Andy Flint

I'm a huge sports fan who decided to take to the web and write about my views on a wide variety of sports and sporting events. The NBA is my main catalyst, but I also write a lot about the NFL and other sports. Check out some of my non-NBA work at www.sports-kings.com!
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2014-15 team previews: Southwest Division

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Check out our predictions for the NBA’s Southwest Division. Can the Spurs keep their foot on the gas, as they look to keep Father Time on the bench in 2014-15, or will the Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, or Memphis Grizzlies be nipping at their heels?

Can Anthony Davis become the associations premiere power-forward? Will Dwight Howard and James Harden push the Rockets further this season? Can Dirk Nowitzki and the re-tooled Mavericks win it all? Will Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen prove that defense wins championships?

Find the answers to all of these questions below!

1st Place – San Antonio Spurs

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Last Season: 62-20

2014-15 Projection: 57-25

Key Additions: None

Key Losses: None

The San Antonio Spurs will head into the 2014-15 season trying to repeat as champions for the first time in team history, but they are going to need to find the motivation they had all of last season after they felt as though they handed the Heat the Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2013.

Kyle Anderson is a nice addition, and they didn’t lose any major players. They continue to be the best team in the NBA, but making a third straight Finals is going to be a major challenge. Expect the Spurs to continue to be near the top of the Western Conference, but don’t be surprised when they lose several more games than last season. (Mark Pace)

2nd Place – Dallas Mavericks

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Last Season: 49-33

2014-15 Projection: 55-27

Key Additions: Chandler Parson (HOU), Tyson Chandler (NYK), Jameer Nelson (ORL), Richard Jefferson (UTA), Raymond Felton (NYK) , Al-Farouq Aminu (NO)

Key Losses: Jose Calderon (NYK) Shawn Marion (CLE), Vince Carter (MEM), DeJuan Blair (WAS), Samuel Dalembert (NYK)

The Dallas Mavericks had arguably the best offseason of any team outside of Ohio. After a surprising 2013-14 season in which the Mavericks were the only team to really challenge the Spurs in the Playoffs, Mark Cuban and Co. made their team even better.

The return of veteran Tyson Chandler give them a defensive presence in the post, and Chandler Parsons gives the team someone who can take some of the scoring load off of Dirk Nowitzki. Jameer Nelson and Richard Jefferson bring veterans to a team full of them. Add in Rick Carlisle and the Mavs could make serious noise come Playoff time.

Rick Carlisle thrived with veterans in the past, and this season’s team is full of them at every position. For a team that had a better than expected 2013-14 season, the Mavericks are only going to be even better in 2014-15. (Mark Pace)

3rd Place – Memphis Grizzlies

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Last Season: 50-32

2014-15 Projection: 51-31

Key Additions:
Jordan Adams and Vince Carter.

Key Losses: Mike Miller

The Grizzlies are expected to be a playoff team again this season, but it isn’t clear at all if they can get out of the first round. Taking the Thunder to a Game 7 last season showed that they have what it takes to be a threat, but in the Western Conference, being a “threat” isn’t enough.

What should give Grizzlies fans some optimism is the arrival of Vince Carter. Carter is a great addition because he brings three things to the table that the Grizzlies need more of: scoring, three-point shooting, and veteran leadership. Carter averaged 11.9 points per game last season while shooting 39.4% from 3-point range. With the loss of Mike Miller, Carter’s ability to knock down the three-ball will be huge since that has been an area of weakness for them over the years. His raw scoring abilities will also be nice for them since they struggle to score the basketball in general.

As for his veteran leadership, the Grizzlies could really benefit from having another guy to go to in crunch time. Especially in the playoffs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph need help when it comes to finishing close games. Gasol and Randolph are fantastic, but I think they get tired of having to always close out the games. Having Carter around to take the pressure off should be huge for them. In addition to Carter, the arrival of rookie Joran Adams could be another huge plus for this Grizzlies team since Adams specializes in knocking down threes. He’ll be a nice guy to fill the void left by Mike Miller as another guy who can knock down threes along with Courtney Lee and Vince Carter.

These Grizzlies play a very physical style of basketball that wears teams down with defense and rebounding. It’s a style that works in the playoffs and should once again make them dangerous. It’ll be interesting to see if the additions of Vince Carter and Jordan Adams will make enough of a difference to make them a serious threat to not only win a series, but win the West. (Ben Parker) 

4th Place – Houston Rockets

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Last Season: 54-28

2014-15 Projection: 48-34

Key Additions: Trevor Ariza (WAS)

Key Losses: Omer Asik (NO), Chandler Parsons (DAL), Jeremy Lin (LAL), Greg Smith (DAL)

The Houston Rockets had one of the better seasons in the NBA last season. Much hype of a deep playoff run for this team was through the roof. Head Coach Kevin McHale sought a chance to bring the Rockets in the same ring with the likes of the top Western Conference teams and slide their way into the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, Houston met their end in the playoffs with a 1st round exit against the Blazers. Now, is their redemption in the Rockets roster to make a deeper push for this season’s playoffs? One can only hope if you’re a Rockets fan. Also failing to convince then-free agent Carmelo Anthony to don a Rockets uniform hurts. Moving on from that unsuccessful stint is important for this franchise.

It is unlikely Houston will make a big enough impact that will result in a big enough accomplishment. However, the team could muster enough to stick around and clip onto one of the lower playoff seeds.

The loss of Omer Asik and Chandler Parsons to their division rivals (New Orleans and Dallas, respectively) and a little of Jeremy Lin will prove to be a great defeat in some moment of the 2014-2015 season. The Rockets could only buck up a signing of Trevor Ariza from free agency, who is making his triumphant return back to Houston. His presence will be seen at four standing at small forward. James Harden and Dwight Howard are the unquestionable leaders of this squad and Harden made that clear saying they’re the top tiers while everyone else are role players. The undeniable generation of points from Harden (averaged 25.4 PPG last season) is a key piece. That could be an issue in the locker room but we’ll see. Patrick Beverley at the shooting guard is a underrated glimmering light for the Rockets. Howard is in the process of getting his personality and playmaking on straight to be a legitimate five guy in the middle.

Overall, the Rockets can and will make the playoffs but nothing comes easy in the tough as nails western conference and southwest division. (Kevin Smith)

5th Place – New Orleans Pelicans

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Last Season: 34-48

2014-15 Projection: 40-42

Key Additions: Omer Asik (HOU), Jimmer Fredette (CHI)

Key Losses: Al-Farouq Aminu (DAL), Brian Roberts (CHA), Jason Smith (NYK), Anthony Morrow (OKC)

The New Orleans Pelicans are very, very close to becoming a relevant team in the big easy once again. It may take another season or two but they are on the right track. An injury to star power forward diminished their chances at making a squeezed playoff run but the overall outcome of the season reflects well into this season. Coach Monty Williams will have fun, young team to lead and project as an up and coming playoff contender.

Rookie of the Year runner-up Davis is quite possibly one of the best young power forwards in the game and at the 4 he is truly a God-given talent. His numbers last season astounding: 20.8 PPG, 10.0 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks per game. Backing up Davis is Ryan Anderson, who averaged 19.8 points per game last season which was second best on the team. The acquisition of Omer Asik to start at center gives the Pelicans one of the more young, underrated and dangerous 4-5 guys in the league. Tyreke Evans at small forward fits well into the rotation system New Orleans is testing out. The only concern for the Pelicans is at the guard positions, with potential starters Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon out to make a credible influence. Gordon has the ability to break out into quality scoring performances but his skill set has become a headscrather. And his injury woes are concerning.

If anything is to come of the Pelicans, it is getting better and better every game. And they will certainly be doing that as much as possible. New Orleans is undoubtedly in the right direction of where they want to be. (Kevin Smith)

Second annual NBA centers draft

 

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Join Frank Santos and myself as we take our annual journey through the wonderful world of centers. Santos and I roll through the best centers around the association, taking turns making our picks. Then we put it together in a nice little package, filled with insults flung back and forth as the bond between colleagues grows stronger.

Perhaps you already skimmed though our other drafts this season. Frank and I started with point-guards, moved through the swingmen, fought our way through power-forwards, and ended here, with the anchors.

You’ll notice that every player has ether a plus, minus, or same label next to their spot. These just show their rise or fall from our 2013-14 rankings.

1 – Dwight Howard – Houston Rockets (Frank Santos) Same

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I think we have gotten to the point with Dwight Howard where he was overrated, and now it has swung the other way. Now, everyone yells Dwight Howard is overrated to the point where he is underrated, and I still think he holds the crown as best center in the league.

I foresee a big season from D12 and the Rockets now that they have had time to adjust to each other. We may even see James Harden play something that resembles defense.

2 – DeMarcus Cousins – Sacramento Kings (Andy Flint) +1

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I had Boogie ahead of Howard this year, and of course, Frank acted disgusted, probably rolled his eyes, and then snapchatted with anyone who would listen, just so he could explain how terrible I am.

I just like DeMarcus Cousins. He does with ease what others his size struggle to even imagine on the court. He’s graceful, powerful, athletic, and mega-talented. He’s easily the best offensive center in the game right now. The ONLY issue with Boogie is his attitude. I truly believe we’ll see a more mature Cousins this season, after spending valuable minutes with Team USA this Summer.

3 – Joakim Noah – Chicago Bulls (Frank Santos) +1

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One day I need DeMarcus Cousins and Russell Westbrook on the same team just to see if Andy decides to abandon his family to travel the country with them for 82 games.

Remember when I said that Dwight Howard is underrated and everybody hates on him? Well, I may be a bit of a hypocrite who got caught up in Noah’s brilliance last season and said he was better than Howard. That doesn’t mean Noah’s 2013-2014 campaign wasn’t anything short of brilliant (that is before Marcin Gortat and NeNe took him to school in the playoffs), but he just has offensive limitations that make it hard to take him over Dwight.

Then again, I think Boogie has too many mental limitations to take him over Noah, so there’s that.

4 – Marc Gasol – Memphis Grizzlies (Andy Flint) -2

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Ha! Santos has a way with words. Always sitting on his high-horse. I recall a similar disgust with my taking Dwight Howard number one overall last season, but that’s none of my business.

As for Marc Gasol. He was a guy I really took a long look at for the number one overall pick last season, but fourth just feels very right for him this year. Not that he was bad last season, but missed time, and the Grizz only managed the seven seed in a tough, tough, tough western conference. It’s the post-Lakers Howard stepping up in Houston, the brilliant season from Noah, and the development with Cousins that really contributed to Gasol dropping from two to four in this draft.

5 – Al Jefferson – Charlotte Hornets (Frank Santos) +3

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Having to defend Al Jefferson for 40+ minutes has to be one of the worst propositions in all of the league right now. Every time I think I have seen every move in Big Al’s arsenal, he breaks out a new one. It’s truly a pleasure to watch him work on the block, and his throwback style in the post is refreshing.

He has slowly morphed into a competent defender as well. Not good, but he isn’t the James Harden of centers, either. That wasn’t always the case, so salute to Big Al there.

6 – Andre Drummond – Detroit Pistons (Andy Flint) +3

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I believe that Drummond is already one of the best defensive anchors in the league. His long, athletic frame stops players from driving to the lane, while his ability to use strength and athleticism on offense has really put him a step or two ahead of where I figured he’d be.

I look for Drummond to continue to improve under Stan Van Gundy. Hopefully the Pistons will figure out what to do with either Josh Smith or Greg Monroe. This team needs to swap one of those two players for a reliable wing scorer.

7 – Al Horford – Atlanta Hawks (Frank Santos) -2

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In typical fashion, I haven’t agreed with a single pick Andy has made yet. That’s just the kind of relationship we have. I especially think he may have been high on bath salts when he decided that Andre Drummond was better than Al Horford.

We have discussed this phenomenon in the past, but there is something about a guy going down with an injury that makes us forget him. In sports, there really a mixed  cocktail of “what have you done for me lately” and “out of sight, out of mind” mindset. I didn’t forget you, Al. I didn’t forget how the Hawks went from the 3rd best team in the East to only sniffing the playoffs because the East is so putrid because of you, Al. Keep your head up, let the hate breed a 22-10 season.

8 – DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers (Andy Flint) +3

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Look, I like Al Horford as much as the next guy, but when you only crack 30+ games once in three seasons, I tend to become worried.

As for DeAndre Jordan, I had him above Horford as well. This game is all about “what have you done for me lately”, and lately, the Clippers have benefited more from Jordan than ATL has from Horford. Jordan has a different game from Drummond, but generally garners similar results. Both players are tremendous on defensive, long, and athletic. I have a special bias towards guys who protect the rim, and DeAndre Jordan is one of the league’s best.

9 – Brook Lopez – Brooklyn Nets (Frank Santos) -2

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If Brook Lopez has a healthy right foot, he is at least three spots higher on this list. For a long time, many thought that Brook Lopez was the most talented offensive center in the league. I was on that bandwagon as well, but it’s a tough argument to make in a league that also employs the aforementioned Al Jefferson.

I am just rooting for Lopez to stay healthy since as a Nets fan, he is my favorite player to watch. I think 9 is an appropriate spot for him, as there is a slight drop-off in talent after this, but I also understand that his injury history may have some see this as a reach. I would go into detail about how the whole “Brook Lopez doesn’t rebound” is a stupid argument, but we are trying to keep these write-ups reasonable in length.

Long Live The Brookie Monster. (He REALLY needs a new nickname.)

10 – Tyson Chandler – Dallas Mavericks (Andy Flint) +2

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Chandler appears to follow my trend of lanky defenders, who are defensive studs. The real difference with Chandler is that he doesn’t have the offensive game that Drummond and Jordan do. I know what you’re thinking, because Drummond and Jordan aren’t exactly offensive juggernauts. That’s my point. Chandler has a role, he knows that role, and he plays it perfectly. Last time he was in Dallas they beat the Heat and won a title.

I expect Chandler to guard the best big man on the floor, protect the rim, and set the tone defensively, as he roams the paint, cleans the glass and looks for easy cleanup buckets. The Mavs have many scoring options. Chandler’s defensive ways are needed to make this team legitimate.

11 – Marcin Gortat – Washington Wizards (Frank Santos) +4

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As I typed this pick, I didn’t really buy it myself. Then, I double checked the players left, and Gortat really does seem like the best center remaining from the bunch. Gortat and NeNe really stepped up last season, and both made big leaps in our drafts for good reason.

With the addition of Paul Pierce, and the continued emergence of those two guys paired with maybe the best back-court in the league (personally, give me The Splash Brothers), the Wizards are going to be a serious contender in the East.

12 – Nikola Vucevic – Orlando Magic (Andy Flint) +1

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The age old question of which Nikola goes first resumes in 2014-15. Look, I prefer Vucevic, and Frank prefers Pekovic. I don’t think you can really go wrong with either player. They both have loads of talent, but they both also have very different games. Vucevic is more of a typical rebounder/back-to-the-basket type, while Pek is a wide body, who has more offensive skill than you’d ever think just from looking at him.

The kicker for me really boils down to skill, as I believe Vucevic has more. Pekovic is more of a scrappy player, who earns his stripes doing the dirty work. Which I do love, but I like Vucevic’s ability to be a constant double-double player, who’s capable of running the offense, from the post, in spurts.

The Magic seem to agree, as they just locked Vucevic up on a four-year, $54 million deal.

13 – Nikola Pekovic – Minnesota Timberwolves (Frank Santos) +1

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The fall of Roy Hibbert continues. We like to keep the Nikola’s together, as we also took them back-to-back last year as well. Mostly I took Pek because I was scared that if he went any lower, he would put hits out on Andy and I.

I ain’t trying to die over a harmless centers draft.

14 – Jonas Valanciunas – Toronto Raptors (Andy Flint) +6

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I didn’t plan it this way, but I feel like Jonas really fits in well with the Nikola’ crew. I truly do love the fact that the NBA has seven foreign  centers worthy of being drafted in the top 15. Not to mention the fact that, without realizing it, Santos and I just drafted four international players in a row. This is why I love the NBA!

As far as Valanciunas goes, he’s put on good weight this off-season, appears more comfortable in the paint, and even took a run at Boogie Cousins when Team USA faced-off against Lithuania back in September. I actually liked what I saw in that video. It proves a point. Cousins is a top-tier talent in the NBA. He’s an absolute load down in the paint, and I feel like Jonas was showing that he’s all of those things as well. Next time, I’d just prefer that he doesn’t flinch when Cousins comes at him, but hey, I probably would too. That dude is nuts!

15 – Roy Hibbert – Indiana Pacers (Frank Santos) -9

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Right now, I am picturing Roy Hibbert as the dude in the green room during the NBA draft who was told he had a lottery guarantee, only to be sitting with his mom and his agent into the second round with the “what the hell happened?” face.

What happened is you went from someone who helped the Pacers go toe-to-toe with the defending champion Miami Heat to a dude who has a hard time putting up a stat. Like, ANY STAT. A point, a block, a rebound. ANYTHING. GIVE US ANYTHING ROY.

That being said, I can’t believe somebody can completely fall of the face of the earth like that, and I thought this was the lowest possible place he could go, as everyone behind him is either one-dimensional, not established, or has injury concerns.

16 – Omer Asik – New Orleans Pelicans (Andy Flint) +1

One quick thing about Roy Hibbert, before I start in with Asik. Most of Hibbert’s success was brought on by people who dislike Dwight Howard. Shaq included. People were acting like Hibbert was the best center in the league! Even when he wasn’t doing a whole lot, people would point out the things he does that don’t show up in the statline. I always felt like that was a HUGE farce. Doo doo!

As far as Asik goes. I’m not blown away by him or anything, but I do see him as a 15 and 12 guy, given the right situation. However, I do not feel like New Orleans is that situation. I believe Asik can be their difference-maker, because he’s a brute on defense, and more skilled that people give him credit for being on offense. I just feel like his current role with the Pelicans has to be only about defense and rebounding. That being said, this is the correct place for him. He can average eight points and 10+ rebounds in The Big Easy and help this young team to the playoffs, but he has to buy-into it.

Anthony Davis and Omer Asik may be the league’s best big-man duo (defensively) this season. YOU CAN’T SCORE INSIDE!

17 – Andrew Bogut – Golden State Warriors (Frank Santos) -7

In retrospect, 10 was probably a reach last year. Flint and I may have been caught up in that Warriors playoff run, with Bogut being at the forefront, and being praised as “the most important Warrior.” The team now has a new identity, and I am not sure that the David Lee/Bogut front-court really fits into it.

He also simply cannot stay on the court, and unlike Brook Lopez, he has been in the league long enough to know that will probably always be the case.

18 – Robin Lopez – Portland Trail Blazers (Andy Flint) +11

My (our) biggest regret from last year’s draft was sleeping on Lopez. I truly believe that he’s the real difference in Portland, although most brains will never process it that way. Not only did Robin’s presence move LMA back into his natural power-forward position, but the seven-footer has brought some defense into the middle for the Blazers.

I know we’re a sports’ society who really loves stats, so I don’t expect most people to give a hell about Robin Lopez. You’ll probably also point out how bad Portland was, defensively, last season, but trust me when I say that it would have been far worse without Lopez manning the middle. Respect.

19 – Anderson Varejao – Cleveland Cavaliers (Frank Santos) -1

I am still upset that we took Fropez 29th last season. I was SO upset I tried to take him again at 23 in this draft before Andy informed me he had already taken him. We owed him a double selection.

Rocking a respectable fro in his own right, Anderson Verejao is another guy who just can’t stay on the floor. I enjoy the 2-3 weeks I plug him into my fantasy lineup for 8 points, 20 rebounds before he goes down though.

20 – Enes Kanter – Utah Jazz (Andy Flint) -1

Kanter is rapidly approaching a crossroads with me. I like his size and ceiling, but is this dude every going to open up and let us see how good he can be, or nah? I can say the same thing about his buddy, Derrick Favors, too.

I keep Kanter in the top 20, but I’m expecting 15 and 10 this year. If I don’t get it, he can consider himself banned from my Christmas card list, moving forward.

21 – Miles Plumlee – Phoenix Suns  (Frank Santos) +2

Given his impressive season, I figured the older Plumlee would have leaped more than two spots. We must have been fairly high on him last season too. That’s a good job by us, and we don’t do that often. Also, just want to remind somebody that the Suns got Plumlee, Gerald Green AND A DRAFT PICK for Luis Scola. That is what the kids refer to as robbery.

The problem for Miles is I am just not sure how much his game can really grow from here. This may be his plateau, and it is a respectable starting center. Not too shabby at all.

22 – Steven Adams – Oklahoma City Thunder (Andy Flint) +N/A

I fully expect Adams to be the starting center for the Thunder this season. If not by opening night, then by the second or third week. Here are my reasons.

A) He has showed a knack for defense. Blocking shots, grabbing rebounds, and pissing off opposing players.

B) He’s better than Kendrick Perkins.

C) Kendrick Perkins is a bum.

D) Get Perkins the hell out of here!

23 – Spencer Hawes – Los Angeles Clippers (Frank Santos) -2

Give me all the white boys!!

Spencer Hawes is hard to place on this list because he doesn’t really play like a center. You can find Hawes spotted up at the three-point line more times than not. You can also find him with a dictionary trying to look up the word defense.

Offensively, he is legit though, and I like what he potentially brings to the Clippers roster.

24 – Nerlens Noel – Philadelphia 76ers (Andy Flint) +N/A

Before I start on Noel, I should mention that Frank claims that I have “Whiteboy Syndrome”, which apparently means I’m biased against white basketball players. I’m just here to say that the current count is six to five, in favor of me. Cured!

Nerlens Noel is probably the biggest reach for me during this draft. I’m not even sure what position he’ll end up playing in the long run, but I believe, at least for now, that he’s a center. He’s still too raw offensively to play PF, and he’s too long and defensive-minded to not man the middle for Philly, while they wait for Embiid and their 56 first-rounders to come to fruition.

I believe, a lot like MCW last season, Noel will thrive because he’ll have buckets full of opportunity on a team that should win 20 games next season.

Rookie of the year candidate!

25 – JaVale McGee – Denver Nuggets (Frank Santos) -3

JaVale McGee is just a shot in the dark here. He hasn’t been a factor in such a long time that he becomes one of those guys impossible to properly place. Still worthy of this list though.

26 – Tiago Splitter – San Antonio Spurs (Andy Flint) +N/A

Tiago Splitter gives me my seventh white guy!

I don’t have a much to say about Splitter, aside from the fact that he understands his role, and does a pretty good job not screwing it up.

The end.

27 – Mason Plumlee – Brooklyn Nets (Frank Santos) +N/A

What do you know about that MONEY MA$E work?!

If Brook Lopez can’t stay healthy, I expect Plumlee to play huge minutes for the Nets, and it will be interesting to see what he can do with them. He was one of the biggest surprises as a rookie last year, and he may be able to continue that success if he can develop an offensive game. The playoff spotlight seemed just a bit too bright for him last season, but hopefully his time with the US Olympic Team this summer helped him in that respect.

28 – Larry Sanders – Milwaukee Bucks (Andy Flint) -4

Sanders is certainly a dude I can see having a huge bounce-back season, but in the same breath I’d like to convey my worries, as some part of brain is telling me that what we saw from Sanders in 2012-13 was a lie.

Look, every player in the NBA is capable of looking like they deserve a starting position with a team. I feel like the common misconception is that some NBA players suck, and that isn’t the case. Given ample minutes and opportunity, Kendrick Perkins can make you believe that he’s a top 10 center. Wait, that already happened before.

The jury is out on Sanders. Let’s see what he has in store for 2014-15.

29 – Samuel Dalembert – New York Knicks (Frank Santos) -3

At this point, you know what Samuel Dalembert brings to the table. Rebounding, blocks, and every now and then, he can even get you 10 extra points on put-back efforts.

Most nights, you’re lucky he can catch the ball.

30 – Kendrick Perkins – Oklahoma City Thunder (Andy Flint) +N/A

Why does Perk have facial hair like a 16th century Spanish Conquistador?

Listen, I like to bag on Perk, because, well, he deserves it, but I may be the last person still breathing in oxygen, who believes Perkins does have a role on an NBA roster. I hate him as a starter, but he has a big body, and can contribute defensively against the big teams out west. Let him get 15-18 minutes per game, make him use some fouls and grab a few boards. He’ll be fine. Just get him to shave that ridiculous facial hair.

Pick Too High:

Frank: So many choices, so little time. I didn’t agree with half of Andy’s picks, but that’s the way it goes with us. He will find his way eventually, and I still can’t believe he picked more white guys than I did. I would have to go with Nerlens Noel, even though I expect him to have a quality rookie season in Philly. That being said, he is still so raw, especially offensively, and has a lot of maturing to do before I would consider him any higher than 29-30.

Andy: My pick was Anderson Varejao. His window has closed, in my opinion, and I felt he was more suited for 25-30, rather than falling inside the top 20. Perhaps we’ll see a rejuvenated career out of him now that LeBron is back in Cleveland.

Pick Too Low:

Frank: ITS GOTTA BE ROBIN LOPEZ. (Okay, Fropez, we are even now.) Nah, but seriously, I don’t think there are a lot of guys that really went significantly lower than I expected. I didn’t agree with Andy’s top 10, but I still had the same 10 guys in my top 10, just in a completely different order. In that sense, nobody got snubbed. Honestly, it may be Mason Plumlee. In his rookie season, he had a signature moment with his game-saving maybe it was a foul but whatever  block on LeBron, and should have probably in the conversation at 21-24 instead if 27.

Andy: I agree with Santos on this one. Plumlee probably could have moved up four 0r five spots, but it’s not much of an error on our part.

Pick you wish you could take back:

Frank: This sounds crazy given where he was at this time last year, but… Roy Hibbert at 15 may still be a reach.

Andy: I believe if I could re-draft, I’d have chosen Al Jefferson at number four, instead of Marc Gasol. Nothing against Gasol, I just feel like, at this point, I’d prefer Jefferson. But that’s me fishing for something to change. I’m content with my picks.

WATCH: Vince Carter rejects Dirk Nowitzki at the basket

Former teammates must still keep lines of communication open, right? Well, if that’s the case, then Dirk Nowitzki can be expecting a buzz from former Mavericks’ teammate, Vince Carter, after the HUGE block Carter laid on Dirk during Monday’s preseason action between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks, in Dallas.

Don’t be fooled by Carter’s athletic decline. He’s still more athletic than the average person. VC shows this off, by climbing the ladder and meeting the seven-foot, Nowitzki, at the rim with a brutal block. carter’s not usually known for his defensive prowess, but perhaps his short time in Memphis, so far, has changed his ways. I suppose it’s hard to play on that roster and not pick up on some defense.

Dirk was actually blocked twice on the possession. Once by Tony Allen (who else?), as he attempted a three in the corner. Dirk grabbed the loose, ball, but managed to get stuffed, again, by Carter at the rim. Dallas actually got the rebound, but Brandon Wright failed to convert.

Despite the block part on Dirk, the Mavericks managed to hold on and win 108-103, as preseason winds down.

WATCH: Derrick Rose vs. Kyrie Irving

Listen, the season starts one week from today (Tuesday, October 28th), and I’m so excited that I may have an aneurysm, die, and miss the entire thing play out. Despite the excitement, I’m rightfully upset that we’ll be without Paul George all year, and without Kevin Durant to start. However, the league welcomes back Derrick Rose, who decided to go HAM on Kyrie Irving and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night, notching 30-points in 24 minutes of play. Kyrie Irving was no slouch, putting up 28-points and seven dimes in 38 minutes of play.

Two of the leagues premier point-guards doing battle is one of the most exciting things you can watch in all of sports. This two-minute clip highlights some of the best moments from what’s sure to be a new rivalry in the making, as the Chicago Bulls traveled to Cleveland to take on the Cavaliers during Monday night’s preseason action .

The Cavaliers defended their home floor well, defeating the visiting Bulls by a score of 107-98, behind Irving’s 28. But the biggest story of the night was Derrick Rose dropping 30 in less than 25 minutes, and looking like MVP Derrick Rose.

Check out Rose as he takes it coast-to-coast at right about the 15-second mark. Speed, quickness and strength to finish that basket, with the harm. Can we FINALLY count on a comeback season from D-Rose? I hope so!

2014-15 team previews: Southeast Division

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Welcome to the 2014-15 preview for the NBA’s Southeast Division. Check out where the team ranked the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic this season.

The southeast lost LeBron James, gained some interesting rookies, and looks to see the emergence of the Hornets and Wizards, respectively. Can Paul Pierce help advance the Wiz to the next level? Can Al Horford and company improve on a winning season in Charlotte. How will the Heat recover after losing LeBron James? Can the Magic’s young crop put up wins? Will Jeff Teague take the leap for the Hawks? Have all of your questions answered below.

Be sure to check out our previous divisional previews, and stay tuned for Friday’s look at the Southwest Division.

1st Place – Charlotte Hornets

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Last Season: 43-39

2014-15 Projection: 47-35

Key Additions:Lance Stephenson (IND), Marvin Williams (UTA), Noah Vonleh (Rookie), Brian Roberts (NO)

Key Losses: Josh McRoberts (MIA), Chris Douglas-Roberts (LAC), Luke Ridnour (ORL)

The Charlotte Bobcats are no more. The 10-year reign that only saw the franchise make it to the playoffs only two seasons in that time span has officially ended. With the burying of the Bobcats, the famous Charlotte Hornets name has resurrected. The purple and teal colors are back in an effort to bring a retro re-brand to the forefront of NBA in Charlotte. Owner Michael Jordan and coach Steve Clifford will look to reflect the future Hornets in comparison to the successful teams in the 90’s. The organization is in fact the right direction to make a splash in the Eastern Conference and drive to a deep postseason run.

The offseason signing of free agent Lance Stephenson, who played for the Indiana Pacers last season, gives the Hornets an immediate step-up at the shooting guard position. The large issue that could plague Stephenson to play at his best, who averaged 13.8 points per game with the Pacers the previous season, is his questionable locker room attitude. Other than that, the young SG is bound to have a substantial breakthrough 1st season with Charlotte. Signing FA Marvin Williams to a multi-year deal provides this team with reliability at power forward. Team captains Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson are solid picks for the point guard and center positions, respectively. Jefferson proved his multi-year deal with Charlotte last season wasn’t a fluke as he received All-NBA Third Team honors. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could turn some heads with a surprising turnaround season with a ton of talent not fully exposed to the highest level.

The loss of Josh McRoberts to Miami hurts the flowing pattern of shooting and passing across the court and setting up Jefferson for bigger situations.

Things to look closely at for the Hornets this upcoming season: Consistent offensive efficiency (third-best in the league last season), a condensed points per possession average, and the possibility of bench player Cody Zeller out to prove his worthiness to Charlotte. If all goes well for Charlotte in their first season back as the Hornets, they have potential to be a top-5 Eastern Conference and possibly take the Southeast Division crown for a likely home court advantage in the playoffs. (Kevin Smith)

2nd Place – Washington Wizards

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Last Season: 44-38

2014-15 Projection: 46-36

Key Additions: Paul Pierce (BKN), Kris Humphries (BOS), DeJaun Blair (DAL)

Key Losses: Trevor Ariza (HOU), Trevor Booker (UTA)

Last season was a huge step in the right direction for the Wizards. Led by one of the best backcourts in the Association and a veteran frontcourt, they are staking their claim as a top four team in the East.

The loss of Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker was significant, but the Wizards were able to re-sign Marcin Gortat, and the addition of Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and DeJaun Blair gives them a balance of veteran leadership and young talent.

Second year player and former no. 3 overall pick Otto Porter Jr. could be a major factor in the Wizards’ season. After struggling in his first year, which could be attributed to injuries, the former no. 3 overall pick could see a significant increase in opportunity. The Wizards can be penciled in for a playoff birth, and could realistically finish as the 3 seed in the East.

Bradley Beal’s injury will set them back for the first part of the season, but he will be back and healthy for the bulk of the season. (Mark Pace)

3rd Place – Miami Heat

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Last Season: 54-28

2014-15 Projection: 45-37

Key Additions: Luol Deng, Shannon Brown, Danny Granger, Josh McRoberts, Shabazz Napier

Key Losses: LeBron James (CLE), Ray Allen (FA), Shane Battier (Retired), Michael Beasley (CBA)

The Heat will look drastically different, and blah, blah, blah. I can go on all day about how losing LeBron James will negatively impact ANY team out there, but I’ll spare you all the constant grind of talking about LeBron James.

The Heat still have a ton of talent. Dwyane Wade may be nearly done, but he’s still better than most players hanging around the association. Chris Bosh is still in town, after re-upping on a monster $100+ million deal. Bosh is such an undervalued player in this league. Look for Bosh to resemble the his former, Raptors’ self this season, as Miami will need a true cornerstone player, and I’m just not sure Wade has that left in him for an entire season.

I also look to the additions to make a big splash. Look to guys like Luol Deng, Danny Granger, rookie Shabazz Napier, Shannon Brown and Josh McRoberts to give the Heat enough of a push to finish as a playoff seed in the east. (Andy Flint)

4th Place – Atlanta Hawks

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Last Season: 38-44

2014-15 Projection: 43-39

Key Additions: Adeian Payne (Rookie), Thabo Sefalosha (OKC)

Key Losses: Louis Williams (TOR)

The Hawks didn’t make any moves to really improve their roster, but bringing in the stretch capabilities of rookie, Adreian Payne, will bolster their rotation. The development of Jeff Teague should also continue to make this team harder to beat, while Al Horford’s return from injury is sure to warrant the Hawks additional wins in 2014-15.

All in all, their rotation players look solid on paper. We know what we’ll get from guys like Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Thabo Sefalosha, Jeff Teague and Al Horford. It’s the young players who could make the difference. Guys like Payne and Dennis Schroder should see opportunity to play quality minutes this season. Whether or not they put this opportunity to good use is up in the air.

All in all, I believe Atlanta is a good team, who made a good run at the Pacers in the first round, last season. Having Al Horford to anchor their defense for an entire season is what makes this team tick. They just need to keep the big fella healthy. (Andy Flint)

5th Place – Orlando Magic

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Last Season: 23-59

2014-15 Projection: 32-50

Key Additions: Elfrid Payton (Rookie), Aaron Gordon (Rookie), Channing Frye (PHX), Devyn Marble (Rookie), Evan Fournier (Den), Luke Ridnour (CHA)

Key Losses: Arron Afflalo (Den), Jason Maxiell (CHA)

Look, losing Arron Afflalo seems like dark spot in what is already shaping up to be another tough season for the Magic and it’s fans, but the key here is patience, much as it’s been the last two seasons. The development of Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Maurice Harkless, Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon is crucial to this young team.

The Magic may have struck gold in the 2014 NBA Draft, acquiring the young, freak athlete, Aaron Gordon, the under-the-radar point guard, Elfrid Payton, and even the surprising Devyn Marble, who Orlando got lucky with in the second round.

The Magic have the fourth youngest roster in the league, with an average age of 24.6. Take into consideration that newcomers, Ben Gordon, and Channing Frye boost their average age considerably, as do both Wllie Green and Luke Ridnour, being as all four players are in their 30’s. But every other player on the Magic’ roster is under the age of 25. In fact, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Andrew Nicholson, Devyn Marble, Maurice Harkless, and Tobias Harris all combine for an average age of 21.5. These are the guys who the Magic will be banking on, long term, which is why I preach patience with this young roster.

The sky is the limit! (Andy Flint)

WATCH: Blake Griffin and Trevor Booker get physical

Blake Griffin has become a major target of hard fouls over the years, and it makes perfect sense, being that his calling card is posterizing his opponents. One of the biggest knocks on Blake has been his inability to defend himself from taking rough fouls. He’s been called out by guys like Zach Randolph and DeMarcus Cousins in the past, but perhaps it’s time Blake lays down the law a bit.

The Utah Jazz were leading the Los Angeles Clippers 66-61 on Friday night, during preseason, when Blake received a pass from Chris Douglas-Roberts on the fast-break. Trevor Booker was the last man back for Utah, but instead of contesting the shot, Booker reached high and landed a paw on Blake’s head, which needless to say, didn’t go over so well with Griffin.

As you can see from the tape, Griffin had already made up his mind, prior to landing, and then went right at Booker. Even grabbing Booker around the back of his head. I like this new Blake Griffin. Play hard, dunk on people, and don’t put up with the hard fouls. You have to make a stand at some point, and apparently this is the season where we see a new Blake Griffin, in terms of not standing for the overly-physical play from defenders.

Perhaps the most hilarious part of this encounter was the fact that Spencer Hawes and CDR, of all people, were left to try and sort out the controlling of Blake Griffin.

2014-15 team previews: Pacific Division

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The Pacific division is one generally dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers. But lately the story has changed, as the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors have become the teams to beat. Watch out for the Phoenix Suns as well, while the Kings look to build around DeMarcus Cousins.

The real story of the Pacific may be the return of Kobe Bryant. The Lakers’ legend looks to make his triumphant return, after missing the majority of the 2013-14 NBA season.

1st Place – Los Angeles Clippers

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Last Season: 57-25

2014-15 Projection: 55-27

Key Additions: Spencer Hawes (CLE),

Key Losses: Darren Collison (SAC), Jared Dudley (MIL)

The Clippers will win the division again, even with the Warriors winning more games and the Clippers winning less games than they did in 2013-14 respectively. 57 wins is  a hard mark to hit, even with the NBA’s third best player on your roster, which is why I have the Clippers slated to snag 55-wins in 2014-15.

Chris Paul is still one of the league’s elite players, and Blake Griffin will continue to get better, as he puts in a bid to become a top five NBA talent. He has the skill and we’ve watched his work ethic pay dividends since he joined the league back in 2009. LAC also boasts a core that stayed mostly in-tact since last season. DeAndre Jordan, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Reddick and Matt Barnes are still in-tow, as Paul and Blake look to lead this team to a high seed, and more importantly, an NBA Championship. (Andy Flint)

2nd Place – Golden State Warriors

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Last Season: 51-31

2014-15 Projection: 50-32

Key Additions: Steve Kerr (head coach), Brandon Rush, Shaun Livingston, and Leandro Barbosa

Key Losses: Mark Jackson (head coach)

The Golden State Warriors’ biggest offseason move was letting go of head coach Mark Jackson and hiring Steve Kerr to replace him. Jackson reportedly had issues with the front office which ultimately caused management to fire him and go in a different direction. Perhaps the biggest thing to look for in this Warriors team is what adjustments Steve Kerr makes and how the team responds to him. If the team plays well and buys into Kerr’s philosophy, the hiring will look like the right move. If the team struggles and doesn’t respond to him, then people will start to question the decision to let go of Jackson.

In addition to a coaching change, the Warriors also were involved in the Kevin Love drama this summer. For a while, they were entertaining the idea of letting go of Klay Thompson to get Kevin Love before ultimately not getting involved in the Kevin Love trade at all. The Warriors and Thompson now are trying to work out a deal on a contract extension and at the moment, they are said to be millions of dollars away per year from reaching an agreement. If Thompson and the Warriors can’t agree on an extension soon, the Warriors’ relationship with Thompson could be strained which obviously could have a negative impact on the team. However, I do expect the Warriors to smooth things over with Thompson and find a way to pay him what he wants.

As for how the Warriors perform on the court this season, I don’t see any reason to think they’ll do any  better than last season. The only thing that could make them better is if they can stay more healthy than last season. Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry, and Andre Iguodala all have had injury problems. If those guys stay healthy, then the Warriors will do a lot better. Especially since they don’t have much of a bench and Steve Kerr is new to coaching. Health will be key to this team’s success.

I already mentioned that the bench is suspect, but they did add some guys who could make their bench better. These guys are Brandon Rush, Shaun Livingston, and Leandro Barbosa. If those guys play well, that will really make things easier on their starting lineup. Especially Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson who are relied upon to score the bulk of the points.

In conclusion, this Warriors team is very good. Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry are the best backcourt in the NBA and their 3-point abilities will make them a dangerous team come playoff time. However, they didn’t make any big splashes in the offseason outside of their head coach, and I don’t think Steve Kerr will make so big of a difference that this team vaults into the NBA Finals. Teams like the Spurs, Thunder, and Clippers I still  think are better teams, but the Warriors will once again find themselves in the playoffs ready to prove us wrong. (Ben Parker)

3rd Place – Phoenix Suns

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Last Season: 48-34

2014-15 Projection: 51-31

Key Additions: Isaiah Thomas (SAC)

Key Losses: Channing Frye (ORL)

The Suns were the biggest surprise in the NBA last season after finishing 27 wins above their pre-season Vegas prediction. The team sports a deep backcourt, and Isaiah Thomas has the potential to be the Sixth Man of the Year.

They also added T.J. Warren and Tyler Ennis to an already young team. The Phoenix Suns will be better than last year (assuming they can stay healthy,) but that might not be enough for a playoff birth in the loaded Western Conference. More than likely, 50 wins will put them in, but Dallas and Memphis (last season’s 7th and 8th seeds) should be better too.

As impossible as it sounds, the 7, 8 and 9 seeds in the West should be even better than they were last season. Even with three more wins, the Suns are going to have to battle to make the Playoffs. (Mark Pace)

4th Place – Los Angeles Lakers

NBA: FEB 07 Lakers at Celtics

Last Season: 27-55

2014-15 Projection: 47-35

Key Additions: Julius Randle (Rookie), Carlos Boozer (CHI), Ed Davis (MEM), Jeremy Lin (HOU). Ronnie Price (ORL)

Key Losses: Steve Blake (POR), Pau Gasol (CHI), Chris Kamen (POR)

I’m going out on a ledge and giving the Lakers a major spike in wins (20) for this season, and it’s for a few reasons.

A) Kobe Bryant is back and looks hungry. I don’t think he’ll average 27 points per game this season, but Kobe averaging 20+ (which he will) is FAR superior to Kobe sitting on the bench with an injury.

B) Sure, they lost Gasol and Steve Blake, but they reloaded. Look at the names mentioned above. Julius Randle and Carlos Boozer will combine to do as much, if not more, than Pau Gasol did for the Lakers last season. Bank on that. Ed Davis is also a capable big man, with youth and size. And then you have Jeremy Lin and Ronnie Price. I’m high on Lin with the Lakers, because he’s going to give Nash quality minutes to rest, while not needing to bring the ball up on every possession, which if you’ve ever watched Kobe play, is a necessity.

Overall, I feel like these guys will miss the playoffs, but give it a heck of a go late in the year. Hopefully Nash and Kobe both stay healthy, but I won’t hold my breath. (Andy Flint)

5th Place – Sacramento Kings

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Last Season: 28-54

2014-15 Projection: 37-45

Key Additions: Darren Collison (LAC), Ramon Sessions (CHA), Nik Stauskas

Key Losses: Marcus Thornton (BOS), Isaiah Thomas (PHX)

I don’t expect a ton out of the Kings, despite them having the best center in the NBA. You ever notice that Sacramento has DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay and a bunch of dudes who may give you production, or may go out and drop two points? The word unreliable comes to mind. They have a logjam of young shooting guards, who can’t possibly all receive a productive amount of minutes. They have two backup point guards, and four backup power forwards, without a true starter in sight. Tell me how this team is supposed to win.

If Sacramento is smart, they use the fact that Rudy Gay seemed rejuvenated late last season, and package that with either McLemore, or Stauskas, and look to land another difference-maker to pair with Cousins. I like Ray McCallum and I believe they should give him a legitimate shot at starting point guard. What do they have to lose?

The Kings do have some nice young pieces to roll with Boogie, they just need to figure out which guys to go with, moving forward. (Andy Flint)

 

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Staff & Writers
Co-Founder/PTP Manager
Jason Whitney
Co-Founder/PTP Manager
Andy Flint
Lead Columnist
Cameron Wilkosz
Lead Columnist
Mark Pace
Contributor
Ben Parker