Tag:Pau Gasol
Posted on: December 7, 2008 8:58 pm

Raptors - Week 6 in Review - Transition Week.

This past week in the Raptors schedule saw the end of an era, the beginning of a new one, and 4 games this team will need to quickly forget to begin to build some sort of success with the rest of this season. Here is the week in review as I saw it!

After wins against the Bobcats and the Hawks, the Raptors embarked on a road trip which had stops against the Lakers, the Nuggets and the Jazz who are all at or near the top of the western conference and at or near the top of their game. Though they were coming off two wins, the Raptors had begun to develop nasty habits on both offense and defense that teams had begun to exploit. Defensively, the team was struggling to maintain leads and maintain any sort of consistent effort in the area of perimeter defense. Heading into games that feature some of the premier perimeter players in the league right now, the Raptors needed to find someone to step up and take that role to heart or find a way to play better team defense. With Jermaine O’Neal still nursing his sore ankle, prospects heading west were ominous at best. With the inconsistent play, it was clear that Sam Mitchell’s job was hanging by a very thin wire and he was on a very short leash at this point.

Heading into Los Angeles the Raptors started the tough 3 game trek against the Lakers looking to see if they could elevate their game to a new level. The first quarter was exciting and with a shoot out looming, the quarter ended 34 – 29 for the Lakers. After that point, the Lakers pulled away and over powered the short handed Raptors leading 61 – 51 at the half. The Raptors showed a lot of heart outscoring the Lakers 30 – 29 in the third, but the Raptors were never really able to mount any kind of sustained scoring as the Lakers would create a turnover or grab a rebound and run the floor scoring lay up after layup on the slower Raptors. The Lakers score 18 fast break points to the Raptors 7 and with Kobe on the bench for the 4th quarter they pulled ahead for good with their bench out playing the Raptors all over the floor.

Lakers game stats

Kobe Bryant - 23 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists
Pau Gasol - 24 points, 8 rebounds
Andrew Bynum - 18 points, 10 rebounds
Trevor Ariza - 14 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists
Lamar Odom - 3 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals

47/92 - 51.1%
15 offensive boards - 54 total
34 assists
10 steals

Team Rebounds - 10
Defensive 3-second violations - 1
Points Off Turnovers - 13
Fastbreak Points - 18
Points In The Paint - 58
Second Chance Points – 30

Raptors game stats

Chris Bosh - 12 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 turnovers
Andrea Bargnani - 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks
Jose Calderon - 12 points, 6 rebounds, 12 assists
Anthony Parker - 19 points, 2 assists
Jamario Moon - 11 points, 3 assists, 3 steals
Jason Kapono - 11 points
Joey Graham - 7 points, 4 rebounds - 3 offensive
Roko Ukic - 7 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal
Kris Humphries - 3 rebounds, 3 steals

34/88 - 38.6% - 11/25 - 44% 3 points
36 rebounds - 11 offensive
23 assists
13 turnovers
11 steals
6 blocks

Team Rebounds - 7
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 17
Fastbreak Points - 7
Points In The Paint - 32
Second Chance Points – 10

As we can see, this game was lost on the glass with the Raptors ending up -18 for the night but a more telling -4 on the offensive glass. We were -11 in assists, and -26 on points in the paint. The Lakers ran the ball at will and scored on open shot after open shot in transition. This game was a good effort, but it was very obvious to most observers that this Raptors team had no clue defensively both in transition and on the perimeter. It was too much to ask our thin front line to compete with the solid and deep Lakers squad who seemed to play as hard as they needed to until they got up a few in the 3rd, then let the very talented bench take over and finish this game.

Next up for the Raptors, the Nuggets were waiting. With Jermaine O’Neal set to return, this game offered a hope that the Raptors would have some strength inside again. Though he provided 12 points, it was no where near enough to slow down the Nuggets and this game was over very early and was the last game in the Sam Mitchell era for the Raptors organization. Here are the game stats.

Nuggets game stats

Carmelo Anthony - 23 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks
Chauncey Billups - 24 points, 14 assists
Nene - 19 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks
Kenyon Martin - 11 points, 4 rebounds
Linas Kleiza - 12 points, 4 rebounds
J.R. Smith - 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals
Dahntay Jones - 5 assists, 9 points

49/82 - 59.8% including 13/24 or 54.2% from 3 point range
46 rebounds - 5 offensive
37 assists

Team Rebounds - 11
Defensive 3-second violations - 1
Points Off Turnovers - 16
Fastbreak Points - 27
Points In The Paint - 50
Second Chance Points – 10

Raptors game stats

Chris Bosh - 24 points, 12 rebounds - 5 offensive, 5 assists
Jose Calderon - 9 points, 7 assists
Jermaine O'Neal - 12 points, 3 rebounds
Roko Ukic - 13 points
Andrea Bargnani - 9 points, 2 rebounds, 2 steals
Joey Graham - 10 points, 5 rebounds, 4 turnovers
Kris Humphries - 4 points, 8 rebounds - 3 offensive
Jason Kapono - 0 points

34/93 - 36.6% including 5/17 - 29.4% 3 point shots
39 rebounds - 12 offensive
21 Assists
10 turnovers
6 steals
4 blocks

Team Rebounds - 7
Defensive 3-second violations - 1
Points Off Turnovers - 8
Fastbreak Points - 17
Points In The Paint - 28
Second Chance Points – 9

The Raptors were outplayed all over the floor and the lack of both creativity and any defensive pressure at all cost Sam his job, signaling the beginning of the Jay Triano era. We did see a vast improvement in the play of Roko, but again, this Raptors team was out rebounded by 7, but on a night when the Nuggets shot almost 60%, they had no real need to rebound to control the game. This game was ugly early and most turned it off by half-time, I watched Amadeus!

Friday took us to Utah to take on the Jazz who were as vulnerable as they have been all season long. With Carlos Boozer out and Andrei Kirilenko recouping from an ankle injury, the Raptors had an opportunity to control the game inside. That never happened. Mehmet Okur showed why he is considered one of the best shooting Center in the game today. He scored from inside and from outside, short jumpers, fade away, off the dribble and off the break. Jermaine O’Neal had no ability to stop him as he had no help any where. When Bosh was on him, he had shots from 7 to 10 feet and very little pressure from the weakside. I guess defensive bad habits and bad attitudes take more than 1 or 2 practices to correct. Most of the time teams that have a coaching change seem to take to the floor with a bit more energy and a bit more focus in response to the firing. This was not the case for the Raptors. They looked listless and helpless all night long. Not the type of response Bryan Colangelo was looking for and I am sure Jay expected more from his guys, but I guess we can excuse them for not wanting to compete, but the effort they played with was awful. Here are the game stats.

Jazz game stats

Paul Millsap - 17 points, 11 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 blocks
Mehmet Okur - 21 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
Deron Williams - 14 points, 5 assists, 2 steals
Ronnie Brewer - 10 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals
Andrei Kirilenko - 7 points, 5 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 2 blocks
Matt Harpring - 14 points, 7 rebounds including 4 offensive
Kostas Koufos - 10 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal

49/95 - 51.6%
13 offensive rebounds 52 overall
31 assists
12 steals
8 blocks

Team Rebounds - 6
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 25
Fastbreak Points - 9
Points In The Paint - 66
Second Chance Points – 15

Raptors game stats

Chris Bosh - 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers
Jose Calderon - 10 points, 8 assists, 2 steals
Joey Graham - 13 points, 5 rebounds
Jermaine O'Neal - 10 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks
Andrea Bargnani -7 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks
Roko Ukic - 7 points, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Jason Kapono - 5 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal
Jamario Moon - 5 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block
Will Solomon - 7 points
Anthony Parker - 8 points, 4 assists, 1 steal

36/82 - 43.9% - 4/17 for 23.5% from 3 pt range
38 rebounds - 3 offensive
23 assists
23 turnovers
8 steals
10 blocks

Team Rebounds - 3
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 15
Fastbreak Points - 16
Points In The Paint - 44
Second Chance Points – 2

Allowing 66 points in the paint is inexcusable at an NBA level. The Raptors were beaten by a very good team, and they looked unable to run simple plays out of an offensive set. The coaching staff has a lot of work to do.

Sunday, the Raptors hosted the young Trail Blazers featuring 2 players that Bryan Colangelo MIGHT have drafted rather than Andrea Bargnani. With both the 2nd overall pick after Andrea, LeMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy drafted 6th in the lineup, one can only wonder what might have been. Here we have yet another game that the Raptors opened up a 16 point lead only to see it disappear as yet another team exploits this teams inability to guard on the perimeter. Steve Blake looked like Steve Kerr out there and the Raptors had no way to hold on to the lead. This game will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of many Raptors fans as we seem to be seeing the beginning of a Chris Bosh meltdown underway. During a very tight third quarter that saw the Raptors recover from a 10 point deficit to take a lead, we saw Chris Bosh decide that he was the best option from outside the arc with Jason Kapono open to his left. Jay Triano seemed to bench him after that selfish play and he was on the bench for the first 8 minutes of the 4th while Joey Graham and Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon and Jermaine O’Neal were able to build a 5 point lead with 3 minutes left. Chris Bosh came in and although he did manage a block late, he scored only 4 points in the second half, was blocked twice and turned the ball over and took fade away shots over a much smaller defender too many times to consider it coincidence. I have never seen him play for himself so much and on the final inbound pass, he tried to dribble from outside the arc with a wide open Jason Kapono and Jose Calderon in his line of sight, he threw up a horrible shot over LaMarcus, looking for a foul I guess. I have not often seen him play so poorly when the team needed him to compete. I hope that they can work things out as he is too valuable to this team to watch him play this way. I hope this is not an indication of any more unrest within the walls of this locker room. Here are the game stats

Trail Blazers game stats

Brandon Roy - 15 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists
LeMarcus Aldridge - 20 points, 8 rebounds including 6 offensive, 2 blocks
Steve Blake - 19 points including 5/8 3 point baskets, 7 rebounds, 4 assists
Greg Oden - 10 points, 10 rebounds - 5 Offensive, 2 blocks
Rudy Fernandez - 16 points, 8 rebounds - 3 Offensive

36/82 - 43.9% including 12/24 - 50% 3 point shots
48 rebounds including 18 offensive
19 assists
3 steals
5 blocks

Team Rebounds - 6
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 12
Fastbreak Points - 2
Points In The Paint - 24
Second Chance Points – 20

Raptors game stats

Jermaine O'Neal - 24 points, 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 blocks
Chris Bosh - 19 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block
Jose Calderon - 15 points, 13 assists
Jason Kapono - 10 points, 2 rebounds
Joey Graham - 10 points, 2 rebounds
Anthony Parker - 8 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
Andrea Bargnani - 5 points, 4 rebounds

38/77 - 49.4% including 8/17 - 47.1% from 3 point range
31 rebounds - 4 offensive
26 assists
8 turnovers
7 steals
8 blocks

Team Rebounds - 3
Defensive 3-second violations - 0
Points Off Turnovers - 15
Fastbreak Points - 8
Points In The Paint - 34
Second Chance Points – 10

I think there were a few things that I really liked from this game and a few things that concern me greatly. Once again, the Raptors were -17 on the glass with only 4 offensive boards while giving up 18 offensive boards to a very active Trail Blazers team. Offensive boards reflect the heart of a team and the Raptors played this game with no desire to attack the offensive glass. That one fact alone keeps them in a very small window to grow as a team offensively as they could have sealed this game late with a couple of tough rebounds and a couple of loose ball plays that the Blazers seemed to be the only team wanting the ball most of the game. We gave up 12/24 or 50% from 3 point range to a team that is known as a good shooting team. Steve Blake, like Vince Carter, killed us with a huge 3 point shot on a very similar play that the Nets ran on us, maybe the Raptors are the only team that doesn’t dissect game film to figure opponents tendencies out before the game is played. Jay did a great job with the rotation after the team had lost the lead. They continued to work the ball around and a balanced offense was the result with 5 guys in double digits scoring. Watching the last 3 minutes and the meltdown of Chris Bosh as he was very much in the way the second half, was difficult after watching them battle hard to put themselves in a place to be one rebound away from beating this very good team. We did only have 8 turnovers which was great but our lack of perimeter defense killed us again.

As I started this by saying, it was a very difficult week for the Raptors and we played 4 very good teams and perhaps the western conference champion and we struggled in every aspect of the game. Some interesting facts I found this past week by the numbers.

1) 49.5 – average number of points in the paint given up in the past 4 games. This means that over the past week we have given up a lot of very easy baskets. With the Raptors averaging only 34.5 points in the paint a game, that is a huge disparity and one of many reasons why we struggle so much from game to game.
2) 181/351 - 51.5% - the combined opposition field goal percentage. You can’t let teams light you up every night. Not only are the Raptors getting beat inside, our lack of solid perimeter defense is reflected in the high shooting percentage. For a team like the Raptors that struggles on offense, we can’t continue to let teams score 1 out of every 2 shots they take.
3) 50 rebounds given up per game with 12.75 Offensive boards per game allowed. We can not expect to succeed on any kind of consistent basis giving up those kinds of numbers on the glass. Rebounding reflects the heart of a team defensively, from the numbers shown here, we have a long way to go.

Though it was a tough week, I think that the move to Jay was a step in the right direction and the game Sunday showed that the team does have the talent to compete should they chose to, but I am afraid the tendency towards mediocrity this team has displayed so far this season has become systemic in nature and will be very tough to overcome from the top to the bottom of this roster.

This week we also saw a much improved Joey Graham begin to reveal some character and some heart. I think he is ready to start as what we have had just isn’t good enough and we have some very tough games coming quickly. Roko Ukic has begun to show us the skill he has and as a young guard, has provided some much needed rest for Jose. Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono had some good minutes scoring this week as did Jamario Moon. Here’s hoping that those guys continue their improvement on both sides of the floor. Andrea Bargnani is becoming a force defensively but has paid the price offensively. It is a very difficult thing to balance, but this team needs him to score as well as provide tough defense, but the improved defense will provide him opportunities to score in transition more as the tempo of this team improves offensively and in transition.

If you made it through this, thanks and I hope you enjoyed the read.

Posted on: December 1, 2008 10:06 am

Raptors - Lakers - A Game in Review

14 – 1. The Lakers are for real. Not that I was a doubter, but that team is so much more than Kobe Bryant and some other guys this season. From Phil Jackson on down, this Lakers team looks focused on winning and has depth at every position on the floor. I knew that Andrew Bynum would have made last year’s final against the Celtics very different, but watching him shut down Chris Bosh at almost every facet of his game shows me how good he is, and how much work the Raptors have left to do to make the playoffs this season. Pau Gasol, Derek Fisher, Vladimir Radmanovic added to the starting 5 make this team strong up front and very active at both ends of the floor. But then, you bring in a very talented bench of Trevor Ariza, Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, Lamar Odom and Luke Walton who is a very good passer in the low post, and this Lakers team will beat most teams as far as 10 deep most nights. I wonder if the Pistons feel fortunate to have caught them on an off night for their only loss.

The Raptors played hard for 3 quarters until Sam Mitchell surrendered and took his starters out, perhaps wanting the game to be over and looking to the Nuggets on Tuesday, he pulled them early in the 4th as Kobe didn’t play a minute in the 4th again. The Raptors several times pulled this game to within 4 points with solid ball movement and some well taken shots, but then the Lakers would grab a board and turn it into a transition bucket and be up 10 within 3 possessions. Jose Calderon and Derek Fisher went head to head and played hard nosed ball all night. It was good to see him play solid defense against a pretty good guard as he held Derek to 5 points and 4 assists while collecting 12 points and 12 assists himself. Andrea Bargnani, starting in place of still injured Jermaine O’Neal played a very good game on both ends of the floor with 14 points and 11 rebounds, but it was his play on defense that caught my attention. I counted 5 blocks for him though he only has 4 on record, but he was altering shots and rotating well all night. A very good game indeed by Andrea has given me some more to watch as he continues to grow at both ends of the floor. Anthony Parker looked much better last night as well scoring 19 points and not letting Kobe run free. Yes, Kobe scored 24 in 3 quarters, but Anthony actually did a good job making him take tough shots, but he is still Kobe and can make those shots. Parker had a nice rhythm on his stroke and hit a few critical 3’s. Chris Bosh was held in check all night as Andrew Bynum shut down any inside game the Raptors tried to establish forcing him outside where he is not as consistent. Bosh ended up with 12 points but was 4 – 13 on a night where near perfection would have been required for a victory. Yes, we miss Jermaine, but Chris at times looked like he was forcing his game too much and with no real consistent offensive rebounding, those misses usually resulted in transition baskets. The Lakers had 58 points in the paint to the Raptors 32. That, coupled with our poor rebounding game where we were -18 on the glass and – 4 on the offensive glass. That is just too much of an advantage to overcome shooting only 38% from the field.

Over all, the Raptors showed a lot of heart and played very good defense for most of the game. The fact is, this Lakers team is very good at all facets of the game and very deep on the bench. Although the Raptors shot 44% from outside on 11/25 shots, they had no ability to sustain any inside game to help the shooters. With 6 players in double digits, it was a well balanced offense as the ball movement looked great at times and good choices were made by the shooters most of the night. When Chris Bosh is taking that many shots from just inside the arc, you know it has been a long night for him. I hope that Jermaine returns 100% as this team needs to have him inside and Andrea starting on the wing. Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono played well, but I think this team is much better with 3 big front men, and I think Andrea has proven that his game is very close to what was anticipated.

Coming up next are the Chauncey Billups led Denver Nuggets then on to Utah to take on Deron Williams and the Jazz. Let’s hope the team can take this game as a positive learning experience and play better as the week unfurls.

Posted on: November 29, 2008 11:53 am
Edited on: November 30, 2008 11:02 am

Raptors - Lakers - A Game Preview

Next up for the Raptors on Sunday are the high-flying Los Angeles Lakers who bring a 13 – 1 record to the Staples Center. The Raptors are starting a short 3 game road trip and look to carry the momentum of two straight victories against the Bobcats and the Hawks to close out a home stand. The other games are against the Chauncey Billups led Nuggets in Denver and then against Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams and the Jazz at in Utah. Sunday night will be a very difficult game against one of the top 2 teams in the league. After a loss to the Pistons, the Lakers have won 6 in a row with wins over the Nuggets, the Mavericks, the Suns, the Kings, the Bulls and the Nets. After the game Sunday, the Lakers start their first road tour of the East with stops at the Pacers, the 76ers, and the Wizards, so they will look to roll on and keep the momentum and the pressure on any team they play right now to stop them.

Probable Lineups:


Kobe Bryant – SG
Derek Fisher – PG
Pau Gasol – PF
Vladimir Radmanovic – SF
Andrew Bynum – PF

Raptors :

Jose Calderon – PG
Anthony Parker – SG
Jermaine O’Neal – C
Andrea Bargnani – SF - With Jeramine declared as playing, i have moved Jamario off the starting 5
Chris Bosh – PF

With Jermaine O’Neal slated to start as of this writing, I think that Jamario Moon will get the start as opposed to Andrea Bargnani as he will be needed more inside to deal with Gasol and Bynum.

As I see this game, unless the Raptors continue the improvements made on defense, they will have a difficult time containing the Lakers starters let alone the solid bench play they get from Lamar Odom, Jordan Farmar and Trevor Ariza. Our bench will have to continue their improvement and step up their defensive contributions on the glass and on the wing as Kobe would love to drop another 81 on us, this time at home and not in Toronto. Anthony Parker and Joey Graham will have a long night if they can’t keep a lid on Kobe to some extent and the team defense will be critical as the Lakers bring a very balanced offense to every game. Chris Bosh and Jermaine or Andrea will need to try to out play and contain Bynum and Gasol. If JO plays and is healthy, his presence on the glass will be greatly needed.

I believe that Sam Mitchell is on the right track and the guys seem to be understanding how critical every play can be with so many games coming down to one or two possessions in the past couple of weeks. With Chris Bosh bringing 27.7 points every night right now, the team will look to him to continue his tear being second in scoring behind Dwyane Wade and just ahead of LeBron James right now. The game Sunday will require the bench to approach the 31 points it provided against the Hawks to give them the opportunity to win. I look for a very good game on both sides of the ball and I would love to see the Raptors knock this team off. It can be done, but will require ball control and ball movement on offense, some above average rebounding and a good shooting day by Jason Kapono or Jose Calderon.

Enjoy the game.

Posted on: May 26, 2008 4:05 pm

7 worst nba teams prepare for next year

hey guys, i should not be allowed to be home sick.... ever

here is my latest nba entry on my blog... man am i bored LOL

As we come to the end of the 2007-2008 NBA season, I have begun to think about the “worst” teams in the league and their prospects for next year. I hope to begin a discussion about how these teams might fair next season as I evaluate their rosters and possible draft picks as well as coaching changes.

So here are the bottom 7 teams and their records last season:

Bucks 26 - 56
Clippers 23 - 59
Knicks 23 - 59
Timberwolves 22 - 60
Grizzlies 22 - 60
SuperSonics 20 - 62
Heat 15 – 67

I will start with the Heat and work up the list.

Miami Heat – Coach – Erik Spoelstra

A look at the Heat depth chart reveals a huge injury issue with this team that struggled with a consistent rotation all season. They ended the season with Dwyane Wade, Shawn Marion, Udonis Haslem, Dorell Wright and Alonzo Mourning all on the injury list.  As a group they lost 168 games to injury creating a huge hole in every position except point guard where Jason Williams was the leading player in games played at 67. The only player on the roster to play in 82 games this season was Ricky Davis, and he is an unrestricted free agent after this season averaging a little more than 3 points a game below his career average.

So here is what I see by position with the Heat.

At Center they have a huge hole after trading away Shaq and not really having a true backup with Mourning hopefully retiring and the options being small centers at best.  Earl Barron at 7’ 0” but only 245 pounds is too small to play a consistent role as a back to the hoop center and found himself behind Mark Blount who probably should be a PF not a Center.

Here is the Heat starting 5 as I see them next season

PG – Derrick Rose – 2nd overall pick in the 2008 draft! Will fit in very well.
SG – Dwyane Wade
SF – Ricky Davis – unless he signs and leaves
PF – Shawn Marion
C – Mark Blount

I think the biggest problem areas they have right now are in the SF and C positions. With no assurance that Ricky Davis will return, the are very thin with Stephane Lasme and Dorell Wright. If they can find a free agent Center along the lines of a Jamaal Magloire, the starting rotation would become very solid in every position. With Shawn Marion entering his option year, I suspect the heat will look to re-sign, but with Carlos Boozer a restricted free agent, one can only imagine what this team would look like with him in the front court. Or perhaps they will pursue a SF to replace Ricky and a guy like Ira Newble would look good in this lineup.

Miami will have a difficult off-season as they wait to see how their free agent situation pans out and how they recover from their many serious injuries. I sure hope that Dwyane will come back 100% next year and not suffer through a partially healed shoulder again.

L.A. Clippers – Coach – Mike Dunleavy

Well, the biggest issue for this team is found in this news report:

The Clippers hope they won't have to go back to square one this summer, but two major obstacles lie in the way -- securing the organization's future with forwards Elton Brand and Corey Maggette.
Both players are eligible to opt out of the final year of their respective contracts. In the case of Brand, he is due to make $16.44 million in 2008-09. Maggette is on the books for $7 million.
The possibility of this team losing BOTH franchise quality players would devastate this fragile franchise next season.

Here is another team that suffered huge losses due to injuries with Elton Brand recovering from Achillies tendon damage and C Chris Kaman missing 26 games this season as well while having a career season which took 13 points a game off the board while leaving them Paul Davis at Center, which can’t be a good thing.

Assuming that both Brand and Maggette back, here is the starting 5 for this team:

PG – Shaun Livingston
SG – Cuttino Mobley
SF - Corey Maggette
PF – Elton Brand
C – Chris Kaman

With the 7th pick they are projected to take either a SF in Danilo Gallinari from Italy, or Russell Westbrook, a SG from UCLA. We see that either of these would be chosen on the assumption of losing either Brand or Maggette. With Brevin Knight at backup PG and Al Thornton at backup SF those positions are solid and any additions would create a very good level of depth as Knight matures. Nick Fazekis is a free agent (restricted) and could be a good addition to any trade they might attempt this off-season.

IF the Clippers can solidify the Mobley Maggette issue, they could be a more consistent team unless injuries hit them again taking out Kaman and Livingston after a quick start and Brand only playing 8 games.

Knicks – Coach – Mike D’Antoni

Here is an organization in total disarray with no focus for the past 2 seasons while it seemed all news was about the coach Isaiah Thomas and the media frenzy that has surrounded him since he almost destroyed the Raptors.

Bringing in Mike D’Antoni instantly commits this team to an offense that will be explosive and exciting. And as we have seen, they will win a lot of games!  The question becomes how long will it take the team to clean out the dead wood and bring in some consistent players.  With Stephon Marbury able to opt out this off – season, Nate Robinson would probably become the starting PG but at 5’ 9”, he would be seriously out matched against most PG’s on a nightly basis. With the 6th overall pick, they are projected to get either Eric Gordon, a 6’ 2” PG/SG from Indiana or O.J. Mayo, 6’ 5” From USC. I bet Mike would love to get his hands on O.J. but Eric Gordon would fit well also playing either an SG or a PG position and O.J. would make a great PG replacement for the well-worn Marbury who seems to have run his course in New York. If the Grizz take the projected top C in the draft, then O. J. could fall to number 6 and the Knicks. If, as has been rumoured, LeBron James were to show up in 2010, this team would be set to run and score a lot of points!

Here is my projected starting 5 for the Knicks:

PG – O.J. Mayo
SG – Jamal Crawford
SF – Quentin Richardson
PF – David Lee
C – Eddy Curry

I am assuming that Marbury gets no offers and walks away to sign a free agent contract with someone like the Nets, wouldn’t him and Vince Carter look great whining together! Mike has a lot of work to do but has a lot of role players that the top teams would love to have on their bench and could get a few young players to develop in anticipation of 2010.

This team will still need a pass first guard and I suspect the Knicks will make the deal that will bring someone like Dee Brown to the team. Imagine that trio of guards in the Knicks back-court – O.J., Jamal, and Dee Brown. Very solid young running players, the kind of backcourt D’Antoni loves. Not sure anyone can run the O like Steve Nash did, but he would love to have Dee Brown’s energy and shooting. I suspect this team won’t lose 59 games next year.

Timberwolves – Coach – Randy Wittman

This young team has some young, talented players in Randy Foye, Corey Brewer, and Al Jefferson. A new coach and an off-season to blend this team that lost Kevin Garnett but has some young budding Stars on it will help them become respectable on a night to night basis. With the 3rd overall draft pick they are projected to get Brook Lopez. A 7’0” center from Stanford which would allow Al Jefferson to move to PF and become a very tough matchup against most western conference teams.

Here is the projected starting 5 as I see them:

PG – Randy Foye
SG - Corey Brewer
SF – Marko Jaric
PF – Al Jefferson
C – Brook Lopez

With a new coach and a new system, this team will have challenges, but trading Antoine Walker for say a Jamaal Magloire would give this team a solid Center and allow the kid to grow a bit before starting. This team will struggle the first half of the year I suspect as the front court finds its structure and roles. This team could have a +.500% second half.

Grizzlies - Coach – Marc Iavaroni

Here is a team that lost its star player in Pau Gasol, its PG in Damon Stoudemire and is in recovery mode. With Rudy Gay coming into his own, this team is very thin up front. Darko Milicic and Hakim Warrick do not inspire much fear in any team in this league and together offer up 18 ppg. That is not good enough to win more than 25 games at any level of basketball. This team needs help up front and would find it in the 5th over all pick with either Kevin Love of UCLA or Brook Lopez if the T’Wolves pass on him. Either would be a good fit with Rudy Gay and take pressure off the back court to score 50 points a game to win!  Even picking up Anthony Randolph would be a great pick as he would provide a rebounding presence up front.

I will work with the Grizz getting Kevin Love to replace the motion that Pau Gasol took with him for the starting 5.

PG – Mike Conley
SG – Juan Carlos Navarro
SF – Rudy Gay
PF – Kevin Love
C – Darko Milicic

Who knows, maybe someone will want Kwame Brown and make a deal for him and they pick up a true center. I am sure the Grizz are hoping that Lopez falls to #5 for them. This team will struggle next season as they recover from the loss of Gasol. The future looks better than next year as they need a mobile Center who can score. There aren’t many around at this point. I see a few deals being made to shore up the front court and give Rudy some help.

Bucks – Coach – Scott Skiles

This team should have won a lot more games this past season with Michael Redd and Andrew Bogut and Mo Williams and Charlie Villanueva, this team had injury issues and suffered through a very tough season. A new coach will bring a defensive energy to this team that will refocus them and allow the front court to provide the interior game that is potentially available. Mo Williams and Michael Redd offer a solid back court and with Ramon Sessions able to play either effectively, this team is solid on the back court. With the 8th overall pick, the Bucks should be able to land a solid SF prospect in Anthony Randolph or perhaps a Joe Alexander who would both provide a nice 3rd option up front and provide the Bucks a threat in the SF position. Projected by some to take Danilo Gallinari who has been compare to Hedo Turkoglu in talent and play sense.

Here is the starting 5 as I see them:

PG – Mo Williams
SG – Michael Redd
SF - Danilo Gallinari
PF – Charlie Villanueva
C – Andrew Bogut

This team has solid players and strong backups in the guard positions. It will need to strengthen the front court behind Charlie and Bogut to become solid with a bench that can compete as the falloff is too great. I suspect this team could make a couple minor deals to strengthen the bench with a vet or two.

SuperSonics – Coach – P. J. Carlisimo

Kevin Durant leads this team that struggled with youth at times. P.J. has little to work with beyond KD and Nick Collison. Luke Ridinour has spots of brilliance, but seems to be content with being in the NBA most nights. With no real Center, this team will need to shore up the middle to allow Durant the room he will need to patrol the paint and attack the rim. If they can do that, he could become a 25+ ppg player very easily.

With the 4th pick overall, the Sonics are projected to take PG Jarryd Bayless who can probably start at either back court spots. What they still will need is some power up front. Maybe they will sign someone like Jamaal Magloire to help, but unless they find a true center, this team will struggle a lot next season.

Here is my starting 5:

PG – Jarryd Bayless
SG – Kevin Durant
SF – Jeff Green
PF – Nick Collison
C – Johan Petro

With Francisco Elson an Unrestricted free agent, this team will be very thin up the middle. Can they find the guts to deal Luke Ridinour? I suspect his value goes down every season.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com