Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Hoopinion's NBA Predictions

I've put this off as long as possible. But having come to the following realization: What's more important, though, being right or publishing your predictions before Kobe gets traded so as to have an unimpeachable excuse for some of what you get wrong? I trudge ahead.

Legitimate NBA Championship contenders

San Antonio

San Antonio's the clear favorite to me considering Phoenix's lack of depth, the fragile health of Houston's two superstars, and Dallas's playoff implosion against the Warriors last year. That loss, though, had as much to do with Nellie as the Mavericks possessing a fundamental flaw that lots of teams can exploit so they're far more likely to go from first-round losers to NBA champions than are the Rockets.

Mavs second-favorites for the big trophy, then.

Favorites to lose in the NBA Finals


Each of these teams hope to get better as the season progresses. Chicago hopes to add a superstar for their plethora of above average players to support. Boston hopes that the opportunity to play alongside Garnett, Pierce, and Ray Allen will tempt a bought-out veteran or two to offer what production they can off the bench. Cleveland hopes to get Varejao and Pavlovic re-integrated into the rotation while Daniel Gibson continues to develop. None of these teams, however, as currently composed would be favored to beat any of the four best teams in the West in a seven-game series.

Two playoff locks from the Northwest Division


The main problem I have with power rankings is that though both of these teams will be better than 11-15 Eastern Conference teams, that isn't really worth anything in the real world if they're going to be worse than four Western Conference teams.

I like Denver to win the division, for both to be pesky first round opponents, and one to be a pesky opponent again in the second round.

A bunch of Eastern Conference playoff contenders clustered around 40 wins

New Jersey

I'd be shocked if Detroit missed the playoffs. I'd be almost as shocked if they won 50 games again. A slow descent is indicative of a well-run franchise. I think the Pistons have a decent chance of rebuilding without ever missing the playoffs.

Orlando is my pick to win the Southeast which might be a race to 45 wins instead of 42 this year with the Heat acquiring Ricky Davis and Mark Blount for Antoine Walker. Not that it will matter if Miami doesn't get at least 90 combined regular season games from Wade and Shaq.

Barring significant injury to Chris Bosh, Toronto should make the playoffs comfortably even if they don't match last year's 47 wins.

Though they were debilitated by injury come playoff time, Washington was relatively healthy in the regular season overall. Barring a major roster change, I see them within a couple games of .500 again. Same with New Jersey and their aging stars carrying a next generation of players who aren't very good.

One or two of these teams will make the playoffs ahead of one or two of the above teams

New York

Somebody in the above grouping will crater and at least one of these teams will manage to win 38 or more games and sneak into a playoff spot. I don't know which one and it probably won't much matter in the history of whichever franchise manages to do so.

Three teams for two spots

New Orleans
Los Angeles Lakers
Golden State

New Orleans has an excellent shot to make the playoffs this year as the bottom 60% of the West has gotten appreciably worse (some, to be fair, have gotten worse to get better) and the two teams closest to them in talent level are far more volatile.

The Lakers, you might have heard, could trade want-away Kobe Bryant. Golden State is relying on Don Nelson's continued interest in being the head coach, Baron Davis's physical health (and Monta Ellis's to a lesser extent), and Stephen Jackson's mental health. Plus, the Jason Richardson-for-Brandan Wright swap was not made in the interests of short term improvement.

The future is not yet now


None of these teams is trying to contend this year. Portland's letting their young core develop while Oden heals. Seattle's letting their young core develop while they try and decide on a point guard and center. Memphis is letting their young players prove they can worth keeping around alongside Gasol and Conley. (My guesses are 'yes' to Warrick, Mike Miller, Navarro, and Darko; 'no' to Gay and Swift with Lowry thrown into a trade) And Sacramento is trying to find out what they can get for Bibby, Artest, and Brad Miller that would complement Kevin Martin.

You try and make the case that they're even trying

Los Angeles Clippers

I guess there's a chance that the Clippers find enough teams desperate for veteran help that they can offload Cassell, Mobley, Patterson, and Tim Thomas for someone or something of value. More likely they trade Maggette for less than he's worth while watching Al Thornton put up good numbers when he can dominate the ball on a terrible team and decide to build around him and Elton Brand not realizing that Thornton's the new Orlando Woolridge (and he's not that much younger than Woolridge).

As for Minnesota, Glen Taylor is stupid and gullible. I don't see how things can get better as long as he owns the team.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks Prediction and Preview Addendum

Here's what I missed out on with compiling yesterday's post:

Atlanta Hawks Blog predicts the same 42 wins as Mr. John Hollinger.

Marty Burns at SI.com and ESPN.com's Marc Stein release their pre-season power rankings.

Hoopinion's NBA predictions to be posted later this afternoon.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hawks Prediction and Preview Round-Up

Three weeks worth of links to predictions for and previews of the 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks. If I've missed any, add them in the comments or shoot me an e-mail.


Chad Ford picks the Hawks to finish 9th in the East and eight other ESPN.com writers pick them to finish somewhere between 11th and 15th in the Conference. Outlier John Hollinger predicts (quite bravely, I say) a 42-40 record and the 7th seed in the East. His prose, however, hints at a reasonable undercurrent of pessimism:
"For a rebuilding team, there comes a time when they accumulate so many high first-round draft picks that, regardless of how badly they've been run, they almost can't help but become a decent team. For the Hawks, that time has come."
"A lot of people disregard this, but sometimes a team can improve very rapidly merely by replacing awful players with average ones. And you'd have a hard time finding two players more awful than Claxton (PER 7.37) and Wright (6.65) were last season. Furthermore, unlike most awful players, they played a lot -- more than 2,000 minutes between them. Thus, just swapping them with a replacement-level player would add over three or more wins to Atlanta's total. Replacing them with somebody halfway decent should double or triple the effect."
Impending Firestorm is two games less optimistic than Hollinger.
Projected Record: 40-42. I’d like to think Atlanta could hit .500, but let’s not go crazy here. It’s hard for a team to turn around and win 12 games more than they did the previous season.
David Berri comes to a similar conclusion at The Wages of Wins Journal:
"Can this team post a winning record? It’s possible, but it requires the Hawks be healthy, that they put their most productive players on the court, and put these players in the right position. So far all that hasn’t happened very consistently. Still, if it did happen, the same old Hawks might actually win a few more games."
Jack McCallum suggests of the Hawks, "I do see a team that can challenge for the playoffs in the East.”

The magazine itself pegs the Hawks 13th in the East and Ion Thomsen talks with at least one anonymous advance scout who really doesn't like Josh Smith:
"I give them no hope of making the playoffs. Josh Smith is the embodiment of all of their problems...Where do we begin with Smith? He'll dunk it three times straight, and next time down he'll want to see if he can get the three-point shot working and so he'll throw one up out of the flow ... clank. Or he'll make some stupid pass into the third row, or he'll jump in the air and throw it at somebody's knees like Nolan Ryan from 10 feet away..."
It continues it that vein for another 200 or so words.

Peter Pan Complex's predicted 45 wins don't rest on a difference of opinion about Smith's past but rather on optimism about his future.
"Smith is really the key to the success of this team. If Woodson employs a high tempo offense, J-Smoove will be the catalyst. Remember, he'll be just 22 years old in December. He has the ability to become a superstar and he is already well on his way, but his attitude and lack of leadership have derailed team chemistry and led to distractions on the court. Smoove needs to mature this year and be a leader on and off the floor. Hopefully the winning attitude brought by Horford and the gritty example Law sets will have a positive impact on Josh."
Marty Burns thinks Atlanta has two of the NBA's ten impact rookies.
10. Acie Law IV: “The 6-3 point guard from Texas A&M has shown flashes in the preseason of a Chris Paul-like breakout in Atlanta, but he might not log enough minutes. Hawks coach Mike Woodson is under pressure to win now, which means he'll probably go with veterans Anthony Johnson and Speedy Claxton for the bulk of the QB duties.”

3. Al Horford: “Like [Al] Thornton, Horford appears ready to step in and make an immediate contribution for his club. The former Florida Gator was averaging 11.7 points, 8.9 boards and 2.0 blocks in 30.1 minutes in the preseason, and coach Mike Woodson swears he has no fear about throwing Horford into the mix right away. Look for him to be a solid pro right from opening night.”
At the NBA Fanhouse's Valley of the Most Likely, Shoals writes that the Hawks will be underappreciated
“Here's a bold prediction: The Atlanta Hawks will sniff .500 this season, and be one of the league's most entertaining teams. Call them the second coming of the 2001 Clippers.”
I think he might have meant the 2002 Clippers.

Over at Freedarko.com, Shoals, Billups, the Brown Recluse, Esq., and Dr. Lawyer IndianChief preview every player.

Player preview I most hope comes to pass:
Stoudamire, Salim: will score 45 in a game.
John Schuhmann starts the Hawks at 23 in the NBA.com Power Rankings.

Finally, Charley Rosen is wrong about Josh Childress (“…Josh Childress has yet to become more than a superior athlete who struggles to find his niche in the NBA…”) who, if he can find a useful niche in the dysfunctional Hawks teams he's played for, can find a niche anywhere in the league.

Rosen's conclusion about the Hawks reads as eminently reasonable:
“If Law and Horford can have an immediate impact, if JJ can stay healthy, if Williams makes a quantum leap, and if Smith has undergone a personality transplant, then the Hawks just might surpass last season's total of 30 wins. In any event, they'll continue being a dangerous team at home, but chumps on the road.”
Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Mario West Made the Team

Mike Woodson:
"Make no mistake about it, Mario West earned his spot on this team."
West could be genuinely useful backing up Joe Johnson. Not in the sense that I expect him to be especially productive in the immediate future but moreso in that I hope he can prevent a two point guard backcourt from breaking out.

More from the man who found playing time for Royal Ivey despite Ivey's inability to display any tangible proof of usefulness as an NBA player:
"Since I've been here I have not viewed a player like I have Mario West. In terms of just making a major difference, he does that every time out. He makes a major impact just with his energy. And it's not fake. The way he plays does wonders for people around him. That's just how this kid plays. We were watching him in summer league and in pick up games. That's just how this guy is wired."
Considering the unlikely nature of all four of the point guards being healthy at one time and the redundant nature of having both Solomon Jones and Lorenzen Wright at one's disposal, West figures to challenge Salim Stoudamire for the final active roster spot most nights. If you combined their skills you'd have one useful basketball player. If you had more players in better defined roles you could make use of either one. I'm skeptical of it mattering much, but Stoudamire/Jones/West is a more interesting back end of the roster than Ivey/Batista/Bozeman.

Completing the story, Antywane Robertson, Steven Smith, and Jamaal Tatum
were released today. Robinson and Tatum received token minutes in the pre-season while Smith played but six minutes across three games.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Hawks 107 Hornets 98


The pre-season slate came to an uneventful end with the Hawks winning for the seventh time in eight tries. We're left with roster moves, possible extensions for Joshes Smith and Childress (which seem unlikely), previews, predictions, and, one hopes, no injury news for the next week and a day.

And no more gifts given to other members of the Southeast Division.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Hawks 103 Wizards 99


Efficient offensive play from Marvin Williams, Josh Childress, and Al Horford outweighed an atypically poor shooting night from Joe Johnson (and a typically poor shooting night from Anthony Johnson) and thus the Hawks won for the sixth time in seven pre-season tries. M. Williams, Childress, and Horford were 19-29 from the field and 18-22 from the foul line.

Tyronn Lue played 20:48 in his pre-season debut, going 4-9 from the floor (0-3 on threes) with 5 assists against no turnovers. There's no mention of how he looked in the AJC's game stories (both of which were clearly written prior to tip-off). Ivan Carter mentions a couple of instances of Gilbert Arenas blowing by Lue in the second quarter but that doesn't necessarily mean much w/r/t Lue's health. Or Gilbert's for that matter. He had fluid drained from his knee last Wednesday.

It's imperative that Lue and Acie Law IV get and stay healthy. Though the Hawks are clearly improving, I'm skeptical that they're good enough to withstand substantial minutes going to either a gimpy Speedy Claxton or a healthy Anthony Johnson.

The pre-season slate concludes Wednesday night in New Orleans.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Hawks 104 Bobcats 98


I listened to a bit of the game on Hawks.com this morning. Lots of North Carolinian schoolchildren, excited by non-basketball related events during the first quarter, tended to overshadow the combination of a caffeinated Steve Holman and a still-sleepy Dennis Scott.

Josh Childress (19 points on 7-12 shooting, 4 offensive rebounds) and Acie Law IV (10 points, 5 assists) returned to action. Joe Johnson was rested.

Unlike their previous pre-season meeting, Atlanta kept the Bobcats off the offensive glass, grabbing 87.5% of possible defensive rebounds. No one, however, came anywhere close to handling the great Gerald Wallace who scored 34 points (11-18 FGA, 1-1 3PTA, 11-14 FTA), grabbed 10 rebounds, adding 2 steals and 2 blocks.

Micah Hart reports on Zaza Pachulia leaving the game and not returning:
"Zaza Pachulia suffered a left knee sprain late in the third quarter, and did not return to the contest ... He will be re-evaluated tomorrow."
The Hawks finish up their pre-season slate with games Monday (Washington) and Wednesday (@New Orleans). We are 15 days away from tipping things off properly.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hawks 103 Timberwolves 77


Mario West's #1 Fan, Sekou Smith, provides an eyewitness account of every player's performance from the game last night. There's an encouraging description of Marvin Williams' offensive performance and a positive evaluation of Anthony Johnson's night that makes me skeptical.

No news on the results of Acie Law IV's left wrist MRI. No news may well be good news as the AP reports that Speedy Claxton's knees aren't even allowing him to practice right now.

For some reason, the next pre-season game takes place Thursday morning in Charlotte

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Portland 102 Atlanta 89


The Hawks struggled to score on an afternoon where they rested Speedy Claxton (his knees already sore after two pre-season games) and were without the injured Tyronn Lue (knee) and Acie Law IV (scheduled for an MRI on his left wrist today). Fourth and fifth string point guards Anthony Johnson and Jamaal Tatum both struggled (somehow combining for 15 shot attempts, making 5) as the Blazers dared the Hawks (also without Josh Childress and Salim Stoudamire) to make jump shots against their zone.

Joe Johnson:
"They played zone practically the whole game. And if you can't make an outside shot, they're going to stay in it."
Far more disturbingly, Johnson also said:
"Honestly, I think our bigs took their bigs lightly and they just got outplayed."
Atlanta couldn't handle LaMarcus Aldridge (29 points on 18 shots, 11 rebounds) at all. Al Horford had 14, 11, and 3 off the bench so I assume Johnson is talking about some combination of Pachulia, Marvin Williams, and Josh Smith each of whom I like but none of whom should possess the temerity to take anyone lightly.

The Hawks return to action Tuesday night against the Timberwolves.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Hawks 109 Bobcats 104

A quick one while I'm away...


48 more free throw attempts (and 39 makes) and another win to stack on the pre-season pile. Gerald Wallace, Primoz Brezec, and Jared Dudley didn't play for the Bobcats. Speedy Claxton and Tyronn Lue sat this one out for the Hawks.

Of concern, allowing Charlotte to grab over 40% of possible offensive rebounds. Nine different Bobcats grabbed at least two offensive rebounds.

This will/should be more interesting once I see something.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Hawks 106 Heat 100 (OT)


Unless Pat Riley decides to pique my interest and make Wayne Simien and Daequan Cook part of the Miami Heat rotation this year, the Hawks faced a relatively full strength Heat squad last night in Miami.

Jason Williams, Udonis Haslem, Dorrel Wright, and Smush Parker all played over 25 minutes. Shaq and Antoine Walker (all 262 punds of him) played over 15 minutes a piece while Alonzo Mourning and Michael Doleac both made appearances on the court. Seriously, that's the Heat approaching full strength. How many nights can one realistically expect Shaq and Wade to be healthy simultaneously?

Not much to pass along from the game reports but it's nice to see that the Hawks got to the line a lot again last night. That's 95 free throw attempts through two exhibition games. Even though they're only making 70.5% of those attempts, that's as close as they're coming to demonstrating a team-wide offensive strength.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pre-Season Game #2: @Miami

Tonight's exhibition game may not offer much insight as the Hawks may not face NBA opposition.

Dwyane Wade's out, of course, and Michael Cunningham of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel describes Pat Riley as "noncommittal" regarding the likelihood of Shaquille O'Neal, Udonis Haslem, Alonzo Mourning, Antoine Walker, and/or Penny Hardaway playing tonight. Smush Parker is recovering from a right ankle injury and missed a day of practice last week for failing to meet the team's conditioning standards.

None of those guys played Monday night against the Pistons, reducing the Heat to Jason Williams and a bunch of end-of-the-rotation (or would be end-of-the-rotation) guys. Dorell Wright was the only Miami player to play more than 25 minutes. Marcus Slaughter and Brian Chase were the only Miami players to score more than 9 points.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Atlanta 94 Orlando 93


Couldn't see it, couldn't listen to it, so here's Sekou Smith from Orlando:

On the Hawks offense and pace:
In the brief moments that the Hawks did get up and down the floor Monday night, they showed that they can thrive with an up-tempo style.

They didn't run nearly as much as they wanted to, though. And they certainly didn't run as much as they needed to against a team like Orlando, with All-Star center Dwight Howard controlling the paint on both ends of the floor.

...the Hawks weren't as effective in the half court as they were when running, employing their new run-whenever-you-can approach for the first time in a game situation.

They ran their way to brief leads in the first quarter (19-13) and third quarter (62-58), but played catch up for most of the night because they couldn't maintain a frantic enough pace.

Woodson was still barking at his team to "keep running" in the fourth quarter, to no avail at those times when the Hawks' bodies didn't agree with the orders.
Both teams had over 102 possessions, so the game was played about 5% faster than the average Golden State Warriors (97.6 poss/48, #1 in the NBA) game last year. I'm sure that at pre-season intensity it didn't seem that fast but there were a lot of possessions for a game between teams that averaged fewer than 89 possessions per game last season.

On pulling out the win:
Rookie point guard Acie Law's driving layup with 25.1 seconds to play proved to be the difference. That play came after Law threw a pass away on the baseline but got back on defense, stole the ball and drove the length of the floor.

"I just messed up and that's no time to hang your head," Law said. "You just have to go back on the other end and make up for it. And that's what we did and we were able to get the win, too."
On Dwight Howard:
Their victory was aided greatly when Howard sat on the bench resting for the final six minutes of the game.

Making matters worse for the rest of the league is that Howard has evolved from the dunk-happy monster he's been the past three seasons. Now he's added a face-up jump shot and some up and under post moves to a physical repertoire matched by barely a handful of players in the NBA.

Howard finished the night with 30 points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and also cleaned up whatever messes he could for a Magic team adjusting to playing without veteran leader Grant Hill, who left in the offseason for Phoenix.

Up next, the Hawks travel to Miami to play the Heat (103-86 losers to the Pistons last night) on Wednesday night.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Pre-Season Game #1: @Orlando

Little news at this early date outside of Sekou Smith reporting that the first unit consists of Speedy Claxton, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Marvin Williams, and Zaza Pachulia.

The opposite end of the depth chart suggests little potential interest in roster battles. Josh Childress, Al Horford, Acie Law IV, Shelden Williams, Tyronn Lue, and Anthony Johnson figure to take up roster spots 6-11. Lorenzen Wright, Salim Stoudamire, and Solomon Jones should be safe as well.

Both Jamaal Tatum and Steven Smith would have been interesting in recent Hawks camps but with neither Royal Ivey nor Esteban Batista around this autumn, Tatum and Smith face an uphill battle to prove themselves good enough that someone else's guaranteed money gets eaten.

No TV or radio tonight. I'll explicate the box score tomorrow.

Ballhype: hype it up!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A New Direction

I spent the better part of the off-season assessing my small place in the basketball blogosphere and have come to following conclusion: There needs to be a blog about the 2007-08 Atlanta Hawks written by someone inordinately proud of having once described his professional basketball loyalty thusly, "Essentially, I'm still a Kansas City Kings fan."

I will most likely still write about the Kansas Jayhawks either here or at PhogBlog or HackTheBracket, but will cede my amateur efforts at college basketball analysis to Ken Pomeroy and John Gasaway's new project.

First pre-season game tips off on Monday night in Orlando.

The season proper starts November 2nd against the Mavericks.

Until things get televised, I'll be shamelessly piggy-backing Sekou Smith and Micah Hart. Thanks in advance for the boost.

Ballhype: hype it up!