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: The Pacers will have the league's best defense
Last year, the Memphis Grizzlies held the title as the league's best defense with about a 1 point per game lead on the Indiana Pacers. While both teams retained the main portions of their roster, I think the Pacers have a head up going into this upcoming season and here's why: the main crux of any great defense is the coach. The Pacers bring back Frank Vogel for another year, while the Grizzlies roll out new man Dave Joerger. Now I get that Joerger was the freshly canned Lionel Hollins right hand man, but there's something to be said for continuity when it comes to team defense because every coach has their own quirks to their scheme. That's the main reason why the Bulls have remained so competitive with Derrick Rose injured; it's because Thibadeau's presence has given continuity to the Bulls defense as to where if you buy in hard it can be rock solid. You build a defense like a fortress- first with a rock solid foundation, then intentionally piece by piece until you've got something that can stop anybody.
And while the Bulls should be nipping at their heels, the Pacers are the frontrunner for best defense because of the continuity they enacted this offseason. They'll return a starting 5 of Hill-Stephenson-George-West-Hibbert that made them a close #2 as well as their coach who devised Indy's hard nosed scheme. Furthermore, this is a team that found out how close to the brink Vogel's defensive philosophy could bring them to the title, you don't think they're all in even more this season. Yeah, the Pacers lost Hansbrough from their 2nd unit, but don't you think they've seen something in Miles Plumlee that led them to believe he can replace Psycho T's minutes or else they would've brought Hansbrough back? Thus, given that the Grizzlies are bound to lose continuity adjusting to Dave Joerger, your Indiana Pacers are a lock for best defense.
For whatever bone-headed reason a lot of clowns are penciling Danny Granger into the starting lineup for this upcoming season despite his absence during Indiana's playoff run and Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson 's emergence during said run. I get that Danny Granger was "the guy" for Indiana for all those years as they rebuilt around him, but coming off his injury you've got to be concerned as to whether he can resume his status as Indy's alpha dog especially given Paul George's inception as a household name. There's something to be said for doing right by the guys who did right by you, but if you think Danny Granger should start you're wrong. Stephenson's younger, faster, less injured, etc. And when you look at Danny Granger's game, he's very ball-centric, he wants the rock in his hands every possession and you've already got a star guy like that in Paul George who Stephenson often defers to. So even if Danny Granger comes back totally healthy ready to ball out in his contract year, Indiana as a team would be so much better served having Danny off the bench. Granger would be the general of that second unit and could conceivably get the ball in his hands every time down if they went Watson-Granger-Copeland-Hill-Plumlee/Mahinmi, which is something Granger wants and needs if he's going to make any skrilla on his next contract. That's not to say I'd want Stephenson over Granger in crunch time. Danny's an offensive savant, but I think his value to this team this next year comes from being able to take a step back and give the reins to George.
Re-signing David West was the obvious thing Indiana had to do this offseason if they wanted to make the Heat sweat again in addition to replacing DJ Augustin. West is tough, cheeky defender who has great face-up game and can hit big shots. Plus he's from Indiana and went to Xavier as the tattoo on his left bicep (tricep?) gives away. So, there's a lot of optimism with that signing. The deal- or lack thereof- that struck me wrong was not re-upping Psycho T. Sure he's what most people would consider the absolute average NBA player, but he had a top 25 rebound rate amongst power forwards. He was higher on that list that David West, but moreover Psycho T was top 5 in offensive rebounding rate- a skill that is so valuable for a second unit especially one that misses a lot of shots like Indy's garbage one last year did. Furthermore, do the Pacers really think rookie Solomon Hill is can play spot minutes in the playoffs at PF? Because newsflash David West is 32 and only averaged 36 mpg in the playoffs. That's the most confusing bit, unless they plan to snag an Ivan Johnson, Tyrus Thomas, or Austin Daye type for the veteran minimum. Until then we will see.