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John Schuhmann

Are Al Horford and the Hawks headed for a down year?
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Mid-summer mailbag: The readers strike back

By John Schuhmann,
Posted Aug 8 2009 11:47AM

Now that Lamar Odom has finally agreed to return to L.A. (did anyone really believe he was going to Miami?), it might be time to get on with the summer. Of course, we still need David Lee, Glen Davis, Ramon Sessions (who's about to sign an offer sheet from the Knicks) and another dozen or so free agents to find homes, so general managers aren't quite ready to take their vacations and leave their cell phones at home.

With everything that has gone down over the last month and a half, and everything that has been published on this site, it's a great time to open up the mailbag.

If you have a question or comment that you want answered, send it through and we might get to it down the line.

On to the mailbag where I recevied tons of feedback from this column:

Five teams that could be headed for a fall

Detroit as one of the teams least likely to improve? Charlie Villanueva can stretch the defense as well as Rasheed Wallace did, and I'm sure he'll take smarter shots then Rasheed as well. And Ben Gordon is as good of a scorer as there is in the NBA.

Then the addition of the three rooks ... not to mention Detroit fans are happy that Michael Curry is done, and Cleveland fans are upset to see John Kuester leave. All in all, Detroit will be much improved. Especially considering their record was under .500 last season. In fact, I would put my house on it. And just wait until my Lions make the playoffs ... Hahaha that may be a bit far-fetched.

-- Craig K.

There was quite a bit of backlash about the Pistons' presence on the list of teams least likely to return to the postseason. A lot of people believe that replacing Wallace and Antonio McDyess with Gordon, Villanueva and Chris Wilcox automatically makes them a better team. And when you consider the chemistry problems they had last season, there is a reason to be optimistic.

But the East became deeper this summer. And if you believe that the Raptors and Wizards are now playoff teams, you have to believe that two teams that were in the postseason last year are heading to the Lottery.

Gordon and Villanueva are both talented, but both are liabilities defensively. So unless Kuester's got something up his sleeve, they're probably not better than a middle-of-the-pack defensive squad (they ranked 16th in defensive efficiency last season).

While Gordon can get a shot off as well as anybody, he's not exactly efficient. And when you give him the ball and ask him to do his thing, your offense can tend to get stagnant, as you're taking your team out of what it's trying to do offensively.

The biggest issue with the Pistons may be the lack of a real point guard. Rodney Stuckey is a good young player, but his first instinct is to find his own shot. Detroit has some talent, but it needs more of a distributor who can get guys the ball where they want it.

With the improvement from Toronto and Washington, it's very possible that the Pistons could win more games than they did last season (39) and still miss the Playoffs. So how big is this house of yours, Craig?

I understand your point about Al Horford not being right to play center, but I don't understand the other points [about the Hawks]. Jamal Crawford will not create chemistry problems. In New York he only shot to win and he did well. He will be an excellent sixth man and could possibly win Sixth Man of the Year. He can play both guard positions should fit in well.

Now I understand that Horford is small, but they have won with him there before so I don't understand why that would change?

-- John

Glass half full: Crawford has the ability to be an excellent, instant-offense sixth man, and the Hawks did need another guy who can create his own shot. Horford isn't a real center, but he can get by at the five against most teams. And they'll be healthier than they were in May, when Horford, Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams were all banged up.

Glass half empty: The Hawks just don't have the right intangibles. They lack leadership and chemistry, and the whole isn't greater than the sum of the parts. Defensively, they improved last season (from 16th in efficiency to 13th), but they don't have what it takes to be a top 10 defensive team, which will hurt their consistency.

Of course, even if the Hawks stay the same, they're good enough to make the Playoffs. Because I ranked them fifth on the list doesn't mean I believe they will miss the postseason. I just see some things with Atlanta that sometimes make me lead toward the glass-half-empty outlook and think they could be a disappointment this season.

Finally John, the Knicks had a winning percentage of .348 while Crawford was in New York, so if he "shot to win," how exactly did he do well?

The Houston Rockets were one of the best defensive teams in the league last year. Did you forget we were the only team to take the Lakers to seven games?

-- Carmen F.

They were indeed the fourth best defensive team in the league last season (and the best in the West), but they were better with Yao Ming on the floor than they were with the big guy on the bench. The same goes for Artest.

Trevor Ariza can replace Artest defensively, of course. But they have no one to fill Yao's shoes. They won two games without him in the conference semifinals, but surviving two games is a lot different than surviving 82. Over the course of a full season, you just can't make up for his absence.

Five teams stand out among future playoff hopefuls

Good article and update on five teams poised to make next years NBA Playoffs... PLAYOFFS! Being a Hoosier, basketball is my favorite sport (duh) and the NBA is my favorite (well after IU basketball). Regarding your article you left out one obvious team that will the Playoffs next year... my Indiana Pacers!

OKC? Excuse me? If Pacers don't make it, you got a free din din next time you are in Indy after, which won't happen, the Pacers are mathematically eliminated! Keep up the good work John, but in this case since you left out the Pacers, bad work! Later Dude.

-- Stephen S.

The Pacers will hopefully have Mike Dunleavy, their second best player, for a full season and Tyler Hansbrough is ready to contribute right away. But whatever they gained defensively with the addition of Dahntay Jones, they lost with the departure of Rasho Nesterovic. Again, with the improvement of Toronto and Washington, I don't see Indiana being more than three or four wins better than last season and squeezing into the Playoffs. So, what's good to eat out there?

Dear Mr. Schuhmann, in your article, you wrote:

"Bobcats have improved their win total every season they've been in the league. A few more could net that elusive playoff berth, but they seem to be a piece short of putting them higher on this list."

That piece is Allen Iverson. Why can't MJ, Larry, and the rest of Bobcats management get it together so that Larry and Iverson can be reunited, finishing it like how it started?

-- Rich C.

I don't disagree that Iverson could help the Bobcats this season. They were the fourth worst offensive team in the league last season and still had a shot at the Playoffs in April, so he could get them over the hump. But before he can make a positive impact on a new team, AI needs an attitude adjustment, and I'm not sure that will happen.

How can you say that OKC is more competitive than Golden State for the final spots in the West? Everyone knows that the Monta Ellis fiasco, Harrington's lame-duck apathy, and the various injuries incurred by GSW players didn't allow us to see anything close to the full roster/potential of the Warriors last season (hence, the Warriors having the most number of starting lineups throughout the season out of all NBA teams).

Add in Anthony Randolph & Anthony Morrow heating up, a healthy Monta, a capable point/two-guard in Curry and you have the ingredients for one of the top eight teams in the West next year. OKC has a good starting five, but no depth and very little experience.

-- HL

That's a good glass-half-full way to look at the Warriors and they should definitely be better this season. But they don't have a player nearly as good as Kevin Durant. And with Oklahoma City's talented youth, I find it more likely that the Thunder make an 18-game jump than the Warriors make a 12-game jump. Of course, as I wrote, I find it most likely that Phoenix treads water and grabs that eight spot.

Nice to hear your "glass is half full"prediction on the Suns. The fate of the Rockets is quite obvious, but I like the Clippers' chances of becoming a worthy challenger to that eighth spot. That team had a lot of talent last season, only hampered by the never-ending injury list. If they stay healthy this year, added Blake Griffin and minus the cancerous Zach Randolph, I think they stand a better chance than the Thunder, who are still too young and inexperienced.

-- Noel (NY)

The Clippers certainly have the talent to be a playoff team. But like with Atlanta, I don't see the right intangibles in that locker room, though you're right that swapping Randolph for Griffin should create a more positive atmosphere. And talent isn't good enough if you don't play together, play hard and play defense.

It all comes down to the relationship between Mike Dunleavy and Baron Davis. If they work together, then the Clippers can turn it around. But if the coach isn't on the same page as his best player, they're not going anywhere.

USA Basketball Coverage

In your article regarding the second day of the mini-camp you mention rookies of the year who have made the playoffs. Is that statistic correct? After reading it, Brandon Roy's name came to mind, but are there others? Thanks.

-- Thomas H.

The statistic was correct, yes. It was referring to Rookie of the Year winners who made the Playoffs in their rookie season, so Roy isn't on the list.

Hi, I just wanted to point out that Danny Granger will be 29 and not 32 when the London Olympics come around in 2012.

-- Raghav

Yep, thanks to you and the few others that pointed out the same thing. Of course, with Granger skipping this year's camp and so many good small forwards for Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski to choose from, I'm don't think Granger's age will matter.

Hey, How are you doing... I just wanted to ask if you also felt that maybe Rajon Rondo had a chance at making the senior Olympian team as well

-- Dwayne M.

He had a shot, but he missed mini-camp to attend Kendrick Perkins' wedding. And with three other young point guards (Devin Harris, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook) all making good showings in Las Vegas last week, Rondo is likely out of the mix.

Mavs, Raptors make big push to improve themselves

Dear John, I am almost positive that I can speak on behalf of all Toronto Raptors fans when I say: Thank you for the optimism.

It's rare of us Raptors fans to find a reporter willing to speak out on our behalf, which is why I am sending you this email, in gratitude for voicing the feelings of the only NBA team that lies north of the border. We love Bosh up here, and I can assure you the fans in Toronto are far more loyal to CB4 than any fan in New York or Cleveland could ever be. The only reason Raptors fans STILL boo Vince Carter when he's in the building is because that's how much they loved him when he was here (five years ago). It would be heart-breaking for the fans to lose another beloved franchise player.

-- Saransh B.

This may be the first positive e-mail I've received from Toronto, and it more than makes up for the hundreds I received when I dared to place Brandon Roy above Andrea Bargnani in the 2006-07 Rookie Rankings. Thank you, Saransh.

If you have a question or comment for's John Schuhmann, send him an e-mail. You can also follow him on twitter.

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