NBA Summer Transactions Part 2
Big Improvements Thunder, Pistons, Bobcats, Hornets
WVBR’s NBA Summer Transactions Part 1 described why the San Antonio Spurs, the Orlando Magic, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Boston Celtics, and the Los Angeles Lakers will be the top five teams in the NBA next season. Part 2 will detail why the following four teams will also improve:
[[link|url=http://www.dailythunder.com/]]The Oklahoma City Thunder[[end-link]]
[[link|url=http://need4sheed.com/]]The Detroit Pistons[[end-link]]
[[link|url=http://www.bobcatsbaseline.com/blog/]]The Charlotte Bobcats[[end-link]]
[[link|url=http://neworleanshornetsblog.blogspot.com/]]The New Orleans Hornets[[end-link]]
The Thunder will be a good team. It may not be this year or even the next year. But if they keep their roster together, within three years they will be in the Western Conference playoffs, possibly a title contender. Last year year rookie Russell Westbrook and sophomores Kevin Durant and Jeff Green put up stellar numbers. However, the [[link|url=http://www.supersonicsoul.com/]]Oklahoma City Thunder [[end-link]] finished with a dismal record of 23 wins and 59 losses. They had holes at shooting guard and center. The Thunder attempted to plug up both of those holes by drafting shooting guard James Harden and center B.J. Mullens in the first round of this summer’s NBA draft. Thus far, James Harden is excelling in the summer league while B.J. Mullens appears to be struggling. Still, Mullens might pan out--if summer league play predicted NBA stardom then Robert “Tractor” Traylor would be a household name (outside of my household).
Final prognosis for the Oklahoma City Thunder: expect improvement this year, but don’t be mad at me if they don’t make the playoffs in 2010. If they fall short in 2011 and 2012, then yeah, [[link|url=http://twitter.com/Swirzey]]a little anger at me is healthy.[[end-link]]
Now for the [[link|url=http://www.motownstringmusic.com/]] Detroit Pistons[[end-link]]. NBA fans may recall that they made six consecutive Eastern Conference finals, which was so impressive that management decided last summer that the team needed a complete roster overhaul. They put this off until the middle of the season when they traded Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. This turned the Denver Nuggets into a successful, conference championship reaching team while accomplishing their goal of not making the Eastern Conference finals (they lost to the Cavs in the first round). Instead of making fun of them for the rest of this blog post, I’m going to focus on their positives. They acquired Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, both of which are young enough stars to help the Pistons in the long term. They also reacquired former defensive player of the year Ben Wallace, a key player from their 2004 NBA title. The Pistons also held onto Richard Hamilton, Tayshaun Prince, and Rodney Stuckey, a talented trio who managed to keep the team afloat despite having to play alongside [[link|url=http://www.alleniversonlive.com/]]Allen Iverson.[[end-link]]
Final prognosis for the Detroit Pistons: expect them to move up in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket; cracking the top three won’t happen, but four through six are real possibilities. They shouldn’t be any worse than sixth or seventh.
Lastly, I’ll focus on the NBA two teams that have played in Charlotte, North Carolina during my lifetime: the [[link|url=http://www.atthehive.com/]] New Orleans Hornets[[end-link]], and more recently, the [[link|url=http://bobcatsplanet.com/wp/]]Charlotte Bobcats[[end-link]]. Last season the Bobcats improved themselves by acquiring Boris Diaw and Raja Bell from the Phoenix Suns. This progress was hampered by the fact that they didn’t have the duo last season and that Gerald Wallace went down with a lung injury. When they had a healthy lineup after the trade last year, they won about half of their games; playing that well all season would have earned them a spot in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. However, they traded center Emeka Okafor to the Hornets for center Tyson Chandler. During the 2004 NBA Draft, Okafor was considered an equal to fellow rookie Dwight Howard. Playing in a system with Chris Paul running the point and David West backing him up on the inside, Okafor will have a better chance to flourish than he did as the cornerstone of an NBA expansion team. The Bobcats probably benefited as well as Chandler is a taller player who will be able to defend bigger players who Okafor struggled with.
Final Charlotte Bobcats/New Orleans Hornets prognoses: Both teams should see an improvement, primarily due to chemistry changes (i.e., each center will fit better with his new team). The Hornets could crack the top three in the Western Conference, but I doubt they’ll be as good as they were two years ago when they were one win away from having the conference’s best record. Barring all major injuries, the Bobcats should make the playoffs for the first time in the franchise’s existence.