Sunday , Jan , 01 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

What to look for in 2006

2005 has come and gone. It’s been a great year in which a lot of interesting things have happened, but 2006 is already gearing up to be a good one. Being that a third of the NBA season has already passed, we’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on how good most teams are, but what will we see from them in 2006?

Atlanta Hawks:
There wasn’t much expected from the Hawks in 2005, and there isn’t much more expected for 2006. They’ll manage to rack up a few wins here and there when teams overlook them, but the odds of them putting together a 20 win season aren’t very high.
Boston Celtics:
Playing way below expectations, don’t be surprised if Boston begins to explore it’s options on what it could get for Paul Pierce. Sure he’s having the best year of his career, but they simply aren’t winning games with him right now and his stock is about as high as it’s ever been.
Charlotte Bobcats:
We’ll continue to see them go out and play hard every night. They’ll give some teams a run for their money, but not much more than that. This team still has just one house hold name, and he’s just a second year player. They’ll start winning more games when they get more talent in there. But considering it’s just the second year for this expansion team, they’re doing very well.
Chicago Bulls:
They’ll probably search for some deals out there, because they have nearly the same team that got them to the second round last year but they’re last in their division right now. They could really use a center so they could move Chandler back to his natural position at the 4, but the chances they pick one up aren’t great.
Cleveland Cavaliers:
This is the year Lebron James guides them to the playoffs. After two incredible seasons for him number wise, he’s finally got the surrounding cast to get into the post season for the first time in his career.
Dallas Mavericks:
They’ll continue to post an impressive regular season record. But just like last year it won’t be enough to beat out San Antonio in the division race, making them a 4th seed. They’ll end up with a tough match up in the 1st round that they likely won’t be able to overcome.
Denver Nuggets:
If there is one thing we learned so far about this Denver team, it’s that they can’t stay healthy. They’ve got a very talented and strong team when they’re 100% healthy, but they won’t be at full health all season long. All they have to do is post a better record than Minnesota to make the playoffs, but it won’t be easy with their health problems.
Detroit Pistons:
The 70 wins talk will probably die down. Sure the Pistons are on fire, but there is too much talent in this league for a team to dominate in such a fashion as winning 70 games. They’ll probably end up around the 65 win mark for the regular season, poised to steamroll through the East.
Golden State Warriors:
The more time that goes by the more they regret giving Foyle that contract. They’ve already given 6’8 Diogu the nod over him at the position. The Warriors are a pure center away from being a really good team, and they have the pieces to trade for one. The problem is there aren’t many good centers in the league, let alone on the trading block.
Houston Rockets:
Questions will continue to be asked about why in the world isn’t Stromile Swift playing better. The injury bug is biting the Rockets really hard this season. By the time they get Tmac and Yao playing together, they may be too far out of the playoff picture to get back in.
Indiana Pacers:
Hopefully sometime during 2006 they’ll trade Artest. The quicker they move on and get some decent players in return the quicker they can get back on track. They’ve got the players, even without Artest, to make some noise in the East. They’ve just got to get rid of Artest and get the players the receive in return on the same page.
Los Angeles Clippers:
They’ll make the playoffs this year, they’ve just got too much talent and experience on this team to not. Elton Brand will continue to earn every bit of the MVP talk, but probably won’t win the award.
Los Angeles Lakers:
They’ll continue, along with Denver, to do everything they can to get Artest. If they can’t, they’re a 6th seed at the VERY best. With him, assuming Phil Jackson is as successful with him as he thinks he can be, they’ve got a chance to win the Pacific.
Memphis Grizzlies:
Losing Damon Stoudemire is one of the worse things that could happen to Memphis. Whenever Bobby Jackson comes back he’ll be forced to play big minutes, which will probably lead to another injury. The problems at the point guard position will play a big role in them falling off their 5th seed in the west pace.
Miami Heat:
With the best available coach to handle the players that they have on their roster, Miami may indeed be poised for a big run. It won’t be anytime soon, as the big diesel is still not where he needs to be, but watch out for this team the last 15-20 games of the season.
Milwaukee Bucks:
Don’t be surprised when they end up a 4th or 5th. They’ve got the youth and talent to keep on the pace that they’re at right now. Putting a legit post player alongside Andrew Bogut was the smartest thing they could have done.
Minnesota Timberwolves:
They’ll have the upper hand in what’s bound to a fight till the finish with Denver for the division title simply because they don’t have the health issues. Indiana is hardly looking at Minnesota’s offer of ANYBODY on their team for Artest, which says something about the quality of the players around KG. If they do make the playoffs, expect the first round and out that we were accustomed to seeing for so long.
New Jersey Nets:
They’ll put the lack of post presence behind them and begin to depend on their perimeter stars. It’ll get them in the playoffs, but without any help down low, they’ll find themselves home quick. 
New Orleans Hornets:
Chris Paul’s phenomenal rookie of the year campaign will continue to go strong while New Orleans continues to surprise people with their play. They won’t be playoff contenders, but they’re a lot closer this year than they were last year.
New York Knicks:
The first chance Isiah Thomas gets to make a deal that nobody will understand he’ll probably take. This team is flat out terrible, there’s just no other way around it. The roster is in shambles and there are some definite changes that need to be made. Isiah Thomas just isn’t the right person to make them.
Orlando Magic:
They’ll probably begin to string some wins together here and there, but making the playoffs will be tough. They’ve got some moves they need to make, like getting a decent post player alongside Dwight Howard and a legitimate starting shooting guard. However, it’ll probably be the off season before they get to address any of these issues.
Philadelphia 76ers:
Though Philadelphia isn’t quite where they want to be, they don’t have very much trade value wise. They’re going to have to stick to their guns and hope that everyone starts playing to their potential. Andre Iguodala looked poised to have a breakout season, but at just 11 points and 6 boards per game, he isn’t doing so right now.
Phoenix Suns:
The second this team gets Amare back, they’re going to take off. They’ll be able to move Kurt Thomas to the 4, Marion to the 3, and they get another player deeper on the bench. If they can get him back by February while maintaining the position they’re in now, they’ll win the Pacific.
Portland Trailblazers:
While there may have been some hope of this team being decent, they’ve all but vanished. The quicker Portland starts giving the young players on this team time to develop, the more it’ll pay off in the long run.
San Antonio Spurs:
After about the all star break this team should start getting into championship form. They’ve got to get Nazr Mohammed back to playing the way he was last year, because he was a huge reason why the won the championship. That, along with Finley and Van Exel adapting to their roles, they’ll be poised to continue their quest for back to back titles.
Sacramento Kings:
If things continue on the path they’re on, which it appears they will, some changes could be coming in Sacramento. Their players simply aren’t living up to expectations, but judging on what they got for Chris Webber, maybe it’s better to make a coaching change instead of a player one. Not that it’s Adelman’s fault they’re doing so bad, but Sacramento’s management hasn’t earned a whole lot of faith.
Seattle Supersonics:
It’s plain to see, this isn’t the same group of Sonics who played so well last year because it was a contract year for most of them. They’ve got needs all over the place, especially at the bench. As far as their playoff hopes go, that chance is long gone, barring any miracles.
Toronto Raptors:
The sooner this team starts making moves to put some talent around Chris Bosh the better. They’re lucky, they’re one of the few teams in the league with a legitimate big man to build around, but they haven’t. Luckily, they’ve still got another year and a half to do so, hopefully they realize this and get to work.
Utah Jazz:
In probably the least anticipated comeback in the history of the Utah Jazz, Carlos Boozer will probably be suiting up early in 2006. Sure he can probably help them out a lot, but the fact that he’s taken so long to get healthy and has shown the desire to play for the Lakers put him pretty high on the most hated list in Utah.
Washington Wizards:
Seeing the rest of the Wizards give Gilbert Arenas some scoring help sure would be nice. They’re lacking that second scoring option that Larry Hughes was last year. Caron Butler has stepped it up since being inserted into the starting lineup, but Mr. 5 year contract Antonio Daniels hasn’t done anything. With the talent on this team, making the playoffs shouldn’t be an issue, but however the way they’re playing, it is.