Something Clever’s NBA Season Preview

An email discussion between Daniel Cousens and Paul Johnson about the upcoming NBA season.

Daniel Cousens: So PJ, this idea certainly isn’t revolutionary, but we are going to go back and forth on our thoughts for the upcoming NBA season. By the end of it the hope is our readers and more importantly, Paul Johnson, will end up more knowledgeable about the NBA.

One thing I’m looking forward to this season is the fact that a group of teams are targeting winning the championship, whilst an equally large group of teams are trying to be as bad as possible, with one of the most hyped draft classes in years coming up next off season. I may be in the minority, but sometimes I love to watch bad teams, playing young players, especially when they are doing it on purpose.

The other thing it does is inflate the win records of the good teams. I suspect to see teams that normally would be winning about 46 games, winning 50 plus this year, simply because there are just so many cheap wins this year.

We are both Celtics fans, I am writing this in a Celtics t-shirt, but yet I hope the Celtics are as bad as possible this season. I don’t want Rondo coming back too early and making the team too competitive. Let’s see what our kids like Sullinger and Bradley have, let Jeff Green score as much as he wants, make a cult hero of Vitor Faverani, but mostly importantly LET’S LOSE GAMES!

The Celtics “best” case scenario would be to scrape into the playoffs and be kind of irrelevant. I would much rather enjoy watching the development of the young players without caring about the results, whilst knowing that at the end of the rainbow is a spot in the lottery of a great draft, even if we don’t get first pick and Andrew Wiggins.

Also I haven’t been this excited for a college basketball season in a long time and whilst that might not seem directly related to the NBA, I think for the non-contenders, the college season is as big a deal as the NBA season in 2013-14.

What are you most excited for?

Paul Johnson: Boogie Cousens! Man I don’t like your Kings chances this year, even if new part owner Shaquille O’Neal threatens to eat the whole squad, they won’t perform but we should get some good highlights from a team who will likely throw the ball around and tank so they can get the No1 pick, not to mention watching Boogie just have some fun out there.

As for what I’m most excited for? It has to be the impending implosion of the Lakers. The Dwight Howard debacle was just the tip of the iceberg. Kobe is hurt, their roster is old and no matter what Kobe is going to want to win games with an aging Steve Nash and a sooky Pau Gasol by his side, it’s going to be like watching a horror movie, except the team I despise will be getting massacred as Kobe yells at them from the bench.

One thing you’re right about is the tanking. As interesting as it will be to see who can beat the Heat, it will be equally as interesting to see who can tank the hardest as they all go chasing Andrew Wiggins. My thoughts are Orlando will tank hardest. They need a new franchise player and Wiggins is the man to fill the big shoes Dwight Howard left vacant.

At the same time Philly have a truly horrible roster, containing the worst No1 draft pick in memory (Kwame Brown) while no one or is that everyone wants the Bobcats to get top pick because Michael Jordan is such a horrible owner he’d likely overlook Wiggins.

As for our Celtics, my pride would be hurt too much by a season of tanking and I don’t think that will make our moody star Rajon Rondo too happy either. Danny Ainge needs to try and keep his man happy…. oh wait I just wrote Ainge needs to keep a player happy; I’ve clearly lost the plot. On the plus side he did show Jason Terry and an over-the-hill Paul Pierce the door. I wish we could have kept KG though, which brings me to a point can Pierce, KG and Terry take some magic to Brooklyn under Jason Kidd? Can they contend in the East?

DC: I wish I were Boogie Cousins. He just got PAID. As much as that Kings roster is a clusterfuck, there are a lot of decent NBA players on it. They will be bad, but they won’t be as bad as quite a few other teams. Also surely they will be active traders.

Which brings me to another point… I feel like this is one of those years for numerous mid-season trades, especially in February at the trade deadline. With teams trying to clear cap space and/or get worse, whilst others want to add pieces to contend, I see a lot of teams making moves during the season. That should be interesting and also could change the entire complexion of the championship race (beyond Miami and if anyone can beat Miami).

Whilst I too am excited to watch the Lakers suck, I just drafted Kobe in my fantasy draft and now I hope he comes back and dominates. I also hope they win just enough games to not be in the hunt for a blue chipper in the draft.

I am actually pumped to watch Orlando this year. Yes they will lose a lot of games, but man they have some great young players. Oladipo is a stud, Harris is a stud and Vucevic is a stud. They also have Harkless and Nicholson who look very solid. But yes, they are one superstar away from having the young team to contend in the future, the way the Thunder did when building a few years ago.

That said, Philly are clearly going to be worse than them. The only race is between this year’s Philly team and the 72/73 Philly team for worst team of all time (in an 82 game season). I am glad to see former Sydney Kings and Aussie Boomers coach Brett Brown get a head coaching gig in the NBA, but the truth is he has never actually been a good coach. He is a good talker and motivator as well as a good talent scout, but can’t actually coach. But he won’t be fired no matter how bad they do.

Also, whilst the West is clearly deeper than the East, is this the first year in forever we can actually say the East is stronger than the West in forever? They have the juggernaut Heat, the Bulls with Rose back could be the next best team, Indiana are right there again and improved their bench massively and then the Brooklyn/Moscow Nets.

The Nets can and will contend in the East. Whether they can actually win the East is a different story, but those top four teams could all realistically beat whoever wins the West in the Finals right?

PJ: I will admit Orlando could be fun to watch, the roster is young and talented for the most part but they just lack star quality and will chase it hard. The team I am most looking forward to watching is actually Golden State, and while that’s not for Andrew Bogut going back into pre-elbow surgery “fuck you I’m a beast mode”, which there were glimpses of last year, it’ll be fun, but amplified by the whole Steph Curry, Klay Thompson dynamic. Those guys are just crazy good and better value than watching the Chris Paul/Blake Griffin show at the Clippers.

Also fun could be the following: Milwaukee Bucks (will try way too hard and have a couple of rookies who could be big), Houston Rockets (Dwight Howard and James Harden with points to prove) and New Orleans Pelicans (I have a sneaky suspicion they could explode. I freakin’ love Tyreke Evans and with Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Jrue Holiday alongside him they could be epic, and that’s without mentioning swat king Greg Stiemsma).

Everything you just said about Brett Brown is true, but good on him he’s got a job in the top league and can’t be fired. I’d like to see him get some serious I can’t be fired swagger and act like Test did in WWE in 2002 when he ‘couldn’t be fired for a year’, just to spice up things on the 6ers bench. Lord knows he will be frustrated and I reckon Kwame Brown should wear the brunt of his rage.

As for the East I think it’s almost a given Chicago, Miami and Indiana are the competition benchmarks and Brooklyn are below them, it’s going to take a fired-up KG to get them near Miami or Chicago and anyone from the West might struggle to match them in the Finals.

All this talk of the East has led me to one question though. What version of D Rose do we get to see? In his mind is he ready?

DC: Golden State are must watch basketball. Not just Klay and Steph, or “The Splash Brothers” as they are known, but the inclusion of Iguodala, the return of Bogut as you said and the development of Harrison Barnes. They will have a very good regular season record. The thing for them is that in the playoffs they have to be in hot shooting form for a lot of games, to be any chance of making the finals. They live and die by the long ball, but then again, they have Curry.

Milwaukee are weird. They will try too hard as you said, but you can’t miss a minute of Giannis Antetokounmpo action! He hasn’t played a minute and he has three nicknames already! The Greek Freak! The Alphabet! Po!

The Pelicans were fantastic in preseason and the ‘Brow is going to elevate to superstar levels this year. The key for them is just how that backcourt meshes. Looks like Evans will be sixth man, which in my opinion is the correct decision, at least until Eric Gordon misses 60 games again. They need to play Aminu at SF for defence. Also, will they trade Anderson?

The thing is, Brooklyn has a stronger bench than people realise. Their starting 5 is obvious, but they have Kirilenko, Blatche, Livingston and whatever remains of Jason Terry, along with the nutgrabber himself Reggie Evans to clean glass and grab nuts. I am so glad to see Shaun Livingston back as a real contributor in the NBA. He was going to be a star before he had what I still think is the most disgusting leg injury I’ve ever seen during a sporting event. Even worse than Nathan Brown breaking his leg for Richmond.

You know who else is fun this year? The Minnesota Timberwolves, that’s who. RUBIO, RUBIO, RUBIO!

Also, do you have a Vitor Faverani jersey yet?

Oh, I forgot to respond about Rose…

I drafted him first round in my fantasy draft (sorry to come back to that again… not really), but I think he will be fine. He looked great in preseason, took his time coming back and genuinely seems like he is ok. I have total faith in Rose, at least as much faith as one can have in someone returning from an ACL injury.

PJ: I think you meant RUBIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!! Yes I loved the movie Hook, now if only he would get a wicked mohawk and dye the middle red and skateboard all over the shop…. then I might turn into a Timberwolves fan. Minnesota might be great but I have this sneaky feeling that Kevin Love might not be there much longer which kind of kills the franchise for me and his destination, how does this sound…. I get Carlos Boozer, The protected 2014 first round pick and maybe Teague or Hinrich for Love.

Chicago would be unstoppable and Minnesota get a better than average forward and a gun future pick.

Fantasy drafting aside I love the Greek Freak, I’m joining his burgeoning bandwagon of fans and did you see the girls in the video the Bucks put up of him. First thing Wayne’s World lied to me, Milwaukee has talent; second he definitely took them home. Kid’s got game and he will make some highlight reels this year.

I like, that you like D Rose, I hope he brings it back to his best, there are a few guys who could turn it on this year and I think Paul George is only going to get better for the Pacers, and I may not have a Vitor Faverani but I do have a Paul George one, and a Chris Paul one, great to have my name on the back of a jersey.

We’ve spoken of the East but what of the West, we both like the Warriors and here’s my comment it’s their time. Going out on a limb and saying a healthy Warriors sweep the West. They should have last year, but Steph’s ankle fell apart, Klay went cold and David Lee forgot how to screen. This year they will be better. Discuss.

DC: Love leaving is almost definite. Chicago are a very real option, as are the Lakers. If I were Minnesota I would be trying to get that Mirotic kid Chicago owns the rights to. He is playing for Real Madrid and dominating and he is coming over to the NBA next year. In fact, when you add him being a rookie next year, the 2014/15 rookie class is ridiculous. Also I would rather Deng as opposed to Boozer and Chicago would be ok with that as they have Jimmy Butler.

You don’t have to sell me on the Greek Freak. Milwaukee should play him 40 minutes a game just because. He DEFINITELY took those girls home.

In the West, the Warriors are obviously contenders. The Spurs as always will be thereabouts, especially as Kawhi Leonard makes the leap. They obviously need Duncan to at least be solid, if not Tim Duncan, because I think Ginobili is all but finished.

The Clippers will be contenders because of CP3, Blake and Doc Rivers, but they are so flawed. If they can’t fix their gaping holes I don’t think they can win three playoffs series.

Memphis desperately need to trade for a shooter. If they make some roster improvements I still think they are a hard out in the playoffs.

That leaves Houston and the Thunder. Houston has heaps of question marks with Dwight, but their upside is huge. The other thing they have is a great combination of shooting and defence. Dwight anchors the D, Harden isn’t great but isn’t horrendous and then Beverly is a becoming a lockdown perimeter pest.

The Thunder will likely be slow out of the gate because of the Westbrook injury, but I think the Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka group still means they will be great. Also how about the idea of Harden going against his “brothers” in the Conference Finals?

If the Thunder can get anything out of Perkins, or find a way to get rid of his contract that’s huge. Also if they can get one of the February buy-out guys or if the play Steven Adams showed in preseason carries over, that improves their chances. All of a sudden the NBA has numerous Aussies and a talented young Kiwi!

How about Dellavedova making the Cavs roster and Aron Baynes showing real development for the Spurs?

PJ: If I was Chicago I would be pushing hard to keep Deng. The guy is a machine and a more viable shooting option, although I concede Boozer might be the all-round better player, it’s probably splitting hairs though.

So we’re in agreeance, the Greek Freak is a straight up baller, on and off the court. I might buy the jersey just so I can say I was a fan when he started. #Fearthedeer, remember that? I bet Andrew Bogut does, so does Ersan Ilyasova, he was hot at the end of that season and looks like he could be again this year. I think he deserves a better team around him.

Here’s the thing about the West. I think it’s wide open for a handful of teams and like I said I really think it is Golden State’s time. Their roster if healthy is good enough. Sure Steph has the most talked about ankle in the NBA and Bogut seems to have back spasms weekly, but their supporting cast is great and I don’t give a damn they lost Jarrett Jack, great at a lot of things, terrible shooter and he takes a lot of shots.

Spurs – Yeah Ginobli looked done late last season and I don’t care that he made some crazy shots; he’s a shadow of his former self. Duncan plays less minutes every year and there is only so long Tony Parker can carry them. I love Leonard but he’s not quite ready to be the second best guy on the team.

Dallas are rebuilding and Memphis make my eyes hurt. They just play ugly basketball, when a Grizzlies came comes on I can’t make myself watch it, I just can’t, it’s like watching a Ross Lyon coached team in the AFL, you know they have talent on offense they just don’t use it.

The Clippers are their polar opposite and I love watching CP3 do his thang. His All Star Game was the stuff that makes kids go “I got hoop dreams coach.” He is simply that good and Doc well I sympathise with him. You know, I know what it’s like to see something you created and nurtured have the soul taken out of it and that’s what happened in Boston, he’ll be fresh and ready to help the Clippers I think they can challenge seriously and I think if the Pelicans get on a roll they have a touch of last year’s Golden State about them.

As for Houston and the Thunder, I like the former better. I’ll openly state I am no Russell Westbrook fan. I hate the way he jacks up ridiculous shots when he should give it to Kevin or Serge, yet he keeps on taking them same shots. He’s good he just has to realise Durant is the man.

The Rockets, they’re going to get a Dwight Howard who is going to be busy giving the Lakers and the haters the middle finger all season. I like that. Motivated Dwight equals angry Dwight, and angry Dwight equals the best centre in the NBA. Know who else was the best centre in the league when he was in Houston? Hakeem. What happened? Two championships.

The supporting cast is there too. Harden is waiting to explode and I get the feeling with less pressure on him and a better spread of the floor we might just see some Linsanity in Houston. Oh… Chandler Parsons.

As for Dellavedova, great for him though he has copped more backhanded compliments than I have seen in a while and all in the space of two days. I’ll ask you one now. Jalen Rose started something when he said Michael Jordan might play one game if owner rules are relaxed. Should he? For me it’s a NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

DC: I like Deng more than Boozer, which is why Minnesota should demand him for Love. His value is much higher and also he will be harder to re-sign for Chicago. I also disagree about Kawhi not being ready to be a second option. I think he is as good as Paul George, just in a situation where he doesn’t get to show it as much.

Westbrook does take too many shots, but he still is a great scorer and having to guard him opens the floor up for Durant. But yes, getting the scoring mix right in important games is key for them.

I love watching Memphis play dude. If they had more guys who could make threes they would be fantastic to watch. Marc Gasol is one of the best players to watch in the league for a purist. Defensive Player of the Year, good shooter, amazing screen setter and one of the best passing big men possibly ever. Z-Bo is always amazing to watch with the ball down low and especially if he is angry. Tony Allen doing Tony Allen things etc.

The Clippers won’t be as entertaining from a Lob City standpoint this year, but they will also play better basketball, so it’s a trade-off.

Even though he likely will never get much NBA burn, Dellavedova practicing with Kyrie Irving at practice every day is better for his development than going to Europe and playing more. Also he can spend every day trying to convince Kyrie to officially declare his allegiance to Australia. Imagine a Boomers with Kyrie, Delly, Patty, Bogut, Baynes and then Dante Exum and Ben Simmons as lottery picks in the next two drafts!

Oh how excited I am for Dante Exum and Ben Simmons. Finally my dream of a Boomers team made up of the sons of 80s and 90s NBL imports is coming to fruition. People don’t realise that the NBL imports have two main jobs when signed here. Firstly they have to play good basketball, which goes without saying. Secondly, and this is more important really, they needed to impregnate Aussie women (or in Kyrie and Dante’s case, American women but in Australia). The African-American-Australian National Basketball Team baby!

Obviously Jordan shouldn’t play again. But I still want him to. If he hadn’t played for the Wizards then I would want his career to have ended with the 98 Bulls title, but he already came back after that, so just for the comedy and the intrigue I want to see a 50 year old Jordan come back and legitimately still be the Bobcats third best player. I actually like some of the Bobcats kids and I pray that Kidd-Gilchrist learns how to shoot so he can be a legit player, however Charlotte haven’t embraced the team at all. They will get the Hornets name back next season, which might help, but if it doesn’t, they are the team that should move to Seattle.

Another exciting thing this year is the emergence of several defensive beasts. Andre Drummond, Larry Sanders (or am I supposed to write it Grantland style of LARRY SANDERS!) and Derrick Favors all get to be starters and stars for their teams this year. Add them to Roy Hibbert and Serge Ibaka and we are going to have a block party. Of course the Greek Freak would block more than all of them combined, if only he was getting minutes.

One team we haven’t mentioned at all are the Trail Blazers. I like basically all of their players and Lillard is a sophomore now. They won’t be contenders or anything, but they have a lot of nice pieces and are building towards something.

Any under the radar teams that interest you?

Also do you think I could just start talking about random topics and no one would notice because no one is reading anymore? What’s your favourite sex shop in Sydney? Wait, don’t answer that just in case…. but we probably should start getting to predictions and stuff.

PJ: Man I’m not giving away the secrets to my fave places in the Cross! Oh you said sex shops…. this is about as awkward as Patrick Ewing during the Gold Room trial.

Memphis are good and I’m not disrespecting Marc Gasol, or Z-Bo, because you know the latter will kill me, but the Grizz just don’t hold my attention well at all. What would hold my attention you ask? A UFC battle between Z-Bo and David West, those two guys are on the ‘All-NBA Don’t fuck with me’ team along with Metta World Amnesty Peace Artest.

I like where you’re going with the Boomers, I really do but the Kyrie thing is a pipe dream, he is American as apple pie at the moment and might wind up a franchise player, unless Cleveland had a dose of bad luck, oh wait, that’s all they ever have.

As for MJ maybe everyone has got him wrong and he has purposely built a poor team in Charlotte so he can come back win them a game and be the triumphant hero. It’s like Space Jam but in real life. Unfortunately in real life cyber graphics can’t help you and your 50-year-old body is going to break.

I’m glad you mentioned Roy Hibbert in the beast defender category, dude has almost become the scariest defender in the NBA in a single season, he’s massive and goes straight up better than anybody in the business, with more support on the Indiana bench this year they have become real contenders to Miami’s title.

I haven’t spoken about Portland for a reason, they’re rebuilding and not ready, it’s going to be a mediocre season, but Lillard is good.

Detroit interest me I think they could get hot, I like their depth and they will continue to evolve. They’re a team that is one trade away from the big time and Denver interest me a lot, but only once Danilo Gallinari comes back from injury. I think they’re better than people give them credit for in an open West and Ty Lawson is one of the best up and coming guards in the league who could go boom this year.

Time for predictions yet Boogie?

DC: Detroit will be fun to watch. They have a lot of talent, but Jennings and Smith are just going to have a contest to take worse shots than the other. Also Greg Monroe is vastly overrated. They will make the playoffs though and I am all about Dr Dre Drummond.

I’m pretty sure Philly will win as many games as the Space Jam aliens before they stole the NBA stars’ talent. Also Bill Murray almost made their roster.

OK time for some predictions.

Rookie of the Year: Victor Oladipo. Orlando got the player who could end up being the only all-star level guy from this year’s draft, unless Bennett, McLemore or the Greek Freak are legit.

Most Improved Player: A very tough category. It could end up being Kawhi Leonard if he really makes the leap or Andre Drummond… but I’m going to go with Bradley Beal in Washington. He and Wall are going to be a very dynamic backcourt and Washington are going to be pretty decent. Beal will be what Eric Gordon was in that one year he actually played several games before being traded to New Orleans.

Defensive Player of the Year: Another toughie. It was super close between Gasol and Hibbert last year and they weren’t the only contenders. You could make a case that LeBron should just win it himself, but I think this year they give it to Hibbert.

Coach of the Year: This award often doesn’t go to the guy who does the best coaching job, but rather the coach of the team that does better than expected. With that in mind I think Washington will be one of the most improved teams and for that reason I think Randy Wittman might win the award… although if they don’t do well he also could get fired. Life as a coach in the NBA. Monty Williams is another candidate for this one, as is Mark Jackson if the Warriors are as good as you think they are.

Sixth Man of the Year: I’ll give this one to your boy Tyreke Evans. I wouldn’t sleep on Luis Scola in Indiana or Reggie Williams being sixth man once Westbrook returns in OKC, but I think Tyreke will be very good as sixth man in New Orleans.

MVP: It’s a two horse race obviously and if Durant goes to another level with Westbrook out then it could be his year, but realistically I can’t predict it to go anywhere but LeBron James.

West Finals: This could go any number of ways, but for the Harden storyline alone I will go with Houston vs. OKC with OKC prevailing.

East Finals: Miami vs. Chicago. Was close to saying Miami vs. Indiana but I think Chicago get back there this year. Can’t pick against Miami advancing.

NBA Finals: Miami vs. OKC. LeBron vs. Durant. Wade vs. Westbrook. Bosh vs. Ibaka. South Beach vs… I don’t know. Both teams are top heavy and need to get something from their role players. I can’t pick against Miami winning the title, but threepeating is hard so I also wouldn’t be surprised at all if they either lose the Finals or even lose to Chicago or Indy in the East. But for now, I’m taking the chalk and tipping a Heat Threepeat… a ThreeHeat?

PJ: Woah, ease up on my boy Monroe, dude is super talented and might just prove you wrong this year but we will see. I also forgot to mention one thing I may hate the Knicks, but if they wear those orange jerseys Iman Shumpert showcased on Twitter they will have the sweetest swag in the NBA and JR Smith who I legitimately enjoy watching for the fact his best and worst are leagues and I mean like NBA to D-League apart.

So here we go:

Rookie of the Year: Oladipo is fave for a reason but I’m going to give it to Michael Carter-Williams. Philly will be terrible but he will get a chance to shine. I think the Greek Freak is legit so he is my darkhorse, just needs minutes.

Most Improved Player: This is a tough category, if we’re talking year on year then I say Paul Pierce. Frankly I thought he stunk up Boston last year but he is going to be free and getting open looks in Brooklyn he could wind back the clock, if we’re talking players who step up to their best then I like Klay Thompson. I think he has it in him.

Defensive Player of the Year: Roy Hibbert. Big hands down.

Coach of the Year: Oh the Warriors are that damn good, but I don’t think Jackson gets it. Runner up is going to be Monty Williams, but the man who takes it out will be the man, the legend, he appeared on Cheers. ladies and gentleman I give you Celtics legend and current Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

Sixth Man of the Year: Tyreke, though how happy he will be in that role I have doubts on. I think JR Smith realises he’s not a started ends up as sixth man and takes it.

MVP: A resurgent Derrick Rose, I think he revels in taking other stars down and he has the team to help him show he can be the man all year round. LeBron, Durant and CP3 all contenders.

West Finals: You love the Harden storyline, but he won’t play OKC in the finals. It’s going to be Houston v Golden State and I’ll tell you this. Should Golden State win the West like I think they will I’m booking a one way ticket to San Fran or Oakland for the entire party.

East Finals: Miami vs. Chicago. It’s going to be epic and Joakim Noah will make his presence felt. Chicago in a ridiculous Game 7.

NBA Finals: A Threeheat, the LeBron hater in me couldn’t handle that one. I think the East finals are the real show and though Golden State will try hard Chicago ultimately prevail in six games. I’ll say it again it’s the year of D Rose and he has the supporting cast to get him there, especially if the Kevin Love trade happens for the Bulls.

Bring on tip off! You should probably hop a plane to Sacramento Boogie.

DC: We need to do this more often on other topics, although who knows if anyone else will read it.

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