Monthly Archives: October 2014

NBA Preview: Western Conference Playoff Predictions

I didn’t get through my entire regular season preview before things kicked off tonight, but i I will try to finish these up (10 teams left) in the first month of the season– a few games down won’t be significant, right?

Anyways, to get my predictions on the record here–

Western Conference Seeding:

1. San Antonio

2. Golden State

3. Oklahoma City

4. Memphis Grizzlies

5. Portland Trailblazers

6. Houston Rockets

7. LA Clippers

8. Dallas Mavericks

1st round:

Spurs handle the Mavs; OKC Survives Houston; Clippers upset Golden State; Grizzlies take out Portland

2nd Round: Grizzlies upset the Spur; OKC Demolishes the Clippers

Conference Finals: Grizzlies beat the Thunder when Scott Brooks puts on a show of awful coaching

Which leaves us with NBA Finals– Bulls over Grizz in the battle of the Gasols and four of the best big men in the league.

NBA Season Preview: Sacramento Kings

Last Season: 28-54, 4th in division; Leading scorer—DeMarcus Cousins (22.1); Leading rebounds—DeMarcus Cousins (11.7); Leading assists—Isiah Thomas (6.1)

Changes: Added—Eric Moreland (signed), Nik Stauskus (draft), Ramon Session (signed), Sim Bhullar (signed), Resigned—Rudy Gay (player option), Lost—Aaron Gray (free agent), Alonzo Gee (waived), Isiah Thomas (free agent), Scotty Hopson (released), Wayne Ellington (waived), Willie Reed (waived)

Positions

Point Guard: Darren Collison, Ramon Sessions, Ray McCallum

Collision is a pretty good backup point guard. The problem is, Collison’s production doesn’t really rise with his minutes—he is efficient, but he’s put up very similar numbers with the Clippers when starting 35 games, the Mavericks when starting 47, and the Pacers when starting 56 and 79. I’d rather see a player with a higher variance between years he started most of the season and years he didn’t which would suggest that more minutes equals more points and assists. But whether he starts 0 games or 82, I expect Collison will be putting up 10 and 5, which is below average for a starting point guard.

Sessions has been useful for teams in the past in a backup role. He’s always had a “potential” label, but by this point he is what he is—he’s very similar in skill level to Collison which leaves the Kings hoping that  24 minutes of Collison plus 24 minutes of Sessions is as good as 35 minutes of an All-Star level point guard +13 minutes of a below average backup.

I’d still rather take one quality starter plus any backup over two quality backups/below average starters.

Shooting Guard: Ben McLemore, Nik Stauskus

McLemore’s rookie season wasn’t stellar by any means, but I wouldn’t call it an unmitigated disaster. He had a 32% three point shot on 143 attempts—if he can increase the percent and volume in his second year, cut down a bit on bad shots, learn to get to the rim more he can still develop into a good NBA player. He has a big advantage over Collison and Sessions in the “hope” column just because he was a rookie last year, not a veteran, he’s still young enough to break bad habits, to put in the work to improve an already decent shot, and overall change who he is as a player.

All that said, you want more than 8.8 points on 7.7 PER from a starter.

Stauskus was a pretty high pick, but you never know what you will get from a rookie. At least there will be minutes available to give him a chance to show what he has and develop into whatever his ceiling might be. I don’t particularly watch college basketball and don’t feel performance in college is terribly predictive of NBA performance, so I try not to spend too many words predicting how good college players will be.

Small Forward: Rudy Gay, Omri Cassipi

Rudy Gay is ironically underrated at this point. He’s a sieve on defense and takes a high volume of often bad shots. But when your starting point guard and shooting guard can’t score more than 10 a game, having a small forward who can pour in 20 a game, even on a high volume of shots has a lot of value. His efficiency numbers aren’t quite up to 20, but that’s a huge improvement from what Gay has put up in the past. His shooting percent overall went up by 10% when he came to Sacremento last season, and the dip in 3 point % from that same move, the total overall benefit of his taking better shots, getting to the rim more than off sets a dip in 3 point percent. Make no mistake, Rudy Gay is a good starter and the Kings need him to be very good if they are going anywhere this year.

Casipri is a decent to above average defender and has a good three point shot (43%). He’s pretty much exactly the level of player you would expect as a primary backup for a position.

Power Forward: Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, Derrick Williams, Eric Moreland

The Kings have managed to assemble a group of three veterans averaging below 10 a game plus an undrafted rookie for their options at the four this year. It’s really hard to say who will win this starting job, but it’s pretty clear whoever it is they will be a below average starter. At least there won’t be a fall off when whoever that is goes to the bench?

Center: DeMarcus Cousins, Reggie Evans, Ryan Hollins, Sim Bhullar

DeMarcus Cousins is one of the best centers in the league, certainly when you factor in his age, and his scoring ability that even other elite centers tend to lack these days Cousins has a huge value for the Kings. If you want proof of his value consider that he lead all centers in points in PER, was 4th in rebounds, and third in assist (though almost half of Joakim Noah who was 1st in assists). The only knocks against Cousins are his turnovers, fouls, and low shot blocking. But for everything else he brings

Evans is listed as a Center on the depth chart right now, but he’s a power forward at best (only 6’ 8”). So really the Kings have 5 possible sub-par options there. Hollins is our “true seven footer”, so a non-scoring defensive backup I’ll expect to take the minutes when Cousins needs a breather or (more often) needs to sit down for fouls.

Bhullar is an interesting rookie going into this year. While Hollins and many other players in the league are 7’ 0”, Bhullar is 7’ 5”. His size meant it was inevitable that someone would give him a chance in the league, but he went undrafted for a reason and will likely be raw and as a third option behind a veteran backup and the best center in the league he likely will play only in rare circumstances (most of them involving DeMarcus and 4-6 fouls at a guess).

Outlook: The Kings actually had one of the most stable rosters from last year to this, only losing one notable player. Unfortunately when what you had last year wasn’t enough to get even close to the playoffs that’s a bad thing. They have the best center in the league, but then are between below average and horrible at every other starting spot outside of Rudy Gay. Best case scenario Boogie Cousins finds another gear, learns to stay out of foul trouble, ups his scoring from 22 to 30 per game, ups his rebounds closer to 15 per game and makes himself an MVP candidate, while Rudy Gay controls his bad shots and plays the perfect second banana, while someone in each of the other spots pulls out 12 a game and the Kings get a low playoff seed.  More likely they end up in the lottery yet again, with McLemore coming out a definitive bust and looking for a better complement to their talented young big man.

New Damnations: Expanding on Damnation Feats

Damnation Feats

Damnation feats grant a character power for agreeing to give over their immortal soul. These feats differ from general feats in three ways:

Damned: A character with a damnation feat is damned. Their soul is promised to a dark power and when they die, their spirit is taken off to the planar realm of whatever power they have served. Any nonevil spellcaster who attempts to bring the character back from the dead must attempt a caster level check (DC = 10 + the slain characters Hit Dice.) Success means the spell functions as normal, while failure means the spell fails and cannot be attempted again for 24 hours. (This does not apply to evil spellcasters.)

Upon taking a second damnation feat they can’t be affected by breath of life or raise dead even if cast by evil spellcasters. Characters with three or more damnation feats cannot be affected by resurrection. Characters with four or more damnation feats can only be returned to life with wish or miracle.

Greater Power: Damnation feats increase in power relative to the number of damnation feats a character possesses. Each new damnation feat increases the power of all of the character’s damnation feats, including the newly taken feat and future feats.

Patronage: All damnation feats require the patronage of an evil outside– typically a daemon, devil, demon, or kyton. This evil outside patron must be favorably disposed toward the character and must have a number of Hit Dive equal to or greater than their character level. An evil outsider summoned via a spell like planar binding might be coerced to sere as a character’s patron. The caster of the planar binding spell must still attempt Charisma checks to coerce the outsider into service, but they gain a +4 bonus on their Charisma checks if that service is to act as a damnation feat’s patron. Other outsiders might more willingly serve as patrons at the GM’s discretion.

New Damnation Feats

Asura Damnation

Requirements: Asura Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving throw bonus to curses, disease, and poison

Two damnation feats: +2 bonus to Escape Artist and Perception checks

Three damnation feats: +2 saving throw bonus to enchantment spells

Four damnation feats: You gain Regeneration 4; your regeneration is overcome by good weapons and spells.

Daemon Damnation

Requirements: Daemon Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving throw bonus versus poison and disease

Two damnation feats: Abyssal, Draconic, and Infernal as bonus languages

Three damnation feats: +4 saving throw bonus versus poison and disease

Four damnation feats: Immunity to death effects

Demondand Damnation

Requirements: Demondand Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving bonus throw versus poison

Two damnation feats: Abyssal and Celestial as bonus languages

Three damnation feats: +4 saving throw bonus versus poison

Four damnation feats: +4 saving throw bonus versus all divine spells.

Demon Damnation

Requirements: Demon Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving throw bonus versus poison

Two damnation feats: Abyssal, Celestial, and Draconic as bonus languages

Three damnation feats: +4 saving throw bonus versus poison

Four damnation feats: Immunity to poison

Devil Damnation

Requirements: Devil Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving throw bonus versus poison

Two damnation feats: Celestial, Draconic, and Infernal as bonus languages

Three damnation feats: +4 saving throw bonus versus poison

Four damnation feats: You can see perfectly in darkness of any kind, including that created by the deeper darkness spell.

Div Damnation

Requirements: Div Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving throw bonus versus poison

Two damnation feats:  Abyssal, Celestial, and Infernal as bonus languages

Three damnation feats: +4 saving throw bonus versus poison

Four damnation feats: You can see perfectly in darkness of any kind, including that created by the deeper darkness spell.

Fiend Summoning

Benefits: Once per day you may summon any one creature that shares the sub-type of your patron as spell-like ability. This is a full round action that provokes attacks of opportunity, with a duration equal to your class level. You can summon any creature of the appropriate sub-type (for instance daemon, demon, or devil) with hit dice less than your own. You gain an additional use of this ability per day for each damnation feat you posses beyond the first to a maximum of four per day.

Hands of the Damned

Benefits: One damnation feat: You gain two claw attacks dealing 1d6 damage (for medium creatures– 1d4 for small or 1d8 for large creatures.)

Two damnation feats: Your claw attacks and other natural attacks count as evil for the purposes of overcoming damage reduction.

Three damnation feats: Your claw attacks gain a +1 enhancement bonus, increasing to hit and damage and overcoming magical damage reduction.

Four damnation feats: Your claw attacks count as either chaotic or lawful (matching the alignment of your patron) to overcome damage reduction. Characters with a neutral patron may select either chaotic or lawful, but once the choice has been made it can never be altered.

Kyton Damnation

Requirements: Kyton Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: Darkvision 30 feet.

Two damnation feats: +2 saving throw bonus versus mind-affecting spells.

Three damnation feats: Darkvision 60 feet.

Four damnation feats: You gain Regeneration 4; your regeneration is overcome by good weapons and spells and by silver weapons.

Qlippoth Damnation

Requirements: Qlippoth Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 saving throw bonus versus mind-affecting spells

Two damnation feats: Abyssal as a bonus language

Three damnation feats: +2 saving throw bonus versus poison

Four damnation feats: Immunity to mind-affecting spells

Rakshasa Damantion

Requirements: Rakshasa Patron

Benefits: One damnation feat: +2 bonus to bluff checks

Two damnation feats:  Alter self once per day as a spell-like ability (caster level equal to your character level)

Three damnation feats: +4 bonus to disguise checks

Four damnation feats: Detect thoughts as will as a spell-like ability (Will save DC 10+ 1/2 character level + charisma modifier)

“This post consists of Pathfinder Compatible material”

NBA Season Preview: Phoenix Suns

Last Season: 48-34, 3rd in division; Leading scorer—Goran Dragic (20.3), Leading rebounds—Miles Plumlee (7.8), Leading assists—Goran Dragic (5.8)

Changes: Added— Alec Brown (draft), Anthony Tolliver (signed), Bogdan Bogdanovic (overseas draft pick), Casey Prather (signed), Earl Barron (signed), Jamil Wilson (signed), Joe Jackson (signed), T.J. Warren (draft), Tyler Ennis (draft), Zoran Dragic (signed), Resigned—Eric Bledsoe, Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris, P.J. Tucker,  Lost— Channing Frye (free agent)< Dionte Christmas (waived), Emeka Okafor (free agent), Ish Smith (waived)

Positions

Point Guard: Goran Dragic, Isiah Thomas, Tyler Ennis

Dragic has been around as a potential top 10 point guard in Phoenix since they later few years of the Steve Nash era—there was a game he scored 24 in a quarter against the Spur in the playoffs that was basically his coming out party. He’s steadily climbed from his bench days, and last year he pumped up his stats in his best year to borderline All-Star, with 20 a game and 5 assists. If he takes another step forward he will be in All-Star and All-NBA conversation this year.

Isiah Thomas is a fire-spark of a scorer. He averaged 20 himself last year, but won’t be getting as many minutes here. As long as he adjusts and he shooting doesn’t fall off the cliff with less time he should still be a very productive backup point guard.

Ennis most likely won’t see any playing time, barring injuries especially as Bledsoe will be playing some of his minutes as the point.

Shooting Guard: Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Zoran Dragic, Archie Goodwin

Bledsoe is a really good player—not a true shooting guard, but more of a point guard/combo guard. Either way he has chemistry in his game with Dragic and when the two are on the floor together they are both capable of scoring, penetrating, creating, and either can guard either guard position. The Suns did well to resign Bledsoe rather than let him play out this year on a qualifying offer, so they are cemented for the long term at guard here.

Green is efficient and a good scorer, with a 40% three point shooting stroke. He will play backup minutes here, and there will be times when he plays alongside Bledsoe.

Zoran Dragic comes over this year, and the rookie won’t likely see a lot of playing time, although the fact that he can play the two and the three may open up some minutes—but this Suns team is very deep across the entire roster so, barring injuries the other Dragic may not get many chances.

Goodwin was below average in 10 minutes per game last year, so expect him to be a nightly DNP—CD candidate.

Small Forward: P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris, T.J. Warren

At 10 points/6 rebounds Tucker is pretty sub-par for a starter. Marcus Morris put up almost the same in 8 fewer minutes. The hope here is that one or the other makes a leap forward and earns the clear cut starting role, but if not the two will split time, and Z. Dragic may get a look here as well.

The Suns thought enough about Warren to grab him with the 14th overall pick, which indicates they expect him to eventually start, but I don’t know that it will be this year. He will need to play well in the time he gets to move ahead of Morris who the Suns just committed to on a long term deal, but there’s a scenario where he can grab the backup minutes and Tucker might be pushed completely out of rotation.

Power Forward: Markieff Morris, Anthony Tolliver, Shavlik Randolph

The more skilled Morris is a solid starter, efficient in his touches for 13 points, 7 assists, but the Suns would still like more out of him and clearly consider continued growth likely, hence the resigning of both brothers. Morris was nearly to 20 with his PER, so I feel like he can do more and continue to provide value for the Suns’ front line.

Tolliver can score, but is overall a much less explosive and efficient player. There is also a possibility that Marcus Morris might split his time backing up both the three and his brother if either Tucker or Warren grab the starting spot there.

Randolph has never averaged 5 a game in his career and is a deep bench/emergency backup type of player. If he sees anything other than garbage time minutes it will be pretty bad for the Suns considering the number of options in front of him (Markieff, Tolliver, Marcus, Tucker, Warren. . .)

Center: Miles Plumlee, Alex Len

Plumlee is a good young center. He’s athletic and last year was basically his rookie year with as little as he played before that. The Suns will want him to show another gear and continue to develop—preferably upping his scoring and rebounding towards the 10/10 range (he’s at 8/7 now).

Len doesn’t really have an offensive game, and he didn’t earn a lot of time last year. Right now he is the only other legit center on this roster, but he will be out with a hand injury for several weeks, so Plumlee won’t have a lot of chances to sit, since the Suns will be shifting someone up to get by. Probably this will tab Tolliver for center duty, most likely playing in a small lineup.

Outlook: The Suns are young, deep most of the way through, and talented. They nearly made the playoffs last year. I think if everything comes together this star-less squad could eek out 7 or 8 seed, but I expect a 9-10 spot is much more likely. Absolute best case, they squeeze into the playoffs with a squad where they have 8 or 9 guys averaging double digits, then get by in close series and end up looking like the 05 Pistons. I’d say being at home again wondering how to get from good to very good more likely.

NBA Season Preview: LA Lakers

Last Season: 27-55 for last in the division, Leading scorer—(17.9); Leading rebounds— Pau Gasol (9.7); Leading assists—Kendall Marshall

Changes: Added—Jeremy Lin (trade), Jordan Clarkson (draft trade), Julius Randall (draft), Ronnie Price (signed); Resigned—Nick Young, Xavier Henry; Lost– Chris Kaman (free agent), Jodie Meeks (free agent), Jordan Farmar (free agent), Kent Bazemore (free agent), MarShon Brooks (free agent), Pau Gasol (free agent), Ryan Kelly (free agent), Wesley Johnson (free agent)

Positions

Point Guard: Steve Nash, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Clarkson, Ronnie Price

If this was the 2007 version of Steve Nash then the Lakers would be the deepest team in the league at the point. Whether Nash will even play and how much he will be able to provide, however, are completely up in the air.

Jeremy Lin is probably the 35th or 36th best point guard in the NBA. That means he is one of the top 3 or 4 backups, which is pretty much exactly where I predicted he’d end up when the whole Linsanity thing went down a few years back. He will be great as long as he is in the backup role, and average in the games he starts.

Clarkson is a second round pick and Price is a bottom of the bench guy. Neither should see any playing time unless Nash misses time, then one or the other will earn a few backup minutes.

Shooting Guard: Kobe Bryant, Wayne Ellington, Xavier Henry

I think Kobe is less of a question mark than Nash, but there are still the inevitable questions about how much he will be contributing. I’m of the mindset that Kobe will be in the “score as many points as I can to get as close to Kareem’s record as possible” mindset for the next two years, which will result in him looking better on paper than the translated wins. But someone on this team will need to score, and it won’t be any of the other guards on the roster.

Henry can shoot, but does very little else. He is a below average backup. Ellington was about the same level of player a few years back in Cleveland which is the only time he cracked 10 minutes a game. If Kobe misses time either would be woefully underqualified to start.

Small Forward: Wesley Johnson, Nick Young

Swaggy P has spent his career putting up empty stats on bad teams. Once he gets back from an injured thumb he should be able to resume doing so, though he may have to battle Kobe for those bad shots. Johnson has been a sub-average backup. He won’t be very good as a starter until Swaggy returns. This position will also be a glaring defensive hole for the Lakers, and with Kobe unable to defend the elite of the league the Lakers project to allow nearly the most points in the league, especially against Durant and Lebron—look for those matchups if you want to witness potential 50 point games.

Power Forward: Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle, Ed Davis, Ryan Kelly

Boozer is another Lakers starter who is a shell of what he used to be. He will still pull some scoring and rebounding, but his defense (never good) will be even more atrocious in this lineup—he’s been hid by the Chicago/Boston defense that uses team concepts to get around individually poor defenders, without the ferocious defense of Noah and Butler around him Boozer will look incredibly inept on that end of the floor.

I don’t know a lot about Randle other than that he was drafted very high, and he is supposed to be raw. Hopefully the Lakers will be able to groom him and develop him to be a future star, but despite getting a lot of minutes this year (most likely), I find the talent around him to be most likely toxic to his development. There are veterans here, but not the kind prone to mentoring or that you would want mentoring a young star.

Davis and Kelly were both fairly efficient in their minutes last year, if unspectacular, but with Boozer and a lottery pick I doubt any get significant playing time, and the Lakers will be looking to unload if they can get anything for either.

Center: Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre

Hill is athletic and efficient, but not a scorer and an average to below average rebounder. Sacre is our “true seven footer” stiff, but a good defender. This combo will put the Lakers right about the bottom of the league in center production, as neither can score and while competent defenders, neither have the game changing defense of a player like Roy Hibbert or Dwight Howard.

Outlook: I expect the Lakers to be in the lottery again. Most likely they will be right around the 7th pick next year, though they might mange to lose more and get even lower since they will be playing more west teams while most of the other lottery chasers are cursed with the East schedule.

NBA Season Preview: LA Clippers

Last Season: 57-25, 1st in division, lost round 2 versus OKC; Leading Scorer—Blake Griffin (24.1), Leading rebounds—DeAndre Jordan (10.1), Leading Assists—Chris Paul 10.7

Changes: Added—Chris Douglas-Roberts (signed), C.J. Wilcox (draft), Ekpe Udoh (signed), Joe Ingles (signed), Jordan Farmar (signed), Spencer Hawes (signed), Lost—Carlos Delfino (waived), Miroslav Raduljica (Waived), Ryan Hollins (free agent)

Positions

Point Guard: Chris Paul, Jordan Farmar

Chris Paul brings 20/10.  He is remarkably consistent in bringing 20 and 10 throughout his entire career. I have always felt that Paul is rated too high comparatively—but that’s splitting hairs. I’ve consistently put him in the 3rd-5th range for point guards in the past, whereas others rate him number 1. He is an above average defender, and an all-around great leading player for the Clippers.

Farmar is a very good backup for the Clippers here—10 and 5, basically exactly half of what they get from Paul in fewer minutes. The Clippers will have problems if Paul gets injured as there is no third option on the roster here and Farmar’s production doesn’t actually increase much in larger minutes shares.

Shooting Guards: J.J. Reddick, Jamal Crawford, C.J. Wilcox

Reddick is a great shooting guard for an offense that wants to feed the ball through Paul or Blake Griffin and doesn’t ask him to handle the ball much or create off the dribble. Reddick is a spot up shooter, high percentage from 3 and mid-range, great on catch and shoots.

Crawford is a great combo guard off the bench, bringing the scoring punch to the second unit. He doesn’t do a lot other than score, but that’s basically all the Clippers want him doing when he’s on the floor, and he’s consistently great at doing it, feasting off other teams second units in a way that few others can.

Wilcox doesn’t project to have a lot of minutes available, but as a draft pick he will get looks in garbage time and injury relief throughout the season.

Small Forward: Matt Barnes, Reggie Bullock, Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joe Ingles

Barnes is a solid if not spectacular shooter, and at 34 he has had the best two years of his career in the last two with LA. He is a good defender, if not a stopper, and overall a pretty good 5th best starter for a team to have.

Bullock didn’t earn a lot of minutes or touches last year, so the Clippers bringing in more options at this position suggest that he hasn’t earned a lot of trust for Doc Rivers either. Douglas-Roberts hasn’t done much in his NBA career either, and he peaked back in 2010 in his second year. Douglas-Roberts best was back in College at Memphis when he was playing alongside a dynamic point guard, so he might be see a bit of an uptick if he gets any minutes next to Paul.

Ingles comes over as a 27 year old rookie from overseas after a strong World Cup for Australia. The backup minutes at this position are completely up in the air, and whoever does the most going into this season will earn the nod here.

Power Forward: Blake Griffin, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu

Griffin is an All-Star, athletic, above the rim player. He’s been the key to the “Lob City” nickname, but has been growing as a post player and overall offensive player. His defense is good, and he’s one of the best young forwards in the league. He might be the best power forward in the league overall, depending where you rank Kevin Love and Dirk Nowitski.

Davis and Turkoglu are both past their best years. Big Baby went from promising young guy who needed to get more minutes, to disaster in more minutes, to only still in the league because his contract hasn’t expired and he has a history with Doc Rivers. Turkoglu was only ever really useful as a power forward in the stretch capacity, and in a system that let him use his one above average skill (3 point shooting, still above 40%), but with only 2 or fewer per game that skill hasn’t proven very useful for the Clippers yet. Fortunately Griffin is young and doesn’t need to sit for many minutes, especially when the playoffs come around.

Center: DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Hawes, Ekpe Udoh

Last years “DeAndre Jordan is like Bill Russell” discussion was a disservice to everyone involved—saying things like that impeaches the credibility of an otherwise spotless Doc Rivers, is a travesty to Russell, and puts an unfair pressure on Jordan. What Jordan is—an athletic defender with a limited offensive skill set but off the charts motor is a really useful set of abilities for a modern NBA team. He’s a double-double guy, a good rebounder, capable of finishing at the rim, but limited outside the basket region, and not a player you would ever run a play for.

But why would the Clippers ever run a play for him? If Paul or Crawford aren’t dribble driving, Blake will be posting up. At best you would put Jordan as a fourth option, probably lower as Reddick is capable in offense as well. Jordan is a perfect center for the Boston/Chicago defense, an anchor that lets everything else happen around him.

Hawes is overqualified for a backing role, and comes over averaging a double-double himself, but in starter’s minutes. This may be a hedge against foul trouble/injuries, but it is an awful lot of money that the Clippers are paying Hawes for a backup on a four year contract, so it could tip their hand to not wanting to resign Jordan for as much as he might be offered in free agency next year.

Udoh won’t see a lot of minutes with two starting caliber centers ahead of him, basically an emergency big man for extreme foul trouble.

Outlook: For a team with a top 5 point guard, a top 3 power forward, and a young borderline All-Star Center as well as one of the best coaches in the league I fully expect the Clippers to be hosting a playoff series next spring.

NBA Season Preview: Golden State Warriors

Last Season: 51-31, 2nd in division, lost round 1 versus LA Clippers; Leading scorer—Stephan Curry (24), leading rebounds—Andrew Bogut (10), leading assists—Stephen Curry (8.5)

Changes: Added—Aaron Craft (training camp contract), Brandon Rush (signed), James Michael McAdoo (training camp contract), Jason Kapono (signed), Justin Holiday (training camp contract), Leandro Barbosa (signed), Mitchell Watt (training day contract), Shaun Livingston (signed), Lost—Hilton Armstron (waved), Jermaine O’Neal (free agent), Jordan Crawford (free agent), Steve Blake (free agent)

Positions

Point Guard: Stephen Curry, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Nemanja Nedovic

Stephen Curry was the best offensive point guard in the league last year. His 24 and 8.5 simply do not have another competitor for that title. His defense leaves a lot to be desired, but what Curry does to defenses and how he changes the complexion of the game cannot be ignored. Amongst point guards last year Curry ranked 1st in points (24), 2nd in field goal percent (47% behind only Tony Parker), 5th in 3 point percentage (42% on 8 attempts per game), 4th in free throw percent (88%), tied for 3rd in rebounds (4.3), and 6th in assists (8.5). Make no mistake, Curry is a threat for MVP this season and a lock for All Star and All NBA.

Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa are both competent backups. Barbosa will be used as a shooting specialist, although his 28% last year was a huge dip from his 38% career percent. Livingston has had a long road back from his devastating knee injury, but he’s been a good player in limited minutes for several years and put up a good show in 26 mpg in Brooklyn last year. He won’t be asked to play that much, especially with Barbosa on board as well, but I could see 10-12 minutes per game including some of them at the two.

Nedavic managed to have a negative PER last year in very limited minutes scoring basically not at all. I don’t expect him to even dress much of this year if he isn’t waived.

Shooting Guard: Klay Thomspon, Brandon Rush

Klay Thompson’s really good. It feels silly to write things like this, but I don’t think a lot of people realize that this is the case. He scores, he shoots well from three (42%) which gives the Warriors a super shooting punch that few other teams have. More importantly, Thompson can guard both guard spots effectively, allowing the Warriors to hide Curry on the less threatening back court opponent at all times.

Rush has declined pretty steeply since being moved down in minutes, but he is familiar in playing for Golden State and has been a useful player in the past. Livingston will also take some of the backup minutes here, especially if Rush doesn’t adapt to the new system.

Small Forward: Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes

Iguodala is aging, and his offensive game has tapered off now that he is a low usage option, but he is still a game changing defender, shoring up the wing position and guarding the best the league has to offer as well as mostly anyone. His 3 point shot is passable (35%) so he can’t be left alone to double team Curry or Thompson on offense.

Harrison Barnes is competent, shoots the three slightly worse than Iguodala, and isn’t that level of defender. But he is young and can soak up minutes without needing to use a lot of possessions. He hasn’t shown what you’d hope from a top 10 pick, but he is useful off the bench and a decent starter if Iguodala goes down with injuries.

Power Forward: David Lee, Draymond Green, Marreesse Speights

David Lee gets a lot of bad press for his limited defensive effort. That’s fine, but when he is stuck in between Iguodala and Bogut, two elite defenders this becomes a much less important factor—how many teams have three potent offensive threats on the front line that there isn’t any option to hide Lee against? It’s a tradeoff that’s worth it for the Warriors to add the extra scoring threat and keep their own line-up from having any spots that can be hidden against/helped off of.

Green is a good shot, fitting in as a stretch four, but he is small for a four which is why the Warriors are unwilling to bench Lee for him as some have called for. He is a good backup at this position though, and should be useful for the Warriors.

Speights is a more traditional height and mold for a backup four, and a seasoned veteran. Overall the Warriors are in a really good spot at forward with a lot of depth.

Center: Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Ognjen Kuzmic

The question with Bogut is always his health. The former #1 overall pick has missed as much time or more as he’s played since coming into the league.  When he’s on the floor Bogut is efficient, a good rebounder, and a defensive force. The key for the Warriors will be getting a year out of him when he misses 10-20 games instead of 40-50 games and having those games not be the last month of the season or the playoffs. None of which can be predicted or planned, despite what Miami tried with Wade last year—it’s going to come down to some good or bad injury luck with Bogut, but with good luck it gives the Warriors a very potent starting lineup.

Neither of the second year backups showed much of anything last year, despite Ezeli starting in place of Bogut in some games. One or the other will need to develop a bit and show some strength for the Warriors to be really set at the center—though realistically they can use Lee as the backup center in small lineups featuring Green at the four.

Outlook: The Warriors are going to be in the playoffs.  It’s a hard sell to say they will be a home court team with the depth of the Western Conference, but with good injury luck they easily can. A lot depends on Bogut and on how the team comes together under rookie coach Steve Kerr. Realistically though, this is a team that getting to the playoffs is a failure—success will require series wins.