Tag Archives: LeBron James

Brief 2017 NBA Playoff Recaps: Volume 1 (Opening Weekend)

Four games in each day, to launch the 2017 NBA Playoffs. One paragraph per game, that’s all time will allow.

Saturday, April 15

Cleveland Cavs 109, Indiana Pacers 108 (Miles To Go Before I Sleep…)

(CLE leads, 1–0)

LeBron very good, rest of Cavs looked rusty…Kyrie 1 of 9 from deep…Cleveland dodges bullet when C.J. Miles misses fade-away at buzzer. Paul George is mad at C.J. Miles for taking a good look. Too bad Sir Lance couldn’t steal one for Indiana, that would’ve made things dramatic. (Lance is bringing it back to 2013, by the way)…Kevin Seraphin got 16 playoff minutes! Don’t wake the monster…

Milwaukee Bucks 97, Toronto Raptors 83 (Sir Brogdon At Your Service…)

(MIL leads 1–0)

Giannis in attack mode, such a beautiful sight. Half court to the rim in 3 strides. 28 on 18 shots…President Malcolm Brogdon ain’t a rookie, he’s a savvy vet! What do you need? I got your defense, your timely shooting, your smart passing. Just tell me what you need…Khris Middleton is the only human on the planet who can shoot 4 of 15 and finish +27 on the night. Three blocks by Maker made me squeal with delight. Lowry 2 of 11 and 0 of 6 from deep. Wrist rust be a problem. Casey needs to get Valanciunas more than 5 shots. This is going 7.

Dwayne Casey needs to figure some things out before Game 2

 

San Antonio Spurs 111, Memphis Grizzlies 82 (Kawhi Can’t This be a Forfeit?)

(SA leads 1–0….soon to be 4–0)

When we heard Tony Allen was out for the series, we stopped holding out any hope that this would be competitive. The Spurs were ordered by Adam Silver to wait until the 2nd quarter to annihilate the Grizzlies, so they cooperated, ending the first with a 5 point deficit. Then San Antonio won the next three quarters by 34. When you want to watch every series, it helps to have one like this.

Utah Jazz 97, Los Angeles Clippers 95 (Win One for the Gobert!)

(UTAH leads 1–0)

17 seconds after tip and The Gentle Giant, Gobert the Great, was on the ground, crawling and shaking his head. It was a painful, deflating sight. Anyone who was rooting for the Jazz felt hollow inside. Quin Snyder’s expression was more than concerned. Not exactly panicked, though. He held himself together, and the Jazz held themselves together. Players like Joe Johnson, Joe Ingles, George Hill, and Derrick Favors…pulled this one out. What a wonderful game. The Clippers have all the talent and the Jazz have all the grit. The Clippers are an empty vessel, with a ferocious point guard at the helm. They are less than the sum of their parts, while the Jazz are more than just a couple of Joes. What sweet music, Game One brought us. Joe Johnson has been reborn. Joe Ingles is the best YMCA gym rat in the NBA.

Slow-Motion Joe Goes With the Flow

 

Sunday, April 16

Golden St Warriors 121, Portland Trail Blazers 109 (McCollum Merely One Man…)

(GS leads 1–0)

C.J. McCollum was Golden State’s Gollum, they were never sure which way he’d go. Dropping 41 points on 28 shots, McCollum and his pal Lillard kept the Blazers afloat until the 15–2 Warrior avalanche began the 4th. Defensive Draymond opened the gates and the unassuming Ian Clark chipped in 7 of those 15. The first 36 minutes of the series may be the closest, though it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Blazers backcourt pull one out in the Rose Quarter.

Washington Wizards 114, Atlanta Hawks 107 (Chief Markieff Offers Relief)

(WAS leads 1–0)

The Wizards are probably the better team, and certainly the more interesting one of the two, but with time slipping away at the end of the half, the Hawks led, 48–42, and Washington’s Markieff Morris missed a contested corner three. The ensuing review showed that Morris had been fouled as time expired on the shot. Three free-throws and the lead was cut to 3, as they strolled toward the locker rooms. After the half, Morris opened up by hitting a 3, and the game was tied. Sometimes a game swings when you least expect it. The Hawks have little margin for error. The Wizards bench came up completely empty (except for Mr. Oubre). A few Tim Hardaway threes (0 of 6) and the Hawks might have pulled it out. Instead, Washington still holds home court for now.

Chicago Bulls 106, Boston Celtics 102 (Tragic Turn for Cs but Baby Please…)

(CHI leads 1–0)

What an awful turn of events for Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics. A tragedy clouded what should have been an exuberant first round home game in Boston. Despite it all, Isaiah showed up and did what he always does: scored. 33 points on 18 shots, 10 of 12 from the line, and 3 from deep. Isaiah finished with a +12. So did Bobby Portis, the Bulls 22 year-old who came off the bench with a fury. Those ten minutes without Isaiah belonged to Portis, who scored 19 on 8 of 10, grabbing 9 boards, dishing 3 assists and blocking 2 shots. After the Bulls sent Gibson and McDermott packing, Portis has seen his minutes grow. Once he started knocking down threes at the end of the regular season, his confidence apparently grew as well. Boston’s 53-wins and home court advantage are in the rear-view now, as they fight off Jimmy Butler and Bobby Portis, looking to even things on Tuesday night. Bradley and Horford did their parts, along with Isaiah. Crowder, Smart, Olynyk, and Jaylen have to give more.

Houston Rockets 118, OKC Thunder 87 (Roll the Thunder, Hear Their Cry)

(HOU leads 1–0)

No more debates, no more MVP concerns, just throw the ball up and play. The better team won. The better team has Patrick Beverley, whose offensive contributions (21 points on 13 shots) pale in comparison to the impact of his Westbrook-hounding. Russell can rampage all over the regular season, but he won’t rampage all over Mr. Beverley, who has never known the concept of fear or intimidation. Westbrook’s 6 of 23 line, and 9 turnovers were a big part of the problem. His sidekick, Victor Oladipo, was a dreadful 1 of 12 from the field, misfiring on all 6 three-pointers. OKC’s only hope is to contain Houston’s relentless attack, in which James Harden dissects their defense and makes life simple and breezy for Clint Capela and Nene, who shot a combined 14 of 17, feasting on lay-ups and dunks. Either redirect Harden away from the paint, or Westbrook has to play three times as well as he did tonight and Oladipo needs to wake up. This could be over in 5.

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Will update on a weekly basis.

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NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Preview: The Rising East

 

After years of playing second fiddle to the NBA’s mighty Western Conference, the NBA’s East has been quietly gaining this year, edified by lottery picks and a handful of trades. In total, after Wednesday’s regular season finale, the East went 218-232 versus the West. That may sound like the East was the weaker conference, but that’s close to .500, mugh more balanced than it was in 2013-14, when the East won 166. And closer than 2014-15 when the East won 187. A 31-win jump for the East this year came mainly from four teams: Charlotte (+15 wins), Detroit (+12 wins), Orlando (+10 wins), and Boston (+8 wins). Of course, several teams in the West were absolutely devastated by injuries (Phoenix, New Orleans, and Memphis), while only Washington can make a case for injuries sinking their season in the East.

None of this year’s Eastern conference playoff representatives come from New York City. The Brooklyn Nets mortgaged their future a few years ago by acquiring aging Celtics Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in return for a trio of future lottery picks, beginning with their 2016 pick. This year’s pick has a 31% chance of becoming a top 2 pick, and a 47% chance of becoming a top 3 overall selection on May 17th’s draft lottery. The Knicks began the season with some excitement thanks to last year’s 4th pick Kristaps Porzingis, who established himself as a uniquely skilled 7-footer whose range extends to 25-feet. As the year progressed, Porzingis faded, hitting that proverbial rookie wall. The Knicks are desperate for a point guard to help take the pressure off of Carmelo and Porzingis. For now, the East’s strength exists without help from NYC. Though most of the national NBA stories have been predictably focused on the record-setting 73-win Golden State Warriors, the improved and improving East is a long-term trend. The 5th and 6th seeded Celtics and Hornets may be better than their 5th and 6th seeded West counterparts (Portland and Dallas). On to the first round match-ups in the East.

 

(1) Cavs vs (8) Pistons

NBA TV recently aired a one-hour playoff preview for each conference. Their East preview started with this series. Guess how many minutes were devoted to Cleveland? 15. Guess how many minutes were given to Detroit? 0. Pistons fans, thirsty for a playoff team, will be deafening to start Game 3. If the Reggie-Drummond pick-and-roll can create some easy corner threes, Detroit can make things more interesting than most are predicting.

Stan Van Gundy should play that preview before every game of this series. It won’t lead to the Pistons upsetting the massively favored Cavs, but the extra motivation might help them steal a game or two. Drummond gets to wet his feet in the playoff waters. Detroit simply doesn’t have enough perimeter defense to stay with Irving off the bounce. LeBron is rested. Casual viewers will be googling “Tyronn Lue” until the East Finals.

Role Players: Cleveland has too many weapons to be threatened in the first round. It will be interesting to keep an eye on the Cavs’ reserves. Channing Frye’s range will be a factor in the ensuing rounds. Detroit needs both Tobias Harris and Marcus Morris to help create offense around Reggie Jackson, with Drummond diving to the rim. In any close game, expect Drummond to be fouled repeatedly and forced to shoot free-throws. This rule will be adjusted by next season. Adam Silver mentioned adapting the last-two minute of the fourth quarter rule (No intentional fouling for free-throws) to all four quarters, which would help.

Prediction: Cavs in 5.

 

(2) Raptors vs (7) Pacers

If you haven’t paid much attention to the Toronto Raptors this year, you’ve missed out. Lowry and DeRozan dedicated themselves to off-season workouts and development, while GM Masai Ujiri brought in much-needed reserve depth in center Bismack Biyombo, forward Luis Scola and point guard Cory Joseph, in addition to headline free-agent swingman DeMarre Carroll. Despite Carroll missing most of the season with a knee injury, the Raptors steamrolled competition with Kyle came back in incredible shape, which helped alleviate the back issues he’s dealt with by the end of previous seasons. DeRozan came back with an unflinching ability to find his way around defenders and attack the rim, in addition to his typical hard-to-defend mid-range game. DeRozan and Lowry have combined for 15 free-throw attempts per game, connecting on 12. As a team, the Raptors were 2nd in the NBA in free-throws per field-goal attempt, which allowed them to win by slowing the pace and taking control in the half-court. This style bodes well for the playoffs, assuming the defense continues to give them an edge. By playing stifling team defense without Carroll, who they signed for his tenacious defensive versatility, and his corner-three-pointer, the Raptors finished the year with 56 wins and with a newfound sense of purpose and belief. If Carroll can shake the rust off and can gain stamina as the series progresses, the Raptors will be a menacing second round opponent, with eyes on the Cavs in the East Finals.

Paul George was stymied by the Raptors defense throughout their regular season match-ups. Myles Turner is a year or two away from joining George as a formidably consistent pick-and-roll force. Monta Ellis was a perfect pair in the pick-and-roll with Dirk Nowitzki. In Indiana, Ellis’ lack of range is once again exposed. C.J. Miles is good for one flaming hot stretch every three games. It won’t be nearly enough for the Pacers, who need one more off-the-bounce threat with range (if they could morph Monta and George Hill into one player, that’d help), in addition to bench help and another year of seasoning. Expect PG to have one eruption, and the Pacers avoid the sweep.

Prediction: Raptors in 5.

 

(3) Heat vs (6) Hornets

Goran Dragic might be the most important player in this series, which is pretty insane when you consider Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng, Hassan Whiteside, Nic Batum, and Kemba Walker are all involved. The Dragon has been playing well since regaining his health and the Heat have been much better (16-8) since the All-Star Break, when they acquired Joe Johnson from the Nets in what was essentially a give-away. With Whiteside coming off the bench, and Johnson providing range, Dragic has had room to operate. As a reward for his solid play, hustle, and acknowledgment of his role as defensive cog and offensive lob-catcher, Whiteside was rewarded with a starting nod over the past few games of the regular season. Unfortunately for the Heat, the intimidation on the defensive end comes with extremely awkward passing, something resembling dribbling and questionable free-throw shooting (though he has made progress at the line). Whiteside’s value will be interesting to see measured in free agency this offseason. His insane length and shot-altering presence make him rare. His commitment and intensity have been the issues. Clearly, he’s made real progress and is a legit force. Still, how does he fit within a team concept?

Miami’s offense ground to a halt after half-time of the season finale against Boston, when they managed a franchise-record-low five point quarter. Unless Dragic can create and the defense can lead to transition offense, Miami will get bogged down and depend on the elderly Wade to kick-start the half-court offense. It’s hard to trust Joe Johnson at this point, even if he’s shooting 41.7% from deep after the trade.

At the same time, is it easier to trust Charlotte’s free-flowing three-point happy offense? Can they maintain that flow against high-level defense? Much of that question hinges on the health of Nic Batum’s ankle. Batum’s decision-making is the grease that keeps the chain running smoothly. The long-armed physicality of Luol Deng is a perfect antidote. This will force Kemba Walker to create much of the attack by himself, unless Steve Clifford opts to play Jeremy Lin alongside Walker. Lin has had moments this year (especially in the last month) that remind observers of his glorious run in New York. In a shocking win over San Antonio, Lin went for 29 points. Against Toronto, Lin played a great all-around game. When Charlotte beat Boston on Monday, Lin put together a remarkable line of 25/7/5 with 5 steals.

If Miami can slow down Batum and/or limit Lin, the Hornets become less dangerous. However, Justise Winslow has the defensive chops to stay in front of Lin.

Which brings us back to the point guards. Dragic and Kemba. This is going 7 games, and depends on health.

Prediction: Heat in 7.

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Separate post coming for Celtics playoff match-up: (4) Hawks vs (5) Celtics

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2015-16 NBA Preview, Central Division: Healing Cavs, Limping Bulls, and Young Bucks

One might wonder why the NBA still separates the conferences into divisions at this point. After Portland’s 51 wins granted them the 4th seed due to winning the Northwest (thanks to OKC injuries), despite finishing with the 6th-most wins in the West, the NBA altered the automatic 4th seeding formula, so that now a division title simply means having the best year out of the five teams closest to each other.

A division title has always been small consolation for a team that is bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. A chance for a team to raise a banner to the rafters. Geographic rivalries are not meaningless, but they mean less in West, where teams are further spread out, and where history doesn’t add that second layer of drama to the proceedings. When Denver visits Salt Lake City or Phoenix visits Sacramento, a divisional opponent isn’t much more than one game on the schedule.

What the divisions do, is provide a smaller group to write about. Five teams instead of fifteen at once. The Central Division is the deepest of the three Eastern Conference divisions and I expect they will finish in the same order that they did last year.

1. Cleveland Cavs

Arrivals: Mo Williams, The Immortal Sasha Kaun
Departures: Brendan Haywood, Mike Miller
Retained: Entire roster except for Tristan Thompson

2014-15: 53-29

The Cavs started 19-20 while they learned (or didn’t learn) David Blatt’s defensive principles, and while Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love learned how to play with LeBron. Center Anderson Varejao ruptured his Achilles after 26 games. The Cavs were fodder for the NBA gossip circuit. How could LeBron’s team be under .500? Maybe it would never work in Cleveland. Of course, trading for two defensive-minded players and one unconscious three-point shooter will help. The Cavs went 34-9 after acquiring Timofey Mozgov, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith. They survived well-documented playoff injuries to Irving and Love and forced a 6th game with Golden State in the NBA Finals because of their defense, the undeniable rebounding of Tristan Thompson (averaged 13 rebounds per game in the Finals), and a certain superhero/athlete named LeBron.

LeBron is LeBron and LeBron is inevitable. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about the questions surrounding LeBron in Northeast Ohio.
Tristan Thompson and his agent, Rich Paul, are engaged in a staring contest with the Cavs front office. After a brilliant playoff run in which Thompson repeatedly saved the Cavs, Thompson is being offered 5 years, $80 million (similar to Draymond Green’s recent contract), and is now waiting for the Cavs to blink.
*Update (Thompson blinked—and signed on October 21st, Thompson signed for 5 / $82m)
Thompson’s stock rose throughout the playoffs, with the Cavs transforming into a defensively dominant unit after injuries to Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving forced David Blatt to install Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova into the starting five. Thompson imitated Moses Malone (may he rest in peace) in his unstoppable offensive rebounding and displayed some mean pick-and-roll defense. Thompson’s reach, strength, and instincts were perfectly suited to ruining the hopes of Chicago and Atlanta, and eventually causing headaches among Golden State’s strategists. What do you do with a player who simply refuses to be boxed out?

Cavs power forward Tristan Thompson rebounds. (AP photo)

Assessing Thompson’s value is complex. With the financial floodgates set to open next summer, Thompson is demanding a max contract. Few offensively-limited players, if any, are ever considered for maximum-level slots. In addition, Kevin Love is back and healthy in Cleveland, having just signed a max deal for 5 years / $122 million. With LeBron, Irving and Love, the Cavs don’t have a max deal available.
The Cavs will be bringing three key players back from injuries. Aside from Love’s shoulder, Kyrie Irving (foot, knee), Anderson Varejao (hair/knee), and Iman Shumpert (wrist) are all recovering from ailments. On top of everything else, LeBron received an injection in his back within the last week.
Those questions, and the fact that it is increasingly common practice (thanks to the Spurs originally), to pace a team through the overly-long 82-game regular season, the Cavs won’t squeeze wins out of the calendar in the early going. Expect closer to 50 wins rather than 60.

Prediction: 54-28, 1st in East


2. Chicago Bulls

Arrivals: N/A
Departures: Tom Thibodeau (coach), Nazr Mohammed*
Retained: Jimmy Butler, Kirk Hinrich, Mike Dunleavy, Aaron Brooks

Drafted: Clinton Bobby Portis (22nd)

First off, let’s ask an existential question: What the hell did Derrick Rose do to the universe? I mean, every NBA player has to get lucky just to find themselves in an NBA uniform. But after Derrick’s MVP season in 2010-11, the man has simply been cursed. He started camp in good spirits, after an off-season without having to rehab an injury. Within days of preseason practice, he gets elbowed in the eye and is out with an orbital fracture that requires surgery. Goodness gracious. To be a Bulls fan requires a heaping of sadness on top of your cereal every morning.

The Bulls will be an experiment in the power of the new coach. Fred Hoiberg. Tom Thibodeau is apparently hanging out in Salt Lake City with legendary former Jazz coach /octogenarian Jerry Sloan. Thibs was known for his relentless obsession with defense and regular season wins. He was unfairly given the old axe by notorious Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf after all kinds of drama last spring. Now the clean-cut Hoiberg (he makes Celtics coach Brad Stevens look edgy) takes over a roster that hasn’t changed much at all, except for the addition of big man Bobby Portis, drafted out of Arkansas.

At long last, the minutes are expected to be limited. The serious depth (when the team is actually healthy, which is rarer than a Morton’s steak) the team has assembled should enable Hoiberg to keep the minutes around 30 for his aging crew of veterans. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are all in need of leg replacement surgery. Yes, entire legs.

There’s no denying the talent on the roster. From Jimmy Butler to Gasol and Rose, to the grit of Noah and Gibson, to the offensive spark of Nikola Mirotic, Bulls fans have many reasons to be optimistic. Yet, how does a fan-base remain optimistic when tragedy so often befalls the team in the last five years? Maybe the Cubs can come up with some magic this October, and the Bulls can build off that victorious momentum. Or maybe the absence of the brilliant workaholic Thibs can allow some joy to seep into the locker room this year. Either way, the Bulls will win around 50 games. Hopefully they won’t be worn out by the end of April.

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg kisses basketballs for good luck. (photo must have been a candid shot. No idea where it came from.)

Prediction: 51-31, 2nd in East


3. Milwaukee Bucks

Arrivals: Greg Monroe, Greivis Vasquez
Departures: Jared Dudley
Retained: Khris Middleton

Drafted: Rashad Vaughn (17th)

The Milwaukee Bucks have length. Their name should be changed to the Bucksss. They play defense with arms spread wide, wingspans wreaking havoc on opponent pick-and-rolls by switching everything with a deep roster of athletic swingmen.

Jabari Parker, returning from an ACL tear that forced him to miss the final 57 games of the season, may eventually become a great scorer in the NBA, but three things will keep him from making an significant impact this year. First, Khris Middleton’s range. Second, new arrival Greg Monroe’s post game. Finally, Parker’s lack of outside touch will restrict his time.  Like Giannis Antetuokuompo, Parker is a great slasher from the wing. Parker is stronger than most SFs and quicker than many PFs. If both improve their range to the corners, the Bucks can become true contenders.

John Henson’s recent extension (4/44) will look good starting in year two. Henson’s shot blocking at the rim will be badly needed next to Greg Monroe, who is allergic to shot-blocking and jumping more than nine inches off the ground.

All of this discussion and we’ve yet to mention extra-long point guard Michael Carter-Williams. MCW arrived last spring, with Miles Plumlee and Tyler Ennis, in a 3-way trade that sent Brandan Knight to Phoenix. Knight is a true scoring point. Carter-Williams does everything but score. Much like coach Jason Kidd in his playing days, but with weaker passing skills and yet-to-be-proven leadership, MCW is a force on the glass, a decent post-up option, and a very good defender. Can he lead an offense? Can he find something resembling a jumper? Last year, MCW shot 23.5% from deep. Unsightly.

It was a big gamble for Milwaukee, who is hoping they can rebuild MCW’s shot from the ground up. Not surprisngly, athletic, young players with extra long arms often struggle to shoot. The Bucks future depends on the shooting touch of MCW, Parker, and Giannis.

Also, I miss Larry Sanders. I will never forget that night he roamed the TD Garden paint waiting for any Celtic to attempt a lay-up or dunk. Rondo was looking over his shoulder anytime he crossed inside the three-point arc.

The Milwaukee Bucks starting five with their long arms hidden behind their backs. (Media Day photo)

Prediction: 44-38, 8th in East


4. Indiana Pacers

Arrivals: Monta Ellis, Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill
Departures: David West, C.J. Watson, Roy Hibbert
Retained: Lavoy Allen, Rodney Stuckey, Shayne Whittington

Drafted: Myles Turner (11th)

2014-15: 38-44

Goodbye, Roy Hibbert. David West takes the veteran’s minimum to play in San Antonio, leaving $12m on the table for this year. Everything they say about David West being humble, being an awesome teammate, and being genuine seems true to me. The guy wants to win a championship and so he joins the franchise known for selflessness and teamwork. Go West, young man. Go David West. Out with Hibbert and West and the core interior defenders of recent Pacers contending teams. In comes Monta. Talk about a change in identity. Now Paul George will have some offensive help, but the looks that Dallas’ offense enabled for Monta will be harder to find in Indiana. Paul George might be primed for a big year, and George Hill can knock down a three-pointer, but Lavoy Allen and Jordan Hill will certainly not cause any double teams. Frank Vogel has talked openly about playing Paul George at power forward. On paper this makes sense. The Pacers simply don’t have a power foriward other than Lavoy Allen. Rookie 7-footer Myles Turner doesn’t turn 20 until March, and though he took a bunch of three-pointers in college, he didn’t hit many (27%). He also grabbed only 6.5 rebounds per game (22 min). He is so clearly NOT ready to play more than a handful of minutes a night in the NBA. And yet he may this year…

Good luck, Paul George. The wisdom of the elders is gone. It has been replaced with an aging shooting guard who was never a great shooter (Monta). Things may start slowly…

Prediction: 39-43, 9th in East

5. Detroit Pistons

Arrivals: Ersan Ilyasova, Marcus Morris, Aron Baynes, Danny Granger, Reggie Bullock
Departures: Greg Monroe, Caron Butler, Shawne Williams
Retained: Reggie Jackson, Joel Anthony

Drafted: Stanley Johnson (8th)

2014-15: 32-50

What you might remember from last year’s Pistons team is the fact that Josh Smith was released (contract eaten) mid-year. The team started 5-23. A team that many were predicting to win 40 games. They were 18 games under .500 before Christmas. The funny thing? They finished 18 under. Which means they were actually pretty decent for the final two-thirds of the season…once they tossed Josh Smith to the winds (don’t worry, Smith found himself playing very meaningful playoff games with Houston and is now on another contender–the Clippers.

What can the Pistons do this year? The mid-30s seems about right. Andre Drummond remains enormous, yet not quite dominant enough, thanks in part to abysmal free-throw shooting, and a lack of help around him. Small forward Stanley Johnson has everyone intrigued. Point guard Reggie Jackson can put up solid numbers, but this will be his first attempt at leading a team from opening night. The Pistons will miss Greg Monroe’s steady post play. Aron Baynes has a nice accent, but his post-play is more awkward than steady.

Prediction: 35-47, 11th in East

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