We’re counting down the days till the start of the new season, and it’s about time for everyone to be making predictions. This year, instead of just doing one prediction, I decided to go out and interview one blogger for every NBA team.
The bloggers whose opinions we will be graced with over the next few weeks are the best of the best, as all of them have featured in Yahoos Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog’s Blog Association, where Kelly Dwyer has been profiling the best team-centric NBA blogs out there. If you have any inclination of increasing your knowledge about the NBA, these are the blogs you need to read and subscribe to. (I know I will be!)
Today, we are honored to interview Bret from the fabulous Peachtree Hoops. Bret was good enough to grace TLN with his wisdom and insight into the NBA.
Jonny: Out on a limb, although backing it up with solid reasoning would be cool too, what do you think the ball park for the Hawk’s 08-09 regular season record will be, and how do you feel they will place in the Southeast/East?
Bret: I’ve got the Hawks winning 34 games and finishing 10th or 11th in the East. Josh Childress will be a huge loss. He was the team’s only truly efficient offensive player. I’m not sure anyone within the organization noticed this while he was here (Marvin Williams played 500 more minutes than Childress last season) as they’ve either made no effort or simply failed to replace him. The team improved significantly on the offensive end after the Mike Bibby trade but their defense suffered to an identical degree. Maurice Evans will be a fine addition to the rotation but Childress he’s not. Flip Murray is a bad addition to the rotation approximately as extremely inefficient an offensive player as Childress was efficient. Murray also figures to block Acie Law IV’s potential development which would effectively add one more wasted lottery pick to Atlanta’s pile.
Thus, even if Josh Smith continues to improve and Al Horford builds on his fine rookie season, I can’t see this team winning more games. My skepticism is further fueled by the retention of Mike Woodson who possesses both an inability to identify his few quality players’ strengths and weaknesses with an inability to communicate with the roster as a whole. I liken Woodson to Mike Brown minus personality and communication skills.
Jonny: Again, out on the said limb, what do you think the ball park for the Laker’s 08-09 regular season record will be, and how do you feel they will place in the Pacific/West?
Bret: If Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant are both healthy I think the Lakers are a clear favorite in the West. Dallas and Phoenix both made debilitating trades last season and I would be surprised if either challenged for the West’s top seed or were a major factor in the playoffs. San Antonio cannot be discounted out of hand but Manu Ginobli’s health and the team’s general aging makes me less confident about their likelihood of coming out of the West.
I would expect one or both of Utah and New Orleans to challenge the Lakers for the conference’s best record. The Western Conference should still be clearly superior to the East but less top-heavy. The fourth through tenth best teams in the West should be clumped together between 40 and 50 wins and the fans of none of the four higher seeds will be completely confident prior to their first-round playoff series.
Jonny: How do you feel the Hawks match up with the Lakers over a 7-game series?
Bret: Terribly. Joe Johnson is not as good as Kobe Bryant and Al Horford is not as good as Andrew Bynum. Pau Gasol might struggle to guard Josh Smith but the opposite would figure to be the case as well. Mike Bibby might could handle a matchup against Derek Fisher at his point in his career, but I assume Jordan Farmar’s quickness would be no easier for the aging Atlanta point guard to handle than Rajon Rondo’s quickness was in last season’s playoff series. Marvin Williams was a disaster in the playoffs last year (The Celtics outscored the Hawks by 12 points per game over the course of the series but outscored the Hawks by 27 points per 100 possessions when Williams was on the floor for Atlanta.) and the benches are not comparable at all. The Lakers are trying to win a championship. The Hawks are content with barely making the playoffs. That difference would show on the court.
Jonny: Lakers fans are split down the middle on Odom; some love his versatility, others hate his inconsistency. As an opposing fan, how do you rate Odom?
Bret: As a disinterested observer, Odom is great to watch, but I’ve no doubt were I to watch him play on a nightly basis for the team for which I root he’d frustrate me no end. I think that Josh Smith is a similar case for Hawks fans: watch him regularly and there’s no doubt that he could be ridiculously good–which makes the (not infrequent) games in which he’s a non-factor maddening despite the fact that he is, overall, a very good NBA player. Worst case scenario for the Lakers though, Odom fails to fit in successfully alongside Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum and becomes a valuable trade asset. A good player (who might be superfluous to the team’s needs) not fitting in is a problem that can be solved.
Jonny: What is your perception on Bynum? Lakers fans have him pegged as the next *insert hall-of-fame center*, yet the rest of the league doesn’t seem to hold him in such a high regard.
Bret: Barring injury I see no reason Andrew Bynum will not be a consistent All-Star. I say this as someone who thought drafting Bynum was a terrible mistake by the Lakers. Turns out I was terribly mistaken.
Jonny: The Hawks have signed a class player in Mo Evans, congratulations. I remember reading an article recently about Evans filling the “Josh Childress” role for the Hawks. do you think this is an accurate portrayal of his roll with the team? If not, how do you see him fitting in with this young group of players?
Bret: The Hawks needed Evans before they lost Childress. Signing him keeps alive (the slim) hope that if everything else works out (no one gets hurt, Smith and Horford improve, Marvin Williams fulfills his potential, the bottom half of the Eastern Conference doesn’t improve too much) the Hawks could return to the playoffs. His defense and three-point shooting will be useful but he’s awfully unlikely to get the easy points at the rim and at the free throw line that Childress contributed regularly. This may be a minority opinion or I may simply be more vocal than those who agree with me but I can’t emphasize enough that Josh Childress will be sorely missed.
Jonny: Marvin William’s stats have increased impressively over the course of his NBA career, but few people outside of Atlanta know much about him. how would you describe his game, and how does it mesh with what the other guys are doing on the court? Is this his break-out year?
Bret: If it’s not his breakout year, it’s probably his last season in Atlanta. He had a very good first half offensively by knocking down open jump shots and finishing in transition. Through December 31st, Marvin averaged 16.7 points per game, shot 50.5 eFG% from the floor, 78.9% from the line, and had a FT Rate of 44.5. Even without much value as a defender, passer, or rebounder, that’s a useful line. Unfortunately, something changed. He began to try other things offensively (posting defenders up, attempting to break down defenders off the dribble) and it became clear he was not very adept at doing these things. Concurrently, he became far more prone to shooting his spot-up jumpers off-balance or while floating to the right or left. Why these things came to pass I do not know. From January 1st through the end of the year, Marvin averaged 13.8 points per game, shot 44.1% from the floor, 84.6% from the line, and had a FT Rate of 32.5.
Right now, he’s a spot-up two-point jump shooter and it’s almost impossible to be very valuable if that’s your primary skill. Barring an improvement offensively, he’ll have to make himself a useful defender and/or rebounder to have much of a career. That’s a shame because he seems to be a good guy and there’s no doubt that he works hard to improve his game. Everybody in Atlanta would rather have Chris Paul but I don’t get the sense that anyone is other than hopeful that Williams will fulfill his own promise.
Jonny: What are your thoughts on the Josh Childress-led “player exodus” from the NBA to Europe? do you think a Kobe or a Lebron would ever seriously consider leaving the NBA?
Bret: I would never categorically rule out any one player who was an unrestricted free agent taking a deal like Childress’s (no buyout, an opt-out clause after every season) should a European team offer silly money. I doubt there would ever be an exodus of All-Stars as taking even one max-contract player out of the salary cap structure of the NBA would increase the likelihood that other players would be offered enough money by an NBA team to dissuade them from taking a more lucrative contract in a lesser league.
Jonny: Al Hortford was a revelation last year, coming 25 rebounds short of averaging a double double during his first year in the league. what improvements has he made to his game over the summer, and how do you see his role expanding in his sophomore year?
Bret: I certainly hope Horford’s role expands. I believe I speak for all Hawks fans when I say that I’ve seen enough shot-clock draining Joe Johnson isolations to last a lifetime. At one point, running almost every halfcourt set through Johnson was a necessity but the arrival of Horford (and the development of Josh Smith) means that time has passed.
Horford was okay with his back to the basket in his rookie year. Should he improve in that respect to the point he consistently draws a double-team, he’ll be able to make use of his passing skills. I’d like to see the Hawks do a better job of getting Horford the ball while he’s moving (Instinctually, he’s a great player. When he has time to think about what he wants to do, he can get a bit mechanical). If Acie Law IV develops into a useful NBA point guard, I believe it will be because he becomes adept at running the pick-and-roll. I’d love to see a steady diet of Law/Horford S/R this season. Horford’s not Amare Stoudemire’s athletic doppleganger but it would be nice to see the Hawks make use of Horford’s quickness when he’s playing as an undersized center.
Thanks again to Bret for his time and Insights. Please DO NOT troll Peachtree Hoops, even if you think his ideas are totally off base (which you shouldn’t). Remember, on the Internet, you and I represent Lakers fans everywhere. Lets try to give ourselves a good name.