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John Schuhmann

Kevin Durant has been big, but the Thunder's defense has been even bigger this season.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Five predictions I should have thought a little harder on

Posted Mar 17 2010 11:38AM

Last week, my fellow scribe Vince Thomas wrote a formal apology to Stephen Curry, admitting that he was totally wrong about what kind of player Curry would be in the league and comparing him to Illmatic, Nas' classic debut album that Vince slept on for several years.

Now, I loved Illmatic the day I first listened to it in my dorm room in 1994, and still think that Tyreke Evans is the Rookie of the Year. But Vince's column inspired me to finally publish my "What I got wrong" list, which I've been putting together in my head for the last couple of months.

And as I looked over my archives from last summer and the preseason, I realized that I got a lot more wrong than I remembered.

Here are my five most egregious miscalculations ...

Milwaukee Bucks

The mistake: I ranked the Bucks 27th in the preseason Power Rankings. The difference between that ranking and their current one (11th) is the highest in the league, although the current ranking is slightly inflated due to how well the Bucks have been playing of late.

What was I thinking?: The Bucks went 34-48 last season and essentially got nothing in return when they traded Richard Jefferson to San Antonio. With Scott Skiles on the bench, they'd be able to hang in some games defensively, but they just didn't have the talent to win.

What wasn't I thinking?: This one bugs me quite a bit, because I've written multiple times (here's one) about how critical Andrew Bogut is to the Bucks' defense. They were a pretty good team before they lost Bogut last season, so even if I didn't think Brandon Jennings would be able to handle the starting point guard job, I should have understood that the Bucks would be improved with a healthy Bogut.

Bogut is also having his best offensive season and Jennings, while he hasn't shot well, has given the Bucks some punch in the backcourt. Ersan Ilyasova also returned from Europe a much better player than when he left three years ago.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The mistake: I ranked the Thunder 21st in the preseason Power Rankings.

What was I thinking?: In my defense, I will point to this July column, where I called the Thunder the fourth-most likely team to go from the lottery to the playoffs. I had them pegged as one of the most improved teams in the league, but couldn't imagine them increasing their win total by more than 10 or 12.

What wasn't I thinking?: That the Thunder would be one of the five best defensive teams in the league. As terrific as Kevin Durant has been and as much as Russell Westbrook has improved, the Thunder's team defense has been the biggest key to their success. There weren't any signs of that as late as the preseason.

There was clearly room for improvement, given the team's youth. Also, one of their best defenders, Thabo Sefolosha, came over in a deadline deal last February. Still, they've made a huge leap on defense.

Julian Wright

The mistake: I predicted that Wright would win the Most Improved Player award.

What was I thinking?: This was a little bit of a stab in the dark, but with Wright taking the starting small forward spot from Peja Stojakovic and with Chris Paul as his point guard, the thought was that Wright's numbers would see a big jump from the 4.4 points and 2.8 rebounds he averaged last season.

What wasn't I thinking?: That Wright just isn't a very good player. After he started the first seven games of the season, Byron Scott benched him. And rookies Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton earned the playing time bump when Jeff Bower took over two games later. From Nov. 9 through March 8, Wright received 12 DNPs and averaged just nine minutes in the 45 games he did play. With Stojakovic hurt, Wright has started the last four games, but hasn't produced much.

Eddie Jordan

The mistake: In previewing the Sixers, I thought that Jordan was just what they needed.

What was I thinking?: That the Sixers needed a system like Jordan's Princeton offense to make them more efficient in the half court. They forced a lot of turnovers defensively and flourished on the break, but their inability to score in a set offense was holding them back.

What wasn't I thinking?: That we wouldn't see much of the Princeton offense once the regular season started, that Jordan would mess with what was a pretty good defense, and that he'd make some baffling decisions with his rotation. The Sixers have been in the bottom 10 of the league in defensive efficiency all season, despite having some very good defenders on their team. Essentially, they've regressed on both ends of the floor.

The loss of Andre Miller has hurt, but Jordan has never had a handle on his team. The Sixers have talent, but the whole has been far less than the sum of the parts. With the current mix, they need either a veteran point guard or a good coach to get the most out of what they have. This season, they've had neither.

Washington Wizards

The mistake: Here's the first sentence of my Wizards preview: "The Washington Wizards are set up for one of the biggest one-season turnarounds in NBA history."

What was I thinking?: C'mon. We were all thinking the same thing, right? They hired a very good coach, Gilbert Arenas was back, Brendan Haywood was healthy, and Randy Foye and Mike Miller gave them added firepower. They weren't going to be a great defensive team, but they would certainly be top five offensively.

What wasn't I thinking?: That the Wizards would have no chemistry on the floor. Forget about the gun incident. This team was a huge disappointment before all that nonsense went down. When Arenas was suspended on Jan. 6, the Wizards ranked 23rd in the league offensively. They shot poorly and had a low assist rate. Arenas' shooting percentages were down slightly from his All-Star years, but the biggest disappointment was Caron Butler, who was having one of the worst seasons of his career.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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