Monday, February 27, 2012

Mambino's NBA Preseason Projections: Looking Back

We like to think of ourselves as NBA geniuses. For instance, BockerKnocker took a lot of heat for omitting Dwight Howard from his Eastern Conference All-Star team, but was rewarded with Dwight's predictable no-show production in last night's contest. At the outset of the season, we answered 20 Burning Questions, predicting the outcomes of the most juicy plotlines that the NBA had to offer. Some were right, some were wrong, and most, unsurprisingly, won't be decided until the end of the season. But we couldn't just keep you fools waiting. The following will summarize some of our rights and wrongs with regards to the first half of NBA basketball.

Stunningly Right
The questions get asked every single year, but as the members of both teams creep into their mid to late thirties, the issues reared louder and longer than ever. Who would wilt first?  The San Antonio Spurs or the equally ancient Boston Celtics? Take a look at the standings. I think you have your answer.
While the Spurs are thriving despite losing Manu Ginobili for most of the season with a broken hand, whereas the Celtics have not responded to a season-ending heart condition to Jeff Green the same way.  I thought that the reason might be because of San Antonio's depth, and that seems to be one of the reasons they've been able to withstand an injury to their best or second-best player. Matt Bonner, Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal and DaJuan Blair have been fantastic between a consistent Tim Duncan and Tony Parker gone bonkers (and quietly inserted himself into the MVP race. But that's a MAMBINO post for another day).

KOBEsh: The advantages and flaws of the LA Clippers

I projected that with the trade for Chris Paul (looking better and better by the day), the Clippers would run one of the best offenses in the league. With them 7th in points per game and 4th in points per shot, they're clearly exactly what I thought they'd be. However, I pointed out that two of the Clippers' fatal flaws would be their defense and coach Vinny del Negro. They're middle of the pack defensively and I've personally watched a number of games in which del Negro has fumbled timeout management, as well as plays out of the huddle. They've yet to run out of steam, but this team won't make any noise in the postseason if they don't learn how to defend, and soon.

BockerKnocker: The New Jersey Nets' atrocious final season in New Jersey
New Jersey's long 2nd half started with Deron Williams, having a stellar year otherwise, nearly airballing the game-tying 3 in last night's All-Star game. At the beginning of the season, I hoped that the process of moving to Brooklyn could accelerate. After all, the Nets roster at the time consisted of D-Leaguer extraordinaire Sundiata Gaines and Johan "Only Jared Jeffries Has Worse Hands Than Me" Petro. Bad news, folks, those two guys are still alive, although nobody would blame you if you've caught a glimpse of the dead carcasses that New Jersey trots out every night.

The emergence of rookie MarShon Brooks has been delightful, and Deron Williams has had another brilliant season. But Deron is not a number 1 option (most point guards aren't). Brooks is a serviceable #2 for now, but he will undoubtedly be shipped to Orlando in ANY possible deal for Dwight Howard. The team has just 10 wins this season, and has lost 8 out of its last 10, sitting dead last in the Atlantic. The Nets are surely not "Jersey Strong, (or maybe that's another indictment on my home state?), but they couldn't be more "Brooklyn Ready."

BockerKnocker: The Portland Trail Blazers' resolve at The Rose Garden

When Greg Oden went down again, the Portland faithful didn't really bat an eye. It was the sudden retirement of adopted son Brandon Roy that really brought out the waterworks, however. Faced with the loss of two players that the city hoped would lead them to multiple championships, the Blazers regrouped just like I thought they would. The roster still features some battle tested veterans, which I predicted would be good enough to make the playoffs. Currently, the Blazers possess the 8th seed in the West, mainly due to their impressive 13-5 record at home. The adrenaline produced by the fans has been inspiring, and hopefully the crowd will continue to push their team on.

Dead Wrong
KOBEsh: The Detroit Pistons as a playoff squad

I had YOUR...Detroit Pistons finishing with a projected 28-38 record, good for 8th in the East. I was wrong on so many levels that my new tag name should be "A Parking Lot of Stupidity". The Pistons are currently 11-24, putting them on an astonishing 20-42 pace. They'll finish anywhere from 12th to 15th in the conference, easily. I knew that a team with such a young core (Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight and Austin Daye would all be rotation players) would struggle to score at times, but that between Ben Gordon, Daye, Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, that they'd put up some points on the board. Nope. They're 27th in the league in scoring average and 25th in field goal percentage. However, with new coach Lawrence Frank and his defense first mindset at the helm, they'd at least stop the ball, right? Right???? No. Even Ben Wallace and Tayshaun Prince couldn't get this team to finish anything but second to last in defensive efficiency, nor giving up 47% shooting per game. They are AMAZINGLY bad on both ends of the floor. Just stunningly bad.

Moreover, the 8th place finisher in the Eastern Conference should probably be below .500, but certainly not 10 games below. It'll probably end up being a dogfight between the Knicks, Bucks and Cavs, the best of which should finish closer to 33 wins than 28. Then again, what do I know? I picked this piss-poor Detroit team to resemble something decent.

KOBEsh: The Bobcats being bad, but not historically bad

I was dead wrong about the Charlotte Bobcats. I projected them to win around 17 games in the East, slotting them in for the 14th spot. I also said they'd be one of the least entertaining teams in the league, with defensive minded, but unspectacular players like Bismack Biyombo and one-dimensional scorers like Boris Diaw and Corey Maggette.
We are currently watching (or not watching) the worst  and indisputably least entertaining team in the league who would have to go 13-21 to get to 17 wins. Seeing as they are on a 8 win pace, I can't imagine it happening.  They're not just bad; they're on pace to set the record for lowest winning percentage in NBA history. Wow.

BockerKnocker: Chris Paul not being held hostage in New Orleans

While the NBA continues to search for an ownership group to lead the New Orleans Hornets, I predicted that superstar point guard Chris Paul would be locked and chained to the city. After all, how marketable would the Hornets be if the NBA traded its franchise player? Well, conventional wisdom screwed me again. Paul was traded in a blockbuster deal twice, the second of which was approved by David Stern. The ramifications of the Chris Paul saga covered many teams and players, from Houston to Lamar Odom's chins, but most unfortunately, it meant I was wrong.

Come back tomorrow for Mambino's 2nd Half Preview of the NBA season!

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