Monday, December 1, 2008

Been Wrong. Been Right.

So far so good on most of WCS' pre-season predictions.

Though, for all the ones we nailed on the head, there’s also been a few where we’ve hit our collective thumb instead.

Sure, there were some gimme calls. The Lakers and Thunder for example. Everybody got those. NASCAR fanatics could've called those. It's not brain surgery to predict the Lakers would rock and the Thunder would hit rock bottom.

Houston’s had injuries, played ugly, but still find themselves at the top of the West. Ditto for Phoenix. Ditto for Utah. All at 11-7. Though, of the three, Utah is still the most promising. They’ve compiled their record without the services of their best player (Deron Williams) while dealing with injuries up and down their lineup (Kirilenko, Boozer, Williams, Brewer, etc.)

And, like Old Faithful, the freaking Spurs have been the freaking Spurs.

Here's a link to all those predictions if you missed them the first time around.

As for the miscues…

I went against conventional wisdom and believed that the Clippers could eek their way into the first round of the playoffs. I thought Ricky Davis would have a great year. I thought Kaman and Camby would form a formidable duo. I thought the team defense would be one of the best in the league…yeah, well, I should’ve known. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine them trading for Zach Randolph. I even joked about Dallas doing that trade in desperation. Well, these are desperate times in Clipper land, and that’s saying a lot. The main problem is simple. It’s talent (Baron) versus ideology (Dunleavy), and so far, it’s produced a 3-13 record. Yuck.

I also misfired on Minnesota. I didn’t really think they had a shot to make the playoffs, but I did believe they would be a much improved team. I listed seven factors that were necessary for the Wolves to make the postseason. Here’s the ones they’ve got semi-right. Al Jefferson is close to averaging 23 and 11 (22 and 10), but, in spite of a slightly better team defense, Big Al’s D isn’t close to where it needs to be. Half a factor fulfilled there. The Clippers, have, well, been the Clippers. 1.5 factors fulfilled. Kevin Love is kinda a legit NBA player, which makes it half a factor bringing our total to 2 factors fulfilled. And the ones that have gone wrong? Dallas has not fallen off a cliff—J Kidd’s actually playing pretty well (nowhere near Devin Harris however). Denver has risen to scary playoff opponent (more on this in a sec). Randy Foye had one transcendent game, and has otherwise been a huge disappointment. Corey McCants never happened (Brewer is now out for the season, which, with the infusion of Rodney Carney into the mix, might actually help the team’s offense). In the end 2 of 7 ain’t going to get it done. And it hasn’t. Minny’s currently sitting at 4-11.

I give myself a little bit of a break on the Denver prediction (still somewhat of a miscue) because I didn’t know they were going to trade for Chauncey. Mr. Big Shot has been a revelation for the team, and now, if everyone stays healthy (I’m talking to you Nene and you Kenyon Martin) this team could be very scary come playoff time. Their defense got better in spite of losing Camby (that’s thanks to the AI/Billups tradeoff) and they even have a decent bench. Once J.R. Smith smoothes things out with Karl, bringing Chris Anderson, Smith, an underrated Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and Linas Kleiza off the pine is a definite asset.

Okay. So we've established some of the predictions I reached on. Some of the ones where a lot of things had to go right for them to be, well, right. As for the things I actually did get right? There are two big thoughts that have been money when most everyone else was saying differently.

The Hornets look dreadful. Their defense has been awful. Their current rating is worse than the league average. While Chris Paul has been stellar, David West, Peja Stojakovic, and Tyson Chandler are all playing worse than they did last season. And the bench? The bench has killed the team. Especially the lack of a point guard and any semblance of a decent bigman. If you added up the PERs of Hilton Armstrong, Sean Marks, Melvin Ely, and Mike James, their collective PER is 8 points less than Chris Paul’s PER (22.8 to 30.9). Pathetic. But, the bench is and will continue to be their problem. Using Devin Brown at the point guard position is not a long term nor short term solution. James Posey has played big, but his presence has made Julian Wright relatively, well, irrelevant.

And finally, my babies. I put them all the way into the top four in the West, and they’ve played a smidge better than that. That’s the Portland Trailblazers. While everyone was off riding the Hornets’ stinger, we here at Westcoast Slant believed that the Blazers, with an excellent, top-of-the-line coach (Nate McMillan, remember what he did with that Seattle team a few years back) and a huge host of talented, energetic, youth (as in 10 deep) would be a big player in the West. Atop the Northwest division (tied with Denver) Aldridge and Roy have been playing well (Roy got player of the week honors), the rooks, Batum, Fernandez and Oden have been better-than-expected to great, and Joel Przybilla has been out-of-this-world. Oh, and the bench is one of the best in the biz.

The reason for this post, is because Westcoast Slant is a new site. We want our faithful readers to know that we have a good to great grasp on the happenings of the NBA. Of course, there’s still 60 plus games to play, so the back-patting and/or razing should be held off until the end of the season.

In the meantime, keep reading and commenting!

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