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NBA: Ten Surprises To Look Out For This Season

The NBA season couldn’t return quick enough, and with official tip off already underway, it’s time for ChiSide’s annual NBA season outlook. This year I’ll be posting my thoughts on the unexpected. Last season brought us the unforgettable “Linsanity”, the emergence of the Denver Nuggets and the various trades that put the league on its head the league. With a full 82-game season slated, expect more of the same; expect the unexpected.

1. Kyrie Irving vaults himself into a top 15 player in the league

The 2011 number one overall selection had a rookie season better than superstar point guards Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook had. The next step for him is to become the players both are. While Irving does not have another Kevin Durant-type on his team, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a solid foundation that could make huge strides if Irving steps his game up significantly, which transitions into my next surprise…

2. The Cleveland Cavaliers will be a lot better than you think

Head coach Byron Scott has ironed out the kinks in his first two seasons managing the club. After a 19-win first year, Scott got the Cavs to 21 wins in 66 games (equivalent to 26 wins in 82 games), a seven game improvement. If all goes according to plan (barring key injuries), Cleveland can crack 40 wins. If Irving becomes transcendent, power forward Anderson Varejao stays healthy and second-year center Tristan Thompson makes a jump, the Cavs can win a lot of close contests in a weakened Eastern Conference that has lost superstars Derrick Rose and Dwight Howard.

The X-factor for Cleveland will be none other than Varejao. The crafty Brazilian, in my opinion, is as good as Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah. Varejao is one of the league’s best floppers (yes, this is a good thing) and draws offensive fouls at an astounding rate. He averaged 11 points and 11.5 rebounds in 31 minutes of play through 25 games last year. Noah averaged 10 and 10 last year in 30 minutes throughout a whole season. There’s no doubt that Varejao’s presence is vital to this team’s success.

3. The Los Angeles Lakers will not lead the league in wins

The Western Conference is tough and the Lakers have the oldest starting five in the league with an average age of 32. In addition to a full 82-game schedule, head coach Mike Brown will be preserving the legs of his older starters for a late playoff run. It would not be far-fetched if the Denver Nuggets were able to finish the regular season off with two-to-five more wins than the Lakers. Continue reading

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ChiSide’s 2012 NBA Mock Draft Version 2.0

[UPDATED 6/27/12] Picks changed: #10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 21, 22, 23, 25, 26, 29

Moved into the first round: PF Andrew Nicholson, SG Will Barton

Moved out: C Feztus Ezeli, SG John Jenkins, SG Doron Lamb

Biggest Movers: G Austin Rivers (11 spots up), PF Jared Sullinger (12 spots down), Perry Jones III (5 spots up), Terrence Ross (6 spots up)

It’s 6:00 am on a stuffy, hot Chicago summer day. Kevin Durant would say “Man, that’s messed up” if he knew how unwonted my sleep schedule is right now. Why am I doing this on approximately zero seconds of shut-eye? I have no idea. I spend my free time doing strange things. Here is ChiSide’s first NBA mock draft for 2012:

1. New Orleans Hornets select…

F/C Anthony Davis, 6-10, 220 lbs, Kentucky

What more do I have to say that hasn’t been said? The Chicago native will certainly be a stud at the next level, but not immediately. Davis was only a mere six feet tall five years ago and has sprouted 10 inches since then. He has yet to fill into his frame, weighing only 220 pounds, but that will come in time. His defense is NBA-ready, and fits in well with New Orleans’ defense-first style of play. Expect Davis to find his offensive game two to three years down the road in addition to perennial All-Star selections for years to come.

Ceiling: Kevin Garnett; Floor: Marcus Camby

2. Charlotte Bobcats select…

F Thomas Robinson, 6-9, 245 lbs, Kansas

Will Jordan find a way to screw this one up again? I think so. I’m not sold on the big man from Kansas, but I have a feeling MJ is. While Robinson has as much heart as anyone in the draft, I don’t see his skills translating into a game-changing player for the Bobcats. He doesn’t bring a significant defensive presence nor do I think he’s talented to score 20 a night in the association. Robinson possessed limited post moves and an inconsistent jumper in college, but was able to get by due to elite athleticism. His strengths are rebounding and heart, you can count on him to give it his all every night. He’ll be a solid pro for sure, just not worthy of a number two selection. Jordan will be kicking himself for passing on guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (who they should select), Harrison Barnes, and Brad Beal.

Ceiling: Derrick Williams; Floor: Patrick Patterson

3. Washington Wizards select…

SG Bradley Beal, 6-4, 200 lbs, Florida

I’ve been in love with Beal since his high school days and I believe he’ll be one of the best players to emerge from the draft. Beal didn’t put up eye-popping numbers during his freshman year at Florida (15 ppg, 7 reb, 2 ast; 44.5% fg, 34% 3pt), but showed that he plays an all-around game by making plays on both ends of the court despite playing out of position. Beal has an extremely high basketball IQ, plays unselfishly, and can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. He has no glaring weaknesses as far as I’m concerned other than size. The Wizards desperately need a perimeter scoring threat after shipping SG Nick Young to LAC, and Beal fits the bill. Expect this guy to be a strong ROY contender from day one.

Ceiling: Eric Gordon; Floor: Marcus Thornton Continue reading

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