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
With All-Star weekend marking the midway point in the season, I figured it’s time to give away some midseason awards. Continue reading
The 2011 NBA Draft takes place on on thursday, June 23 and we here at Chi Side love making predictions. Here are Blake and Bojda’s picks for the entire first round of the 2011 NBA Draft.
Number one overall, Cleveland Cavaliers:
They select: Kyrie Irving, G, Duke
The Cavs should select Williams at number one overall. In my opinion, he is a Blake Griffin-type of player: crazy athleticism with a wide range of skills. Williams can hit the three, he can play defense, and he can finish. Kyrie Irving seems extremely injury prone already. No team wants to deal with another Greg Oden situation. It’s also important to note that Cleveland also has rights to the fourth overall pick as well. So, if they can snag Williams here they can go for a guard later. However, I can see them going for Irving here to solidify their point guard position instead of possibly taking a riskier player like Brandon Knight or even Kemba Walker.
In unexpected news, University of Illinois’ freshman standout Jereme Richmond declared for the 2011 NBA Draft today. Richmond was expected to stay at Illinois for at least another year. However, I guess Richmond decided that he didn’t want to spend any more time on the bench. Richmond averaged 7.6 points and 5 rebounds a game in 31 games for Illinois.
The move is a perplexing one, in my opinion. Had Richmond stayed one more season at Illinois and garnered more playing time he may have been able to help his draft stock a bit more. Not playing at all in the NCAA Tournament due to disciplinary reasons can only hurt his stock. NBA teams value character, but some will take a chance on a talent like Richmond. After all, he’s only 19 years old and has time to mature mentally as well as physically.
On the other hand, with stars like Jared Sullinger deciding to stay in school and others like Harrison Barnes and Kyrie Irving rumored to stay another year as well, Richmond may end up benefitting a bit by leaving early. If Barnes declares for the draft, I can see Richmond getting selected (at best) in the early 20s to early second round. Had Richmond stayed his extra year, he may very well had been a late lottery pick in 2012. He even could have played himself into the top 10, but that’s wishful thinking.
There’s no doubt that the NCAA Tournament is where players make their final impressions on NBA scouts. Every year there are usually a few players who go from relative nobodies to the first round or even the lottery (see: Gordon Hayward). Then there are those players who play themselves out of the lottery or the first round. This year’s tourney was no different. We saw a variety of players improve their stock dramatically while some played themselves into another year of college. Here are my top risers and fallers for the 2011 NBA Draft:
Click here to see who improved or hurt their stock