Friday, October 13, 2006

Mo' Deveney!

Being a law-abiding and moral citizen, I would never condone peeking at the vast array of gambling Web sites and established sports books out there for anything other than recreational purposes.


I, for one, favor handshake wagers, not kneecap wagers.

Good to know.

From time to time, though, my browser wanders to a real-money website or two, just as my body sometimes wanders (involuntarily) to the sports book at Bellagio.

Okay, we kind of get the picture. You are law abiding, and don’t like to gamble.

My browser made the journey this morning, for example.

Are you thinking about starting this article, or “blog,” any time soon?

The reason was legit.

I’m sure it was.

See, I know what I think of the upcoming NBA season.

Awesome! Finally! All those preceding sentences were worth it! Now we finally know that Sean Deveney “knows what he thinks of the upcoming NBA season”!

Thanks to blogs and emails, I know what you folks think about the season, too.

No way. You know what you think AND you know what we think? You’ve got to be kidding me.

But when it comes to money-where-your-mouth-is reality, you can't beat Vegas. Or, in this case, cyber-Vegas. These people stake their livelihoods on getting the odds just right. Seems worth it to see what they think.

Wait… so you mean you were lying to us in your introduction?!? Say it ain’t so!

Not surprisingly, there are four clear favorites to win the championship. There are four other teams ranked at 12-1 odds or shorter. After that, you're looking at a bunch of 20-1 longshots.

Your “browser” seems to have done a pretty thorough job.

But, couldn't this be the year of the longshot? Obviously, the favorites gained that status for a reason. A closer look, though, reveals holes a-plenty.

1. Miami. (Listed in the 4-1 range)
The Heat caught a bit of postseason magic, thanks to Dwyane Wade. Remember, Miami looked terrible in the opening games of the Finals before Wade simply took over. For a few weeks last spring, he played like Michael Jordan --maybe not with the same talent, but certainly with the same determination and will to win.

Yeah, of course! The reason Dwyane Wade made so many of those 20 footers wasn’t because he’s talented; it’s because of his determination and will to win. In fact, one could say he knows how to win! He’s a winner! That’s why he won!

But Jordan did that year after year. We don't know yet if Wade can do it, and, with the pummeling he took over the course of last season, it'll be tough for him to stay healthy through another championship run.

Oh, so Jordan was a “winner” too? You should write a book about this stuff. Seriously. Call it “Deveneyball.” Or something. “Deveneyball: David Eckstein is my hero Learn How To Win!”

He has a supporting cast of veterans who might be less motivated now that they've gotten their Miami rings, so Wade figures to have a stiffer challenge this year.

Miami Heat Locker Room, Halftime, Game 7, 2008 NBA Finals:

Dwyane Wade: Come on guys! We’re losing 72-40! Let’s do something!

Shaq: Sit down D-Wade! I’m tired.

Mourning: Yeah! We just won last year! Give it a rest!

Wade: Come on coach! Do something!

Riley: They’re right, sit down Dwyane! We just won last year!

2. Dallas. (Also listed around 4-1)
The Mavericks sure look like a championship team. They have talent, depth and good coaching. They have a superstar, Dirk Nowitzki, in his prime. They made some alterations, adding veteran reserve point guard Anthony Johnson, plus bit-part vets Devean George and Austin Croshere.

I think I just choked. You’re… saying… adding… Austin… Croshere… was a good thing? Wow.

But, last year, coach Avery Johnson continuously referred to his desire for his team to play, "playground basketball." That translates into something like this: "We're not tough enough." That's been the Mavs' weak spot throughout the Nowitzki era, and I don't know that Johnson can coach them into toughness.

Yeah, “being tough” is just like “knowing how to win.” I mean, you either know how to do it or you don’t.

3. San Antonio. (Listed pretty consistently at 9-2)
Most of us in the media focused on the Spurs' age as a primary reason for their loss to the Mavericks last postseason. And most of us were wrong. It wasn't age that was the problem for the Spurs; it was versatility.

And age. The only reason their lack of versatility was revealed was because their main guys were old/unhealthy.

They lacked players who combined size and quickness, guys who can keep pace with non-traditional big men like Nowitzki or Brad Miller.

This is synonymous for “they were old.”

The Spurs did well to address the issue economically by acquiring lower-tier players like Francisco Elson, Jackie Butler, Eric Williams and Matt Bonner, dumping lead-footed Rasho Nesterovic and Nazr Mohammed in the process.

Who were old.

Problem is, the Spurs will have to make changes to their defensive scheme, which is designed to funnel the ball toward Tim Duncan and (go back in time with me here) David Robinson.

… David Robinson. Who’s no longer on the team. They’re running plays for David Robinson. Brilliant.

Nesterovic and Mohammed were not Robinson, but they were, at least, 7-foot shot-blockers.

Yes, and also, get this, they were on the team!!

Elson and Butler are not shot-blocking threats.

Yes, but they too are on the team! What a novel concept!

Thus, the Spurs are going to have to seriously alter the defensive scheme that has been such an integral part of their success.

Yes, a good start would be to quit running plays for David Robinson. Who isn’t on the team.

5. Detroit. (Listed around 7-1)
In the long run, the Pistons did the right thing in not bringing Ben Wallace back, but it certainly makes things tenuous in the short run. This will have to be a more offensive-minded team, something the Pistons tried last year with great regular-season success and miserable postseason failure.

In the 2005-2006 regular season, the Detroit Pistons averaged 96.8 PPG… good for 19th in the league. That’s right 18 different teams scored more points each game. In the 05-06 playoffs, the Detroit Pistons ranked third in scoring among playoff teams.

As much as players respect Wallace, they still back coach Flip Saunders and they still have the talent for a title run. They just look less imposing.

I find it absolutely hilarious that the Detroit News just recently published an article entitled “[Rasheed] Wallace hates zone” which includes such supportive statements as “It’s terrible.” Yeah! At least they still back Coach!

6. Chicago. (All over the place, from 7-1 to 25-1)
Wallace and P.J. Brown figure to be the short-term answer for the young Bulls. They'll defend, they'll rebound, they'll lead in the locker room.

P.J. Brown and Ben Wallace combined ’05-’06 ppg: 16.2. Oh… right. They lead in the locker room! Nearly forgot to take that into consideration.

The Bulls are a legitimate contender, but the offense is a big question. Their scoring tends to come from their guards -- Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich -- who are streaky.

Gordon and Hinrich averaged 32.8 out of the Bulls’ combined 97.8 PPG average. So yeah… the scoring doesn’t really “tend” to come from them. Unless you ignore the other 65 points. Which you… did.

Small forwards Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni don't post up as much as they should.

Maybe Scott Skiles should try “deploying” them more often. Heh.

That means their post scoring is going to have to come from Wallace, who is simply not very good with the ball, and Brown, who has a career scoring average of just 9.4 points per game.

Wallace is “simply not very good with the ball”? No way!!! @#@!%#@!$#@!!!!

7. Cleveland. (In the 10-1 to 12-1 range)
Until Larry Hughes finds a comfortable role, this is still a one-man team.

Yeah! I hear Lebron’s even gonna sell the popcorn in home games from now on!

It helps that the man in question is LeBron James, of course, but the Cavs have questions in every other area. Their point guards are Eric Snow, Damon Jones, David Wesley and Daniel Gibson.

Please name another team that has this much veteran depth (ignore Gibson) at the PG position. Oh that’s right, you can’t. And good job saying “every other area” and then mentioning one area. Sheer brilliance.


Yes, your articles do have the tendency to elicit that response.

They're still not quite sure what they have in Drew Gooden, who averaged a career-low 10.7 points last year.

He also posted an 18.9 EFF for ’04-’05 and a ridiculous 18.1 RbRate for last year. So, uh, yeah they are pretty sure what they have in Drew Gooden.

They're hoping for good things from rookie Shannon Brown, but they did little else to ease depth and perimeter shooting worries.

Yeah, maybe they should’ve gotten Ben Wallace! I hear he’s been busting out the long ball all summer!

8. New Jersey. (Between 12-1 and 15-1)

Bringing in rookie Marcus Williams could pay off right away, but the Nets' primary problem is the frontcourt, which features too much of soon-to-be-40 forward Puff Robinson.

Who will not start.

They brought in 22-year-old rookie Mile Ilic,

Who will not start.

but he's not likely to help right away. It looks like the Nets will have Nenad Krstic,

Who will start and posted a decent 12.2 RbRate in 05-06.


Who will not start, dammit.

and Jason Collins,


which is a pretty serious problem.

Who will not sta… er, sorry.

Those are the top contenders, but there isn't one I'd put my mortgage on.

Maybe you can get your browser to put its mortgage on it.

Or even your mortgage. These teams are good, but you don't get a sense of greatness here, which leaves this thing open for longshots.

You don't get a sense of "greatness" eh? What exactly does that engender? Amazing "team chemistry"? Great "clubhouse vibes"? Or... could it be? A team full of "winners"?

Hmm. Clippers at 30-1? Jazz at 75-1? Hornets at 80-1?

I sure hope this is the year of the longshot.

Yes, fantastic job on completely neglecting to say why that is. Sports writing at its best!