As NBA camps open, Kevin stops by to give us an idea of what to look for in the preseason.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): With the baseball playoffs in full swing, thanks to Baseball Prospectus for allowing hoops to take center stage in today's chat. With training camps opening Monday, the NBA season has officially kicked off. I'm happy to say that our coverage on Basketball Prospectus should be even stronger in year two. I'll be writing multiple times each week in addition to trying to hold chats on a more regular basis. Alright, let's get down to your questions.
Ted (Jacksonville): Thanks for the chat, Kevin. NBA Dynasty league where we sim the games, I just took Thaddeus Young over Noah, Yi, and Stuckey. He's young, athletic, pretty efficient, could draw more fouls but I think that will come. I think I got it right. What do you think?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Yeah, I like that decision. Young had a great rookie year and he did it at age 19. There are some questions in the short term about stepping out to the three full time, as he needs to improve his perimeter shooting after making just six three-pointers all last year. In the long run, he's got the best chance of the group to be a star and is by far the safest bet to produce.
roguerouge (jp, MA): Is it all downhill for the Celtics from here?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, it can't go uphill, can it? This year we should see some development from Rondo and maybe some of the bench guys. The hope is that will offset Ray Allen's aging. That is my biggest concern with the Celtics this season, along with maybe injuries. Guys similar to Allen have tended to break down at about this age, which is worrisome. The loss of James Posey might be overstated to some extent, but Boston will feel that as well. Add it up and it's very unlikely the Celtics will be as dominant during the regular season. It's still certainly very possible they could be the team to beat come playoff time.
koz8484 (chicago): Will Bp eat crow on their White Sox projected record for this year. I seem to remember you guys gloating quite a bit last year when you correctly pegged it last year.
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Yeah, I was definitely wrong about the Bulls last year, but I'm not sure what you're talking about with the gloating--I've been wrong about them every year for several years running, I think.
Oh wait, White Sox? Who are they?
Matt (Torts Class): What kind of improvement can the Pacer's get from their additions?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Potentially quite a bit. Hollinger mentioned in his team previews on ESPN.com that the Pacers are a sleeper team, and he makes some pretty good points. I'm not the world's biggest T.J. Ford fan, but he's a massive upgrade from the Jamaal Tinsley-Travis Diener duo and not likely to be a distraction off the court. As a third guard, Jarrett Jack is nice to have on a team. Improved play at the point should make Indiana's offense better than last year's version that ranked 19th in the league on a per-possession basis.
I'm also a big fan of Rasho Nesterovic, one of the league's most underrated defenders. He and Jeff Foster quietly form an effective duo in the middle. I'm not sure the rookies will have a huge impact this season, though Brandon Rush offers another shooter for Jim O'Brien's shoot threes first, ask questions later style.
TheBunk (Toronto): Hi Kevin, have you heard anything positive about Andrea Bargnani's development in the off season?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I can't say I've heard a lot either way, though looking quickly on Google there's optimistic talk out of Raptors training camp (imagine that!). The thing about Bargnani is that his weaknesses (rebounding and help defense) aren't things that players tend to improve upon a great deal. For the most part, you're either a rebounder or you're not, and Bargnani is not. That said, the Raptors will live with those weaknesses if Bargnani can be a more efficient shooter, and that's definitely a possibility.
My suspicion is Bargnani, because of the expectations that came with being the No. 1 overall pick (in a relatively weak draft) is one of those guys who will have more success on his second team.
elcubano (london): Did the Warriors do enough this offseason with a semi-youth movement to put themselves in a position where they can compete possibly in a year or two? Or, will this season, already bleak with the Monta Ellis situation, be the funeral for the "We Believe" era?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think I can sum up my feelings on the Warriors' offseason by noting that when Baron Davis went to L.A. I wrote t hat the last thing Golden State ought to do was sign a guy like Corey Maggette. They followed like two days later by ... signing Corey Maggette. Monta Ellis' injury really makes it almost impossible for them to make the playoffs this year.
As for a season or two down the line, the core talent is there. Biedrins is a solid anchor in the middle and Ellis is a dynamic go-to guy on offense. They need a couple of the other young guys (Belinelli/Wright/Marcus Williams) to step up and join that core and have to figure out the long-term answer in the sidelines, assuming Don Nelson is planning to retire to Hawaii before long. So that's a lot of questions the Warriors have to answer.
lbihced (medford, n.j.): Kevin. What do you think of the 76ers moves this off season and how much improvemnet do you see for them? Thanks,
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Love the addition of Elton Brand. I'm not as fond as the moves to fill out the bench. Royal Ivey is an OK fit with Louis Williams, but certainly nothing special. Donyell Marshall doesn't seem to have a whole lot left in the tank (at least not when he was with the Sonics last year). Kareem Rush isn't an exceptionally good shooter for a guy who is making his living that way. Theo Ratliff is the best bet of the bunch, though certainly not a solution going forward.
I think Philly has done enough to move into the group of contenders in the East--their starting five stands with almost anyone--but the lack of depth will do the Sixers in this season. If Ed Stefanski can add some more talent (and shooters) to the bench, the future is very bright.
JasonC23 (Huntley, IL): After last year's outsized and quickly dashed expectations, what are your thoughts on the Bulls this year?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Without having run any numbers, cautiously optimistic. The Plexiglass Principle works in Chicago's favor this year; teams that drop off by 16 games tend to come back the next season. I still like a lot of their talent, should guys like Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas be unleashed up front. Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich should have better seasons. The downside is that rookie PGs tend to struggle, so Rose is unlikely to be an impact player right away. And Vinny Del Negro is a complete wild card.
Ted (Jacksonville): Do you think that the pace of the European exodus will pick up, drop off, or stay about the same in the future? Will it still be (mostly) restricted to the NBA middle class?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): My guess is it will stay about the same. It's funny, because I wouldn't say it has been restricted to the middle class; it's just that those guys (Josh Childress, Jannero Pargo) have drawn the most attention. The biggest impact in my opinion is on the end-of-the-bench guys who have a chance to make bigger money and get more PT in Europe. That's always been the choice for fringe guys, but now Europe is a more viable option even for those players who would get guaranteed money in the NBA. Barring a major economic shift, I don't see that changing.
Whether the trend ever draws a major star or someone of a higher caliber is still completely open in my mind. I think the interest is there; will a European team/owner be willing to shell out the money?
tmcghan (Bay Area, CA): What should I look for out of the Kings this year? Was the Artest trade nothing more than a continual salary dump which should finish at the end of the 09-10 year? Are we looking at a rebuilding attempt along the lines of the Hawks/Blazers? Or is this just a preparation for a Sonics like bailout if they don't get their new arena?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Development and competitiveness more than wins. I wouldn't call the Artest deal a pure salary dump because he is such a unique player. With Artest on the roster, I think it was impossible for Kevin Martin and the other young guys to really take over and make the team their own. They will have that opportunity now.
This season is a success, no matter the record, if it looks like Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes can form the Kings' frontline of the future and Donte' Greene shows flashes of brilliance.
John M. Perkins (Macon, GA): What do you expect out of Finley/Mason without and with Ginobli?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I think the Spurs have to rely on Mason much more than Finley because at this stage of their careers he is much more capable of creating his own offense, which is the huge loss for the Spurs in Ginobili's absence. San Antonio only has two shot creators in the rotation in Duncan and Parker. George Hill might ultimately join that group. Everybody else is best suited playing off of others. That was a problem when Ginobili was limited during last year's Western Conference Finals, and becomes more of an issue this year before Ginobili gets back.
Finley is in great shape this year, but there's only so much you can do to stave off Father Time.
roguerouge (jp, MA): Which team had the best draft?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Well, the Miami Heat's haul lost a little luster when Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers were both involved in the marijuana incident during the NBA's Rookie Transition program. I'll still take them.
ian6poole (bostonma): What could we expect from Gabriel Pruitt, do you think he'll be used much this year by the celts?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): I'm not seeing it. With House and Cassell, they're deep at the point behind Rondo. At shooting guard, you've got Allen and now J.R. Giddens. It's a numbers game for Pruitt at this point.
roguerouge (jp, MA): Are the Memphis Grizzlies viable as an NBA franchise in that city?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Memphis has a professional team, and it's the Tigers. (In terms of support; I'm not insinuating anything about John Calipari, OK?) Frankly, Calipari and co. might have given the Grizz a run for their money last season. The Grizzlies are going to have a tough time capturing that market. We'll see.
roguerouge (jp, MA): Which bad team is going to surprise people this year?
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Hmmm ... I've got nothing off the top of my head. Maybe Minnesota? That offense is going to be legit, even if they don't stop anyone. Hopefully by the next time we chat, I'll have a better answer, so ask again. On that note ...
Kevin Pelton (Basketball): Thanks to everyone who joined us today. Check back, as we should plan another one of these before long and certainly in time for the start of the regular season. Between now and then, keep checking Basketball Prospectus daily (including our new Unfiltered blog) for the latest.