Me on ESPN U

If you have a chance. I filmed 3 segments for ESPN U on 3 different shows. The first segment aired last night on a show called "Inside the Polls" and will be rerunning throughout the next couple days, and the second one is airing right now on a show called "Coach's Spotlight", and the third one is airing on "SportsCenter U". I am the Asian guy for Wake Forest on the left. We were debating about topics for the Wake Forest and Duke football programs including our game this Saturday. If you don't get a chance to catch it. I'll be posting the videos on the site. Check it out of you can.

Catch me on ESPN U's "Inside the Polls" (10/27) at 11:00 and 12:30 (will replay 7 times in 3 days)

Also check me out 10/28 on "Coach's Spotlight" at 1pm and 10pm on ESPN U. (Will replay 2 times)

And, on SportsCenter U on ESPN on Thursday at 7:30pm and 11 and 11:30pm.



Western Conference Power Rankings

Season opens tonight. To get this out in time, the teams out of the playoffs are a bit shorter.

#1 Lakers: I may have an LA bias, but they seem to be the consensus #1 pick even among non-Laker fans. With a healthy Andrew Bynum, they have the potential to be virtually unstoppable. They have the most formidable frontcourt in the NBA. Any time an NBA team can toy with the idea of bringing Lamar Odom off the bench, there is no shortage of talent on that team, and if that is the team's biggest problem, it seems like they will be fine. They made it to the Finals without Bynum, and now the only question will be whether they can get back and get over the hump with Bynum. They have the league's MVP and best player in the world. They have a veteran point guard with the young point guard ready to inherit the reigns in Jordan Farmar. Every guard or SF on the Lakers can hit an open jump shot which is going to stretch the floor with Gasol and Bynum commanding so much attention down low. Also, with the addition of Bynum, it will allow Gasol to play his natural position at the 4 and play face up instead of have to bang down low. It was his clear flaw that was exposed in the Finals. If everything goes as planned, the Lakers should be hoisting the trophy in June.

#2. Hornets: With Chris Paul having another year of experience and making a deep run into the playoffs, you have to give them credit in the West. They have the pieces that any contender needs to have. They have a big defensive presence down low in Chandler, they have an all-star power forward in David West, a gunner in Peja to spread the floor, and of course, the superstar leader in Chris Paul. The Hornets did themselves a huge favor in picking up James Posey. He made his stock rise dramatically in the Finals last season when he proved that he brings hustle and big shots at a championship level. He will be making a big impact for the Hornets this season. The one problem I see for the Hornets is the thin bench. The biggest example of this is Mike James making $6.2 million sitting behing CP3, but not producing anywhere near that. With the exception of 3 and maybe the 4 spot, they don't have an impact player at the position. Julian Wright, the Kansas Jayhawks star, is a solid player with tons of talent, but it is yet to be seen whether he will be able to make an impact off the bench at the 4 spot backing up David West. Nonetheless, the Hornets have been able to make this roster work, and with Posey backing up the 3 spot there was an upgrade there, but they better hope that they don't have to pull other guys off the bench during the season. This team will be good for a long time.

#3 Rockets: The only reason they weren't at the # 2 spot on this list is because there are two question marks for this team. 1) Will Artest be able to find a role on this team and be consistent with it throughout the team? 2) Will this team stay healthy? If the answer to those two questions is a strong 'yes' then this team is a Western Conference contender. Yao has been the focal point of this team with Tracy McGrady as a wing man. They have been an unbelievablly good defensive team in the past years, and last season, they only allowed their opponents 92 points a game. With Artest, that average should be going down to 90 or sub-90 points allowed. That is a scary prospect for opposing teams. They have one of the best lock down defenders in Shane Battier and adding Artest is going to cause a lot of offensive clogs in opposing teams. Tracy McGrady is a scorer, but he continues to take bad shots. Look for him to feel less burdened this season and let the game come to him. He should have a solid season if he can stay healthy. As for Yao, he is coming off a stress fracture injury, but showed no signs of that in the Olympics this summer. He should be ready to go, but his soft presences around the rim needs to improve. People also criticize the Rockets by saying that Rafer Alston is not a real point guard in the NBA. Stop. Shed your notion of the "Skip to My Lou" Alston and think of the solid all around guard that is incredibly streaky scoring 13.1 points (3rd highest on the team last season), the good defender who leads the Rockets in steals with 1.32 a game, and he can also get some assists here and there. It is true that Alston needs to up that assist average if he is going to make a valuable impact on the team this year. Also, don't forget that Artest had the best season of his career under Rick Adelman. A very encouraging fact for Rockets fans. This will undoubtedly be the year T-Mac and the Rockets get past the first round.

#4 Jazz: This team has a lot of weapons. They were a handfull for the Lakers last season in the Western Conference semi's. As an NBA fan, you can't help but admire Deron Williams' game. He is the prototype NBA point guard who can do it all. At 6'3 207lbs, he can play good defense, get to the basket, pass, and do everything in between. He averaged 18.8 ppg behind Boozer's 21.1 ppg, and Williams dropped 10.5 dimes a game. He is clearly one of the top 3 point guards in the league, and could soon move up to 1 or 2 when Steve Nash starts his decline. I strongly believe that Williams can keep this Jazz team, and any other team for that matter, competitive in the Conference when he is running the ball up the court. Boozer is clearly a force for the Jazz. He is the leading scorer and also grabs 10.4 boards a game. Solid numbers for an olympic player, but he was inconsistent in the playoffs last year. If Boozer steps up and plays to his regular season numbers, it will allow the Jazz to be a force in the West this year. Expect Ronnie Brewer to make a huge impact this season. He is often overlooked, but playing besides Williams he was still able to score 12 ppg, 4 assts, and lead the Jazz in steals at 1.7 in only 27.5 minutes of play. If he continues this production, I can't see how Jerry Sloan sits him for more than 10-15 minutes a game. Of course, you always have Mehmet Okur the Center who stretches the floor with his shooting range. As interesting as that may sound, I think it hurts the Jazz they don't have a post player who takes away attention from Boozer. If Okur brought his game to the basket all the time, defenses wouldn't just default to Boozer's side. It might be an area the Jazz need to address. Andrei Kirilenko is also a frustrating player. He was once considered an all-star callibur player and he even leads the team in blocks at 1.51 and picked 1.19 steals. Clearly, the lock down defender they throw on the opposing team's best player. His work on the defensive end might be translating into lack of energy on offense. A question the Jazz need to ask is if they are willing to make that tradeoff. They may not have any other choice. It has worked for the Spurs. We can expect to see the Jazz get back to the Western Conference semi's but, not able to get past it. Sorry Jazz fans.

#5 Spurs: As you can see, the gap might be closed for the Spurs. They fall lower and lower every year on the power rankings. You can never count them out though because of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker. The thing that hurts them this season is Manu Ginobli's injury. If those three are healthy, they can make a big impact on the season. Without the Big 3's production, they will struggle. The roster is very injury prone as well as aging. Bruce Bowen is assigned to guard the team's best player every night and is undoubtedly taking a toll on his body. Outside of the Big 3, they get consistent production out of Michael Finley and Brent Barry. There aren't many other quality impact players on this team, and it could be time for the Spurs to rebuild around Tony Parker. It was a good run, but the time may be over. It is the reality of pro sports.

#6 Suns: No matter what people say, they still have the core of Steve Nash and Amare. I put them lower than the Spurs due only to the fact that Shaq hurts this team. Amare and Nash want to push the ball and run the floor, but with new coach Terry Porter, things are going to slow down a bit. Shaq is clearly not his former dominant self and is dragging this team down. Unless Shaq comes out this season and turns things around, the Suns are going to be stuck at the bottom echelon of the Western Conference. Boris Diaw, Leandro Barbosa, Raja Bell and Grant Hill make up the other part of this Suns team. Hill's aging body is not going to help this team, but he provides experience and leadership that will count for something as this team heads into the playoffs. The Suns toyed with the idea of trading Barbosa and even Diaw, but for now, they are Suns. A trade for these two players would likely bring in some good talent, and I'm sure the Suns will entertain that thought again towards the trade deadline. The Suns roster is surprisingly deep with these players on the team, but this is essentially the same roster as last season. This roster brought us one of the most exciting playoff games in NBA history in Game 1 against the Spurs, but outside of that, there wasn't much noise from this team. Look for this season to be much of the same and the Suns will hit the drawing board again in order to win that elusive NBA championship.

#7 Mavericks: I don't care how much Mark Cuban talks about championship. The reality is that this team doesn't have a chance. Much like the Suns, trading the young Devin Harris for the old Jason Kidd proved to be disastrous. They won't be able to get past the mental playoff block after they suffered the BIGGEST UPSET in sports history. Yes, an 8 seed over 1 seed in a 7 game series is by definition, the biggest upset in sports history, and will likely remain like that for a while. Cuban blamed it on Avery Johnson, and has now brought in Rick Carlisle. If this coaching change doesn't fix it, there might be some work to do for this roster. Dirk Nowitski will continue to be a superstar with his deadly jumpshot and aggressive style of basketball. Josh Howard and Jason Terry will be consistent scorers and also bring their solid all around games every night, but outside of that, the Mavericks are hurting. A core of Dirk, Kidd, Howard, and Terry will not get them far in the west. The reason is that Kidd doesn't score enough for them to have an impact. Kidd is a distributor. He needs two big time scorers (20-25+) to make a meaningful impact on the team. Dirk averages a bit over 23 ppg and Howard averages just under 20 a game. Not enough to make up for Kidd's lack of scoring. Don't expect this Mavs team to go far. The West is too deep for a roster with so many holes to make any meaningful runs in the season and playoffs. They will likely drop in the first round unless they can pull a Golden State Warriors and upset like they were 2 seasons ago.

#8 Blazers: They were in the playoff race until the last week of the season last year. They even lost Brandon Roy for a portion of the season, and were still a player in the 8th spot race. They got Greg Oden back making his debut tonight against the Lakers and he probably won't see a lot of minutes at the beginning of the season, but it will steadily increase as the season progresses. Brandon Roy also got a lot of attention last season as he lead the Blazers to their 17 game winning streak. With Roy healthy, this Blazers team could make a deep mark in the West this year. LaMarcus Aldridge has been working on his game a lot this summer and should have an improved jump shot this season which will help the Blazers a lot. He can also play down low which takes pressure off of Oden and Pryzbilla and will create opportunities for players like Steve Blake and their new gem, Rudy Fernandez. I also like the pick up of Jerryd Bayless. Bayless might not be able to make an impact this season as he is just a raw talent at this point, but he is a long term project that the Blazers are really fond of. This Blazers team has the potential to make the playoffs, but beyond the first round might be a stretch. This team will be a force in the coming years.

#9 Clippers: Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, and Marcus Camby usually would translate into automatic success. Don't see it happening with a core of those three players because they don't have much supporting help. They will undoubtedly be competitive, but they are injury prone as well as very thin. It might be another year or two until the Clippers can reach full potential.

#10 Nuggets: The Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony experiment hasn't worked. AI is aging and the Nuggets toyed with trading Melo to the Pistons. This team has tremendous talent, but has almost no defense. They let opponents score 107 ppg last season, and they lost their best defender in Camby. Things aren't looking up for the Nuggets, but J.R Smith has been getting a lot of press this offseason for being one of the only players on the Nuggets who showed up against the Lakers in the first round. It is time to push the 'rebuild button' in Denver.

#11 Kings: They have one year under Reggie Theus and have a chance to improve. They aren't thinking playoffs just yet. They are still a little underdeveloped. They have one of the best up and coming guards in Kevin Martin that they have put a lot of money into. They also have Francisco Garcia, a guy who is going to play a lot of positions for Theus this year. Brad Miller is aging, but still productive. This might not be Sacramento's year, but I think they improve from last year. It will be another year or two until they make significant movement on this list.

#12 Warriors: The controversy with Monta Ellis is not good for team chemistry. Ellis is out 30 games, that will definitely take its toll on this Warrior team. They lost the Elton Brand sweepstakes and also lost Baron Davis. Don Nelson's Warriors are in a tight position now. They have the ultra athletic Corey Maggette, but that won't be enough to do much in the Westen Conference. Stephen Jackson will get his 20points and a few boards and a steal or two a game and Al Harrington will still give 13ppg, but not play like a true power forward. Biedrins had the highest field goal percentage last season, but doesn't score enough to make a different. Bottom line is that without Ellis, this team doesn't have much else. Jackson, Harrington and Maggette can't do it themselves.

#13 Grizzlies: They don't seem that bad off from the Pau Gasol trade. They got Marc Gasol who played very well in the preseason. They also got the exciting and talented OJ Mayo. They throw him back there with Mike Conley, and the Grizzlies might have a respectable backcourt. They also got their #1 scorer in Rudy Gay who puts up 20ppg and grabs 6 rebs. This team is on its way up. Darko is not a force for this team, but Hakim Warrick could be. Warrick gets a shade above 11 ppg and needs to increase his rebounds from 4.7 a game for him to be truly effective. This team also has intriguing trade pieces at the point guard in Javaris Crittendon and Kyle Lowry. This team is definitely moving in the right direction, and if this continues could find themselves in the playoffs sooner than we realize.

#14 Timberwolves: This team has a great prospect in Al Jefferson. They also made the trade to get Kevin Love to help complement Jefferson in the front court. Corey Brewer is still underdeveloped and inconsistent. Randy Foye and Rashard McCants aren't much to look at for playing alongside Jefferson. Telfair is also not producing up to any expectations that people had of him when he was drafted. This team is sort of stuck in a dead zone. Doesn't seem like they are going to be able to break out of it any time soon.

#15 Thunder: Not much here outside of Kevin Durant. They hope that Russell Westbrook will pan out. They just made a controversial and publicized move from Seattle. It is going to take a while for them to rebuild this team around Kevin Durant. Luckily, KD has a long time left in his career. Their success depends on what moves they make from this point on.

Enjoy the season.



Eastern Conference Power Rankings

Over the next few days we will put up Eastern and Western Conference power rankings. I decided to split the conferences up instead of coming up with one long list because I firmly believe that comparison between other teams in the conference is more important because it doesn't matter what the other conference is doing if you can't beat your own conference teams. The purpose of rankings is to predict which teams will come out on top in their conference to represent the conference in the NBA Finals. Here are my quick thoughts on which teams are in the upper and lower echelon of the Eastern Conference. Enjoy.

#1 Celtics: Clearly no one is going to pick against the defending champs. The only critical piece they lost was Posey, but it seems like they are deep and talented enough to work around that. They played inspired last season and virtually did not lose that momentum the entire season. The one downside for the Celtic faithful is their inconsistent play in the playoffs. Going to 7 with Atlanta? 7 with the Cavs? There is no doubt that they overlooked that competition and played down to their competition. One thing to watch for might be the play of Darius Miles, and Cassell's role on the team. There was talk about Cassell using the last year of his contract to become an assistant coach, but that is not in the cards for this up coming season. I expect Rondo to continue his improvement this season as well as Tony Allen and Leon Powe to be consistent solid contributors off the bench. It also does not hurt that they have KG, Piece, and Allen as a core either. They are my pick to come out of the East, again.

#2 Pistons: It seems like every year since 2004 they have been at the top of every power ranking, but never able to live up to potential. The Pistons will continue to be competitive in the East every year for a few reasons. They have one of the best backcourts in the NBA in Billups and Hamilton. They also have a strong front court in Prince and Rasheed. They are a solid team defensively which will always give them a chance to compete. The Pistons also have young guards waiting to take on a bigger role in Rodney Stuckey and Aaron Afflalo which should help the legs of Hamilton and Billups, and will undoubtedly pay dividends in the playoffs. The declining McDyess seems to be the glaring problem right now. The 5 position needs to be addressed in a better way than Kwame Brown. I do agree that Kwame is a legitimate backup Center in the NBA, but if you have a declining Center as a starter, throwing Kwame in there and hoping he picks it up is a little unrealistic. The Pistons have been using Amir Johnson, a player who is built to be a 3 or 4, as a Center. They have also put Jason Maxiell into the Center role which is not his natural position. That was Flip Saunders' way of putting a bandaid on the Center problem, but it does not get that much attention. Rasheed usually takes most of the Piston criticism, but looking at their team, it goes beyond Rasheed. Sheed will have a big season this year as he is playing for a contract, and maybe rookie coach Michael Curry will help the Pistons out more on the whole. As always, the Pistons are in the upper echelon, but may not have enough to get over the hurdle, and by hurdle I mean the Celtics.

#3 76ers: That's right. This may surprise some of you, maybe even anger you. I was even contemplating putting the old school sixers logo up because the Sixers will finally have success like they used to. After the World Series buzz fades out of Philly, the Sixers will be the center of attention. Unless of course, the Eagles climb out of last place in the NFC East, but probably not. The Sixers are a revitalized franchise. They have waited for Andre Iguodala to get into his prime, and he is there. They put a solid point guard next to him in Andre Miller. The one thing they were missing was a credible power foward who could give them a solid post presence to free up Miller and Iguodala on the perimeter, and to give them another scoring option. They have finally acquired that player in Elton Brand, and with his addition, Eastern Conference championship hopes are reborn in Philly. They also have several young prospects that are due for a breakout season this year in Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young. Barring any major injuries, the Conference championship is a real possibility this year. They gave the Pistons a tough series in last season's playoffs which was a good starting point. They got the help they need in Elton Brand. It will help them this season and in the years to come. The Sixers will be at the top of this list for many years to come.

#4 Cavs: This is where the Eastern Conference gets murky. The Cavs always have a chance with Lebron James. The addition of Mo Williams gives them a strong point guard who can shoot and pass. He is the clear cut second option on a team that previously did not have one. They have a deep bench at the point guard position which will help them. They have talent in every position, but the problem is that outside of Lebron, they don't excel in any one area. Without Lebron, the Cavs are headed to the lottery. With him, they have a chance to compete for a conference championship. It is clear that Lebron can single handedly carry a team on his back. Mo Williams might be the help that Lebron needs, but it is not the piece that will fire them into championship contention. The top team sin the West will have a player better than the Cavs in every position except the small forward position. Don't believe me? Think Lakers, Houston, San Antonio, Utah, New Orleans, and you can make a strong case for Dallas and Phoenix. Look at every team above them in this power ranking, and even 1 or 2 teams below them on this list. Do the Cavs have someone clearly better in the 1,2,4, and 5 spots? Probably not, that is why they will always hang around at the top, but never get there until they get some upgrades in those places.

#5 Magic: The Magic might have one of the most underrated front courts in the NBA. Of course, Dwight Howard gets all of the press, but people don't talk about Hedo Turkoglu or Rashard Lewis nearly as much as they deserve. Hedo had a break out season as he finished second in points, assists, and rebounds as well as averaging .9 steals which was third behind Jameer Nelson's .91 steals. The major problem with the Magic is clearly the weak backcourt. Nelson is a solid point guard, but has virtually no help at the 2. They let the defensive specialist Maurice Evans go and watched him sign with conference rivals, the Hawks. Keyon Dooling also could not find minutes in the backcourt with the Magic and has moved on which means that Jameer Nelson will see an increase in minutes and production. Mickael Pietrus is going to fill in the #2 spot this year for the Magic and their success will largely depend on his success. When he was not on Don Nelson's bench in Golden State he was pretty effective. He averaged 7.2 ppg while playing only a modest 19.2 minutes. JJ Reddick is backing Pietrus up, and we all know that JJ has not been the most popular player in Orlando. Expect Pietrus to log a lot of minutes and be one of the key players to the Magic's success.

#6 Toronto Raptors: One of the forgotten teams in the Eastern Conference. They are the Eastern Conference sleeper team, and have a legitimate case to be #4 or #5 on this list. With the Jermaine O'Neal acquisition this offseason the Raptors are legitimate contenders. The Eastern Conference is continuing to close the gap between the once unquestioned superior Western Conference. If O'Neal can stay healthy and Calderon can continue to be a solid 11ppg and 8 asst per game point guard they are going to be a force. Chris Bosh showed what he can do this summer in Beijing and I'm gonna predict he is gonna drop 25ppg and 10rebs this season. A lot of people are hesistant to say anything more about the Raptors because of how unpredictable Jermaine O'Neal is. He is a little soft around the basket, and has been reluctant to make hustle plays his entire career. Hopefully he will play an inspired season and amount to everything we have expected of him. The other soft spot for the Raptors is at the Center position. Andrea Bargnani is one of the most underperforming Centers in the league. He is 7'0 and averages 10.2 ppg and 3.7 rebs. The point production is not a concern, but the rebounds is. It shows Bargnani's reluctance to muscle down low and his complacency. There are times on the court where you forget he is even out there. The Raptors will need a lot more out of him if they want to get anywhere in the playoffs. Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon have been pleasant surprises for the Raptors. Expect both to play a big role this season in the Raptors' success. Jermaine O'Neal coming in will probably mean one of them is losing their starting job, but both Parker and Moon are a capable sixth man and, will definitely be major consistent contributors for the Raptors.

#7 Wizards: With Gilbert Arenas out until January it will be up to Antwan Jamison and Caron Butler to carry the load. They have proven they can be a solid team without Gilbert, but never good enough to be at the top of the East. Unfortunately, with the Big 3 in Washington taking up so much cap room, they won't have enough to spend to get that final piece. It is going to be tough for Washington to compete with the top teams in the East without a dominant big man down low. The Wizards are built very similar to the Run N' Gun Suns of the past few years. They don't play good enough defense to contain the top teams in the conference either as they allowed 99.2 ppg last year while scoring 98.8 ppg last season. If the Wizards are going to make an impact this year, they are going to have to wait until Gilbert comes back and see how he fits back into the team. The chemistry on the team is good, but I truly believe they still need one more impact player away from being in the top tier of the Eastern Conference at either the Center of SG position.

#8 Hawks: They almost took out the Celtics last season in a very entertaining series. They haven't really changed much with the exception of Josh Childress. Despite what some people may think, losing Childress is a devastating blow to the Atlanta bench. The bright spot for Atlanta is their young talent. They will be able to compete for a playoff spot every year because of players like Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Joe Johnson. Marvin Williams is also an important player to keep in mind for the Hawks. He suffers from 'The Kwame Brown Effect' which is when a player is judged based on where he was drafted. Despite how high his expectations and draft position was, he plays a big role on this Hawks team at the 3 spot and have put the solid Maurice Evans behind him. The Hawks were lucky to keep Josh Smith after all of the speculation of him leaving for Philadelphia, but with Josh Smith staying in ATL for a while longer, the chemistry that almost pulled one of the biggest upsets in sports history off is still in tact. It is pretty obvious that this team has some great young talent and a veteran point guard in Mike Bibby to help guide them, but they won't be a force in the East, unless of course, they come out of nowhere to upset the defending champs from Boston.

#9 Heat: Well, the bright side is that they won't finish dead last again, but they won't finish in the playoffs this year. They have an athletic team, but they are still hurting at the point guard position. They got the upgrade they needed at the power forward position with Beasley and he will have a solid season. Mario Chalmers is also a good guard, but is not NBA ready yet. Having Dwyane Wade will always allow them to compete and having an athletic hustle player like Shawn Marion will always be a plus. The other huge hole the Heat have is at the center position. It is no secret that the Heat will be in a rebuilding process for the next couple of seaons, and their success depends on how fast Michael Beasley can develop. 2006 was great, wasn't it?

#10 Bucks: This team is not as bad as people think. Like the Raptors, they are often overlooked. The acquisition of Richard Jefferson was huge for this team. Jefferson is a solid all around player that can do virtually anything asked of him. They drafted the true sleeper of the draft in Joe Alexander. He may not be NBA ready right now, but that might change very quickly during the season as he might have to take on a greater role than he is ready for which will accelerate his development. Andrew Bogut just got a big extension which is indicative of him being in the Bucks long term plans. He gives them an inside presence and can score and rebound well enough, but can improve it a bit. Another positive is Michael Redd. We all saw his skill on the world stage and his deadly jump shot. He was injured a lot last season, but if he stays healthy, this Bucks club could surprise a lot of people. They also have a battle for the point guard spot. It is Luke Ridnour and Ramon Sessions fighting for the starting job, and Tyronn Lue is the backup. Sessions seems like he is going to win the starting spot right now, but having Lue and Ridnous as backups provides for a pretty deep bench at the 1 spot. A lot of people don't know about Ramon Sessions, but he was called up from the D-league last year and could have a truly breakout season. He only played 10 games last season and averaged over 38 minutes a game while scoring 8.1 ppg and dishing 7.5 assists. Not bad for a call up, right? Well, he is just one of the surprises that the Bucks might throw at us this season. Look for them to make some noise. If not this season, very soon.

#11 Bulls: They got their point guard in Derrick Rose, but is that going to solve their problems? My guess is that they will be getting rid of Kirk Hinrich before the trade deadline. Ben Gordon has insisted that he wants to play somewhere else, and they are still with the ball and chain that is Larry Hughes and his $12.8 million contract. The Bulls have a rookie coach in Vinny Del Negro. They lost a solid bench contibutor in Chris Duhon, and this season does not look too promising for the Bulls. Tyrus Thomas is also a constant question mark with his inconsistent play. If Thomas can be a consistent presence this season things will look up for Chicago. Also, Chicago fans have expectations to the sky for Rose, but remember that guards have a hard time with the transition to the pros. Rose has looked amazing in the preseason, but it will be a couple of years until we really see how good he can be. Of course, Luol Deng will be the focus of the offense if he can stay healthy, and Derrick Rose's development will facilitate that. Nevertheless, Chicago does not have the pieces to compete with the playoff ready teams, but the good news is that they have taken a step forward with Rose, and if they can trade Hinrich, they will be in an even better position.

#12 Bobcats: Charlotte fans shouldn't lose hope. Expansion teams take a while to get on their feet. With Michael Jordan in the front office and Larry Brown on the sideline, the Bobcats have some good people working for them. As far as players go, they still need a few upgrades. I love their D.J Augustin acquisition in the draft, and I believe it will pay huge dividends in a few years. What has really hurt the Bobcats is the mediocre play of Emeka Okafur, and him never living up to his potential. He grabs a bit over 10 boards a game and averages a shade under 14 ppg. Pretty low for a guy who was compared to Patrick Ewing. We know what Gerald Wallace can do. He brings athleticism and hustle to the floor and averages 19.4 ppg and 6 rebs. We know what Jason Richardson can do. He is a 3 point machine that is the Bobcats go-to guy who can put points on the board in a hurry. Raymond Felton is also showing he can run the show in the back court. If Felton has reached his potential, there is no way the Bobcats are going to be able to compete with the other solid backcourts at the top of the East. One storyline that will be interesting to watch play out will be Adam Morrison. He isn't only playing for a contract, he is playing for his NBA career. He is coming back from injury this season, and could make a significant impact or fade into the background. The Bobcats need a personel upgrade in a lot of positions for them to even think about being competitive.

#13 Pacers: Not much on this roster. Granger and Dunleavy had big seasons, but with an unhappy management and unhappy Jamal Tinsley, this team isn't going very far. The team has addressed the Tinsley problem for now by bringing in T.J Ford, but don't expect Ford to make a huge impact immediately. It will take him a while to get adjusted. The Pacers are in the rebuilding process right now, but don't expect that to last for long. This might be a team that gets better really quickly with Larry Bird behind it. They were a 36 win team last season, and I am astonished that they even managed to win that many games. I expect a sub-30 season from this team. They traded away Shawne Williams and Jermaine O'Neal, and got a retired Eddie Jones, T.J Ford and some cash. They also drafted Roy Hibbert who is a raw talent right now, but if he amounts to his potential he could be the cornerstone of the franchise. Not much for rebuilding in the short term. We all might just be ignorant to Larry Bird's bigger plan, but as of now, Pacer fans can reminisce about the old days in Conseco Field House with Reggie Miller and Rik Smits in the golden days.

#14 Nets: There is no defined leader on this team. Is it Devin Harris or Vince Carter? Yi is a superstar back home, but not in the States. Too many years on Carter's contract probably means that GM's will inquire, but probably not make a move. There just simply aren't enough pieces on this team to make anything work. I have liked Ryan Anderson for a while, but it is yet to be seen if he will make the team. Brooke Lopez will give them a defensive presences, but won't be that meaningful. Chris Douglas-Roberts is also a good prospect, and he is also fighting for a roster spot. Bottom line is that the Nets won't be able to make an impact this season, and probably won't be able to until they are in Brooklyn. That's ok with management though because they know they are eyeing Lebron in 2010.

#15 Knicks: Sorry Knicks fans. Not about to happen. They have a long way to go to make this team effective. This team definitely complements Mike D'Antoni's famous up-tempo style, but they don't have the players to do it. If people are not shocked by how big Eddy Curry showed up to training camp they better take a look at him. Zach Randolph has underperformed, and they still have the worst contract in sports in Stephon Marbury. One thing that people have not been talking a lot abot is Quentin Richardson and D'Antoni. How will they work together? Will D'Antoni take him off the bench and restore him back to the 14.9 points, 6.1 rebs, 1.2 steals, and 2.9 3pters a game? That could be something that is overlooked on this Knicks team. Of course, any Knicks fan will point to the promise of David Lee as a bright spot as well as their recent Danilo Gallinari pick. Jamal Crawford and Chris Duhon making up the backcourt isn't going to get anyone excited. However, finally bringing Nate Robinson off the bench will get people excited. All-in-all, there will be another bleak season for the Knicks, and they will continue to drop their tickets into the Lebron lottery.

The Eastern Conference is actually a lot deeper than people think. I used to be a big proponent of redoing conferences much like the NFL has split up their divisions. The recent acquisitions that the Eastern Conference has made has balanced out the power in the two divisions and has closed the gap a bit more. There is no doubt that we will be treated, finally, to a competitive Eastern Conference.


Thoughts on the Shawne Williams deal

If you all haven't heard the news, according to RealGM, Shawne Williams of the Pacers has been traded to the Mavericks for Eddie Jones, two 2nd round picks, and $1.8 million in cash.

This is definitely a step back, and at best a lateral step for the Mavs. My initial reaction to this trade is amazement. We all knew Shawne Williams was not going to last very long after his marijuana incident last year, and it is no secret he was on Larry Bird's blacklist after the incident. With that said, out of the 29 other teams in the league, why would the Mavericks be the ones to make a move for him?

It makes sense as to why the Pacers would want to split Marquis Daniels and Williams up, but why would Dallas want to bring Josh Howard and Williams together? With all of the negative press about Josh Howard these past 5 months, bringing in another problem player can't be healthy to the team's chemistry as well as their PR rehabilitation.

My guess right now is that Rick Carlisle thought very highly of Williams when he coached the Pacers. He can be a solid bench player if he focuses more energy on the court. Watching Williams play in Memphis left one to think that he is the prototype of an NBA player. Being 6'9 and 225lbs, he has the size to be a 3. He can play face up to the basket, and in college, could get to the rim at will. He is an inconsistent shooter, but with so much potential and only being 22, he definitely has room for improvement. Carlisle clearly thinks Williams has a chance to make it in this league, and wants one more shot a reviving a Williams career before it even really began. What is going to be the most intriguing part of this deal is how Williams conducts himself off the court. If he starts associating with the wrong people and it affects his play, I can't imagine Cuban having much patience for it after all he has had to deal with after the Howard situation. Nonetheless, the only product that matters is on the court. Williams has averaged 6.7 pts and 2.7 rebounds throughout his 2 year career. If he wants another contract, that is going to have to be improved to around 10 or 11ppg and he is going to have to improve his rebound category to around 6 or 7, at minimum to go along with it.

The problem I see with Williams is that he has no defined role at this point unless he somehow outplays Devean George and Jerry Stackhouse for minutes. If Carlisle starts randomly subbing Williams in to see how he fares, that could be disastrous for Williams and the Mavericks. In that scenario, it seems like Williams will get lost and his production will drop even further. That sort of seems like the rationale for trading Eddie Jones. Jones is an old veteran who had to compete with the younger George and Stackhouse for the same minutes Williams will be competing for, and with Williams due to make $1.5 and Jones being paid $1.9, it wasn't like that $400,000 was a salary cap move. The Mavs clearly see something here, and the desperate Mavs supporters are hoping it is right.

I love Shawne Williams the player, and I have loved his game since his days at Memphis. In fact, I was just talking with someone about how surprised I was when he was drafted 16th. Before the 2006 draft I was telling everyone that Williams was going to be one of the best players of the class, and the teams picking 11-15 were making a big mistake on passing him up. I have no problem admitting that I have been wrong so far. However, I do still have hope for Williams' career. There are two roads that Williams can take with his new start in Dallas. He can either live up to his potential or continue down his current path and find himself out of the league when his rookie contract expires.

As far as Indiana goes, Eddie Jones was my favorite player when he was on the Lakers. It has been tough for me to see him decline from his days as a Laker. I do believe that Eddie Jones will retire after his contract is up. He has even said that he will 'go home' if he did not win a championship with Dallas. I was rooting for him to win that championship, but it seems as if it won't be part of his career as a player. I don't see Jones playing much of a role in Indiana unless Jamaal Tinsley gets traded (which is a real possibility), but even then, Jones will be limited. Overall, the deal was great for the Pacers, and a gamble for the Mavs. It just adds to the already intriguing upcoming NBA season.



Detroit Pistons Analysis

Many of you have requested to bring back the 'Off-Season To-Do List' series, but it was a little too much for our understaffed site to handle. So, to meet the demands of our faithful readers, we have decided to bring back the series in an abbreviated form. It will no longer be called the 'Off-Season To-Do list' because it is not the off-season anymore with the start of the preseason. We have decided to do analysis on teams that have been requested. We will try to accommodate as many requests as we can, but during the season, we will be blogging about season related issues instead of general analysis.
As you can tell by the title of this entry, the Pistons have been requested on numerous occasions. I have found the Pistons a very intriguing team in the NBA. Every year, someone picks them to go to the Finals or to win the championship. I've always found these predictions peculiar because they seem to be connecting dots that aren't there. Don't get me wrong, the Pistons are an extremely talented team, and they have the tools to be a competitive team year after year in the Eastern Conference. That is where it ends. A competitive Eastern Conference team. Even if they were a Western Conference team, they would still be competitive, but no matter where they play, they don't have the tools to get over the hump. I think Joe Dumars is starting to realize this and has pushed/will push the 'rebuild button'. This may not be totally apparent, but he has made a coaching change and toyed with the thought of trading his core this summer (The rumors with the Nuggets).

Here is the good news for the Pistons. They have a core of Rip Hamilton under contract until the summer of 2010, Tayshaun Prince until the summer of 2011, and Chauncey Billups until 2012. It gets even better for the Pistons, this is Rasheed Wallace's contract year. He is due to make $13.6 million this year and becomes an unrestricted free agent. This has huge implications for both Sheed and the Pistons. With Sheed being the highest paid Piston, but being only the 4th highest scorer on the team while averaging a very unimpressive 12.7ppg, 6.6 rebs, and 1.68blks, he will have a lot of incentive to boost those numbers this year, and Dumars as well as other GM's around the league will be taking note.. Sheed is only getting further and further away from his Tarheel glory days, and he will be demanding a huge contract to secure him and his family for life. That can happen, if, he performs big this season. As with many players and their contract years, expect Wallace to put up some huge numbers this season. He has always been an effective passer for a big man, but he should be averaging more than 1.8 assts per game. That statistic seems to be indicative of Sheed not looking to make the play and just settling. One of his biggest criticisms throughout his career has been his consistency. He shows up and then disappears through stretches of the season. He also tends to hang out on the perimeter instead of going down on the block. He does not utilize his post ability as much as he can. If he works on his post presence instead of settling for the three pointer, the Pistons will be very strong at the 4, which seems to be where everyone is making an upgrade these days. Wallace played decently well during the playoffs, but was shut down by KG during the Conference Finals. That is the biggest concern for Piston fans as it stands right now. KG and the Celtics are clearly the biggest impediment to making the Finals. If it does not happen this year, I can't see how the Pistons stay with Rasheed. This relationship won't be ablle to be rationally proglonged unless the Pistons get past the Celtics, at least.

If Sheed does have to leave after this year, Piston fans won't be too upset about it because they have one of the best young forwards in the game in Tayshaun Prince. The Compton Dominguez high school star and Kentucky Wildcat is the future of the Pistons. He has a 7'6 wingspan and a solid all around game. He creates matchup problems every night because of his length and solid defensive presence. Prince will be paid a fair $9.5 million this year and have that increase to $10.5 million and finally, to $11.3 million over the next 2 years. Prince made his mark on the league with his infamous block against Reggie Miller in the Conference Finals in 2004. Since then, he has become a household name, won a championship, and earned a spot on the Beijing team. He is most effective when he gets spot up mid-range jumpshots and is able to work within the system. Prince seems to have a great ability to adapt to different styles of play. Under Flip he was able to play a wing type of a role and get hustle points with a couple plays run for him throughout the game. With Michael Curry taking the reigns in Detroit the impact it will have is unknown at this point. I would expect Prince to be able to adapt to any role given to him because that is the type of player he is. He will still get his looks and will still create opportunities for himself. Prince has also never sustained a major injury in his career and has been a pretty consistent contributor for the most part throughout his career. I'd expect to see Prince being a constant and a long term player in the Piston's future.

I have been a firm believer for the last 4 years that the Pistons have the best back court in basketball. The combination of Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups is a coach's dream. You have a strong ball-handling guard in Billups who is a constant producer in terms of points and assists at 17ppg and 6.8assts, respectively, and you have Rip Hamilton, the overachieving sharp-shooter who averages the most points for Detroit at 17.3ppg. It is what you would envision a back court to look like. Two smaller players, one who can dribble, pass, make good decisions and protect the ball as your 1 guard, and the 2 guard who can shoot from anywhere on the court after receiving the ball from the point guard. This year, both players will combine to make $21.5 million of the $67.8 million payroll the Pistons will have to dish out this year. To exemplify how fair that amount of money is, Rip and Chauncey combine to average 34.3 ppg of the Piston's 97.5 ppg avg. That is 34% of the total points for the Pistons. Their salaries make up 31.7% of the total payroll. This shows that they are producing to the extent to which they should be. They also are not too bad on the defensive end as Rip logs 1 steal per game and Chauncey logs 1.2 steals per game. Both players are amazing perimeter defenders. Billups has the size to body up against bigger point guards like Deron Williams, and the speed and athleticism to keep up with players like Tony Parker, Chris Paul, and Steve Nash. Hamilton is undersized, but can still be a pesky defender. I think the Piston's biggest weakness is their lack of size overall, but it is most commonly exploited in the back court. It is tough for the Pistons to throw Rip on a 2 like Kobe or T-Mac. There is no doubt Rip has the quickness, but he is not strong enough to body up against players like that. Even smaller sized players at the 2 like Caron Butler would still have size advantages over Hamilton, and that poses a problem for Detroit. Many say, just throw Tayshaun on that player. Well, that creates another problem. Who does Rip guard? If Tayshaun has to guard T-Mac, then who guards Artest? If Tayshaun has to guard Kobe, who guards Lamar? Those are just two teams that can exploit the matchup of Rip Hamilton, but that is less of a concern considering the Lakers and Rockets are not in the same conference. For the purposes of the the Eastern Conference, Rip will be good enough to match up to Ray Allen, all the Pistons should really care about.

The reason I wrote that the Pistons might be going through a rebuilding stage is due to their youth movement. They have brought in a lot of young talent with Maxiell, Afflalo, Stuckey, and their two draft picks of D.J White and Deron Washington. All of these players are in the beginning of their career and especially the first three players named, will have an opportunity to become stars in this league. Antonio McDyess at 8.8ppg and 8.5 rebs and commanding $6.8 million the next two years is not what I would call ideal. In addition, having Kwame Brown as the backup is clearly a deficiency. I have written about the Kwame Brown acquisition in a previous post so I won't go into that any more although it is no secret that I strongly disagree with it.

This coming season will be the ultimate test for the Pistons. They have made some tweaks in their roster, and will still be in the annual discussion of who will win the East. Their name is undoubtedly the top two on that list. I still don't see them making it past the Celtics with their current squad. The Pistons have a great core and they are probably two players away from a championship. The Pistons can go in two directions at this point. They could be remembered as the one year fluke that took advantage of a disheveled and unorganized Laker team. Or, they could be the team that had no defined superstar and won because of their team play, saved the NBA from the stereotype of a 'superstar first' league, and played the game like Mr. Naismith envisioned when he invented the game.


Both of these links are from ESPN the Mag.

A year after the fact, the Durant vs. Oden debate continues.

This is not basketball related at all, but Lil Wayne has a blog on ESPN, and it is great.