Wednesday, December 21, 2011

This is our year! (Insert player here) gonna take off this year!

Every year every fan clamors about how this is the year. Some teams have real reasons for it. Clippers. Knicks. Heat. Mavericks. Some teams are used tot hat feeling. Spurs. Lakers. Celtics. And some lose that feeling before it starts. Kings. Warriors. Nets. But we are all champions before that first game and we all know exactly why. Well, let me be the one to further fan that preseason fire.

I have put together a list of teams players and whys for those players as to how that vaunted preseason championship will be won. So with further ado. Let your wildest dreams, run WILD.

But first, a reminder of what it looks like when THAT player does lead THAT team all the way.

2007 - San Antonio Spurs - Manu Ginobili - Fearless - Fight - Aggressive - Everything Greg Popovich would want in a player, Manu was in 2007 for the championship Spurs. His play signified what the Spurs were and won with.

2008 - Boston Celtics - Kevin Garnett - Focus - Passion - Immovable - No gimmes. No shooting for the other team after the whistle. No scoring on him. No way anyone could have beat the Celtics team that bought into KG's passion and D and played with it all year. 

2009 - Los Angeles Lakers - Trevor Ariza - Chaos - Dunks - Defense - Ariza did and caused all three and seemed to never run out of energy. With Ariza contributing in a big way, The Lake Show were 3rd in 3 point percentage, 6th in Overall Defense and 2nd in steals and 4th in turnoevers caused on their way to the Ship.

2010 - Kobe Bryant - Never - Say - Quit - You can look at the Finals and see why the Lakers won it all. Kobe finally got, or made, his team play like him. He never let them quit and was as fierce on them as he was on the opponent. They took the Celtics best punch them knocked 'em out in 7.

2011 - Tyson Chandler - J.J. Barea - Big - Small - Underrated - Chandler and Barea were the odd couple that looked way different, play way different but signified the Mavs in the first ever Championship season. They played with confidence, played amazing under the radar and were chock full of intangibles.

So who are the guys that will be the ones to bring the game that their team will embody? Which one's will we be talking about if their team is the last one standing in June?

 Less talk, more list.


Boston Celtics - Rajon Rondo 

- The Celtics are old and brittle. Rondo seemed to be neither until his injury in the playoffs last year. He should now be fully recovered bu the Celtics will need to channel what Rondo channel when his arm bent back like limbo but he manned up put a sleeve on and kept playing and making PLAYS. If they can play through the pain an older NBA body goes throug hand continue contrbuting in a game changing way the Celts could be raising Banner number 18.

Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner

- For as much Evan Turner has been told that he doesn't do in the NBA he  still has more talent than most. He just is missing that one thing to put him over the top. But he fights. He plays defense. He rebounds. He's fundamental. Handles the ball well. He wants to win and wants to beat you alot more than most players. And this is what the 76ers need. Because, as a TEAM, they have what Turner lacks, elite athleticism (Andre Igoudala, Marreese Speights, Lou Williams, Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes) can shoot the 3, (Jodie Meeks, Williams, Holiday) and if they just add the intangibles, the have to's that every team needs to win, this young team can become a power in the East, and if things fall right, a champion.

New York Knicks - Tyson Chandler 

- The Knicks have Ballers. They can score, they can run, they can shoot the lights out and they can put on a show. But can they play defense? Enter Tyson Chandler. More negative than positive is being made of Tyson Chandler leaving defensively oriented Dallas for high octane New York. But, you gotta think, the Knicks can score with anyone. They only need to get a few more key stops and some more aggression on D to really take off. Chandler, will make teams think twice about driving, let Amare be Amare and possibly teach him how to use his length on D. And his mere presence on D will help the wing defense for teams hesitance to drive to the hole where Chandler lives. Add that he can run in D'Antoni's system and the sky, or the Championship, could be the limit for the Knicks.

New Jersey Nets - Deron Williams 

- More than ever, with news of Brooke Lopez's foot injury. The Nets need players to step up and make something happen. If anyone can make it happen is the Nets new all star Deron Williams. He'll need to pull the team together and make these players play with a chip. Make them play to prove something. Make them play like they back is against a cliff and to not stop until they can't go anymore then go some more. If they can out hustle their opponents every game and fight through opponents best shots and dole one back, then they could be a story for the 2011-2012 year other than the Lockout and the trades. 

Toronto Raptors - DeMar DeRozan

- Too much talent. Too little production. If you know that at each position you can compete or play better than your opponent, then you have a chance. DeRozan is that guy with too much talent to let games slip away. Too fast. Too quick. Too athletic. Too much swag. He could be a Vince 2.0 in Toronto and could lead his team and inspire them to play to their talents. Ed Davis to the be athletic big that can run by you. Andrea Bargnani to play more like Chris Bosh light, and push opposing bigs to respect his inside game like his outside game. Jose Calderon to be the general and clutch cat he is supposed to be. This is like an all-world all star team and if they can play like it, they can surprise all the way to June. 


Chicago Bulls - Joakim Noah

- Ooooooh boy. This boy got game. When that hair goes up you know its going down. He's brings the toughness to the court reminiscent to a young KG and damn does he play defense. He would make any team he was on better because he's not scared to play hard, not scared to scrap, and not scared of you. It doesn't matter if your KG or if your Lebron James, if your not wearing Chicago Bulls red then your in the crosshairs. Couple that with an agonizing end to last season and Noah's style of play should become part of every Bulls players play. Whatever it takes. There is a great chance this is the first Bulls team to feel the confetti since his Airness left town. 

Detroit Pistons - Greg Monroe

 - Younger. Faster. Bigger Stronger. Have you seen the Pistons lineup? They have serious height. SERIOUS HEIGHT. Starting point guard Brandon Knight is 6'3 and possible back up Rodney Stuckey 6'5. Kyle Singler can play the 2 at 6'8. Tayshaun Prince is 6'9 at the 3 and Austin Daye should start at 6'11 at the 4. There all big, young and fast and can really get after it up an down the court. But the biggest upside is Greg Monroe. He's a double double machine in the mold of Al Jefferson and coule really wreck shop on the defensive side with new Coach Lawrence Frank in town. These boys are physically imposing and can run, gun and should now play Championship worthy D with it. Championship worthy. 

Cleveland Cavaliers - Luke Harangody

- He's a 6'7 Power Forward in a tall man's NBA. He's white but plays within the 3 point line. He's not faster than you, he's not the prettiest and won't win any dunk contests. But if he gets a chance to play, he will produce. And that's what the Cavaliers need to know and tell themselves and believe in. A chance. It isn't one of the more flashy rosters but every year seems to welcome a new cinderella. Why not Luke and the Cavs?

Indiana Pacers - Paul George

- Can I get fill up on number 24? Thats exactly what George can do, fill up a box score. At 6'8 he can shoot the three, play above the rim, play in the passing lane on D and give you serious versatility. The Pacers may be as versatile as it gets. With Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough, George and life Jeff Foster the Pacers can fill up a box score and beat you almost at every position. And like George, these young Pacers are entering the year's that will see growth that usually brings a finished product. Granger is almost a superstar, Darren Collison almost made people forget about Chris Paul in NO and George with his size fits our era's prototypical SF. This could be a very special team if they reach their ceilings and keep filling it up. Thats one way to fill up those empty spots in the rafters.

Milwaukee Bucks - Brandon Jennings

- He is one of the most intriguing talents in the NBA and truly took our attention with his play during his rookie season. Fast forward over last year and you have a healthy and motivated Andrew Bogut, and plenty of new faces. Two first rounders, Tobias Harris and scorer Darington Hobosn could make a Jennings like splash if they play to their talents and listen to new veterans Stephen Jackson and coach's son Mike Dunleavy. Bogut plans to bounce back hard and this plans to be a very different looking squad. Add Jennings ability to make all the plays at point and he could lead the new look Bucks to a new look for the Franchise, Champion. 


Charlotte Bobcats - Kemba Walker 

- More Fire! Kemba Walker has the city of Charlotte buzzing and for good reason. The former Huskie is an all-star in waiting and from the look of his play in the all forms of tournament play last year knows how to win. He's infectious, makes his team want it more and wants to be the man to take the opponents last breath. He has bravado, he brings passion, players want to play with him and kids want to be him. Scoop threes, and fade away winners, Kemba Walker is AI 2.0, the star Charlotte has been seekng desperately. When you get a star you get better overall team play. When the team is worth it the fans come in and make your home court your home court. Kemba can take over a game and if he can taker over the season for Charlotte he could lead his team somewhere they shouldn't be. The top. Wouldn't be the first time. 

Miami Heat - Dwayne Wade

- I have had a the pleasure of watching Wade play and you can't appreciate the words we hear, the faces he makes and how slow the defense looks next to him until you see it. When you see it, its blinding and its sudden. He does it on D, on offense in transition and everywhere else.He nearly won the Finals for his Heat and never gave up. And reports coming out of camp are that he's literallt, in the best shape he's ever been in, not just general offseason bull, but real to form best ever shape. He's the main coil for the Heat and his fire and tenacity must be ever present in every Heat player to maximize the output in Eric Spoelstra 's new Oregon inspired spread offense.

Atlanta Hawks - Al Horford 

- For the Hawks full court athleticism is the key for them to succeed at each position. The most difficult position to find it, however, is the center position. And that is Al Horford's spot to hold down in the Atlanta lineup. And he brings the thunder. Over his career he is developing a bit of a mean streak that comes along with playing the center position. With that combined with his elite athleticism at the center position and his ability to play great basketball on both sideds of the ball he is truly the most consistent, important player on the Hawks. Mean streak. Consistent to things that the Hawks seem to leave out of the equation until its too late. If they can employ those two qualities for a full season there is no reason to think they won't make it to the end.

Orlando Magic - Jameer Nelson

 - Dwight is mentally all over the place. Agent Zero is gone and the Magic complimentary pieces are ok. They do somethings well and something not so well. They need a player to lead the Howard and keep him in the game amid trade rumors and requests, to put Hedo, J.J. And Jason among others in the right positions to succeed and to do it day in and day out. He basically needs to step up. He did it as an amazing seniore at St. Joseph's and needs to do the same in Orlando. As well as bring the rest of the crew along for the ride. The is their, they just need to Step UP!

Washington Wizards - John Wall 

- The 2010 number one overall pick of the Washington Wizards is a wizard on the court with his ability to run past defenders, stop on a dime, dish it like a vet to a player out of the play and make it look easy. But the most amazing part is his ability to stay calm during it all. And that is a huge intangible that only great players have. To be unwavered in the face of a daunting team like the Miami Heat or to go up against a point guard the likes of Chris Paul or Deron Williams without batting an eye in against such a challenge is a something that every player in a Wizard uniform can use to let help them to focus on unleashing their potential (Andray Blatche, Jordna Crawford and Javale McGee come most to mind). With the ability to never be feel fear and never back down, anything is possible for this up and coming team of youngersters, Anything.


Minnesota Timberwolves - Ricky Rubio

- Kevin Love seems to do it on his own. Getting a double-double a game without much assistance. Michael Beasley seems to click on and off but when he's on he can fill it up. The rookie Derrick Williams can get it done just like Beasley. But to make their lives easier and to give them more opportunities to contribute more to the Wolves run, an intelligent point guard that can run the floor, see everything going on around him and make every play and every pass is exactly what the Timberwolves will need. Enter Ricky Rubio. The Spanish Pistol Pete and the contreversial point guard from an amazing spanish team has already shown he can run with the big boys and steal the show even when running with the Gasol brothers, Rudy Fernandez and Jose Calderon. He will bring to the Timberwolves a true pont guard for the first time in maybe ever. The excitement he will bring will encourage the team play and enliven the crowd, giving them more support than ever. It may be very underrated, but what a team can acheive with the support of its city and each other is something many may not see coming.

Oklahoma City Thunder - Serge Ibaka

- Shoot the lights out. Run teams off the court. Make plays most players and teams can't make. Thats what Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and the offensive minded can do all day, all night to any team in the league. But if thats all it took to win achampionship Steve Nash would have at least 5 by now. Serge Ibaka is a monster. He stand in the middle for the Thunder and does whatever it takes to keep you out of the middle, whether you like it or not. But that mentality must be grasped by the whole squad and not just one great competitor. If Ibaka could have the affect of a mini KG and give his teammates the desire to play knock out defense and give themselves and their bodies up for the team there isn't much that will keep the Thunder from acheiving the ultimate goal.

Portland Trailblazers - Gerald Wallace

- If you haven't notice yet here there is an underlying theme. DEFENSE. You can't win a chanpionship without it. Sorry. With that said that is exactly what Gerald Wallace will asked to bring and encourage his team to play in the upcoming season. He was able to acheive that goal with a Bobcats team that didn't have talent like LaMarcus Aldridge, Raymond Felton, Jamal Crawford and Wesley Matthews. And each of those talents can score and defend it when called upon. If they desire to win it all in the vaunted Western Conference they are going to have to defend, the Kobe's, the Durant's, the Paul's and the Griffin's. If Wallace can get the defense up like it was in Charlotte you could see the black, white and red flowing from the rafters in June.

Denver Nuggets - Aaron Afflalo

- They needed him and they got him. Back. Not often do you find a guy capable of becoming a star with the intangibles of a scrapper. Afflalo is an imalgamation of Joe Johnson and Manu Ginobili, and he's only getting better. He is chuck full of intangibles, energy, athleticism and has a shot go along with it. Throw in fantastic perimeter D and there is no reason he can't become an All-Star this season. These qualities are what George Karl wants and demands from his players and Afflalo seems to fit the mold. With an expanded role this season  to go along with a starting gig his hustle and big shots will be a spark to the Nuggets season. If the team can mimick his intangibles and willingless to play D the powder blues might be coming with a Larry O'Brien trophy stitched to the chest.

Utah Jazz - Paul Milsap

 - Big, bruising and athletic. That describes both Milsaps strengths as well as the Utah Jazz's. Along with Derrick Favor,  Enes Kanter and Al Jefferson the size is definitely there. The Jazz flashed throughout last season their ability to comeback, to hang tough and to, and keep the engine hot even when it should be empty. Why is this? Because those are Sloan players. No matter how you dice it thats what they are. Win or lose they fight till the end. But this team has something special in comparison to those teams. One more time. Size. That is the equivalent to a good football team having a great run game. They can bang, bang and bang some more till they wear you out. Milsap put his face on a multitude of comebacks last year and seemed to play his best in the 4th quarter. With this advantage and good D, its a football lovers formula to a championship run. 


La Lakers - Andrew Bynum

- Old. Brittle. Overrated. Luckily for L.A., Bynum only matches one of those adjectives. However the rest of the squad starters? Not so much. Kobe and company aren't getting any younger and they need to win now. A team with Kobe on it will always have a fighter's chance, whether he's 23 or 33. But if they are going to make it a season, then they gotta get 60+ regular season games and a Shaq like performance in the playoffs from young Bynum this season. Motivation should not be a factor. Kobe's got that. Defense either with Mike Brown now at the helm. But Bynum needs to  be the horse and let L.A. ride him and his young legs to the Ship.

La Clippers - Chauncey Billups

- Best point guard? Check. Best Power Forward? Check. Legit center? Check. Now all they have to do is win it. At least that's what everybody says they can and should do. Welcome to the flavor of the year, folks. As shiny as the new CP3 toy is and as flashy as the Griffin gold can get, if you've never won, how can you win? It's not a certainty that it can't happe nbut you need help. Yo Chauncey! Show these boys how you did it in D-Town! He's been there, he's won there, he's been MVP there. Now he need not be shy about it and share with the youngsters. Having a veteran is one thing but this is different. He solidifies your bench, keeps your practices intense, and lets you know what it takes to pour champagne. He'll be in the Clippers ears all year and for their sake, all the way to the parade.

Golden State Warriors - Monta Ellis

- Monta Ellis is the classic freelancer. The type that can get you 50 or 5. Fill up the box or hide in one. For the Warriors sake he's more on than off but he needs to keep the light burning to make things interesting. What's really interesting? The chaos that would ensue if his team took a hint and let their games run wild like Ellis does. Think about it. Stephen Curry is a more coach friendly version of Ellis running the point, David Lee and Andris Biedrens crashing boards and running it down with Mark Jackson runnning the show and control the chaos we could see a extended run for that electric crowd in the Oracle Arena.

Sacramento Kings - DeMarcus Cousins

- The Sacramento Kings maybe the world's most attractive puzzle, even if we have never seen it put together. DeMarcus Cousins makes coach's and fans drool with his seemingly unmatched mix of size, down low prowess, sweet shot and maddeningly apparent youth. The same could be said for his partner in crime Tyreke Evans. Most nights and in most games theu will be the best two players at their positions on the floor. But they just seem to be unwilling to shed the common constraints that youth provides. But damn, if they don't sometimes make me think Shaq, Kobe. More times in the bad way but they do. And as the "Bigger" man, literally and figuratively , Cousins needs to wake slap some sense into his boy Tyreke and go all Jimmer on the NBA! (You like that little sneak in?) They have got just take the rock and not let it go till no one else wants it. Thats need to be their plan to get on a roll and get to some truly uncharted territory.

Phoenix Suns - Aaron Brooks

 - We love his soccer playing, joke dropping, messy mop having, playmaking ways. But at 37, he ain't getting any younger. That's why it is very possible he may no longer be the most valuable point guard on his own squad anymore. Now the guy that has to spell a 37 year old in a ridiculous, super-condensed season? He is really, really, really important. When Nash can't feel his knees? Brooks. When Nash gets hip checked into the scorers table? Brooks. He has gotta be that guy when the Suns need him. He has the talent, breath taking speed, the ability to score, create and distribute, he's got what it takes to keep the machine rolling. He will be the key to keep everyone running with Steve, gunning with Steve, and funning with Steve. If he can keep it up, He could be hoisting that trophy with Steve. 


San Antonio Spurs - Manu Ginobili 

- You hate him. I hate him. The Lakers hate him. Most OPPONENTS hate him. The LArry O'Brien Trophy? Best friend. Hate him or hate him, he wins. And its because of the reasons non-fans or teammates hate him that he and the Spurs win. Grit, bumping, bleeding, running, yelling, diving, charging, hounding, never quitting. Everything that you hate to play against in a pick up game is everything Gregg Popovich loves and wins championships. The front office has done a great job keep the Spurs relevant and as long as the new pieces follow in Ginobili's foot steps, we can hate the Spurs all the way to another championship.

Houston Rockets - Luis Scola

- Up. Down. Left. Right. North. South. East. West. They don't change. You count on them to lead you, to never change and tell you the right way to go. Whch way is up. The weather. And Luis Scola will have to be that for the Rockets. Maybe minus the weather stuff though. They do play in a dome after all. Truly, his consistency and his all world experience don't come by every year. He makes the smart plays and does it passionately. He lets hair fly and leaves it on the floor.  Kevin Martin can follow. Kyle Lowry can follow. So can Samuel Dalembert and Patrick Patterson. Keep it steady, Do it right and play like you've been there. Don't let anything bother you, even trade rumors. Do that and you might be in the Finals before you realize it. 

New Orleans Hornets - Jarrett Jack 

- Its one of the most difficult things in sport to do. It was tough after Marino. It was Tough after Jordan. It was tough after Lemieux. It was tough after Phil. Thrice (Soon to be thrice. Maybe) But Jarret Jack has got to do it. And he has to do it now. Chris Paul is gone, and is his dust is a town in pain and shock, and a roster with an amalgamation of thrown away players, almosts and never beens. But boy if their would ever be an ultimate cinderella it would have to be this. Losing the best point guard in the League. It would have to be in this city. New Orleans knows how to rise above adversity. And it would have to be led by Jarret Jack. Never given a chance. Never allowed to play for real. Never told he could do it. Here's his team. Here's his city. Here's his chance. If he believes, the Hornets will follow.

Memphis Grizzlies - Tony Allen

- He did it once. Actually Twice (Remember him Boston) I'm sure they do. And I am sure they know why his one man do it all - bring the energy act worked in Boston. Because he had help. Alot of it. Not to say he didn't last year. Zach Randolph was ridiculous last year. Marc Gasol was so good he made L.A. regret trading him for his brother. But this season he needs more. He need O.J. Mayo to buy in. He needs Rudy Gay to buy in. He need Mike Conley to buy more. They need to change their team name from the Grizzlies to the Tony Allen's and just bring it. If any team has more swag ket me know. But swag only gets you so far. You got to earn it to swing it. You've got to have to bring it. But if they buy in, praises, we'll sing it. 

Dallas Mavericks - Jason Kidd

- Jason Kidd. Old. Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion. Old. Dirk Nowitzki. Old. Jason Terry. That jet doesn't fly that high anymore. Peja Stojakovic. Enjoy retirement. Theme. Yeeeee-yeah. This team isn't celebrating anymore 30th birthdays anytime soon. Because they have past them all. Thing is. They were the oldest team all last year's regular season (31.5). And got a year older per average in the playoffs (32.2)! But, they sorta won a championship. I bet EVERY team wish they were THAT old. Championship old. Apparently things age well in Dallas. Oh, did I mention, they added Vince Carter (yeah he's 34, crazy right?) and Brian Cardinal (34. yeah, he still PLAYS basketball. Crazy right?) But, you don't doubt a champion. Especially in the easiest sport to win back to back championships in. From 1987 to 2010, only 5 teams did NOT repeat. Seven DID repeat. Two of those teams three peated and three of those teams 6 played in three consecutive Finals. Take solace in that Dallas. History's got you back if father time doesn't.

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