Ilyasova made up for it late with two pivotal charges drawn in the fourth quarter.  Offensively, he provided the spacing needed by going 3-6 beyond the arc.  He won't be a positive like this every night, but he showed why SVG wanted him this offseason, and why he earned a spot in the starting five.

6 - Stanley Johnson: I'm sure it wasn't the debut that the rookie had hoped for, but things weren't all bad.  Yeah, he needs to be better than 3-10 from the floor, but he did have 4 rebounds and 3 assists to only 1 turnover.  I missed a sizable chunk of the 2nd quarter due to computer issues, so I didn't see any of his buckets.

7 - Steve Blake: Blake was atrocious at both ends of the floor.  He got absolutely torched by Dennis Schroder defensively, as he couldn't keep him in front of him.  Schroder made 8 FGs in this contest, and only one of them came from outside the paint.  I could be wrong, but I believe at least 5 of his 7 makes at the rim came with Blake defending him.  Offensively, Blake was 1-6 from the field and turned it over 3 times in 16 minutes.  I generally don't like +/-, but Blake's -14 truly felt indicative of his play.  He'll match up better against PGs who aren't as lengthy and quick as Schroder, but this was not a good case for him continuing to hold the backup PG spot over Dinwiddie.

Game Score Standings:


Average
Marcus Morris1
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope2
Andre Drummond3
Reggie Jackson4
Ersan Ilyasova5
Stanley Johnson6
Steve Blake7

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Golden State Warriors

GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
[] 67-15
[] Offensive Rating: 112.2 (2nd)
[] Defensive Rating: 101.9 (1st)
[] Net Rating: +10.3 (1st)
[] NBA Champions
[] Coach: Steve Kerr Luke Walton

The reigning NBA champions lost approximately zero impact players from their rotation in the offseason.  That means that no important pieces were lost from a team that posted the league's best Net Rating since the 2007-08 Celtics hit a rating of +11.4.  The main challenge will come this year in the form of a back injury to head coach Steve Kerr.  Kerr suffered the injury during last year's NBA Finals, and it's unknown just how much time he'll actually miss after having surgery.  It's looking like he won't miss too much time, but you have to wonder how much of a dropoff there will be from Kerr to Luke Walton.  Walton's job won't exactly be tough (hint: let Steph Curry do his thing), and I expect Golden State to come out of the ordeal, no matter how long it is, with minimal to no scars.  That's because there's so much talent on this roster that even Mike Brown couldn't screw things up.  Expect the Warriors to hold down the Western Conference's top spot again this year, assuming Steph Curry and Klay Thompson remain healthy.







Monday, October 26, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: San Antonio Spurs

SAN ANTONIO SPURS
[] 55-27
[] Offensive Rating: 109.3 (7th)
[] Defensive Rating: 102.6 (2nd)
[] Net Rating: +6.7 (3rd)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Gregg Popovich

If the Spurs lived in your neighborhood, they would have the nicest house, the most expensive cars, the most attractive spouse, and the kids that speak five languages at an age where yours can't quite figure out how to use the bathroom yet.  That's because dad is a quiet, but effective, sociopath hellbent on creating a machine that functions with no mistakes.  Their oldest son has two doctorates from Harvard, or Yale or something, a high-level job with a Fortune 500 company and yet the humility to make sure he's just impossible to hate.  Their youngest son is the star athlete at your local high school.  He's quiet and humble too, when he's not off winning awards and championships and stuff.  This year, the big news is that they adopted another son!  Surprise, he's also super talented and good at things you're not and he's just going to make this family so much harder to like, but also so much harder to beat.  He hasn't quite had the taste of victory that this family knows inside and out just yet.  He'll get it soon though, because the rich will always get richer, and I'll be damned if adding LaMarcus Aldridge to the Spurs doesn't end with every house on the block somehow being deeded to the Spurs.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Cleveland Cavaliers

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
[] 53-29
[] Offensive Rating: 111.9 (4th)
[] Defensive Rating: 107.1 (18th)
[] Net Rating: +4.8 (5th)
[] Eliminated in NBA Finals
[] Coach: David Blatt

It's been 51 years since a professional sports team has been able to celebrate a title with the city of Cleveland.  Last year was arguably the closest the city has come in that timeframe, as LeBron James did everything he humanly could to carry an injury-riddled Cavs roster against a well-oiled Golden State Warriors machine.  James' 35.8 PPG/13.3 RPG/8.8 APG in the Finals just wasn't enough without the supporting cast of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love there to help carry the load.  They'll be back this year though, and with James' continued presence, that means the Cavaliers are the hands-down favorites in the Eastern Conference.  Will they win the most games of any EC team in the regular season?  Probably, but it doesn't matter if they don't.  Because until someone proves different, the Eastern Conference's spot in the NBA Finals will go to the team that has LeBron James, like it has for the last five years.


2015-16 Season Preview: Memphis Grizzlies

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
[] 55-27
[] Offensive Rating: 106.4 (13th)
[] Defensive Rating: 102.9 (3rd)
[] Net Rating: +3.5 (8th)
[] Eliminated in Western Conf. semifinals
[] Coach: Dave Joerger

The grittiest, grindiest team in the league is looking to return to the Western Conference Finals after breaking through in 2013.  The 2012-13 Grizzlies set a franchise record with 56 wins, and advanced to the first conference finals appearance in franchise history before being swept away by the Spurs.  The core of that group is still around, trying to top its performance from a few years back.  In the time that's passed since, the Grizzlies have seen continued personal growth from guys like Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, and the continued presence of sandpaper-smooth veterans like Zach Randolph and Tony Allen.  The Memphis identity won't be changed in the slightest this year, as the FedEx Forum promises to continue to earn its Grindhouse moniker.  What Memphis is hoping will change is the fact that they just haven't had enough offensive firepower to hang tough when the playoffs roll around.  This year's attempt to address that issue will hinge on the health of guys like Conley, and the hopes that players like Jeff Green and Courtney Lee can put enough of a stamp on the offense to make an important difference.  With more depth and another year of cohesion, will this be the year that the Grizz break through the Western Conference?

Game Review: PS#8 - Atlanta Hawks

Box Score

Pistons.com Recap

Standings [N/A]

TAKEAWAYS

- The Hawks, for very good reason, couldn't have cared less about last night's outcome.  I'm of the opinion that Millsap, Splitter, Horford, Teague, Korver, Sefolosha, Millsap and Bazemore will probably have an effect on the season opener.  I'm just an amateur though.  The Pistons sat Ilyasova, KCP and Reggie Jackson, but to make things even, they would've had to rest Drummond, Johnson, Morris and Bullock too to make this one fair.

- With the first takeaway as a caveat, the Pistons need to find a way to repeat the offensive style that they played with last night.  While shooting 43% from beyond the arc isn't going to be a nightly thing, the kind of ball movement we saw in this one can be.  You're not going to lose on many nights where you have 32 assists on 46 made field goals.

- The competition for the main share of the backup PG minutes is going to last until Brandon Jennings returns.  Steve Blake was a big part of the aforementioned ball movement last night.  Since this was his only preseason appearance, we're probably going to see SVG roll with whichever one shows a hot hand first on a game-by-game basis.  Spencer Dinwiddie had a few nice possessions in the first quarter as a scorer and spent the rest of the night in distribution mode.  He was okay, but Blake had the better night.  They both struggled with keeping the opposing PG in front of them, which could cause defensive problems for the second unit.  If Reggie Bullock hadn't emerged, I'd be calling for more Dinwiddie minutes off the ball.

- Stanley Johnson's shot selection is going to be an item to watch this year.  This shouldn't come as a huge shock considering he's a rookie with a confident personality, but he needs to know when to keep himself in check.  There were a few head-scratchers, especially in the first half, highlighted by a 27-footer with plenty of time left on the shot clock.  He's not anywhere near Josh Smith trigger-happy, and I'd rather have this problem than him being too timid, but this has the potential to derail the offense on nights when his shot's not falling.

- Reggie Bullock continues to get my hopes up.  He's obviously not going to shoot 50% from three for the season like he has in the preseason, and that's not what has me excited for him as a rotation piece anyways.  I'm looking forward to seeing his defense and heady play carry forward into the regular season.  He always seemed to be moving off the ball and matched nine preseason assists with only one turnover.  He should be what we were expecting Cartier Martin to be last season: good depth and outside shooting at both wing spots, with some hustle plays added into the mix.

- The wheels haven't fallen off of Andre Drummond's offensive game yet.  He had a couple nice hook shots, and took Edy Tavares off the dribble for a lay-up from a face-up just above the elbow.  Tavares moves like he's got bricks for feet, so I don't expect that latter thing to continue.  Tavares is also 7'3 with a 7'9 wingspan and still had a hard time challenging Drummond in the post when he was physical and used his body to his advantage.  There are going to be nights when his jump hook isn't falling, but those should be less frequent than last year.

PLAYER SCORES

What is this?  Similar to how the NHL hands out three stars after a game, I'll be handing out points to any Piston who saw at least 20 minutes of playing time.  Just like in hockey, you want to be the 1st star, so getting 1 point is better than getting, say, 6.  I do my best to watch all 82 games, but it's not always possible.  I will make it known if I did not watch the game being graded.  This takes as much into consideration as possible: stats, eye test, intangibles, etc.  It's just how I saw things shake out.  I'll keep a running set of standings updated at the bottom of every game recap; remember, the lower average the better. 

1 - Marcus Morris: Hard to argue with 17 points on 10 field goal attempts.  Added 3 assists, a steal and a block with only one turnover.  He lands first for overall results, but I continue to want to throw a brick at my TV every time I see him load up for a step-back 20-footer with 10 seconds left on the shot clock.  That's probably going to be my only complaint about Morris all year though, unless the technicals come at painful times.  Otherwise, he's a big upgrade to the SF spot.

2 - Stanley Johnson: As mentioned above, Johnson had some issues with shot selection in the first half.  He was better at focusing his offensive aggression in the second half, and that came with improved results.  He was 4-6 from the field in the final two quarters (3-8 in the first), and he highlighted it with a nice dunk on a baseline drive.  On a smaller, but equally encouraging note, he didn't notch a single foul in 28 minutes.

3 - Reggie Bullock: Bullock knocked down his open shots, moved well off the ball and looked good in KCP's starting SG spot.  He's earned a spot in the rotation for the regular season.

4 - Jodie Meeks: Made 3-6 beyond the arc and 4-5 from inside of it.  This is what the Pistons need from him on a more consistent basis in 2015-16.  He had a nice baseline cut and reverse lay-up that he got to the glass before Tavares could smother it.

5 - Steve Blake: Blake's ball movement kept the ball rolling when the starters came off the floor and Andre Drummond rested during the second half.  He didn't shoot the ball well, but I thought his form looked good and he got some unkind bounces.

6 - Spencer Dinwiddie: Dinwiddie was at his best moving towards the basket and pulling up for mid-range jumpers.  His statline looked solid, but he struggled to keep Mack and Schroeder in front of him on defense.  I'd like to see him play more minutes off the ball.

7 - Anthony Tolliver: Tolliver didn't have a bad night, but he falls at the bottom of the list because everybody else played so well.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Los Angeles Clippers

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
[] 56-26
[] Offensive Rating: 113.2 (1st)
[] Defensive Rating: 106.2 (16th)
[] Net Rating: +7.0 (2nd)
[] Eliminated in Western Conf. semifinals
[] Coach: Doc Rivers

The Clippers have advanced to the Western Conference semifinals in three of the last four seasons, yet remain in pursuit of the franchise's first conference finals appearance.  Blessed with one of the most talented rosters in the league, Los Angeles just hasn't been able to get it done when it matters most.  Last season was the perfect example of this, as the Clippers raced out to a 3-1 series lead against the Rockets in the second round of the playoffs.  The Clippers then proceeded to give up an average of 118.7 PPG over the final three games of the series en route to an embarrassing dismissal from the playoffs.  They'll look to regroup this year, with the whole roster back in place after a scare from DeAndre Jordan in free agency.  The offense will continue to hum, but questions about the Clippers' ability to keep opponents from posting video game numbers are going to exist until proven wrong.





2015-16 Season Preview: Houston Rockets

HOUSTON ROCKETS
[] 56-26
[] Offensive Rating: 107.9 (12th)
[] Defensive Rating: 104.3 (8th)
[] Net Rating: +3.6 (7th)
[] Eliminated in the Western Conf. Finals
[] Coach: Kevin McHale

The Rockets turned an MVP-caliber season from James Harden into a trip to the Western Conference Finals in 2015.  Harden elevated his game at both ends of the floor and the Rockets got enough from the supporting cast to survive a combined 67 missed games from starting PG Patrick Beverley and C Dwight Howard.  Beverley won't be the starter this year though, as the Rockets grabbed Ty Lawson from the Nuggets in the offseason.  When he's focused, Lawson is one of the better PGs in the league and provides an upgrade on Beverley, and allows Beverley to thrive in a reserve role that better suits his strengths.  Hopefully, for on and off court reasons, Lawson's time spent working with John Lucas this summer helps him deal with his alcohol issues.  While they added Lawson in a trade, they didn't give up any major rotation pieces.  The large majority of the Rockets' rotation, minus Josh Smith is back this year, and so is the threat they pose to the other elite teams in the Western Conference.

Game Review: PS #7 - Charlotte Hornets

Box Score

Standings [N/A]

GAME RECAP

The game got off to a slow, sloppy start as the Pistons and Hornets combined for 11 turnovers in the first quarter.  The opening stanza had the makings of a slugfest, as Al Jefferson and Andre Drummond traded blows in the post and both offenses struggled to get out of their own way.  The Pistons got a bit of a scare in the first when Kentavious Caldwell-Pope came up limping after a fast break dunk.  He would leave the game after only 10 minutes played, but the overall news wasn't horrible; x-rays came back negative, and KCP was diagnosed with a sore foot.

Detroit gained good separation early in the second quarter, with improved shot selection and some more help from lax play by the Hornets.  Stanley Johnson put his stamp on the quarter with a couple of nice plays in Charlotte's passing lanes, which he turned into transition buckets.  The offense would get easier looks in the halfcourt too, highlighted by a slick pass from Jodie Meeks to Andre Drummond for a wide-open slam.  The Pistons took a 43-33 lead with four minutes to play in the half.  That lead wouldn't last though, as poor shot selection bogged down the Pistons offense and the Hornets closed the gap.  The Pistons would end up taking only a 49-48 lead into the locker room, led by 9 points (3-7 fg, 3-4 ft), 3 rebounds and 3 steals from Marcus Morris.

The Pistons regained their footing in the third quarter, as Reggie Bullock made his first appearance of the game.  Bullock got the nod at SG with KCP out of commission, and notched seven points in the period.  He got two easy buckets at the rim off of good cuts and a wide-open three on a beautiful pass out of the post by Andre Drummond.  The Hornets also played a cleaner style of basketball, reducing their turnovers and getting better offensive output.  Still, the Pistons got the better of the Hornets and took a 76-70 lead into the fourth.

Detroit remained in good shape late, holding a 90-83 lead with only 3:58 left to play.  Detroit got a big fourth quarter from Andre Drummond, who notched 8 points and 7 rebounds in the last 12 minutes of the game.  It wasn't enough though, as the Pistons let Charlotte whittle away the Detroit lead with the clock stopped.  The Hornets scored 9 of their final 16 points from the free throw line, which proved to be too much to overcome.  With the Pistons down 96-94 late, Jodie Meeks missed a floater that would have tied it up.  Detroit got a stop on Charlotte's return possession, but Meeks couldn't knock down a quality look from three.  A split at the line by Jeremy Lin would keep the door open for Reggie Jackson, but his stepback three with two seconds left was off the mark.  A pair of Al Jefferson free throws was all Charlotte needed to put this one in the books, sending the Pistons to 2-5 in the preseason.  Overall, it was an ugly, inconsistent effort from every Piston not named Andre Drummond.  Detroit only shot 17% from three, led by an 0-8 effort from Reggie Jackson, and a mere 38% from the field.  As mentioned above, Andre Drummond kept the Pistons in this one, producing 21 points (10-14 fg), 15 rebounds and 2 blocks.  The Pistons will wrap up preseason play at The Palace on Friday night against in Atlanta.

PLAYER SCORES

What is this?  Similar to how the NHL hands out three stars after a game, I'll be handing out points to any Piston who saw at least 20 minutes of playing time.  Just like in hockey, you want to be the 1st star, so getting 1 point is better than getting, say, 8.  I do my best to watch all 82 games, but it's not always possible.  I will make it known if I did not watch the game being graded.  This takes as much into consideration as possible: stats, eye test, intangibles, etc.  It's just how I saw things shake out.  I'll keep a running set of standings updated at the bottom of every game recap; remember, the lower average the better. 

1 - Andre Drummond: Drummond was the only Piston to truly play a good game on Wednesday night.  His progress as a scorer with his back to the basket continues to be encouraging.

2 - Marcus Morris: Finished with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 3 steals after a strong first quarter.  Didn't feel like much of a factor in the second half, but gets the 2nd spot by default.

3 - Anthony Tolliver: You could put any of the guys listed from 3 through 6 in this spot, because none of them had strong nights.  I went with Tolliver because he had the fewest negatives.  Normally, I would like the higher spots to go to positive performers.  There were few in this game.

4 - Stanley Johnson: Had a nice stretch in the 2nd quarter with aggression at both ends of the floor.  Five fouls in 23 minutes.

5 - Ersan Ilyasova: Ilyasova was only 1-4 from three and turned the ball over four times.  His 8 rebounds were encouraging.

6 - Reggie Jackson: Jackson was a part of the Pistons' success when the offense was running hot, and an equal part when it got bogged down.  11 assists are good, his mediocre defense and 8 missed three point attempts are bad.  He has to know by now that he isn't a good enough shooter to take that many threes.

7 - Jodie Meeks: Penalized extra for the late misses, but his overall performance just wasn't there anyways.  Only 2-11 from the field, including 0-4 from three.  Did have a nice feed to Drummond in the 2nd quarter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Oklahoma City Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER
[] 45-37
[] Offensive Rating: 108.4 (11th)
[] Defensive Rating: 106.2 (15th)
[] Net Rating: +2.2 (12th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2014
[] Coach: Billy Donovan

The 2014-15 Thunder lost a combined 88 games to injury from their top three players (Westbrook, KD and Ibaka), and still managed to nearly make the playoffs.  That was in large part thanks to Westbrook, who missed the fewest of the three, and played like an absolute madman when he was on the floor.  He won't have to do that again this year, as Kevin Durant should be back from his absence and ready to resume his rightful place as the NBA's leading scorer.  Westbrook and KD should make the transition to the NBA a little easier for Billy Donovan in his first stint as an NBA coach.  Donovan had an excellent stint at the University of Florida, and now he takes over for Scott Brooks, who didn't seem to know how to get the most out of his star-studded offense when it mattered most.  Figuring out when to stand out of the way and when to draw something up should be Donovan's biggest challenge.  Aside from Donovan finding his way, the other item to watch will be how, or if, talk of Kevin Durant's impending free agency affects the Thunder.  Whether or not you think KD would actually entertain the thought of leaving OKC, you have to think it will at least be something he and the team have to address throughout the year.  Though if you're the Thunder, you'll gladly answer the questions if it means that Durant is on the floor and giving you roughly 30 points a night.

2015-16 Season Preview: Atlanta Hawks

ATLANTA HAWKS
[] 60-22
[] Offensive Rating: 110.0 (6th)
[] Defensive Rating: 104.0 (6th)
[] Net Rating: +6.0 (4th)
[] Eliminated in Eastern Conf. Finals
[] Coach: Mike Budenholzer

The Hawks were the league's best surprise last season, winning 60 games and only falling to the Cavs in the conference finals due to some poorly timed injuries and the sheer dominance of LeBron James.  Mike Budenholzer has pressed fast forward on the Spursification of the franchise, and the on-court results are hard to argue with.  Jeff Teague has blossomed into one of the top PGs in the Eastern Conference, they're fully leveraging the lethal assassin ways of Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll and Paul Millsap reached personal heights nobody expected over the last two years.  Carroll's off to Toronto, having signed a deal the Hawks just couldn't bring themselves to match in free agency.  Carroll will be missed, but you can bet it will be plug-and-play for Budenholzer.  There are several directions they can go with the SF spot now that Carroll is gone, but I expect them to slide Korver to SF and utilize the newly acquired Tim Hardaway Jr. at SG.  These events likely take the team's defensive capabilities down a notch or two, but this Hawks team is going to be tough again.  Horford and Millsap might be the best frontcourt in the conference and Budenholzer will find guys to fill in the blanks.  Atlanta is going to remain as an imposing force this year.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Chicago Bulls

CHICAGO BULLS
[] 50-32
[] Offensive Rating: 108.5 (10th)
[] Defensive Rating: 105.1 (11th)
[] Net Rating: +3.4 (T-9th)
[] Eliminated in Eastern Conf. semifinals 
[] Coach: Fred Hoiberg

The Bulls are now four years removed from their appearance in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals, which came after a 62-win season and saw Derrick Rose win the MVP.  Things have been turbulent since then, as Rose can't stay healthy, which has contributed to the Bulls' inability to get back to the conference finals.  They decided to address that situation in the offseason by firing Tom Thibodeau, who didn't seem to see eye-to-eye with the front office.  In comes Fred Hoiberg, who played for the Bulls for four seasons around the turn of the millennium.  Hoiberg had success as the head man at Iowa State, finishing 115-56 with four NCAA tournament appearances in his five seasons with the Cyclones.  He'll bring his experience as an NBA player with him, but will have to adjust to coaching at the pro level.  That transition will be eased by the amount of talent and experience the Bulls have on the roster.  There isn't a deeper roster in the Eastern Conference, especially after the emergence of Jimmy Butler and Nikola Mirotic last season.  Butler proved to be one of the best two-way players in the league last year, and Mirotic could be one of the best reserves in the game.  Add the potential for a full-ish season of Rose  to the mix and the Bulls are going to contend in the Eastern Conference

2015-16 Season Preview: New Orleans Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
[] 45-37
[] Offensive Rating: 109.0 (8th)
[] Defensive Rating: 108.2 (22nd)
[] Net Rating: +0.8 (14th)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Alvin Gentry

It took an MVP-caliber season from Anthony Davis and an injury-riddled season from the Oklahoma City Thunder for the Pelicans to sneak into the playoffs last year, garnering the 8th seed on a tiebreaker.  With another year of improvement from Davis and the prospect of a full season from starting PG Jrue Holiday, the Pelicans will be hoping to build on last year's surprise playoff appearance.  The rest of the roster is back as well, for the most part, as there aren't any projected changes to the team's rotation.  Eric Gordon is entering a contract year after a solid, mostly healthy season.  Tyreke Evans had a solid, well-rounded season last year, as he was the jack-of-all-trades, master of none that the Pelicans needed him to be last season.  Additionally, Omer Asik is back at C to take some of the defensive burden off of Davis.  While the starting five looks strong, the depth is still questionable, as the front office didn't do much in the offseason to improve the bench.  That's going to be the biggest question mark for the Pelicans as they grind through the Western Conference this year, but you have to feel good about any team that has Anthony Davis.

Monday, October 19, 2015

2015-16 NBA Season Preview: Picking the All-Whatever Teams

All- Defensive Second Team

GTony Allen
GDanny Green
FNerlens Noel
FAnthony Davis
CMarc Gasol

All-Defensive First Team

GChris Paul
GJohn Wall
FKawhi Leonard
FDraymond Green
CRudy Gobert

All-Rookie Second Team

Mario Hezonja
Justise Winslow
Kristaps Porzingis
Myles Turner
Willie Cauley-Stein

All-Rookie First Team

Emmanuel Mudiay
D'Angelo Russell
Stanley Johnson
Karl-Anthony Towns
Jahlil Okafor

All-NBA Third Team

GJohn Wall
GKlay Thompson
FJimmy Butler
FBlake Griffin
CDeAndre Jordan

All-NBA Second Team

GRussell Westbrook
GChris Paul
FKevin Durant
FLaMarcus Aldridge
CMarc Gasol

All-NBA First Team

GSteph Curry
GJames Harden
FLeBron James
FAnthony Davis
CDeMarcus Cousins

2015-16 Season Preview: Toronto Raptors

TORONTO RAPTORS
[] 49-33
[] Offensive Rating: 112.1 (3rd)
[] Defensive Rating: 108.7 (26th)
[] Net Rating: +3.4 (T-9th)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Dwayne Casey

This is arguably the high point of a Raptors franchise that has never had a 50-win season, and only has two playoff series wins to its name, both coming back in 2001.  So it makes sense that Toronto went out and made some aggressive, smart moves in the offseason, moves that will likely take the team above the 50-win plateau, and more importantly, out of the first round.  The biggest move was adding DeMarre Caroll to bolster the wing position opposite DeMar DeRozan.  Carroll's ability to impact the game at both ends of the floor was clear the last two seasons in Atlanta, and Toronto is hoping he brings the same performance north of the border.  They also went out and added Cory Joseph, Luis Scola, Anthony Bennett and Bismack Biyombo to a bench that left something to be desired last season.  Carroll, Joseph and Biyombo should help improve a defense that was dead weight for the Raptors last season.  If the defense is improved, the sky is the limit for this team, because all of the pieces that have made the offense one of the league's best are still in place.  Kyle Lowry is one of the best PGs in the Eastern Conference, DeMar DeRozan is a productive, high usage player, Jonas Valanciunas is blooming in the low post, and DeMarre Carroll is going to provide the shooting to balance it all out.  This Raptors team has the pieces to get things figured out and advance past the first round of the playoffs, if Dwayne Casey can just get out of the way.







2015-16 Season Preview: Washington Wizards

WASHINGTON WIZARDS
[] 46-36
[] Offensive Rating: 104.6 (22nd)
[] Defensive Rating: 103.7 (5th)
[] Net Rating: +0.9 (13th)
[] Eliminated in Eastern Conf. semifinals
[] Coach: Randy Wittman

The Wizards have been eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals in each of the last two seasons.  Not much has changed with the core of the roster over these last couple years, as mostly the same squad is back this year, minus Paul Pierce.  With Pierce off to the Clippers, the Wizards are expecting to play a faster brand of basketball this year.  Washington only averaged 93.7 possessions per game last season, ranking 18th in the league.  That seems a bit low, considering the fact that they have one of the league's fastest PGs, if not the fastest.  The Wizards are hoping an increase in pace of play helps boost an offense that struggled mightily last year.  That could mean more small-ball lineups, as neither Marcin Gortat or Nene is a perfect fit in an uptempo offense.  Washington's ability to thrive in small-ball units will likely balance on the growth of Otto Porter, the 5th pick in the 2013 draft.  Porter showed signs of life last year after a quiet rookie season, and will step right into Pierce's spot in the starting lineup.  You know Wall, Beal and Gortat are going to be good.  If Porter steps his game up, it should help the Wizards truly challenge to exceed their accomplishments from the last two seasons.  Even if he doesn't, the Washington defense, built around Wall's pressure at the point of attack, is going to keep the Wizards competitive.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE BUCKS
[] 41-41
[] Offensive Rating: 103.6 (26th)
[] Defensive Rating: 103.2 (4th)
[] Net Rating: +0.4 (16th)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA playoffs
[] Coach: Jason Kidd

The Bucks were a pleasant surprise last season as their youth movement and an aggressive defense propelled the team to a surprise playoff berth.  The Bucks survived one of the league's most sluggish offenses, a midseason trade of their starting PG and an injury to starting F Jabari Parker early in the year en route to the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference.  They'll have Parker back this year, and the offseason acquisition of Greg Monroe should help the offense at least move up a few pegs on the efficiency ladder.  The PG thing could still be a problem though.  Michael Carter-Williams didn't exactly light the world on fire after being acquired from the Sixers in February.  He still struggled with his jump shot and turning the ball over, issues that don't figure to just go away in his third year.  The Bucks did pick up Greivis Vasquez over the summer, so at the very least, they have a viable insurance plan.  Also adding to the excitement for this year's Bucks season is that there's another offseason of growth tacked onto dynamic F Giannis Antetokounmpo.  The Greek Freak looked like a star at times last season, and his ability to effect the game at both ends of the floor is a big part of what the Bucks like to do.  They also brought back Khris Middleton in restricted free agency over the summer, keeping their young core fully intact.  The Bucks are on the upswing, and with a new scoring option in the post, this year figures to be better than the last.

2015-16 Season Preview: Indiana Pacers

INDIANA PACERS
[] 38-44
[] Offensive Rating: 104.4 (23rd)
[] Defensive Rating: 104.0 (7th)
[] Net Rating: +0.4 (15th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2014
[] Coach: Frank Vogel

The Pacers getting Paul George back at full strength is a major factor, although they managed to stay afloat long enough last season to get George back in time for a playoff push.  That push fell just short, however, as Indiana lost out on the East's 8th seed by a tiebreaker.  While getting George back is good for this year's playoff odds, it's yet to be seen how the Pacers' defensive identity is changed by the loss of David West and Roy Hibbert on the frontcourt.  West's toughness and Hibbert's rim protection were key pieces to Indy's defensive reputation over the past few years.  Losing them in order to get younger and play at a faster pace figures to affect things in a negative way defensively.  They did bolster a stagnant offense by adding Monta Ellis in the offseason, and having George back should push the offense closer to the middle of the pack.  Myles Turner could also help the offense if he adapts to the NBA game quicker than expected.  What all of this means for the overall performance of the Pacers will be dredged out over the 82 games of the season.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Utah Jazz


UTAH JAZZ
[] 38-44
[] Offensive Rating: 106.2 (15th)
[] Defensive Rating: 105.9 (14th)
[] Net Rating: +0.3 (17th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2012
[] Coach: Quin Snyder

The Jazz were one of the most improved teams during the course of last season, thanks to Derrick Favors rounding into form and the emergence of Rudy Gobert as a defensive force.  Utah went 18-10 after trading Enes Kanter at the deadline and opening up minutes for Gobert.  That move turned Utah into the league's best defense by a wide margin over the last 29 games of the year (h/t to Liam Boylan-Pett of SBNation).  Utah's 94.8 points per-100 allowed was the best in the league by a wide margin.  For reference, the Warriors led the league in defensive efficiency for the season; they finished at 101.9 points allowed per 100 possessions.  Utah's defense will probably come back to the pack this year, but there's no reason to expect them to be anything less than one of the NBA's top three defensive units.  Most of that credit goes to Gobert for taking away all of the easy stuff, but the rest of the roster defends well too.  Offensively, there are some question marks.  PG is most prevalent among them, as Trey Burke, Alec Burks and Raul Neto will guide the offense after Dante Exum tore his ACL over the summer.  Burks needs to stay healthy and Burke needs to turn his career around if they're going to be above average on that side of the ball.  Hayward and Favors are positives though, and Rodney Hood looks like he could be an excellent role player.  Put it all together and I think this is a Jazz team poised to position itself for a playoff berth, or the heartbreak that comes with a narrow miss.

2015-16 Season Preview: Dallas Mavericks

DALLAS MAVERICKS
[] 50-32
[] Offensive Rating: 110.3 (5th)
[] Defensive Rating: 107.1 (17th)
[] Net Rating: +3.2 (11th)
[] Eliminated in 1st round of NBA Playoffs
[] Coach: Rick Carlisle

The Mavericks had one of the busiest offseasons in the league, highlighted by their pursuit of DeAndre Jordan carrying out like a high school romance.  Jordan initially gave his word to Mark Cuban that he'd be joining the Mavs after the open of free agency.  However, the NBA's 10 day moratorium gave the Clippers a chance to slip back into the picture, and Jordan's Texas home, and that was enough to convince DAJ to go back to LA.  By the time the smoke had cleared, the Mavs had lost Tyson Chandler to the Suns, and the other viable options on the market at the C position had already found new homes.  It was the second personnel move to burn the Mavs in the last year (the Rondo thing didn't go well, did it?), and this one could sting even more.  Beyond the sour taste it left in the mouth of the Dallas organization, the bigger problem is the glaring hole it leaves on the depth chart.  The Mavs responded by grabbing Zaza Pachulia, Samuel Dalembert and JaVale McGee, who they hope can cobble together decent rim protection and efficiency in the paint.  However, even if that group hits its ceiling, missing out on Chandler/Jordan is going to sting.  Fortunately, the rest of the Mavs offseason was strong, as they added two quality upgrades to the starting backcourt in free agency, and got great value by drafting Justin Anderson with the 21st pick.  Still, the end result feels like a team that's probably lost a step on the rest of the Western Conference, after failing to secure a replacement for one of the few competent defenders on the roster.  They'll be in a dogfight for the final playoff spot out West.

Friday, October 16, 2015

2015-16 Season Preview: Miami Heat

MIAMI HEAT
[] 37-45
[] Offensive Rating: 104.9 (21st)
[] Defensive Rating: 107.9 (21st)
[] Net Rating: -3.0 (21st)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2014
[] Coach: Erik Spoelstra

The Miami Heat have only missed the playoffs twice in the 12 seasons since they drafted Dwyane Wade.  The first time was in 2007-08, when Dwyane Wade's main running mate was Shawn Marion, and Flash missed 31 games.  The story was a bit different last season, where the Heat struggled even when Chris Bosh was healthy and Hassan Whiteside was busy dominating the paint. They added Goran Dragic at the trade deadline, but even that couldn't keep the Heat afloat, and they missed out on the 8th seed by a game.   Everybody's back this year though, and Pat Riley did a great job in the offseason of filling out a bench that was less than satisfactory last season.  The Heat appear to be back on the right side of things this year, if they can just stay healthy.

2015-16 Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX SUNS
[] 39-43
[] Offensive Rating: 105.9 (17th)
[] Defensive Rating: 106.9 (17th)
[] Net Rating: -1.0 (19th)
[] Last playoff appearance: 2010
[] Coach: Jeff Hornacek

Phoenix has been competitive in four of the last five seasons, finishing 10th, 9th, 15th, 10th and 10th in the Western Conference over the last five campaigns.  That obviously hasn't been satisfying for the franchise, as they appeared to change course and start pressing a bit at the trade deadline last year.  Goran Dragic was shipped to Miami for picks, Brandon Knight was acquired from the Bucks for a valuable first round pick, and they made a major push to land LaMarcus Aldridge this offseason.  That endeavor failed, but they did reel in Tyson Chandler to upgrade their status at the C position.  Other roster changes came when the Suns decided it was time to break up the Morris twins, shipping Marcus to the Pistons for little in return.  Markieff is still around, but the clock could be ticking on that as well.  There's a lot of volatility in Phoenix, but this is still a really talented roster.  The pieces are in place for a playoff bid, if they weren't in the Western Conference.  Since they are, and the Thunder are back to full health, and the Jazz are on the rise, it could be another 10th place Western Conference finish for Phoenix.