Author Archives: OnTheFatSide

AFL Phantom Draft Accuracy

First and foremost, I’m at work so please excuse any incoherent structure or spelling errors. When boredom and mundane office duty strikes inaccuracy becomes my forte. Anywho…

Each year the AFL draft period brings about numerous phantom drafts. Some are independent, some mass media, and some more accurate than others.

The major roadblock when attempting to obtain information on an AFL draft class is the sheer lack of contributors and sources at ones disposal. A quick search of “Phantom AFL Draft” or “AFL Draft” on Google will turn over a limited number of results and given the heavyweights in the business (mass media) don’t post their finished products prior to the morning of the draft, getting a grasp on which prospects will land where can be quite troublesome.

The AFL doesn’t make the task any easier; there’s no television coverage of underage competition, no rolling analysis throughout the season and there’s zero statistical databases available. Unless you’re prepared to invest your weekends and wallet following the best junior talent in the country week to week its borderline impossible for the average Joe to form a highly accurate opinion on the latest crop of draftee hopefuls.

These hurdles may stand in the way but that hasn’t stopped a few pundits putting their foot forward and offering their thoughts on what to expect come draft day. Footy Trafic’s Kristian Pisano and Paige Cardona at Bound For Glory news are two of those individuals and both should be applauded for their efforts, especially considering their phantom drafts were much more detailed (specifically Kristian who provided in-depth statistics) and published a week prior to the headline acts at The Age and Herald Sun.

So how did the most popular Phantom Draft’s perform in regards to pick accuracy? I decided to compare predictions against what actually happened via a weighting system that subtracted a point for each spot that a pick was incorrectly listed. For example if you predicted a player to be picked 5th overall and they were chosen 8th, you lose 3 points.

Each individual also received a bump based on the date of publication. Kristian posted his phantom draft on Footy Tragic six days ago so he received extra credit, as did the Bound for Glory phantom draft. Emma Quayle and the Herald Sun posted their phantom draft the day of the draft, thus were not awarded any weighting.

The goal of a phantom draft is accuracy of information and just like the value of an “exclusive”, first in best dressed should be rewarded.

Only the top 20 picks were analysed and each party started at 100 points. If a player was not listed inside the top 30 picks (as was the case with Jackson Thurlow in 4-of-5 phantom drafts) the phantom draft received an automatic deduction of 5 points.

It’s no surprise that Emma Quayle again led the charge and continued to ride one of the finest off-season waves in the history of AFL journalism. When measuring the top 20 pick predictions of each phantom draft Quayle was twice as accurate as the Herald Sun despite both phantom drafts being published on the same day.

Feel free to raise the victory flag over at The Age yet again.

Ok, enough chit chat. The results based on this idiot’s points system are as follows;

The Age The Herald Sun AFL.com.au Footy Tragic

Bound for Glory

80 53 54 51 37

There’s a clear disparity with The Age far away the most supreme in terms of accuracy, the Herald Sun, AFL.com.au and Footy Tragic battling it out for second spot and Bound For Glory news bringing up the rear. Does this mean we should only focus on The Age and completely disregard the product from Bound for Glory? Definitely not. Footy Tragic and Bound for Glory brought you the information first and provided the most detailed analysis.

Pick accuracy is merely one aspect of the Phantom Draft and it becomes infinitely harder without any late mail. Who knows how different these results would be if the other three major media outlets posted their predictions a week earlier or released rolling volumes of their phantom draft as we made our way up to the big day?

All parties should be applauded for leading the charge and providing such information in a landscape that is so starved of analysis and regular attention.

If not for the fine folk mentioned in this article the average AFL fan would struggle to name five prospects in this year’s draft. The AFL Draft requires more exposure from top to bottom and all year round. The current structure limits a fan’s ability to obtain information, to learn, and in the process provides draft hopefuls a disservice.

When the 2012 Australian sporting fan can access more content, and view more live and archived footage of NBA and NFL draft prospects competing in the Colonial Athletic Association conference your product has problems.

This isn’t 1995. Any restrictions on exposure are a product of falling behind.

In a World spoiled for choice and an era saturated in information the AFL draft is one of the few remaining sporting events stuck in the past.

Without Phantom drafts and crappy three minute YouTube clips we’d all be in the dark.

It’s a damn shame.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

Advertisements

Debunking the (D)’Antoni Myth

See you later, Mike Brown.

The second the Lakers dumped head coach Mike Brown after a stale and long-winded five-game stretch the replacement rumor mill went into meltdown mode.

First up was Phil Jackson. Before anyone could break down the logistics of such a move Laker fans had Phil and Scottie Pipppen seizing control of the sidelines, the Championship parade was booked and editing on the latest Laker Dynasty DVD was underway.

Then Papa Phil allegedly demanded his own Planet, a Dr. Evil level one hundred billion dollars and for Mark Cuban to “suck his balls”,  essentially pricing himself out of the gig.

Enter, Mike D’Antoni.

Myself and numerous others, but most notably myself immediately took to Twitter to bash the D’Antoni signing. As a lifetime Laker hater this wasn’t a choice based on logic or reason, but more force of habit.

I have to hate everything the Laker franchise does, it’s the law.

Naturally I sounded off with the generic “defense wins Championships” line before throwing the run and gun offensive focused D’Antoni under the bus. Hey, I was drunk (I wasn’t drunk).

To kill the ill-informed stigma that arseholes like me carry around when it comes to D’Antoni shitting on defense I decided to take a look at the defensive numbers of the pre and post D’Antoni Knicks. Performing such a task prior to forming an opinion would have been the logical move but this is 2012 and we all have street cred to uphold. I also like reaching for excuses.

So what exactly do the numbers tell us? Well first of all they tell us that Mike D’Antoni had an 18-24 record as Knicks head coach before he chewed the bullet. Mike Woodson then led the same Knicks roster to an 18-6 record although we can’t be certain about how much of this was down to D’Antoni’s bad coaching, Melo not giving a fuck or Woodson promising Pizza after every win.

In their 42 games under D’Antoni the Knicks gave up an average of 96.47 points per game. To put that into perspective that would be good enough for the 18th best defense in the NBA today with the league average being 95.77 points. Under coach Woodson New York opponents averaged of 95.25 points per game in 24 regular season games, not a whopping differential.

The kicker in D’Antoni’s favor is that right around when he reportedly lost the Knicks lockeroom and the team completely quit, team defense tanked. D’Antoni’s final eight games saw the Knicks record seven losses with the team surrendering 107.75 points per game, shades of that sexy Suns defense we all remember from 2004/2005 when D’Antoni teams gave up over 100+ points per game for entire seasons.

If you eliminate those eight games where Carmelo led a Knicks mutiny and did everything possible to get D’Antoni fired the Knicks were allowing opponents to score just 93.82 points per game on the year, good enough for a top ten ranked defense in every year of the past decade.

And people say D’Antoni teams don’t play defense. I’m looking at you, me. Take a good hard look at yourself.

We all know that there’s more to defense than just points per game and if you look at the Knicks output pre-all All Star break the D’Antoni Knicks were above average defensively in numerous categories. The snapshot below represents a team’s defensive performance from a defensive efficiency standpoint and as you can see the Knicks were a borderline top ten squad. If you eliminate every play that involved Amare Stoudamire the Knicks defense is probably closer to a top five ranking, if not the league’s best.

 

The Knicks might have stunk it up at times under D’Antoni but the problems weren’t on the defensive side of the ball, at least not when everybody was invested and on the same page.

Its fair game to have doubts over the success of a Nash lead run and gun style that emulates the offensive philosophies of the 2005 Phoenix Suns, especially when the Laker core has an average age of 32 years old. These Lakers are old and their lack of athletic prowess is already firmly on show. Any concerns regarding the defensive end of the floor or D’Antoni’s dedication to defensive aspects of the game should be put to rest though.

The Mike Brown Lakers appeared to be laboring and washed up which is a strange thing to say just five games into a season. Can D’Antoni apply the required facelift and bring a refreshing “fountain of youth” feel to this veteran squad?

Who knows. Hopefully he gets more than five games to showcase the new system.

One thing’s for certain, we’ll all be watching and forming opinions, some of us incorrectly.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Southwest Division

Southwest Division

San Antonio Spurs

Who’s in: Nando de Colo

Draft: Marcus Denmon

Who’s Out: Nobody

Summary: Another season in San Antonio another year of Tony Parker, Many Ginobili and Tim Duncan making the playoffs. This routine has become all too familiar for NBA fans. The Spurs have only missed the Playoffs five times in their 45 year history and just once since 1989.

After being up 2-0 against Oklahoma in last season’s Western Conference Finals the Spurs fell apart and lost four straight, appearing to pass the torch to the up and coming Thunder, who decided to pass it back when trading James Harden.

Unlike myself the Spurs brass didn’t panic by making moves this offseason and chose to bank on their veterans finding a way to improve organically in order to make another run at a title before the Duncan era is officially over.

Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson and Patty Mills all joined the Spurs late last season so it isn’t that far-fetched to suggest that a full training camp under coach Greg Popovich could be the catalyst for the Spurs making that extra step. Then again with the moves the Clippers and the Lakers have made It’s hard to see San Antonio advancing beyond the second round of the Playoffs.

Offseason Grade: C

Projected Win Total: 51-55

Memphis Grizzlies

Who’s in: Jerryd Bayless, Wayne Ellington

Draft: Tony Wroten Jr

Who’s Out: O.J Mayo, Dante Cunningham, Jeremy Pargo

Summary: From over achieving and knocking out the Western conferences top seeded Spurs two years ago, to underachieving and being eliminated by the Clippers a year later despite home court advantage. The Grizzlies haven’t made any significant moves this offseason so expect them to make some playoff noise yet again. Former lottery pick Jerryd Bayless has failed to live up to the hype since coming out of college and will fill the void left by former lottery pick OJ Mayo, who has failed to live up to the hype surrounding him coming out of college. There’s a nice pattern here. Re-signing Marreese Speights and Darrell Arthur will sure up the depth behind an already loaded front court.

Although erratic I like the pick of Tony Wroten but he’ll take time. Wayne Ellington comes in from Minnesota and brings with him a reputation as a dead eye jump shooter from outside. After sitting through three years of Ellington as a Timberwolves fan I can confirm that his reputation might be a little off. Ellington’s 32% three-point and 40% overall shooting backs that up. The important thing is that Ellington looks great doing so.

Offseason Grade: B-

Projected Win Total: 45-49

Dallas Mavericks

Who’s in: O.J Mayo, Chris Kaman, Darren Collison, Elton Brand, Dahntay Jones.

Draft: Jared Cunningham, Bernard James, Jae Crowder.

Who’s Out: Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Lamar Odom, Brendan Haywood, Kelenna Azubuike, Ian Mahinmi.

Summary: The Mavs went from “holy crap, we’re screwed!” to “Hey, we can win 50 games!” back to “holy crap, we’re screwed” in the space of about 9 days. When Kidd, Terry and Haywood all fled what at the time looked like a sinking ship coming off a 4-0 broom mission courtesy of the Thunder, the Mavericks surely contemplated a rebuild. With free agency winding up Dallas managed to salvage their upcoming season with a series of savvy signings and trades to field an arguably more talented roster than they had last season.

The new look Dallas squad brought in four new starters to pair with Dirk Nowitzki and unless they fail to overcome the chemistry hurdle appeared to be a virtual lock to reach the Playoffs for a thirteenth straight season. Then Dirk’s knee went on a bender and is now permanently bloated.

Like years past the Mavs are short on star power but big on above average role players which will once again see Dirk Nowitzki carrying the majority of the load offensively. Dirk is coming off his least productive season since his second year in the league which is well over a decade ago. At 34 years of age and 14 years of NBA mileage on the clock was this the first sign of the German declining, or simply a product of a lockout plagued short season? Either way both the Mavs and Dirk will enter next seasons campaign with a buffet of question marks and injury concerns.

Most people have thrown the Mavs under the bus this offseason based on the names they failed to acquire. There’s no Deron Williams, there’s no Dwight Howard and there’s no second banana to pair with Nowitzki. Still, this is a roster mixed with unheralded youth and veteran talent

Offseason Grade: B-

Projected Win Total: 41-45

Houston Rockets

Who’s in: James Harden, Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik, Jon Brockman, Toney Douglas, Gary Forbes, JaJuan Johnson, Carlos Delfino, Scott Machado

Draft: Royce White, Terrence Jones

Who’s Out: Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic, Marcus Camby, Chase Budinger, Samuel Dalembert, Luis Scola, Courtney Lee

Summary: “If anybody can figure out what the hell happened in Houston over the last 3 months feel free to email me immediately. Yes, I understand that GM Daryl Morey was trying to position himself to make a run at Dwight Howard or basically anybody with “star” status but such a scenario generally requires you to have equal value to send back.

An expiring Kevin Martin and a couple of “they might be good?” middle of the pack first round draft picks doesn’t qualify as an elite package.”

This is why I wrote a week ago and boy was I off the mark. Turns out Morey knew exactly what he was doing and that crappy package can land you a star.

That star was James Harden.

Houston appeared to have spent their offseason culling their eight best players for the rights to pay someone who averages 3.1 points per game $25 million dollars and sign a marketing phenom before the last second Harden trade broke. If you’ve been here before you’ll be largely aware of my gushing antics when it comes to James Harden. If you haven’t, you can cut off a piece right here. Long story short; I love this trade and I love James Harden.

When you look at this roster It’s as if Daryl Morey was trying to pull a reverse Don Nelson by acquiring 457 power forwards. From a business perspective I like the Lin signing as evidenced here and if pissing off the Chicago Bulls is your thing than I guess the Asik signing warrants the hefty price tag.

Pteromerhanophobia is a really long word and up until fourteen hours ago I didn’t know what it meant. Rockets rookie Royce White has it though and it means he can’t travel on planes. Instead, White will travel via bus where possible.  Terrence Jones and White were all quality additions on draft day but they don’t appear to be more than solid starters at best. This Houston team will struggle to mesh all the new pieces together at the best of times. Regardless, I give them points for ticking that first rebuilding box; Acquiring a star.

Offseason Grade: C+

Projected Win Total: 30-34

New Orleans Hornets

Who’s in: Ryan Anderson, Robin Lopez, Hakim Warrick, Roger Mason Jr.

Draft: Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers, Darius Miller.

Who’s Out: Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Gustavo Ayon, Chris Kaman, Jarrett Jack, Marco Bellinelli, Jermone Dyson, Carl Landry, Darryl Watkins, Jerome Dyson.

Summary: New Orleans won the NBA draft lottery and thus secured Kentucky franchise big man Anthony Davis, and with it an A+ offseason grade regardless of whatever else they did.

In what is rare ground in NBA circles General Manager Dell Demps went against the grain and made numerous logical moves in the form of signing Orlando sharp shooting big Ryan Anderson and bringing back shooting guard Eric Gordon.

Anderon lead the league in three-point attempts last season and attempted 87 more three-pointers than he did two-point field goals. The good news? Anderson is deadly from deep and hits the long ball at a 40% clip.

As for Gordon, he’s one of the few productive two-guards in a league where the position is almost extinct. Over the last two seasons when playing more than 30+ minutes (36 games) Gordon averaged over 22 points per game on 46% shooting. When you factor in that Gordon is only 23 years of age it all translates into justification for a max contract in the NBA.

This upcoming season is by all means a rebuilding year for the Hornets and a chance to assess exactly what they have. New Orleans will enter next season with enough cap room to offer a max contract to a free agent this ball club couldn’t be in a more positive position.

From league ownership and what looked like NBA purgatory, to acquiring a Franchise player and one of the most exciting situations in the league. New Orleans were able to achieve the unthinkable in the span of two weeks. I love the NBA!

Offseason Grade: A

Projected Win Total: 29-33

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottybarby

NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Northwest Division

Northwest Division

Oklahoma City Thunder

Who’s in: Hasheem Thabeet, Daniel Orton, Kevin Martin.

Draft: Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb.

Who’s Out: Nazr Mohammed, Royal Ivey, Lazar Hayward, Cole Aldrich, Daquan Cook

Summary: Considering the Thunder made the Finals last year whilst having the fifth youngest squad in the league, allowing the chemistry to grow organically for another year makes perfect sense. Well at least we all thought until “savvy” GM Sam Presti ripped off the “pay me” sticky note  slapped on James Harden’s forehead, wiped his ass with it, and immediately flipped him to Houston.

Getting back equal value for Harden was never going to happen. Not for a guy who played 60% of game time yet returned a net value of +367 points, shot 52% on jump shots (68% on shots assisted), can run a second unit, is a play-maker, was clutch (+9.7 on his direct opponent in “clutch” situations) and impacts your team positively when on the floor in every single statistical category outside of blocked shots, opposition free throw attempts, fouls and defensive rebounding (barely).

Players like James Harden are not a dime a dozen and you do not let money dictate whether or not he is or is not on your team. Especially this team. A team who was seconds away from taking a 2-0 lead in the NBA Finals.

From a future perspective the deal is fine, the value is there. From a short-term perspective and purely basketball perspective I cannot understand anybody justifying this trade. Kevin Martin can do one thing; Shoot. Need proof? Fine. There’s eight categories that Kevin Martin ranked inside the NBA’s top fifty players for last season;

– 3 point attempts (7th)

– Free-throw percentage (11th)

– 3 pointers made (15th)

– Free throws made (27th)

– Points (33rd)

– Field Goal attempts (40th)

– Free-throw attempts (40th)

– Field Goals made (50th)

Kevin Martin ranks inside the NBA’s top 160 in just two other areas;

– Assists (78th)

– Efficiency (96th)

Kevin Martin ranks outside the league’s top 200 players in several areas, but namely;

– Rebounds (224th)

– Field Goal Percentage (230th)

Basically what we have here is the anti-beard. Kevin Martin is a shooting guard with nice size who can find the open shot but is a streaky shooter. Martin can hit the open three, get to the line, but does absolutely nothing else.

In other words he helps the Thunder in an area where they already possess two of the league’s top five scorers (Westbrook and Durant) and have the third highest scoring offense in the NBA.

This is why James Harden was worth every cent of a max contract. He does what no other shooting guard can. Harden impacts a game in a number of ways whilst contributing at a higher level of efficiency than anybody else at his position. This is a bad deal and the Thunder went backwards.

You might only see glimpses of it during the regular season. But come playoff time unless point guard Eric Maynor can make the leap (A bigger leap than you’re thinking) you will notice the hell out of James Harden’s absence in the Playoffs. All this and we haven’t even mentioned defense yet. For the record that’s also an area in which Martin stinks. Last season the Houston Rockets were worse in every statistical category with Martin on the floor outside of fouls drawn and free throws made. Houston were -15 net points when Martin played and possessed a 17-19 record.

Stop defending this fucking trade.

As for the rest of the OKC off-season… Coming out of Baylor first round draft selection Perry Jones was largely considered a top ten pick before a rumored knee injury resulted in teams jumping over each other to draft the likes of Fab Melo ahead of him. As the twenty-eighth pick in the draft Jones instantly became a steal especially in a situation like Oklahoma where he will be given time to adjust and grow.

As a former number two overall pick Hasheem Thabeet may be soiled in “bust” stink but at 7’3” and 7’3” (that’s all I’ve got) the former Huskee can still contribute six fouls a night (that’s all I’ve got). I’ll let former teammate Kurt Thomas sum up what I’m trying to say about Thabeet “I can’t make no wine out of water”.

There won’t be much coming from Thabeet next season but Harden or not there will be a helluva lot of wins piling up for the Thunder. Pre-Harden trade another trip back to the Finals was the minimum expectation. Now? I assume the goal remains the same but the task become infinitely harder.

Offseason Grade: D-

Predicted Win Total: 53-57

Denver Nuggets

Who’s in: Anthony Randolph, Andre Igoudala.

Draft: Evan Fournier, Quincy Miller.

Who’s Out: Chris Anderson, Rudy Fernandez, Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington.

Summary: Congratulations, you now live in a World where Javale McGee earns more than $10 million annually. The overwhelming positive is that Javale McGee and Anthony Randolph are now playing on the same professional basketball team; Thank you basketball Gods for smiling down upon Denver’s rocky mountain landscape.

The Nuggets may have severely shortened the odds of head coach George Karl experiencing a sideline coronary but they also addressed last year’s twenty-eighth ranked defense. With the addition of Andre Igoudala the Nuggets now have arguably the NBA’s most talented wing defender. Not only does Igoudala fill the gaping void on the defensive end he’s the perfect complement to Denver’s run-and-gun offense. The Lawson/Igoudala backcourt will be a consistent feature on Sportscentre’s top ten and should allow the Nuggets to repeat on last season’s efforts and lead the league in scoring yet again.

The huge kicker for Denver is that they were able to improve and save roughly $10 million whilst only having to offload swing-man Arron Afflalo and Donatello from the Ninja Turtles. The Igoudala deal also resulted in me Googling obscure things along the lines of “Is Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan the worst GM in the history of everything regardless of a one trade sample size?”

Offseason Grade: A-

Predicted Win Total: 48-52

Utah Jazz

Who’s in: Mo Williams, Marvin Williams, Randy Foye.

Draft: Kevin Murphy.

Who’s Out: Devin Harris, Blake Ahearn, C.J Miles.

Summary: Looking back was making the playoffs, getting swept by the Spurs and forfeiting a pair of lottery picks in the process essentially the right move? Instead of opting for additional youth the Jazz went the way of the veteran by adding depth pieces in Mo Williams, Randy Foye and Marvin Williams. With core members Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and the aforementioned Mo Williams all expiring after this season the Jazz can go a number of directions depending on how their seasons starts. If they’re in the playoff hunt they can chug along as a sixth-to-eighth seed. If it turns sour there’s plenty of flexibility to take it in another direction and make some moves at the deadline.

Improved play for Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will likely salvage the Jazz from being one of the most Vanilla squads to watch in the league.

Given their young bodies you’d expect the Jazz to be potent on the fast break but a lack of a pure point guard significantly decreases their ability in transition. Utah ranked twenty-forth in the league for fast break points and Mo Williams isn’t going to help them improve in that area any time soon.

Offseason Grade: C

Predicted Win Total: 40-44

Minnesota Timberwolves

Who’s in: Brandon Roy, Chase Budinger, Alexey Shved, Greg Stiemsma, Andrei Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson, Jerome Dyson.

Draft: –

Who’s Out: Darko Milicic, Martell Webster, Michael Beasley, Brad Miller, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Randolph.

Summary: The goal for the Wolves this offseason was to clean house and re-tool for a shot at the playoffs. Minnesota posted a 4-17 record once Ricky Rubio went down which resulted in Wolves fans such as myself being locked into the fetal position for the past seven months. After missing out on Portland’s Nicolas Batum the Wolves were faced with a Kevin Love public whine buffet and an evaporating list of potential free agents before Brandon Roy turned all Forrest Gump and showed up with his “custom made titanium alloy magic legs”. If Roy can reach even 1% of his Blazer output he’ll be an upgrade over Wes Johnson.

Following the Roy signing was the acquisition of Russian pair Alexey Shved and former three-time all NBA defensive member and pig friendly jet ski enthusiast Andrei Kirilenko. In Shved the Wolves get a proven playmaker who can handle minutes at both guard spots and provide hair style versatility that hasn’t been seen in the league since the late Dwayne Schintzius. Reigning Euroleague MVP Kirilenko will bring plenty of versatility and can only add improvement to the Wolves twenty-fifth ranked defense.

Minnesota further underlined their commitment to a “win now” ethos by trading their first round pick for Houston’s athletic sharp-shooter and Adelman favorite Chase Budinger. With shot-blocking big Greg Stiemsma replacing the erratic Darko Milicic It’s increasingly obvious that the Wolves improved their roster across the board.

With a successful need addressing off-season Minnesota are in contention to overcome their eight year playoff drought. The key for the Wolves will be health. There will be yearlong question marks regarding Roy’s durability, and with significant injuries to stars Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love the Twolves depth will be tested from the get go.

Love’s absence will bring forward a chance for Derrick Williams to showcase his talents. The former number two pick has shown the ability to be productive when given an opportunity and In games where he played more than thirty minutes last season produced a healthy sixteen points and eight rebounds per game.

With Kirilenko, Dante Cunningham, Lou Amundson and centre Nikola Pekovic’s ability to kill a man with his bare hands, the Wolves could potentially hold off disaster and tread water until their stars return.

Offseason Grade: B+.

Predicted Win Total: 38-42.

Portland Trailblazers

Who’s in: Jared Jeffries, Dan Gadzuric, Joel Freeland, Victor Claver, Ronnie Price, Sasha Pavlovic, Giorgos Printezis.

Draft: Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard, Will Barton.

Who’s Out: Jamal Crawford, Raymond Felton, Hasheem Thabeet, Kurt Thomas.

Summary: After back-to-back-to-back first round playoff exits they Blazers finally saw their run of postseason appearances come to an end last season. The reason behind the Blazers recent rebuild has been in part due to injury and, well no, that’s it. The Blazers are coming off a year where they were hit with the injury apocalypse for the seventieth straight season. We all know about Greg Oden’s woes, Brandon Roy’s lack of cartilage and the big man injury curse that has haunted every Blazer big in franchise history, so It was only a matter of time before LeMarcus Aldridge joined the list. Given the injury plague in PDX I’m not entirely sure that dancing with the Devil and drafting a seven footer in Meyers Leonard is a logical move. Why kick the Bear? Leonard has looked impressive thus far so my only advice for the former Illinois big would be to insure each and every limb and find a hobby that doesn’t require the use of his legs.

The positive out of Portland’s 28 win season (apart from Billy King gifting them a top six pick in starting point guard in Damian Lillard) was the firing of head coach Nate McMillan. The Blazers haven’t averaged over 100 points per game since the 1994-95 season and under McMillan Portland never finished higher than 28th in the league for pace. What I’m trying to say is they were more often than not boring as shit.

The name “Terry Stotts” doesn’t exactly have Portland natives continually alternating their underwear due to excitement, but if the new Blazers head coach replaces McMillan’s vendetta against ball movement with a free flowing offense that could quickly change.

Being forced to overpay for Nicolas Batum this offseason wasn’t ideal but a move that had to be made. Lottery pick additions in Leonard and Lillard will take time to develop, and with little roster depth the Blazers will likely find themselves lottery bound yet again.

Offseason Grade: C

Predicted Win Total: 31-35

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Pacific Division

Pacific Division

LA Lakers

Who’s in: Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Dwight Howard, Jodie Meeks, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Overflowing Bandwagons.

Draft: Robert Sacre, Darius Johnson-Odom.

Who’s Out: Ramon Sessions, Matt Barnes, Andrew Bynum, Christian Eyenga, Josh McRoberts.

Summary: When Steve Nash agreed to join the Lakers I threw up in my mouth. The last of the loyal “good guys” sold out for the purple and gold (It is really hard to avoid swearing for this entire paragraph). Nash becoming a Laker was bad enough but for the Dwight Howard saga to end with “Supervag” landing in LA? Let’s just say I’ve been kicking a lot of puppies over the last couple of months.

There was no scenario on my radar where I thought it could be possible to dislike Steve Nash in my lifetime. Well here we are, although Nash opting for that stupid haircut has made it a lot easier.

Laker fans will be wondering why I’m being such a killjoy. The simple fact is this Laker squad scares the crap out of me. These fuckers are like the bad guy in a bad 80’s slasher franchise. Oklahoma cut them up with a chainsaw and buried the body six feet under this past offseason. Now they’re back on the Championship doorstep not even a month later?

The Hollywood Lakers are exactly that. They’re the M. Night Shymalalanalan of translating an obviously shithouse script into a billion dollars at the box office. Everybody knows the Lakers will fleece you at the trade table yet General Manager’s continue to do whatever they can to make a move with the Lakers. Just like everybody reads the 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes but still hands over $20 to be subjected to a plot-less M. Night straight jacket head fuck.

First there was Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol, then Nash for nothing and now Dwight Howard for a lazy immature injury prone big man in Bynum? This wouldn’t happen anywhere else but in Hollywood.

The sneaky addition of veteran scorer Antawn Jameson will provide the Lakers with an upgrade when it comes to scoring off the bench. Jameson averaged fifteen points and six rebounds for the Cavs last year and combined with long-range gunner Jodie Meeks should provide the Lakers with adequate production off the bench.

Did the Lakers improve their squad in free agency? Duh. Did they do enough to leapfrog Oklahoma and regain top spot in the Western Conference? Debatable.

Kobe Bryant could be gunning for his sixth ring to equal MJ in June just as M. Night Shyamalan’s next blockbuster release “After Earth” will premier in theaters. It’s as if a perfect storm of alcoholism is heading straight for me.

Someone hand me a bucket…

Offseason Grade: A+

Predicted Win Total: Too many for my liking

LA Clippers

Who’s in: Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Grant Hill, Ryan Hollins, Ronny Turiaf, Matt Barnes, Willie Green.

Who’s Out: Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Nick Young, Ryan Gomes, Reggie Evans.

Summary: The Clippers spent the offseason getting a whole lot older but also a whole lot deeper. We all saw the impact that a veteran presence like Chauncey Billups had on the Clippers in the early parts of last season. Adding Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill to the mix will only aid the Clippers with making a deeper playoff run; assuming Lamar Odom is fined every time he goes within 100 feet of a buffet.

Despite last season’s antics the nostalgia associated with Odom returning to the Clippers #7 jersey is a nice touch. Jamal Crawford will add instant scoring punch off the bench whilst confusing the hell out of a silent Vinny Del Negro with his shot selection. Between Grant Hill, Matt Barnes and Caron Butler the Clippers should have 48 minutes of serviceable production at the small forward spot.

The Clippers are still a tier below their LA neighbors and the Oklahoma Thunder. A second round Playoff exit and three-hundred-and-fifty-two Blake Griffin highlight plays would be a par achievement for the Clips.

Offseason Grade: B+

Predicted Win Total: 48-52

Golden State Warriors

Who’s in: Jarrett Jack, Carl Landry, Carlon Brown, Lance Goulbourne, Rick Jackson, Terence Kinsey.

Draft: Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green.

Who’s Out: Dorrell Wright, Nate Robinson.

Summary: One word; Health. If Andrew Bogut and Steph Curry can remain healthy the Warriors are a legitimate playoff contender. That’s a big “if” though considering combined Bogut and Curry played 28 of a possible 132 games last season. With this in mind the Warriors chased depth and the addition of former New Orleans pair Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry is solid insurance if the inside/outside combination misses significant time.

Operation Tankapalooza worked a treat last year from a draft perspective and the Warriors were able to land their guy in UNC small forward Harrison Barnes. With Klay Thompson looking every bit of a top ten shooting guard (18.1 points per game in 29 starts) since Monta Ellis left town, the Warriors have a nice offensive balance.

Golden State will also be donating over $40 million dollars to the Richard Jefferson/Andris Biedrins Charity fund over the next two years. Ladies and Gentleman, a round of applause if you don’t mind!

Offseason Grade: A

Predicted Win Total: 38-42

Phoenix Suns

Who’s in: Goran Dragic, Luis Scola, Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, Jermaine O’Neal, PJ Tucker.

Draft: Kendall Marshall.

Who’s Out: Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Josh Childress, Ronnie Price, Hakim Warrick, Robin Lopez, Aaron Brooks.

Summary: Flipping arguably the greatest player in franchise history for a couple of crappy first round picks, the cap space to sign an inefficient weed head in Michael Beasley and the right to turn your biggest rival into a Championship contender was a total no-brainer in Phoenix this summer. Apparently.

The Suns finally decided to end the Nash era for twenty cents on the dollar and with it arrives new faces and a new direction.

Signing do-it-all point guard Goran Dragic was a must once the decision on Nash was made but investing $18 million in Michael Beasley is a high risk, high Beasley, low reward scenario if the recent production from the self-titled “Supercool Beas” is anything to go by. In games where Beasley had six or more shot attempts for the Wolves last season Minnesota posted a 15-24 record. When Beasley was really feeling the chucking vibe and attempted eleven or more shots, Minnesota were 6-19.

The main problem with Beasley is that he fails to contribute to his team outside of throwing the ball at the rim. This is the 183rd most efficient player in the game we’re talking about here. A guy who had a total of three fewer turnovers than he did assists, steals and blocks combined. “Potential” is the word often associated with Beasley but after watching Beasley for two straight seasons in Minneapolis I’m convinced the guy just doesn’t get it and never will.

An identical paragraph can be penned for another former Timberwolves bust in Wes Johnson who since entering the league has made a strong case for the title of crappiest player in the NBA. If you’re into blown layups, turnovers and a ghost-like presence, Wes Johnson is your guy.

In 64 starts last season Wes Johnson averaged 6.4 points per game and a whole lot of nothing else. Johnson ranks inside the league’s top 100 in one category, blocks. This is the standout production you want from a 6’7” shooting guard.

The biggest knock on Johnson is his lack of confidence. In 1468 minutes last season Johnson attempted just 34 free throws from 397 field goal attempts. I’m serious, that actually happened. Poor Wes just hates contact and will avoid it at all costs, even despite being a career 70% free throw shooter. At 25 years of age there’s little room for Wes to grow. He is what he is, terrible.

The one positive is that Phoenix will continue the decade long trend of being league pass darlings. Between Dragic, rookie Kendall Marshall, Luis Scola, Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley, the Polish Hammer in Gortat and whatever the hell backwards antics Beasley can bring to the table, the Suns have a highly entertaining squad who will put up points and play zero defense. Yay!

Offseason Grade: D

2012/2013 Wins: 33-37

Sacramento Kings

Who’s in: Aaron Brooks, James Johnson

Draft: Thomas Robinson

Who’s Out: Hasssan Whiteside

Summary: With rumors circling regarding their location the Kings on-court issues have taken a backwards seat this offseason. The way Sacramento basketball played out last season you could only assume that players were fined for playing defense and paid based on some whacky field goal attempt KPI. The Kings roster is an oddball group to say the least and ranked dead last in scoring defense last season and first in field goal attempts. The Kings are a pick up squad in the pros.

One of the primary reasons for the Kings low efficiency on the offensive end is the erratic play of shooting guard Tyreke Evans. Evans has never come across a defensive triple team that he didn’t want to dribble into and shoot a contested fallaway jumper against. If I were coaching a junior team I’d advise the kids to study film of Tyreke Evans and then do the complete opposite of everything he does.

DeMarcus Cousins showed some semblance of maturity once head coach Paul Westphal was ran out of town in favor of Keith Smart and should be in the discussion for an All Star birth. With Jimmer Fredette, Aaron Brooks, Tyreke Evans and Marcus Thornton all on the one roster is there anybody in the house who can overcome their shooting addiction and actually run an offense? I like Isaiah Thomas’s production as a rookie but I can’t imagine how big of a monster the Cousins and Thomas Robinson combination would be if this team had a great facilitator at point guard.

Offseason Grade: C+

Predicted Win Total: 30-34

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottybarby

NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Southeast Division

By Scott Barby

Southeast Division

Miami Heat

Who’s in: Ray Allen, Rashard Lewis, Mickell Gladness, Jarvis Vernado.

Draft: Justin Hamilton.

Who’s Out: Ronny Turiaf.

Summary: After winning his first Championship ring the last thing the neutral NBA fan needed was for LeBron to get even more help but that’s exactly what happened. Jesus Shuttlesworth will bring his Picasso like outside shooting artistry to South Beach adding to an already lethal outside arsenal *Insert Game 5 flashback*.

Rashard Lewis will bring, well, probably nothing to the table. In 23 of the most lethargic outings ever witnessed in pro sports, Lewis reverse Mailman’d the Wizards and mailed in the worst shooting season of his career (23% from three). If Lewis is even 3% invested this season I guess it’s an upgrade over Mike Miller and his pending wheelchair.

The attention now turns to seeing how LeBron approaches defending his title and how annoying a pro-LeBron Skip Bayless can be. With Dwyane Wade reportedly back to 100% there’s no reason why the Heat can’t repeat last year’s efforts. How successful they are at achieving that goal will likely come down to their health.

Offseason Grade: B

Predicted Win Total: 58-62

Atlanta Hawks

Who’s in: Kyle Korver, Lou Williams, Anthony Morrow, Devin Harris, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, DeShawn Stevenson.

Draft: John Jenkins, Mike Scott

Who’s out: Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams, Kirk Hinrich, Jason Collins, Vladamir Radmanovic, Jerry Stackhouse, Jannero Pargo, Willie Green, Jordan Farmar.

Summary: Goodbye cap crippling contracts and first round exits, hello flexibility and a sexy new hope! New Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry was able to move Joe Johnson’s contract after just one week on the job, what’s up Mayans! Rather than pay Johnson $89,259,016 (I didn’t just keyboard mash that number) over the next four years Ferry pulled off a video game trade which awakened Atlanta from a seemingly never ending first round playoff exit coma.

Moving Joe Johnson’s contract was the Everest of NBA trades and if the New Jersey Nets don’t change faces and relocate to Brooklyn the Hawks remain in Joe Johnson purgatory. Often timing is everything in this league and Kudos to Danny Ferry for taking advantage of the situation.

A core of Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, Devin Harris, Kyle Korver and Anthony Morrow will see the Hawks lose a little ground on years past but they will still remain competitive, only now they have a bucket load of flexibility coming along for the ride.

With the treadmill stink washed off this is the first time in half a decade that neutrals can been mildly aroused by the Hawks. I don’t care how awkward that last sentence reads it accurately captures how excited I am about the Joe Johnson divorce.

Offseason Grade: A+

Predicted Win Total: 41-45

Washington Wizards

Who’s in: Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, A.J Price, Martell Webster, Jannero Pargo.

Draft: Bradley Beal, Tomas Satoranksy.

Who’s Out: Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis.

Summary: The Wizards flipped the script over the past six months and revamped their roster from one consumed by young and erratic play to a more balance and veteran influenced squad. The additions of Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza combined with the trade for Nene at last season’s deadline see’s Washington with a foundation that could push for a playoff berth.

With a team that suits his style of play this should be the year that John Wall works it all out. Wall’s entire offensive game is built on getting to the rim and he was top ten in the league for free throws made and free throw attempts last season. With the addition of outside threats Bradley Beal and Martell Webster, Wall should find less resistance when driving to the basket and finding a way to improve on last season’s league leadings 255 turnovers.

One scenario you can bank on this season is Jordan Crawford missing more shots than he makes. Crawford had the Wizards highest usage rating last season and ranked thirteenth in overall offensive rating, eleventh in effective field goal percentage and twelfth in true shooting percentage. That’s right, when on the floor nobody else held the ball more often than Jordan Crawford. If Jordan Crawford wants to take the thirty-fifth most shots in the NBA he will, even if Jordan Crawford ranks two-hundred-and-sixty-second in the league for field goal percentage. Why? Because he’s Jordan Crawford. You idiot.

Squeezing all the potential out of this lineup could be a challenge given the man responsible for success is head coach Randy Whittman and his career 118-238 win/loss record.

Offseason Grade: B-

Predicted Win Total: 32-36

Orlando Magic

Who’s in: Gustavo Ayon, Arron Afflalo, Christian Eyenga, Maurice Harkless, Al Harrington, Josh McRoberts, Nikola Vucevic.

Draft: Andrew Nicholson, Kyle O’Quinn.

Who’s Out: Ryan Anderson, Earl Clark, Chris Duhon, Dwight Howard, Jason Richardson, Von Wafer.

Summary: Call me lazy all you want but I am sick to death of writing about this team. I’ll let YouTube take this one.

Offseason Grade: F

Predicted Win Total: 20-24

Charlotte Bobcats

Who’s in: Ben Gordon, Ramon Sessions, Brendan Haywood.

Draft: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeff Taylor.

Who’s Out: D.J Augustin, Corey Maggette, Jamario Moon, Eduardo Najera.

Summary: I don’t want to alarm anyone but Michael Jordan’s Bobcats are actually starting to resemble a professional basketball team. After a record breaking seven win season the only way is up for the Bobcats, or at least I’d assume.

Charlotte ranked dead last in the league for field goal percentage, field goals made, 3-point percentage and overall offense last season. This team stunk up the joint on the offensive side of the floor. All this points to the newly acquired Ben Gordon resorting back to his Chicago chucking heyday by landing in field goal attempt Heaven, who else is going to score on this team? For a guy who thrives on throwing the ball at the rim with no regard for field goal percentage legacy the parallels between a young Gordon and current Kemba Walker are a little creepy. I for one can’t wait to witness the inefficient brick fight to the death between Kemba Walker and this list being reignited.

Drafting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor was a landmark act of logic for the Bobcats and basically ruined the draft telecast in the process by allowing Jordan to walk away criticism free. Charlotte’s vision for the future looks to be taking shape; Fill the roster with good character guys who play hard or plug a need. What’s surprising is that it took the Bobcats brass half a decade to figure this out.

The Bobcats might be a mile off competing for a Playoff spot but this offseason has definitely been a positive one.

Offseason Grade: B

Predicted Win Total: 19-23

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

 

NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Central Division

By Scott Barby

Central Division

Indiana Pacers

Who’s in: D.J Augustin, Gerald Green, Ian Mahinmi, Sam Young, Sundiata Gaines, Blake Ahearn.

Draft: Miles Plumlee, Orlando Johnson.

Who’s Out: Darren Collison, Dahntay Jones, Lou Amundson, Kyrylo Fesenko, A.J Price.

Summary: The sole goal for the Pacers this off-season was bringing back Roy Hibbert. Although it cost them max money Hibbert has time on his side and could eventually develop into the calibre of player that such a large contract is reserved for.

At 7’3” Hibbert is a rare breed of NBA talent in that he is really tall so you have to pay him more than his output suggests. For any new fans to the sport this is actually a law in the league. Throughout the Playoffs this year Hibbert averaged a double double but was no match for the hidden superpowers residing in Joel Anthony’s forehead. Negativity aside during the regular season Hibbert ranked inside the league’s top twelve centers in points, rebounds, assists, free throws made and blocked shots. When pooling the online NBA talent together Hibbert really begins to showcase his worth and possesses a top five twitter account for level of intrigue.

The Darren Collison and Dahntay Jones for Ian Mahinmi trade with Dallas still has me scratching my head three months after the fact. Both Collison and Jones expire after this season whilst Mahinmi will make $16 million over the next four years. Considering Indiana just invested a first round draft pick in a similar energy guy (Plumlee) combined with the fact that Mahinmi barely scratches the league’s top 50 centers for rebounds (38th) and blocks (46th), it appears as though Indiana have a vendetta against logic. Then again It’s not often you come across guys in the NBA named “Ian”. So I can see where they’re coming from in that regard.

The additions of D.J Augustin and Gerald Green are impressive from a depth and draft bust reminder perspective. Further development from Paul George and a full camp with last years acquisitions George Hill and David West should see Indiana as a serious division title contender. If the Pacers are successful it will be the first time since they’ve won the Central division since Chris Mullin was on the squad. That’s actually not true, they’ve won it since then. I just really wanted to mention Chris Mullin.

Offseason Grade: C+.

Predicted Win Total: 48-52

Chicago Bulls

Who’s In: Marco Bellinelli, Kyrylo Fesenko, Kirk Hinrich, Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nate Robinson.

Draft: Marquis Teague.

Who’s Out: Omer Asik, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, C.J Watson, John Lucas III.

Summary: With former MVP Derrick Rose ruled out until March the Bulls Championship prospects have followed Carlos Boozer’s drawn on hair out of Chicago. After losing 80% of the sixth most productive bench in the NBA due to owner Jerry Reinsdorf’s reluctance to cross the luxury tax threshold (a fancy way of saying “cheap”), it’s all but guaranteed that Chicago won’t sniff the 75% win percentage of a year ago.

The Bulls still have a defensive genius calling the shots from the sidelines in coach Tom Thibodeau but there’s no doubting the drop off in talent. With Nazr Mohammed, Vladimir Radmanovic and Kirk Hinrich all expected to play a significant role this season the Bulls should find themselves among the league leaders for League Pass blacklisting.

Writing off the Bulls appears to be the current flavor of the month but a drop from first in the conference to outside the playoffs in one season seems too steep for even a gigantic pessimist such as myself. This squad still has quality pieces in Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. A forty-five win season and a bottom end seed in the Playoffs should be the objective during the regular season. If this comes to fruition and Rose returns at close to 100% the Bulls would instantly become the clubhouse leader for “Teams nobody wants to face in the Playoffs”.

There’s no doubting that Miami, Indiana, New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston and about seventeen other teams all have better squads than the Bulls on paper at present. If things do go south early Chicago could opt to activate the tank switch and turn their attention to twelve months from now.

Offseason Grade: D.

Predicted Win Total: 41-45.

Milwaukee Bucks

Who’s in: Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla, Marquis Daniels,

Draft: John Henson, Doron Lamb.

Who’s Out: Shaun Livingston, Kwame Brown, Jon Leuer, Jon Brockman, Carlos Delfino.

Summary: The Bucks are coming off a year where Monta Ellis had the worst shooting season since his rookie year and Brandon Jennings attempted more three-pointers than he made two-point field goals. If you can’t think of anything more enjoyable than inefficient basketball then you need to announce Milwaukee as “home sweet home”.

Draftee acquisitions John Henson and Doron Lamb are a pair of nice project pieces. Milwaukee ranked twenty-second in scoring defense, twentieth in defensive rebounds and fifteenth in blocks last year. Despite consistently being mistaken for a stray coat hanger Henson should see court time early as the former Tar Heel not only possesses a supreme ability to preserve the state of garments he also excels at blocking shots and grabbing rebounds.

Lamb on the other hand is blessed with great shot selection and hit over 47% on three-point attempts in his career at Kentucky. Lamb should fit right in as the ugly duckling on a Bucks squad who had the second most field goal attempts in the league last season. Considering Lamb’s back court buddies are Ellis and Jennings I hope Doron likes defense because there’s no way in hell he gets a shot off all season.

The re-signing of Ilyasova was expensive yet warranted given his production last season (13 points, 8 rebounds) and the Dalembert trade was a bargain pickup at Daryl Morey’s summer garage sale. Dalembert fills a need and only cost the Bucks two guy’s named “Jon” who you’ve probably played pick-up ball against down at your local Y, and point guard Shaun Livingston who has had his knee rebuilt more than the Bucks have had rebuilding years.

Offseason Grade: C

Predicted Win Total: 33-37

Detroit Pistons

Who’s in: Kyle Singler, Jonny Flynn, Corey Maggette, Vyacheslav Kravtsov, Terrance Williams.

Draft: Andre Drummond, Khris Middleton, Kim English.

Who’s Out: Ben Gordon.

Summary: Five years from now Andre Drummond could be starting in an All-Star game or be responsible for having 57 different coaches fired. We’ll be calling him “Asterisks” Drummond until further notice. “Asterisks” has the physical gifts to be a dominant centre in the league but at the same time possesses the passive nature that could see him follow in the footsteps of mega busts Kwame Brown, Stromile Swift, Michael Olowokandi, Tyrus Thomas and Rafael Araujo. That last name you might have to Google.

Last season the Pistons were an impressive 3-33 when allowing their opponents to score ninety-six points or more. Considering the league average was 95.87 points per game It’s no surprise that a loss happened more often than not. Detroit also ranked twenty-ninth in the league for defensive rebounds and twenty-sixth for blocked shots. It would be nice if Asterisks Drummond could fully develop before the end of this paragraph.

Nope…

By doing a reverse Joe Dumars and shredding a year of salary via the Ben Gordon for Cory Maggette trade, Joe Dumars has opened up cap space and given Joe Dumars another shot at overpaying a small forward without a true position to a long term deal in next years free agency period. Be that as it may (it will) with a core of Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey and Asterisks Drummond the Pistons future prospects look healthy. Just keep Joe away from the cheque book and It’ll be ok.

Offseason Grade: B.

Win Total: 30-34

Cleveland Cavaliers

Who’s in: Jon Leuer, CJ Miles, Kelenna Azubuike, Jeremy Pargo.

Draft: Dion Waiters, Tyler Zeller.

Who’s Out: Antawn Jamison, Anthony Parker, DJ Kennedy, Manny Harris, Semih Erden.

Summary: Apart from anyone with a pulse who would have predicted that Miami would end up winning a title before Cleveland?

You can colour me shocked as well, Dan Gilbert.

The positive for the Cavs post-LeBron fallout has been the emergence of Rookie of the year Kyrie Irving. Irving came into the league with a ton of question marks given his collegiate career barely broke into double figures. That was all put to rest within about 41 seconds of Irving taking the floor in his first NBA game. Kyrie not only dazzled with his skill set,  he went on to produce one of the most underrated and statistically pretty seasons in modern day basketball. I don’t care if Luke Walton winds up starting on this Cavs team, as long as Irving is healthy this franchise is in good hands.

Just like a year ago the Cavs made another head scratching choice with the fourth selection in this years draft when opting for Syracuse sixth man Dion Waiters. There’s no crime in utilising a top five selection on a guy who followed the same path as Marvin Williams and built his reputation playing against second units at the collegiate level. It’s just that Harrison Barnes looked to be the more appropriate pick. Yes, I’m still bitter.

The addition of Jon Leuer and rookie Tyler Zeller should further add to an already scrappy and offensively incompetent front court which every Cavs fan should be salivating over.

The Cavs made the right decision when choosing to preserve their current cap space as opposed to getting all New York Knicks on us and blowing it all just for something to do. Regardless, I can’t see any major developments (Kyrie excluded) coming out of Cleveland this year.

Offseason Grade: C.

Predicted Win Total: 29-33

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @Scottybarby

NBA Preview/Offseason Grades – Atlantic Division

By Scott Barby

Atlantic Division

Boston Celtics

Who’s In: Jason Terry, Courtney Lee, Jason Collins, Darko Milicic.

Draft: Jared Sullinger, Feb Melo, Kris Joseph.

Who’s Out: Ray Allen, Marquis Daniels, Jermaine O’Neal, Sasha Pavlovic, Keyon Dooling, Greg Stiemsma, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore, Ryan Hollins, Sean Williams.

Summary: First and foremost for the Celtics this off-season was bringing back Kevin Garnett. KG fan-boys and Boston fans alike couldn’t be more delighted that the veteran decided to stick around and scream at undersized European point guards for a further three years. With KG coming back as the defensive anchor GM Danny Ainge opted to re-tool for this season as opposed to blowing it all up and starting over.

The loss of Ray Allen and Greg Stiemsma hurts but after the improved play of Avery Bradley and the acquisition of Jason Terry, Courtney Lee and Jared Sullinger’s sizeable exterior the Celtics have comfortably filled any glaring holes.

One of the most underrated moves this off-season has been the Celtics ability to nab shooting guard Courtney Lee in exchange for a VHS copy of The Lawnmower Man. Lee’s game is built on top-tier defense at the wing spot but he can also produce on the offensive end. Lee averaged over eleven points per game off the bench for the Rockets last year and can hit the three at a healthy 40% clip. He’ll fit right in on this team.

Boston was just one win away from competing against Oklahoma for a Championship last season. With Paul Pierce healthy, Brandon Bass returning, and Jeff Green’s heart surgery successful and no longer pining for old Oklahoma, there’s no reason why Boston can’t be in similar surroundings again next June.

Off-season Grade: A.

Predicted Win Total: 48-52

Philadelphia 76ers

Who’s in: Nick Young, Royal Ivey, Dorrell Wright, Kwame Brown, Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Darryl Watkins.

Draft: Arnett Moultrie.

Who’s Out: Elton Brand, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks, Maurice Harkless, Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, Sam Young.

Summary: Andre Igoudala moving out and Andrew Bynum moving in could be my favorite move of any team this off-season, regardless of the former Lakers injury concerns. The 76ers needed to shake things up and through acquiring Bynum they’ve done exactly that.

Philadelphia was the eighth most effective fast break team last season but found their game style and specifically the lack of a go to scoring option to be their downfall at the tail end of the Playoffs.

Where Bynum excels is in the paint and last season Philadelphia ranked outside the NBA’s top twenty teams in effective field goal percentage, free throw attempts per field goal attempt, two-point field goal percentage, shooting efficiency, free throw makes per game and offensive rebound percentage. So basically a lot of big-guy related stuff. Acquiring Bynum made too much sense, which is why I’m surprised it actually happened.

Philadelphia had no problems on the defensive end last year ranking inside the league’s top ten for every defensive indicator minus opponent free throw percentage, which falling short of installing an Earthquake simulator inside the stadium you can’t exactly do too much about.

Bringing back power forward Spencer Hawes made sense given the former Huskies ability to mesh with Bynum’s purely inside game. If Hawes and Bynum can overcome the 0.14% likelihood of remaining healthy the 76ers will finally have some semblance of an offensive pulse under the rim.

In regards to replacing Igoudala’s production; as a starter Evan Turner averaged thirteen points, seven rebounds and three assists whilst shooting 45% from the floor, numbers which essentially made “Iggy” mildly expendable. This was the perfect time to pass the torch to the former number two overall pick and give this squad a full-blown face lift.

With Jrue Holiday, Hawes and Turner all improving, and solid bench production via the way of Nick Young shooting too much and Kwame Brown making people laugh; Philadelphia should continue to pose as a threat come Playoff time.

Off-season Grade: A.

Predicted Win Total: 45-49

New York Knicks

Who’s in: Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Kurt Thomas, Pablo Prigioni, James White, Ronnie Brewer, Chris Smith, Rasheed Wallace.

Who’s Out: Jeremy Lin, Landry Fields, Toney Douglas, Jared Jeffries, Dan Gadzuric, Josh Harrellson, Jerome Jordan.

Summary: Does anything ever change when it comes to the Knicks? Eight names have vacated the Knicks roster this off-season whilst six fresh faces have entered. Who knows, maybe New York have got it right this time? Or maybe they’re just adhering to the organisations long-standing slogan; “Fuck team chemistry”

Like Randy Marsh in the Guitar Hero episode of South Park the Knicks have been making erratic and dumbfounding personnel moves for nearly forty years in an attempt to “Catch the Dragon”, or in their case an NBA Championship.

Last season the Knicks found a winning lottery ticket in Jeremy Lin but not even six months would pass before they gave Lin away for the opportunity to sign a forty-year-old drunk wife beater (Kidd) and a point guard whose best skills are on show when in front of a buffet (Felton).

Refusing to match Jeremy Lin’s contract offer from Houston was one of the most perplexing moves not only of this off-season but in the history of pro sports, which you can read more about here. The most amusing aspect of the entire ordeal is that the Knicks couldn’t justify Lin’s contract but were happy to throw $15 million at a guy who looks like everyone’s Dad in Steve Novak and then sign a washed up out of shape Rasheed Wallace who is as old as everyone’s Dad.

I love the Knicks!

Signing Marcus Camby softens the blow a touch and the former Knick will slot right in behind reigning defensive player of the year Tyson Chandler. In typical Knicks fashion the Camby deal won’t expire until after the 2015 season resulting in the Knicks having a forty-two year old Jason Kidd and a forty-two year old Marcus Camby on their roster.

FORTY. TWO.

With Iman Shumpert out for an extended period landing depth in the form of Chicago Bulls defensive guard Ronnie Brewer can only increase the Knicks chances of finally making it out of the first round of the Playoffs.

Head Coach Mike Woodson will have it all to do this season. If Woodson can exercise Felton’s pop tart demons, JR Smith’s ability to be JR Smith, Melo’s four-hundred-and-fifty-two different variations of the jab step and Amare’s desire to punch fire extinguishers he’ll find himself in the coach of the year discussion. What’s more likely to happen is Woodson failing and being fired before Christmas.

The Knicks will win enough games for a top five seed in the East but they’re still a long way off capturing that Dragon.

Off-season Grade: D.

Predicted Win Total: 44-48.

Brooklyn Nets

Who’s In: Joe Johnson, Mirza Teletovic, C.J Watson, Reggie Evans, Keith Bogans, Jerry Stackhouse, Andray Blatche, Tyshawn Taylor, Josh Childress

Who’s Out: Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, Gerald Green, Johan Petro, Jordan Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Sundiata Gaines

Summary: If you’re a starter for the new look Nets franchise you’re more than likely bathing in a tub of money every night and have bumped knuckles with Jay-Z without it being incredibly white-guy awkward. This means that I am incredibly jealous of you.

In what has been nothing short of an eventful off-season all five of Brooklyn’s expected starters will be guaranteed more than double-digit millions for each of the next two years. In a surprise to nobody Brooklyn has wound up as the home of max contracts thanks to a 6’8” Russian Billionaire with a fetish for Jet Ski’s and a care free cheque book.

The Nets may have missed out on the big (sook) fish in Dwight Howard this off-season but they managed to convince franchise point guard Deron Williams to stay, thus ensuring they will be competitive enough to challenge for a top four seed in their conference. Bringing back Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez was a must once Williams decided to commit, and when Joe Johnson arrived in town any Dwight Howard trade was off the table.

According to Nets Coach Avery Johnson, Brook Lopez has spent the off-season in the Bohemian province of Chinchero bottling and consuming the sweat of 1000 Peruvian beards in a bid to combat his fear of rebounding the basketball.  With “sources” confirming rumors that Jerry Stackhouse has been waving a towel from the bench at a Hall of Fame level the Nets rise to relevance is very much in full swing.

The most perplexing element of the Brooklyn off-season was that general manager Billy King somehow managed to hit a home run despite previously being responsible for about fifteen of the twenty worst trades of all time.

This year’s free agency period saw Danny Ferry, Danny Ainge and Billy King all deliver close to “A+” off-seasons for their respective organisations. If you’ve ever needed a reason to pull your kid from school and relocate your family to the Colorado Mountains in fear of an impending apocalypse, look no further than the success of these gentleman.

Off-season Grade: A

Predicted Win Total: 43-47

Toronto Raptors

Who’s in: Kyle Lowry, Landry Fields, John Lucas III, Jonas Valaniunas, Jerel McNeal, Chris Wright.

Draft: Terrence Ross, Quincy Acy.

Who’s Out: Jerryd Bayless, James Johnson, Gary Forbes.

Summary: If you’re Canadian and love roller coasters than this Raptors off-season was built for you. General Manager Bryan Colangelo tried to play it a little too cute when signing Knicks free agent guard Landry Fields to a $20 million offer sheet in an attempt to knock the Knicks out of the race for Steve Nash. What happened next was hilarious for neutrals, and a full-blown fetal position inducing nightmare for Raptor fans and Laker haters.

Nash wound up dissing his Canadian buddies for the bright lights of Hollywood essentially leaving Colangelo with more egg on his already permanently egg covered face, and Landry Fields with an opportunity to showcase that pro-athlete business nous and invest $20 million in obscure inventions like dog-to-human language translation devices and flood friendly floating furniture (Shoutout to Torri Hunter).

As for the upcoming season the Raptors will do what they always do; win thirty ‘something games, land a middle of the road lottery pick and wait for their key pieces to request a trade once everything appears to be in place.

Andrei Bargnani, Demar Derozan and Kyle Lowry are all quality pieces if you’re a big mediocrity guy, and rookies Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas will keep intrigue relatively high and name pronunciation on a knives edge.

There’s not a lot to suggest that Toronto will be in the Playoff hunt (there’s nothing) but as long as they keep those alternate camo jerseys off the court it will be a step in the right direction.

Off-season Grade: C-

Predicted Win Total: 28-32

Quick Side note: I love this division. It’s loaded with star talent, rivalries, playoff teams and a legion of quirky guys who could have meaningful roles. Just look at this list: Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, Raymond Felton, Reggie Evans, Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse and Andray Blatche. They need to rename this the “Jackpot Division”.

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

Packers Production – 2011 v 2012 Snapshot

Green Bay Packers Offense 2011 2012 Difference
Points Per Game 34.1 22.4 -11.7
Yards Per Game 404.1 338 -66.1
Points Per Play 0.547 0.348 -0.199
Yards Per Play 6.5 5.2 -1.3
Red Zone Scoring Percentage 65.22% 73.33% +8.11%
TD’s Per Game 4.2 2.8 -1.1
Green Bay Packers Passing 2011 2012 Difference
Pass Attempts Per Game 35.2 37.8 +2.6
Completions Per Game 23.6 26 +2.3
Incompletions Per Game 11.5 11.8 +0.3
Completion Percentage 67.22% 68.78% +1.56%
Passing Yards Per Game 303.8 240.8 -63
Yards Per Completion 12.8 9.3 -3.5
Passing Touchdowns Per Game 3.1 2.2 -0.9
QB Sacked Percentage 7% 10% +3%
Passing First Down Percentage 64.81% 62.83% -1.98%
Green Bay Packers Rushing 2011 2012 Difference
Rushing Attempts Per Game 24.6 22.4 -2.2
Rushing Yards Per Game 100.3 97.2 -3.1
Rushing First Downs Per Game 5.7 4.8 -0.9
Rushing Touchdowns Per Game 0.7 0.3 -0.4
Yards Per Rush Attempt 4.1 4.3 +0.2
Green Bay Packers Defense 2011 2012 Difference
Opponent Points Per Game 23.3 22.2 -1.1
Opponents Points Per Play 0.357 0.332 -0.025
Opponent Touchdowns Per Game 2.6 2.4 -0.2
Opponent Red Zone Scoring Percentage 54.10% 58.33% +4.23%
Opponent Yards Per Game 412.1 344.2 -67.9
Opponent Plays Per Game 65.3 66.8 +1.5
Opponent Yards Per Play 6.3 5.2 -1.1
Opponent First Downs Per Game 22.2 20 -2.2
Green Bay Packers Passing Defense 2011 2012 Difference
Opponent Pass Attempts Per Game 39.4 36.6 -2.8
Opponent Completion Percentage 61.34% 58.47% -2.87%
Opponent Passing Yards Per Game 301.2 230 -71.2
Opponent Passing Touchdowns Per Game 1.9 2 +0.1
Sacks Per Game 1.8 3.6 +1.8
Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense 2011 2012 Difference
Opponent Rushing Attempts Per Game 24.1 26.6 +2.5
Opponent Rushing Yards Per Game 110.8 114.2 +3.4
Opponent Rushing First Downs Per Game 5.9 4.8 -1.1
Opponent Rushing Touchdowns Per Game 0.6 0.4 -0.2
Opponent Yards Per Rush Attempt 4.6 4.3 -0.3

You can follow Scott on Twitter: @ScottyBarby

2012 AFL Grand Final Preview

Hey Folks,

The Grand Final preview can be found here:

http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/09/28/afl-grand-final-preview-full-breakdown-and-stats/

Cheers,

Scotty