2014-15 NBA SEASON PREVIEW CONTENT LIST
Atlantic: Celtics | Nets | Knicks | 76ers | Raptors |Division Preview
Central: Bulls | Cavaliers | Pistons | Pacers | Bucks | Division Preview
Southeast: Hawks | Hornets | Heat | Magic | Wizards | Division Preview
Pacific: Warriors | Clippers | Lakers | Suns | Kings | Division Preview
Northwest: Nuggets | Timberwolves | Thunder | Trail Blazers | Jazz | Division Preview
Southwest: Mavericks | Rockets | Grizzlies | Pelicans | Spurs | Division Preview
Articles: Assessing the Cavaliers Trio | Important Season for James Harden | Return of Paul George? | Trading Rajon Rondo | Are the Nuggets This Season’s Suns? | NBA’s Best Starting Five | NBA’s Worst Starting Five | Now or Never for Durant and Thunder After Injury
Fantasy Basketball: Top 10 PGs | Top 10 SGs | Top 10 SFs | Top 10 PFs | Top 10 Cs | Sleepers, Studs, and Sinkholes | Analyzing the Schedule | BMF Mock Draft | Cavs and Cav-Nots | Like A Bosh | Rajon Injury Impact
Most Important Player: Andre Drummond
It starts at the top of the mountain, and Andre Drummond is a mountain of a man. In a division devoid of true quality big men, Drummond could have a huge year. But, personal glory aside, if this team is to win Andre has to have a big presence in terms of points, boards, and even assists.
X-Factor: Stan Van Gundy
Having a quality coach makes a great deal of difference in making a young team come together. The plan is going to be to use Drummond like he used Dwight Howard when he was in Orlando. That team went to the NBA Finals (amidst a weak set of divisional opponents). If SVG can tap into the potential of this team the playoffs are within reach, but you are going to need the finger tips of Andre Drummond to get there.
The starting five of Drummond, Greg Monroe, Smith, Meeks, and Jennings is easy enough to pencil in. There is really no depth at shooting guard, so look for D.J. Augustin and Will Bynum to come off the bench and play either the point or shooting guard. The real problem here is more the defense than the offense. This team can go with their backups and leave their frontcourt in tact, at a minimum two players. The exceptional play of Drummond and Smith will make this easier. Kyle Singler offers a little more range and floor spacing that will help create lanes for the starters Meeks and Jennings. Jonas Jerebko will see time, but the lack of finish makes him a liability.
It’s Really Bad If:
ANYONE goes down. The team has quality depth in the front court, but the drop off from the starters to the backups is about as steep as the grand canyon. In a slack Eastern Conference this team actually has a chance to make the playoffs, but they have to stay healthy. If someone does get injured (or even if SVG thinks it’s going to hell) then the team might opt to clean house and attempt to tank.
Bold Prediction: The Pistons will place third in the Central Division and make the playoffs.
D.J. Augustin, PG
Strengths: Well-rounded ball skills as a scorer and distributor
Weaknesses: Small stature and lack of natural quickness make him a defensive liability
Season Prediction: The team will need him to play quality minutes and perform at his 2013 level rather than his 2014 level. The added reps will help, as will quality coaching. Ten points and four assists a game isn’t unreasonable.
Will Bynum, PG
Strengths: Outside shooting and ball handling
Weaknesses: Defense is lacking and advanced age won’t help
Season Prediction: He will see more reps than he is used to as the lack of depth at shooting guard may have him filling in more in that capacity. Defense will be an issue, particularly if he’s asked to guard shooters, but six points and three assists a game would make SVG happy on a nightly basis.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, SG
Strengths: Solid defender with good length for his position, with accuracy from range
Weaknesses: Not a true shooting guard, and purely a spot-up shooter
Season Prediction: SVG would be happy with no points, so long as he can shut down someone else at the end of the game.
Luigi Datome, SF
Strengths: Rebounding and positional play
Weaknesses: Not an agile or aggressive player
Season Prediction: I would be shocked if he managed more than his 238 total minutes from last year. A sparing bench player at best during a blowout either way.
Spencer Dinwiddie, PG
Strengths: Great length and fundamentally sound
Weaknesses: Young player who will make rookie mistakes and is buried on the depth chart
Season Prediction: I would expect to see SVG try to work this kid in as a shooting guard, even if it’s more for defense, but it remains to be seen how he adjusts to the NBA, and as a second-round round pick there might not be a lot of time for him on the floor.
Andre Drummond, C
Strengths: Boards and blocking
Weaknesses: No perimeter game to speak of and is a weak free-throw shooter
Season Prediction: The big man averaged 13.5 PPG and 13.2 RPG last year. SVG would like to see him round out his game and get some perimeter shooting and free-throw percentages that would make teams think twice about playing “hack-a-Shaq.” I’d like to see at least 15 PPG and 12+ RPG this year.
Aaron Gray, C
Strengths: Size and defense
Weaknesses: Everything else
Season Prediction: Last season the big man didn’t even average a bucket a game, but still managed three rebounds. The team will likely need him to play some minutes, and he is a solid defender, but SVG will want more than 1.8 PPG. Look for maybe six points per game and three to four boards.
Brandon Jennings, PG
Strengths: Vision, ball skills, and scoring touch
Weaknesses: Decision making
Season Prediction: He is going to be asked to play more minutes than last year, keep up the scoring, and run the offense. I’d be looking for at least the 15.5 PPG and 7.6 APG he put up last season.
Jonas Jerebko, PF
Strengths: Defense and size
Weaknesses: Mid-range shooting and ball skills
Season Prediction: This is a power forward that will be asked to guard centers, particularly if the team is playing a zone defense. His 4.2 PPG and 2.7 RPG is about where he should be, but that was on almost 13.5 minutes of play. I think you will see roughly those same numbers, but with something closer to ten minutes of game time.
Cartier Martin, SF
Strengths: Mid-range scoring and speed
Weaknesses: Defense, particularly in the post
Season Prediction: He’s really undersized to be used as a power forward, but as a small forward or even a shooting guard he is a good matchup. I’d prefer to see him on the perimeter, especially with the depth of big men. At least six points a game is in line for Martin this year.
Jodie Meeks, SG
Strengths: Range scoring, well-rounded offensive player
Weaknesses: Defense is suspect, but serviceable
Season Prediction: Meeks averaged over 15 PPG and threw in a couple of assists and rebounds a game to help out. This is exactly what he needs to do, and will do this coming year. I would expect to see him actually get more minutes, so I am hopeful for about 18 PPG for the year.
Tony Mitchell, PF
Strengths: Defensive hustle
Weaknesses: Every other aspect of the game
Season Prediction: Mitchell will be lucky if he sees much game time period. There is too much depth up front, he is too weak a player. Mitchell appeared in just 21 games last year, bank on a similar number for this season.
Greg Monroe, PF
Strengths: Size, touch, and basket presence
Weaknesses: Free-throw shooting, finishing inside
Season Prediction: Another quality big man who will put up close to 16 PPG and 10 RPG. The real problem is that he too can’t hit with consistency from the charity stripe. That skill needs to be refined to make teams worry about fouling him early in games.
Kyle Singler, SF
Strengths: Fundamentals are perfect
Weaknesses: Not an elite athlete
Season Prediction: This is a guy who hustles, does everything asked of him to the letter, and is text book in just about every way. The real issue with that is he becomes predictable, and his lack of raw talent means that a superior player will likely take him to school. Ten points per game is about what you expect from a guy like this coming off the bench.
Josh Smith, SF
Strengths: Well-rounded player
Weaknesses: Slack effort on defense. Shoots too many three-pointers given his poor percentage.
Season Prediction: The $13.5 million he eats in salary shows you he is the best player on the team, and the 16.4 PPG, 3.3 APG, and 6.8 RPG illustrate that. At 28 Smith is in his prime, and the increased focus on running the offense through Drummond may create some space for Smith to work. I am looking for 18 PPG and roughly 3 APG and 7 RPG from the former Atlanta Hawk this season.
What significant moves were made during the offseason?
The team’s largest acquisition was a solid coach. Stan Van Gundy will hopefully put a stop to the revolving door of coaches that has passed through the Motor City. A staggering six head coaches since 2008 has really left little in the way of continuity. The acquisitions of Jodie Meeks and D.J. Augustin were huge in trying to help support the loss of steady veterans Chauncey Billups and Rodney Stuckey. The continued growth of Andre Drummond under SVG is really what this team needs to try to make a move to the next level.
What are the team’s biggest strengths?
The frontcourt is large, and in charge. I might go as far to say that in the Eastern Central this is the most imposing front court (now with the injury to Paul George). Josh Smith adds a true second scoring touch in the front court, and backups Aaron Gray and Kyle Singler might be good enough to start on some teams (especially in the East).
What are the team’s biggest weaknesses?
Where the frontcourt is full of quality big men with some move and pop in their shot, the backcourt is a little suspect. Meeks averaged 15.7 points per game last year, but his career average is just 9.7. Getting starter minutes from the Los Angeles Lakers helped, but he is a little undersized at 6’4” to be covering some of the premier point guards. Brandon Jennings put up solid numbers last year with 15.5 PPG and 7.6 AST, but there is a real lack of quality depth behind him.
What are the goals for this team?
It’s really tough to gauge what SVG and the management will deem as a win this season. With the Central Division having the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and the newly revamped Cleveland Cavaliers, making the playoffs might be a tall order. An improvement on 29-53 is a certainty, but .500 is likely not attainable this year with this roster.