I’m not much in favor of a shortened NBA regular season; I like having pro basketball to watch every night for five and half months. OTOH, I could really go for this shortened offseason. Every hour something that might affect the playoff picture was occurring. Here are some thoughts as exhibition play begins.
1. Yes Chris Paul improves the Clippers but if they become a second round playoff team it will be because of Chauncey Billups. Billups will likely take minutes away from Eric Bledsoe who was ghastly as a backup point last year. Also it will be a good test of Vinny Del Negro’s questionable coaching mettle if he realizes that his best crunch time attack is to have Paul and Billups on the floor at the same time. Opposing defenses will cringe at the notion of having to defend Paul and Blake Griffin on the pick and roll, while Billups spots up behind the arc.
2. The Timberwolves won’t suck. The last time Minnesota won as many 30 games in a season, Kevin Garnett was still patrolling their paint. I’m not suggesting that they’ll be a playoff contender, but they won’t be an easy out. Yes, they have a roster of mismatched parts, but that’s why I like them. New coach Rick Adelman is a master of shaping teams into substantially greater wholes than the sum of their parts. Look at his record. He’s gotten teams with unusual parts to play very well in the past. He got a Sacramento team with Vlade Divac, Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic to play stellar defense (sixth in Defensive Efficiency, points allowed per 100 possessions). He got a team with a 6’6″ center to finish over .500. And of course, he’s no stranger to integrating Euroballers into the NBA. I’m not saying the T-Wolves will win 40 games in this 66 game mashup of a season, but they should finish with their best winning percentage since the KG era and in the process surprise a few unsuspecting teams.
3. The Kings didn’t do much, but what they did will help. That 6’6″ center, Chuck Hayes, signed with the Kings in the offseason, and it’s one of those things that is impossible to quantify but not only should be a vastly needed veteran influence for forward DeMarcus Cousins and guard Tyreke Evans. He vastly improve the Kings interior defense. I’m not the biggest Jimmer Fedette backer but he’ll space the floor, creating room for Evans and Cousins.