Ryan Braun’s 2012 NBA Season Preview One Week Into The Season:

January 1st, 2012 by Ryan Braun

Happy New Year everyone! Welcome to the year’s first installment of what was (and may soon be again if I can’t think of a better name) Drawings from the Notebook of Chris Grant.

“Where did all the pictures go?” – at least one person.

This year, we’ll be trying something a little bit different — a league-topical cartoon (vs. a purely Cavalier one), plus some accordant sentiments on whatever the topic was that seemed cartoon-worthy. And that will be posted every Sunday morning.

How’s that sound?

This week’s accordant sentiments — as dictated by our picture — just a general look around the league. Notes and observations through one week of play. I promise this will get more interesting.

Here is what I’ve gleaned so far:

  • New York will either beat Miami, or completely flame out. Three reasons they’re so exciting: Tyson Chandler provides a foundation for defensive improvement, Baron Davis has the ability to replace/improve upon what Chauncey brought, and Carmelo/Amar’e both think highly enough of themselves to see a matchup with the Heat as relatively even. Which is a good thing. If I’m being honest with myself, then yes, it’s doubtful that Super Team 0.5 will be able to get it done…but if enough momentum is at their back in May, who knows.
  • Derrick Rose won’t be able to one-up his 2010-11 season, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a better player. The guy is as tenacious as anyone in the league, and in a weird way, I think it’ll forever make it harder for him to tangibly show us his season-to-season improvement. At this point, it’s all about nuance for him – advances in his game will come in the form of empowering Boozer and finding non-scoring avenues to succeed against elite defenses.
  • Kevin Durant is, without a doubt, the second best player in the league (with the possible exception of Dwight Howard, who affects the game in a completely different way). He’s so much bigger than he was in his rookie year, and he’s getting so comfortable in carrying the Thunder for stretches/determining when those stretches should be. The litmus test will come against LeBron. If Durant can avoid getting pushed out past the 3-point-line for 90% of the game, the Thunder can win it all.
  • More Thunder: There is no one that OKC could get for Russell Westbrook even remotely close to his caliber. Westbrook is a top-15 player who’s fully capable of jumping into the top-5 by the end of the year. He’s Derrick Rose, just a little less savvy off the dribble (and a little more tenacious defensively).
  • Dirk Nowitzki is still really good.
  • Evan Turner, not so much.
  • Blake Griffin will average over 25 ppg for the next 8 years.
  • Ricky Rubio will average over 8 ast for the next 25 years. (I’m still figuring out Rubio in my head. He’s definitely fun, but ultimately, might be Rondo without the defense.)
  • Kobe Bryant is not even close to the same player he was four years ago. And I say that out of respect to how good Kobe used to be. He’s still really good.
  • Dwight Howard only makes sense in Chicago or Dallas. (Or in Orlando, but for completely different reasons.)
  • Utah will eventually trade another big.
  • And…just to reiterate, anyone rooting against Miami should also be rooting against Dwyane Wade’s knees. This season has a distinct The Empire Strikes Back-type feel. Which means that next season we’ll draft one of LeBron’s kids.

Notes on the Cavs specifically:

  • Tristan > Bismack
  • Kings < Playoffs
  • David West = James Harrison
  • Omri Casspi’s game is exclusively linear.
  • Samardo Samuels is a poor man’s Jared Sullinger.
  • Luke Harangody is a poor man’s Brian Cardinal.
  • A guard rotation of Kyrie Irving, Ramon Sessions, Daniel Gibson and whoever replaces Anthony Parker could be very, very good.
  • As much as we hate on Antawn Jamison (and much/all of it is valid), the Cavs currently have no one on the roster capable of shouldering the offensive burden he does. He doesn’t shoulder it particularly well…but who else is looking to take 15 shots a game from the power forward/center position? Don’t misinterpret, I’d trade him in a heartbeat…but we’d all notice he was gone.
  • Ultimately, I think Omri Casspi and Alonzo Gee are vying for the same position — backup 3 on a good team.
  • Initial final summation: These Cavs still need more talent, but they’re better, clearly more exciting, and infinitely tougher than last year’s team. Credit both Byron Scott and Chris Grant for the latter. Watching Kyrie grow will be plenty exciting for the next few years, and Andy is a perfect P&R partner for him (as he was for LeBron).
  • End note to the final summation: I hate to be this guy, but the biggest “misstep” the Cavs could make this year would be winning a few too many games and not landing Anthony Davis or Andre Drummond. We need one more elite guy to develop into a contender. Dan Gilbert can find us the supplementary guys (e.g. the Iguodala’s of the world)…and I’m hoping we need only one more draft to hit on a second star.
  • End note’s end note: I had a dream last night that we got the fifth pick in the draft (after David Stern picked numbers out of a hat). Kidd-Gilchrist or Bradley Beal would still be awesome. We’d just end up small.

……………………

AWARD WATCH ( 6% of the way through the season):

NBA MVP – LeBron James, SF, Miami Heat. (33.5 ppg, 7.5 reb, 7 ast) He’s shooting just under 60% from the field and 83% from the line. Plus, he just proposed to his girlfriend. It’s a bummer, but his life seems to be smoothing out.

CAVALIER MVP – Andy Varejao, PF/C. God, is it good to have him back. Andy is the best thing Tristan Thompson has going for him.

NBA COY– Erik Spoelstra, Miami Heat. For getting so much out of so little. If Miami wins 56+, it’s his. That said, by the end of the season, I think George Karl, Nate McMillan and Monty Williams will all have a shot at it.

CAVALIER COY – Byron Scott. Barely edging out Mike Krzyzewski. I worried a little early about Byron being perhaps a bit too eager to make the rookies “earn it”…but I’m feeling pretty good about everything now.

NBA ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG, Cleveland Cavaliers. If the voting ended today, I think it would be close (and maybe Rubio would get some kind of a publicity boost) …but no rookie is really shouldering the same level of responsibility as Kyrie right now. And game one aside, he’s been handling it pretty well.

CAVALIER ROY – Kyrie Irving, PG. Tristan’s been strong (I love the way he runs the floor at literally every opportunity—he’s not gotten the ball once yet, but someone else always comes open as a result), but again, Kyrie just has so much more to worry about. If Tristan can become “smart Josh Smith” within three years, we made out.

………………….

Enjoy the game tonight! Big test for Kyrie, not so big test for everyone else.

Happy New Year everyone!

-Ryan

(Note: My friend Aron colored the picture, and there’s more of her stuff and my stuff over at CFAAP.com. This blog is better though.)

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