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Tag:Preseason Primers
Posted on: September 24, 2010 9:17 am
 

Preseason Primer: Sacramento Kings

Posted by Matt Moore
 
Could we have seen it coming? Could we have known that Tyreke Evans was going to join Michael Jordan and LeBron James among the handful of players to average 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists in their rookie season? That he would make such a huge difference? Well, yeah, we should have. The question is where do the Kings, whose rebuilding project they find accelertaed, go from here? That's where we begin with the lastest in our Preseason Primers .

Training camp site: Sacramento, CA
Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Samuel Dalembert (trade), Antoine Wright (free agency), Luther Head (free agency), DeMarcus Cousins (draft)

Key subtractions: Spencer Hawes (trade), Jon Brockman (trade), Andres Nocioni (trade)

Likely starting lineup: Tyrke Evans (PG), Beno Udrih (SG), Donte Greene (SF), Carl Landry (PF), Samuel Dalembert (C)

Player to watch: DeMarcus Cousins. There's no getting around it. "Boogie" is the guy you want to keep an eye on. He could dominate. He could underwhelm. He could blow up on his teammates. he could fit in seamlessly. He could add weight. He could slim down. Anything is possible with Cousins, and his progression will be a huge factor in how the Kings do this season.


Chemistry quiz: Evans needs to be the leader, and this is the season where he's got to start showing that. Meanwhile, there aer a bunch of players on the Kings like Thompson and Greene who may wind up frustrated if they can't secure their positions on the team. Throw in the explosive Cousins and you have a tenuous situation that could be brilliant, could be terrible. It's wait and see.


Camp battles: All eyes on small forward, as Donte Greene and Omri Casspi battle for control of the universe... I mean, small forward spot. Greene has more experience and athleticism, but Casspi is arguably more skilled. This is going to be and intense and close fight. Sorting out the rest of the frontcourt will be tough as well with experience (Dalembert, Landry) versus upside (Thompson and Cousins) as well as slotting positions.

Injury issues:
Evans had an ankle injury in Team USA tryouts but should be fine. Other than that, the Kings enter camp healthy.

Biggest strength: Athleticism. Evans, Thompson, Greene, Cousins, Landry. They're tough, long, and athletic. That team can create mismatches on the floor sheer length and leaping ability. Strong, too. Should be a lot of fun to watch.

Glaring weakness: Inexperience. The best thing about being young is you don't know any better. That's also the worst thing. The Kings are going to struggle as they learn how to win. Learning to be consistent starts in camp.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 3:30 am
 

Preseason Primer: Milwaukee Bucks

Posted by Matt Moore

Fear the Deer. It became the meme of the NBA last season, and you were hard-pressed to find a hardcore NBA-head who didn't love the scrappy team from Milwaukee. Heading into training camp things are dramatically different. Andrew Bogut is recovering from injury again, but outside of that, the stakes are much higher. The Bucks were the fifth seed in the East and had it not been for Bogut's injury likely would have bested the Hawks. Now they need to somehow improve on last year's performance in an Eastern Conference which is loaded at every turn. What do they have to do in training camp to get that done? We'll let you in on the secrets as we continue our Preseason Primers.

Training camp site: Milwaukee, WI />
Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Corey Maggette (trade), Drew Gooden (free agency), Larry Sanders (draft), Chris Douglas-Roberts (trade)

Key subtractions: Charlie Bell (trade), Luke Ridnour (free agency), Dan Gadzuric (trade)

Likely starting lineup: Brandon Jennings (PG), John Salmons (SG), Corey Maggette (SF), Drew Gooden (PF), Andrew Bogut (C)

Player to watch: Chris Douglas-Roberts. Okay, this is a lie. If Brandon Jennings is involved in any way, you watch him. But CDR's not a bad backup option, literally. With the Bucks needing a legit backup shooting guard, CDR has a chance to capitalize on his combination of handle and size if he can develop into a well-rounded player that commits to Scott Skiles' system. CDR is also highly explosive and can go off at any time, so how he reacts to Skiles' military approach may be the defining verdict on his career if things go sour.


Chemistry quiz: The Bucks worked really well together last year and embraced Jennings as a leader. The question will be how players like Drew Gooden, CDR, and Corey Maggette do in a system that asks them sacrifice and play defense consistently. The team struggled offensively last year, but a perk of that was a lack of ego-centric players who weren't looking for their shot. As delicate as chemistry is, the changes the Bucks brought in could create too many guys looking for FGAs.


Camp battles: Carlos Delfino versus Corey Maggette should be a great one. Maggette had a fantastic season last year and is a better overall player than Maggette. But Maggette has the contract and offensive firepower to demand a starting spot. Skiles abandoned Delfino in the playoffs when he wasn't in a good matchup. There's no telling how this one will wind up, but Delfino's play in FIBA this summer certainly is cause for excitement.

Injury issues:
I think the fact that reports have come out daily about Andrew Bogut's elbow is probably indicative he's a concern. That and the fact that he had more metal put in than that chick in Fringe with they cybernetic arm. That too.

Biggest strength: Simplicity. The Bucks don't over-complicate things. They defend like rabid animals, run basic offensive sets geared to give playmakers the ball in space, and work their tail off. It's an optimal system not only for a standard of success, anchored by a talented point guard and center, but easy for new pieces to fit in. Skiles continues to impress as a coach that is able to get through to guys and convince them to commit.

Glaring weakness: They added multiple offensive weapons, but there are going to be concerns with the age of both Maggette and Gooden, as well as how Brandon Jennings fits with all these high-usage players on board. That same simplicity also creates problems when they hit a team with a counter to their approach.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 3:25 am
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Posted on: September 24, 2010 2:51 am
 

Preseason Primer: Toronto Raptors

Posted by Matt Moore

There's little but ruins left in Toronto with Chris Bosh gone. Bryan Colangelo managed to keep his job, as did Jay Triano, and the cast of characters remains largely the same. The goals have shifted, with the future now being the primary consideration as Colangelo has started shedding salary (including Hedo Turkoglu) and locking up younger talent. Training camp could be nice and relaxed. It could be a mess. There's no way to tell. But we'll try and get a feel for where things stand in our next edition of our Preseason Primers .

Training camp site: Toronto, Canada />
Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Leandro Barbosa (trade), Linas Kleiza (free agency), Julian Wright (trade)

Key subtractions: Chris Bosh (Pat Riley), Hedo Turkoglu (trade), Antoine Wright (free agency)

Likely starting lineup: Jarret Jack (PG), DeMar DeRozan (SG), Linas Kleiza (SF), Amir Johnson (PF), Andrea Bargnani (C)

Player to watch: DeMar DeRozan. Andrea Bargnani will be under the most pressure, but DeRozan has the highest ceiling to improve. DeRozan flashed great athleticism last season and showed off an improved finesse game at summer league. He'll need to capitalize on his entire game in camp if he wants to set the tone of himself as the future for the franchise and give them something to build on.


Chemistry quiz: This team did not seem to like each other last season. Whether that was the pressure of the Bosh scenario, we don't know, but they're going to need to click more this year. Particularly, the team doesn't communicate on defense. At all. It's like radio silence. The jury is not just out on Jay Triano, it's in a pretty fierce debate at the moment. Nothing has been introduced to show that Triano gets through to this team in any capacity.


Camp battles: Jarret Jack and Jose Calderon may get in a knife fight. Linas Kleiza and Amir Johnson probably will get into a knife fight.

Injury issues:
Ed Davis is out after a meniscus injury. Calderon had some bumps and bruises, but in general, the team is young and healthy. Barbosa is trying to come back from not just injury but personal issues last year.

Biggest strength: Bucket-getting. The team can score, that's for sure. Bargnani can hit from anywhere on the foor, with touch and range. Amir Johnson can crash the boards on the offensive glass. Calderon still has a jumper in him. Barbosa is still fast. They can run and they can score and that's pretty much the extent of what they can do.

Glaring weakness: They couldn't stop a corpse with a flamethrower. Their defense is pretty much like the Death Star. Sure there are tall structures, but in reality, you can just fly in, do your business, and get out.
Posted on: September 24, 2010 1:32 am
 

Preseason Primer: Utah Jazz

Posted by Matt Moore
 
Losing your second best player to free agency should be the kind of thing that sets your franchise back coniderably (don't tell the Suns). But the Utah Jazz, the model of consistency in the NBA since Jerry Sloan took over back in the Paleozoic Era, they just keep plugging right along. Making smart, well-reasoned decisions have led them to replacing Carlos Boozer with Al Jefferson. The question is if they can pick up where they left off. And that's where we begin the latest of our Preseason Primers with the Utah Jazz.

Training camp site: Salt Lake City, Utah

Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Al Jefferson (trade), Raja Bell (free agency), Francisco Elson (free agency)

Key subtractions: Carlos Boozer (free agency), Kyle Korver (free agency), Wesley Matthews (free agency), Kosta Koufos (traded)

Likely starting lineup: Deron Williams (PG), C.J. Miles (SG), Andrei Kirilenko (SF), Al Jefferson (PF), Mehmet Okur (C)

Player to watch: Paul Millsap. Al Jefferson was brought in to replace Carlos Boozer, after Paul Millsap was given a huge new contract to replace Boozer. Now that Jefferson has arrived, Millsap finds himself in one of two positions entering camp. He either needs to battle on the glass and play "big" enough to prove he can play in tandem with Jefferson, or he needs to detonate to a degree where Sloan has a legitimate quandray on his hands between the two. Under the right circumstances, either is possible, though neither is likely.


Chemistry quiz: This really all comes down to Jefferson. Deron Williams is still the floor general, and many of the Jazz players have been there for years. Jefferson faces tremendous pressure not only to make an impact immediately, but to work in tandem with Deron Williams and commit himself to Sloan's defensive principles. The Jazz aren't exactly a superstar-centric team, and Jefferson has to prove he can fit that model from the get-go.


Camp battles: Outside of the aforementioned Millsap-Jefferson rumble, shooting guard should be lively. Raja Bell has had enough time off to be completely healthy, but he's got a lot of miles on those wheels. C.J. Miles has a fresher set of treads, but he's also maddeningly inconsistent.

Injury issues:
Deron Williams was severely banged up at the end of last season, so keeping him in the best health possible is top priority. Mehmet Okur may or may not be available by start of the season, so that will be the biggest injury to keep an eye on. The Jazz have been banged up in general over the past few years, and that's before you factor in the knee problems of Al Jefferson. Keep the tape handy, trainer man.

Biggest strength: Versatility. The Jazz have the ability to get up the floor, to slow it down when need be, to work out of the post to an improved degree, and to hit from the perimeter. They play solid defense and can compete with anyone. Those elements shouldn't shift much with the new additions.

Glaring weakness: Cohesiveness. The Jazz have mostly had positive runs over the past six years, but the lows tend to be really low. Jerry Sloan will need to work with what is now a younger team to develop consistency. Additionally, while the Jazz have been very good, they've lacked a ceiling of great. That's the level they need to get to if they want to contend in the West.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 7:02 pm
Edited on: September 23, 2010 7:02 pm
 

Preseason Primers: Nets

Posted by Royce Young

The Nets made moves this offseason, including a change in ownership and front office personell. And they're also a major player in the Carmelo sweepstakes. So all of this could be moot within the week. But as of now, they aren't the team that flirted with the worst record ever anymore. They're improved and they have a shot to actually be mediocre this year.

Training camp site: Newark, NJ

Training camp starts: Sept. 28

Key additions: Travis Outlaw (free agent), Troy Murphy (trade), Derrick Favors (draft), Jordan Farmar (free agent), Anthony Morrow (free agent)

Key subtractions: Yi Jianlian (free agent), Courtney Lee (trade), Chris Douglas-Roberts (free agent)

Likely starting lineup: Devin Harris, PG; Terrence Williams, SG; Travis Outlaw, SF; Troy Murphy, PF; Brook Lopez, C

Player to watch: Derrick Favors. The young big man is as physically gifted as any player that's come into the league we've seen. He's been compared to Dwight Howard when Howard entered the league as a rookie, and the comparison is fairly accurate. Favors is built like a rock, has insane athletic ability and his job will be to develop some semblance of a post game or potentially some pick-and-roll ability.

Chemistry quiz: With all the Carmelo trade talk, you have to wonder if that's had any affect on the names that have been mentioned. More than likely, they've tuned it all out, but as excited as Troy Murphy was to land on his childhood favorite team, it's got to be a bit of a shadow hanging over him wondering if he'll be dealt to Denver at any moment.

Camp battles: Can Anthony Morrow push Terrence Williams for the starting 2-guard spot? To answer my own question because that's why I asked it, yes, he can. Morrow is a great shooter, while Williams is more of a slasher. But depending on how Harris plays this season with Williams, Morrow could be a better fit.

Biggest strength: The Nets will be big and strong on the inside. Brook Lopez, Troy Murphy and Derrick Favors all combine to give New Jersey an imposing front line that's athletic, versatile and most importantly, very large.

Glaring weakness: Scoring. After Vince Carter's depature, the Nets haven't been able to find a consistent 20 point a game guy. Devin Harris is a nice scoring point guard, Terrence Williams has potential, Travis Outlaw is an okay talent and Brook Lopez and Murphy get some, but not a ton of points on the inside. The Nets really need a scorer that can be relied on when things get tough in a close game. Who that could be, I don't know. Seriously, nobody comes to mind right now. I'm thinking, I'm thinking... yep, nothing.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 6:03 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Memphis Grizzlies

Posted by Matt Moore
 
Out of nowhere, the Grizzlies rose to relevance last year, nearly making the playoffs in the hyper-competitive Western Conference. Over the summer they bucked up and paid the bill to keep Rudy Gay and became embroiled in a bizarre holdout with their rookies. The team again has low expectations and is flying under the radar. The question most people have is if they can possibly succeed like they did last season, and is that nearly enough? We take a look at where the Grizzlies are as we continue our Preseason Primers...




Training camp site: Memphis Grizzlies

Training camp starts: September 28th

Key additions: Tony Allen (free agency), Acie Law (free agency), Xavier Henry (draft)

Key subtractions: Ronnie Brewer (free agency)

Likely starting lineup:
Mike Conley (PG), O.J. Mayo (SG), Rudy Gay (SF), Zach Randolph (PF), Marc Gasol (C)

Player to watch:
Xavier Henry. Why? Because we haven't seen him since Kansas finished getting eliminated by a massive underdog in the NCAA tournament. Henry was absent from Summer League due to the holdout stemming from Michael Heisley's bizarre insistance that the rookie earn his bonus by doing something extra as far as performance. Like, some sort of bonus performance. Silly man. Eyes will be on Henry, whose play could have multiple impacts on the Grizz. If he solidifies the backcourt rotation, the Grizzlies will finally gain some depth after being one of the shallowest rotations in the league last season. Furthermore, if he can work with O.J. Mayo as a pair of combo guards, it could mean less time for Mike Conley. With Conley coming up on a possible extension, these are relevant questions not just for this season, but going forward.


Chemistry quiz:
How can the frontcourt stay chipper? Marc Gasol, whose overall play may have been better than All-Star Zach Randolph last season, continues to face the fact that the Grizzlies drafted Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick. Hamed Haddadi occasionally looks like a player worthy of minutes. DeMarre Carroll needs to compete and compete hard in training camp if he wants to find minutes this year. The Grizzlies aren't deep in the frontcourt, but given the bizarre makeup of the players involved, its a wonder they got along so well last year. But they did. Shockingly, after Allen Iverson departed for the basketball ether, the team became very close, constantly rushing to each other in confrontations and celebrating. The team genuinely likes each other. They're like a peacful commune... that probably smells really bad at times.


Camp battles:
Backup point guard should be a good one, with Acie Law, Greivis Vasquez, and other camp invites vying for the backup slot. Okay, maybe "good one" is a bit much, but it should be competitive, especially given there's not that much of a gap between those players and Mike Conley in the point guard department.

Injury issues:
The Grizzlies are primarily healthy. Marc Gasol looked completely healthy in the FIBA tournament, though the wear and tear may have some impacts. All in all, they're a young team that's pretty healthy.

Biggest strength:
Up and down. The Grizzlies can get up and down the floor and have an efficient offense. They crash the offensive glass especially well with Randolph and Gasol. They hustle and very rarely get caught without an option to create a shot.

Glaring weakness:
Yet again, the answer is defense. The Grizzlies aren't individually terrible on defense, they're just bad within the system. Part of that function is built around their inability to get rest. The starters always play, and they get worn down. Plus, they're young. Put simply, if the team defense doesn't improve considerably, the odds of their record improving the ten games they need to make the playoffs are slim.
Posted on: September 23, 2010 4:38 pm
 

Preseason Primer: Houston Rockets

Posted by Matt Moore

The Rockets finally have Yao Ming healthy. They finally have Tracy McGrady out of their hair. They finally have the pieces together to make another run. But can any of the pieces fit together? Are they really as dangerous as everyone says they are? Does speaking in rhetorical questions make you want to read this, our next selection in our Preseason Primers ? Let's find out as we talk about the Rox.


Training camp site: Houston, TX (Hidalgo, TX in early October)

Training camp starts: September 25th

Key additions: Brad Miller (free agent), Courtney Lee (trade), Patrick Patterson (draft)

Key subtractions: Trevor Ariza (trade), David Andersen (trade)

Likely starting lineup:
Aaron Brooks (PG), Kevin Martin (SG), Shane Battier (SF), Luis Scola (PF), Yao Ming (C)

Player to watch:
Patrick Patterson. Assuming the Rox don't go all nuts and acquire Carmelo Anthony during camp, their starting lineup is pretty well set. But Patterson is a rookie who comes out of that ridiculous Kentucky class and could wind up being the kind of flex player that makes a big impression on Rick Adelman. He's versatile, strong, has a good mid-range, and can work inside of a complex offense. He's got a great opportunity to make an impact for the Rockets during camp.


Chemistry quiz:
The Rockets have seemed like a team that's liked one another for years. They hung together when Yao Ming went down, and their samurai-like approach last year was noble, even if it fell short. Basically, even without the star talent you need to win in this league, the Rockets were the team you didn't want to run into in a dark alley. They were tough, gritty, and hung together. The addition of Kevin Martin, trying to reassert himself as a premier player in this league could cause issues, and there's no telling if the same goodwill will maintain with as many changes as the Rockets have made in the past two years. But the core elements are in place, and the tone of camp should be fun and focused, instead of contentious and tense. Not having solified expectations due to Yao's injury should help with manners as well.


Camp battles:
Small forward was set to be a huge battle but promising second year man Chase Budinger tweaked an ankle and won't be able to battle old man Battier for the slot left open by Trevor Ariza's departure. Jermaine Taylor, Courtney Lee, and Jared Jeffries should have a good one for the backup role behind Martin. Jordan Hill vs. Patterson should make for a nice one as well, with Hill's scrap versus Patterson's finesse providing contrast in style.

Injury issues:
Budinger's ankle is significant, but other than that the Rockets seem really healthy and don't have any pro...OH, YEAH. Yao Ming is coming back from an injury that's held him out for a year and a half and is trying to just stay on the floor while the rest of the team holds its breath everytime his feet leave the ground. camp.

Biggest strength:
Doin' work. The Rockets put in a full effort every night, a testament to both the roster assembled and Rick Adelman's job. They lacked an identity last year without Yao, but it did help them to adjust to whatever they faced. The Rockets can get out and run, or grind it out. They're really best when they're doing both. They'll battle for every loose ball and every player knows his role. It's a strong team they've put together.

Glaring weakness:
Three point shooting. Brooks isn't an efficient shooter. Martin's three point shooting dropped off a cliff last season. Budinger can shoot, but the rest of the team isn't great from the arc, including backup point guard Kyle Lowry.
 
 
 
 
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