Keep Your Eyes On…

As mentioned in the below post, I am required to be selective in my NBA viewing this year due to a commitment called life.  I already posted the list of teams I’ve decided to follow on League Pass and by viewing these teams work their way through an 82 game schedule, I will get the opportunity to see all the teams who didn’t make my list.  As this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting, deep and competitive seasons in a very long time, I am still mildly intrigued to see the rest of these teams play.  Therefore, I’m including the entire League in the following list which outlines what I feel is necessary for them to be competitive and therefore what I’ll be focusing on when viewing them. To find out what you should keep your eyes on this season

When watching the Atlanta Hawks you should keep your eyes on Joe Johnson

Is he really worth the money the Hawks spent on him in the off-season?  Really, is he worth more than Lebron James and Dwyane Wade?  Should he be considered a Tier-1 type player on a max salary?  Let’s see if he can step his game up to the next level and prove that he is a winner who can lead his team and become worth every cent the Hawks spent on him.  If he doesn’t step up to the plate, then it will be another early Playoff exit for the Hawks.

When watching the Boston Celtics you should keep your eyes on their team defense

The Celtics have played intelligent, aggressive, team-oriented defense since the Big-3 formed.  Let’s see if they will be able to maintain their structure and focus on that end of the floor after losing their defensive guru and co-ordinator Tom Thibodeau to the Bulls.  Defense is what has taken the Celtics to the Finals twice in the last three years and if there is any slip in this area, then they will struggle to get past the Heat and Magic to make it their third Finals appearance.

When watching the Chicago Bulls you should keep your eyes on their team defense

The Bulls enticed coach Thibs (see above) away from the Celtics to strengthen their defense in the hopes that this will propel them to the upper levels of the Eastern Conference.  With long, athletic & intelligent players like Noah, Boozer, Deng and Rose lets see if they can improve their team defense and finally make the leap from entertaining to contender.

When watching the Charlotte Bobcats you should keep your eyes on Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson

Last season, this team improved dramatically and made the Playoffs for the first time in franchise history only to be swept in embarrassing fashion in the first round.  They got worse over the summer and don’t have much going for them this season.  Seriously, outside of the emotional play of Crash and Captain Jack, there is nothing worth keeping your eyes on.  Unless Michael Jordan’s new girlfriend is sitting court side.

When watching the Cleveland Cavaliers you should keep your eyes on JJ Hickson’s development

Cleveland lost its hometown hero over the summer and without the deserved two-time MVP, this team is going to land straight in the lottery.  JJ Hickson showed some promise last season as a poor man’s Amar’e Stoudamire but he is young, still developing and possesses enough athleticism to potentially be a solid piece.  But without Lebron commanding double teams and dishing to him for easy dunks, keep an eye on whether JJ refines his game and becomes a player who Dan Gilbert can either build around or use in a trade for future building.

When watching the Dallas Mavericks you should keep your eyes on their interior toughness

The Mavs have dynamic wings who can light it up, one of the best passers and floor generals in the League and the most diverse big man to ever play the game.  What this team has lacked since Dirk became a star is a solid inside game.  To win in the Playoffs, you have to control the boards and the paint.  With Tyson Chandler and Brendan Haywood rotating in the middle, keep an eye on whether they can bring an interior toughness and defensive presence, which will be required to get past the bigs in LA.

When watching the Denver Nuggets you should keep your eyes on the play of Carmelo Anthony

Will he stay or will he go?  Will he do what’s required to help the team win or will he pout hoping for a trade?  Regardless of what ultimately happens with Melo, he is the star of this team and their success this season will be dictated by how he handles his impending free-agency.  Keep your eyes on Carmelo to see if he is hustling for loose balls and rebounds, playing defense and improving his teammates.

When watching the Detroit Pistons you should keep your eyes on the relationship between coach and players

After coach John Kuester spoke to the media about his players lack of commitment and leadership he was promptly questioned himself by senior members of the team.  With a hoard of wing players fighting for playing time, keep your eyes on whether they eventually buy in to the coaches team concept or all attempt to boost their trade value by “getting theirs”.

When watching the Golden State Warriors you should keep your eyes on the back-court/front-court balance

With dynamic guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry in the back-court, the Warriors can put up points and run with anyone.  What separates an entertaining team from a competitive team is rebounding and defense, so keep your eyes on big men Andris Biedrins and new addition David Lee to see if they can provide the necessary counter punch to make this team competitive.  If they can improve their rebounding & interior defense then this team could fight for the last Playoff spot.

When watching the Houston Rockets you should keep your eyes on the difference in attack with Yao Ming on and off the court

With Yao being limited to only 24 minutes a game due to chronic foot injuries, the Rockets will be constantly shifting between two contrasting offensive styles.  With Yao on the court, they play an inside to outside, slow-paced half-court game.  With Yao on the bench, they shift to a slashing, cutting and passing outside game dominated by guards pushing the tempo.  Keep your eyes on what these shifts in styles disrupts more, the opposing defenses or the Houston players.

When watching the Indiana Pacers you should keep your eyes on whether Danny Granger and Darren Collison can develop chemistry to form a dynamic duo

Danny Granger has flirted with stardom in recent years and has shown a knack for scoring the ball every way imaginable.  Without another player who could create offense, opposing defensive sets started to load up on Granger to disrupt the Pacers offense.  Keep your eyes on how Darren Collison integrates in to the team and whether both players work together to create easy opportunities for themselves and their teammates.  The future of this Franchise depends on whether they can.

When watching the LA Clippers you should keep your eyes on Blake Griffin

Run by an eccentric owner with seemingly little basketball knowledge, with a bearded baron who is always out of shape and prefers jacking ill-advised three’s over running the team, this team doesn’t have much going for it.  Keep your eyes on Blake Griffin, the former number one draft pick with a unique combination of size, athleticism, skill and smarts.  If Griffin does become the stud he’s shown glimpses of being, then this team has at least some hope of becoming competitive again in the near future.

When watching the LA Lakers you should keep your eyes on the fluid cuts, spacing and passing opportunities that the triangle offense creates

This could be Phil Jackson’s last season and, especially with Tex Winter getting on in years, the end of the triangle offensive may be near.  Coaches around the world will attempt to replicate this most beautiful and effective offense though it will be like an artist printing Picasso duplicates.  It’s just not the same thing.  If you keep your eyes on this 12 deep rotation of intelligent, multi-faceted and talented players, you will see the triangle being run more smoothly than it ever has before or may ever be run again.  If the new additions to the team pick it up, a third straight championship is theirs to lose.

When watching the Memphis Grizzlies you should keep your eyes on whether they balance their attack

Suprisingly, Memphis has one of the most balanced attacking teams in the League.  With physical forces Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph banging inside and wings OJ Mayo and Rudy Gay who can both slash to the hoop and nail the outside shot, this is a talented offensive team.  Keep your eyes on the balance of their attack to see if they mix up their inside play with their outside touch.  Focusing too much on one area takes away from the other strength and to fight for a Playoff birth in the competitive Western Conference, they will need to maximise all of their strengths.

When watching the Miami Heat you should keep your eyes on the strength of their help defense

Once they figure each other out, Miami will score in bunches this year and rarely struggle to find a bucket when they need one.  Offense is not a worry.  This team was built to win championships and defense wins championships.  With defensive gamblers Lebron James and Dwyane Wade jumping the passing lanes and a lack of size to clog the paint and alter shots, keep your eyes on the help, rotations and communication from the other three players on the court.  If the defensive rotations are set and the help is always there, Bron and Wade will be free to gamble and play aggressive defense.  If not, this team will be reminiscent of the 7 seconds or less Suns in attempting to just outscore everyone.  We all know how many championships that got the Suns.

When watching the Milwaukee Bucks you should keep your eyes on whether the team gives a consistent effort

Although Milwaukee has some solid pieces in Andrew Bogut and Brandon Jennings, it is still a team lacking in talent.  Even the team’s top players would be third or fourth options on most of the upper level teams in the League.  To win against more talented opposition, the Bucks will need to out-hustle teams and not take plays off over the entire 48 minutes.  If coach Skiles can keep this team motivated, they could make some noise and be a nightmare first-round opponent.  If the effort starts to slip during the season though, it could be a sign that the team is tuning out their coach.

When watching the Minnesota Timberwolves you should keep your eyes on the opposing team

Minnesota fans should start looking for another team to support.  Since Kevin Garnett left to chase championships this team has firmly claimed its place as the worst team in the League.  With mediocre talent on the roster, a dim-witted front office and bad contracts weighing them down, the future for this team looks as bleak as a ‘Sota winter.  If the Wolves are playing, go outside to work on your jump shot.  With a bit of work you could make it on this dismal squad.

When watching the New Jersey Nets you should keep your eyes on the developing bond between Devin Harris and Brook Lopez

These two guys have the talent and smarts to be one of the better duo’s in the League. With Lopez’s ability to hit outside shots and finish strong inside combined with Devin’s speed and mid-range pull-up, they are a nightmare to defend on high or wing screen and rolls.  Keep your eyes on how much they play off each other and whether this creates opportunities for their teammates.  The more pick and rolls these guys run, the more wins they will improve upon from last season.

When watching the New Orleans Hornets you should keep your eyes on Chris Paul

Don’t blink, don’t look away and never, ever take your eyes off Chris Paul when he is on the court.  One of the most intelligent, wily players to ever step on the court, Paul is the heart and soul of this team.  One of the rarest of players, you could surround Paul with some scrubs from the local YMCA and they would still be competitive.  He makes his teammates better in so many ways and if you keep your eyes on him the entire game, you are ensured to see something spectacular which will change the way you see the game forever.  As long as Chris Paul is healthy and in a Hornets uniform, they will remain competitive.

When watching the New York Knicks you should keep your eyes on Raymond Felton’s ability to get his teammates the ball

Although Amar’e Stoudamire and Danilo Galinari are scorers in the purest sense, they do somewhat lack the ability to create their own shots.  Even in Mike D’antoni’s helter skelter offense, this team needs a dynamic point guard to direct traffic and get the ball in the right person hands at the right time.  Although Felton has been solid over the course of his career, keep your eyes on him to see if he can push the pace effectively and deliver the ball where the scorers need it.

When watching the Oklahoma City Thunder keep your eyes on the development of Jeff Green

With studs Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, this team will challenge the West for a long time to come.  For this team to truly be considered a title contender, a third wheel will need to emerge.  As an undersized, athletic power forward, Jeff Green has the tools necessary to run with the other young stars on this team.  Keep your eyes on whether Jeff continues to launch inefficient long range two’s and mid range jump shots, or if he realizes that he’s faster than anyone defending him and starts taking it aggressively to the hole.  If he starts being aggressive, this will be the team to challenge the Lakers in the West.

When watching the Orlando Magic you should keep your eyes on Dwight Howard’s offensive improvements

After years of criticism over his lack of post moves, Dwight spent the summer working out with one of the most diverse offensive post players in NBA history, Hakeem Olajuwon.  The Magic are already one of the best defensive team sin the League and Howard is the most dominating defensive player the League has seen in some time.  That is ingredient number one in the championship recipe.  For the Magic to truly challenge for a title, Dwight will need to become an offensive player who demands a consistent double team.  Keep your eyes on Dwight in the post this season.  If he improves and the double comes more often, don’t be surprised if the Magic set an NBA record for most threes made in a season.

When watching the Philadelphia 76ers you should keep your eyes on whether Elton Brand shows any improvement

For years now the 76ers have needed a low post presence who they could turn to when they needed an easy bucket and would complement the squad of young, athletic wing players.  Elton Brand was supposed to be that man.  As an ex-double double machine who led the LA Clippers further than they’ve ever been before, Brand was supposed to be the Franchises savior.  He has never fully recovered from a serious shoulder injury and struggled the last two seasons to figure out his role on the team.  Keep your eyes on whether he has figured things out this year and starts to shoot with the confidence he had before the injury.  His improvement is the only thing which can help propel this young team forward.

When watching the Phoenix Suns you should keep your eyes on the team rebounding and interior play

Although Amar’e Stoudamire was only an average rebounder for his position, he was replaced with a couple of wing players and an underachieving power forward not know for his rebounding prowess.  With only one true big, in Robin Lopez, keep your eyes on whether this team can work together to clog the lane, box out other teams and compete on the boards.  If they can’t figure out how to clog the middle and control the boards as a team, than the likes of LA, San Antonio, Dallas and Denver will walk all over them.

When watching the Portland Trailblazers you should keep your eyes on the role players

Portland came up short of expectations last season due to a myriad of unfortunate injuries to key players.  With Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla still out with injuries and Brandon Roy complaining of a sore knee, keep an eye on the role players to see of they can step up their games and keep this team afloat until the stars recover.

When watching the Sacramento Kings you should keep your eyes on Tyreke Evans and his ability to lead a team and improve his teammates

As the fourth player in NBA history to average 20,5 & 5 over their rookie season, Tyreke showed that he can be a star in this League.   For the Kings to take the next step and compete for a spot in the Playoff’s, ‘Reke will have to show that he can be a leader and true point guard who gets his teammates involved.

When watching the San Antonio Spurs you should keep your eyes on whether Richard Jefferson has learnt to adapt his game to the teams needs

We know what to expect and what we’ll get from the original “Big Three” of Duncan, Parker & Ginobili.  For this team to truly compete for a championship this year, keep your eyes on Jefferson’s ability to space the floor with his outside shooting and cut to the basket for easy finishes when his star teammates are doubled.  If he has finally figured out his role, then this will be the team the Lakers will need to worry about most.

When watching the Toronto Raptors you should keep your eyes on the book you will inevitably pick up to read

This team is bad.  With a starting five who would struggle to beat most benches, they will struggle to win against even the most hapless of opponents this year.  They will play historically bad defense and chuck up enough bricks to solve the homeless problem.  Don’t bother to watch if this team is playing.  Seriously, pick up a book or go outside.

When watching the Utah Jazz keep your eyes on Paul Millsap’s emergence in to an All-Star

With Carlos Boozer’s departure over the summer, Millsap will finally get the minutes he deserves and the chance to show that he is an elite power forward in this League.  Deron Williams will be outstanding and Al Jefferson is a great addition who will add as different dimension, but it will be Paul Millsap’s emergence you won’t be able to take your eyes off.

When watching the Washington Wizards you should keep your eyes on Gilbert Arenas’s ability to play off the ball alongside John Wall

John Wall is a stud and Gil used to be a stud.  For a player with an ego the size of Gilbert’s, coming back from injury as a second fiddle is going to be hard to handle.  As a player who thrives with the ball in his hands, keep your eyes on whether Gil can adapt his game, stretch the floor and knock down the open shots which will be available when Wal drives and kicks.

This entry was posted in 2010/2011 Season Preview, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Jersey Nets, New Orleans Hornets, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76'ers, Phoenix Suns, Portland Trailblazers, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Toronto Raptors, Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards. Bookmark the permalink.


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