By: Chris "Majik" Morgan, SKC NBA Reporter
G, Chauncy Billups, DET: The Minnesota Timberwolves were the first team in the NBA to lose a free agent this season as Chauncy Billups signed a deal in Detroit. The Pistons are looking to make the Point Guard position more steady because last season in the Playoffs, it was exposed a great deal. Billups is an explosive guard and can put up big numbers. He averaged 12.5 points and 5.5 assists a game, most of which in a starting position when Terrell Brandon suffered a season-ending injury. The way Billups performed last season, he deserves this. He has played for five teams in five years. Finally, a home!
G, Jacque Vaughn, ORL: I don't know why all the web sites are titling this announcement as, "Orlando Sings Veteran Point Guard." This guy has been in the league for only five years, I don't know why the word "veteran" is involved. Anyway, this guy played in all 82 games last season for the Hawks, he started in 16 of them. He averaged 6.6 points and 4.3 assists. I don't think he'll be competing for a starting spot like some are saying, he'll be a reserve. He has appeared in 200 consecutive games, eighth longest in the L.
C, Raef LaFrentz, DAL: The Dallas Mavericks didn't take the chance on losing this big guy. He's apparently staying for another seven years at $60 million. LaFrentz was acquired last year by Denver and the Mavericks like him enough to keep him around. LaFrentz, listed at 6"11' is a shot blocking center! He was second in the league behind Ben Wallace in total blocks. He's not a post-type player, he likes the perimeter. He can hit the three for his size, wow another three point shooter on the Mavs? What? I don't think he's being overpaid, he's still an elite center. He may be elite, but he's not a true center, but he gets it done on the defensive end and he does grab about eight rebounds a game.
F, Ryan Bowen, DEN: Ryan Bowen resigned with the Nuggets. He's a forward...... do you really care? Bowen played in 75 games last season, his third in the NBA, all with the Nuggets. He averaged 4.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1 steal per game, all career highs. This guy is more pivotal to the team than you think, the team outscored their opponents by 75 points when Bowen was on the floor.
G, Gordan Giricek, MEM: I can honestly say, I know nothing about this guy. But, after some extensive (not really) research, I found some things to tell you. Jerry West has high hopes for this guy, calling him an "expierienced player" and a "sharpshooter." No stats available. Because I'm not a professional writer, that's as far as my research goes!
G, J.R. Bremer, BOS: How do you become the NCAA's fourth leading scorer and not get drafted by any NBA team? Answer: If your name is J.R. Bremer. He averaged 24.6 points for St. Bonaventure last season. His team didn't have a stellar record at 17-13, but it did earn them a NIT berth. Bremer's 223 career 3-pointers, and his 88 last season, are school records.
F, Devean George, LAL: George had a chance to shine in New Jersey or Minnesota, instead he would rather..... well, shine will all the rings he has. He's expected to eventually replace Rick Fox at the three spot. He averaged 7.1 points a game last season and he's 24 years old. He's a talented young player who is big part of the Lakers bench. Four titles?
G, Larry Hughes, WAS: Larry Hughes, he's considered as a decent player at best but everyone can agree that he has RAW skills. He's quick off the dribble, a legit defender, rebound for his size, drop some times, and score some points. Too bad 90% of all his points come from layups. This guy isn't much of a shooter, but once he becomes one, he'll be a feared player to defend. In addition to Chris Whittney, Juan Dixon, and Tyronne Lue, Hughes is the better of the group. He'll more than likely team up with Richard Hamilton in the back court. Jordan is yet to decide if he'll come back for another season.
By: Chris Morgan, SKC NBA Reporter
New Jersey Nets vs Boston Celtics
A quick look at the series....
This is a series that probably wont be too fun to watch. Boston has struggled on putting up offensive numbers. Though Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce get theirs, no one else has got anything. New Jersey is a solid team and it looks as if they will play in the Finals. Jason Kidd, who was the runner up in the MVP race, is a triple double threat every night. Kidd and Tim Duncan, the MVP of the League, should have shared the honors of that award. Either way, Kidd will lead his team to the finals. Kidd has help too, he plays with one of the quickest players in the league, Kerry Kittles. The two forwards which are very versatile are contributors every night. Kenyon Martin, who has a fierce style of play is an intimidator. He can score, solid on the boards (especially offensive), and a shot blocker. Keith Van Horn can hit the triple and can also rebound. Their whole roster is a team full of unselfish players. Boston on the other hand go with their two All Stars, Paul Pierce and Antoine Walker. Those two have to combine for 60 if their team stands a chance. Tony Battie has been productive throughout the post season, but it wont be enough to take out the Nets.
Sacramento Kings vs L.A. Lakers
A quick look at the series....
The Kings and Lakers, wow, something we look forward to every post season. The Lakers swept the Kings last year in the second round. Four games up, four games down. The previous year, the Kings took them to five games in the first round. (#1 seed vs. #8 seed) Either way, the Lakers are still the defending champions and I don't think they will let it go without a fight. Shaq & Kobe are virtually unstopable, no one can deny that. Derek Fisher and Robert Horry seem to have the power to kill the Kings! With all the focus on Shaq & Kobe, Horry and Fisher seem to hit every damn three they put up against us! The Kings on the other hand have a deeper roster! Their starting five is more talented that the Lakers. Michael Bibby has been on fire on his first post season. Chris Webber, as much as he probably hates to hear it, needs to GO IN THE POST! I swear, if I have to watch him pull up from 18, with their team down by five with two left to go in the game, I'm going to go nuts! Vlade Divac needs to quit flopping around like a dead fish, because when he's determined, he's on of the best centers in the game. He doesn't play with the potential he has. Doug Christie and Bobby Jackson are players you can count on, and Scot Pollard too. This is going to be a good series and the KINGS NEED TO WIN! =)
By: Chris Morgan, SKC Assistant Webmaster
Scott finished up the Kings vs. Jazz series analysis in the first round of the playoffs. Now I have the honor of covering the rest of it. I will not be getting into stats and total playoff games played, but I'll give you my thoughtful analysis and breakdown of each game on both conferences. Without further ado...
#2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #7 Seattle Supersonics
The Spurs, a team many people believe can take it all, don't have enough offense. They are a defensive team, sort of like the Knicks and Heat, and look where they are (not in playoffs). The Spurs have the best front court in the league with David Robinson and Tim Duncan, who is an MVP candidate. David Robinson has a lower back injury but he's expected back when the post season comes around. He missed the last three games of the season and has only been practicing moderately since. The Spurs are entering the post season on an NBA best 9-game winning streak and have only lost three games in the whole month of March. The Spurs do need more production out of their fringe players: Tony Parker, Steve Smith, Bruce Bowen, and Malik Rose. The Spurs have an obvious advantage in the front court, but the back court goes to the Sonics. Gary Payton, one of the best point guards in the league today, got his team to the post season with a little help from his teammate Brent Barry. Barry, who is averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals, is becoming a star. Barry and Payton have become one of the best back courts in the NBA. Rashard Lewis and Vladimir Radmanovic are questionable for game one of the best of five series and without them, they don't stand much of a chance. Lewis will have to come in and produce if he wants "Kobe-Like money" once he becomes a free agent. The Sonics are a very dangerous team and I do believe if there will be an upset in the West it will be in this series. But, I'll stick with San Antoino.
Chris' Prediction: Spurs win series 3-1
Scott's Prediction: Spurs win series 3-1
#3 L.A. Lakers vs. #6 Portland Trailblazers
Why aren't the Blazers one of the top three seeds in the West? It's because they have no discipline. They have one of the most talented rosters in the NBA, yet they resort to ill-advised actions like little children. Actions such as: Throwing a ball into the crowd, getting in fights, having your point guard investigated due to drugs, having your star player getting technical fouls out the ying yang. Those are just a few examples. The Lakers are the team to beat in the West whether they are #3 or #8. They are two-time champs and are going for a third with the dynamic duo of Shaq & Kobe. I think the Blazers can match up to the Lakers better than most teams in the league. Some may think the Blazers will have a chance to take them out of contention? I don't think so because once there is a missed call, it turns into a crying fest! If for once Rasheed Wallace would step up mentally as a leader, which he's looked upon, then the Blazers would have a chance. I see a good series, but not an upset.
Chris' Prediction: Lakers win series 3-1
Scott's Prediction: Lakers win series 3-1
#4 Dallas Mavericks vs. #5 Minnesota Timberwolves
The Dallas Mavericks have shocked me this season. Even today, knowing their roster and their record, I just don't see them as good as they are hyped up to be. The trade that brought in Nick Van Exel and Raef LaFrentz midseason has added more talent to the team. The Mavericks are a team that is very energetic and likes to run. They also LOVE the three point shot. Basically every damn player on the team can hit the triple, but this team lacks an inside post-type player. This versatile line up will get the team somewhere, but I don't see anything too deep into playoffs. The Timberwolves are a team that can beat anyone. They just aren't consistent enough. They have had to deal with the injury of Terrell Brandon, and with that injury, Chauncey Billups has answered the challenge and has stepped up as the starting point guard. His numbers have increased and he even recently got a triple double. With Billups and Kevin Garnett aka the Kid teamed with Wally "The Clown" Szczerbiak, the Timberwolves have a very potent line up. They have a legit bench too with Gary Trent coming off and providing the muscle and hustle they need. Marc Jackson, who was "rescued" from the Warriors mid season has done damn near nothing. I wrote about the trade and I personally had high hopes for this guy, but he let everyone down including me. For a playoff series, these should be high-scoring games. The Mavs are a little too versatile for the T'Wolves.
Chris' Prediction: Mavs win series 3-1
Scott's Prediction: Mavs win series 3-1
#1 New Jersey Nets vs. #8 Indiana Pacers
Whoa, this will be a series I will want to watch! Now, there are eight different teams who can win the East. All eight teams just so happen to be in the playoffs. The Nets have a great leader in Jason Kidd, who is a triple double threat EVERY single game. I'm suprised when he doesn't get one and I'm very shocked he doesn't even AVERAGE one. The Nets are the most improved team in the NBA and it shows. Kidd has turned this team around and he has worked with healthy players. The intense Kenyon Martin has been a big part of this team, as has Keith Van Horn. The Pacers are a young, talented, and deep team. Jermaine O'Neal says he has to take the role of being a leader since Jalen Rose has departed. The trade that sent Rose to Chicago brought in some young talent as well as spots the Pacers needed to fill. (See NBA Report for analysis of trade.) Ron Artest has been very consistent in his defense. His offense is just an added bonus. Brad Miller was brought in to help O'Neal in the post area so O'Neal can now explore more of his game. Jamaal Tinsley is a rookie, but has been consistent also with his assists. The team itself has just been inconsistent. They were clutch for the last few games to earn their spot in the post season.
Chris' Prediction: Nets win series 3-2
Scott's Prediction: Nets win series 3-1
#2 Detroit Pistons vs. #7 Toronto Raptors
The Pistons are a real team! I believe this team will become the Eastern Conference Champions. They are an all around team with a solid bench. Jerry Stackhouse and Ben Wallace are why they are here. Former Kings members Corliss Williamson and Jon Barry have revitalized their careers in solid roles as back up players; both of which are VERY productive. Cliff Robinson and Chucky Atkins will both have to produce throughout the playoffs for Detroit to go deep. The Raptors, even though they finished the season on a hot streak, don't convince me. Without Vince Carter, who is out due to surgery in his left knee, the franchise is nothing. They might be able to pull off one game at max. I see a sweep because the Pistons have too many weapons. No one is going to stop Ben Wallace on the boards. By the way, he led the NBA in blocks per game and rebounds per game. He's one of four players to ever reach that feat: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Hakeem Olajuwon. Morris Peterson of the Raptors will have to be the go to guy now that Carter is out. He says he likes the pressure and even though he helped his team win the title in Michagin in 2000, this is the NBA, a whole new environment.
Chris' Prediction: Pistons sweep series 3-0
Scott's Prediction: Pistons win series 3-2
#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Philadephia 76ers
The Celtics, after missing the playoffs so many times the past years, are finally back in the mix. The Celtics are going against the team to beat in the East. Boston has a nice roster and with Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce leading the way, I don't see why this team can't go deep into the playoffs as well. Pierce, another MVP candidate, is having an explosive season. Behind Shaq & Kobe, Pierce and Walker are the best one-two punch in the NBA. The 76ers have to deal with Allen Iverson's injuries again. But this time, point guard Eric Snow has stepped up in the Answer's absence. If the 76ers want a chance, Dikembe Mutombo will have to pick up his game as he did this time last year. This is a series that will come down to the last game and I really couldn't tell you who will advance to the next round. The 76ers are playing decent and they have the arsenal to do the damage on the Celtics. Boston only has two guys they can always rely on. It's rare anyone else on that team scores more than 15 points. We'll see.
Chris' Prediction: 76ers win series 3-2
Scott's Prediction: 76ers win series 3-1
#4 Charlotte Hornets vs. #5 Orlando Magic
The Magic lost their home court advantage to the Hornets, but it wont matter either way. The Hornets have an empty house every home game anyways so the Magic won't be in much pressure. Good match up for both teams. The Hornets are led by Jamal Mashburn who is literally "tearin' it up" and Baron Davis is an explosive guard who can score, dish, rebound, steal, play defense, and is still young. Elden Campbell and PJ Brown are both underrated players and both can modify any pace of any game. Campbell is a scoring option and he can rebound. PJ Brown is a defensive minded player who plays 100% every night. The Magic have Tracy McGrady who has emerged into a superstar. He's one of two players (Kobe Bryant) to average over 25 points, five rebounds, and five assits per game. The Magic are versatile, good on the glass, fast, good from downtown, and solid in the post; everything you need for a competitve team.
Chris' Prediction: Hornets win series 3-2
Scott's Prediction: Hornets win series 3-2 (Hornets are Scott's pick to win East)