With the NBA offseason activity beginning to wane heavily this week, albeit for a few signings still up in the air- Brandon Jennings/Nikola Pekovic notably. And on the eve of the NFL and college football's annual takeover of all things media, I think it's finally time to make some predictions for the upcoming NBA season given that the majority of rosters are somewhere between working rough draft and fixed. Now before reading this column, I need you guys to realize a few things: 1) I'm making NBA predictions in JULY and literally ANYTHING can happen before the season to derail these predictions. 2) These are 100% serious. I am not here to troll or make fun of anybody. That would be churlish and a waste of time. 3) I encourage you to respond with how you feel about my predictions. So without further ado, I present to you a running column that will include a Fanpost for each and every NBA team, "The Flagrantly Early, Incredibly Half-Baked NBA Predictions Series."
No. 1: Al Jefferson is a shameless money grabber
Many years into the future, when NBA gurus look back on some of the age old great big men who never won the title they'll bring up Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Ewing, Larry Johnson, Shawn Kemp, and then Al Jefferson. From a stats standpoint, Al has been great; he's average a career 16.5-9 guy, he had multiple dominant seasons averaging double-doubles with 20+ ppg, and his career FG is 50%. They'll throw him right in with some of the other much maligned big men, and on the surface it looks comparable. But there's no comparison because the guy has never played with heart. When I think of some of those other guys, I think of guys who pushed themselves to the brink and made their teams better, even garnishing a little postseason success if never the Larry O'Brien. Throughout his career Big Al has been a me player; he's always gotten his, yet he's only been a part of one playoffs team as a starter and they got swept. Needless to say it wasn't surprising when Al Jefferson jumped at the opportunity when Michael Jordan was stupid enough to offer him $41 million. Big Al could've gone to San Antonio and replaced Splitter or Portland and teamed with LaMarcus Aldridge or Dallas and given Dirk a running mate. But he chose Charlotte because Al Jefferson doesn't care about anything, but money. He's not going to make Charlotte better, he's a 3 year stop gap that will take touches and developmental time away from every young player on this roster, and it's a damn shame.
No. 2: Like fine wine, MKG gets better with age.
The one thing I hate about NBA analysts/reporters/writers is when they dog on dudes under 23. If you're not good by 23, then so be it you're probably garbage. But it's guys who come into the league like MKG or Austin Rivers or Mo Harkless at age 19 with all the talent in the world, with incredible upside, that understandably struggle because they are less mature- physically and mentally- and they have so much growth left to do. Like how can you expect a guy who's so young and unexperienced to match up to grown ass men like Lebron James or Kobe Bryant. Newsflash: they can't, but that's not to say they won't someday. And the problem is that at the college level a lot of these guys are eons ahead talent wise, so they have to go to the NBA because it won't benefit them to be playing against inferior competition. That's when you get stuck with a young kid at 19 getting compared to a 23 year old who was taken in the same draft. That 23 year old plays incredibly better because he's grown up a helluva lot more, and that youngster struggles because his adjustment is so much greater. Then we've got these "experts" saying well the youngster's trash and the 23 year old is amazing, but there's no perspective to it.
Look at Jrue Holiday, when he came to the NBA after 1 year at UCLA he got the worst of it; he was turnover prone and got bullied all over the place. Now look at the fella, fresh off his first NBA All Star appearance he's a savvy vet carved out of wood and the same age as Kemba Walker. People just don't realize that not every dude is going to turn out like Kyrie Irving; Irving's brilliance is the exception, not the rule. That's where I think MKG gets a bad rep, and I believe he will be a lot better this year now that he has 78 games under his belt and has taken his licks. No one likes getting beat up and playing shitty like MKG did, so you can expect him to show up with an improved game and a much more mature outlook this next season.
No. 3: Steve Clifford better be in for the long haul
Over the past few years, Michael Jordan and Rich Cho have probably won more rounds of golf than Charlotte Bobcats have won games. All this time MJ's been brainwashed by golf thinking the lower his team did, the better. These are the dudes who took Bismack Biyombo 7th overall in the 2011 draft over guys like Klay Thompson (who I told many people was going to be elite) and Kenneth Faried (who every NBA analyst said would be a dominant rebounder) and made everybody wonder, "Are they drunk?" Given that was a weird draft without a lot of talent, but that doesn't negate the fact that MJ & Cho haven't exactly given Steve Clifford the keys to a Mercedes.
The (possible) starting 5 of Walker-Gordon-MKG-Zeller-Jefferson has to be one of the most depressing of all time. They're notable bench players are Josh McRoberts, Ramon Sessions, Jeffrey Taylor, and Haywood Jablowme (I only made one of those up). That's not exactly a murderer's row of talent. All I can say is that Steve Clifford's either the 2nd coming of Phil Jackson or the only guy who would take this pitiful job. Did you know the Bobcats have a) had 6 coaches in their 9 year existence? and b) never had a coach with a winning record? Just abysmal to think about. Well at least there's still hope the Bobcats will probably lose another lottery next year. Maybe bringing back the Hornets will bring back their mojo.