With the season starting today, I figured I would take a look at some things that I think I know about the upcoming season. This season is going to be interesting now that the Heat dismantled (just a little bit) and the Western Conference teams getting stronger each year.
The Spurs Will Not Make It Back To The Finals
We have all witnessed teams physically break down after playing deep into the post season year after year. This being my main logic behind my statement that I do not think the Spurs will make it back to the Finals.
The one X-factor in all of this is Gregg Popovich’s ability to manage minutes better than anyone in the game. The player’s will not be run down due to coaching but by the sheer fact that the big three played over 21,000 minutes over the past three seasons.
The most telling aspect of the minutes played between the two NBA Finals appearances was the increase in minutes during the regular season. Popovich recognized the importance of home court and thus had increased Duncan and Ginobili’s minutes by over a 100 for the season. Tony Parker on the other hand played less minutes during the regular season and the playoffs (765 minutes in 2013 playoffs compared to 719 minutes in the 2014 playoffs.)
History has proven that when you play on average 96 games a season over a three year span, you are bound to break down through fatigue. How Greg Popovich manages their playing time this year is going to be something I will keep an eye on. He will have to give Duncan, Parker and Ginobili more rest, which in turn makes the Spurs rely heavily on their bench, Tiago Splitter and their Finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard. Ironically, both Tiago and Kawhi will miss the season opener against Dallas.
The 2010 Draft Class Will Send A New Player To The All-Star Game
Arguably the best draft in recent memory, the 2010 class is stacked. This class might be better as a whole than the 2003 class when it’s said and done. With six players competing for all-star spots annually, this class also has a lot of disappointments and players who have yet to shine.
There are a couple of “busts” in this class who were expected to be something special like Evan Turner and Wesley Johnson. The next group of players is players who could make the next jump such as Larry Sanders, Greivis Vasquez, Derrick Favors, Avery Bradley and Greg Monroe.
This class is responsible for two all stars already, John Wall and Paul George. Both of these players are considered top 30 players in the league. These two will continue to be all-star candidates barring injury (sorry Paul).
That brings us to the group of players who could make an all-star game this upcoming season. We have one player who was robbed of the nod last year, DeMarcus Couins. He had one of the best seasons for a big man in recent years. Look for DeMarcus name to be in the discussion this year.
Next there are three players who signed big contracts this year. Eric Bledsoe of the Suns, Lance Stephenson of the Hornets, and Gordon Hayward of the Utah Jazz have earned big money and will need to be the stars of their teams they were paid for. This is the next group of guys that I expect to fight for an all-star spot this season.
Cleveland Will Not Win The Title This Year
A part of me wanted to change this statement to, “Cleveland Will Not Make It To The NBA Finals This Year”. However, that is going too far out on a limb. Any team with the best player in the world has the chance to make it to the Finals, as Lebron has been to five NBA Finals.
The first year playing with new teammates is always a learning experience. Throw in a new to the NBA coach, David Blatt who coached over seas for the past couple of decades. This Cavs team will have a large learning curve, not only with their players but with their head coach too.
Going on a pure basketball stand point, Cleveland lacks an interior defensive presence. Anderson Varejao has been an overachiever during his career and plays hard every night. What he doesn’t do is protect the rim. He is the type of player who resorts to flopping opposed to standing up right trying to block a shot. This will turn into lay up lines against quality point guards, which the league is flooded with.
We have all heard and debated the lack of playoff experience Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving have. I have seen one side of the debate downplay the importance of playoff experience with the statement, “look at their teams!” Unfortunately for those people, having playoff experience matters. Veterans still win in this league. Who knows how Love and Irving will play come playoff time. I, personally, do not think they will be terrible by any means. However, there will be a learning curve here.
Playoff basketball is a completely different game from the regular season. Every timeout, substitution, turnover, foul, etc is important. The speed of the game is much faster. Adjusting to playoff basketball can not be done until you play in the playoffs.
“Playing in the playoffs is the best basketball in the world, and if you can learn under that pressure, succeed under that pressure, it gives you more confidence the next year.” – Tony Parker
I understand Cleveland was able to fill the bench up with quality role players and veterans who have plenty of playoff experience like Mike Miller and Shawn Marion but they will still need their 2nd and 3rd options to learn how to play at that pace. Until Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving obtain that playoff experience, the Cavaliers will have to receive the best season from Lebron James if they expect to the win the NBA title this year.
The Celtics Might Be A Top 10 Defense
A few seasons removed from the Kevin Garnett era, this new Celtics team looks to make an impact on the defensive end this season. Heading into his second season as the Celtics head coach, Brad Stevens is looking to improve his team’s defensive efforts. Aggression is the theme used in camp. “Probably more aggressive on the basketball,” said Stevens recently to the media.
“You have to read and react to that,” he said. “But I’ve always been of the belief that you teach aggressive early and you can scale back. It’s hard to do the other way around.” via
In order to be more aggressive, you must have the personal to do it. This is where Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, and hopefully, Rajon Rondo come into play. Avery Bradley and Rajon Rondo’s best defensive rating seasons came a few seasons ago, under Doc Rivers. With Stevens having a young team, he will be able to play a college style of defense. That is, playing tons of players for low minutes but pressing as much as possible.
We can discuss the downfall of Rajon Rondo’s defense some more but has done that. They take a look at the past two seasons where his defense regressed, allowing a higher assist-to-turnover ratio, higher fg% and his DWS per 48 decreased in half. All are true and hard to argue but I look at the effort aspect here.
There is no secret Rajon tends to take games and plays off. His track record on national televised games is a large enough sample. This can also relate to his effort on a championship caliber team versus a non-playoff team. However, we have speculated how good of a player Rondo can be without much talent. This is the year we find out. This is his first full season without injury since the end of the title contender era of the Celtics, minus the minor hand injury. Not to mention he is entering a contract year looking for a max deal.
Now that we understand Rondo will be playing hard most nights (hopefully every night for Celtics fans sake), we now look at the other two stud defensive players sharing the backcourt with Rondo.
Avery Bradley is a special defensive player. His ability to force turnovers by pressing the ball handler is something unseen in the league in a long time. This is unique especially in a league where Amare Stoudemire has never learned defense; “Just having a defensive coach for the first time in my career is going to help,” Stoudemire said. “I’ve never been taught defense in my whole career.
Bradley’s ability to pressure the point guard will allow the Celtics to get back on defense easier. Without a true rim protector, it will be important that the guards on the Celtics lead the charge defensively, by pressuring the ball and forcing early turnovers.
We haven’t even mentioned the fact that Boston drafted the most NBA ready defensive player since… well…Avery Bradley. Marcus Smart fell to Boston for reasons unknown but they are not complaining about it. Coaches all over have been gushing over Marcus Smart’s defensive tenacity.
Bobby Gonzalez, head coach of Seton Hall, was quotes, “the future of the point position in the NBA is in good hands with Marcus Smart and Trey Burke.”
Steve Pagliuca (Celtics owning partner) said over the summer, “Coach K actually sent me a text that said [Celtics rookie guard] Marcus [Smart] was a fantastic player [with] the USA [select team] in Las Vegas,”
Chris Mannix of SI tweeted out in September, “Next great perimeter defender, per a couple scouts I talked to this week: Marcus Smart. All the tools. Scouts love how he embraces contact.”
The Celtics have the personal to be a good defensive team. They have an excellent young coach and tons of young talent. The Celtics will look to win on the defensive end with pressure and fresh legs. Getting tired is something that shouldn’t happen with such a young athletic team.
Ratings Will Increase Due To Bad Teams With Young Stars
Let’s put aside the fact that a Cleveland Cavaliers NBA Finals appearance will break records. Well maybe not break records but definitely be higher than the previous twelve years average of 10.0. What I am more interested in is the attendance on average for the NBA. The average attendance for an NBA game is around 17,000. The Bulls were the top team the past couple of years averaging around 21,000 per game.
The league attendance has taken a slight dip over the past few seasons. By slight I mean less than 50 people per game per team. Each team has varied but I am focusing on the top attendance team, which has been Chicago.
Two teams that have been hanging out near the bottom 5 during this duration ended up receiving the first and second picks of this past draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves (traded Kevin Love for Andrew Wiggins) and the Milwaukee Bucks who drafted Jabari Parker. With bad teams having such promising stars, the fan bases should come out more than in the past.
Other bottom dwellers could improve attendance like Detroit (new coach/gm), Hawks (should make a decent playoff spot although owner and GM stepped down due to “racist” comments on how to fix the attendance problem surfaced), and young teams like the Suns, Magic, Hornets and even 76ers. No, whom am I kidding? The 76ers will not improve attendance.
But I do think we will see an improvement of attendance league wide this season. While other professional sports had scandals (NFL) while others are losing ratings (worst rated World Series), the NBA has been doing everything right this offseason.