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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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NBA Midseason Hardware & Predictions

With All-Star weekend marking the midway point in the season, I figured it’s time to give away some midseason awards. Continue reading

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Chi Side’s 2011 NBA Mock Draft

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.

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Breaking: Jereme Richmond declares for NBA Draft

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.

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2011 NBA Draft Stock Watch: Rising and Falling

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

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2011 NCAA Pre-Tourney Honors

  • Player most likely to have a “Bill Walton” Moment:

Jared Sullinger-Ohio State

I probably shouldn’t post a picture of the guy I’m picking to have a Bill Walton like game of domination, singing Party in the USA by Miley Cyrus… but whatever. For those of you that don’t know what Bill Walton moment I’m talking about though, prepare to get educated. Although he was on one of the best teams ever (in the midst of what would be an 88-game winning streak), Walton decided to assert himself as the best collegiate basketball player in the world in the 1973 NCAA Championship game against Memphis State. He went 21-22, scoring 44 points in what ended in a route for the UCLA Bruins. Wow. That’s 95%. I can see Sullinger pulling off something similar (not in the champ. game though because I didn’t pick them to get there…), just because of the way he treats all opponents like that 3rd grade bully we all hated back in the day. He won’t do it Friday against the play-in game winner, since that game is already over, but against teams like George Mason, Villanova, Kentucky, or West Virginia, watch out. The 6’9, 280, Freshman of the Year bruiser is always a threat to explode for a 30 point, 20 rebound game.

  • Team most likely to try on George Mason’s Cinderella slipper:

Richmond Spiders

Kevin Anderson and the Spiders may have a little more celebrating to do this March

If John Jenkins of Vandy is off Thursday, the Richmond Spiders will be off and running. If John Jenkins of Vandy scores 30 Thursday, I still think the Richmond Spiders will be off and running. A team seeded way below their actual talent level, they fit the cinderella mold. An experienced team that’s been here before, a stud point-guard in Kevin Anderson (who may be the best point in the nation), and a legit NBA prospect that can shoot the ball with the best of them in Justin Harper; this team will be hard to stop. The fact that their predicted match-ups aren’t THAT tough (Vandy plays the awkward SEC slow it down style, and Louisville has been over-achieving all year) also helps them out. A-10 Tourney Champs, a record of 14-2 in their last 16, and I wide open Southwest region, I think the Spiders have a really good shot of getting at least to the Sweet 16, if not further.

Jimmer Fredette-BYU

Yes, he is also the guy that’s most likely to snap and score 180 points in a game. Throughout the season, he’s been absolutely insane, bringing BYU recognition for something other than being mormon. But couldn’t you see him breaking down after losing? He has to go to the NBA next year where he’ll probably just become another Morrison or Redick (if he’s lucky) so this is his last chance to shine. The fact that his team probably had an Elite 8 run in them if not for the Davies honor code thing, is also sad. Sad, but this may provide awesome comparison clips of who cried harder. The Heat need a say in this as well, we know Lebron/Bosh/Wade can cry with the best of them.

Anyone on the Fighting Illini Basketball team

Ready for the dance my ass. I came into this season expecting the Illini to at least compete for the Big 10 title, at least win 23-25 games, at least beat UIC!?! Yeah, I didn’t get any of those. My expectation of at least a Sweet 16 run also seems like fantasy at this point. What let downs. Losses to UIC, Indiana, Northwestern, and an embarrassing showing in the Big 10 Tourney (Where they blew a 12 point lead with less than 8 minutes remaining) have led them to be the underdogs in an 8-9 game against UNLV and former coach Lon Kruger. This comes after being preseason favorites (along with Ohio State) to win the Big 10. Demetri McCamey refuses to step up when his team needs him, Jereme Richmond can’t shoot from further than 6 feet out, and Mike Tisdale is Mike Tisdale…bad. I can’t wait to see who gets to blow this game for the Illini.

So there you have it. A couple NCAA Tourney things to look out for. As for picks, here are mine:

Final 4:

Duke vs. Syracuse

I really think Kyrie Irving makes that much of a difference (I originally had them losing in the Sweet 16). I don’t have OSU up against them just because I think Kentucky will be able to match up with them, tire Sullinger out, and the Buckeye’s will panic from there.

Kansas vs. Wisconsin

That’s my biggest bracket shake up. The Badgers in the Final 4. I don’t think Pittsburgh is that strong, and I think this Wisconsin team is the best it has been in years. Also, other than Pittsburgh (barring a Belmont first round upset), who is there to stop Jordan Taylor and the Badgers?

Championship Game:

Kansas vs. Duke… Winner Duke

Kyrie Irving. Yes, I like him that much. Him along with a very, very experienced Duke roster that proved us all wrong last year, I don’t see why not.

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